by Dan Savage
on Wed, Aug 21, 2013 at 8:18 AM
This is some really profoundly, willfully clueless stuff. I would respond personally... but I'm in LA today, I'm in meetings all fucking day long (meetings are what you do in LA—meetings and blow), and I'm literally running out the door here. So I'm just going to copy and paste this response by novelist and essayist John Weir:
It would be a pleasure to enroll in Professor Schrad's course in Russian politics at Villanova University, or to audit his lectures on introductory comparative politics, but no one who wanted results would ask him to spearhead a boycott. Professor Schrad's opinion piece is strong on history but clueless about effective political action in the face of an ongoing crisis like the one currently devastating the LGBT community in Russia. Like other critics of the Russian vodka boycott called for by Dan Savage and LGBT activists in the US and countries around the world, including Russia, Professor Schrad assumes that the boycott is the whole game, and that vodka boycotters have no goal but to ruin a vodka company, in a kind of tantrum of gay consumer annoyance.
Our goal has never been to destroy the global market of Stolichnaya or to dissolve the extensive Russian investments of its parent company SPI, as if that were possible. Rather, we have meant it as a first tactic to spread news of a human rights disaster, and we know that boycotts have proven historically to be highly effective in accomplishing this aim. Indeed, in the past three weeks, the Russian vodka boycott has focused more attention on the plight of Russia 's LGBT people than any other intervention in the past two years—and the war on Russian LGBT people has been ongoing for more than two years, starting first in the legislative bodies of provincial towns and growing into a national movement.
Professor Schrad's Op Ed piece is itself evidence that the boycott is working, because a piece about the abuse of LGBT people in Russia would not have been drafted, much less published, if the vodka boycott had not made the tragic situation significant news item. To say, as Professor Schrad does, that Stolichnaya is not a Russian product is not just to repeat a false claim, but to exhibit naive faith in the PR department of a multi-national corporation whose press releases must be understood as advertisements, not truth. To complain that the US has long interfered in Russian affairs is to demonstrate a keen grasp of the obvious. So what? SPI's website proclaims the Russian-ness of Stolichnaya; the US government has meddled in the affairs of every country on the planet, often for controversial reasons and with mixed results.
We are not the US government. We are a community of LGBT people who are determined to intervene against human rights abuses of our LGBT brothers and sisters around the world. To get out the news is the necessary first step.
John Weir is the author of The Irreversible Decline of Eddie Socket and What I Did Wrong. He's also a member of Queer Nation NY.