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@stephenfry Is A Brilliant Man Who Is Totally WRONG About The Russian Olympics

August 8, 2013

In his open letter to Prime Minister, M Rogge, Lord Coe and the Members of the International Olympic Committee, Mr. Fry called for a boycott of the Sochi Olympic Games. He’s totally wrong. Here’s why.

Let’s be frank about Russia’s LGBTQ policies. They are bizarre and draconian and one of the very few subjects that honestly evoke an accurate comparison to Nazism. Every part of these laws is horrible. It is now, even illegal to tell Russian children that homosexuals exist.

I can’t speak for the LGBTQ people in the UK, but personally, I think a boycott is not only childish but does exactly what the Russian government wants it to do. It allows Russia to pretend that the LGBTQ community and the nations in which we are free do not exist. A boycott isn’t a stand against evil. it is the opposite. It is, literally, a government mandate that good men sit by and do nothing while Russia does every single thing they can think of to try to make the world forget that they hate anyone gay, or who is an ally or who acknowledges that the LGBTQ community exists.

Russia wants us to be quiet. Where is the logic in actively agreeing to do that? And why, given the total lack of impact the last Western boycott of a Russian Olympic Games, is anyone convinced that Russia will care in the least that their games are missing some athletes?

Does anyone think that the Russian government lamented the loss of American competitors in 1980? Is anyone under the delusion that Russian school children are taught about the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, games?

No. They’re taught about the return of Nadia Comăneci to the Olympic podium, just like American school children are taught that Mary Lou Retton was the first woman from outside the Soviet Bloc nations to win the Olympic gold medal in the Gymnastic Individual All-around competition, while history forgets to mention that the Soviet Bloc nations weren’t there.

A boycott is big news in the nations that are engaging in it and they are generally ignored by those people against whom it is engineered.

Boycotting the Sochi Olympics is the wrong answer, not only that, it is a short sighted  response that does not appear to involve much regard for the actual people who would be most impacted by a boycott.

Who are those people? The athletes.

These people dedicate their entire lives to competing at the Olympics and they do so with the understanding that they will represent their nation. You know what? This nation legally recognizes the rights and humanity of the LGBTQ community. These athletes, both British and American, are representing us. A lot of us are gay. A lot of the athletes are gay. A boycott would rob from them, the opportunity to not only reach the competition to which they have dedicated so much of their lives, it would rob us, the spectators, supporters and more importantly, the LGBTQ communities of Western nations of the possibility of a moment like this.

Jesse Owens

Or at least one like this

Black Power

Look, I get where Fry and a not small number of other people are coming from. He lays it out beautifully and in an emotionally affecting, if not entirely rational fashion,

I am gay. I am a Jew. My mother lost over a dozen of her family to Hitler’s anti-Semitism. Every time in Russia (and it is constantly) a gay teenager is forced into suicide, a lesbian “correctively” raped, gay men and women beaten to death by neo-Nazi thugs while the Russian police stand idly by, the world is diminished and I for one, weep anew at seeing history repeat itself.

I’m gay too. My family is Jewish. My grandparents had family members who disappeared under the weight of a yellow star. In their name and in the names of the ay teenager is forced into suicide, a lesbian “correctively” raped, gay men and women beaten to death by neo-Nazi thugs while the Russian police stand idly by, I want them to have this moment. I want the whole world to see Russia honor an openly gay athlete or an ally who flies a rainbow flag.

I’m not willing to go quietly into that good night while people suffer. I’m not willing to be shunted off into the background via a boycott. Given Mr. Fry’s demonstrated understanding of history, I would hope he would think again before arguing for diplomatic appeasement.

I want my Jesse Owens. At the very least I want my Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman. I want Russia to welcome the world, the whole world, every glittery, rainbow, queer representative of it, to Sochi.

I want them to welcome us and watch us win and then watch us claim the victories while we do the one thing that terrifies them; openly exist.

I want the members of my community to be seen. If we aren’t there, that is not possible.

