Friday, September 6, 2013

Russia's "anti-gay" law.

The Anglosphere's left-wing media has worked itself into a bit of a lather over the Russian Duma's passing, on June 11, of what is generally described as an "anti-gay" law. I am going to try to do some Internet research although I have no Russian. Thanks, Google Translate!

I wanted to start with the actual text of the law, in Russian. In particular, I was interested in the precise word that has been frequently translated as "propaganda" (or, I suppose, as "'propaganda'" since it is almost never written without scare quotes). It was not easy to track this down. I did find it though, through a link on the Russian Wikipedia's page on "Legislative Bans Homosexual Propaganda in Russia" (that's the mechanical translation). Here it is: Федеральный закон от 30.06.2013 № 135-ФЗ. (I would have preferred an official source, but it seems unlikely that it's been doctored.)

If you do not read Russian, then you will probably have clicked the "Translate to English" button (assuming English is your native language and that your browser supports translation). In Chrome, using Google Translate, the word "propaganda" does not appear. Instead, пропаганда is translated as "promotion." However, we can easily see that the simple transliteration of the Cyrillic is, in fact, "propaganda" and that both words derive from the same Latin word, which was introduced by the Roman Catholic Church in relation to the propagation of the Faith.

The word is therefore an accurate representation of the Russian text. It also also, of course, a word with particular connotations. Judging by the Russian Wikipedia page on пропаганда, it appears to have much the same connotations as does "propaganda" in English. Therefore we can say that the Western media's use of the term is accurate. And we can also say that the same regular use of scare quotes, for example by the New York Times, indicates a certain opinion on said usage. You'll note that that article (which appeared on page A1 and is not marked "editorial") also assigns scare quotes to the word "protection."

But enough about пропаганда. What about the rest of the law? Here is the relevant bit (again from Google Translate):
Promotion of non-traditional sexual relations among minors, expressed in the dissemination of information aimed at developing non-traditional sexual juvenile facilities, attractiveness of non-traditional sexual relations, a distorted picture of the social equivalence of traditional and non-traditional sexual relations, or the imposition of information on non-traditional sexual relationships, causing interest in such relationships if these actions do not have a criminal offense - punishable [...]
So it prohibits telling children to have homosexual sex. Are you someone who tries to get children to do that? No? So then it does not affect you. (As an aside, one might wonder what kind of person talks to minors about sex at all, mightn't one?)

You remain free, legally, to promote sodomy among adults, and to practice sodomy yourself. Yet the Times is only tangentially interested in the actual text of the law (it is "nominally aimed at" one thing, but, through some unexplained force, actually does something else, according to our Paper of Record), and quotes Jay Leno (?) comparing it to Nazi Germany (an insult to Jews). Is it possible that getting little kids interested in sodomy might not really be such a great idea? According to the Times, no.

Is it possible that there might be some other line of thinking at work in this law, aside from the persecution of homosexuals? According to the Times, no. The Times chose to combine the passage of the law and violence against homosexuals into a single article. It chose not to report on Putin's stated reason for the law, which is as follows (again a mechanical Google Translate, taken from this interview):
We have people who have initiated these laws, and who took the law (I, by the way, was not the initiator of the law), proceeded from the fact that same-sex marriages do not produce children. And Russia is going through a difficult time, in terms of demographics . And we are interested in, so families were full to have more children. This is not the most important thing in the whole system of measures aimed at supporting the demographic processes. But I think the authors of this law came primarily from the need to solve the problems of demographic and were far from the idea of someone infringe upon the rights of.
The word "demographics" (де­мо­гра­фия) does not appear in the Times article. It is of course possible (though by no means certain) that the law does, in effect, suggest a certain sense of indirect approval over irrational, unchristian hatred of and violence against homosexual people (as distinguished from homosexual behavior). With any law, there is the possibility of over-zealous vigilantes taking things too far. (For example, laws that prohibit discrimination against homosexuals could lead to vigilantism against Christians.) But the Western media, led by the New York Times and the BBC, have chosen to take this hypothetical, indirect effect for granted, while ignoring the stated reasons of Russia's democratically elected representatives.

The developed world's demographic crisis is an "elephant in the room" that media outlets such as the New York Times, the BBC, the Washington Post, and Der Spiegel will not report on. 

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