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Just wanted to make a few comments on Paul Canning’s excellent article on the situation for LGBT people in Russia and the current state of gay rights in Russia. His article, which is extremely well-balanced and detailed; it can be found here http://paulocanning.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/some-contrarian-thoughts-on-russia-and.html

I
 would, however, like to make a few comments and do so here as tweeting back would require about 25 tweets. So here we go, in no particular order:

1) Masha Gessen has some special and unique concerns. Not only is she concerned about the proposed law about taking children away from gay people in Russia, there is the June law passed by the Russian Duma which prohibits gay foreigners from adopting Russian children. Gessen is an American citizen with an adopted child, so, indeed, at least theoretically, she can be affected by this other law.

2) While the new law taking children away from LGBT people is unlikely to pass, this must be understood in a wider context: In the US, for example, it was thought for 40+ years that voting can be made easier. Then with a sweep of legislation or a court ruling, it can be again made more difficult. The work of a generation of civil rights work, thought accomplished, can be erased very quickly. The same applies in terms of abortion in the US. It is more difficult to get an abortion in the US now than 20, 25 years ago in some parts of the country. One new administration can radically change the course of racial, LGBT and social policy and set back accomplishments made long ago!

3) The concern about this new potential law, and the law on “non-traditional relationships” is against the backdrop of Putin’s very unprecedented power grab. It is with a history of other recent attempts to weaken democracy and clamp down on free press. It is seeing things through the whole prism of the Pussy Riot episode. Now in Russia, we are seeing a similar attempt to tighten abortion restrictions. In the past week, I saw a tweet to a LGBT activist stating that people getting abortions, “should be executed.” The thing about serious calamities in history is that they are often unprecedented. Most often the terrible outcome does not materialize. At times, it unfortunately actually does. There are forces in Russia, even members of the Duma, who would vote and support  such a law which would take children away from LGBT people. The environment of homophobia in Russia is the strongest in many years. At the same time, this legislation and attitudes have given a new, unprecedented jolt to LGBT activism in Russia.

4) Part of the problem lies with the abyss between information exchanged on the LGBT situation abroad and in Russia.  At the eye of the storm of Russian LGBT activisit Nikolai Alekseev himself. Always a colorful, eccentric figure, he lost the respect of many in the past week with a series of very ugly anti-Semitic rants. It seems he was directing his ire at certain particular individuals but such language is unacceptable for a human rights activist, of any kind. (One of Alekseev’s harshest critics, Michael Lucas, also a producer of gay porn, has been critisized himself for what has been seem as extremely islamophobic rhetoric). The other thing about Alekseev is that he colors situations to his liking. In the past few days, for example, he portrayed the situation as “certain LGBT activists refused to meet Obama and he left in shame” - Actually, if you read the article he cites, the activists in question said it was scheduling issues that kept them from going, not some contempt for Obama or his efforts. Or today, Alekseev cited a poll done among St. Petersburg residents, most felt Obama’s visit not worth it. His headline, however, said Russians “condemned” Obama’s visit. This is not what the article suggests. He also regularly highlights extremely anti-Western rhetoric. He recently retweeted an extremely hostile tweet about Gessen (“The typical model of liberalism: American, Lesbian, rusophobic, fucktard”) . In this other person’s timeline could be found a translated letter from US anti-gay activist Scott Lively who thanked Putin for the anti-gay law in Russia. Strange bedfellows indeed. Or on Monday he tweeted that LGBT Russian groups should meet with Obama. On Wednesday, “Why meet with killer Obama?” Engimatic and unstable at best.

5) The very Russia vs. US dichotomy itself is also a bit bizarre. Alekseev is mad at the vodka boycotts and calls to cancel the Olympics in Sochi. Let’s face it, neither of these things is likely to happen at all. But he consistently states that he sees the LGBT struggle as a thing Russians have to deal with on their own. Yet 1/2 or more of his tweets are in English.  It is very true that people in the West often do not have a clear picture of what’s going on in Russia and things easily get minsunderstood or exaggerated. It is also true that foreign interventions can have the opposite effect on decision-makers in Russia and be counter-productive, much like foreign “interference” in US political issues would be met with equal antipathy. But this overt hostility to foreign LGBT or human rights groups seems downright odd at times. 

6) Equally strange is the general reaction to Obama’s visit by many activists in Russia. His visit with human rights activists was mainly political theater. It was a slam at Putin. His remarks were extremely general, touched mainly on the larger human rights picture and a few LGBT activists were in attendance. It was basically a photo-op. But on the other hand, it should be understood that Obama changed millions of minds virtually overnight when he took the pro-marriage equality stance. Can any one imagine the top leader of another country like Cameron, Hollande, Merkel, Asian leaders speaking to Russian human rights groups? I really cannot. (However, higher level officials have met with Russian LGBT representatives,like the Australian Foreign Minister Bob Karr, a day or so before Obama’s arrival). Obama’s visit was a symbolic gesture but not necessarily a  bad thing.

