Russian Round-Up: FOX News, Growing Up in Russia, the Nazi Olympic, Yelena Mizulina, and Glasgow

Here's a round-up of some additional Sochi-related items. More to come.

Make sure not to miss a Towleroad headline by following @TLRD on Twitter.

And keep up on all our news on the Sochi 2014 Winter Games and the controversy over Russia's anti-gay laws by clicking HERE.

RoadFOX News commentator Todd Starnes reacts to Obama's press conference statement on the Sochi Games: "Obama said he is looking forward to 'maybe some gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold or silver or bronze, which I think would go a long way in rejecting the kind of attitudes that we’re seeing there.' It sounds like the president is suggesting a litmus test for membership on the U.S. Olympic team. The president also suggested that Olympic teams without gay or lesbian athletes are somehow weaker than heterosexual athletic teams. 'If Russia doesn’t have any gay or lesbian athletes, then that would probably make their team weaker,' the president said during the nationally televised press conference. Why can’t President Obama support all of our Olympic athletes — regardless of who they choose to love, regardless of their sexual orientation?"

RoadBuzzfeed looks at 76 countries where anti-gay laws are as bad as or worse than Russia's.

HurleyRoadSeattle-based filmmaker Wes Hurley talks about growing up gay in Russia:

It's hard to pinpoint an exact day when I felt a shift in my consciousness – the realization that I did not want to spend the rest of my life in that country, in that culture. The closest to such event was a history lesson on the Holocaust. When my teacher brought up Nazi camps, students started to heckle her, saying things like, 'Hitler should have finished the job.' Before I knew it, the entire class was chanting, 'Kill kikes!' and pounding their fists on their desks. I stared at them, terrified. Adidas track suits, leather jackets, and gold crosses had replaced the Communist uniforms, but they still had the same glassy look in their eyes, the same frenzied anger, and the same impulse to be a monolithic, unquestioning lynch mob.

The teacher was kind of speechless and sort of amused. She was actually smiling. An innocent, coy kind of smile, as if someone had farted. 'You shouldn't be so harsh, just because they're all smart and have lots of money,' was her attempt at calming their anti-Semitism.

That day I came home and told my mom what happened. 'We have to get out of here,' she said, upset but not surprised.

RoadCNN's LZ Granderson on the haunting lesson of the Nazi Olympics:

These new anti-gay laws are disturbingly similar to the anti-Semitic Nuremberg laws Hitler passed before the 1936 Olympics. And with the Pew Institute finding 84% of Russians believe society should reject gay people, perhaps some saying they object to gays for fear of arrest, the world should question how far Russia intends to go.

We should question how far Russia, our lukewarm ally, intends to go and what our participation in the 2014 Olympic Games will look like generations from now.

MizulinaRoadAn AP profile on Yelena Mizulina, Putin's morality crusader:

Yelena Mizulina, a member of parliament, has used her position as the head of the Committee on Family, Women and Children to author increasingly conservative laws, including a ban on homosexual "propaganda" that went into force last month.

Her pearls, bland blazers and matronly mien belie a fierce fighter who is ready to take her loudest critics to court. In turn, they have labeled her the "Inquisitor" and ridiculed her online. One recent blog posting shows her gritting her teeth with the speech bubble: "You will behave yourself while on My Internet."

DochertyRoadGlasgow's mayor has rejected calls to break ties with its Russian sister city Rostov-on-Don:

The mayor also said she will be on an official visit to Russia this coming September.

Mrs Docherty stated:

Our cities have been twinned for 27 years. That includes a period of the Cold War. … The way to influence policy is to remain within our partnership. It is not practical for cities, countries or states to dissolve long-standing and beneficial relationships because one party does not agree with another's stance on a particular issue. I have written to the Mayor of Rostov-on-Don and made my position clear on the country's anti-gay legislation. What message would breaking up our partnership give gay people in Russia? We would effectively be abandoning them. As Lord Provost and First Citizen of Glasgow my job is to promote Glasgow at home and abroad and, on occasion, raise human rights issues. It is not a grown up position to simply opt out of these arrangements. Exerting influence from within is the way forward. That is the right thing to do.


