Reductio ad Homosexualem

So I’m counter-trolling a vatnik on Twitter the other day, and I make a point about how Russia’s ruling mentality is stuck in the 19th century. That’s not exactly figurative either. The leading ideology in Russia’s political circles and among its intelligentsia is almost entirely based on, if not influenced by, the 19th century idea of geopolitics. They want to go back to the 19th century. But I digress.

My cotton-padded opponent claimed that progress is relative, and that the West’s idea of progress is…wait for it…drum roll…homosexuality. Well to be sure, he used the word “sodomy,” which is even more idiotic seeing as how by definition, “sodomy” can be practiced by heterosexual couples. Though this is rendered even more idiotic coming from a Russian, as there is some very convincing evidence that anal sex pornography is extremely popular in Russia. Of course anyone with even a passing familiarity with contemporary Russian politics knows that he was of course referring to Western tolerance for homosexuals.

Yup, that’s all progress in the West really boils down to. In fact all of Western culture boils down to homosexuality and boys being taught to act like girls, just like they say on Russian TV. Forget incredible feats of engineering, astrophysics, and medicine. Forget freedom of speech, contested elections, and the right to carry on massive demonstrations against unpopular policies. All the culture and achievements of the industrialized world, seeing as how there are non-Western industrial powers which are also tolerant of LGBT people, can be boiled down to dicks touching other dicks. Hell, we should all change our national flags to crossed dicks on a rainbow background.

This just underscores the fact that Putin’s Russia has nothing to contribute to the modern world. It doesn’t export any cutting-edge technology. Hell, they had to import around 40% of their food. It doesn’t produce movies anyone wants to watch, and that includes its own citizens. Apart from caviar, nobody clamors for Russian cuisine abroad. It is a country which, based on its tech-savvy young population, natural skill at improvisation, and massive wealth in resources, ought to be competing with countries like Germany or South Korea in terms of technical achievements, infrastructure, and standards of living. But instead of this, much of the country, even just outside Moscow, resembles a third world nation. All the while around 35% of the national wealth is concentrated in the hands of just 110 individuals.

Most Russians are aware of their country’s backwardness; if not from personal experience they at least suspect that the rest of the world has it better no matter what Tim Kirby tells them. So some people desperately grasp at the straw of open homosexuality, specifically gay parades and same sex marriage, acting as though this isn’t just a negative thing, but that it in fact negates all the massive advantages Western countries have over Putin’s dysfunctional state. In reality of course, it’s no secret that those states which have progressive attitudes towards LGBT people, and in fact towards pretty much anybody, have the highest standards of living in the world. By contrast, the stricter the laws a country has against homosexuality or non-traditional relationships of any kind, the poorer and more backward it tends to be. Of course the success of the former is not directly caused by that tolerance. Success breeds freedom, whereas poverty goes hand in hand with tradition. People tend to forget that traditions formed for concrete reasons. Religious-based injunctions against homosexuality date from times when it was essential that people have as a many children as possible, just as laws mandating female chastity until marriage were rooted in the need to secure one’s line of heirs. The point here is that if  tolerance of homosexuality is such a destructive thing for a society, we should see something very different in the world. Countries like Russia and Iran should be on top, while countries like the Netherlands and Spain languish in poverty and corruption.

Of course when you point out how all these “degenerate” countries are doing better than Russia, the response of the patriots or their right-wing foreign supporters always amounts to shaking their fist and saying, “Just you wait! You’ll pay the price for violating the laws of nature! You’ll see! You’ll all see! Well I’m very sorry but no. As it turns out, Slavophiles and their fellow travelers were peddling this bullshit about Russia “saving” the West from its decay over 100 years ago. Russia represented tradition, the hierarchy of absolute monarchy over the degenerate mass-politics of liberal democracy. But who ended up collapsing back then? Oh right- Russia. What was it that managed to drag the ruined Russian empire into the 20th century and actually managed to make it a serious rival to the West in terms of science and industry? That’s right, a left-wing, degenerate Western philosophy known as Marxism. Now it’s 2015 and once again we’re being told that the West is going to collapse because it has turned its back on its traditions. Meanwhile Russia, the country that is held forth as an example for the West, has never managed to rival Western living standards at any time in its new, nearly 25-year existence. They were wrong a century ago, they’re wrong now. You know what? I’m beginning to think that society’s attitudes towards homosexuality might not be a determining factor in a nation’s success.

Of course attacks based on tolerance of homosexuality only really work if you accept the homophobic worldview of these people. If you accept that the mere existence of a gay pride parade is somehow a threat, one which deserves more attention than say, police corruption or brutality, then you might find this popular Russian argument convincing.

