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The Smart Way to Boycott Putin’s Olympics

UPDATE: See MSNBC video below.

LGBTs in Russia are really suffering under Vladimir Putin’s new “anti-propaganda” law, and American Gay people are properly concerned, especially when we see what a political, financial and propaganda windfall he’s about to reap next year with the Olympics.

This has prompted a movement in San Francisco and New York, led by the writer Dan Savage and others, to boycott Russian vodka, especially the Stolichnaya brand, which for decades has touted itself as the quintessential brand of Russia’s quintessential drink (and advertised heavily in LGBT media).

Gay bars dumping so-called Russian vodka. (Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters)

Gay bars dumping so-called Russian vodka. (Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters)

But as we’ve since learned, Stoli isn’t made in Russia; it’s now made in Latvia, and the holding company which owns it issued a statement in July proclaiming itself a “fervent supporter and friend” of LGBTs – as well it should be, considering how much money we make them. So this Latvian base has prompted critics, Gay and otherwise, to denounce the vodka boycott – without coming up with any better ideas.

Some people have floated the idea of boycotting the Olympics themselves – which is closer to the mark, in my opinion, except (as Jimmy Carter discovered), it doesn’t work. The athletes who trained for the 1980 Games weren’t allowed to go, so they sat around and sulked, telling everyone how deprived they were, and four years later the medalists at the Los Angeles Olympics had their records tainted in the popular mind because “the Soviets weren’t there.”

So along sped Greg Louganis, the poster boy for Gay Olympic athletes, this summer to criticize the “boycott Sochi” movement because of those poor deprived athletes – most of whom, at least in the glamour sports, make a lot more money than Gay bartenders do, and even Gay bar owners. MSNBC had Louganis all over its air as soon as the boycott idea surfaced – which got me to thinking.

I like Greg Louganis and admire him. But he’s no one’s idea of a trenchant political analyst or even a Gay spokesman. If his opinions were worth listening to, he might have said, “Don’t keep the athletes from going, because they’re good at winning public sympathy and causing a backlash.” Or he could have gone even further and said, “What ought to happen is that LGBT sports fans and our allies shouldn’t go to Sochi and shouldn’t buy tickets.”

So since nobody seems to have thought all this through correctly, here’s the smart idea. Don’t boycott Stoli; don’t boycott the Olympics.

Don’t boycott the advertisers; they’re too big a group, while boycotts must be focused to be effective.They make too many products, and even if you want to punish them, you’re likely to buy their products even as you tell yourself you’re boycotting them. Know why “Boycott Koch Industries” doesn’t work? Because they have a near-monopoly on paper products. Are you giving up toilet paper these days? When you buy more of your favorite brand, do you really turn the package around to find out who the manufacturer is? (You should; don’t buy Georgia-Pacific, a subsidiary of Koch Industries.)

Procter and Gamble will probably advertise; even if you follow the company fairly closely, it’s hard to keep up with everything they make. P&G buys and sells brands every week. They don’t make what they used to make, and a brand that used to be owned by someone else is now owned by P&G.

They’re not the proper focused targets. Boycott NBC-Universal instead. Just don’t watch the Games.

Look who's on top in this logo. NBC's who American LGBTs should boycott. They're the easiest to hurt and you don't have to lift a finger.

Look who’s on top in this logo. Boycott the biggest company behind the Olympics, NBC. They’re the easiest to hurt and you don’t have to lift a finger.

NBC’s the one paying the massively corrupt International Olympic Committee, which talks out of both sides of its mouth like graduates of the Putin School of Doubletalk, all those billions for the broadcast rights.

Don’t watch the opening and closing ceremonies; don’t watch the competitions. Simple. (You can see all the highlights the next day on YouTube anyway.)

If you really want to get NBC’s goat, liberal Gay person, don’t watch MSNBC either during the Olympics. Make Rachel Maddow squirm. Be a real Inner and stick it in Chris Hayes’s face. Instead of watching – you won’t miss any news anyway; there won’t be any during the Olympics – fire off a tweet every night, “Boycott #Olympics Rachel Maddow @TRMS @MSNBC #corporatemasters #Putinsucks.”

This Gay woman is owned by Vladimir Putin's sex partners at NBC-Universal.

This Gay woman is owned by Vladimir Putin’s sex partners at NBC-Universal.

Make her ratings drop and I guarantee you’ll get her attention. And she’ll tell her boss, who’ll tell his boss – which might eventually help shape NBC’s news coverage of Russia, Putin, the Games, the IOC – and the latest bill introduced in the Duma, authorizing the Russian police to confiscate the children of Gay people.