  1. UFFDA says

    What an ugly bunch of news, from Starnes miserable misreading of Obama to everything about Russia and Russians. A meteor too small struck the hinterlands last winter. I’m wishing for a much larger strike in the middle of Moscow.

  2. Brian1 says

    Well, this won’t be very popular, but I’m really glad the buzzfeed article is bringing some perspective on the Russia issue. Yes, the law is hateful, but really the anti-Russian stuff is getting over the top. Or, at least our feelings about the 76 countries that are worse than Russia seem oddly muted. I think people have confused the ugly images of gay bashing in Russia with the recent law. The only restricts “propaganda”, which takes in things like gay pride parades. That’s terrible policy, but it’s only fair to note that being gay is perfectly legal in Russia, unlike huge swathes of the world where we continue to play sport, engage in commerce etc. I happen to think Russian people are more homophobic than almost anywhere else, but their official policy sucks, but is still better than many, many other places that are at least equally worthy of our scorn.

  3. Jerry says

    If there was any doubt of how horrific it is to be LGBT in Russia, Wes Hurley’s horrific experience should convince the worst skeptic that it’s not true “that things could be worse”. So, it’s not illegal to be homosexual? Just try and “express” that or act on it, and all hell breaks loose on you, fostered and supported by the Russian gov’t, in league with the despicable and disgraced Russian Orthodox Church! Where are the “good” Russians, and why aren’t they speaking out about this? Where were the “good” Germans during the Nazi period? No where to be found.

  4. says

    @BRIAN1: Certainly, it should be noted that Russia is not unique in its homophobia and not the worst in its anti-LGBT laws. Nothing wrong with pointing that out.

    However, why diminish what’s happening in Russia? The ugly images from there are of a piece with the law, the violence being stirred up by the Putin regime, the Orthodox church, and the propaganda campaign (and all that led up to it). You’re taking at face value Russian propaganda saying the law “only restricts” so-called propaganda–it does a lot more than that, as any LGBT Russian and anyone who knows Russian history will tell you. The law is a device for stirring up anti-gay sentiment and violence in the false name of “protecting the children.” It’s intended to do much more than they say it is.

    Furthermore, the spotlight is on Russia (more specifically, the anti-gay Russian power regime) because of the Olympics. When the Olympic Charter says stuff like, “The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity,” it’s perfectly appropriate to hold a host country accountable for preserving the dignity of its citizens. Countries that host the Olympics (that are supposed to represent Olympic ideals) shouldn’t be surprised to have their human rights record subject to scrutiny.

    The valid point the BuzzFeed article makes is that the anti-gay extremism of other countries, who aren’t in the Olympic spotlight, shouldn’t be overlooked as, sadly, it often is.

  5. jjose712 says

    Brian1: The problem is that Russia is regressing. We are not talking about a third world country, or a country that is new to democracy (of course Russian’s democracy is quite near of a dictature).

    When China hosted the Olympics it was criticism, but at least China was taking steps (small and slow steps) in the right direction, in fact the Olympics help China to take that steps. It’s very very far from being perfect but the past was worst.

    Russia is taking steps but on the opposite direction, and frankly, i think gays are only the first step, probably other groups will join gays if nobody stops them.

    The olympics and other type of championships have the weird idea of always rewarding non democratic countries with little respect for human rights.
    And Russia decide to implement the law knowing the focus were on them for the Olympics. So they are calling for a good backlash.

    And i think they are starting to regret what they did, well, probably not what they did but did it now and not after the games, with a lot less pressure on them.

    And as i say, in europe, traditional media is starting to cover this news

  6. JONES says

    Much better … Colin Stewart

    You want to do some investigative reporting Buzzfeed (Saeed Jones)?
    Try Patriarch Kirill, the ROC, and the new Russian ‘religious defamation’ laws. That’s the power and corruption behind this assault on human rights.

  7. JONES says

    News sites this morning were full of articles and commenters saying this exact trope.
    ‘It’s not illegal to be gay in Russia. They’re just protecting the children.’

