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Olympic Sponsors Warned about Sochi; reblogged from Huffington Post

REBLOGGED FROM HUFFINGTON POST GAY VOICES

Thank you to AJ Rose for posting it on his site

 

 

Michelangelo Signorile

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Olympic Sponsors Were Warned About Sochi; Now McDonald’s and Coca-Cola Are Having a PR Nightmare

Posted: 01/28/2014 12:06 pm

 

Coca Cola

Coca-Cola has been forced into the closet regarding its sponsorship of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. It has shut down an interactive feature that allowed people to put messages on Coke cans cheering the Olympic athletes. The scrapping of the feature comes days after LGBT activists hijacked the campaign, urging people around the globe to use the cans to highlight messages about Russian anti-gay brutality and what activists view as Coke’s demonstration of its tacit lack of concern about Russia’s anti-gay laws by sponsoring the games.

That happened a couple of days after Coke saw its iconic 1971 commercial featuring singers wanting “to buy the world a Coke” re-edited by Queer Nation NY, going viral, with images added showing Russian security officials and police brutally cracking down on LGBT protestors.

McDonald’s, meanwhile, has surrendered a hashtag meant to cheer on American athletes, #CheerstoSochi, which was taken over by LGBT activists. It’s been used by people around the world — translated into Japanese, German, French and Russian — to highlight Russia’s repression and the McDonald’s Corporation’s sponsorship of the Sochi games. Ronald McDonald has been turned into an icon of hate, while Proctor & Gamble is being accused of supporting a different kind of cleansing than its soaps and detergents advertise. And there is much, much more to come.

Olympic sponsors were warned. Last August the Human Rights Campaign urged the Olympic sponsors to take specific actions in light of Russia’s “gay propaganda” law. The group listed actions the companies could take, including very clearly condemning Russia’s anti-gay law, putting pressure on the International Olympic Committee, supporting the Russian LGBT community publicly and putting “marketing and creative advertising resources to use — helping to build awareness and demonstrate support for LGBT equality in Russia and globally.”

The companies did virtually nothing. And in The New York Times today both Coca-Cola and McDonald’s responded to the ensuing PR nightmare by continuing to offer only tepid support for “human rights” while glaringly failing to slam Russia’s anti-gay law.

What’s clear from the companies’ initial responses to the social media campaigns — thinking they could fight off the activists, only to completely cave — is that the sponsors had no idea what the consequences would be when HRC warned them. The first warning sign should have been last summer’s launch by LGBT activists of the boycott of Stolichnaya vodka. People argued about the merits and whether or not Stoli was actually Russian, but that was all beside the point: The campaign went international, a shot across the bow, raising the issue of Russia’s brutality dramatically.

Soon after, it became more widely known that Proctor & Gamble, in addition to being an official Olympic sponsor, is the largest advertiser on Russian television. Then came the details of just how much the Olympic sponsors and the International Olympic Committee could have done to stop the Russian anti-gay law, passed last June after having worked its way up through provinces since as far back as 2006. In an interview last August, Mindy Worden of Human Rights Watch (HRW) told me how the companies had tracked the law from its inception, years ago, much the way that HRW had. They had ample time to put the pressure on Russia or simply get out:

This piece of legislation worked its way up through the legislative system. The International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic Committee, the so-called top corporate sponsors — Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble — these companies all, as [HRW] did, tracked the progress of this law. … [I]f any of the Olympic stakeholders, the sponsors who are literally paying for the Games, or the International Olympic Committee, the U.S. Olympic Committee or the other Olympic committees, if they weighed in on this, I don’t think this law would have been signed by Putin or passed by the Duma. If they had leaned on [Russia] before the law was signed, it would not have been signed. That is absolutely true.

LGBT people are not having it anymore. And apparently American multinational corporations had not realized that. They can offer their nondiscrimination policies, domestic partnership benefits and sponsorship of Pride events in the U.S. as evidence that they care about LGBT rights, but that’s no longer enough. With the Winter Olympics in Sochi, LGBT activists are making it clear that American companies can no longer get away with tacitly supporting foreign regimes that are brutalizing LGBT people. The backlash against such companies is probably only just beginning and will last long after Sochi.

Update on January 28: The Coca-Cola Company released a statement today in response to the controversy surrounding its “Share A Coke” website. It reads in part:

“…The name and message auto-generator on our South Africa “Share A Coke” website would not accept the word “Gay”, but did accept the word “Straight”. This isn’t how the program was supposed to work, and we’ve pulled the site down until we can fix the problem.We apologize for this mistake. As one of the world’s most inclusive brands, we value and celebrate diversity. We have long been a strong supporter of the LGBT community and have advocated for inclusion, equality and diversity through both our policies and practices.”

Read the full statement here.