Remember, we got Anita Bryant fired back in the ’70s, because Florida orange juice was a specific target, easy to remember.

Refuse to watch the Olympics. And every day they’re on, skip MSNBC and tweet its hosts.

Then when it’s over, declare victory and return to your normal programming.

That’s how to do Gay politics and win. LGBTs in Russia are depending on us. We must win this, and I’ve just told you how.++


4 Responses

  1. Interesting proposal, Josh, but it raises some questions in my mind:

    1. Is it really true that “we got Anita Bryant fired” because all the gays boycotted Florida orange juice? As I remember it, there was no economic effect on Florida – we are, after all, only 3-4% or so of the population – but rather the controversial nationwide publicity associated with Bryant’s name that prompted the Florida citrus board to let her go.

    2. Even assuming that every LGBT-whatever person in the U.S. follows your plan, and NBC notices a drop – again of 3-4%? – in its expected viewership of the games, can you explain more precisely how that will “shape NBC’s news coverage”? I mean, how exactly will they report the Olympics differently? What will they say, and how will they say it?

    3. And even if they do somehow report the Olympics differently, how exactly will that affect Russian policy and laws, can you explain? I mean, the billions of dollars or rubles or whatever have already been sent, haven’t they? The TV rights have already been bought, so the Russian Treasury Dept. has already counted it and made a huge bank deposit, right? What does Putin or anybody in Russia care now, if some American TV network gets a little pissy in its coverage of the Games?

    4. Furthermore, even if NBC has some negative comments to make about the Russian government, well, ever since there’s been television in the world, American TV networks have always had bad things to say about Russia, haven’t they? And the Russians should give a fuck this time because why? The Russian foreign minister just dismissed Great Britain as being “a small island nobody listens to.” What do you think they would say about Rachel Maddow?

    I am utterly horrified at what is happening to our gay brothers and sisters over there, and the greater horrors that may yet befall them. I would love to hear of some way to actually help them, and protect them from their own government. But Russia is not Grenada or Panama or Kuwait. It’s an enormous superpower that doesn’t give a rat’s ass what we Americans think, say, or do – individually or collectively. Because they know that, short of starting WWIII, we can’t make them do anything.

    I wish your plan – any plan – to save the gays in Russia would work. But how can it?

    Or is it simply true that no one on earth can help them?

  2. Vladimir Putin is a politician – in a nation that killed its own czar a century ago. Every politician is subject to pressure; ask his good buddy Bashar al-Assad, now fighting for his life.

    The question is what leverage we have against Putin; it’s indirect. Western Europe depends on Russia for energy; that’s why Putin’s cronies are all oil billionaires giving him kickbacks. But he doesn’t get checks from the Olympics; those go to the IOC. The Olympics cost the host country, which Putin is willing to pay because he wants glorious worldwide TV pictures. But what if more of the world stops watching his big propaganda show? NBC will panic, pressuring the IOC, which in turn will be forced to pressure Putin.

    How do you think the Ugandan “kill the Gays” bill got stopped, Russell? Money talks. What will the IOC do next time without its multi-billion-dollar check from NBC? They fund the IOC. And the ratings are dropping every year on their own, but we can make them drop further.

    We have allies now that we didn’t have in Anita Bryant’s day. You can toss around your unreliable 3% figure all you want, but voting majorities in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington State approved Gay marriage less than a year ago. Congress repealed DADT. Even the right-wing Supreme Court gave in to Gay marriage; we don’t all live in Bumfuck, Texas. So what percentage of the audience can be motivated to skip bobsledding and curling?

    Your memory is wrong; yes, we got Anita fired – we created that national controversy! I guess you never realized, but business hates controversy. Even a 3% drop in sales causes panic; a 3% drop in ratings gets people fired in TV. Maddow checks her ratings every day; she has to. Why else did MSNBC parade Louganis on every show in prime time as soon as the boycott talk started up? NBC-Universal made them. It’s staked its whole future on the Olympics; the entire fall schedule depends on all the new-show promos it will run between ads for McDonald’s, beer and Coke. If the new shows fail, NBC will drop to #5 after Univision and stay there.

    You go right ahead wringing your hands, telling the world it’s powerless, that Russia is “an enormous superpower,” that Putin is God. The rest of us will act.

    Josh Thomas

  3. I don’t see how this is Rachel Maddow’s fault, and I’m not going to punish her—or myself—by boycotting her. I don’t see that as “smart.”

  4. I don’t advocate punishing her. I advocate getting her attention by pressuring her – as well as American liberals making a little sacrifice to try to achieve a political goal.

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