Cher Public

Two out of two fussbudgets agree…

Anna Netrebko must state her position on gay rights in Russia: New York writer Scott Rose challenges the diva to state her position on Putin, Tchaikovsky and anti-gay legislation” [Slipped Disc]

  • cosmodimontevergine

    At the moment Russia is homophobic, anti-Semitic, and racist. Unfortunately, these bigotted attitudes are widespread in the rest of the world. I sure there are plenty of folks in the US who entirely agree with popular opinion in Russia. The difference is that the Russians with the backing and support of the Orthodox Church are enshrining this hatred as law, much as the Nazis did. I have heard considerable rumblings in the international opera world of singers, directors and designers who are refusing to take part in co-productions in Russia. If this could be extended to a boycott of the Olympics it might generate considerable clout. I doubt if putting pressure on Netrebko would be of much help but she sure as hell should be asked what she thinks. I would happily forgo her Tatyana if I felt it would make a difference.

  • I would love her even more than I already do if she were to say something in opposition to these laws, but not all great artists are also politically admirable heroes. I count Barenboim as a principled man as well as a great artist for his opposition to Israeli brutality over the years, but I’d still admire his musicianship even if he were “apolitical.”

    I’m in agreement with La Cieca’s attitude that this is a lot of self-important Upper West Side stuff, not because it’s unfair to Netrebko, but because it trivializes the issue itself. The mote-in-your-eye, beam-in-mine attitude is actually counterproductive in making change in places like Russia. I thought the same of the hullabaloo over Pussy Riot. Obviously the sentences given those women were indefensible, but Westerners harping on that, even as most Russians probably hadn’t even heard of it, is really just the sort of thing that gives ammunition to the worst elements in Russia.

    As I said, I would admire Netrebko even more if she said something. But I wouldn’t overestimate the impact it would have. She’d immediately be portrayed as someone who went to make her fortune in the West and is following Western fashions, therefore not a “real” Russian, etc. If Gergiev or (much moreso) Hvorostovsky said something, it might matter a great deal more. Fat chance of that, though.

    By contrast, when Barenboim criticizes Israeli policies, it matters a lot more, because Israel’s conduct is supported and funded (to the tune of some $5 billion in military aid, civilian aid, and loan guarantees) by the US. Not so with what Russia under Putin does.

    If people in the USA who love the arts are going to prevail on their favorite performers to take a political stand, they’d be better advised to ask American performers to oppose the ongoing (bipartisan) dismantling of public education. Or “stand-your-ground” (aka shoot-first-ask-questions-later) laws.

    • but Westerners harping on that, even as most Russians probably hadn’t even heard of it

      Not true.

      Note the final row of the first table.

    • cosmodimontevergine

      One of the best ways to get nothing changed is to try and change everything. Neither the dismantling of public education or “stand-your-ground” are unworthy of change and protest but in the US they are state legislated. But this is a particular issue. I don’t agree about ” La Cieca’s attitude that this is a lot of self-important Upper West Side stuff.” I haven’t the slightest idea of what that means. I don’t understand the connection. As a gay man I am concerned at the persecution of homosexuals in Russia and I think it should be taken seriously. PS I don’t live on the UWS.

      • But you live in the USA, don’t you? My point is that US posturing about what goes on in Russia is both easy and not especially helpful. Pussy Riot is a case in point. It’s different if you talk about injustices in your own country, or in close allies of your country (e.g., Israel). To complain about the sins of an official enemy, or at least a country with a complicated relationship with the US (e.g., Russia), is cheap and easy and often unhelpful, even when it’s given a nice liberal gloss. It reminds me of Laura Bush talking about oppressed Afghan women — the Bushes were suddenly feminists…

      • armerjacquino

        To be fair to La Cieca, I think what she was describing as ‘Upper West Side stuff’ was not the issue itself, but the related question ‘What should Anna Netrebko do about it’.

        With the exception of our dear basso, I think we can all take as a starting point that we agree that what is happening in Russia is disturbing and upsetting, and that something should be done about it.

    • I want to be very careful to define the “this” in “this is a lot of self-important Upper West Side stuff.” Obviously the violent infringement of the civil rights of gay people is an extremely concerning issue, and a lot of gay people in the US and worldwide have a strong feeling of solidarity with the victims of Russia’s policies. All of that is justified and none of it is self-important.

      The “self-important” part starts with the no-risk posturing. Rose isn’t risking injury or arrest or ostracism here. Instead, he demands that Netrebko take those risks because the cause in question matters so much to him. It’s hard for me to imagine a more arrogant attitude, or a more trivial, childish approach to political action: “Everyone (besides myself, of course) to the barricades! Why? Because I said so, of course, and who better to give the world orders than so perfectly sensitive and and caring a lefty as myself?”

      Forgive me if I find the oppression of Russian gays too important a subject to sacrifice on the altar of Scott Rose’s self-regard.

      • ^This.

      • gal

        She supported and attended publicly the Life Ball…
        That’s enough to understand what her position is on that question.
        Asking her an official statement is absurd.