 

Follow Michelangelo Signorile on Twitter: www.twitter.com/msignorile

 

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Can Everyone Just Stop Talking, Please

There are times in my life when I feel so frustrated, so small, so unheard, so forgotten as a citizen that I want to stand on the tallest building I can find and just scream until someone pays attention to what I am saying. How are people, little people like me, heard in this country of Freedom of Speech, the right to arm bears (a much better choice, if you ask me–give those bears in Alaska a chance against Sarah Palin and her helicopters), the conservative right who literally make absolutely no sense. I don’t mean that they’re just illogical, the words that they string together to form sentences do not answer questions, they give no answers–they are a Möbius strip. I’m really not just saying this–look for this article on The New Civil Rights Movement’s web site: Sarah Palin: Atheists Are Suing Private Citizens Over Nativity Scenes ‘On Somebody’s Law.’

Why, I ask myself, do she and other people like her end up being heard? Because they’re stupid? I know I’m not the one with all the answers. I know I can’t solve all the problems. I know things can’t be fixed overnight. I used to want to work in International Relations when I was a kid, because I wanted to make the world a better place. I’m so glad I didn’t follow that path, because I would have ended up a disillusioned puddle of an adult. I don’t know what is wrong with the world. But today for the first time in a long time, because there’s a part of me that’s hardened to the daily horror that is the world, if one is paying attention–today I had to stop because I started to cry. I simply could not take any more. Any more illness. Any more famine. Any more war. Any more oppression. Any more GOPs smearing Nelson Mandela’s name and comparing the American national debt to apartheid. What? Any more of Syria, the Ukraine, Iraq, North Korea, Afghanistan, Turkey, Israel, Palestine, and whoever else I left out.

And the white elephant has turned into an animal of a different color, a giant brown bear.

I do not hate or hold grudges against any country for what happened in their past. If you do that, you end up like Israel and Palestine, or Ireland and Northern Ireland, fighting wars that have been going on for far too long. The point is that what happened has already happened. I am not religious, but nor do I believe the “sins of the fathers are visited upon the sons.” We have been told, over and over, that the point of history is to learn from the past. Well, we’re all doing a pretty damn poor job of it. We haven’t learned a blessed thing. People are more interested in political maneuvering, the next election–I speak for the US, the only country I have experience to speak on. The usual rounds of mudslinging and defamation. And hatred, true hatred, growing against the LGBT community within our love thy neighbor religious institutions, the lovely christian right.

When I was growing up in the 1970’s, I had nightmares about nuclear war, the utter and complete devastation of the world. It seems many of the writers of dystopian young adult fiction didn’t grow up under that shadow–many of them are half my age. Maybe that’s why dystopian, apocalyptic fiction doesn’t appeal to me; for me, growing up, that was a true possibility (not that it isn’t completely out of the question now, but it doesn’t hang over us everyday like fog). My nightmares are changing. And again, they emanate from the same source; the bear is up and busy these days, passing some terrifying laws, one in particular. In my nightmares, it’s as if there’s a curtain and we can’t be sure what really is going on in Russia. We know they run propaganda–oh, wait, news, every two hours with their head of telecommunications telling millions of Russian citizens that people who are gay have “unsuitable hearts for living.” It’s pretty clear what the implication is. Whatever the means, they should die. But he quickly added that he has gay friends. Not anymore, I would imagine. I think “Who needs enemies when you have friends like that,” applies here. I don’t believe the bulk of the Russian people feel this way. Again, it’s the loud, brash, I-can-talk-over-everyone-else people who run the show. Whoever runs the media holds the power. What are they doing? I ask myself. Is this just the beginning? What do they intend to do? I don’t want to look at their past. There’s a history of many, many people ending up dead. And this scares me. Very much.

And the timing, with the Olympics. There’s the rub. What to do about the Olympics. Have countries boycott them, and the athletes who have been training all this time not compete? But tell me–what is worth more; precious metal on a ribbon around your neck, or knowing that you have made a difference, you have made a mark far bigger than a name that goes into Wiki with what place you won. You have made a statement about not just humanity, but the fact what is happening is not moral, it is not ethical, and it should not be condoned. Right now no one is to talk to children about people who are gay–how long before they actually start disappearing so the children don’t see them either? That is my fear, that is my nightmare; the mere possibility that could happen to someone I love.

And out of the darkness there is a small bright light.  A political figurehead who supposedly has no power in the political system. President Joachim Gauck of Germany announced he will not be attending the Olympics in Sochi next year. A politician with a conscience. Are there any others? The goliath that is Coca-Cola folded under one of the seven deadly sins. What I would ask, if I could shout and yell until people listened, is will the politicians around the world make a stand and follow President Gauck’s example, or will they crumple?

And after that I would dearly appreciate it if someone would bring me a glass of water.

Sleep well.