7) The Russian LGBT and human rights movements still seem fragmented. There seems to be a good amount of in-fighting (but there is in the US too). If you look at Alekseev’s tweets, a good number of them are slams against other Russian activisists or media personalities. Alekseev was quick to say that the “real LGBT” had not been invited. Actually Vykhod (Coming Out) is a St. Petersburg org that has done a lot of good work. Lev Sharansky, a major Russia human rights advocate, called Igor’ Kochetkov, one of the LGBT representatives who met Obama a “pretender.” But it seems counterproductive for all of this finger-pointing and name-calling to be going on. Meanwhile, environmental activist and politician Evgeniya Chirikova met Obama but is extremely opposed to marriage equality and called it “vile.” So again there are some very strange bedfellows in the mix.

8) Finally, while I strongly disagree with vodka and Olympics boycotts, I do think the international pressure on Russia is a good thing. Because, while there are a lot of factors internally that will keep the Russian “take the kids away from the gays” law from happening, I think people are also acutely aware that any more anti-LGBT legislation will be a clear signal to the West that the fears and concerns in Russia are justified, thereby even further polluting the environment for the Olympics. 

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Hi I am a Russian translator and interpreter
I have been going to Russia for the past 25 years.

The whole Alekseev situation is very complex. Nothing justifies his antisemitic rants, period, and he has strongly discredited himself. Furthermore, his erratic tweets make him hard to believe anyway. One day, he is saying gay activists in Russia should meet with Obama, then the next he is saying he’d never meet “killer Obama”. He has particularly nasty exchanges with others in the Russian LGBT community. He told Anton Krasovsky, who called Alekseev’s tweets a “fucking shame”: “The fucking shame is your lying about being fired based on homophobia. You’re an incompetent journalist, that’s all there is to it”. So he frequently burns bridges and reacts in a very bombastic manner when people disagree with him. He has a good degree of megalomania: “You can’t do anything with Russian LGBT, I have all the keys.” Also, his constant MO is, “Know one else wants to take on this responsibility but me, others have refused.” But yes, if you have such a responsibility, you have to use it responsibly and not become a detriment to the movement.

However, it must be understood the very hard job Alekseev has had. He has won cases with the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg. He has blazed new territory and has been unflinching under considerable threats and even violence. He shows no fear, which is necessary in a place like Russia where a gay rights movement is just getting a real start. He is hated from every side: the homophobes, some in the LGBT community who say he is bought and sold and even many in the US who don’t understand the complexity of what the situation is for LGBT in Russia. Yes, the new law is extremely bad but there has been a lot of misinformation and hysteria about it as well. He is very right that foreign efforts, particularly vodka boycotts and Olympics boycotts will only isolate the Russian LGBT community further. He is also correct in saying that perceived interventions from the West will be unwelcome, much like protests from other countries would be not well received by people in the US who want discriminatory laws and practices against LGBT people. However, he is wrong in saying that, “If the West doesn’t stop interfering, homosexuality will be made illegal in Russia” - The forces which made this law can make others if the course is not changed, either by international pressure or by a Russian national dialogue. Recently, similar efforts have been undertaken to restrict abortion. We can now see tweets by some Russian extremists like, “People who get abortions should be executed.”

Alekseev potentially faces jail time for “offending” one of the main authors of the law, Mizulina, by saying the law can drive Russian youth to suicide, which it probably will. So he has had to walk a fine line as he can be harassed at any time. Now, he is kind of damned if he does and damned if he does not approach Putin. What activist in any country would not like to meet the president on important issues? And yet when he does, he is accused of being pro-Kremlin and bought. The jury is out if he really is pro-Putin or not, either by choice or by pressure, but it seems unlikely the Kremlin would pick such an explosive and erratic figure to be its spokesperson. If anything, they may want to wave him like a flag of someone obnoxious and unstable. None of this is meant to justify Alekseev’s vile comments or hysterical behavior but it is simply saying the kind of huge pressure someone like that is under. It’s a hard job no one wants.

