Cher Public

Why Rupert Christiansen is the wrong commentator about gay rights protesters

The veteran British critic click-whored, “[B]ased on the possibly paranoid notion that the two men are as thick as thieves, Gergiev is being systematically harassed and hounded before performances in both New York and London by campaigners who feel that his silence on the gay issue indicates his tacit support for his chum in the Kremlin.”

  • antikitschychick

    The only people being “systematically harassed” are members of the LGBT community and the political dissidents of Russia. Mr. Christiansen would do well to get some perspective on the issue before victimizing Gergiev who is giving performances in countries where people have the right to protest and express their opinions freely without getting a public beating or sent to jail on phony charges. If he wants to avoid the protests then he needs to stop supporting Putin. We don’t need to know if he and Putin share extended brunches or whether he is the Godfather of Putin’s children. We know he formally backed Putin’s re-election campaign, condemned Pussy Riot and defended that discriminatory law saying that is protects children from pedophilia. Nobody is harassing or demonizing him; he is demonizing himself as a result of his own political agenda. Simple as that.

    Moreover, everyone knows that Opera has a strong LGBT following and shunning their quest for equal rights in favor of whatever chauvinist personal artistic goal or vision he may have is like biting the hand that feeds you and it is morally questionable behavior to say the least.

  • The only thing I’ve ever found remarkable about Rupert Christiansen is his smug ignorance. Since American music journalists, alas, are seldom better, I have no right to be smug.

  • Operngasse

    Mr. Christiansen may have a point, which I’ll edit slightly:

    What is clear is that Leni Riefenstahl’s consuming interest in life was film …

    Ms. Riefenstahl’s consuming interest was film. However, that doesn’t give her or a certain Russian conductor a free pass due to use that the political establishment surrounding and supporting that interest makes of the art form.

  • And either Rupert is a bullshitter or he’s a complete moron who does not even know what the word “tacit” means. I’d put my money on the former, though reasonable minds might conclude that the two possibilities are not mutually exclusive.

  • operaassport

    I completely disagreed with the protesters mostly because they’re so “selective” (Protesting Artists who voted for Putin but not those who support Obama or other leaders whose policies have killed thousands of innocents). However, I don’t see any systematic harassment of Gergiev.

    But, Americans should sometimes try and see things from a more global rather than narrow American perspective. In much, if not most, of the world LGBT issues aren’t remotely important. In fact, in many parts of the world it is the US government that is seen as the most aggressive oppressor on the planet supporting and encouraging lawlessness. Many think we take the law into our own hands without regards to the borders of others. While we’d never permit the same on our own soul.

    I’m not taking sides but presenting a perspective we sometimes forget. I hear it every time I travel outside the USA.

    • You do know the difference between being an “artist who voted for Putin” and being one the Putin 500, don’t you?

      • operaassport

        Yes, no different than the Obama 500 or Bush 500. Artists who vocally, loudly, and with their money support their leader.

        • Right. Which is different from “someone who voted for [Putin/Obama]”. Your phrasing was disingenuous.

    • grimoaldo

      Here is an article from the Guardian that I posted on here yesterday by one of the protestors, the veteran gay rights activist Peter Tatchell --

      Who of course is not American. If people abroad felt strongly enough about US policies to protest at concerts or other events being performed by American citizens who support the President that would be their right.

      • “It would be their right,” indeed, and no one is disputing that, but would it be a good idea? I rather doubt it, even if the artist in question were someone really horrid like, say, Ted Nugent (who actually doesn’t support the current president, but supported the last one — but you get my point). It’s usually a good idea to stay focused on decision-makers themselves and not the cultural figures who support or apologize for them.

        As for Tatchell, I’ve had problems with his white-man’s-burden approach of pseudo-solidarity for many years. Case in point, African LGBTI activists who denounced Outrage’s counterproductive efforts in Africa.

        Tatchell’s latest antics remind me of nothing so much as this. And they also remind me of the topless “feminist” protesters of FEMEN, who make it their business to “support” women in Muslim countries by making stereotyped statements about Islam. The response of actual feminist activists in Muslim countries has been a resounding, “No thanks.”

        Where are the LGBT organizations in Russia who have called for anything like an international campaign of this sort, involving freelance boycotts, organized, by Westerners, of Russian cultural figures rather than actual Russian decision-makers? Or calling for a boycott of the Sochi Olympics, which no Russian LGBT group that I know of — or credible opposition group of any kind — has called for?