51 Comments leave one →
  1. NightRythm permalink
    August 13, 2013 5:58 PM

    I was thinking we should boycott the Olympics, but you’ve changed my mind. Thank you for a well written column.

  2. August 28, 2013 2:16 PM

    Love your style and your uber intelligent argument. There aren’t many people who can make Stephen Fry’s points seem pointless. x

  3. LucyBre permalink
    August 28, 2013 2:49 PM

    Well said.

  4. 1959duke permalink
    August 28, 2013 2:56 PM

    Bob Beckel who worked in Jimmy Carter’s White House has said the they were wrong for the Boycott of the 1980 Games.

  5. August 28, 2013 3:11 PM

    I’m unsure of this, especially when the Olympics are bending over backwards to welcome countries whose laws about half of their populations are as draconian and dehumanizing as any anti-gay laws in Russia. Yet that’s okay. Stephen Fry weeps when a lesbian is raped “correctively,” but not when any other woman is raped “correctively,” beaten for showing an ankle, or honor-murdered? God DAMN it, but I’m sick of the world only getting upset and out of sorts when groups of people that include men are treated like human waste.

    • August 29, 2013 9:29 AM

      I agree and the thing is, if you look at the coverage of Russia? It’s ALL about gay men, violence against them, and the violence straight men are committing against them. Violence against lesbians? Largely ignored.

  6. August 28, 2013 3:24 PM

    A brilliantly written informative post, I’m tired of not being able to make a difference as so many Irish people are at the moment but we need heroes sporting or otherwise to keep us going.

  7. August 28, 2013 4:53 PM

    Everyone should have the right to be what they are. I am tired of people enforcing their ideas on another group simply for being themselves. I hold this truth in the case of any group which destroys their enemy by bullying. I thought by now that this would be over with and I am sad it is not.

  8. August 28, 2013 4:58 PM

    Bravo to you and I so agree … even though I am not gay nor a Jew and even have a part German heritage …. the world shouldn’t be silent and how great would it be if a gay person was able to sing their hymn openly in Russia

  9. August 28, 2013 5:47 PM

    I think in this case, the idea is at least by NOT boycotting, it seems like we are basically saying, “Whelp, when in Rome…” Like we are basically acquiescing to their “rules” about gays. In this instance, maybe some people feel like boycotting is their way of a peaceful protest. Honestly, I think you and Fry BOTH have valid points. And really, if some of the Olympic athletes are gay, or some of the audience, do we really want to risk their safety by allowing them to go willingly into the lion’s den?

    • August 29, 2013 9:24 AM

      I get the point that he’s making. The thing is, we can’t do anything about their rules, if we don’t engage. Boycotting is ignoring the problem and hoping that does something and ignoring a problem never does anything but allow it to grow.

  10. August 28, 2013 6:12 PM

    An excellent argument, superbly executed. Well done.

  11. william wallace permalink
    August 28, 2013 6:26 PM

    If there be a world GOLD medal awards for stupidity then ever
    in first place be / Americans followed by the Israelites / in joint
    third place be the British Italians Irish French Spain & Greece.

    The reality is an west put their hand out to Russia in friendship
    at the same time tightning the net around Russia with a missile
    system that in making Russia’s nuclear defence worthless they
    will be unable to lauch before it ever leaving Russian airspace
    it will be destroyed / (at least thats the initial western plan) the
    rest (a invasion of Russia after a massive bombing campaign).

    Russia has vast resources the west want need it’s resources
    which they already on paper have divided usual France Brits
    & Americans getting the biggest share of the cake >crumbs
    SEX being a SIN be the problem / a SINNER can’t enter
    HEAVEN … thus the cure needed … the cure be JESUS
    the christian claimed Son of God. JESUS it claimed t’was
    not born of SIN but born of a virgin / thus but free of SIN
    abled in removing the SIN of others / one’s SIN’S being
    removed then one qualifies entering a fictional HEAVEN
    to be with GOD and claimed only begotten SON JESUS.

