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Libertarian Magazine Calls Boycott of Stoli Vodka Over Russia's Anti-gay Regime A 'Very Bad Idea'

BoycottIt's been a stressful week for companies like SPI Group, producer of Stolichnaya vodka, as boycotts of Russian products are currently underway in response to the country's anti-LGBT regime under Vladimir Putin.

So far, however, reactions to the boycott have been somewhat mixed. Some commentators, such as Scott Shackford with the libertarian magazine Reason say the boycott was started before all the facts were on the table.

Responding to the arguments that Dan Savage, Queer Nation, and others have made to continue the boycott despite the SPI Group's statement pledging their support to the LGBT community, Shackford says that there is a 'big Western bias' that is being left out of the equation.

Says Shackford:

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that the boycotters quite get it. Stoli sent out an open letter Thursday, declaring its support for gay rights, mentioning its history of activity within the gay community in America and other countries. But, Dan Savage posted, this isn't enough. What are they doing about the suffering of gays in Russia? Scheffler (SPI Group's CEO) is one of Russia's richest men!

There's a big Western bias in this argument, assuming that Russia's corporatism is like America's or Europe's corporatism. Because Scheffler's rich, he must have some sort of government influence! There must be something he can do! No doubt there are certainly similarities, but you simply can't ignore Russia's deeply nationalist streak and how closely it's flirting with autocracy. It doesn't take that much research to see how difficult a position Scheffler is in. Russia wants his company.

Shackford goes on to detail how, back in 2002, police ransacked the SPI headquarters in Moscow in an attempt to renationalize the Russian assets of the company. Scheffler himself is wanted for 'questioning' for allegedly threatening the director of the parts of the Russian company that were renationalized.

What's sad about this effort is that if Russia succeeds in getting its hands back on Stoli, then a boycott actually makes sense. But the consequence will be that a powerful businessman who does support the gay community will lose his company. Boycotting Stoli now is a very bad idea. Scheffler is an ally who the gay and lesbian community needs to work with, not alienate. From a Western perspective it may be hard to realize that an incredibly rich person like Scheffler has the potential to be a victim of Russia's authoritarian regime like its gay citizens or members of Pussy Riot, but it's extremely important not to look at the nature of power and influence there the way we do here.

 In related news, The Guardian points out that even Russia's own gay rights activists are saying the boycott is misguided

"They mixed everything up. Stolichnaya isn't Russian," Said the lawyer Nikolai Alekseev, head of the Moscow Pride organizing committee.

Still, SPI Group isn't the only vodka company with ties to Russia. Russian Standard vodka, unlike Stolichnaya, is actually produced in Russia and owned by the Russian oligarch Roustam Tariko. The company has yet to comment publicly about the boycott.  


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  1. Stoli still uses Russian ingredients, doesn't it? Nuff said.

    Posted by: Adam | Jul 26, 2013 7:45:27 PM

  2. I read his article. Just more stoli spin...

    Posted by: Gilbert | Jul 26, 2013 7:45:50 PM

  3. Of course Alekseev is against the boycott: it wasn't his idea and he doesn't get any attention from it, except by opposing it.

    Posted by: KevinVT | Jul 26, 2013 7:49:58 PM

  4. Shackford is arguing in both directions. In the first portion of his statement he claims the rich owner of Stoli has no power or influence with the Russian government. IN the second portion of his statement he says if the rich owner of Stoli loses his company to the government, we lose a POWERFUL ally.

    Which is he, powerful or not?

    Posted by: anon | Jul 26, 2013 7:55:11 PM

  5. Anon, it's actually both.

    If he loses his company to Russia, he loses his platform on which to speak out against Russian. (put another way...his company isn't owned by Russia, but identified with Russian and has some ties with the country, therefore his speaking out reflects on the country by extension...if Russia just takes the company he loses that)

    Posted by: FakeOutrage | Jul 26, 2013 8:07:41 PM

  6. His argument is, actually, quite reasonable.

    Posted by: David R. | Jul 26, 2013 8:43:04 PM

  7. I have never consumed Stoli or any other Russian products. We should have nuke'd those commie's a long time ago.

    Posted by: Dearcomrade | Jul 26, 2013 8:45:20 PM

  8. The Russian govt. gets almost all their cash from oil exports.

    Posted by: anon | Jul 26, 2013 8:50:17 PM

  9. We are supposed to listen to the insane clown posse known as the Libertarians? Just a side note for the people being duped: Ted Cruz is supported by the Libertarians. Nuff said. Boycott Sochi and all Russian products!

    Posted by: tom | Jul 26, 2013 9:11:19 PM

  10. Someone should just publish business research on Stoli (e.g. what accounting laws do they answer to, etc.).

    Posted by: Hyacinth | Jul 26, 2013 9:13:16 PM

  11. Good luck with Russia. It didn't work in the 60's and it won't now. At least with the gay marriage fight you didn't have to hide under your desk at school.

