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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August,9 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 32
Press releases are not activism - How the HRC tripped itself up on the Russian issue
Section One
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Press releases are not activism - How the HRC tripped itself up on the Russian issue

by Mark Segal - Philadelphia Gay News

Russia is beginning to prove, under the leadership of President (and former KGB leader) Vladimir Putin, to be not only an authoritative state, but one of the most homophobic in Europe. The city of St. Petersburg and the nation itself have passed several anti-Gay laws, including one that bars Gays from getting permits to hold Pride events or meetings - and if they do so anyway, they risk physical attack.

Now comes the new anti-Gay propaganda law, signed by Putin. Under the law, any LGBT person caught talking about Gay rights or demonstrating for Gay rights, or any two men or women showing affection (e.g., holding hands), can be arrested. Think it's just a joke? Ask the people who have already been hauled off to jail, including four Dutch tourists. They were eventually deported.

Giving credit where it's due, actor/writer Harvey Fierstein first made an issue of Russia's policies, followed by Dan Savage of the It Gets Better Project. Then, HRC did what it does best: it put out a press release. Now, I'm a supporter of HRC, but their press release was a little strange. It publicly called on NBC to use its clout, since it has the broadcast rights to the Russian 2014 Winter Olympics. The reason I found that strange is that HRC already has a line of communication open with NBC and its parent company, Comcast (I'm a member of the Comcast Joint Diversity Board and know this personally). Media is usually the issue of another organization, GLAAD. Finally, if HRC had realized point one, it would have discovered that NBC is not only obliged by legal issues but is also a highly regulated business that deals in news and international trade, so it was in its best interest to work quietly behind the scenes with the International Olympic Committee and the Obama administration. But press releases are very important to HRC.

LOCAL MOTION
On the other side of the scale were the thousands of Gay bars and other businesses from coast to coast that took it upon themselves to toss Stoli liquor and other Russian-made products out of their establishments. That action, which should be highly praised, along with behind-the-scenes diplomatic work, started to get results by weekend's end.

Russian officials told the IOC that the Gay ban would not be enforced during the Olympics. Stoli has issued numerous press releases itself - as good as the HRC press releases on the same subject, meaning not at all.

So, LGBT bars, thumbs up. HRC, learn diplomacy or learn how to communicate with those you have relationships with. And let's remember that President Obama will be meeting with Putin in September. I'm sure it will be one of their topics of communication, but this meeting comes at a bad time since there's this guy named Snowden who just moved to Moscow.

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation's most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. He can be reached at mark@epgn.com.

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