Monday, 10 February 2014

The One Where I Don't Find Brendan O'Neill Completely Repellent

Something just doesn't sit right with me about all the talk over the Sochi Olympics. There's many issues surrounding it (the clearances, the corruption, the treatment of workers) and the debate that followed Russia's legislating to ban "LGBT propaganda" is one of those important issues. The treatment of LGBT people in Russia is a concern, as it is in many countries around the world, and taking action to investigate such abuses makes absolute sense.

However what doesn't sit right with me is the ridiculousness of the Western response. And hidden within Brendan O'Neill's latest clickbait article are some real truths about how feeble and stupid some of the reaction has been.

This Will and Gracing of the modern political sphere can be seen in the Guardian’s and New Statesman’s gay-themed refashioning of their mastheads for Sochi, in the furious spread around the internet of a meme showing Putin wearing lipstick (like a gay person!), in a hipster British brewer’s release of a ‘queer beer’ called ‘Hello, my name is Vladimir’, in Toronto City Hall’s raising of the gay flag for the duration of Sochi, in the United Nations’ decree that everyone in the West should ‘raise their voices’ for the gay community, and – get this – in Jon Snow’s decision to wear a gay flag-coloured tie on Channel 4 News during Sochi. If that doesn’t topple Putin, I don’t know what will.
And, because I've not been paying much attention to such silly gestures (and I'm instead wondering what can actually be done to help LGBT Russians, which is probably something well above my pay grade) I missed some of the insidiously homophobic comments that have been being made by the ever homophobic liberal sorts (who, it should be remembered, often tend to accuse homophobes of being gay) such as:

The Queer Eye vibe of the Sochi protests can be seen in the now incredibly popular pastime of Western journalists complaining about their hotels in Sochi, which has given rise to the exact same joke on every Twitterfeed in Christendom: ‘If you scare off gays, interior design goes to hell.’ Geddit?! Because gays are really good at interior design and Putin has gotten rid of all gays! This sort of shallow global posturing doesn’t only vastly exaggerate what Putin has done to Russia’s homosexuals – no, Stephen Fry, they do not face Nazi-style extermination – but it is also incredibly patronising to homosexuals. They wear lipstick, they dance about in hotpants, they are brilliant at decorating living rooms, and Russia will be really, really drab until it embraces them – that is the message of much of the gay-friendly uprising of Westerners against Putin.
Where I differ with Brendan O'Neill is the idea that criticising violence and hatred is somehow "imperialistic". And I think something, again above my pay grade, really does need to be done to help secure individual freedom worldwide.

But for once, he wasn't completely wrong. This is unlikely to happen again.

1 comment:

Paul Brownsey said...

Terrifically sane as always, Jae.

But I've just posted this on the Spiked item:

"Oh, there's a lot in what you say.

But as someone whose understanding of what he was was given a massive step up by the Wolfenden Report in 1956 and the subsequent tabloid obsession with 'evil men', and whose first sight of someone he knew to be gay was of some poor guy being prosecuted in Luton Borough Court in the 1960s for indecency or buggery (I was there as a cub reporter on the local newspaper), I think it's just lovely that being pro-gay is the flavour of the year, no matter that some of what we are seeing is shallow and politically opportunistic. I think that if, fifty+ years ago, I'd known this was coming, I'd have been *immensely* comforted."

It really does tickle me, the move from 'evil men' to 'We must stand up for the poor gays.'