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Towards a new image-conscious Olympics. The cost of fashionable politic.


It’s important to examine your motives, take stock, evaluate what you want to achieve, for whom and the best way to go about it.
Sometimes humility is the price of progress.


I noticed that the attention surrounding the Sochi winter Olympics has died down somewhat. Hopefully it hasn’t gone away, at least not while the anti-gay legislation remains. In any case, it’s likely that the connection between the winter Olympics and LGBT* rights will remain and will develop, assisted by the similarly between the rainbow colours and the Olympic rings. It’s not the first time, and won’t be the last, that the Olympics have set the stage for Political gestures.
 
Noticeably, though, most of the protesting was happening outside Russia, indicating either that there is a deep-rooted anti-gay sentiment in the Russian psyche or that everyone is terrified. Ultimately, the foreign east-facing condemnation may have aided Putins desire for nationalist renaissance. 

Paul O'Grady and Peter Tatchell at a demonstration outside Downing Street, in Westminster, central London, calling for corporate sponsors of the Sochi Winter Olympic games to speak out against Russia's anti-gay laws on 5 February 2014.
via:BBC-World-Europe

There had been some concern about the possibility of a tragic incident of some sort, however unlikely that might have been. This was probably more wishful thinking on the side of a particular sector of the media because, short of something horrific, it was unlikely the Russian authorities were ever going to let anything happen.
The response of a number of political leaders’ was to send the athletes, but not attend the games. It was calm, restrained and effective. This might not have been off the bat or even genuine, if one is to be super-cynical, but simply a knock on effect of domestic protests which were directed squarely at the political elite and given wider appeal by the support of celebrity.  The leaders were forced into a position where, at the very least, they had to be seen to do something.
 

It can be said that the domestic protests, by recognising and focusing on their limitations within national politics achieved their aim by proxy.
 

In contrast to this strategic posturing were slightly more colourful protests at Russian embassies and in public spaces in most major European and North American cities (an apology for the exclusion of the rest of the world, but the point is limited to what can legitimately be criticised from my cultural standpoint). 

Russia's Olympics under fire as Barack Obama, Stephen Fry turn up heat over 'barbaric, fascist' anti-gay law
via: The Vancouver Sun
It could be said that some of these protests were outrageous, or silly to be less kind, even by our allegedly liberal standards. It could also be said that they were designed to be so.
Surely, such a sincere and genuine outpouring of indignation and justified anger, which we all felt, cannot be reasonably criticised. They did draw attention to unfair and discriminatory legislation, after all, and right here in our European Garden of Eden.
  

Even big business was brought in on the act, including the Google behemoth which changed its homepage image to reflect public and internet opinion, or take advantage of it, as you prefer.
However, it seems impossible to that anyone could have been unaware of the legislation, even before its enactment, due in no small part to the work of amnesty international and a great number of human rights organisations which are thankfully funded by the surplus of our western institutions and commercial productivity. From as early as January 2013, broadcast and narrowcast media, visual media, written and aural media all poured over the impact and speculations, concerned not just with the details but, more importantly, with the meaning.
That was the real news. The meaning of such a conscious and deliberate insult to our institutions and sensibility by the leader (some would say autocrat) of one of the most powerful nations in the world has grave consequences for the unity of the continent at a particularly delicate financial juncture in its history. 


Yet, there were those who felt that we weren’t aware enough of these developments, or more correctly, that we weren’t sufficiently demonstrating our solidarity with the Russian LGBT community who, I would add, had real cause for fear, in a visceral and emotive sense that none of us can really understand. Yet, given clearly how little the Russian leadership cared about public perception outside its territories, it’s hard to believe that someone would have thought these demonstrations could have any possible effect.

It seems to me that the Russian gay community who simply wanted to get on with their lives, without dramatic cultural paradigm shifts, took the brunt of the hatred with the least protection.

Riot police guard gay rights activists beaten by anti-gay protesters during a gay rights rally in St. Petersburg, Russia.
via: Los Angeles Times
Much was made of this by veteran activists.

Possibly there was concern that anti-gay sentiment would somehow spread and thus the awareness was actually more for the benefit of the rest of Europe, eliciting a reaffirmation of our commitment to inclusive society. This doesn’t hold much water either, seeing as an unmolested demonstration, particularly with a challenging, boundary-pushing overtone, itself articulately demonstrates that commitment in the first place. This was abundantly clear to all those involved, and it’s great to live in a society like that.
 

One can’t help but wonder who benefited from the in-your-face response of some of these media-savvy demonstrators, and what their motive was.
 

Of course, motive doesn’t really matter, so long as the desired effect is achieved. This is true until, however, you put yourself into the mindset of those at whom it’s aimed and realise that there is a danger of it being perceived as bullying and coercion to the very people you are trying to reach. Defense of gay rights can all too easily slip into an attack on heterosexuality.
Certainly bullies need to be met with an iron fist, or something similar, because you can’t change their mindset, only control their actions. For anyone else, they will probably not respond well to bullying, even if it is only a perception.  Put another way, most people are not prepared to stand on the barricade in your defense, but neither are they prepared to advance with arms against you.
 

This thought leads me to consider whether the intentional or unintentional purpose of some of these demonstrations was simply to raise awareness of how the Russian legislation affected those demonstrators, by inference, without regard for the real, living individuals directly affected. In other words, the protest existed solely to justify itself.
It’s all about me, stupid.
 

It would seem possible, to me, that unconsidered attacks on Putin, Russia, Russians and Russian culture might have played right into to the worst fears of latent homophobic tendencies.
Is it possible that those protestors are in some way culpable for the alleged real-world attacks which were reported throughout Russia?
 

Is this what they wanted to happen?

(*LGBT: acronym of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender)

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