As regards Lucas, to me he is the other side of the same coin. He correctly calls Alekseev on his hateful comments but is unapologetic about his own. They both serve as an example of what an activist should not be: in any way bigoted against another group. Lukas often seems as far away from the LGBT movement as he can be. Sure, he’ll march on 5th Avenue and has performed in Israel but how often does he get his own hands dirty on the bread and butter issues of the LGBT community? Alekseev correctly says: Lucas should try coming here, he’d never make it. It’s very easy to make hit pieces from your posh apartment, another to be in a country where the struggle is so profound. I simply do not understand why he is given the position of authority he has been given. He calls for the standard boycotts of vodka etc., but that is not what Russian activists on the ground want. He has been separated from what is going on in Russia since 1994. Sure, he reads, but having seen the huge abyss in perceptions between the US and the Russian media and the LGBT communities, perhaps he should listen to what Russians themselves have to say about things more. Yes, he’s right to call out bigotry but should he not have a better record himself? In my perception, both Alekseev and Lucas should be disregarded, you do not win supporters through hateful rhetoric. Also, as I stated, Lucas seems to be particularly enjoying getting Alekseev. He has self-destructed himself. But there comes a point when it is no longer productive to attack someone who has messed up but has also done a lot of good things and has a lot more actual knowledge of the complexity of the situation in Russia than Lucas does.

Finally, here is a piece I wrote in response to HRC on why the Miss Universe pageant should be pulled from Moscow. Miss Universe is a lot less important than the Olympics but it is a big international event.
(May still have a few type-o’s) http://gjrayner.tumblr.com/post/59018832329/a-response-to-jeff-krehely-on-miss-universe-piece

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I wanted to comment on your Miss Universe piece. The HRC should be known for its advocacy around the world for LGBT causes, not spreading misinformation and fear-mongering. 
I have been familiar with the Miss Universe Pagaent for many years and am a specialist on Russia, so I know about which I speak. Please let me give you a perspective on the many wrong turns your Miss Universe piece takes.
First, like everyone, I am appalled by the new Russian “anti-gay” law. It will be bad for the gay community in Russia and is in conflict with the basic spirit of free expression. It is a bad law. But Russia is not the first, nor the last, country to adopt bad laws that affect the lives of LGBT people. In 1988, Margaret Thatcher adopted famous paragraph 28 which prohibited the teaching of homosexuality in schools, the first anti-gay law in  the UK for a century. We in the US live in an environment were DOMA, DADT were put into law, ENDA cannot be put into law and states discusss laws like “You can’t say gay in school.” 
Many of these bad laws end up galvanizing the gay community.
And in reality, the US cannot throw too many stones in terms of gay rights issues and bad laws which affect the LGBT community.
I can tell you now that this bad law in Russia has made the LGBT community in Russia stronger than it ever has been. It is a national discussion. The number of straight allies for LGBT rights has grown exponentially. That is not to say that there isn’t a lot of work to be done in Russia but this law has acted as a firing rod to get Russian LGBT people to demand their rights. Whether Stonewall or now, gay rights are only advanced when the community is faced with adversity and forced to challenge the unacceptable status quo.
However, it is important to stay factually accurate. While the law is bad, to my knowledge, no foreigner has been arrested under it. The Dutch film crew was released. As regards Russians, to my knowledge, like 10 people have been detained because they purposely wanted to get arrested for it.
The fact is Russia is not interested in creating media attention by arresting foreigners. Period. To get arrested under this law as a foreigner, you would have to basically attend a gay pride parade or give a public speech on gay rights and then, theoretically, they could detain you. There is nothing about “being gay” or “being suspected of gay” or “speaking about gay topics with friends.” You have to engage in an overt political act to be arrested under this law and even there, as a foreigner, you must push this law very, very far.
Your fear-mongering in the piece is quite ridiculous. The possibility of one of the delegates being grabbed by the police and thrown in jail is a virtual impossibility and silly. The girl would have to stop the daily 14 hour production of the show and go outside the venue to stage a gay rights protect or give a speech, which will not be happening. Yes, the law is bad, but let’s not spread untrue misinformation and cause unnecessary fear.
People also overlook the bigger picture of gay rights around the world. The pageant has been in Panama. At the time the pageant was there, homosexuality was 100% illegal, this changed only in 2008. Miss Universe 2011, Leila Lopez, comes from a country, Angola, where there are zero rights for gay people whatsoever. The situation for LGBT people living in many Carribean countries is not good either. And for some time, it was felt that the pageant should go to Jamaica, labeled by some as “the most homophobic place on  earth.” These are just a few examples of places where LGBT rights are even worse or are not represented at all.
What amazes me in this situation is the number of people who suddenly care about LGBT rights now but will gladly look the other way in terms of the gay rights situation in other countries. And how will moving the pageant help Russian LGBT people? It will not. In fact, it will isolate them even further.
Historically, the Miss Universe Pageant has been a unifying event that also celebrates the gay community. Coming to Russia will be a small step to bringing world scrutiny to a problem which has to be fixed.
Foreigners have nothing to fear unless they directly engage in political protests. Period.
Your piece does nothing but incite fear and does nothing to really help the plight of real LGBT people in Russia.
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Lawdy, what a mess of epic proportions. It only took 2 weeks to get themselves into these dire straights. So where to start:

- They have decided they don’t like that people watch many eps at the same time, like over a weekend. This is a by-product of the spooky and mysterious new online age. Um, no, people have stock-piled eps since DVRs and VCRs came out. Even funnier, they market this as “TV Anytime” and then bitch about “binge viewing”

- They decided people would automatically watch both shows. Doesn’t work like that. I watch both shows, many people do not. Trying to force them will only piss them off.

