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Gergiev: ‘I myself question very much why the country needed something like this law’

The conductor has been talking to CNN about anti-gay politics:

I think it was seen internationally as a bad thing happening in Russia.  I think in Russia, the view was different.  The way people read this law is slightly different or sometimes very different.  First of all, I myself hate any form of discrimination. And as the head of an institution, it’s a big institution, we have more than 3,000 people working for the Mariinsky Theatre, I would never allow any sort of discrimination to take place.  But in Russia, I think it’s a very controversial issue.  And now, because of the Olympics coming very soon, everyone thinks of safety.  So I am sure it’s not the issue number one and number two, number three, safety, and very successful scenario for the Games, structurally and organizationally.  But I think not one sportsman or anyone who comes will be upset with it.  I simply can’t imagine anyone in Russia who wants to upset the world’s community during the Sochi Olympics or after or, of course, not before.  I myself question very much why the country needed something like this law.  And I didn’t even read it.  Honestly, I didn’t have time.  I only learned about this law when things started to happen that I heard about, people being against this happening in Russia.

 

Russian President Putin presents a Hero of Labour award to Mariinsky theatre director Gergiev during an awards ceremony in St. Petersburg

 

 

And about Vladimir Putin:

I think a lot of people are wrong about President Putin.  That’s my view.  I am myself not a student, so I’m – I saw many, many people.  I met many heads of state.  I look at their policies or their actions better to say, especially toward culture.  Many of them are totally uninterested.  And I think President Putin belongs to a very small group of world leaders, a very small group, who thinks that this is actually very important.  And he would do something – he recently came to the rehearsal of the children’s chorus, rehearsal.  It was Christmas Day in Russia, basically.  The president, like all of us, has a right to simply be free, you know. He chose to be there with the kids who represented all regions of Russia.

Full interview here.

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Comments

  1. Human Rights are universal, they are not based on the laws of an individual country. When a country such as Nazi Germany passes laws that step by step strip a disliked minority such as Jews or homosexuals of their civil rights, that becomes a concern for the whole of humanity.

    Russia is signatory to the United Nations International Declaration on Human Rights, and to the Olympic Charter, in both of which it is in clear and flagrant breach. It is therefore entirely appropriate for citizens in other countries to agitate in support of vulnerable minorities unable to speak for themselves, as is now the case in Russia, where it is an offence for an openly gay person to be a good citizen, successful or to defend LGBT civil rights. We can be sacked from our employment, evicted from our homes, and beaten up in the streets without recourse to legal protection.

    When people’s belief on a social issue is so clearly wrong, and the practice of that belief leads to the destruction of individual dignity, then it becomes the duty of the government to provide education. Government should also be entirely separated from religion. There are many religions with opposite views on matters like birth control, women’s ordination, divorce and so on, but there is only one government. True, the government is elected by a majority, but its duty isn’t just to govern for those who elected them, but also for those who did not vote for them. Every human being is a minority of just one person – even you. Your rights as a male should be the same as for a female, or a person of a different race. Nobody should be persecuted because of the way they were born, if they are a good citizen, or even if they are not.

    Mr Gergiev, “The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept.” I won’t come to any more of your concerts, buy any of your recordings, nor support any other Russian export until this egregious injustice is expunged from the law books of Russia. I am a minority of just one person, who is part of an LGBT minority who are a minority of just 5-10% of the world population. But even 5% of 7 billion is still 350 million. We can never be exterminated, because you, the heterosexual majority are our parents. And many among your number are our allies, family and closest friends.

    • John Hames says:

      That’s a bit of a sermon! I don’t disagree with the thrust of it, but we always need to be careful of making statements like “When people’s belief on a social issue is so clearly wrong”. You may think so, I may think so, but many millions of people in the country you’re complaining about don’t think so. And megaphoning at Putin is most definitely going to be counter-productive. How does the US react to being shouted at by foreigners? And I feel it’s ridiculous, and most unfair, to pillory and boycott artists who may have shaken hands with their head of state but are not and never claimed to be political philosophers capable of coherent discourse on tricky subjects, about which they may not even have clear views themselves. They’re easy targets. Being on the right side of the argument doesn’t absolve you from the responsibility not to turn into a bully yourself.

      • Then you can be thankful I edited it out of my original version, 10x the length of what you see above.

        Millions of people in Nazi Germany supported Hitler too and history tells us how successful appeasement turned out to have been. I agree that megaphone diplomacy alone won’t necessarily change the hearts and minds, but without it, who is going to know there’s even a problem? If you watched the Gergiev interview, you’ll have heard him admit he hadn’t even thought about the issue until the protests began.

        Social reforms are won by brick throwers too, not just the leather armchair negotiators behind the scenes. Such negotiations succeed partly because those in the leather armchairs can show the politicians how to make the brick throwers go away and still remain in power, ideally with enhanced standing.

        As for whom to pick as targets, boycotts are by their nature unfair, as are union strikes, in that ‘friendly fire’ inevitably impacts against supporters too, just as opponents of the Hitler regime got bombed right alongside his acolytes. However this gives our supporters evidential ammunition to take to the regime, as was the case in Australia when the boycott of Tasmanian goods campaign was in full flight and local businesses were losing heavily because of state government intransigence.

        As regards the accusation of bullying, we are but a tiny 5-10% of the Russian population. All the power lies with the majority. We have far more to fear from them than they from us as they legislate us out of existence. How can 5% “bully” 95%?

