It was only a matter of time before Jews were scapegoated in Russia’s growing crackdown on its gay and trans citizens. That time has sadly arrived.
I had reported yesterday on the growing international concern over Russian gay activist Nikolai Alexeyev.
In a nutshell, over the past two weeks an increasingly erratic series of Facebook posts, tweets, emails, and at least one op ed, have been published in Alexeyev’s name. Not only has the content of the messages directly contradicted Alexeyev’s previous positions on Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law, but the messages have become increasingly hostile, erratic – one Facebook post, titled “Kidnapped,” included three photos of Alexeyev, some in underwear and others naked – and now, anti-Semitic.
Things got so bad that Facebook appears to have closed down Alexeyev’s account after a status update, issued in Alexeyev’s name, named two American gay activists as pedophiles, based on no apparent proof.
On Alexeyev’s Twitter account the situation has been equally disturbing. In addition to threatening to murder the author of a recent op ed critical of Alexeyev, a series of tweets went out yesterday calling OUT magazine (a well-known gay news and culture publication) a “jewish slut magazine.”
Another tweet called the editor of the critical column, who is not Jewish, a “jewish pig” and an “Israeli monkey.” Alexeyev also used the word “kike” repeatedly in Russian and English.
Note that these tweets were authored by someone else, and retweeted by Alexeyev’s Twitter account. However, later, he posts additional anti-Semitic comments in his own name, which you will find below.
Here is the murder threat from Alexeyev’s Twitter acccount:
The author of the anti-Alexeyev article, Michael Lucas, also claims to have received an equally anti-Semitic email from the Russian activist’s email account.
[Equally disturbing has been the deafening silence in response to the blatant anti-Semitism. Most of Alexeyev's followers on Twitter did not even question the offending remarks. Fortunately, many people did respond on Facebook. And sadly, this isn't the first time Alexeyev has faced charges of anti-Semitism.]
To add to the confusion, in a rambling series of tweets over the past 48 hours, Alexeyev reportedly quit LGBT activism all together as a result of the single critical column, claimed he was going to withdraw several dozen pro-gay lawsuits he has filed, and then promised to delete his Twitter account within 24 hours. But today, 36 hours later, the account remains open, Alexeyev seems to be continuing his activism, and he is now tweeting that he looks forward to winning the lawsuits that only yesterday he claimed he was dropping.
Clearly something is amiss.
UPDATE: Alexeyev is back on Facebook, and again posting anti-Semitic comments there and on his Twitter account. This is his latest, posted Friday evening on his Facebook page and then twice on Twitter, both are below. It is again about the man who wrote the column criticizing him, Michael Lucas. Lucas is Jewish.
As for what the comments mean, Alexeyev appears to be mocking the various boycotts (including the one against Russian vodka) that activists in Russia and the West have launched in opposition to the Kremlin’s crackdown on gay and trans people. Because Lucas – the author of the column critical of Alexeyev – supports the Russian vodka boycott, Alexeyev appears to be saying that Lucas supports the boycott because Lucas was probably paid to promote Jewish vodka instead – vodka that was distilled and purified from Lucas’ own sperm.
Saturday morning, Alexeyev again tweeted about Lucas being Jewish.
In a series of additional tweets and Facebook posts (again on Friday evening), Alexeyev seems to be relishing in the inflammatory nature of his anti-Jewish bigotry, claiming that he won’t suffer any repercussions because he is indispensable to LGBT activism:
Many worry that Alexeyev has been in some way compromised (that perhaps, for example, the Russian government has threatened to physically harm his mother), and that the social media posts are either not him at all, or have been written under duress. Others, familiar with Alexeyev’s work, say that the current apparent-breakdown is certainly over the top as compared to anything the activist has said before, but that it is still consistent with the man they know.
And finally, in new posts Friday evening, Alexeyev seems to be suggesting that his foray into anti-Semitism and death threats is all some very secret “experiment” that he will soon be revealing. Buzzfeed has also just come out with a story in which Alexeyev is now telling them that his comments about quitting LGBT activism were all just a “social experiment”:
Days later, however, Alexeyev admitted that his hysterical response to an article by Michael Lucas in Out magazine accusing him of “[betraying] his former cause,” was a ruse.
“I wanted to find out who was my enemy and who was my friend – who would dance on my bones if I left,” Alexeyev, who called his statements a “social experiment,” told BuzzFeed by phone from Moscow Friday.
Lucas’ column was published, and Alexeyev threatened to leave LGBT advocacy in response – his so-called “social experiment” – only two days ago. But Alexeyev’s bizarre behavior began two weeks ago, so what accounted for that?
What’s more, Alexeyev did not simply threaten to “leave” gay advocacy in response to the Lucas column. He published repeated anti-Semitic comments, threatened to murder a man, named two western gay activists as pedophiles while offering no proof of the horrific charge, appeared to claim that he had been kidnapped, and now is publishing anti-Semitic tweets and Facebook posts about Jewish vodka made from sperm.
The least plausible explanation at this point would seem to be that this was some social experiment to see who would be upset if he quit LGBT advocacy.
We may never know the cause, and in the end it may not matter whether the shrill, ranting profusion of hate and anti-Semitism is a result of alcohol, drugs, a personal meltdown or coercion. What is clear is that Alexeyev’s position as a gay leader has been compromised, fatally so if this anti-Semitic bigotry is the real him, and more importantly, Jews are now being scapegoated, as many feared would eventually happen when Russia turned yet again towards demonizing minorities for political gain.
The situation is serious. If the Kremlin, as many fear, is really behind Alexeyev’s schizophrenic behavior these past two weeks, then the Kremlin is also behind “Alexeyev’s” virulent anti-Semitism of the past 24 hours. That would mean that Russia’s campaign to deprive its gay and trans citizens of their human rights – of their humanity – has now widened to, yet again, include Russian Jews. “Alexeyev’s” anti-Semitic outbursts may very well be a foreshadowing of what is to come, or rather, what has already arrived.
Fortunately, the fight against Vladimir Putin’s homophobia is not beholden to one man or one woman. Dozens of Russian activists, in Russia and abroad, have picked up the mantle of the valiant cause that Nikolai Alexeyev was once forced to so bravely carry alone. As in America, Europe, or really any country or region in which a single activist has to stick their neck out, at great personal risk, to get a nascent movement going, eventually others step up to the plate, and the one-man show becomes an unstoppable sea of change. For Russia, that day has finally arrived.
So while Russia’s re-embrace of anti-Semitism as political sport has me gravely concerned, I am not worried about the future of Russian LGBT activism, or the future of the now-worldwide campaign to stand up to Russia’s official state-sponsored bigotry.
The Kremlin can take down one man, but they can’t stop progress. They’ve tried before and failed, and they’ll fail this time as well.