        • grimoaldo

          “The Life Ball in Vienna is the biggest charity event in Europe supporting people with HIV or AIDS. The event is organized by the nonprofit organization AIDS LIFE, which was founded in 1992 by Gery Keszler and Torgom Petrosian.
          AIDS LIFE supports aid organizations devoted to helping people who are HIV-positive or have AIDS. The team entrusted with the allocation of funds thoroughly examines each petition. Moreover, it is an explicit goal of AIDS LIFE to raise public awareness.”

        • It’s not 1986, and I feel certain I don’t need to point out that AIDS and homosexuality are not equivalent.

          • CruzSF

            THANK YOU, Maury D.

          • gal

            That’s not what I implied.
            I didn’t not mean to link AIDS and homosexuality, but the fact that the Life Ball is a demented festive gay event by itself and assumed as it… You just have to look at how it’s organized and celebrated and again don’t misunderstand me : I love it.

    • luvtennis

      I am sorry, but your basic premise is flawed.

      Multinationals are investing heavily in Russia right now. So the collective opinions of those in the West matter a GREAT deal to Putin whether he admits it or not. Ultimately, the lack of investment in Russia by the west during the Cold War helped destroy the Russian economy.

      As for your ally vs. friend meme, I would remind you of the global protests against Apartheid. THey certainly played a large role in the isolation of the regime in power and contributed to its downfall even if only in small measure.

      And finally, no one is demanding that the average Russian stand up against their regime, but Anna is NOT an average Russian. That said, it appears that she is making her feelings known, and I feel confident that she is doing so with knowledge that Putin will leave her be. It would be in terrible scandal for his regime -- which cares about world opinion enough to at least give lip service to theidea that Russia has NOT slid back into totalitarianism whatever the truth may be.

      Sounds like you are sympathetic, but I fear that perhaps you don’t have sufficient skin in the game to appreciate the sentiment expressed in these posts.

  • I want to say that part of the reason this question is so contentious here, and maybe this has been mentioned and I didn’t see it, is that Anna Netrebko is, well, an opera singer. As long as I am stating extremely obvious things, most of us here probably feel there is a connection between opera and gay men. Rightly or wrongly, her support of Putin as this whole thing escalates feels like a betrayal.

    But it’s true about the possible consequences to her. I don’t imagine Putin would consider her a threat as he did, say, Khodorkovsky because she is (again) an opera singer, or Pussy Riot, same reason, but…this is all purely speculation and not something I have any way of knowing.

    • I get your point, and so that there’s no possibility of someone thinking that I’m misrepresenting myself, I suppose I should say that I am a heterosexual man, though I am also an ally. I do feel strongly about LGBT liberation, and I take this issue seriously. What I don’t like about this discussion is precisely that it trivializes the issue itself by using it as a weapon against an official enemy (or at least semi-adversary) of US foreign policy. Adopting selectively progressive positions so that they can be used as a stick to beat up on official enemies actually has the effect of reinforcing unjust power both in the US and in the country in question. The Bushes’ crocodile tears about oppressed Afghan women, all the while they pursued anti-feminist policies at home, is a case in point. Pussy Riot is another, since the Western carping about that actually reinforced the arguments of reactionaries in Russia itself, to the effect that the women involved were tools of the West (which they weren’t, actually, but you get the point).

      I’m not saying people in the US shouldn’t talk about this or take action on it, only that the way we do it should take global political realities into account. You’re right that “there is a connection between opera and gay men” — in THIS country. So it was heartening to see all the US opera stars supporting marriage equality a few months back, and I’m glad they did it. But it didn’t exactly take great courage on their part, did it? La Cieca is right: It would be a lot more impressive if they had opposed US drone bombings in Pakistan.

      Martin Luther King said that the US government was “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” and that remains true. Russians, just like most of the rest of the world, are aware of this. When Americans, while standing atop a pile of Iraqi corpses, decry Russia’s military support for the Syrian government, most Russians have a hard time taking that seriously. Do you see how they might have the same attitude to repression within Russia itself?

      Obviously Netrebko, Gergiev, Hvorostovsky, are all Russians, so it would be nice if they said something, and might even have some impact. But when it is people from the US making the demand that they say something, it has to be exasperating.

      • What I don’t like about this discussion is precisely that it trivializes the issue itself by using it as a weapon against an official enemy (or at least semi-adversary) of US foreign policy


        Really, dude, this has nothing to do with Syria.

        • I’m saying that Russians don’t take seriously the braying from people in the US about Syria; why would they not have the same dismissive reaction to posturing from inside the US about repression in Russia itself? This is why the particular way of posturing on this issue — from people in the USA — is so unhelpful.

          • Experience has shown that posturing can indeed be helpful. A few examples of this have been discussed on this thread already. The U.S. ended up taking braying from the Soviets seriously when it came to civil rights. I would also hope that people in other foreign countries would continue to bray against U.S. policies they consider harmful -- I might well agree with them in some instances.

