Saturday, February 15, 2014

"Moscow Is Burning": ABC Nightline reports on anit-gay vigilantism near Moscow's largest gay club, the Central Station, while the Winter Olympics go on

Friday night, Valentine’s Day, ABC Nightline aired a disturbing 20-minute report about anti-gay vigilantism in Russia, called “Moscow Is Burning”.  Terry Moran reported.  The title seems like an ironic recast of the name of the 1966 Paramount film "Is Paris Burning?", but here there is no liberation from what looks like fascist oppression. 
The report started with a quick shot of the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Sochi (800 miles south of Moscow).  Since ABC does not have the contract to cover the Olympics directly (that belongs to NBC, a former employer of mine), it is in a perfect position to call attention to the horrific situation of many LGBT people across Russia, making an ugly smear on Russia’s show for the worldwide event.
Specifically, the report concerned Moscow’s largest gay nightclub, the Central Station (a common name for gay clubs around the world), and the escalation of attacks against the property and its patrons since November 2013, after the Russian “anti-gay propaganda law” had been in effect since June.
The ABC report seems to have been motivated by the British Channel 4 documentary “Dispatches: The Hunted”, reviewed here Sunday Feb. 9, but this time if focuses almost entirely on the attacks against the club. One of the attempts to invade the club was filmed real-time by ABC News.
The disco is in a brick warehouse-like building, with now heavy security. 

The Huffington Post had already reported on a gas (hydrogen sulfide) attack on the club here.  
The documentary depicted it as a haven for gay people in an increasingly hostile environment. Indoors, drag queens perform as is common in many clubs. 
However, at least one of the managers and major performers will be moving to the US, and there is mention of political asylum.  It seems quite likely that the club will close, but that wasn't entirely clear in the report.
The Russian law in practice makes it impossible for gays to “fight back with speech”, and many hooligans have taken it as a condoning attacks on gays.
Moran interviewed police who were watching the bar, and seemed to be filming people going and leaving.  One cop said that this was a matter not only of legality (since Russia ended its sodomy law in 1993) but morality, a strange comment.
Wikipedia attribution link for Moscow aerial view.
ABC also talked to some of the attackers, from the Russian Orthodox “Army of God”, and to an extremely vehemently anti-gay legislator.  The politician said that such clubs should not be allowed to exist.  The gang members could not really give a lucid explanation for their hatred, other than they seemed to be following what someone else’s moral code expected them to do.
As had the British documentary, the ABC report emphasized that Russian “proles” believe that male homosexuality and pedophilia are intrinsically connected, as this idea has been promoted by politicians.  In fact, two hours earlier, ABC had aired, on its 20-20 series, a report about an young woman prosecuted for an illegal relationship with another underage girl.  It is unfortunate that both reports aired in close succession (interrupted by news and Jimmy Kimmel) on the same night, Valentine’s Day.  That seems like pouring gasoline at least near a flame.  It would have been more appropriate to air the Nightline on a different night (20-20 is fixed on Friday).   
But a deeper reading of the Russian homophobia problem suggests that common people in Russia (and in many countries with lower incomes or economic difficulties) believe that if homosexual behavior is viewed as permitted, many young adults will decide not to have children because of the economic sacrifices, and the country has an aging population and deeply failing birthrate.  That is a curious contrast to China with its “one child” policy. In authoritarian cultures, reigning in on individual personality differences seems like a way to force everyone to share in the risks of guaranteeing “the people” a future.  Of course, politicians abuse it. 
Neither report paid much heed to AIDS, or what people who acquire HIV in Russia especially through sex (and often gay male sex) do.  It sounds unlikely that patients have access to modern anii-retroviral protease inhibitors that have been so successful in the West.

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