A country about to hold the Olympics usually wants to impress the world. The Games are, after all, a multi-gagillion dollar endeavour and a chance to show the world all that's glorious and positive about the host country. Never mind the economic opportunities that it brings, the Olympics is a chest-beating moment.
It's odd then that Russia seems to be taking the opposite approach. Far from endearing itself to the world before the Games begin, the governmet in Moscow seems intent on the opposite: showing the rest of the world - and especially the West - that it doesn't care what others think about it. President Vladimir Putin and friends have done this by passing new legislation that bans the public promotion of homosexuality, a law draconian enough to cause people to fear that just wearing a rainbow pin in public could get one arrested. What's more, the Russians have promised that this law will apply to all international athletes while in Russia raising the possibility of some of them getting arrested on the flimsiest of charges.
It's given Russia quite the black eye in the international arena and seems to make no sense. Russia is, after all, not a particularily religious country. Some columnists I follow suggest that Putin is doing it to win the popular support of the Russian Orthodox Church and its followers but considering that theft and abortion are also major sins in that religion it's curious that the government isn't coming up with restrictive laws about those.
The timing is also problematic. Why couldn't Putin have waited until after the Games to avoid the negative publicity? Doesn't he know this might hurt his tourist income?
It seems to me that Putin isn't out of touch when it comes to these matters but rather that he has a very accurate sense of the pulse of things. He knows something that the pro-homosexual lobby hates to have shown and he's exposing it to the world. He knows that the pro-homosexual lobby are craven bullies.
Look at the Western world and what happens to any politician who dares to even muse about not approving gay marriage and giving it equal standing to the traditional equivalent. What happens to any public figure who uses the phrase "That's so gay!" in the wrong context?
Ever noticed how strongly Pride parades demand public support in places like Rome and Jerusalem? Despite the religious sensitivites of many of those cities' inhabitants, or possibly because of them, these parades are turned into major human rights demonstrations.
But is there a Pride parade in Mecca? To quote the immortal Al Bundy, "Uh, no Peg."
Every year the Toronto Pride parade features a group called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. Meanwhile over in so-called Palestine it's illegal to be homosexual and getting caught means execution. Is there a float for so-called Palestinian victims of so-called Palestinian violence? Uh, no Peg.
Do you think there will be any public demonstrations by the Olympic athletes when they arrive for the Games in Russia? Uh, no Peg.
There is no question that Vladimir Putin is a bully. His whole model of government presumes that very thing. He is the biggest oligarch amongst the worst collection of corrupt "biznesmen" in the world, the chief viper in the snake pit. He's looked across at the pro-homosexual lobby and seen something familiar. They are also bullies prepared to scream, show and be absolutely fabulous when any of their principles or beliefs are even slightly questioned.
But they'll only do it if it's safe. They're quite happy to stand up to middle-aged white folks while the police stand nearby guaranteeing their safety. It's quite another to stand up and shout when the cops are the opposition. When they can't bully their opponents the pro-homosexual lobby goes eeerily quiet.
And that's what Putin knows. After all the caterwauling back home in the West where it's safe all the gay athletes and their supporters will show up in Russia because they don't want to miss the even they've dedicated their lives to. They'll publicly play good heterosexuals and won't say a word about the repressive Russian legal system. They very much believe in their equality but not quite enough to stand up to an even bigger bully.