Those Inscrutable Europeans

The finals of the Eurovision song contest were held in Moscow yesterday. The competition was won by a Norwegian named Alexander Rybak. In his winning performance, he played a fiddle and sang, accompanied by some (presumably Norwegian) male dancers and, all too briefly, a couple of Norwegian women. As a proud Norwegian-American I rejoice in Alexander’s success, but–how to put it–Adam Lambert, he isn’t. Or maybe it’s just the limitations of Euro-pop:

Russian homosexual activists, joined by others from throughout Europe, took advantage of the Eurovision publicity to stage a gay rights demonstration. Moscow authorities announced that no such demonstration would be tolerated, and police swooped down on the participants, arresting a number of them–“violently,” according to some observers. News photos did suggest that the police were being pretty tough on the protesters:


This man is one of Russia’s best-known gay rights activists; he arrived at the event with a guy in a wedding dress:


One might get the impression that Stalinist brutality is back, with the police ruthlessly suppressing dissent. But that wasn’t exactly what was going on. Actually, much like any similar demonstration in the West, this was a balletic performance that was staged for the news media. Check out this picture; if you were really going to be a Stalinist, you wouldn’t just crack down on the demonstrators, you’d crack down on the photographers:


The demonstrators were performing very much as though they were on the red carpet at Cannes. Note the microphone in this photo:


More than anything I’ve seen in a while, this indicates that Russia really is on a path toward Westernization–in this respect, i.e. the symbiosis between protesters and press, for better or worse.


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