        • PR Deltoid says:

          hi Derek, just wondering about this statement: “nor support any other Russian export until this egregious injustice is expunged from the law books of Russia”

          Do you likewise boycott all the other countries in the world with anti-gay laws? I believe that’s most of them, including such giants as India (which just re-criminalized gay sex) and Nigeria (which has some really draconian laws), well as economically important places like Singapore. Also, did you boycott British goods when Section 28 (basically the same thing as the Russian law) was in force in the UK?

          Please note, I’m not trying to start an argument; I am interested in your reasoning on this point.

          • It’s obvious that anything I do as a single individual is statistically of no significance whatsoever either politically or financially unless I can also persuade you and others that something can and should be done by way of signing petitions, writing letters, attending protests, participating in boycotts and the like.

            When it comes to countries with anti-gay laws, it’s not “most of them”, it’s 78 out of an estimated total of 196 countries of the world. Seven of those have the death penalty for same sex relationships. Those you name, like Nigeria, India and Singapore, I absolutely do boycott to the extent realistically possible, in the sense that when one buys a car for example, its fuse box might contain wire that was made from ore extracted from a mine by a front end loader running on oil harvested in Nigeria. One can more effectively adopt the less risible and more direct approaches of conspicuously choosing not to buy a Russian car or attend a Royal Opera House performance by the Bolshoi Ballet. The latter I actually did shun, and wrote to explain why.

            Re the odious Section 28, no I didn’t boycott British goods over that, which brings me to another point. The world at that time had no countries with same sex marriage, moreoever we were politically still very weak everywhere, so there would have been little to no take-up of a call for a boycott. Indeed, there would have been a real risk of a backfire without the hearts and minds behind it.

            When it comes to hearts and minds, these are won variously by decriminalisation, constitutional court rulings flying ahead of the country, and public education, but above all, through public disclosure – individuals coming out to their friends and families. That’s what has turned the tide of equality so strongly in our favour in the United Kingdom, Europe, the USA, Canada, South America, Australia and New Zealand. In Russia on the other hand, individuals are now completely silenced through this law. A 14 year old girl was prosecuted not long ago for coming out as lesbian to her classmates at school and there is every reason to fear that after Sochi, the Russian people, with the full support of their government, will be coming after us with a vengeance.

            Waiting to pounce are two even more Draconian pieces of anti-gay legislation: one a new bill to seize children from their lesbian or gay parent(s), even if they are the biological offspring, the other, a national referendum sponsored by the now ineffably ominpotent Russian Orthodox Church to recriminalise same sex relationships altogether in a return to the Stalin laws. Over 80% of Russians surveyed in opinion polls approve of this, meaning that this is certain to pass, with full support from the Duma.

            Russia is in focus right now for two other reasons: first, the Sochi Olympics, which puts the nation under the global spotlight, and secondly the truly heartsinking disappointment that the home of some of the world’s greatest art, music, dance, literature, theatre, architecture and scientific achievement should decide to strip its vulnerable and defenceless LGBT minority of equal citizenship.

            My sister in law is Russian, but now, neither she nor I have the stomach to go near the place. Of course, they don’t want us there anyway – as a good reason as any to go and engage in some civil disobedience.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            So Derek, much of what you say here makes perfect sense to me, but you completely lost me at this point:

            “Re the odious Section 28, no I didn’t boycott British goods over that, which brings me to another point. The world at that time had no countries with same sex marriage, moreoever we were politically still very weak everywhere, so there would have been little to no take-up of a call for a boycott. Indeed, there would have been a real risk of a backfire without the hearts and minds behind it.”

            So you are saying that you didn’t protest back then because it wasn’t convenient and opportune? That was as recent as the late 80s, 90s, correct?
            But you expect people in Russia today to do what you didn’t feel like doing back then, even though it is probably far more dangerous to do that in Russia today than it was in Britain in the 80s and 90s?

          • PR Deltoid says:

            Yes, thanks to Derek for his clear and well-reasoned response, but this bit also popped out at me: “truly heartsinking disappointment that the home of some of the world’s greatest art, music” etc. Does he think that Russia’s cultural achievements mean it should be held to higher standards than other countries?

          • Your point is entirely valid, however I must clarify, I didn’t live here in the UK then.

            Had I done so, then I most certainly would have been putting myself in harm’s way to protest, as I have done all my life from age 20 in my home country of New Zealand, thence Australia, right up to the present day when I participated in activism here in Scotland for equal marriage. Back in the day, I could have gone to prison for loving the same man I can legally marry today.

            Of course I don’t live in Russia either, but again, back in 1988 we didn’t have the online means to help those in other countries that we do now, and to be honest, Britain even in those days, was nothing like as horrendous on gay issues as the Russia of today.

          • @PR Deltoid (my above response was to Michael Shaffer – the Reply button disappears when the thread gets more than 3 deep so it’s not possible to match replies with comments)

            Yes, absolutely, I do hold Russia to a much higher standard, just as the free world rightly held Nazi Germany, theretofore a cultured and educated nation. A comparably educated and cultured country like Russia has no excuse at all for disenfranchising an entirely harmless minority to the bottom rung of the ladder of social worth, merely because it can, and it’s politically expedient to do so.

            Where there is poverty and corruption, such as in Nigeria and other parts of Africa, it’s in no way no more acceptable, but at least it’s explainable.

            Russians have been lied to by their government and their church, so they now honestly believe:
            1. Homosexuals are made and not born
            2. Homosexuals are predators who are after their children
            3. Homosexuals are out to make the whole straight world into homosexuals
            4. Homosexual orientation is directly linked to immorality
            5. Homosexuality is spread via “propaganda”
            6. Homosexuality is a Western phenomenon, and is “anti-Russian”
            7. Homosexuals can be turned into heterosexuals by persecuting us
            8. By converting gays ‘back’ into straights, the declining Russian birth rate will be reversed.