    Thus a heartles deceit of christian organizations / they
    have a yeary income of $millions which gathered from
    poor brainwashed people / whom believe the religious
    nonsense centuries of brainwashed christian religious
    FRAUD / in reality nought but one a big SINFUL crime.

  12. August 28, 2013 6:31 PM

    You’re right. He’s wrong, not about his position against the evil Russian laws and prejudices, but because the decision to participate in protest or to opt out of contest should be made by individuals qualified to make that choice, not by their sponsors or outsiders. Unless Mr. Fry is a potential contestant, his opinion isn’t really relevant.

    • September 1, 2013 11:21 PM

      Depends on how you look at the Olympics. Ideally the contestants are individuals competing against other individuals, but they also represent their nations. Stephen Fry is is Briton, and as such, his opinion about whether his nation should attend the games or abstain in protest is as valid as anyone else’s.

      On the one hand, I favor the idea that the Olympic Games should be above politics. If the ancient Greeks could put aside their differences and compete with their bitter enemies, then maybe we should show ourselves equally capable. However, we all know that the Olympics are also about money and prestige. The more nations that refuse to take part in protest, the fewer the tourists attending events and the less the host nation makes.

      • September 2, 2013 8:41 PM

        Yes, hes entitled to his opinion. However, he is basing his opinion in emotions and not facts. Further, his belief as to the outcome of has not rational basis either.

      • September 3, 2013 10:31 AM

        It was thought out, he just comes to a different conclusion, or prefers a different method of protest: hitting them in the purse. In any case, I hope athletes will consider showing their solidarity with oppressed peoples by crossing the their arms over their chest when receiving their medals, as Stephen Fry suggests.

  13. August 28, 2013 8:00 PM

    Maybe if the media stayed out of it the athletes wouldn’t be pressurised to reverse for “your own security, you are on the telly” ….. that basically makes them professionals before they know it.

  14. August 28, 2013 10:14 PM

    That is such a birlliant argument. The last lines of the this post gave me goosebumps. I’m right behind you, no boycotting the olympics, instead force them to acknowledge what they fear most..better, force them to celebrate it on a podium with a gold medal.🙂 I love it!

  15. August 29, 2013 1:56 AM

    I never looked at it from that perspective, very intelligent argument.

  16. August 29, 2013 3:14 AM

    Strong point.

  17. August 29, 2013 5:59 AM

    1) Participation will change nothing to the homophobic rave existing inside Russia, but it would raise the spirits of Western gay community if gay athletes win.

    2) Boycott may or may not change something, but it will not cheer up the community.

    Point 1 is about feeling good, for yourself.
    Point 2 (and St.Fry) is about an attempt to change. Failed attempt, of course (politicians need to keep warm voters’ houses in winter, right?), but still.

    • August 29, 2013 9:31 AM

      1) Participation will change nothing to the homophobic rave existing inside Russia, but it would raise the spirits of Western gay community if gay athletes win.

      Which is still a valuable benefit. SOME good will come from it. Boycotting does no one any good.

      2) Boycott may or may not change something, but it will not cheer up the community.

      False. Boycotting will change nothing, at least boycotts have never changed anything in the past.

      • August 29, 2013 2:38 PM

        I am all for discussion, but please don’t label me “false” automatically, simply because my opinion differs from yours. Boycotting 1980 Olympics sent a very clear message that the war in Afganistan was wrong in the eyes of many. And this signal changed a lot of attitudes in Russia. And that boycott was a big part of the snowball rejection that accumulated over the years and led to the ultimate withdrawal. I was there and then. On the inside. And it changed MY attitude.

        • August 29, 2013 9:56 PM

          Boycotting 1980 Olympics sent a very clear message that the war in Afganistan was wrong in the eyes of many. And this signal changed a lot of attitudes in Russia.

          Not that I can find. And trust me I looked. I started the post you’re replying to assuming that Mr. Fry had some data to back up his opinion. There isn’t any. I haven’t been able to find anything that shows the boycott of the 1980 Russian Olympics has a beneficial tangible impact on anything other than the feelings of the nations doing the boycotting. The only other impact I have been able to find is a negative one and that is on the athletes that trained and sacrificed and were denied their chance to compete.

