Cracks in Putin’s Rhetoric
In the week leading up to the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics, York PEN is protesting the draconian laws restricting free speech in Russia. James Humpish takes a look at the gay propaganda law and the cracks in Putin’s rhetoric.
Putin is reported to have said, “We do not have a ban on non-traditional sexual relationships…” – those relationships Putin perceives as undermining the traditionalist society his government desires – “…We have a ban on the propaganda of homosexuality and paedophilia. I want to underline this.”
From these words alone, Putin can claim that, legally, he is tolerant of homosexuality within his society. But to anyone hearing these statements the contrary seems quite clear.
If I state, ‘I support Barry and I think both that Barry eats eggs and secretly wants to hurt children,’ the automatic reasoning process might be that: firstly, wanting to hurt children is bad; secondly, because the two have been associated, eating eggs is also bad; and finally, I do not actually support Barry.
As such Putin here plays an interesting game whereby he does not express his views explicitly and so leaves himself open to political manoeuvrability now or at a later date.
The essence of him proudly banning the “propaganda of homosexuality and paedophilia” is to link homosexuality with paedophilia, a link that very few in the Western world – many currently openly repudiating Putin’s anti-expressionist views – would otherwise consider. I prefer to believe that most intelligent thinkers would agree with me in saying homosexuality and paedophilia are irrelevant to one another in all contexts. The use of statements, views and opinions can be ingrained within the psyche of many when rebuttal is not made. Many would not think of such a view but having heard it naturally risk absorbing it. Direct criticism of Putin’s use of conversational implicature ought to therefore be made to minimise the risk of such statements being ingrained in the psyche. Isolated, the statement could be easily dismissed yet in actuality this ought not to be the case – fierce objection ought to arise so as to concentrate unfocussed attention and to harness all potential information available. Personal conclusions ought to be informed.
Implications, assumptions and associations in the place of deductive reasoning seemingly generates as much political rhetoric as ever before. There is no case for saying Putin is the only offender in this but to me, he has clearly flagged the issue and shown it needs attention.
In Putin’s 2013 Q&A he was able to employ a similar association to defame Pussy Riot, saying:
“No one has been put behind bars because of some political reasons alone…Courts sentence people for violations of laws, not for their political views or even acts… Both these girls from Pussy Riot and these guys who vandalise the graves of our soldiers should be equal before the law and should be held accountable for what they do.”
Views on the event resulting in the arrest of Pussy Riots may be diverse and Putin has little reason to glorify them but his use of association with an issue which has a greater consensus of opinion and differing attitudes seems imply how people’s views ought to be fashioned once again.
“It is necessary to suppress any extremist actions, on all sides, regardless of their origin…our society, including the liberals, must understand that there must be order.”
The above said by a Q&A in 2010 was also voiced by Putin, highlighting his personal association between liberals and extremists.
Putin’s instillation of laws prohibiting defamation, blasphemy and gay ‘propaganda’ have risked cutting openness and access to pursuit of informed judgement – components with practical usefulness as well as mandatory for the right for freedom of expression. By him and others manipulating their own statements, they risk breakdown in a rationally-constructed, desirable society.
James Humpish is a first year undergraduate at the University of York. He is studying for a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.