    As though they’re trying as hard as they can to find some way, any way to excuse having to face the reality that LGBT are being dehumanized, tortured and murdered. Sickening to think that we are a society of such self-absorbed, spineless, brainwashed sacks of ineptitude.

  8. says

    Yes, @Jones, it’s disgusting how quickly the mindless and the mindless media buy into Russia’s propaganda about the propaganda law. (Have people learned nothing about how true Russian propaganda works.) First they act like “protecting children” from “gay propaganda” is acceptable, then they idiotically accept at face value that there’s nothing more to it, when anyone with a brain and a knowledge of Russian history understands this is a complete lie.

    A Yahoo “news” story by a sports “expert” went as far as to say it wasn’t really that the Russian regime wanted this law, it was that the people demanded it, like it was a cute little populist action. If there isn’t a boycott, which there likely won’t be, it’s going to be a fight against this rampant whitewashing and erasure of what’s really happening to Russia’s LGBT citizens. Cause you know NBC and the powers that be will try to sweep it neatly under the rug and will focus only on the well-being of the U.S. athletes.

  9. James says

    “… It is not practical for cities, countries or states to dissolve long-standing and beneficial relationships because one party does not agree with another’s stance on a particular issue….”

    Particular Issue?


    It is not practical for cities, countries or states to dissolve beneficial relationships because one party couldn’t care less if the other party goes on murdering LGBTs while officially sanctioned to do so.


    Dear Glasgow; Fire your Mayor post-haste. She’s comfortable with mass murder as official policy.

  10. andrew says

    If President Obama were to comment that the sky is blue, the narrow minded ideologues at Fake News would criticize him for failing to mention the beauty of all the other colors. Fox News shows us the dangerous results when purists ideologues get total control of any media.

  11. JONES says

    Mrs Docherty

    You didn’t state what exactly your views on LGBT equality were in your letter to the Mayor of Rostov-on-Don but I’m hopeful that they were for full equality.

    When your sister city does something as reprehensible as backing legislation that violate their citizens constitutional civil rights or doesn’t speak out when authorities turn a blind eye to torture of those the laws target then you have an obligation much larger than promoting Glasgow to the world. Your moral obligation is to speak out against them and to call for that Mayor you’ve twined to speak out as well. Human rights always trump promoting a city. Always.

    When you go on your official visit in September be sure to tell the Mayor that there has been a loud call from those that respect human rights equality both gay and straight to sever relations because of the way his country treats it’s LGBT citizens. That’s how grownup’s face down bullies.

  12. Brian1 says


    Look, I agree with everything you’ve said, except your characterisation of the law. Really, if you read the law, it’s clear what it does and doesn’t do. I don’t for a second buy the line that it’s about protecting the children. It’s about enshrining a piece of anti-gay stupidity into law. And I completely buy the idea that the law, combined with the attitude of the church and officialdom, creates a hostile environment for gays. The photos and videos are horrific. But the law as written has nothing to do with this. Russian law says being gay is legal, but celebrating it is not. And of course attacking anyone on the street is illegal, including gay people. It’s probably a false distinction, because the feeling on the street is so antagonistic toward gays, but all I’m saying is the official Russian position on homosexuality is probably slightly better than average. And the practical issues of using tools like boycotts to change cultural positions rather than official positions are vexing in my view.

    I think your most valid point is that Russia is vulnerable at this point, since they want a successful position. And we should use that vulnerability and hopefully improve the lives of LGBT there. But I do think there is confusion about this law, with many commenters here thinking the horrible scenes of violence are the police roughing up violators of this law. It’s like taking photos of gay bashings in the US and assuming this was the official US position on homosexuality. So if we want to engage in a boycott, at least understand what the russian position really is, and where it compares in the world.

  13. candideinnc says

    The Russian laws are repression of a minority by whatever name you want to call it. The laws inhibit freedom of speech and freedom of assembly with threats of incarceration for those who have the temerity to confront the injustice. There is no logical connection between the laws and the protections of youngsters. They have muzzled the gay community and turned a blind eye to the violence their state sponsored bigotry has incited.

  14. Brian1 says

    @Candideinnc: I agree with all of that, but it doesn’t change my argument.