            And, unless I missed something, I really haven’t seen you produce any evidence to suggest that having foreigners shut their traps actually ends up producing desirable results.

      • What I don’t like about this discussion is precisely that it trivializes the issue itself by using it as a weapon against an official enemy (or at least semi-adversary) of US foreign policy.

        Wait, what? I’m interested, and I think most people talking about this are interested, in the issue of human rights in Russia per se, not as a stand-in for something involving some adversary status Russia has. Maybe I’m misunderstanding you, but it seems like that’s what you’re saying.

        I’m also really uncertain about whether it’s helpful to do this act of political jiujitsu whereby you determine what you do and don’t advocate for based on whether it will reinforce the opposition’s negative ideas about you.

        Certainly your point is well taken with regard to US artists not being held to account for much of any political actions of the US. I suppose if the loggionisti at La Scala wanted to press Renee Fleming on her views about drone strikes they’d be justified in doing so though, again, it seems less relevant to me, and I don’t think the gay/opera connection is this purely American thing.

        • I agree that everyone in this discussion is genuinely interested in the issue of human rights in Russia. But what people in the US think does not matter very much, because the US does not have influence over Russian policy — while it does have influence over Israel, say, not to mention what goes on in the US itself. The concerns even of well-meaning people end up being used for bad purposes if they’re directed at “official enemies”; in some cases they’re even counterproductive. (I certainly thought this was the case with the uproar in the West about Pussy Riot.)

          So, if you want to do something that helps LGBT liberation in Russia (and elsewhere), you need to consider this context in which the message will be received. Does anyone really think that (rather strident) US appeals to Russian artists are an effective way to do this? On the contrary, aren’t they bound to come off as self-righteous hectoring, even if they are well-motivated? I certainly don’t approve of the Russian arming of the Syrian Ba’athists, but my banging on about it doesn’t do much good, and when Russians say that what the USA did in Iraq was worse, they have a point, no? And that’s an even bloodier situation.

          Like I said, I’d like to see Russian artists speak out about this, though I won’t be surprised if they don’t. Most of our own artists in the USA don’t speak out in this way, even though the consequences for them would be milder.

  • grimoaldo

    It is the word “must” in the headline, possibly not written by the author of the rest of the article, that La C objects to, I believe.
    The article proper contains the sentence “The opera world must rally in support of LGBT Russians as well as of their Russian heterosexual allies whose human rights, freedom of speech and of assembly are being trampled by the Putin regime.”
    “Must”, again. This seems rather close to bullying with unpleasant overtones of “Do what I say or there will be consequences”. “I call upon the opera world to support gay rights in Russia” would not be objectionable but this has hints of a sort of McCarthyite campaign to track and publicise anyone who does not follow the author’s demands.

    • Word. When someone tells me “You MUST go see this movie”, I feel bullied, like I’m living under an existential threat.

      At least, up until the moment that I realize that they are really just giving a recommendation.

  • marshiemarkII

    Scott Rose is a total self-centered ASSHOLE. We had more than enough evidence of that, when he was here a few years ago!

  • No Expert

    Not everyone can be a Dietrich

  • oedipe

    I have a suggestion: if people feel so strongly about Russia’s scapegoating of gays, why not DO something concrete, visible and daring about it, like, for instance, organize a protest in front of the Russian consulate, or something along these lines?

    Unless one is turned on by being patronizing towards Netrebko, without much insight into her actual situation, telling her what she SHOULD be saying and doing, while feeling good about oneself and getting moist eyes about one’s own (and America’s) moral superiority.

    A colleague of mine -a wise and witty Brit- used to say: “when all’s said and done, all’s been said and nothing’s been done”.

    • Few metaphors are as apt as that of the left as circular firing squad.

    • Oedipe -- Do you ever come to the U.S.? In San Francisco, there are frequently protests in front of the Russian, Chinese and Indian consulates, on a variety of issues. I imagine the U.S. consulates in other countries is also the site of many protests.

      • oedipe


        I usually spend a few months a year in the US, mostly in NY, about two blocks away from the UN, the site of nearly round-the-clock protests.

        Like you, I believe protests and posturing are very effective. As a matter of fact, they are much more effective against policies of formerly communist countries than against policies of Western ones, including the US, because formerly communist countries are very sensitive about preserving a “make belief” image.

        I assume there will be protests organized in NY, SF, etc. against Putin’s anti-gay laws and I think people’s time can be put to better use by participating in these protests than by bashing Netrebko and other Russian artists, whose lives and motivations they have little insight into.

        • kennedet

          I just returned from two weeks in Uganda where they kill, demean and arrest gays. People everywhere should be educated about human rights especially in third world countries where fanatical religious dogma is practiced. As far as I’m concerned, you can’t protest enough. I’m glad I don’t own any of her recordings. I always thought she wasn’t the sharpest “knife in the drawer” and I also posted months ago that her statements could cause problems. “Shut up and sing” should be her mantra.