            All of these statements are 100% wrong. These are not facts, they are misperceptions, and they are being used as excuses for abuse.

            The only way forward is by direct engagement with religion and lawmakers, challenged in open and public debate, coupled with activism from outwith Russia, since LGBT have been Papagenoed into silence with the new law. Sadly, there is also going to have to be considerable martyrdom, with activists putting themselves in harm’s way.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            Derek Williams says:
            February 5, 2014 at 6:42 pm

            “Back in the day, I could have gone to prison for loving the same man I can legally marry today.”

            When and where were those days?

            “Of course I don’t live in Russia either, but again, back in 1988 we didn’t have the online means to help those in other countries that we do now”

            Well, they didn’t have internet during the Nazi period either, yet you keep bringing that up as a comparison to today and to Russia…

        • John Hames says:

          Well, Derek, I salute your commitment, and I don’t claim to have the answers, but I have always — since the “smash this, smash that rhetoric of the 1960s — been very uneasy about forms of protest that can seem as morally questionable as the abuses they seek to combat. I do sign the petitions, but I’m under no illusion that these achieve more than making the signatories feel slightly better about themselves and their own inaction: I marched against Thatcher’s iniquitous Clause 28 with similar misgivings, though I knew it would eventually be thrown out along with its unspeakable proponent. Brick-throwing is out for me: I can’t think of a revolution that hasn’t been fatally compromised from birth by its own violence. I daresay many French people, if they think about it at all, prefer not to dwell on the murderous beginning of their republic. However, I’m not suggesting you’re considering going quite that far! But it’s something anyone involved at all in radical politics has to confront eventually: how much evil are you prepared to commit in a (to you) good cause? Good luck with that one. As for bullying, it’s not a matter of numbers: some of the worst examples were committed by members of the gay community outing others, and ruining lives, in the 1908s and 1990s. I do think it’s bullying to attack, e.g. Gergiev who, as you say, may well not have given the matter any thought until suddenly confronted about it. You may say he should have, but a glance around us makes it abundantly clear that it doesn’t work like that. I don’t remember anyone requiring George Best to express a view on the troubles in Northern Ireland: they all wanted to see him do what he did. And when artists do dabble in political pronouncements, the results are almost always embarrassing, e.g. John Lennon. I should probably have clear and considered views on all sorts of things in which I have no interest whatever, and anyone getting in my face and demanding that I should have is likely to get a dusty answer. Furthermore, “civil disobedience” is just another term for “provocation”, which you presumably think is justified if it garners maximum publicity. I know quiet discussions in leather chairs seem a pretty long-winded way to go about things, especially these days when short-termism demands quick if flawed fixes for everything, but you need to be clear about what is likely to work, rather than simply assuming self-indulgent grandstanding will achieve anything more than make you feel you’re doing something for the cause. I would imagine that if Putin is to be swayed on this at all, it will have to be in some way that enables him to save face. That means not blaring it from the rooftops. The older I get, and I’m afraid that is pretty old now, the more I believe you can’t rush these things: it will be painful for a lot of people, but Russia will eventually catch up on this, as we no doubt will have to slowly adjust in other matters.

          • @John Hames

            War is war, and people get killed in wars. I mean that in both the metaphorical and the literal sense of ‘war’. I am not in favour of war, unless there is no alternative, as when you are facing an armed aggressor and it’s kill or be killed.

            Again citing Nazi Germany, the only alternative to war in its literal sense, was appeasement. When you are threatened by powerful and in this analogy, armed aggressors, appeasement is futile. You have no choice but to stand up to them, with as many allies as are willing to put themselves in harm’s way.

            Another analogy is Syria. Would the diplomatic solution proffered by Russia wherein Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile would be decommissioned ever have come about without the threat of military intervention from America? Those with long enough memories will recall that right up to the day before, Bashar al-Assad categorically denied Syria had any chemical weapons at all. Confronted by such outright mendacity, one can no longer count upon good intentions.

            In both the above analogies the human psychology at play is one of strategic response to bullying in every sense of the word.

            LGBT are at war with an enemy crushingly superior in might and in resources. Our options are few:
            1. We can hide in the closet and wait for things to get better, knowing that while we remain invisible, people can tell whatever lies they like about us with impunity. This is the present situation in Russia.
            2. We can come out and deal with the consequences. This is an important step, and it must be said that if all gays came out in Russia, our problems would be over very quickly. But for now, everyday consequences include dismissal from employment, an absolute certainty for anyone such as someone working in the media (e.g. Anton Krasovsky) or a teacher working with children (e.g. Olga Bakhaeva and Alexander Yermoshkin), eviction from our homes, ubiquitous threats of or actual physical violence.
            3. We can marshal the resource of our allies – our friends, family and politicians. This is by far the most at risk resource, because it involves allies putting themselves in harm’s way with no directly perceptible benefit for themselves.

            To me, option 1 is unthinkable, unless one’s life is in clear and present danger.

            In terms of your concern that our rhetoric is “blaring from the rooftops”, there’s been plenty of provication from the other side, ranging from the likes of Vladimir Putin himself, telling homosexuals to “keep away from the children”, to Euroset creative director Ivan Okhlobystin who said to a cheering audience that gays should be rounded up and burned alive in gas ovens, to Dmitry Kiselyov who said organs donated by gays killed in accidents should be buried unused, or burned. Kiselyov was then immediately promoted to be CEO of Putin’s rebuilt government news channel.

            So long as Russian politicians and their cronies keep on telling Russians that LGBT are dangerous to children, or that we should be burned alive in gas ovens, for so long as audiences cheer these statements, we certainly will NOT be shutting up. This is not a level playing field. We are responding to “provocation” not causing it.

