On Boycotting Stoli



Speaking of boycotts, Jeff Bezos and other Space Pioneers are considering making billion dollar investments in the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Florida? Really. Are they deserving of that money?

I would ask that any such transaction be done with the greatest scrutiny and sensitivity to current events.
It's all industrial swill, anyways. Probably the same nozzle at the factory that the industrial degreasers come out of. I wonder what chemical testing of various large-scale column-still beverages from former Soviet states would reveal, as far as things like lead and cadmium go.
So, if we're boycotting a Latvian company (which we've established is really a Russian company), will we also be boycotting the EU for letting Latvia (which we have established is really Russia) join it in January?
I was just having a bloody mary in my teeny tiny hometown of Brainerd, MN and told the bartender I didn't want any Russian vodka. She said "of course not, I refuse to serve it." This thing is reaching further than I expected. Thanks, Dan.
well yeah, sure; of course; but actually it all comes down to Utah.

Right, Danny?

Boycott Utah. Because Putin. and all.
You are still a moron, Dan.

Have you established what percentage of SPI is actually owned by Russian interests?

Have you heard the pleas of the LGBT group in Latvia that is saying "PLEASE DON'T BOYCOTT OUR PRODUCT?"

I mean really. The gay community is just looking like a bunch of stooges right now. This is the dumbest thing anyone has done since "freedom fries."
3, if you had any knowledge of practical political activism, you'd understand how stupid you sound by asking those questions.
Way to go, Dan, making the controversy about where vodka brands are made, rather than the issue behind all this.

I don't know how passive aggressive consumer boycotts help the cause, or have anything to do with gay pride, but, if it makes you think you're accomplishing something, well, hooray.
What happened to Slog? Every time I try to navigate to Dan Savage's blog, I get bumped here to Stoli Boycott HQ. What gives?
Boycott Stoli to show your support for Dan Savage!!

(Cause that's what this is about, clearly -- Dan's ego. It's certainly not helping any gays in Russia).
Dan, I love your work, and the good things you do with your influence, but in this instance, I think you may have dove in too quick .

Can't your tech saavy at risk youth be employed to do some background research before you start your campaigns or something?
So long as The Gays continue to complacently consume Meyer's Rum and Blue Mountain coffee, this is fine.

For now, let's all keep funneling our monetary contributions to the oppression of homosexuals in Jamaica. The oppression there is definitely less troubling than that in Russia.

If repression of homosexuals in Jamaica was really serious or anything, I'm sure Dan Savage would be telling us to boycott their alcohols and stimulants. Bit since he isn't calling for even a little bit of that, I think we can safely assume that Jamaicans are treating homosexuals just fine.
It might not be directly helping gays in Russia but it certainly attracts more attention to the problem which is largely unsolvable anyway.

I would like to stress once again that it's not just about legislation. These laws are new, but homophobia was always rampant here because of our way of thinking (and from my limited experience of communicating with Russian-speaking Latvians, it's a lot of the same there).

At this point I think even the stupid new laws are helping by making many more people think about this problem and perhaps even reassess their homophobia. I've heard at least one casually homophobic guy express disapproval of this law, perhaps not because he's suddenly pro-gay, but because it's so outright ridiculous. But that's a start because it makes people think.

The boycott is just one of those things that keep this topic in the news which is very important right now. It doesn't even matter which vodka is boycotted because it's so associated with Russia.

As for people complaining that it doesn't really help Russian gays - well, honestly, the only thing that would really help fast would be to teleport them outside of the country. Because even if all the laws were repealed tomorrow nothing would change. The tiny gay pride parades will still be attacked by mobs, just like they were before the laws.

I know people who laugh when they here that in European companies there are special gay-friendly policies. They joke about employees being forced to attend gay pride parades as a punishment - because they honestly cannot imagine a straight guy attending voluntarily. It's pretty fucking hopeless.
@13: You're describing North America in the 80s. Societies can slowly change. Things got better here by individuals slowly coming out & changing the minds of family & friends. Your laws make that impossible, which is why they're reprehensible.
People who are oh so worried about whether or not Stoli is the absolute best, most perfect target of a boycott are kind of missing the point. The purpose is effective activism. I'm far more worried about shining the light on LGBT abuses in Russia than I am if the wrong multi-national corporation is losing a few dollars. Boycotting a bunch Russian brands of vodka that no one has ever heard is ineffective. Stoli is recognized around the world as the quintessential Russian vodka, an image Stoli has very carefully cultivated through branding and advertising.

