Since Putin granted Edward Snowden asylum, the anti-Russian rhetoric has been turned up to a volume I haven’t heard in some thirty years. I remember that there were a great many lies told about the USSR during the Cold War. In hindsight, it was kind of shameful, but then again Communism was an evil that needed to be vanquished, and those were different times.
However, today the lies simply can’t work as well as they used to, because the hypocrisy is so easy to expose. For example, the hysteria over Russia’s so-called “anti-gay” law is absolutely uncalled-for. In form, the law is essentially the same as European laws against incitement and propaganda that target right-wing groups. The only significant difference is that a different group is targeted. As an American, I naturally oppose laws that restrict speech, but if you’re going to oppose Russia’s law at least be consistent about it.
As an example of inconsistency, I’d like to point to the 2003 Swedish prosecution of Ake Green, a Lutheran pastor who used the Holy Bible to argue that sodomy is a sin. Green was arrested and threatened with six months in prison merely for quoting scripture. This is a significantly more severe punishment than the Russians plan to mete out to those who promote sodomy to children (there is nothing in the law that punishes people for same-sex attraction). So why was nobody screaming in the national media about what happened to the Swedish pastor?
As another example, I’d like to point out the very different coverage of two recent events captured on video. One in Seattle, and the other in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Not long ago, I featured a video from Seattle’s Gay Pride march in which two protesting Christians were attacked and beaten for making their views known. The video got a little bit of national attention on blogs, but never made it on the national news. However, we now have a video of a Russian gay pride activist being manhandled after showing up with a rainbow flag to crash a national paratrooper appreciation event in St. Petersburg, and it’s being broadcast on national news. The paratroopers – really tough guys you wouldn’t want to provoke – didn’t even hit the man, although they did jostle him and call him names.
I just watched the video on PBS, where the event was totally misrepresented as a man targeted and assaulted by police and soldiers merely for asking for “tolerance.” What a sham. The guy must have been looking for an incident if he went to troll the paratroopers with a rainbow flag on their national day (or else he was just too tempted by buff guys in striped tank tops and berets to contain himself), and he got what he was looking for. The police, who arrived when the disturbance developed, actually protected the gay protestor, taking him into protective custody, and then arrested some of the paratroopers.
And then there’s the biased coverage of Pussy Riot, the girl band from Russia that burst into a Moscow religious service, desecrated an altar and intimidated worshippers with loud punk music while wearing balaclava masks which, in Moscow, are typically worn by terrorists on a murderous rampage. However, Pussy Riot was described on PBS as singing an “anti-Putin ‘anthem’” without a trace of irony. No mention of their sacrilege, vandalism and enormous disrespect for simple, humble Russians worshipping God.
As someone who was avowedly anti-Communist as a child and young man, I’m sorry to say that I find myself ashamed of how we are attacking a much-improved Russia today. I’d like to tell the Russian people that these media types do not represent me, or even most Americans. What Russians choose to teach their children is their own business, and I’m alarmed to see that so many people here in the West think they know better than the Russian people when it comes to their children and internal affairs.
As for Snowden, well, what do US officials expect when the US passes a punitive law on behalf of Russian whistleblowers? That Russia will simply turn over an American whistleblower who fell into their hands? Frankly, that comes off as pretty arrogant. Maybe what the US – and the West – needs is a little less of this “pride.”