In the 21st century, with the proliferation of social media and other mass forms of communication, it has become easier to bastardize certain causes that may in some form be noble in order to pursue one’s own political or geopolitical purposes.
We have seen it before with the weaponization of women’s rights during the US military campaigns in the Middle East. Also, with the weaponization of concepts like “freedom” and “democracy” in the West’s propaganda wars concerning Venezuela, Russia, Cuba, Bolivia, and others. One of the issues that has also been weaponized against countries not accepting US or Western hegemony is rights for lesbians and gay men. This theme has been used to demonize states and sweeten the taste for war against them amongst the Western public.
For example GLAAD, a mainstream corporate-backed NGO which “advocates” for the rights of LGBT people, released a questionable statement in March regarding Ukraine and Russia. It argues that “The Russian invasion of Ukraine is built on the demonization and persecution against the LGBTQ community and has a disproportionate impact on LGBTQ people in Ukraine, who had just started to experience visibility and equality.” That’s curious in a couple of different ways, but one wonders what GLAAD would say in regards to the recent controversy surrounding Ukrainian presidential aide Alexey Arestovich.
Arestovich has recently been accused of homophobia for stating that he views LGBT folk as “people with deviations.” He also positioned himself as vehemently opposed to what he called “gay propaganda.” Which basically means his point-of-view aligns with a 2013 Russian law that was aggressively derided in the West, by celebrities, politicians and other figures.
KyivPride, a Ukrainian NGO devoted to promoting LGBTQ rights, promptly called for his dismissal. Arestovich’s response was to tweet a picture of himself dressed up as a woman from a comedy film which he starred in, back in 2012, before he got into politics. He captioned the screenshot with the words, “The LGBT community is outraged. But look at this photo and you will understand who should be truly outraged. I think I’m being persecuted, no? I demand tolerance.”
In a country which has falsely positioned itself as a modern state with progressive European views and values, this response from one of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s top advisers is quite curious. While liberal outlets across the West continue to heap praise upon everything that is Ukraine and Zelensky, they have been quiet on this homophobic attitude present in his administration. No US-based LGBT organization has released a statement on the matter, which is unsurprising considering any type of criticism against Ukraine or its government is considered sacrilegious by the mainstream media in the West.
Meanwhile, the same outlets have made it a point to cover feel good stories about LGBT soldiers in Ukraine displaying unicorns on their uniforms. They seem to conveniently leave out the fact that Ukraine continues to lack protections for LGBTQ people in most areas of life. It is, of course, the right of any sovereign nation to have its laws and regulations decided by their own people and legislatures, but for a country that has attempted to wrongly paint itself as a cosmopolitical haven – as opposed to the supposedly evil and medieval Russia – this is a glaring inconsistency.
Even more so, considering the absolute flood of praise and approval that Western LGBTQ communities have heaped upon Ukraine in the past few months, it is perplexing that these same communities and organizations ignore the reality in Ukraine that their organizations were founded to change in the first place.
When Arestovich isn’t calling supporters of his boss “vulgar a***oles”, or referring to Westerners who argue for peace as “dumb f**ks”, it seems he is willing to unknowingly expose the hypocrisy of the Zelensky administration. While Ukraine has been – and continues to be – the poorest country in Europe, one wonders why he feels now is the time to antagonize the LGBTQ community and threaten “tantrums” if Kiev isn’t given the weaponry his government is begging for.
Dakotah Lilly is an independent political scientist and analyst. His work has featured in publications such as MintPress, OrinocoTribune, and Popular Resistance. His areas of specialty include political economics, left populism, Venezuela, and socialism of the 21st century.