How Russian neo-Nazis use social media to carry out anti-LGBT attacks

An anti-LGBT protester in Russia (Courtesy of The Guardian)

Much has been discussed over Russia’s recent “gay propaganda” laws, essentially making it a criminal offense to be a member of the LGBT community or show support for LGBT causes. The most shocking and angering aspect of these laws is how the legislation has essentially allowed neo-Nazis to “hunt gay people for sport.” (Pinknews, 2/7/14) The anti-LGBT group, Occupy Pedophilia, has used Russian social media sites such as VKontakte to lure unsuspecting LGBT Russians into their clutches, and then upload the atrocities committed against the victims online. According to a February 2014 report by the Guardian, “Occupy Pedophilia use the site to connect with gay men, posing as potential love interests, before luring them into situations where they will be attacked, a process they refer to as ‘safaris’ using ‘bait’…Uploaded regularly to the site, films show victims being violently attacked and humilliated. This is content that is easily available to view, and is ‘liked’, passed around, and shared on the site, seemingly without impediment.” (The Guardian, 2/11/14) The group uploads videos of their victims being humiliated, beaten, raped, and tortured, not only onto VKontakte, but also onto American-based websites like YouTube. The group claims to not have any political leanings, but they often post neo-Nazi propaganda from Russian fascist parties that not only speak out against members of the LGBT communities, but also against Russia’s Jewish and Romani populations.

A screencap of one of the countless attack videos posted online. (Courtesy of New York Daily News)

According to the New York Daily News, “In one case members of Occupy Pedophilia lured a man into an arranged encounter where they then punched him, breaking his jaw in two places. They then robbed him of $1,450, according to Human Rights Watch.” (New York Daily News, 2/4/14) This conduct is continuing to draw the attention of American media, and pro-LGBT advocacy groups from around the world. When the Winter Olympics were held in the Russian city of Sochi in February, much was made of these attacks by supporters of equal rights. Tanya Cooper, a researcher for Human Rights Watch told Yahoo News: “By turning a blind eye to hateful homophobic rhetoric and violence, Russian authorities are sending a dangerous message as the world is about to arrive on its doorstep for the Olympics that there is nothing wrong with attacks on gay people…Russian officials have long denied that discrimination against LGBT people exists, including to the International Olympic Committee, yet the hostility and violence clearly have been intensifying.” (Yahoo, 2/4/14)

In spite of the increased prejudice against LGBT Russians, there are those who are taking a stance against the draconian laws and the humiliation videos that go unpunished by Russian authorities. LGBT Russians are now taking to Twitter to plead for help from the west. Kiryll Martin, an openly gay Russian teenager, runs the Twitter account, @RU_LGBT_Teen. He told The Guardian in February: “I wanted people who live abroad to hear the true story of life for LGBT teenagers from Russia…Gays have become targets of crimes and human rights violations. The Russian state uses LGBT as a shorthand for ‘internal enemies’. Homophobia is very much prevalent in our society.” (The Guardian, 2/11/14)

As Russia continues to exert its military power in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, the world is watching as human rights atrocities against countless marginalized minorities in Russia continue to increase.


Russians are not allowed to see Russia fail

Much was said about the politics surrounding the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. But one instance of international media’s cultural materialism created a miniature controversy during the Opening Ceremonies. The nations of the world saw a display of pageantry that was for the most part impressive, save for one moment. At the beginning of the opening ceremony, five snowflake-shaped structures rose to the top of the stadium and were supposed to open to form the five Olympic rings. However, a technical mishap prevented the fifth and final ring from opening, leaving the image of four rings and a small snowflake. Commentators in the United States made the mishap known on NBC‘s broadcast feed, but in the Olympics’ home country, it was like it never happened.

The Olympic ring mishap, as seen on NBC in the United States (image courtesy of ABC News):


Russians, however, were not afforded the ability to see what actually happened during this sequence, as state-run media outlet Rossiya-1, the station that had the rights to the Olympics in Russia, immediately cut away to rehearsal footage of the rings successfully opening amidst a flurry of fireworks. Because very little independent media exists in the Russian Federation, the Kremlin is able to broadcast anything they deem appropriate, and not broadcast things they believe are against the State. The Huffington Post confirmed that Rossiya-1 producers admitted they cut away from the live feed in an article the day after the ceremonies.

The rehearsal footage that Rossiya-1 cut away to, showing the rings successfully opening in a mostly empty stadium (Image courtesy of the Huffington Post and the Associated Press):

olympic rings

Olympic Opening Ceremonies are seen as a showcase of the host country, and many believe Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to use the Ceremonies as a way to exhibit Russia in the post-Soviet era to the rest of the world. However, when the ceremonies had a glitch, TV producers who are essentially on Putin’s payroll didn’t allow the actual footage to be shown to the host country. The Huffington Post article about the mishap and Russian TV’s coverage also pointed out several glitches at the 2008 Summer Olympic Opening Ceremony in Beijing, China, including part of the broadcast not actually happening in real time, but a 3-D animation of the area surrounding the stadium was shown instead. They also pointed out that vocal performances in the Opening Ceremonies in both Beijing and Turin, Italy in 2006 were pre-recorded and lip-synced, so that each performance could go off without a hitch, much like the lip-syncing controversy at this year’s Super Bowl.


This is one of the many ways that state-run media can censor things that go against their agenda, and many other instances are present, also in Russia, which I will touch on later this year.