Calls to boycott the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia over Russia’s “gay propaganda ban” are vacuous.
So far we have British celebrities Stephan Fry and Rupert Everett leading the charge. I am sure a bare-chested Putin is crying in his vodka with Edward Snowden over the canceled trips of those two “celebrities.”
In America, President Obama has rightly declared that the U.S. government will not call for or enforce a boycott of the games. Comparisons are being made to Jesse Owens’ 1936 Olympics display in Nazi Germany, in that LGBT athletes proclaiming they will go to Russia and bring home a gold to show the oppressors that their ideology has no bearing on others’ athletic prowess.
But we still have calls to boycott vodka — some bars, gay or not, are even refusing to sell it in defiance of Putin.
Here is the core of why any boycott is stupid: Putin does not care.
Westerners always wring their hands and cry out in bafflement about the latest Russian or Putin outrage. But he does not care what you think. Putin cares about Russia, the former Soviet Bloc and his image, and his image therein.
Every time the West complains, he points to the protests and says to his countrymen, “See, they hate our glorious Russian values.” This acts as a re-enforcing loop, enhancing Putin’s power and moving Russia further away from the West.
Obama wants Snowden? “Ha! He came to us and he gets to stay.”
The West wants to help the Syrian rebels? “While you do nothing, I’ll sell Assad more weapons.”
America wants the U.N. to sanction Iran? “We’ll give them what they want and take their money gladly.”
Refuse to let Western athletes compete? “More medals for Mother Russia!”
I talk to many pundits, politicians, and activists and am constantly amazed how many simply do not understand that Putin’s PR is domestically aimed. They believe Putin will be hurt by the West’s shocked sensibilities. Putin and the bear he just wrestled laugh at your wounded feelings.
China has similar restrictions on LGBT materials, but no one called for a boycott in 2008, nor are they doing so now. I guess we wanted (and still want) to keep the train of exports and debt buying going ahead full speed.
And no one is complaining about (2018 host) South Korea’s lack of anti-discrimination laws or institutionalization of military enlistees if they are homosexual.
We ignore the worse plights of the LGBT communities in Africa, the Middle East, and India while railing against Russia. Is it any wonder Russia wants the West to take a hike?
Stephen Fry even went so far as to compare Putin to Hitler and the LGBT community in Russia to the Jews of the Third Reich. If Fry understood history, he could have just said the LGBTs in Russia are treated like the LGBTs were in the Third Reich.
And the tired Hitler argument is just that — tired. Bush = Hitler, Saddam = Hitler, Assad = Hitler, Mubarak = Hitler, Obama = Hitler, on and on and on. I would be more worried if they said Putin is Stalin; Stalin killed more people and was never defeated.
Hitler, on the other hand, the world ganged up on and beat like a drum.
Again, the boycott will not change any policy. Putin has no Western sensitivities to offend, so all the tried and true Western techniques of shaming have no effect.
However, the boycott can and does hurt businesses and their employees that have nothing to do with Russia’s anti-gay positions. Stoli that is sold in the US is made in Latvia and distributed by a company in Luxemborg.
So you stop drinking “Russian” vodka. Putin laughs at you while drinking Smirnoff from the 5,000 year-old vases he “discovered” while on his first scuba dive.
If worse comes to worse, he can always tell the Russian people to drink more vodka, sell it to the Chinese and Iranians, or give them a subsidy.
And where are the calls for boycotts against caviar? Or even one of Russia’s top 10 exports — oil and gas, iron/steel, fertilizer, organic and inorganic chemicals, machinery, aluminum, wood, cereal, or copper? Vodka exports are a drop in the bucket to the Russian economy.
Heck, America imports more crab from Russia than Vodka.
It just goes to prove that the calls for boycotts are much ado about nothing.
The protesters could try boycotting the top U.S. exports to Russia like engines, air and spacecraft, cars, meat, and medical equipment. Of course, that will not affect Putin either.
Or perhaps we can refuse to send our astronauts over to get a lift into space since NASA can no longer send a man into orbit. I am sure that will show him.
Now, I think the LGBT community has every right to protest their displeasure, and certainly agree that Putin’s draconian laws are reprehensible. However, there should be no shock when foreign activists are beaten to a pulp when they protest in Russia.
At the end of the day, the best way for any one to protest Putin’s laws are for an openly gay athlete to win the gold. Boycotting the Olympics would deprive athletes of their lifelong dream while changing nothing. And boycotting vodka is as relevant as protesting the price of tea in China.
Armstrong Williams is the author of “Reawakening Virtues.” He is a political commentator who writes a conservative newspaper column, hosts a nationally syndicated TV program called “The Right Side,” and hosts a daily radio show on Sirius/XM Power 128 (7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m.) Monday through Friday. Read more reports from Armstrong Williams — Click Here Now.
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