The strange case of Russia, gays, Snowden, and Greenwald

The following is a trailer for a documentary airing on Channel 4 in the UK. Entitled "Hunted", it is a harrowing look at the lives gays lead in Putin's Russia.

The Mirror newspaper has a write up on the documentary.
She discovered only 1% of homosexuals are openly gay, and the reason for this is very simple.

Vigilante gangs are on the lookout for targets and trying to infiltrate gay chat rooms or find gay men on social media.

Once found, the men are lured to a meeting place and captured like animals before they are beaten and filmed. It is common for them to have urine poured on them and to be left with permanent injuries.


But most of the gangs believe they are doing “good work”, link gay men with paedophiles, and see no shame in what they are doing.
This is the reality facing gay Russians. As we transition into the winter Olympics in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, the games will be held in a country whose president says the country must cleanse itself of homosexuality, even as he makes assurances that gays will be welcome for the Olympics.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered new assurances to gay athletes and fans attending the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics next month. Yet he defends Russia's anti-gay law by equating gays with pedophiles and says Russia needs to "cleanse" itself of homosexuality if it wants to increase its birth rate.
The Games will be held in a country where its legislature passed anti-gay laws in 2013 criminalizing disseminating gay "propaganda" to minors, out of a fear that doing so will make those children gay, with, of course, right wing US pundits applauding and lauding countries like Russia.

With this in mind, it seems odd that someone who has shot to prominence on the back of civil liberties has this to say about Russia:
Russia... [has] my gratitude and respect for being the first to stand against human rights violations carried out by the powerful rather than the powerless. By refusing to compromise their principles in the face of intimidation, they have earned the respect of the world.
Yes, globe-trotting leaker Edward Snowden had that to say about a country whose citizens hunt gays for sport, and whose government, on both a national and regional level, strives to make life for gays as miserable as it can. Obviously, those acts don't count as human rights violations, or at least they don't count if Snowden wishes to maintain his refuge.

I don't expect a man who faces a long prison sentence in the country he betrayed to be too open about the glaring and horrific human rights abuses perpetrated by his country of adoption. (The North Caucasus? Supporting Assad the butcher?) But I do find it rather odd that his consigliere, Glenn Greenwald, a gay man, would be so reticent.

Well, I don't, really. After all, Greenwald is a frequent guest on Russian propaganda organ Russia Today. And Russia has provided safety for his cash cow Snowden, which Greenwald has parlayed into an entirely new media venture funded by libertarian tech billionaire Pierre Omidyar. It takes a special cognitive dissonance to be a gay man who fled the US for its stance on gay marriage to remain silent on a country where homophobia is official state policy. I did several Google searches to see if Greenwald has written on Russia's anti-gay laws and culture. I found one Tweet:

Now, I'm not as naive as to be unaware of the idea of "marriage of convenience". Snowden and Greenwald have an agenda (and it's not to expose malfeasance, regardless of what they say), and Putin's interests intersect with theirs. It is what I like to call "the real world". Nation screws nation, and so it has been and so it shall ever be until we hopefully figure out that it's no way to run a fragile planet. But the idea that, in Snowden's words, Russia is standing up for "the powerless" is laughable without having to do much research. The fact that Greenwald can dismiss Russia's atrocious human rights record because, in his estimation, it's right in this instance of supporting Snowden should make any real journalist's hair spin. Strange bedfellows are the commonplaces of international relations. But putting lipstick on a pig doesn't make it Marilyn Monroe. Supposed defenders of "human rights" have gotten into bed with a state which keeps losing them—for gays, for journalists, and, yes, for whistleblowers—on a daily basis. So, yes, those of us who don't reflexively distrust everything the United States does do have a right to wonder if there is some hidden agenda. It is, in fact, an exercise of that vaunted skepticism which the emoprog crowd urges us to obtain. It's simply that we don't automatically take the word of a blogger from Rio or someone who took a job with the intent of leaking classified secrets. The adage "you're known by the company you keep" applies in much of life, including this whole sordid affair.

I probably won't watch this winter's Olympics. The background information leaves too much of a bad taste in my mouth. But I can imagine both Snowden and Greenwald glued to their sets, cheering on their ally.

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