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Sochi, click-tivism and the contemporary ‘progressive’

Thursday, 27 February, 2014

Words by Michael Roddan

Most people know that the Cold War ended in 1991 when the USSR was dissolved into its many different incompetent nations. But if you’ve heard a sentence with the word “Sochi” in it in the last year, you’d be forgiven for thinking the ANZACs had finally broken through the Bosphorus, landed on the shores of the Black Sea, and had begun another Gallipoli at the Olympic Venue.

Anti-Russian sentiment is running at an all-time high in the Western world, fuelled by progressive-minded dinner party conversations about Pussy Riot, Putin, and Pride in Sochi. But in the midst of all the chatter, you’d also be forgiven for thinking people actually give a damn.

The advent of Click-tivism has meant that being a progressive in the West is now as easy changing your profile picture, re-tweeting, and adding your email to a bunch of change.org petitions. Because of Russia’s ban on gay propaganda, multiple Heads of State have turned down invitations to Sochi, corporations have advertised pro-gay messages during broadcast, and Stephen Fry did something.

The law, a kowtow to the Russian Orthodoxy, is a half-arsed attempt to “protect” children by banning “propaganda on non-traditional sexual relationships”. This could mean anything from a flyer discussing the practice of safe homosexual sex, to an article discussing the abstract existence of homosexual people.

First, let’s be clear: the law is a fucking abomination and has no place in time or space. But 88 per cent of Russians support the gay propaganda ban. The West fought in Cold War against Russia for 50 years to bring democracy to the nation. Now that the Russians are exercising it, we want to punish them. Contemporary progressivism is synonymous with feeling good: if your opinion makes you feels good, it must be the right opinion to hold.

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On the first day of the Olympics, Google changed its homepage to a rainbow flag and fooled dimwits across the internet into believing one of the most powerful corporations in the world gives a damn about human beings. Let’s not forget: Google loopholes out billions of dollars of tax revenue in countless countries. In Australia alone, Google paid $74,000 in tax on revenue over $1 billion—money that could be spent by governments on policy that helps homosexual people. But for contemporary progressives, empty symbolism wins out.

You must remember this is for Russia, where it’s perfectly legal to be gay. There are gay bars in Sochi and some Russian TV stars seem hugely camp (though the locals don’t always pick it up). What this criticism boils down to, more than anything, is a Cold War relic media bias against Russia and the habit of contemporary progressives to be disgusting cultural relativists who only criticise white people.

If you see Google change its home page to Brazil forcing their poorest citizens out of the favelas before the soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, let me know. If you see them put up anything about Qatar’s treatment of women or homosexuals—where it’s actually illegal to be gay—don’t let it bypass me.

It’s easy to criticise Russia. We’ve been doing it for years. When you bring in Brazil or Qatar, however, economics, race and ‘culture’ come into it, and people have to think. And thinking, for the contemporary progressive, is hard.

Take for instance the West’s love affair with Pussy Riot, who were convicted by the same laws against hooliganism that operate in many places they’ve been celebrated. Forget the fact that they weren’t actually a band before the West started calling them, but a loose collection of nominally feminist artists whose raison d’etre was to be offensive in the simplest possible way.

Do the same progressives who champion their staged concert in the cathedral defend the cruel hurling of live cats through McDonalds restaurants? How about the filming of, admittedly quite blasé, pornography in public places while pregnant? Or stealing food from small grocery stores by inserting pieces of chicken into their vaginas? Art that makes you think? Does it challenge you? Perhaps, but if you don’t think very much about it, it just seems subversive.

But the West latched on regardless. Because they think that Pussy Riot, or protesting the anti-gay laws will bring change to Russia. But it doesn’t. The Russians have been through a lot. They’re a tough, proud bunch of people. Western-enforced neo-liberalism after the Cold War killed millions upon millions of innocent people in the Eastern Bloc, increasing the death rate in the early ’90s by 13 per cent. The West celebrated and acted as if the opening of another shopping mall would solve all that ailed them.

When Putin stands up to the West, Russians support him. When the West tells Russia what to do, they recoil. It is not by force, or progressive superiority via memes on the internet, that Russia will change. It’s through proper engagement, dialogue and, largely, economic growth and reductions in inequality—it’s no coincidence the gangs beating up gays on the streets are lower-working class skin heads, born from xenophobic views that immigrants, gays and the other are taking their livelihood.

When two people were killed during the the Boston Marathon , a small electronic city was set up by the media who reported every development. On  30 December last year Volgograd was bombed, killing 34, but it was brushed over by the media and quickly forgotten.

Are Russian lives worth less than those of Americans? You could say our media act like they are. But the media, like any free-market service, work to serve the interests of the consumer first. That way, it ends up being our view, too. The people of Russia will not be swayed while we still think like that.