          • DonCarloFanatic

            Your comment takes us full circle. “She should say something.” “No, maybe it’s dangerous for her.” “But it’s dangerous for us.” “She’s stupid, anyway.” That last does seem a bit uncalled for, but chacun a son gout.

            One of the continuing debates in the arts is whether any of us should take cognizance of the personalities and proclivities or the political beliefs and activities of artists. There is a long trail of quite marvelous artists whose behavior was or is, not to put too fine a point on it, shameful. The name Richard Wagner comes to mind immediately.

            Given that, I am not dismayed that Anna Netrebko has not yet decided to throw herself on the barricades for a particular cause that someone feels is important but that she may or may not deem sufficiently crucial to risk her future over. It’s not my business what decisions she makes. I suggest that it’s not anyone’s but hers. And if she’s too stupid to say the right things, maybe she’s just smart enough not to say the wrong things, either. We can hope.

            • kennedet

              We have advanced tremendously in the field of human rights since 1813 when Wagner was born. Do you think Wagner’s genius would excuse his blatant anti-semitic behaviour in 2013? I think he would be excoriated for his beliefs and celebrated for his musical genius. Who knows?

              However, if you are gay and the greatest opera singer in the world supports a powerful leader of a country who has anti-gay beliefs, you do a disservice to all gays when you say it’s none of your business. Must you live in Russia before this has meaning to you?

              Also, don’t underestimate the power of parterre box. This website has been quoted more than once in the NY Times. I was introduced to it by Opera News. I think her agents, managers and publicists are aware of this thread and pay attention to what is said here.

        • CwbyLA

          Dear oedipe, why does it have to be either or. People of the US will protest against Russia but it may or may not have the same impact as a famous Russian ( Netrebko or Gergiev) speaking against the atrocities committed against gays bith domestically and internationally. That’s why I think AN, as a supporter of Putin, should be asked to clarify her position.

          • oedipe

            Oh, but things are more complex than they seem from far away (and I am sure I only see part of the picture myself).

            Firstly, it’s not true that a US grassroots protest would have less impact than a protest coming from a famous Russian. What’s important for the Russian leadership is what the West thinks about them, their image in the West, not what the Russians think, no matter how famous they may be. Traditionally, in order for Russian dissidents to become relevant they first had to be noticed and made famous by the Western media.

            Secondly, I have a feeling that because Netrebko is a well known artist and one of the few Russian faces people here recognize, they are ascribing to her some powers and a moral responsibility she doesn’t have: she most likely had no input into these anti-gay measures, so she has no obligation to “clarify” her position. Now, she may indeed be asked by journalists how she feels about the matter, but that’s different from “should be asked to clarify her position“.

            Thirdly, as someone has already pointed out, Netrebko is not even considered Russian any more. Which means that she is regarded with suspicion and envy by the average Russian and her expressing strong political opinions may create a lot of resentment in Russia, the opposite of what Westerners would want to happen.

  • Constantine A. Papas

    A few years back, on this site, Netrebko was a nobody: a woman with “short neck,” and a “singer” good enough for Detroit. Now, Detroit is bankrupt, and if Netrebko had remained a “nobody,” we wouldn’t have this conversation. It’s hypocritical exploitation because Netrebko proved many wrong, and now they want to use her fame to advance their own causes, no matter how noble, and just, and human.

    • la vociaccia

      “A few years back” Netrebko was still the biggest opera star in the world. That a handful of queens complained about her on a blog does not amount to her being a ‘nobody,’ whether on this site or anywhere else.

  • Dolciamente Pipo

    I don’t see how the Fleming example is remotely analgous. Did Fleming publicly endorse the governor during his campaign? Did she even know he was in attendance or what his views on public education were? Is cutting funding for music education (as odious as it may be) really equal to serious human rights violations?

    Regarding the Netrebko affair: person’s privately held political beliefs are indeed nobody else’s business. But IF you are a person in the public eye and IF you make your political beliefs public…as Netrebko did in her public support of Putin…then the public will indeed have a tendency to question those beliefs.
    Celebrity is a double edged sword.
    Netrebko is perfeclty within her rights not to “throw herself in front of the barricades for any particular cause”, but she already has made it quite clear what “cause” she supports by publicly backing Putin.
    It’s been suggested that she’s the victim of some state sponsored coersion. I don’t know. Maybe. It seems more likely to me that she did what was advantagous to her at the time and it’s now coming back to bite her. Or maybe she just didn’t think about it at all.

    • CwbyLA

      Hear hear Dolciamente. You said it much more eloquently than I could have ever done.

    • Fleming acknowledged that the governor was there and said it was an honor for her. Once again, I don’t blame her for it. But yes, the governor’s education cuts (NOT just music education cuts) amount to a human rights violation. If you ever look into the enormous act of state-sponsored racism that is the education funding system in most states in this country, including Pennsylvania, then I think you’ll be forced to agree. Corbett’s cuts made that even worse, because the poorer schools — and especially the most nonwhite schools — took the biggest hit.

