I recently posted the first two installments of a VICE video series called Young and Gay in Putin’s Russia. Though VICE released three additional videos in the series on YouTube, I’ve decided against posting them here (or even linking to them), as I was disturbed by VICE’s uncritical coverage of Nikolai Alexeyev in the fourth and fifth installments.
Alexeyev, a once-esteemed advocate for LGBT equality in Russia, had a bizarre anti-Semitic meltdown last year. In my view (and that of many, many, many others), his vicious anti-Semitic rants left him without any credibility or moral standing to speak about human rights in any capacity. And I found it disheartening, to say the least, that VICE would uncritically portray Alexeyev as something of a hero while failing to mention his hateful tirades against Jewish people.
VICE’s omission on this front is also ironic, given that the fifth video in the series features quotes from Martin Niemöller’s famous and powerful statement criticizing the widespread failure to stand up to Nazism. Human rights advocates often quote Niemöller’s statement to emphasize the importance of inter-group solidarity in resisting oppression. Here’s one version of the statement:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.