          I’m wiling to be wrong about this but your opinion is unlikely to convince me.

  18. August 29, 2013 8:37 AM

    I wasn’t sure whether the boycott was a good idea or not (or if it would have any effect). I was leaning towards your attitude anyway, but I think you have convinced me. Thanks, and congrats on Freshly Pressed.

  19. August 29, 2013 9:10 AM

    I had passed around Stephen Fry’s letter to friends; I really liked it but couldn’t really put my finger on why I didn’t like the idea of a boycott. This is why. Well done, great post!

  20. August 29, 2013 9:13 AM

    In actuality though, Fry was not asking that ‘a’ nation boycott the Olympics – though I’m sure the world would quake if ‘just’ the Americans stayed away. He wanted the IOC to pull the Olympics out of Russia, to move them to some other recent venue and stiff the Russians all together – hit them in their wallets as it were. I’m not sure it is the right thing to do either – but make no mistake, Stephen Fry wasn’t asking for some to boycott – he was asking for all…and that might very well have had an impact – if it wasn’t even remotely possible such a thing would happen.

    • August 29, 2013 9:33 AM

      I would be fine with moving the whole event, but there is no hope that is ever going to happen.

  21. August 29, 2013 11:28 AM

    Great article. Cannot argue with anything said as it was balanced and well positioned

  22. August 29, 2013 1:46 PM

    Reblogged this on GoodOleWoody's Blog and Website.

  23. Tara-Erin permalink
    August 29, 2013 2:02 PM

    Well said – a great reminder that the best way to overcome adversity and cruelty is through positive action, and not by propagating more discontent. We SHOULD celebrate our artists not bow to the narrow minded.

  24. william wallace permalink
    August 29, 2013 4:52 PM

    We should move into modern times with a SEX OLYMPICS thus
    tackle worldwide the appalling nonsense of christian sexual guilt.

    Such would give all nations a opportunity in showing their sexual
    capabilites. Solo events to that of group marathon sexual orgies.

    Of course such sexual capabilites should not be with enhancing
    drugs such as VIAGRA it should be of / natural sexual prowness.

    An SEX OLYMPICS would be very popular both to the audience
    as to the participants / thus SEX seen as a PLEASURE not EVIL.

  25. Larissa Walrond permalink
    August 29, 2013 11:23 PM

    I’ve been trying to keep track of what’s being said about the Russian Olympics and how others are responding to their laws. I read Stephen Fry’s letter, and kind of agreed with it. I’ve read your blog post too, and pretty much agree with it too! I’m thank full there are so many people dialoguing about it, it seems that is all many of us can do. I can’t personally boycott the Olympics, I wasn’t planning on going anyway!

  26. August 30, 2013 1:18 AM

    This is essentially the same reason I have been out for the past 20+ years. Visibility is the only way to fight fear. A boycott always seems rational until you realize that you are hiding. It works well when you don’t buy products from a company but not when it comes to participating in an event. We need to get smart, for companies the bottom line is money and for governments its the number of people that show up.

  27. william wallace permalink
    August 30, 2013 7:58 AM

    The problem with humnity we have lost our direct line contact with
    the creator / thus our outlook based on i only deas as beliefs / or
    that of force where the one with biggest gun ( USA) threatens all.

    The solution is once again in reestablishing our direct line contact
    with the creator / thus going beyond / ideas/ beliefs or of brutality
    as means where the few control the many vie fear and nonsense.

    I’ll write further comment on this soon how to reestablish a direct
    link to creator in bringing true peace that all humanity one family..

  28. August 30, 2013 10:13 AM

    Reblogged this on Sarah Daninthe.

  29. william wallace permalink
    August 30, 2013 5:02 PM

    One point important point the power of creation not as humans whom judge
    thus don’t get into I’m a sinner (meaning you) trip as use such as excuse in
    not approaching the power of creation the creator does not Judge or having
    ever judged or has any intent on punishment such is but religious nonsense.

