In case you missed it yesterday, Russia passed a bill banning “gay propaganda.” The state Duma unanimously passed a bill banning the promotion of “homosexual propaganda” and mandating stiff fines for violators. This came on the heels of another piece of… legislation, which punished those who “insult religious feelings” with fines and jail time. According to the Wall Street Journal, this law was proposed after the feminist anti-Putin punk music group Pussy Riot performed an anti-Kremlin stunt in Moscow’s main cathedral last year.
After the Pussy Riot incident, the Orthodox Church called on the Kremlin to criminalize blasphemy. The Church’s Patriarch Kirill is an ardent Putin supporter, and openly supported his reelection in 2012.
Putin and crew aren’t particularly religious or moral, from what I can tell. Putin’s tight bond with Patriarch Kirill has less to do with his piety and more to do with his desire to retain power with the help of the conservative nationalists. To that end, he and his buds in the Kremlin are courting support from the “values” voters, traditionalists and the conservatives by pushing measures to legislate “morality.”
The bill banning homosexual propaganda makes it a crime to hold a gay pride event, to promote equal rights for gays and to even say out loud that gay relationships are equal to straight ones. In other words, slowly but surely, the Kremlin is banning free speech.
I assess that this is as much an attempt to court traditionalists as it is an effort to set a precedent for state control of speech. Criminalize free speech in one instance, and you have a precedent to criminalize speech. Period.
I know you’re saying, “Yeah? So what? It’s Russia. It’s Putin. It’s to be expected. He’s a fascists tyrant. A dictator!”
All this is true.
However consider, the following:
Judicial Watch reported in late May that the Obama Justice Department warned that using social media to spread information considered inflammatory against Muslims could constitute a violation of civil rights.
Consider also the fact that the Internal Revenue Service has been used to punish conservative groups by delaying their tax free status, based on their political activities.
And remember that the Justice Department targeted a Fox News reporter, tracked his telephone and electronic communications and did so in secret by naming him a co-conspirator in a crime for allegedly having received classified information from an intelligence analyst.
Worse yet, last month, the Obama Justice Department ruled last month that “colleges must eliminate and punish ‘verbal action’ (better known as speech) touching on sexual matters.”
“In a radical departure from Title IX jurisprudence, the federal government declares that ‘any’ unwelcome sexual speech or other conduct is ‘sexual harassment’ regardless of whether it is severe, repeated, or pervasive, and regardless of whether it would offend a reasonable person.
“In its findings, it rejected narrower definitions rooted in federal court rulings, declaring that sexual harassment should be more broadly defined as ‘any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.’”
Dog forbid you ask someone out on a date who isn’t interested in you!
I’m bringing this up to make a larger point. Just like Putin and crew are using government force to ban certain speech in order to court conservative support, it appears the current administration is using government force to ban speech offensive to their preferred demographic, courting feminists and leftists, while punishing those it perceives to be hostile to its agenda.
Tyranny is tyranny no matter from what side of the political aisle it originates, and no matter what side it tries to persecute.
Government force is the same regardless of whether it’s being used to punish conservative speech or liberal views.
And authoritarianism from the left is just as odious and freedom-destroying as authoritarianism from the right.
Recently, I did a blog post comparing Russia’s Putin to Barack Obama. I noted some similarities and parallels between the Russian President and the American one. It appears the likenesses are even more pronounced in the free speech arena, despite the fact that the former is conservative, seeking to pursue support from traditionalist Russians and the Orthodox Church, while the latter seeks support from social leftists seeking an eradication of anything that they find offensive.
Both sides use government force to ban free expression.
And therefore, both sides approach tyranny, albeit from two different sides.