I know that feeling because I come from a very religious, conservative background. In the opening phases of the so-called “culture wars” of the early 90’s, conservative radio, literature, and television fed its audience endless horror stories about ever-younger children being taught about sex, and even homosexuality, by public schoolteachers. We were told that gays and lesbians were assaulting churches and “cruising” to “recruit” young boys and girls. The message was the same as Russian TV today- Our society is degenerating into chaos, without any kind of moral boundaries! Everything is spinning out of control! Sure, our society appears to be advancing more and more, but at what cost? I think the lyrics to the popular country song “Grandpa” by The Judds encapsulates this anxiety well.

Grandpa, everything is changing fast
We call it progress, but I just don’t know

Did lovers really fall in love to stay
And stand beside each other come what may

The message is clear- Is all this advancement really progress? What about all those people getting divorced? It’s the end of the traditional family! Just one problem. The divorce rate peaked in the 1980’s and has been steadily declining since then. What is more, yes, many people used to stay married back in the “good old days” of the 1950’s, but not necessarily out of choice. In those days, things like domestic violence and even physical or sexual child abuse were considered “private family matters.” Even in less extreme cases, many women were forced by financial need to remain in loveless or even abusive marriages.

Getting back to the topic of gays, as a young man inundated with right-wing political propaganda on an almost daily basis, I couldn’t help but wonder as to why I never saw any of these militant LGBT recruiters or rabid “feminazis” anywhere in my city. Eventually I ended up living in an area which was becoming gentrified by male gay couples. Strangely, I didn’t find myself under constant threat of assault from these allegedly lust-stricken men. I even ended up working a summer job in an internet provider which was owned by gays, in a shopping center full of gay owned businesses. Number of guys who tried to hit on me or who even looked at me in what could be construed as a sexual manner: Zero. Zip. But more importantly, during that entire time, the presence of these gay people in my neighborhood was hardly noticeable. It’s not like they were all hiding it, it’s just that if you weren’t specifically looking for them or deliberately taking notice, they really didn’t stand out in your daily life. They were simply- there.

Now keep in mind I am from a rather conservative state. What about Western Europe? Well I’ve been told that Spain is the most gay friendly country on the continent, yet I wouldn’t have known it from the time I spent there. I lived in cosmopolitan Prague for about half a year and failed to notice any significant presence of “gay propaganda.” Germany’s supposed to be pretty gay friendly but I couldn’t base that on anything I saw there. Same deal with the UK.  At no time in Europe did I ever find myself trying to cross a major street, only to realize that I could not because a gay parade was currently in progress. In fact, virtually every single time I have seen a photograph from a gay pride parade, it was posted by some right-winger, Russian or otherwise. If it weren’t for them, I probably wouldn’t even be able to imagine what a gay pride parade looks like, and it’s not like I’ve ever made any deliberate effort to avoid them. If Russian propaganda were even remotely true, it seems probability would have dictated that my path cross that of a gay parade at least once, either in Europe or the United States.

By contrast, Russia’s social problems are very hard to avoid. Even as a foreigner, you will run into the systemic corruption. Alcoholism and drug abuse are very public. You walk amid the broken down, decaying infrastructure every day. But the new Russian insta-patriot insists that none of this matters because there are no gay pride parades marching down the holed and crumbling streets. There’s only one word to describe this attitude- idiocy.


26 thoughts on “Reductio ad Homosexualem

  1. Armands Bekmanis

    I wonder why vatniks bother arguing with Western-puppets and degenerate supporters like you and me. I find it hilarious to read Alfred Koch`s posts of hysterical messages that he gets from vatniks,telling him how he should leave Russia along and stop critizing it.
    Personally when I dont like something and it`s obvious that the person cant be be reasoned with – like that idiot Mark Sleboda – I just ignore it.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      I think the issue is that some of these people were once, for lack of a better term, normal. I think via a combination of fear, normalcy bias, and the realization that they have no way out of Russia, many otherwise educated people are toeing the government’s line in an effort to convince themselves that everything will work out.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Great article. Early Western reactions to the anti-gay propaganda law were totally ridiculous, and played right into the hands of Putin’s propagandists. Sometimes Westerners fail to realize that only decades ago, many of the laws or views about LGBT people they can’t fathom today were in force or at least popular in their own countries. The scientific advances that helped us understand human sexuality were not available to the Russians and many other nationalities until recently.

      Another thing to point out is that when these issues appeared in Russian society, it happened at the worst time for most people. To them it all seemed like chaos, and on top of all the genuinely bad things they were witnessing, the West expected them to just spontaneously understand something like 20 missing years of psychological research into human sexuality.

      Also about this line:

      “Yesterday a Russian asked me, “What if you are wrong? What if our values make a better society?”