    And a clarification, my previous comment should say “russia wants a successful olympics, not successful position”

  15. JJ says

    @Brian1, you’re very naïve. The law doesn’t express their official position. Gays in Russia are not treated fairly and impartially by the police or courts there. Police and courts can treat gays however the f*ck they want with impunity. That’s the “official” position, and they don’t have to put it in writing.

  16. Jay says

    @Brian1, the first of the Nazi laws did things like deny Jews tenure in colleges and universities; then they purged from cultural institutions; and then denied places in other professions. Nothing to get upset about. Then Jewish businesses were attacked and Jews were beaten up in the streets by thugs and the police looked the other way. Just a few hooligans. Nothing to get upset about. After all, Jews were German citizens, weren’t they? And then they weren’t German citizens. And those laws that seemed so minor but irritated “foreigners” were officially suspended for a couple of weeks in order to celebrate sport during the Berlin Olympics. Meanwhile, a few concentration camps opened. Nothing to get upset about. And Jesse Owens even won 4 medals at the Olympics. And Jews and gypsies and gays filled up the concentration camps. Nothing to get upset about. It is a matter of internal politics. And sports are above politics, right. Nothing to get upset about.

  17. emjayay says

    The comments of the Fox Noise guy are totally specious, but I’m not going to waste time here explaining why. It’s not like they care. Faux News is completely a right wing propaganda machine designed to support the ignorant reactionary opinions of its audience. It is not in any way journalism. It is ridiculous that anyone, including in particular any government officials or other news people should treat them with any respect in any way.

  18. Festus says

    “Exerting influence from within is the way forward. That is the right thing to do.”

    There’s enough room for people to use different methods to address Russia’s human rights violations, and I can’t fault her for wanting to try.

  19. olter says

    I was born in the Soviet Union, too. Like Wes Hurley. I, like he, grew up in the US and have not lost touch with Russia today. Wes Hurley is quite right that Russian elites like to think of themselves as “civilized” and the loss of that status, the severe fall of the brand “Russia” – if you will – will actually serve as a good weapon in the fight for freedom of speech and lgbt equality in Russia.

    What I’ve been telling for a couple of weeks to my friends and colleagues is that the best way to hurt Russian government and business is actually to boycott Russian products – like Stoli, like Lukoil gas stations, etc.

    Please, keep this up. I can’t speak for everyone there, but the many Russian LGBTs I know via internet do support these actions.

  20. says

    “Really, if you read the law, it’s clear what it does and doesn’t do.”

    @Brian1, I know the law. But it’s not at all clear what it does and doesn’t do unless you take it at face value; it can be used very broadly and most certainly will be. Do you really think Russians enact such laws “fairly”? (As if it would be fair in the best of circumstances.) As others said, you’re very naive to think the law is only about “propaganda” and the ongoing violence can be separated from it. It is all of a piece with the atmosphere of brutality toward LGBT people carefully orchestrated by the thug regime, in collusion with the Orthodox Church. (You should see some of the Russian TV programming, where an expert on “pedophilia” is one of the people luring and shaming gay teens. One small example … ) And if you think people will be prosecuting for attacking gay people on the street or killing them in their homes, you are dreaming. LGBT people have no protection in Russia. And it’s gotten a lot worse than it was 10 or 15 years ago. They are regressing to a very scary place.

    As a side note, being married to a fluent Russian speaker, who has spent years living in Russia and is in close contact with all kinds of Russians, including Russian LGBT activists, I’m not mistaken about what the law means. Whatever one thinks about a boycott, it’s a heinous law that’s part of a heinous climate for LGBT Russians. Ultimately, it will take Putin going down to change things, hopefully for the better. Meanwhile, we can’t be silent.

  21. Brian1 says

    I find commenting on this site so frustrating because 99% of commenters don’t bother to understand the argument being made, and just spout their talking points ad nauseum. (Ernie, I dont include you in this category; I find you a rare example of a logical thinkier here and in other posts.) Here’s one last attempt to reframe the point I was trying to make:

    1. Just a clarification that the violent videos we’re seeing aren’t examples of this law being enforced. They’re examples of the violent homophobia endemic to the country. (And yes, as I’ve said several times I understand the law supports the homophobic culture, although I reject the idea that it caused the problem. It’s a symptom.)