          • One other point I’d like to make regarding “civil disobedience”, is the strategy of deliberate self-martyrdom. It’s a numbers game.

            Let’s do the math:
            • Population of Russia = 143.5 million
            • At 5%, gay population of Russia = about 7 million
            • Size of Russian military = 766,000 active personnel
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Armed_Forces
            • Capacity of Russian prison system = 830,000
            http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/10/inside-russias-prison-system/263806
            • Current occupancy of Russian prisons = between 860,000 and 2 million
            http://rt.com/news/prime-time/overcrowded-russian-prisons-await

            Let’s divide the Russian LGBT population estimate by 2, to = 3.5 million – still about 5x the size of their entire armed forces, and 3x the capacity of all their overcrowded prisons. Even if they freed the existing prison population at midnight, how could their criminal justice system possibly accommodate all homosexuals who voluntarily dob themselves in? Even the gulags would have trouble.

            This strategy was employed in Australia’s Tasmania, where local gays incriminated themselves by admitting to police that they were in same sex relationships, challenging police to arrest them under the criminal code as it existed until 1997. Police refused, knowing that Tasmania’s tiny prison system didn’t have the capacity to lock up thousands of homosexuals, nor could courts cope with such numbers. At one point, a plan was being hatched to fly in plane loads of homosexuals from other states to incriminate ourselves. The law was overturned after activist Rodney Croome took the case to the United Nations on human rights grounds.

            In Russia, it’s a lot easier to incriminate yourself; all you have to do is hold up a sign, then they have no choice but to imprison you awaiting trial on the charge of homosexual propaganda. If you go in groups of about 1,000 apiece to each police station, the question they will face is, where to imprison them all?

            Despite LGBT being Russia’s most disliked and persecuted minority, strategically speaking, these are still excellent odds, and the publicity generated by this will give many LGBT the chance to articulate their plight and to argue over why holding up a piece of paper is considered so dangerous.

            Laws work effectively because almost everyone obeys them. However a law falls into disrepute if it becomes unenforceable. Laws can be quickly changed if they become unenforceable through widespread civil disobedience, as was the case with American anti-miscegenation laws, overturned by the US Civil Rights Act (1064).

            Of course, all this presumes that you can persuade all LGBT people to do this – and that’s the gamble that so far, Russia knows we won’t take.

    • Dear Mr Williams,

      The American covert surveillance regime is also in breach of human rights, and the courageous whistleblower has been persecuted to the extent that he had to seek asylum in Russia; I trust you will be extending your boycott to American exports?

      • Dear Mr/Ms SVM

        You appear to be accusing me of disingenuous double standards.

        You’re referring I take it in general terms, to the right to privacy, and you are placing that in the same degree of egregiousness as an entirely harmless LGBT minority being hunted down in the streets and homes of Russia, being beaten to within an inch of their lives, sometimes losing their lives altogether, and silenced at law from protesting at their mistreatment?

        Snowden is currently still a very controversial figure, one who clearly has your unqualified endorsement. But there are those who consider that you can’t keep a nation secure without surrendering some privacy and freedom of speech. The USA is a country still involved in foreign wars, and still reeling from the 9/11 attack, and therefore has not only the right, but the duty to protect its citizens from further such attacks.

        Both privacy and freedom of speech are moving goalposts. Yes, we have a right to privacy, and yes we have a right to freedom of speech, but neither right is unfettered. However in both cases, any restriction must be shown, and accepted to be for the public good.

        Let’s start with freedom of speech. Do we have the right to free speech in a court of law? Specifically, should we be free to commit Perjury and Contempt of Court? By punishing these at law, are we not trespassing upon an individual’s right to free speech? Should we have the right to defame someone by accusing them publicly of doing something of which they are completely innocent? By prosecuting people who commit libel, are we in effect saying “you cannot say whatever you like about another person and get away with it”? There are likewise criminal sanctions against ‘incitement to riot’, ‘treason’, ‘fraud’, ‘blasphemy’, ‘racial vilification’ and a host of other legal intrusions upon our right to say whatever we like.

        Next, privacy. If a plot to commit a crime such as a terror attack, robbery or murder is suspected to be going on in someone’s dwelling, and the police intercept emails and install listening devices without the individual’s knowledge or consent, they are invading the suspect’s privacy. If it turns out nothing untoward was going on, should such suspects have the automatic right to sue police for breach of privacy every time they investigate something and come out empty handed? If it later transpires they were guilty after all, should they be required to return their ill gotten gains? What if they’ve spent it all?

        It’s been argued that the NSA shouldn’t be randomly monitoring people who haven’t been flagged as presenting a threat to anyone at all, let alone National Security. That’s being argued openly in public debate, and it will ultimately be decided by the public through democratic means (in the sense they can vote decision makers out of office), just how much greater risk they wish to expose themselves to, in exchange for curtailing arbitrary monitoring or ending it entirely. In the UK, evidence adduced at the Leverson Inquiry has shown that phone hacking was by no means harmless. There are been prosecutions pursuant, alongside sweeping changes in the practices of news organisations. To me, this is about the ebb and flow of accepted ethical standards, as much as it has to do with human rights.

        It’s also been said that “one man’s ‘terrorist’ is another man’s ‘freedom fighter’”, and that “terrorism is the nuclear arsenal of the poor”. Snowden’s disclosures were made in a spectacular manner, and revealed abuses now being acknowledged by the Obama administration. But Snowden also breached his conditions of employment and went public in a manner that many have suggested didn’t give the administration a chance to do anything constructive in a measured and timely manner, and that he potentially placed US security at risk. It is of course possible that a future vindication may see Snowden acknowledged as whistleblower rather than traitor.