      Oh I’d do ANYTHING to have been asked that question. My answer would be: “Well, they clearly don’t.”

      That’s what this all boils down to. If your values are right, than in 25 years(or more, since many of these people idolize the Soviet time as well), they should have produced that better society. How much more time should we give them to prove that a society which ignores massive corruption yet is obsessed with homosexuality is the healthiest option?

    2. Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

      Very very good, Jon.

      On the history angle, I recall there being a significant gay presence in the early Bolshevik years (20s). This is some of the earliest organised gay ‘movement’ type activity, way before the US and comparable to in Germany. I can go look up but does memory serve me right on that?

  2. Bandersnatch

    This was hilarious and very on point and to my experiences as a big ol’ homosexual while I was there. Actually for many Muscovites even broaching the topic elicits gasps and widened eyes. They really freak out. It always made me feel like an ambassador visiting a less civilized corner of the universe. Anyway, here are some examples of the arguments and fears they listed for me when I discussed it with students.

  3. Asehpe

    I can’t resist the temptation to nit-pick… It would have to be “Reductio ad homosexualem”, from a (pseudo-)latin adjective “homosexualis”, which, as a third-declension adjective, would have its accusative case in -em. To decline it as if it were a -us adjective or noun isn’t a good idea, since all adjectives in -al in English correspond to third-declension -alis adjectives in Latin… and this one would have to be the one exception.

  4. Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

    Economists have convincingly argued that economic success for cities is tied to tolerance. There have been a few studies (and it makes a lot of sense). Also, many Western companies see non-discrimination and diversity policy as crucial to their success. You will see numerous Western conservatives making these points.

    Having mentioned that ‘science’ can I query your earlier reference to science being involved in the progress of gay rights? i think the biggest influence in visibility, that most people know at least one gay person. This takes the notion of discrimination from the theoretical to the practical: you think that about *this person, your friend or colleague? This was Harvey Milk’s argument: ‘everyone must come out’.

    On the Western reaction to the gay propaganda law reception/Sochi boycott etc. Back when I was actually writing I did this piece pointing out that instead of screaming and poring non-Russian vodka down drains that people should be supporting the Russian opposition to the law. []

    Lastly, one of the thing’s I’ve noticed with the Russian mass culture I’ve seen (bits, from the UK) is the presence of screamingly camp entertainers. Same in Slavic places like Bulgaria and Serbia. I’m talking about obvious massive queens on primetime ( Sergey Lazarev). WTF is going on there? Is this like Liberace, that people somehow convince themselves that these people are non-sexual? Be most intrigued with your take on that, Jim.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      It’s not an illusion- Russian TV and Music is full of gay or at least very gay-looking celebrities. Russians are also huge fans of Eurovision, in spite of it’s well known gay associations. How they reconcile this is beyond me.

      All I can say is that Russia is like an entire country that’s in the closet.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      In a way, yes. Women in particular often admit to either having same-sex experiences, or wanting/fantasizing about same-sex experiences.

      Men have a prison-like view about homosexuality. They think that being a “top” means they’re not gay.

    2. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Also, I should add that I once asked my Designated Expert on Gay Issues if Russia’s cult of Putin was, as I suspected, blatantly homoerotic. In his expert opinion, the answer was yes, definitely.

  5. Asehpe

    I also note that one should not reverse cause and effect… Even though countries with liberal policies tend to be richer, and countries with conservative policies poorer, we know that correlation does not imply causation, etc. etc. etc. Countries like China certainly exemplify the idea that you can get richer and improve average living standards despite not having liberal attitudes towards cultural/sexual minorities. Rather, it seems to me that it is economic success that sooner or later breeds the kind of atmosphere in which questioning the ruling assumptions becomes feasible and interesting (you don’t really have time for that when the economy is bad and you have to do wonders just to guarantee food for your family). One often sees this phenomenon described as “decadence” (it’s the stance the Putinbots take, certainly), but it actually is tolerance: the idea that, as long as our basic needs are met, there is really no reason for me to oppose you just because you like doing something I don’t (be it anal sex or worshipping Ahura Mazda) — it all boils down to a question of taste. In harsher times, people hold on to their beliefs because it gives them the sensation of having something “real” in their hands: true, my economic situation may be piss-poor, but at least I have the truth and I “know” things would be much worse if our beloved flying spaghetti monster weren’t blessing us evert dat with his noodly appendages or if we forgot to keep our food taboos — as demonstrated by the obvious “decadence” of those who don’t. At least I can tell myself that, while I try to fall asleep despite the mosquitoes from the cracked walls and the hungry noises from the other people’s bellies.