    2. The new law is horrible, but overall Russia’s official position with respect to homosexuality is about average when compared with the rest of the world, possibly slightly better than average.

    3. As a result of the first two points, I don’t see how a boycott will succeed. First because the government can at best repeal this “anti propaganda law”, which will have a very limited (I think no) effect on the daily struggle of LGBT Russians. The homophobic culture can’t be changed by a boycott, and almost certainly will just antagonize the thugs. And second, with half the world having worse anti gay legislation on their books, it seems strange to focus only on Russia. A better target might be somewhere like Singapore, with a much more draconian anti gay law on its books, but a much more accepting culture. I could see a boycott there getting the government to change the law, and in so doing, make a real improvement in Singaporean gay life.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t boycott Russia. Personally I don’t want any of my money going to a place like that. But I’m doing this with my eyes open. The boycott won’t improve Russian gay life, but I’ll feel better that my money isn’t going there. I also do the same with many other countries around the world who mistreat their gay population. (I do agree with part of Ernie’s argument with me, that the Olympics cast a spotlight on Russia and therefore magnify any impact of a Russian boycott.)

    Lastly, I don’t want to get into a pissing match about credentials here, but the accusations of naivete made by several commenters are very wide of the mark.

  22. Jay says

    @Brian1, you may or may not be naive. But you certainly do not understand the law. If one cannot discuss homosexuality, one cannot defend homosexuals. If one cannot protest without being beaten and/or arrested, then one cannot fight back as the anti-gay pogram escalates. Just today, the leading Russian newscaster characterized homosexuals as subhuman who have no right to live. Everyone in his audience cheered. No one can respond to this kind of libel without violating the law. Through scapegoating laws like this, Russia slides back into the fascism that seems part of their political heritage. They used to have Jews and other minorities in the Soviet Union to take out their xenophobic bigotry on. Now gays are the most vulnerable target.

  23. says

    @Brian1, not to pick on you since you give thought to your posts, and you seem sincere, but …

    1. I think many people understand that the violent videos aren’t all directly related to the new propaganda laws, though some of the videos took place as the laws were being formulated and discussed. Murders took place as they were being created. As I keep saying, you can’t separate this stuff out. The laws are both a symptom of the extreme homophobic climate in Russia (they’re going rapidly backwards instead of forward) and they will undoubtedly flame more violence.

    2. The new law and the climate are both horrible, period. Yes, there are worse places in the world for LGBT people, but the focus on Russia is appropriate given what the Olympics are supposed to stand for. Just because other places are worse, doesn’t mean the spotlight should be off of Russia. It’s a big and very dangerous place for LGBT people.

    3. Not everyone is calling for a boycott. It’s a debate. One can be on either side of the boycott (of Russian products and/or the Olympics themselves) and still refuse to be silent on Russian human rights abuses.

    If you want to see the climate the propaganda law exists in (and it’s the overall climate not just the law at issue), you only need to look at the newer TR post with the “Russian TV Official.” That sort of applauded dehumanization of gay people is rampant in Russia, and if you analyze what’s happening all together it harkens back to some very dark periods in Russian and world history and should be taken very seriously. Keep the spotlight on Russia, while the Olympics give us this opportunity.

    What’s especially sad about this is that there were glimmers of hope for LGBT Russians back in the 90s. That hope has been destroyed as long as the Putin dictatorship continues.

  24. Brian1 says

    @Jay and @Ernie,

    My final post on this subject, but you both reference the TV host post, and neither of you understand it. It doesn’t help that the guy looks evil, but his message is just advocating for a ban on blood donations and organ transplants by gays, yet it’s being interpreted as advocating for killing gays. His position is essentially to put Russia on the same level as the US with respect to medical donations; he just puts it in a much nastier way.
    Again, I’m not an apologist for the Putin regime at all, but I hate seeing people be manipulated by the media.

  25. says

    Brian1: Once again, you are diminishing what’s going on in Russia. I really don’t understand why. You insist you’re not an apologist for the Putin regime, yet that’s how you come across in every post.