        Until this is resolved, I see no reason whatsoever to boycott US goods. Nor do I see the alleged ‘persecution’ of Edward Snowden as particularly analogous to pogroms intended to wipe out an entire minority from the Russian population.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          Derek Williams says:
          February 7, 2014 at 1:45 pm

          “You appear to be accusing me of disingenuous double standards.”

          That may be a little bit too harsh, but you do seem to pick and choose quite a bit when it comes to what you consider one has to stand up for – or not -, and in what circumstances.
          You also seem to have a somewhat idealized view of the role of “cultured and educated” societies (which we discussed to some extent further above), specifically what looks to me a little like an apologetic residual post-colonial anglo superiority complex (did I just create that wod monster? I think I did!).

          You portray the suppression of gays as a “war” – which I guess may be justiied to some degree, although in the case of Russia, I simply do not have enough knowledge of what’s going on to judge to what degree – and you equate fighting back against that with previous wars against evil regimes like the Nazis. Frankly, I find that comparison more than just a little overblown. But more importantly, there is that idealized view that seems to suggest that these societies, like the British Empire, fought for lofty ideals. Like freedom – which they weren’t willing to grant hundreds of millions of their own colonial subjects. Like to help the Jews – who they couldn’t care less about and who they did next to nothing to help when they could. Like fighting against racism – while they considered their own colonial subjects inferior kinds of human beings, and explicitly so. Or while they had, as in the case of the US, racial legislation against a sizeable portion of their ow “fellow citizens”. Or like fighting against bigotry like the persecution of minorities such as gays – which they criminally persecuted and would continue to do so for decades.
          In reality, wars are always – or nearly always? – fought for much less lofty and much more concrete reasons. In this case, simply because they feared their own colonial and geostrategical interests threatened. Yet you cling to those myths, you find words to excuse and explain away the atrocities committed by these societies in their turn, and you seem to derive from living in one of the successor societies of those who so “herocially” fought for “lofty” ideals some kind of feeling of moral superiority which puts you in a position to judge the Russians from a lofty perch. And I think you may not even be aware of that. I certainly think you do mean well.

          “Snowden is currently still a very controversial figure, one who clearly has your unqualified endorsement. But there are those who consider that you can’t keep a nation secure without surrendering some privacy and freedom of speech. The USA is a country still involved in foreign wars, and still reeling from the 9/11 attack, and therefore has not only the right, but the duty to protect its citizens from further such attacks.”

          By spying on their own citizens to that extent? See, there it is again, that apologetic acceptance of “whatever they do must be right”. And, BTW, I don’t really want to open that huge can of worms, but the US isn’t reeling from 9/11 at all anymore. It is reeling from what its own politicians and its own economic and industrial elites have done to the country since then, with the ever more feeble excuse of whatever they did had something to do with “fighting terrorism” and “protecting its citizens”. Who they milked mercilessly until the whole system nearly collapsed.

          “Next, privacy. If a plot to commit a crime such as a terror attack, robbery or murder is suspected to be going on in someone’s dwelling, and the police intercept emails and install listening devices without the individual’s knowledge or consent, they are invading the suspect’s privacy. If it turns out nothing untoward was going on, should such suspects have the automatic right to sue police for breach of privacy every time they investigate something and come out empty handed?”

          Absolutely. People should only be investigated if there are well founded, concrete suspicions, not randomly and not by simply monitoring everyone all the time.
          And it is a complete illusion that that makes anyone “safer”. The bigger you make the haystack, the harder is it to find the needle. The vast amounts of data collected and hoarded serve very little legitimate purpose. It’s all just to feed the way too many, way too bloated government “intelligence” agencies and their massive, massive budgets.

          “It’s been argued that the NSA shouldn’t be randomly monitoring people who haven’t been flagged as presenting a threat to anyone at all, let alone National Security. That’s being argued openly in public debate, and it will ultimately be decided by the public through democratic means (in the sense they can vote decision makers out of office)”

          No, Derek, it doesn’t work that way. Polls consistently show that a great majority of Americans want stricter gun control, and far more Americans die from internal gun violence all the time than from “terrorist attacks”. Yet nothing happens on that front. Because the whole system is completely corrupt and inefficient, owned by lobbyists and just staffed by politicians who spend a great deal of their time fundraising so they can finance their re-elections so they can dip their hands into the pot a little longer.

          But if you think that’s the way it should work, why don’t you let the Russians decide by their votes what they want to do about gay rights?

          “But Snowden also breached his conditions of employment and went public in a manner that many have suggested didn’t give the administration a chance to do anything constructive in a measured and timely manner, and that he potentially placed US security at risk.”

          So what if, just as an example, a police officer or judge in a country in which homosexuality is outlawed decides to not enforce anti-gay laws because that would conflcit with his conscience? Would you say that man is a “traitor” who “breached his conditions of employment”, or would he be one of you heroes?

          And you do realize that in their opinion, in societies in which such discrimination is going on, in particular in societies which are heavily controlled by religious concepts, they think that what they deem “immoral” or “unnatural” behavior threatens the very foundation of their society just as much as some societies feel threatened by external “terrorism”?

          • That’s an even lengthier response than my post, so I will try and reduce the verbiage by addressing your key points.

            • Your contention is that conflating anti-gay persecution with antisemitic persecution by “evil regimes” is “overblown”.

