Five years ago this month, Vladimir Putin dispatched Russian troops to Georgia in an invasion that killed 300 people, destabilized the region and set off an international crisis. Throughout his career, Putin has participated in and initiated other unpleasant escapades, including the killing and displacement of more than 150,000 Chechens, supporting deadly regimes in Iran and Syria, and violently oppressing opponents in pursuit of personal ambition and power.
In each exploit, Putin has violated human rights and inflicted terrible suffering, even death. How has the West responded? Generally the response has come only from Western governments (and some media voices), and has been one of restrained reproach and halfhearted condemnation. Despite all the misery and instability Putin has caused, there’s never been a significant, wholehearted moral backlash. Never has there been a fiery, genuinely furious reaction from the spectrum of Western leaders and institutions, from governments, the media, intellectuals and businessmen, Hollywood and higher education, and the public.
That is, until now.
Vladimir Putin is currently facing enormous international criticism. Not just from fellow world leaders, including President Obama, who stated last week that “nobody’s more offended than me” by what’s happening in Russia. (Mr. Obama is so upset he called off a scheduled meeting with Putin.) But also from the mainstream media, from intellectuals and popular figures, and even from the public.
Around the world, thousands are turning out at organized protests to vent their fury. Bars, nightclubs and restaurants are joining an international boycott of Russian-made vodka and other Russian-made products. Cities in America and elsewhere are severing relations with “sister” cities in Russia. In California, Democratic politicians are trying to ensure state funds are not invested in Russia. Last week, the International Olympic Committee received an international petition with 300,000 signatures demanding the boycott of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
President Putin is being compared to Adolf Hitler and his actions to that of pre-war Nazi Germany. “I’m surprised this is not a huge story,” lamented Jay Leno to President Obama last week. “I mean, this seems like Germany: Let’s round up the Jews; let’s round up the gays; let’s round up the blacks. I mean, it starts with that .… Why is not more of the world outraged at this?” Putin’s actions come “straight from the Nazi playbook,” wrote Harvey Fierstein in the New York Times. In Britain, Stephen Fry likened Putin to Hitler, and wrote that “an absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 is simply essential.”
After years of tyrannical behavior, it seems Putin has finally incited vast and genuine outrage. What action was so despicable, so atrocious, so morally reprehensible and offensive, that it roused the normally tolerant and imperturbable West?
He signed a law banning the dissemination of homosexual propaganda to minors.
Yes, that’s all. Never mind the years this man has engaged in domestic and international bullying—invading nations, brow-beating others; beating, imprisoning and even murdering opponents; undermining the West and supporting genocidal regimes. It’s when Putin intruded on the right of Russian homosexuals to indoctrinate children that the world flipped.
This is the state of Western morality: Vladimir Putin can tyrannize the world, but the moment he interferes with the right of Russian homosexuals to educate children in their lifestyle, the world screams condemnation!
There’s no denying Russia has a measure of intolerance of homosexuality. In Russia it’s illegal to advocate homosexuality to people under 18, to engage in homosexual behavior with a person under 16, and for homosexual couples to adopt children. But do we seriously believe these laws are the equivalent of Nazi Germany’s pre-war treatment of Jews? As recently as a decade ago you could find similar legislation in Britain and America.
While Putin clearly isn’t a fan of homosexuals, and Russia can be a dangerous place for homosexuals (generally only those who flaunt their sexuality), the man isn’t rounding them up and tossing them in prison. He hasn’t shuttered homosexual bars, or banned homosexual pornography, or made it illegal to practice homosexuality. Russian law does not explicitly ban participation in gay pride parades, or the promotion of lgbt equality online. It’s entirely legal to be homosexual in Russia. All this admittedly vague “anti-gay” law does is make it illegal to propagandize homosexuality to minors.
Homosexual advocates are protesting against Russia in defense of human rights, specifically the right of Russians to freely engage in the homosexual lifestyle. (The violent persecution of homosexuals in Russia, although the problem has been greatly exaggerated, is unfortunate.) But what about the human rights violations occurring daily that are 100 times worse? Where’s the fervent international moral backlash—the global protests, the celebrity outcries, the international boycotts, the cancellation of high-level meetings—in protest of Bashar Assad, or America’s black-on-black violence, or the mistreatment of women by Islamists? In each instance, tens of thousands have suffered horribly and been killed.
The international brouhaha surrounding Russia’s laws governing homosexuality reveals the rapidly growing power and influence of the global lgbt movement and agenda. More significantly, it testifies to the collapsing moral state of the West. The violent persecution of any human being is wrong and it’s unfortunate some homosexuals are suffering in Russia. But let’s be honest. The laws Mr. Putin is creating and the moral standard he seeks to preserve aren’t historically anomalous. (Eighty-five percent of Russian adults strongly oppose homosexual marriage. A large majority oppose homosexuality altogether.) Truth be told, when it comes to homosexuality, Putin is in moral territory that was until quite recently inhabited by America, Britain and virtually the entire world.
Considered against the long history of Western morality, Putin isn’t the anomaly. We are. ▪