    Posted by: Gee | Jul 26, 2013 9:22:39 PM

  12. Unfortunately, Stoli will have to be a casualty in this situation. I feel bad for them—truly—but many more companies will have to take the fall until Russia realizes it can't export their tainted products to places that embrace freedom and kindness.

    Posted by: Andy | Jul 26, 2013 11:44:49 PM

  13. I was under the impression the point of the boycott was more to raise publicity about what's going on in Russia anyways, it's received a ton of press already. It's not like anyone expects Stoli to go bankrupt.

    Posted by: JMC | Jul 26, 2013 11:50:58 PM

  14. If we destroy Scheffler's Stoli, Putin gets to nationalize it.

    It become Putin's Stoli.

    The boycott will punish no wrongdoers and only serve to make things worse.

    Among the stupidest things the gay community has done, this is right up there with normalizing barebacking.

    Way to go, gays!

    Posted by: JeffNYC | Jul 27, 2013 12:35:59 AM

  15. Only a boycott of Russian oil and gas can make Putin re-think his position on ze gayz. And who boycotts oil or gas from anywhere at market prices? Nobody. Putin is the smilingest dictator alive today, and the likes of Mugabe are making themselves ill with envy.

    Posted by: Manny Espinola | Jul 27, 2013 12:50:45 AM

  16. @TOM:

    Anyone who says not to listen to an idea because of a label attached to it, rather than the merit of idea, and concludes with "nuff said" betrays their own closed-mindedness and unwillingness to consider any points of view other than their own.

    Congrats, you are an intellectual midget.

    Posted by: Jack | Jul 27, 2013 3:08:41 AM

  17. The libertarian toilet paper "Reason" is against a civil rights boycott? SHOCKER!!

    Honestly, we shouldn't be paying any attention to Reason, even if it's a clock-stopped-twice sort of deal. They don't deserve our attention and certainly don't support our causes. You don't have to look much further than the Paul family to know how much of a cancer "libertarians" are in this country.

    Posted by: Ryan | Jul 27, 2013 4:57:25 AM

  18. Sorry, I'm not giving up my Stoli Raspberry and 7-up's to stroke the inflated ego of Dan Savage. This boycott is dumb. Stoli isn't even a Russian company anymore, it's based in Luxembourg. So they only really sell products in Russia. You know who else sells their products in Russia? Every fortune 500 company in this country. Are we going to boycott every company that sells in Russia? I'm willing to bet that the food and beverage choices of everyone participating in this silly boycott also sell their products in Russia. The only effect this boycott will have is to punish a company that is pro lgbt has been for decades. If the company goes under the Russian government will swoop in and grab it. Then Russia wins...

    Posted by: Tristy | Jul 27, 2013 6:05:25 AM

  19. The boycott is quite reasonable and makes a reasonable statement in the face of horrific mistreatment. I would like to see pressure for companies doing business in Russia to support us or withdraw.

    When I was in college people lived in Soweto style shanty towns on campus and demonstrated regularly to get the university to divest from companies doing business in apartheid South Africa. There was enormous international pressure for divestment, which in turn played a crucial role in the dismantling of apartheid. It works, people.

    Posted by: Rob | Jul 27, 2013 6:59:19 AM

  20. Please say NO to Russia like and share our page:

    Posted by: Gay Buenos Aires | Jul 27, 2013 9:49:56 AM

  21. Vodka? A drop in the bucket. Try boycotting oil. Tons of Lukoil gas stations in New Jersey. All of the profit oil money is piped directly to Moscow.

    Posted by: Victor | Jul 27, 2013 10:20:04 AM

  22. "...he loses his platform on which to speak out against Russian." - FakeOutrage

    And when as he publicly done so?

    Posted by: ReasonableDoubt | Jul 27, 2013 11:03:20 AM

  23. ahhh, there's something odd about coming to the aid of a rich man. if he was truly our friend, he would exit the company in some way that his career was salvaged, that is if he even needs one. we do not need the greedy as our allies. we need a voice and this has given us one.
    boycott all things russian, i say. bring them to their economic knees. for it is only money and power that putin recognizes anyway. sd

    Posted by: steven | Jul 27, 2013 12:00:17 PM

  24. besides putin is a murderer. many times over. sd

    Posted by: steven | Jul 27, 2013 12:01:24 PM

  25. "boycott all things russian, i say"

    Sorry, not going to stop listening to Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev and other Russian composers or watching/attending performances by the Bolshoi and Mariinsky ballet companies.

    This is my favorite kind of boycott, boycotting something I don't use (vodka) anyway! :-P

    Posted by: Henry Holland | Jul 27, 2013 12:37:45 PM

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