      I don’t have any problem with people questioning the political actions of public figures, including artists. I do have a problem with Americans taking Russian artists to task when the United States is responsible for more than its own share of enormous crimes, both at home and abroad. If silence is complicity, there are a lot of complicit artists in this country.

      • antikitschychick

        This issue of the governor and education cuts and whether or not she said anything PALES in comparison to the heinous act RF committed as the result of her creative consultant commission for LOC. How dare she whore out her sacred Diva dust for profit???!!
        I demand to know what her stance is on the matter of diva dust and why on earth she would submit to monetizing such a sacred instrument of artistic transcendence for sheer personal economic gain. *-*

      • bassoprofundo

        “…education cuts (NOT just music education cuts) amount to a human rights violation.”

        I envy you. You must have had a very privileged and sheltered life if you consider cutting some education funding as tantamount to a human rights violation.

        I wonder what all those people raped and slaughtered in Darfur would think, what those innocent people on the Srebrenica death march would have thought, etc.

        I’ve got a hunch that they’d give anything to have your version of a “human rights violation” instead of theirs.

        “What? you were raped and your family was murdered in front of your eyes in Darfur? oh honey, you don’t want to go to Pennsylvania, it’s just as bad—they cut some education funding!”

        • armerjacquino

          This cow is nearby, this cow is far away.

          It’s possible to say ‘I’m hungry’ without meaning ‘…which is as every bit as bad as starvation in sub-Saharan Africa’

      • Nerva Nelli

        Charlotte Corday is not just one of opera’s most celebrated sopranos, but perhaps its most convincing actress. A consummate artist, her one and only role when she stands in the spotlight is to breathe so much life into the opera’s main character that audiences lose themselves in her unforgettable performances. That is the passion of Charlotte Corday.

  • Don_Dano

    This thread has inspired me to pack my paperback copy of Arthur Koestler’s “Darkness at Noon” for the trip to Seattle’s Ring Cycle this weekend. A book I read every few years.

  • manou

    As there is a vacancy due to a recent moderation, I am throwing moderation to the winds and pasting Hugo Rifkind’s column in the Times below:

    Published at 12:01AM, July 30 2013

    If gays aren’t hugged, everyone is stamped on

    Hugo Rifkind

    The Pope has shown that he knows homosexual rights matter because they tell us how states deal with difference
    In Russia over the past few months Vladimir Putin has embarked on a flurry of anti-gay legislation, with such vigour and zest that you almost wonder if somebody said something that gave him the fear one of those times he had his shirt off. One law prohibits the adoption of Russian children not only by gay people, but also by single people living in countries that allow gay marriage, presumably just in case they ever get the urge.
    Another allows for the two-week detention of gay or even “pro-gay” tourists. Pretty broad. Which of us today is not pro-gay? Last week I was in the country myself. Had I read out this column on a street corner, I’d have risked arrest. Hell, had David Cameron popped along to read out his last party conference speech, so would he. Meanwhile, homophobic assaults are rising, and the authorities don’t seem particularly bothered. Indeed, it’s an open question whether Russians at large are particularly bothered either. But we’ll come back to that.
    First, let us dive south a few thousand miles to sub-Saharan Africa. Here, at the weekend, Archbishop Desmond Tutu declared that he could not worship a homophobic God. “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven,” he said, taking his favoured technique of the political boycott to a whole new level. “I would much rather”, he added, “go to the other place.”
    One needs only the most cursory knowledge of the dire straits of sexual politics across that continent — the murders, beatings, draconian new laws, “corrective” rapes and public humiliations — to understand how brave and spine-tinglingly powerful an intervention Archbishop Tutu’s was. South Africa is one of the few African nations where same-sex relationships are protected by law, but, in terms of mass culture and political rhetoric, it gets more and more like its neighbours.
    Next door in Zimbabwe, indeed, that mad old goat Robert Mugabe was swift in incoherent condemnation, leerily suggesting that the Archbishop should swap his wife for a husband. Mugabe, of course, has an overactive gaydar, as you might remember from his shrieking about the “gay gangsters” of Tony Blair’s Government in 1997. Lately, while gearing up to win a seventh term in office, he has started shouting about gays being “worse than pigs and dogs”.
    The likes of Hetero Vlad and Crazy Bob are cited by some as evidence that the great surge of gay equality in the West is a niche affair and that much of the world remains unreconstructed. But the truth is far worse. Actually a large chunk of the world is galloping in one direction and another chunk — perhaps larger — in the other. Regardless of the precise status of same sex unions, and to dramatically varying degrees, gay equality is rising in most of Europe, Australia, most of North America and South America and, albeit far more quietly, in South East Asia. In Africa, meanwhile, and the Middle East and the former Soviet Union, the reverse is happening. Laws are tightening, scapegoats being sought, rhetoric amping up.
    Some are caught in the middle. “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?” the Pope said yesterday in Brazil, admittedly progress of a microscopic sort, but only because his predecessor was very much not on the side of the angels. The Archbishop of Canterbury too is twisting, caught between his own views (which are surely liberal) and a whole continent full of precisely the sort of African clergy that Archbishop Tutu so bravely isn’t.
    One great and rarely asked question is why anybody gives a damn. Really, not that many people are gay. The American sexologist Alfred Kinsey suggested that about one in ten men are exclusively homosexual, but this was almost certainly an overestimate based on his obsession with prison populations. Most modern surveys put the figure at well under 5 per cent. A bluntly rational society would regard this as an unremarkable minority, clearly entitled to the same rights as everybody else, but not (sorry, guys) particularly interesting.
    Yet quite suddenly, homosexuality is an itch that almost everywhere has to scratch. Not just governments but people, too. That’s not to say that the Putins and Mugabes of the world don’t seek cynically to exploit existing sentiment; of course they do, via the foul, fascistic technique of identifying an enemy within. And it would be naive not to see some cynicism in the championing of gay rights by Western, liberalising governments, who want to display their moral credentials to domestic populations already onside. But the bedrock is already there. Wherever you are, wherever you go, people have views about the gays.
    It’s a bellwether, that’s why. It’s not about who puts what where. Rather, it’s an indicator of how comfortable people are with difference, in a world where difference suddenly has the power to demand that people have a view. One of Mr Putin’s latest anti-gay laws (and by most accounts, a popular one) is his banning of “gay propaganda” aimed at minors; like Margaret Thatcher’s infamous Section 28, but with added hard labour. How foreign it suddenly seems. I told a 20-year-old student about Section 28 the other day; she thought I was making it up. This, I explained, was a Britain before mass internet media. It wasn’t that easy to complain about stuff. There wasn’t anybody to tweet.
    In fact, the Conservatives’ journey from Section 28 to equal marriage has been gloriously indicative of the link between gay rights and all other rights. What Mr Cameron understood was that there is no such thing as gay propaganda, except in a world where authority makes gays its enemy. “I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative,” he said, “I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.” It sounds like a cheap soundbite, but the philosophy is tightly packed in. Equal marriage is best understood not as a concession to a minority, but as a benign eradication of the jagged edges that make that minority a minority at all.
    Those countries where homophobia is soaring are invariably those that still prefer to deal with difference with a stamp rather than a hug; with descending jackboots rather than open arms. No wonder the Pope doesn’t want to be in their gang, or the ABC. All are places where you wear one face in public and another in private, and where difference of any less visible sort has a history of being banished deep into the private sphere. And today, in a world where nothing stays private unless we want it to, and often not even then, all are ruled by people who feel that their grasp upon power is slipping away. And with any luck, they’re all absolutely right.