        This is why the comparisons, which I have seen some people make, between this and the anti-apartheid struggle are downright ludicrous. The diplomatic, political and cultural isolation of racist South Africa was a strategy of a majority-supported political movement inside South Africa which had great democratic legitimacy: the ANC. Oliver Tambo coordinated the whole thing from his exile in London. There is nothing like this here, just a lot of paternalism on the part of Westerners who are at best well-meaning, but ultimately pretty clueless and counterproductive.

        And all this, yet Rupert Christiansen still sucks!

        • jk10

          Since you think Westerners should silently suffer the barbaric treatment of gay people in non-Western countries, why don’t model that behavior and keep quiet yourself. Try to be consistent. I, however, refuse to ignore the suffering of gay people in Russia or elsewhere just because I am an American. If that bothers non-Westerners, perhaps they should encourage the criticized countries to be more discrete about disgusting anti-gay human rights abuses happening under their watch. Problem solved.

    • armerjacquino

      In much, if not most, of the world LGBT issues aren’t remotely important.

      Actually, they’re important everywhere. That’s kind of how equality works. If you argue that LGBT issues are more ‘important’ in the US than elsewhere, you’re saying that you’re fine with a gay man in NYC having more rights than one in Moscow or Tehran or Abuja. Maybe you *are* fine with that. I’m not.

      • Clita del Toro

        Jacquino I am with you on that.

      • operaassport

        You obviously have problems with reading comprehension as that’s not at all what I said. I wasnt giving my personal opinion on the subject but injecting some facts into the discussion.

        If you seriously believe that most of the world cares about LGBT issues, then I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

        Not everything that people care about in the Western world is important to people everywhere else.

        It may not be right, but that’s a fact.

        • armerjacquino

          You obviously have problems with reading comprehension as that’s not at all what I said.

          It’s a direct quote.

          If you seriously believe that most of the world cares about LGBT issues, then I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

          I made no mention of whether people care. What you said, again a direct quote, was ‘LGBT ISSUES AREN’T REMOTELY IMPORTANT’. My point was that they are.

          If that’s not what you meant to say, that’s your stupid fault, not mine.

    • Ilka Saro

      I am American, but I have spent a good deal of my childhood in Mexico, and my adult life in Mexico, Thailand, and even a little bit in Russia.

      In general, I think there is much to be said for the point of view that Americans are extremely hypocritical about human rights.

      However, when it comes to homophobia, my self-interest is not merely as an American. As you say: “In much, if not most, of the world LGBT issues aren’t remotely important.” I see that unimportance as creating substantial difficulties for LGBT people. Because they truly are seen as unimportant, it means the can be subjected to violence with impunity.

      This isn’t just a problem outside of the US borders. There is plenty of homophobia here, and plenty of people who are willing to say that it isn’t important. But I disagree.

      I participated in some of the discussions that led to the action at the Met here in NYC. What surprised me was the concern that many of the activists had for whether pressure could really be brought to bear on Putin. To me, the question was absurd. Putin is a powerful political boss in Russia, and the protests of American activists are really not important to him.

      However, what I saw was queer folks in NYC getting together and learning how to give themselves a voice where they aren’t necessarily supposed to have one. Whether it made an impression on a vicious Russian political boss wasn’t important to me.

      The debate continues. Some folks don’t that that LGBT people should make an opera house a venue for their political statements. To me, where, when and how LGBT people have a voice is still a work in progress. It wasn’t that long ago that we were believed not to really exist. In the last 40 years, our political voice has developed somewhat, but is still finding its way.

      To the degree that the Met or Carnegie Hall actions failed to change Putin’s (or Gergiev’s) mind, well, I suppose they were misguided and parochial. To the degree that LGBT people are still creating a political dialog on their own terms, using venues that they define as political, I think what they did was terrific!

      I really don’t disagree that most people in the world see no importance to our struggles. Given those conditions, it is we who must decide for ourselves that we are important. It’s up to us not just to be very vocal and visible, insisting on our rights. It’s also up to us to create the critiques which define those rights, and to identify and use the structures of “ordinary” society, like opera houses, as we see fit.

      • operaassport

        Ilka: spot on.

        • armerjacquino

          Ilka says ‘I think what they did was terrific’

          You said ‘I completely disagree with the protesters’

          You then said ‘Ilka: spot on’.