    Actually, I do understand it. Yes, he was referencing blood donations and organ transplants, but the way he was doing so had an unmistakably violent subtext. He also made many other extreme anti-gay remarks on this and other broadcasts. I’m not relying on that one clip. And his statements are of a piece with many others by many other people. Like I said, the intent is to label LGBT people as pedophiles, diseased, non-Russian, inhuman and to put a bull’s-eye on their backs for the benefit of the growing gang of neo-Nazi thugs. That is the reality of the Putin regime and of LGBT life in Russia. Stop whitewashing it.

  26. Brian1 says


    I said my previous post was my last on this subject, but I do want to make one broader point explaining my motivation here. It most certainly isn’t a love for Putin, who is a thuggish dictator. Unfortunately he’s presiding over a violently homophobic society, so he’s reflecting that hate, not generating it. So no, I’m not an apologist for him, his regime or Russia.

    My issue is a much broader one, the problem with commenters having instant kneejerk reactions to so many things that they don’t understand. Flip through the comments on each Russian article, and you’ll see that most people have no idea what the anti-propaganda law says, and they’re not making the point you’re making that it indirectly inspires violence by reinforcing the homophobic culture. They just think gays are being beaten and arrested for being gay due to this law. That’s just not correct. The tv clip you referenced was similarly misunderstood by most. ( I already know you don’t agree with my characterisation of the law or the tv clip, but that’s not relevant for the point I’m trying to make.) The inarguable truth is that very few people understand these issues and many others correctly. So based on misunderstanding many things, we all decide to boycott Stoli. (As I said in an earlier post I do support a boycott on all things Russian and more generally anti gay.) Except now it seems that Stoli isn’t russian and the owner is anti-Putin, but we continue to boycott anyway. Like the tea party listening to fox news, we don’t let facts get in the way. Last week we had a post about target giving some money to the republican governors association sparking yet another boycott. Completely ignored was that they give slightly more to the corresponding democratic group, and that every big company in america does this. But stick up for any company and you’re branded a log cabin republican. I’m not, I’m just wishing people worked with the facts.

    Put a photo of a black person on this site, and out come the racists making their tired points, same for a woman (although that just brings out one commenter with many names.) Thoughtless comments riddled with factual errors quickly fill the comments page. Put up a story about China raiding a gay bar and xenophobes make up stuff about how horrible it must be to be gay in China. They forget that gay bars are raided in the US just as often, and that it’s actually pretty good to be gay in China (certainly much better than in Russia). Various celebrities, sportspeople and politicians are always good for soundbites that can be misconstrued, calling for yet more boycotts. Some have merit, many don’t and I wish we could learn a bit of critical thinking.

    Coming back to this topic, in retrospect this wasn’t a good fight for me to pick. I really do feel that people don’t understand the specifics here. But I feel that way about many/most of the posts on this site and i don’t normally get involved. The difference here is that in many other instances (eg the Target boycott) we make the wrong conclusion based on misunderstanding the facts. In the Russian instance, I fully agree with the boycott and the characterization of the Russian regime as vile so whether people properly understand each fact is largely irrelevant.

  27. says

    Well, thank you for the back and forth on this, Brian. I won’t rehash the Russia topic, since I have nothing to add to what I’ve said, but I agree with you that Internet commenters and media pundits and people in general often have kneejerk reactions based on incorrect and incomplete facts. And Internet anonymity can bring out the lowest common denominator and all the idiocy and prejudices that implies. Every time I perversely glance at Yahoo news comments, or myriad sites like that, I’m reminded just how hateful and stupid people can be.

    I’d like to think that enough people are focused on the Russia situation to get the real facts out there, and with them a debate about ways to respond. Time will tell how it all shakes out, but, since my husband has sensible friends and loved ones in Russia, gay and straight, and the country is important to him/us, and, on a grander scale, still occupies an important spot in the world, I personally hope Putin will go down somehow and they’ll turn back in another direction, whatever happens with the Olympics. And, of course, the same could be said to smaller and greater degrees to many countries all over the world, including the U.S.

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