    • antikitschychick

      good article. Thanks for posting it manou.

    • lorenzo.venezia

      Manou, Thank you so much for dropping this here. It is well-reasoned and non-ideological, qualities sorely lacking in the US media. How do you react to horror? Scream, bury your head, quietly to mad; or sweep away the cobwebs and use your head. I like how he thinks. Grazie mille ;-)

  • alejandro

    I wonder how having a gay man singing Onegin will influence Gergiev and Netrebko. Anna and Mariusz seem to be really good friends. I cannot believe she would be so callous as to not see how this law affects men and women who are like her co-star.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Gergiev’s earnings for 2012 have just been made public on Slipped Disk via Forbes. Would you believe: “$16.5 million [Among other assets, the conductor is said to own 15 percent of Evrodon, the country’s largest turkey producer. The magazine is vague about Gergiev’s music fees.] ” It sort of boggles the mind.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      The other good looking wealthy Ruskies are here:

      • Hm, the quote from the last guy on the list, Sergei Lazarev, who seems to be the breakout star from a boy band, is:

        “«??? — ??? ?? ?? ????? ????, ????? ?? ????????????, ???????????, ????? ? ????????? ?????? ??????: ? ??????????? ???? ???, ? ????????. ?????? ??? ??? ?????. ?? ????????? ???? — ??? ?????, ???????? —????»”

        “Gays are the same people, not different in any way, talented, bright in all kinds of spheres: there are gay civil servants and politicians. It’s all around us. Not to accept gay people--it’s stupid. To deny them--same thing.”

        • It sounds much less tentative in English.

          • So much is lost in translation. Or in cut & paste.

  • Hey Louie

    An interesting video from a neighboring republic:

    According to news reports, the Georgian Orthodox priests who organized and led this riot shouted “Kill them! Kill them!” as they broke through police barriers to attack a gay-rights demonstration.

    I think we should all calm down here and wait until something like this happens in Moscow or St Petersburg before we question any artists about their support for the policies of Putin and his gang.

    • What is happening in Georgia at the moment is also appalling. I’m not well-versed in the wooly details of Georgian politics, but it seems to me that the same dynamic is driving both the Georgian and the Russian governments to align themselves both with the established church and paramilimary groups on this issue. Since the dynamics of both countries could feed into one another, it makes little sense to treat them as completely separate issues.