            - This is not a question of relativism. Persecution isn’t more ok if one targeted minority is smaller than another. Homosexuals were tortured alongside Jews in Nazi death camps. Granted, their mistreatment nowhere near equaled that of Jews, but it was torture, loss of citizenship, personal liberty and human dignity nonetheless. Moreover, upon armistice, homosexuals remained incarcerated because homosexuality remained a criminal offence in the Germany penal code. Jews themselves now acknowledge the attempted genocide of homosexuals: http://www.timesofisrael.com/tel-aviv-unveils-memorial-to-gay-holocaust-victims

            • “wars are always – or nearly always? – fought for much less lofty and much more concrete reasons”

            - Certainly for World War 1, but was this the case for World War 2? Wars can be military, and they can be ideological. The war of which I speak is neither, in the sense that it is a war FOR equal rights as laid down by the United Nations International Declaration of Human Rights, to which Russia is a specious signatory. These universal rights are not meant to be subject to the whims of lawmakers who deem some humans to be “more human” than others. If there is ideology in there somewhere, it rests on the notion that we should be judged by our deeds, not by our innate attributes, such as race, gender or sexual orientation.

            The red herrings you adduced appertaining to Snowden remain contentious, with entirely supportive opinions on one side like yours, against wait-and-see opinions in the middle like mine. You’re opposed on deontological ethical grounds to investigating anyone for whom no suspicion exists. In general terms, so am I, but are you opposed to random breath alcohol tests of motorists? If so then then this is between Kantianism and Utilitarianism and might never be agreed.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            Sorry Derek, I hadn’t realized you have the monopoly on lengthy posts. I apologize!

            So – you write lengthy posts in which you make lots of points but you don’t expect anybody to respond to your points in detail? Or do you just want people to nod to everything you say?

          • I accept your apology in the spirit in which it was given.

  2. Stop digging! Mr. Gergiev contradicts himself again and again with every new statement on this issue. Si tacuisses…

  3. Worse and worse. Gergiev digs a bigger hole. I strongly believe anybody has the right to believe in traditional marriage and hold those beliefs without reprisal (many of the Left in the USA do not believe that-they are fascists). But Putin and his thugs are entirely different. They are using gay people (at most 3% of the population) as scapegoats the same way Hitler used jews.

  4. @Michael Shaffer

    1. “When and where were those days?”

    - Prior to 1985 in both New Zealand and Australia.

    2. “Well, they didn’t have internet during the Nazi period either, yet you keep bringing that up as a comparison to today and to Russia…”

    - The points of comparison I raised don’t require the internet to have existed to be valid in philosophical or moral terms. Even without the ubiquitous internet of today, we can still learn from history.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      “Prior to 1985 in both New Zealand and Australia”

      Wow, and that’s not even that long ago. So you could actually get arrested and thrown in prison just for having a same sex relationship?

      “The points of comparison I raised don’t require the internet to have existed to be valid in philosophical or moral terms. Even without the ubiquitous internet of today, we can still learn from history.”

      I agree, that’s why I didn’t understand that you said “back in 1988 we didn’t have the online means to help those in other countries that we do now”.

      You said earlier: “Yes, absolutely, I do hold Russia to a much higher standard, just as the free world rightly held Nazi Germany, theretofore a cultured and educated nation.”

      But you must realize that being, or seeing itself as a “cultured and educated nation” – whatever that may mean… – never prevented any nation, “cultured and educated” or not, from suppressing people’s rights and committing atrocities on massive scales whenever it served their bigger interests. You don’t even have to drag the Nazis in again to make that point. Enough of that stuff went on before, during, and also after their regime. The nations they fought against were mostly still unrelenting colonial empires, they did their own suppressing and exploiting of hundreds of millions of colonial “subjects” as long as they could, and they tried to maintain rule over them well after WWII – which supposedly they fought against the Nazis to “save freedom” and all that. Well, their freedom, their empires. Some of them, like the US, had racial legislation in place against a very large minority of their own population for nearly a quarter century after Hitler put the pistol in his mouth. And we don’t even have to start on gay rights. For instance, you probably know who Alan Turing was. He made a very significant contribution to winning the war for the allies by cracking many German military codes. And how did the “cultured and educated nation” he did that for thank him? By driving him into suicide for being gay.

      • Yes, prior to the New Zealand Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986, punishment for being in a same sex relationship was 7 years imprisonment with hard labour, and if you were a landlord you could be convicted for renting living accommodation to a homosexual, penalty 12 years jail.

        In Australia, male homosexuality was decriminalised state by state, starting with South Australia in 1975, ending with Tasmania in 1997. Similar penalties applied, the most severe being Tasmania with 21 years imprisonment for being in a same sex relationship.

        I take your points about the questionable track record of “educated and cultured nations”, including the mistreatment of Alan Turing, however in the case of Turing, his contribution was still a state secret, and his mistreatment was no different to any other homosexual facing state sanctions against same sex relationships. Recently he was pardoned by the Queen and there are moves to have the conviction quashed altogether.

        Nevertheless I still hold such nations to a higher standard because of their comparative wealth and higher standard of education. That they fall short of this in the circumstances you describe makes them more reprehensible, not less.

      • Well, in Texas (and other states), until 2003 (and the SCOTUS Lawrence decision), homosexual relations were criminalized. “And that’s not even that long ago”

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          I am not surprised. Wasn’t it in Texas just a few years ago that the police went into hotel bars and arrested people there for “public intoxication” – while those people were actually staying in those same hotels?

  5. It’s a pity we couldn’t learn to lay off Gergiev. He voted for Putin long before this law came into play. Lots of us vote for people who turn around and do something we are repelled by. Surely all the Obama voters are not delighted that he reneged on his promise to close Guantanamo. But they may still support his policies over all and adjudge that he is still the one they would have voted for.