    Basically, people tend to enjoy tolerance when they aren’t under pressure from basic needs, and they tend to turn away from tolerance to find ‘explanations’ for their untolerable lives when they are.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Yes, one must be careful of this chicken and egg argument. For example, there is this ridiculous idea called the “democratic prosperity theory.” Strangely, all “democratic” countries are treated alike, in spite of the fact that some are measurably more democratic than others. But the theories main failing is that it says that this ill-defined democracy leads to prosperity, instead of the more logical explanation that prosperity leads to more democracy or at least personal freedom.

  6. Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

    Since you’re here, oh wise Jim ,,,

    How much of the homophobia is being deliberately generated, being deliberately stoked as a political tool?

    I’m thinking of the very well funded anti-‘gayropa’ posters used against the Maidan, for example? Is some of this planned out by the Kremlin, not just coming from nutters like that St Petersberg MP and the Anita Bryant woman in the Duma?

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      I can only share some anecdotal evidence. For example, in 1999, I met with some 16 year old girls(I was also 16 at the time) who told me that they didn’t care whether someone was gay. As a religious, conservative person at the time, I was appalled. Later, TaTu wrote a song where a girl laments over the fact that her crush prefers the same sex.

      The hardcore conservatives were always working their schemes, but it was only in 2013 that the Kremlin stepped in and started catering directly to them. This is because once again, they saw people comparing Russia to Europe and the West, and Russia simply can’t compete. That is unless you promote homophobia, because that’s one major difference between the two.

      1. Asehpe

        Yes, I always thought this was the main point of open homophobia in Russian politics. I mean, there had always been homophobia in Russia, but it didn’t really stand out when compared to the rest of Eastern Europe: Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles, Bulgars, Serbs &tc. can be just as homophobic as your favorite vatnik. But somehow, in their countries, homophobia never became a political or divisive issue, and it never tore those countries apart from Europe. Yes, there’s the occasional outrage, look-what-the-Polish-minister-said-tothe-Danish-ambassador faux pas, but nothing that was really serious, with e.g. anti-European consequences. Only in Russia did it crystalize in this way — I think, precisely for the reason you point out: if you compare Europe to Russia from any other perspective, Russia loses by far. The only way to save the day is to claim that at least Russia has ‘the right attitude on the gay question…’ Sure, the Europeans’ economic development looks wonderful and attractive, but the price we’d have to pay — giving up homophobia — is too high. Who wants to stop harassing gays and putting videos of said harassment on the internet? It’s just too much fun, and it provides support for Orthodox Christian values…

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Yes, that message also resonates with Russia’s allies in the far right abroad, throughout much of Europe and the US. In fact, there are American roots of this homophobic campaign. Look up Scott Lively, for example. Vatniks couldn’t even make their own homophobic campaign without American help.

  7. Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

    I think the Lively stuff was exaggerated – by Lively. He also tried it in other countries. Lively’s been sent for trial for crimes against humanity under US alien tort law in a case brought by Ugandans btw.

    From memory, the propoganda law came from below, from the regions, and it was for a while by no means certain it would go national. That points to some sort of Kremlin decision on its usefulness.

    You could directly compare with, say, Lithuania or even Ukraine. The difference is that grassroots movements exist in those places and there’s some sort of forward movement and there’s no overwhelming sense that the state is targeting the movement. It’s clearest in Lithuania, which certainly has plenty of religious nutter MPs like Milonov in St Petersberg.

    Incidentally, and I don’t think this is well known, the EU was prepared to drop the gay anti-discrimination bit of the agreement with Yatsenyuk’s interlocutors a year.ago. So the EU isn’t THAT gay …

  8. Asehpe

    Indeed, And the reactions some years ago to the Riga gay pride parade were certainly in agreement with the existence of homophone vatniks in many Eastern European countries… it’s just that the Russian government decided to use the issue to its advantage, whereas in Latvia this didn’t happen (see what happened when Minister Rinkevics came out as gay — a lot of prejudice, but also a lot of support from quite unexpected places).

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      I do remember something about Western missionaries teaming up with certain local forces in Latvia and creating a rather menacing anti-gay movement(which somehow manifested itself among immigrants who were possibly Russian in the US), yet that seems to have been a grass roots thing. That’s opposed to Russia, where the state and not very separate church make it an official ideology, while state run media constantly tells everyone that in the EU, children are forced to practice homosexuality in kindergarten.

  9. Ivan S

    It’s worth adding, probably, that when people start crying about how society is “degenerating” and “decadent”, when you check, there’s a very big chance they are either religious fundamentalists, fascists or, if they are in a country where being either is not broadly acceptable, crypto-fundamentalists or crypto-fascists.

    The unspoken implication is almost always that we need to be saved from ourselves and hard measures may have to be employed.


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