Had Putin reignited Russia's abuse of its Jewish citizens, it would have been unthinkable for the IOC to issue a statement suggesting that non-Russian Jewish athletes, pundits, and spectators could go have a blast in Sochi because we'd be spared the anti-Semitic violence sweeping the rest of the country. There's just no way. The American Jewish community and the Obama administration would have (rightly) enacted trade sanctions instantly. There would have been no statement from the State Department like the one issued the same day as the IOC announcement saying that it does not support a boycott of the games.
So how does a pogrom against LGBT people and our allies pass muster in 2013?
Twenty-first century queers aren't going to wait quietly for a diplomatic solution while each month more of us are tortured and more of us are murdered. Last month, killers reportedly stabbed and trampled a man to death before putting his body in his car and setting it on fire. Just weeks before, 23-year-old Vladislav Tornovoi's friends murdered him because he mentioned he was gay while they were getting drunk, according to the BBC. They raped him with beer bottles before smashing his skull in with rocks.
We've been here before. And we know the power of economic sanctions and boycotts. When Congress finally came around in 1986 and passed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act (overriding President Ronald Reagan's veto) that banned all new trade and investments in South Africa, other countries followed suit, South Africa's economy went into free fall. Five years later, its Parliament voted to repeal the legal framework for apartheid.
So it's no surprise that Stolichnaya, which is freaking out over the boycott, is running a disinformation campaign where it tries to convince the public that it's not actually Russian vodka because it's currently distilled and bottled in Latvia. Nice try, guys, but the label on the bottle says "Russian vodka" (three times), you're owned by Yuri Scheffler, one of the 100 richest men in Russia, your vodka is made from Russian products, and you've taken great pains to market Stoli as the iconic Russian vodka.
NBC Universal, which has paid $4 billion dollars for the rights to cover the Olympics from 2014 through 2020, has also been squirmy. Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin's letter (pdf) asking them to include news of Russia's human rights violations alongside their standard Olympics coverage has elicited a hasty if mealy-mouthed response from the network saying that it will "provide coverage of Russia's anti-gay laws if the controversial measures surface as an issue during the upcoming Winter Olympics". In short, they're punting for now and hoping we'll all forget about it.
That's not going to happen. Go read the rest of Nancy Goldstein's call to action in the Guardian. And if you have time for one more piece—and you do—go and read "Boycotts 101: Why the gay boycott of Russian vodka is already working" at Americablog. And over at Huffington Post, Mike Signorile offers up five other ripe targets for boycotters.