    Gergiev has made it clear he likes Putin because he is a supporter of the arts — has there not been some disdain on these pages for Obama because he prefers funk or punk or whatever to classical music? Arts-supporting pols are thin on the ground these days, and it is not surprising if artists tend to like them. Gergiev has more than once commented on an issue to which it would appear he has not given much thought — perhaps because, in his own life, he does not have to. He is a busy man — ought he to drop his artistic commitments to become a leading campaigner for LGBT rights?

  6. How Naive can Gergiev be.

    He might be a good conductor but the comments he is making only proves that he has no common sense whatsoever.

    Putin is a tyranical despot with blood on his hands. Everything he does & says is a publicity stunt. He should be treated worldwide with the contempt he deserves.

    People like Gergiev who believe the Sun shines out of Putin’s a**e are a joke & pathetic apologies for sensible human beings..

    • The Blood on the hands of Putin:
      • Suspected of having former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko poisoned on foreign soil with Polonium-210. Litvinenko had exposed Russian secret services’ staging Russian apartment bombings and other terrorist acts to bring Vladimir Putin to power.
      • Has made Russia the $1.5 billion arsenal of Assad’s Syria, notably S-300 missile systems.
      • Allowed 182 mariners aboard the Kirsk submarine to die rather than accept Western aid
      • 200,000 genocide in Chechnya with 300 adults and 300 children in one massacre
      • Installed Kadirov administration in Chechnya whose armed gangs terrorise the population and had a female journalist covering this assassinated on Putin’s birthday, the 22nd to have met this fate
      • Poisoned everyone in a theatre siege, with gas, including civilians as well as armed terrorists
      • Cut off gas supplies to Ukraine to force regime change after having failed to achieve this with suspected poisoning and disfiguring of prime ministerial candidate
      • Suspected of arranging assassination of at least 22 journalists
      • When a group of 20 teenage activists assembled to protest his regime, had 7 of them jailed for 5 years
      • Suspected of being behind the destruction of an art gallery displaying ‘protest art’
      • Jailed anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny for 5 years after Navalny had exposed billions of dollars in official corruption.
      • Had whistleblowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who had exposed $2.5 million in police fraud, arrested by the very police he exposed, who then tortured him to death in prison, after which Putin commended, promoted and decorated said police.
      • In order to shore up the Russian Orthodox religious voting bloc, passed legislation recriminalising homosexuality, thereby allowing police to ignore mob, gang and individual attacks on gay people, including several torturing murders, and instead arrest those that were attacked on charges of ‘extremism’ and ‘homosexual propaganda’.
      • Dismissed popular government television presenter Anton Krasovsky from his job on the spot, without entitlements after he came out as gay.
      • Appointed Dmitri Kiselyov to head up his rebuilt news organisation. Kiselyov said to a cheering television audience that the organs of deceased gay and lesbian organ donors were unworthy to reside in another human body, and should be buried or burned.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      timwalton3 says:
      February 5, 2014 at 10:39 pm

      “How Naive can Gergiev be.

      People like Gergiev who believe the Sun shines out of Putin’s a**e are a joke & pathetic apologies for sensible human beings.”

      Thanks for sending us this deep wisdom directly from your parents’ basement. You also helped me understand the complexity of the current political situation in Russia much better.

  7. Seems to me there has been a great deal of bile directed right at Gergiev, and Anna Netrebko, neither of whom seems particularly guilty of anti-gay feelings — quite the opposite. Why them and not some of the athletes and actors and writers, at least some of whom must have supported Putin? It is great that feeling is being rallied against Russia’s ridiculous and barbaric legislation in this regard, but how is continually putting it on Gergiev reasonable when all the elite athletes of the world are cheerfully (well, perhaps not after they see their rooms and the washrooms they have to use) turning up for an Olympic Games that is indisputably the Putin Games? It just seems to me to have been a pretty unfair example of piling on.

    • As shown on last night’s Channel 4 Despatches “Hunted”, gays and lesbians are being hunted down by well organised gangs using social media networks and filmed being outed, forced to drink urine which they’re also doused in and bashed, with video of the whole ritualistic humiliation and torture uploaded for public enjoyment. Homosexuality is ubiquitously conflated with pedophilia as being one and the same thing. Rape with beer bottles causing serious injury, in one case death, is commonplace. These escalating actions of terror are criminal (for now), yet the Russian government is not intervening. Instead they are legislating to annihilate LGBT altogether, exploiting the widespread belief that homosexuality is not innate, but merely an immoral, ‘lifestyle’, chosen by ‘sinful heterosexuals’. On the rare occasions where public bashing with witnesses makes it difficult for the legal system not to intervene, court cases are being continually adjourned for the maximum two years at which point under Russian law, they expire so that no criminal charge ever sticks against attackers. LGBT are not protected by law, they’re harassed by it and are being exterminated by it. The fact that our parents are heterosexuals means we can never be exterminated, but that doesn’t stop them trying. We are an endlessly renewable (but not self-renewing) target upon which to heap contempt and terror.

      There’s an old saying: “If you’re not for me, you’re against me”. Gerviev’s response in the interview seems calm and reasonable enough, in that he opposes discrimination and wonders why there was any need for such a law. However, he is perceived as a direct channel to Putin, a means of humanising LGBT, currently pariahs throughout Russia.

      What activists are seeking is not a mild reflection, wondering in generalised terms, but outright condemnation, focused on the specifics outlined above, and for Gergiev to take this to his pal Putin.

  8. Gonout Backson says:

    @Derek Williams

    “1. Homosexuals are made, and not born”.

