Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Some news is bad

While I’ve advocated looking at good news hidden among the bad, it’s also true that some news IS bad. The trick is knowing when that’s the case.

Last week I wrote about how a bigoted Virginia state representative was introducing a stupid law, and I pointed out that there was no sense getting outraged because the law would go nowhere. My advice was: “Pick your battles, pick your enemies, pick your outrage.”

That’s true even when the news is both real and bad. For example, Nigeria has just effectively outlawed homosexuality. While they claim the law is designed to stop marriage equality, in fact it “dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association, and expression for all Nigerians,” as the statement from US Secretary of State John Kerry put it. The statement goes on:
“People everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality. No one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or who they love. “We join with those in Nigeria who appeal for the protection of their fellow citizens’ fundamental freedoms and universal human rights.”
I obviously agree with Secretary Kerry. This new law is bad—among the worst in the world, actually—but there’s nothing that will be done about it.

The US won’t impose sanctions on Nigeria, the United Nations won’t engage in so much as a finger wag and The Commonwealth won’t suspend, let alone expel, Nigeria. The fact is, none of those entities have ever stood up and taken strong action in support of LGBT people.

Today I read some people talking about picketing Nigerian embassies, and while that will make the protestors feel good, it’ll do nothing to persuade Nigeria to repeal its hate-motivated law. Why would it have any effect when Nigeria knows there will be no consequences?

The fact is, when something like this happens and a country—Nigeria, Uganda, Russia, Iran, etc.—decides to persecute LGBT people, there’s little or nothing that can be done by ordinary people. Sure, they can refuse to purchase products from those countries, but that usually won’t frighten the rogue states any more than the “International Community” does. We need new, smarter ways to put strong, lawful pressure on rogue states, but we simply don’t those tools right now.

At the moment, all we can do is understand why this is happening. Reuters explained it best:
“As in much of sub-Saharan Africa, anti-gay sentiment and persecution of homosexuals is rife in Nigeria, so the new legislation is likely to be popular. [Nigerian President Goodluck] Jonathan is expected to seek re-election in 2015 but is under pressure after several dozen lawmakers and a handful of regional governors defected to the opposition in the past two months.”
So, in addition to the usual rank homophobia and anti-LGBT hatred, we also have pure politics. And here is the one useful thing for people in the USA: There are activists in the Republican Party who want to do exactly as Nigeria has done (or even worse), and some of them will be running for office. Americans may not be able to fix the damage done in Africa or elsewhere, but they can make sure that the bigots’ American ideological cousins are never elected to anything. People in every Western nation will also need to lobby their governments to grant asylum to LGBT refugees from these heinous regimes; at the moment, too many doubt the legitimacy of such refugees.

So, the only good news in this otherwise truly awful news is that it can be prevented from happening in countries like the USA. That’s something, I guess.

Update January 15: The Associated Press reports that arrests of gay people have already begun. The people face 10 years in prison for the "crime" of belonging to a gay organisation.

Update 2 – January 17: The Associated Press reported yesterday that “In the last few days, more than 30 people have been arrested, with an increasing number coming from the west African country's Christian southern states. Until [Nigerian President] Goodluck Jonathan signed the law more than a week ago, prosecution of gay people had largely been centered on the predominantly Muslim north, where gays have long been punished under Shariah law.” In the Muslim areas, gay people can be sentenced to death by stoning.

1 comment:

rogerogreen said...

Well, I DI*D write my good news dispatch for tomorrow on my TU site, I'll try to remember my specific link. .