Friday, March 04, 2011

US Russophile PhD on Gay Russian:
No Mistranslation

Over at Bilerico, a longtime gay writer in Texas, John R. Selig, opened a can of worms with an essay defending recent actions by controversial gay Russian leader Nikolai Alekseev, and out came a few comments from the venomous ex-head of Human Rights Watch's gay desk Scott Long. Thank you, John, for furthering the discussion about important global gay matters.

Excerpts from Long's posts follow after a gay scholar and teacher from Middlebury College, Kevin Moss, opines on  a few key points in this drama:

Just to clarify the record re Russian and mistranslations.

There was no mistranslation. I saw this comment on Nikolai's FB page and it worried me.

I have now also seen the archived version of his ZhZh (blog) page, and it's even worse in the original, since there is some back and forth with two Russian Jews.

After Nikolai's "Who are the Jews after this? Well, I really already know who they are..." one immediately asked "So who are we then." No response. Later Nikolai suggested the others (possibly Israeli?) should condemn Netanyahu in strong terms (odd, given that he himself objects to being scripted).

When, finally, another Russian-speaking Jew asked, "So I haven't heard, who are we?" Nikolai's response was more or less "I don't even want to know who you are." Very dismissive.

So the claims that the original posts were not anti-Semitic or were somehow misinterpreted just don't hold water.

Full disclosure: PhD in Russian and I write about Russian gay life. I have followed Alekseev and defended him against Russian gay people critical of his tactics since at least 2006. I also have known Scott Long for over a decade. If Nikolai had only come out with an explanation earlier (or better yet: softened his remarks in the comments on his own blog) it might be different. Instead there were claims of misinterpretation and attacks on Scott, who merely pointed out the post.

There is a pattern, though. When on FB Nikolai was ranting about hating all Americans (perhaps for some US policy), I told him it reminded me about the Cold War days when some Americans said they hated all Russians, rather than the Soviet Govt. He failed to understand the analogy. And would never back down. So he has a habit of generalizing from a government to a people and being confrontational, which he tries to pass off as being "provocative" and "not politically correct."

He has done useful work in Russia. He has also alienated a lot of gay people there (note that only Western gays have come to his defense). I probably wouldn't say anything if he hadn't a) denied there was an issue and b) blamed/criticized others for the whole affair.

What a breath of fresh air. Nikolai sure has a lot of explaining to do to a good number of people, and I hope for the good of international gay solidarity and cooperation that he restores his blog to live status and addresses the mounting questions about his leadership skills.

Displaying phony modesty, Long pulls back the curtain quite a bit on how he, like Rostropovich playing Bach cello suites, played Nikolai and very skillfully too:

My role in this business was quite restricted. The blog post was forwarded to me by a Russian friend; I verified it, triple-checked the translation, and posted it as a question on an activist listserve. That listserve has also been the scene of discussions, by Russians and non-Russians, about Alexeyev's assaults on human rights activists (most recently, taking a page from Peter, he sued the 82-year-old and highly respected head of the Helsinki Committee) and alliances with right-wing, racist figures. The post concerned me because it doesn't attack Israel, it attacks Jews; Nikolai expands on this theme in the comments. ...

Alexeyev, in a thousand-word rant on a listserve, has recently suggested that I am not gay--presumably believing this discredits me. (He's also suggested that I used to work for the CIA.) Alexeyev's propensity for paranoid allegations is well-known to those who follow the Russian human rights movement; he sees conspiracies against him everywhere, and anyone who differs with him is part of the plot.
(That he's recently sued Lyudmila Alexeeva, the heroic dissident and octogenarian founder of the Moscow Helsinki Committee, is characteristic. She said he lied, after Alexyev accused her of homophobia. The Moscow Helsinki Committee has been incredibly supportive of LGBT issues since the fall of Communism. They have criticized Alexeyev for his support of the radical right. He hates them for it.) This behavior is personally and politically destructive. ...

Sure, Long's nasty and vindictive mode of operation helped get his ass fired from Human Rights Watch last year, and he's freer now to openly wage destructive campaigns, and he's a nightmare. But I can't help but give him credit for striking at Nikolai at the right time, fully knowing his nemesis would react with ruinous force.

At the end of this round, score one for Long and a zero for Alekseev.

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