    Funny thing, because, if I read them well (it’s not always easy…), this is the new position of some “Gender students”, but, so to speak, upside down.

    It’s like fish eating : thugs cut it with a knife. Educated people use two forks. The best of us use a knife, but it’s a special kind of knife.

    The Putin law seems to use the old-fashioned bare bodkin : “homosexuals are libertines, they do it out of debauchery; it’s nurture, but of a perverted kind”.

    The “two forks principle” of the last two or three decades was “it’s not a choice, homosexuals are born this way, they cannot help it, so stop persecuting them – it’s nature”.

    Now, if I’m not mistaken, in some circles it’s back to “nurture”: it’s a choice, but it’s a good, a revolutionary one.

    I’d rather stick to the two forks, seems safer in the long run.

    • Your sexual orientation is not a ‘lifestyle’ you choose, like living near the beach, or buying a fashionable new pair of shoes, it is an innate romantic attraction that you discover at puberty.

      Does a baby boy know at birth whether he will be a baritone, a tenor or a bass? Can he choose this at puberty? Does a tadpole choose to become a frog? Does a caterpillar decide one fine day to metamorphose into a butterfly? Like eye colour, skin colour and blood type, these attributes are fused into the DNA of living creatures without our consent. Some we don’t discover until puberty, but we don’t choose them. Some attributes we’re less than grateful to Nature for lumbering us with, and if you live in Russia, Africa or the Middle East, a non-conforming sexuality would have to be bang at the top of the list, one step ahead of Huntington’s Chorea.

      Like a left handed person who can pretend to be right handed to avoid discrimination (which was the case until the 1960′s), a gay person can protect him or herself by pretending to be heterosexual, dating an opposite sex person they feel nothing for. This has led to the idea that people choose to have specific attractions to other people on demand – that attractions don’t occur naturally and spontaneously.

      I cannot speak for you, but I can for myself. I spontaneously am attracted to some people, but not to others. For my parents, a Scottish mother and a New Zealand father, it was love at first sight; not a rational thought entered their heads. All those to whom I have been romantically attracted over the past 50 years (since adolescence confronted me with this) have been men. Now I am aged 61, it seems more than unlikely I will metamorphose into a heterosexual, with all the retractions that would embarrassingly connote after my lifelong LGBT activism.

      No-one in their right mind would ‘choose’ to be gay. Look at all the violence, abuse, repression, ostracism that LGBT suffer across the world. Even in societies that tolerate gay people, we’re still faced with “coming out” and all that involves. If there ever was an easy ‘choice’, it was always heterosexuality, where you get congratulated by society every single day, just for being the way you born, where what you are is portrayed by religion as quintessentially virtuous.

  9. I object to the Russian persecution of this community as much as thre next person. WHat I have objected to in some of these fora is the abusive nature of the attacks on people like Gergiev and Netrebko as if it is somehow their duty to spearhead opposition campaigns. It may be selfish of them, but they probably think this is not their central function in life. Given the culture of silence-is-golden at the Olympics, I think this is increasingly unfair.

    • I agree there’s no justification for abuse, but if standing up for the vulnerable isn’t our “central function in life”, then whose function is it, just the stigmatised minority? African Americans constitute a mere 14% of the US population. Standing up for their rights isn’t the central function in life of the white majority either, is it?

      It’s not a matter of expecting every public figure to “spearhead opposition campaigns”, but if they don’t speak out and just leave it to the affected minorities to defend their own rights, then we can kiss human rights goodbye. Tyranny of the majority is not democracy. “The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept”.

      • Pixy Harris says:

        Harassment of homosexuals is of course unacceptable but I feel that Valery Gergiev too is being harassed and that is unacceptable. He has done nothing wrong.

        • Gerviev is highly relevant for two reasons: 1. He is a personal friend of Vladimir Putin and 2. He hasn’t spoken out against the law and the mistreatment of LGBT minorities.

          In that sense, by being silent or lukewarm on these issues, he is not doing the right thing. Irrespective of any justification for alleged harassment of Gergiev, he is one of the few communication channels to the Kremlin who is of sufficient intelligence, empathy and direct experience of working with LGBT in theatre, to be able to make any impression on Russian domestic policy.

  10. Pixy Harris says:

    I feel it is a little presumptuous to try and impose the standards of the UK on Russia. While not denying that Russia has a long way to go before it catches us up, one has to consider the huge leap forward made since the days of Stalin, only sixty years ago. The break-up of the USSR could have resulted in utter chaos: Putin played a major part in preventing that. Also he is ready up to a point to take account of the views of the West regarding human rights. The Pussy Riot girls’ release from prison being a recent example.

    • Anything Mr Putin did before the Sochi Olympics was most likely a publicity stunt to remove distractions from the games. I’m far more interested in what will happen after end of the games has removed the international spotlight from Russia. For example, there two new pieces of legislation pending:

      1. A new law sponsored by MP Alexei Zhuravlyov to seize even the biological offspring from lesbian and gay parents, and place them in care. Foreign adoption was already outlawed last year by Putin’s presidential decree.
      2. A referendum sponsored by the Russian Orthodox Church that will make same sex relationships once again, a criminal offence in a return to the Stalin laws. With opinion polls showing over 80% popular support for this move, and the authorities failing to take any action whatsoever against those hunting and assaulting gays, the passage of this referendum into law is an absolute certainty.

  11. A reminder of a story most of you missed. Gergiev was identified as one of Russia’s richest men by Forbes magazine. He receives some 16 million dollars every year from his part ownership of the largest turkey meat supplier in Russia. He gets this not because he made a smart investment but because Putin/the Russian government distributes these things to their “friends.” He’s brought and paid for.

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