Russia is preparing for the elections to its parliament (called Duma.) Everybody knows that the elections will be a sham. The government forces state employees to vote for the party that is currently in power by threatening to fire them. It forces business people to vote the “right” way by threatening them with sanctions in case they refuse. There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that the results of the elections have been predetermined. The Russian Prime-Minister Putin doesn’t even try to conceal that he is the puppet-master behind the current lame-duck President Medvedev.
So what do you do when you are planning to perpetrate such a massive electoral fraud against the people of your country? The answer is clear: distract them by something that will make them feel good and in control. It is no surprise that the authorities of St. Petersburg have introduced a bill that will impose fines on everybody who “engages in propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia.” Of course, the idea that homosexuality can be “promoted” makes as much sense as a plan to promote tallness. I’ve tried asking many a homophobe how much “propaganda” of gayness would be enough to make them gay. The answer is always the same: “Of course, nothing would make me gay, but I’m just worried about others.” Equating homosexuality and pedophilia, like this bill does, is also egregiously offensive.
However, many people in the fiercely homophobic Russia that inherited its hatred of homosexuality from the Soviet Union are happy about this bill. The authorities humiliate them by using them to pretend that there is some form of democracy in Russia. In reality, though, people are powerless to choose who will be in charge of their country. The attacks on gays make these downtrodden and humiliated people feel proud of their heterosexuality because there isn’t much else to be proud of. The suggestion that homosexuality can be promoted makes the heterosexual majority feel that sexual orientation is a choice and congratulate itself for making the “right” and the “moral” choice on this issue.
The anti-gay bill in St. Petersburg is still under review. Other areas in Russia, however, have already implemented this kind of legislation (Arkhangelsk and Ryazan). The economy in these areas is in even worse shape than elsewhere in the country, which gives their inhabitants more reasons to be unhappy with the government. And whenever popular discontent in Russia grows, you can always expect to see a distracting maneuver aimed at getting people to concentrate on their hatred towards some marginalized group instead of questioning the ruling party.