      And just to remind you of some of the things in Putin’s new anti-gay laws, Harvey Fierstein in the NY Times writes: “A few days earlier, just six months before Russia hosts the 2014 Winter Games, Mr. Putin signed a law allowing police officers to arrest tourists and foreign nationals they suspect of being homosexual, lesbian or “pro-gay” and detain them for up to 14 days.”

      Arresting foreign nationals simply because the police believe them to be gay or pro-gay? That means no foreign national is in fact safe from arrest. Reason enough to ask people like Netrebko and Gergiev what’s up with the president whose campaign they lent their names to.

      • bluecabochon

        That should be interesting once the gay Olympians arrive next year.

        It has been a dream of mine to visit St. Petersburg, and even though I am not gay nothing would stop anyone from thinking that I am if anyone wanted to detain me for any reason. I can afford to go now, but won’t give them a dime as long as these laws and prejudices are in place. I’m Jewish and look it, so who’s next? Are Jews going to be detained? And what does “detained” really mean? It all sounds awfully familiar.

        Harvey Fierstein writes:

        “Finally, it is rumored that Mr. Putin is about to sign an edict that would remove children from their own families if the parents are either gay or lesbian or suspected of being gay or lesbian. The police would have the authority to remove children from adoptive homes as well as from their own biological parents.

        Not surprisingly, some gay and lesbian families are already beginning to plan their escapes from Russia.”

        • Vergin Vezzosa

          I’m with bluecabochon and croche here and thank them both for highlighting the Fierstein op ed piece in the July 21 NYT which also noted that Putin’s actions have been “straight from the Nazi playbook”. The Times editorial Board followed up with another equally sobering piece in the July 27 edition noting that during the Olympics, the gay and gay-sympathetic athletes, fans, performers etc. will be in jeopardy under the recent laws.

          I think that this issue has “legs” and will only grow in intensity. I believe that it is likely that the U. S. State Department will have to consider a travel advisory, that Hillary Clinton will be asked to comment based on her comments when she was still Secretary of State and that the IOC will be drawn into this for the protection of the Winter Games and the principles for which the Olympics stand. This is much more a threat and more directly related to the Games themselves than the silly posturing by that ninny twerp Lindsey Graham when he tried to link the Games to Ed Snowden’s sojourn in Moscow. We shall see.

          In the meantime, I do not think that the vodka boycott is ludicrous at all and my copious purchases of that product will be limited to Polish or Scandinavian brands from now on. Good for the folks in the bars that are dumping out the Russian brands.

          As for Ms. Netrebko and especially Mr. Gergiev, in actively supporting Putin, they have made their beds and, as this issue escalates, may be forced to lay
          in them whether that want to or not. Again, we shall see.

          PS -- I would also expect a number of other countries with concerns similar to those expressed by Harvey and others to jump into fight.

      • oedipe

        Reason enough to ask people like Netrebko and Gergiev what’s up with the president whose campaign they lent their names to.

        Let’s face it: everybody needs a scapegoat! Putin has chosen gays; we have picked Netrebko.

        (Scapegoating is a phenomenon that lies at the very basis of human society, according to philosopher René Girard.)

        • Hmmm, is your false-equivalency detector on the fritz again?

          • Take a look at these photos and then tell me that Anna Netrebko and Valery Gergiev are the real victims here.

        • oedipe

          “In a world where violence is no longer subject to ritual and is the object of strict prohibitions, anger and resentment cannot or dare not, as a rule, satisfy their appetites on whatever object directly arouses them. The kick the employee doesn’t dare give his boss, he will give his dog when he returns home in the evening. Or maybe he will mistreat his wife and his children, without fully realizing that he is treating them as “scapegoats.” Victims substituted for the real target are the equivalent of sacrificial victims in distant times. In talking about this kind of phenomenon, we spontaneously utilize the expression “scapegoat.”

          The real source of victim substitutions is the appetite for violence that awakens in people when anger seizes them and when the true object of their anger is untouchable. The range of objects capable of satisfying the appetite for violence enlarges proportionally to the intensity of the anger.[…]

          Because of Jewish and Christian influence scapegoat phenomena no longer occur in our time except in a shameful, furtive, and clandestine manner. We haven’t given up having scapegoats, but our belief in them is 90 percent spoiled. The phenomenon appears so morally base to us, so reprehensible, that when we catch ourselves “letting off steam” against someone innocent, we are ashamed of ourselves.[…]

          Today as in the past, to have a scapegoat is to believe one doesn’t have any. The phenomenon in question doesn’t usually lead any longer to acts of physical violence, but it does lead to a “psychological” violence that is easy to camouflage. Those who are accused of participating in hostile transference never fail to protest their good faith, in all sincerity.