    It’s important you understand that life was not given that you may then suffer
    life was given that you know the creator / for such to happen the universe be
    created (earth) producing the human fornm / blessed with the breath of / life
    with a brain capable of great understanding as far greater joyful experience.

    It has been a long journey for humanity in that of brain development that we
    reach the final stage in human development that all questions be answered.

    These few words but a preperation next comment will simly be the advice of
    how you venture to the last stage of human development in knowing creator.

  30. william wallace permalink
    August 31, 2013 8:09 AM

    The means establish a direct line to the power of creation is via meditation
    one turning the senses inward / doing so there a very practical experience
    of the power of creation / which imparts clarity of understanding one going
    beyond ideas as belefs to that of knowing within a clarity of understanding.

    Throughout the history of humanity there always a “Teacher of Teachers”
    whom will aid as guide when one reaching the stage that meditation then
    required in their furthering development. In present time the “Teacher of
    Teachers” is Prem / Rawat Prem has dedicated his life to aid / guide all
    reaching the stage where meditation is a vital stage in their development.

    On PC seach put (words of peace ) or (words of peace global) on site a
    selection of viideos in which Prem explains meditation / as a open invite
    he will give the necessery guidance to those whom need venture beyond
    ideas belefs to that of knowing the creator / in understanding the ultimate
    purpose of creation to complete the journey in one knowing the true self.

  31. william wallace permalink
    August 31, 2013 8:37 AM

    The need of the “Teacher of Teachers” is one’s focus on the material
    manifestation of creation having become very powerful / thus with the
    guidance of such Teacher you can take the senses fron running wild
    in the material realm to their focus being on the power of creation in
    it’s essence. It being example of the baby going from bottle or breast
    feed to that of more solids for it’s needed growth. With meditation it
    being one’s focus goes from the diluted material aspect of the power
    of creation to that of a much more needed solid experience towards
    growth in a practical experience of creator & greater understanding.

    The “Teacher of Teacher” a blessing in that they’re understand your
    need & dedicated unto your growth dedicated to aid in your learning.

  32. September 1, 2013 7:29 AM

    Well argued! I never thought of it this way at all. Brilliant!

  33. September 1, 2013 11:34 PM

    Cool article!

    Yeah, at first I was for the idea of a boycott, but after thinking bout it, I changed my mind.

    BTW: I’m holding a poll on my website on what would make for a good “Queer Salute” to use at the Russian Olympics. In case anyone is interested:

    http://technology4democracy.com/2013/08/31/the-chronicles-of-you-3/

    PEACE! ^_^

    [n]

  34. September 3, 2013 4:40 PM

    Reblogged this on Love, Music and Life.

  35. September 5, 2013 4:57 AM

    great post!!

  36. September 11, 2013 3:55 PM

    Of course you are right. What a well-argued and compelling blog. I was not sure before but now am completely convinced. Made my day!

  37. wordsbyannierose permalink
    September 12, 2013 3:17 AM

    Thank you for giving me a great new perspective on this. I had thought that the boycott was the way to send a message but you make a very compelling argument to the contrary.
    I would love it if you could find the time to visit my blog about the same issue: http://wordsbyannierose.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/things-you-didnt-know-about-putin/🙂

  38. September 12, 2013 6:40 AM

    I tend to agree with you, as a straight white male I seem to be from the only group on the planet without a cause, but I would say.. The point of a boycott is to make a statement by turning your back. By not showing up you scream to the world – “This is wrong and we cannot support it!” The UK and the USA not going to the Olympics as they prefer to support diversity.. Cannot make a stronger point that that. But I hope to see lots of rainbows in Russia.

  39. guymax permalink
    September 26, 2013 8:57 AM

    Well, I can agree that Stephen Fry may be wrong on this issue, but I cannot agree that he is a brilliant man. I don’t feel that a good memory is a substitute for the ability to think honestly and clearly. There is a phenomenon known as ‘articulate incompetence’ to which I would refer. On trivial matters he is very amusing. On important matters, well, he does not seem interested in them. . .

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