The boycott is working. People are learning of the plight of LGBT people in Russia through this boycott. Val Mendeleev, CEO of SPI, even went on Michael Signorle's radio show this week and said that Stoli plans to make a financial contribution to an organization that's fighting for LGBT rights in Russia. So, suddenly, the "ally" Stoli is actually behaving like a an ally thanks to the boycott.
@14 Well, I'm clearly not defending the laws, if that's what you mean, just pointing out that they are not the main problem. And I have to disagree with your comparison with North America. Our societies are very different, and generally respect for freedom, personal life etc. is much less important here. Not every country is on its way to a more or less liberal democracy, you know.
@12: Did you not see Dan's anti-Jamaican tourism post "Something You Should Know Before You Go" (July 27)? Protest is not just about beverage boycotts, and Russia has the global stage with the Winter Olympics in 2014 so it makes sense to rally around the injustices there. Regardless, Dan really has addressed the Jamaican situation (if not to your liking), so get off your high horse and start your own movement if his current focus on Russia bothers you so much.
@Ophian: Did you try going through Line Out first and then going to Slog or Savage Love? You really should read the comments at SL, there has been some funny shit going down.
Important question then: Who manufactures Trader Joes' Vodka of the Gods, eh?
@19: Vodka of the Gods is fully domestic. There is something relevant to report w/r/t Trader Joe's, however:

Thanks for addressing this on your vacation Dan. Stoli is on a disinformation campaign.
Regardless of where it's manufactured, Stoli is a private brand and has nothing to do with any policy the government sets. I am against U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. Should I boycott Levi's and Saturday Night Live?
@ asrterz you can not buy whatever you don't want to buy for whatever reason you come up with. No one will force you to, promise.
My response to a friend on this issue...

SPI Stoli is not the issue. The owner of that private company, Yuri Scheffler, has been a supporter of the gay community for a long time. He's been in a long running fight with the Russian government because they want to nationalize the rest of his company. He is wanted in Russia for allegedly threatening the director of the nationalized company. He has no pull in Russia and can not help change Russian policy. In fact, if this boycott is successful and really hurts SPI, it may make it easier for Russia to nationalize the rest of the company and help the Russian state.

Better to support with the lesser of two evils. Still evil, but lesser.

I read something like that by a very wise author. Oh yeah, Dan Savage on Obamacare. Stoli and SPI is like that -- a little money to Russia, a lot of money to a pro-gay company outside of Russia. And because the megabillionaire CEO is wanted by Putin, Stoli/SPI aren't exactly fans of the anti-gay Putin and giving them our business boosts the anti-Putin ranks a tiny bit. Wise up -- encourage pension funds to divest from Russian energy companies that rake in the tends of billions for Putin, boycott the Sochi games, but for frick's sake stop focusing on Stoli, what a side show and an not entirely evil sideshow at that.
With the grand caveat that I am 110% in support of the entire endeavour - really, a solidarity banner to be sent to the Russian consulate? I can imagine the laughter and clinking glasses of Stoli.
Oh, and @3 - you of course realize that Latvia has been in the EU for nearly a decade, and is adopting the Euro as a currency in January.
Do make some effort to avoid the stereotype.
@20: Thank you!
@24 Unfortunately, nobody seems to be paying attention to those basic facts. That the boycott actually helps Putin (in his attempt to grab the company from Yuri Scheffler and nationalize Stoli) and hurts someone who's both an enemy of Putin and an LGBT ally is being completely ignored. How many times can it be said that "not only can Yuri Scheffler NOT influence Putin, Putin seems to be itching to make Scheffler disappear." And if we're HELPING Putin, we're doing the exact opposite of what we should be trying to do. I often agree with Dan, but he's completely off-base here.
@29 Once again, it's not about Putin.
@ 30, I'm going to disagree with you, because there's a solid difference between a deeply hateful society that isn't being encouraged to attack the hated minority by its government, and one that is.

Look at Germany.

Germany had long been antisemitic before anyone heard of National Socialism. But the Jewish citizens of the German states/German Empire and Austrian Empire lived mostly unmolested before the 1920s. Perhaps ironically, but because the Russian Empire was organizing pogroms within their boundaries, it was much better to be a Jew in Germany or Austria-Hungary than in Russia before WWI.

But eventually the Nazis took control in Germany. They essentially outlawed Judaism. Violence against Jews rose in response.

This is without Kristallnacht and the Holocaust, mind you. This is just because the regime in power was hostile to one of the minority groups within its borders. Before then, there was still antisemitism, but there wasn't anything like the violence that came with the Nazis.

So, if you think that the laws aren't the point, you're wrong. If it weren't for the laws, and the hostility of Putin's administration, Russia's LGBT population would probably not be seeing so much violence and mayhem today. No, it wouldn't be the Castro pride parade everywhere, but it wouldn't be open season on Russian gays, either.
@31 - You're talking to a person who lives in Russia. Don't you think he knows what the situation is like over there better than you do?
Hey, U.S. citizens, now that Russia has granted asylum to Snowden (albeit temporarily), your government will be happy to piss off Putin anyway it can, so start pressuring your political leaders about this issue!!!