          When human groups divide and become fragmented, during a period of malaise and conflicts, they may come to a point where they are reconciled again at the expense of a victim. Observers nowadays realize without difficulty, unless they belong to the persecuting group, that this victim is not really responsible for what he or she is accused of doing. The accusing group, however, views the victim as guilty, by virtue of a contagion similar to what we find in scapegoat rituals. The members of this group accuse their “scapegoat” with great fervor and sincerity. More often than not some incident, whether fantastic or trivial, has triggered a wave of opinion against this victim, a mild version of mimetic snowballing and the victim mechanism.[…]

          When we suspect people around us of giving in to the temptation of scapegoating, we denounce them indignantly. We ferociously denounce the scapegoating of which our neighbors are guilty, but we are unable to do without our own substitute victims. We all try to tell ourselves that we have only legitimate grudges and justified hatreds, but our feeling of innocence is more fragile than our ancestors’.”

          Excerpts from René Girard’s I See Satan Fall Like Lightning [Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2001], chapter twelve, “Scapegoat,” pages 154-160.

  • DonCarloFanatic

    Detaining “suspected pro-gay foreigners” will kill tourism dead. The police force will demand big bribes and ransoms, and then word will get out and no one will visit Russia.

    It’s funny in a sad way. Nothing changes in Russia no matter who runs it.

  • The list of 500+ trustees of Putin’s 2012 re-election campaign.

    I’ve had a hard time accessing Putin’s re-election website. Probably just a technical glitch. Google has cached a version of the page listing the 500+ trustee supporters of Putin’s re-election campaign. I have copy-pasted that information into a separate google document freely-accessible on the web, whose link is here.

    I haven’t had a chance yet to comb through the list myself. But at a quick glance I also find the names of violist superstar Yuri Bashmet (I haz a sad), director Fedor Bondarchuk, pianist Denis Matsuev, director Nikita Mikhalkhov, and conductor Yuri Temirkanov.

    By an amazing coincidence, Gergiev, Netrebko, Bashmet and Matsuev were all featured artists at the opening of the Mariinsky II theater earlier this year.

    • bassoprofundo

      keep fighting the good fight croche!

    • Krunoslav

      No surprise about the loathsome-viewed macho Mikhailkhov, a monarchist/fascist.

    • And here are some more highlights from the “Putin 500”

      * Mikhail Boyarsky, actor/director
      * Askold and Edgard Zapashny – the Russian Siegfried and Roy
      * Eduard Bagirov, controversial Moldovan blogger
      * Larisa Belobrova, high-earning, little-known actress and possible mafia moll
      * Lidia Velezheva, actress
      * Vladimir Mikhailovich Zakharov, choreographer, just died two weeks ago.
      * Igor Butman, Saxophonist/bandleader
      * Viktor Zakharchenko, artistic director of the Kuban Kossack Chorus
      * Igor Zelensky, ballet dancer, principal of the Mariinsky Ballet.
      * Nikolai Slichenko, singer and director of the Moscow “Romen” Music and Drama Gypsy Theater
      Yuri Solomin, actor/director/ Minister of Culture (1990-2)
      * Oleg Tabakov, actor and director of the Moscow Art Theater (sad…..)
      * Nadezhda Babkina, artistic director of the Moscow folk theater “Russian Song”
      * Vladimir Babin, classical and jazz pianist
      * Dagun Omavey, actor
      * Valery Fokin, actor, writer and director of the Meyerhold center in Moscow, artistic director of the Alexandrinsky Theater in St. Petersburg
      * Igor Kharlamov, actor-comedian
      * Aleksei Chadov, actor and occasional topless model

  • antikitschychick

    can we all take a min to discuss how painfully ironic it is that in about a week she will singing a role that is based on a historical figure who was burned at the stake for heresy (more specifically cross-dressing)and whose gender and sexual identity is still speculated over to this day?? Seriously. Ya can’t make this stuff up. Surely this bears some relevance no?

    Moreover, I really think this is a much more salient subject-matter and bridges the LGBT rights/political issues in a much better fashion than Mr. Rose’s harsh piece. If I were a journalist this is certainly what I would focus on to bring attention to this issue as it directly ties the artistic aspects with the political ones.

    Plus, I saw on Anna’s Facebook page that they are doing a special edition of “ask anna” that specifically deals with her upcoming roles and they even prompt ppl to ask her questions about said roles. The chances that she would actually address this issue are pretty slim I know, but its still a good way to politely and cogently bring attention/visibility to this issue. I’d pose the question myself but I think it would be more appropriate if an actual LGBT member/spokesperson were to do it rather than a straight person who is an ally to the cause. JMHO.

  • havfruen

    Russia’s ghastly new anti-gay law will not apply to participants or visitors of the Winter Olympics according to reports in Danish newspapers.

    Here is the citation which even if you don’t read Danish ( why should you?) you can at least pick up some of the words and the name of the spokesperson who was quoted by Interfax:

    -- De Olympiske Lege er en vigtig, international begivenhed. Vores opgave er at være så politisk korrekte og tolerante, som vi kan være.

    -- Derfor har vi besluttet ikke at gøre det til et stridspunkt under legene, siger næstformanden for det russiske underhus’ sports-, trænings- og ungdomspolitiske udvalg, Igor Ananskikh, til nyhedsbureauet Interfax.

    Lots of noise in Scandinavia about the Russian law. Maybe the noise will do some good.