- Then we get the stupid excuse “People were feeling overwhelmed with all new eps. Imagine if on June 1, a new viewer saw 30 episodes!” This is echoed by a group of idiot viewers who believe this horseshit. One woman went into a frenzy: “You don’t understand what it is to be a new mom! Not all schedules are like yours!!” So let’s peel away the layers of stupid here:

Original OLTL was on for 43 years with well over 10000 episodes. If you were a new mom like mine was in 1969, what did you have to do? If you missed some eps, a) You would have to join in later b) Ask some friend who was watching. You’d be up to speed in a day or two.

Later, they had VCRS. You could actually save 3 episodes or so on tape! Then DVRs came. You could save dozens of eps. All of this brought about some changes in viewing behavior. Viewers realized they can catch up on a whole season of shows. I have 22 episodes of Nova saved on my DVR. Then, ABC had Soapnet so you could STILL see multiple repeats of episodes

And then there were websites. At least 10 or more that give complete summaries of every episode for years and years. And Wikipedia pages on the different characters!

And then we get to the TOLN shows on HULU. If you watched all the original episodes on ABC, that is 300 minutes a week on ABC (live) or 180 minutes (Taped on DVR commercials skipped), both shows are then 600 minutes vs. 360 minutes. On Hulu, that is 125 minutes one show, 250 minutes 2 shows., so that it 4 hours total. If you omit recap show = 100 minutes 1 show, 200 minutes both shows, little over 3 hours.

Hulu in the previous model said you could see the previous 10 episodes for free. Meaning you could catch up with the entire 250 minutes within 2 weeks and still catch up. AND you had a re-cap show to help you catch up! After that, you could pay $7.95 a month and watch all episodes as much as you wanted.

If all of that failed, you could go back to reading the dozens of websites or go back to the 1969 model, just start watching and ask a friend, you will be back to speed in days.

So if they are targeting the kind of idiot that doesn’t understand all of the above, this does not bode well at all.

- Apparently they think now this will help people get caught up. Um no, people who stockpiled eps will continue to do so. They watch it with their other online shows at one time or watch all eps on Hulu+ on a train etc., just as many do with their DVR eps, all in one big sitting.

- Apparently they think staggering the days will get people to watch both shows. Won’t happen. Both shows have very different vibes and styles. Some people will watch both like in the past, many won’t. If watching both shows if part of their business model, it will fail.

- The shows topped iTunes ratings their entire first week. But apparently those numbers were not good enough. I guess they counted on every person who ever watched AMC and OLTL to watch both shows plus every man, woman and child of Sweden.

- Apparently, (former OLTL head writer) Susie Bedson Horgsan was telling the truth about being exhausted. Jill Larsen said on AMC, the writers would be going until 4 am everyday. Because apparently, they just arrived at the site. Had no furniture, no dressing rooms, no sets and within a couple days said, “Ok, let’s start filming stuff”. If I were a writer, I’d be out at about day 2 of staying up all night, especially for a show which takes 1/2 the time of the original.

- Multiple sources have confirmed Shelter is a huge money pit, which doesn’t help things.

- Then we have the explanations of various stars from the shows:
Cady McClain:
It’s all good because the soaps will better quality now!
Um, Cady, if you’ve done 2 cycles of your show and now say that the production schedule had to be cut in half to get top quality, there is something majorly wrong. If the writers began this project without the time to get quality work done, then obviously there is a huge problem and the launch date was rushed.

Debbi Morgan:
You’re not losing eps, they are being stretched.
And your paycheck is being stretched Debbi. It will now take closer to 2 years to do these same shows. Actors will have more time off, but not really any more time to do anything except possibly a play.

Kassie Depaiva: They can always go back to the original production schedule
Not likley, because, in addition to the challenge of getting 200 people to come back to a schedule where they work until 4 am, you will immediately come up short on one show or another. Fans will really not like it if AMC gets 4 eps and OLTL gets 2 for several months.

- Then we have the revenue issues. They are losing the hits they get from new shows much faster. The idiots who couldn’t catch up won’t or will just start with the latest ep anyway. They have lost revenue with FX Canada, many have cancelled Hulu+ subscriptions

- Many will not want to go back and forth between shows. So many will just watch that one hour on a weekend and be done, and skip the recap show.

So it is a huge mess and not an encouraging sign!