Commenting on the pros and cons of boycotting vodka on Slog may make you feel all smug and clever, but it's going to achieve even less than the actual boycott. Do something worthwhile instead.
@32 Thanks! (I'm a girl though;))
@31 And I am going to disagree with you that the difference is not as big as you imagine and virtually nothing has changed since a year ago except now the violence is more publicized. The pride parade a year ago ended just the same as this year except maybe this time more people noticed it in the news.
I would of course love to see the laws reversed, but I know (by virtue of living in Moscow and not Denver) that just this will not solve the problem.
Sorry, but this whole Boycott Stoli! thing reminds me of one of those little Moral Tales I read when I was a kid.

Applicable part? Bullied kid gets beaten up, takes boxing or something (I was a kid before martial arts were common) and gets good. Beats up bad bully. Is astounded and delighted that for once he was he victor. Likes the feeling so much that he starts picking fights.

Seriously. That's what this feels like.
@ 35 - Sorry, I wasn't sure about your gender. I wrote "person" to avoid this problem, but then fudged it by using the wrong pronoun... Won't do it again, I swear.
I'm surprised to see this kind of anti-democratic attitude.
99% of Russian parliament voted for this anti-gay legislation.

They were all democratically elected.
@ 38 - I hope your joking. Didn't you hear about the allegations of electoral fraud at the last elections? Allegations which Putin quickly quashed, like any good dictator.
@38: Seriously? I guess the U.N. is anti-democratic to your thinking, what with their sanctions and human rights concerns. A boycott is not a military coup. The government of a country can be swayed/compelled by the world community without corrupting the democratic process; the will of the Russian parliament does not trump basic human decency.
OK OK, so SPI obviously has ties to Russian vodka despite this specific branch of the company leaving Russia because of how shitty it is there. Whatever - this is meant to get attention and it did. So, in conclusion, if you want to really help out, TALK about the boycott but don't ACTUALLY boycott. The company is seriously not deserving of negative press - like they suddenly aren't doing enough for the gays even though they do more than most.
So I see several people shitting on Dan for this whole boycott thing... I don't recall seeing a single one of them proposing an alternative form of action or stating what they are doing to try and raise awareness or affect change in the situation.

Huh, interesting how that works.

TL;DR: Haters gonna hate.
I'd be happy to, Terpsichorean. I think a boycott of the Olympics (which are basically a way for Russia to flaunt itself on the world stage) is a great option.
Smirnoff is the main brand of vodka (for sale where I live). It is made in NZ from imported potatoes. Odd, but it is so.
As long as this boycott creates attention, it doesn't matter if you're boycotting the wrong company? What is wrong with you? Don't you realize you're engaging in a type of cultural xenophobia that is the antithesis of what the gay community is about? This reminds me of conservatives who boycott Muslim establishments and businesses because Al Qaeda is Muslim. I've heard some gays say that Stoli should change the name because it's Russian. Seriously? Note that you CAN respect the Russian people and its culture while hating on the government. By disrespecting all things Russian (and here the "Russian" connection is tenuous but instead you focus on the Russian nationality of the owner - who happens to be an enemy of the Russian government), you're also disrespecting those gays you seek to protect and liberate. You've crossed a line here, and it makes the gay community look as bad as those who judge a book on its cover, or a person based on their name or where they came from. You started this, now own up to it you were wrong. But instead, you keep posting erroneous facts and trying to make a point that rings hollow. Shame on you.
To people saying that homophobia in Russia is an irascible problem, and so legislation is a secondary issue (i.e., 13) - this is not right. Russia's population should not be written off as a bunch of backward homophobes.

First of all, 30-40% are supportive or gay rights, and this number is higher in the big cities (which, perversely, have the most bigoted local laws). Second, probably half of the other 60-70% would immediately become supportive if they found out a close friend or family member was gay - but unfortunately, the culture and legal climate right now makes it very difficult for gays to come out.

Unfortunately, Putin is still very popular (because the economy improved while he was in power, a coincidence). So, when he endorses homophobia and other fascist nonsense, a bunch of idiots go along.
Let's examine this closer to see what it adds up to.

1. You boycott Stoli because it's the only company even CLOSE to Russian. Most people won't do their research and will boycott other brands, hurting gay-tolerant or pro-gay countries. Net LOSS to gays.

2. Stoli goes under (best case scenario). You just lost the only alcohol company in that area daring to say anything pro-gay. Net LOSS to gays.

3. A bunch of farmers and employees are now pissed off that they are broke for something they had nothing to do with. They now despise gays because gays stole their livelihood. They join the anti-gay bandwagon. Net LOSS to gays.

4. The net effect to Russia's economy is near-zero. However Putin uses this as an example of how gays are anti-Russian and it is a handy propaganda tool to strengthen public support on the matter, given that 84% of Russians are already anti-gay. Net LOSS to gays.

5. Domestic vodka purchases strengthen as people retaliate with "buy Russian" campaigns. The economy improves. Net LOSS to gays.

HOW is this in ANY way a "victory"?