          I think you’re the one who has trouble with reading.

    • beauj1

      Um, you DO realize the protests that are being discussed are happening in London and Christensen is a British critic? Not sure why you’re injecting your American political agenda into this discussion. The Brits don’t care too shakes. They’re too busy protesting Gergiev.

    • ilpenedelmiocor

      “I hear it every time I travel outside the USA.”

      God that’s so insufferably pretentious. I suppose next you’re going to let drop that you like walking in European cities.

  • Liz.S

    Wow… again it’s The Telegraph…
    Do people actually buy this paper over there?

    • armerjacquino

      It’s the paper of the traditionalist right-wing, so those people buy it.

      Luckily for me, I don’t know any of those people.

      • Liz.S

        His is such a funny argument to me -- a) Gergiev is not the baddie, b) they are, so c) Gergiev is the good one -- surreal… :- D

      • operaassport

        Thank you for providing prime evidence of a narrow minded view. Rather than take people as groups, lets just lump them into groups. Makes it easier to discriminate against them.

        Isn’t that exactly what you’re protesting against?

        Sort of reminds me of those people who put in their personal ads “no Asians” or no blacks or no Republicans but claim to be open minded at the same time.

        I have friends who run the gamut from liberal to communist to right wing to libertarian to I don’t even know. Because I don’t judge people based on things like that.

        • Liz.S

          First of all I said nothing to discriminate anybody or any group of people. I only pointed out this writer’s flow of argument is funny and that’s an apolitical comment.
          Second of all AJ doesn’t have friends who pay to read this funny paper so what? Why that necessitated you to label him (and me?) as a member of “group of narrow-minded people” or whatever. You claimed you don’t judge people but that’s what you just did.

          • armerjacquino

            It’s also a po-faced, literal reaction to a fairly obviously-signalled joke.

  • Given his casually misogynist “crazy bitch making shit up” response to Angela Gheorghiu’s allegations of domestic abuse, I also find it hard to take Rupert Christiansen seriously — even though I actually agree with the statement that “Valery Gergiev is the wrong target for gay rights protesters.”

    • jk10

      Valery Gergiev is indeed the wrong target for gay rights protesters--the target should be power brokers in the homophobic Russian government. Yet that doesn’t put Gergiev above criticism for his support for Putin and silently looking the other way while his regime savagely abuses gay people.

  • The Conte

    I find the predictable left-wing and right-wing slants to this type of debate rather boring and so the Torygraph and Gruniad artcles are quite tedious for me.

    However, this isn’t a tedious topic, rather it’s very important. The plight of LGBT people in all corners of the world is important, whether or not local communities or society in general in those places feel it is so.

    However, it seems to me that the Gergiev based protests would be better aimed at a wider audience than the classical music world.


    • Clita del Toro

      Well, when these stories about Gergiev hit the newspapers, a wider audience is made aware of the issue. Protests against Putin would be useless as he is such a pig.

  • CwbyLA

    When Netrebko and Gergiev signed on to be one of the 500 artists who support Putin, they either did it because they truly support him or they were afraid that not signing on would damage their careers or they did it because they thought they would benefit from it somehow. Well, now when people don’t like one of Putin’s policies, they are certainly “benefiting” from some of that wrath. They are adults and should have thought carefully before signing onto supporting a dictator? These are not some ignorant Russins who live a protected life in a small village. Why didn’t Dima sign onto this support list?

  • ilpenedelmiocor

    Here’s another example of Gergiev’s horrible victimization as an artist who just wants to dedicate himself to his art.

    The situation with Tsiskaridze

    is mixed up in strange and at times inscrutable ways with the horrific sulfuric acid attack on Sergei Filin, head of the Bolshoi Ballet.,0,5725698.story?page=1#axzz2kAqZoqBz

  • redbear

    When you understand pseudo-democratic governments, you would understand Gergiev’s position. It is like most third-world countries and dictatorships where the economy is controlled and, in large part, ownership and profits of major companies are regulated by the leadership for the benefit of themselves and supporters. For example, Gergiev happens to own a huge slice of the largest chicken meat company in Russia. His income from that is over $16 million each year putting him on the Russian Forbes list of richest men in Russia. Now he does do a lot of concerts and his fees are high but if anyone here thinks he was a prudent investor and won, I have a bridge…