No Russian vodka please, we’re gay

Hitler was a monster who murdered millions. Much as we deplore that outrage, we must grudgingly accept that there wasn’t much wrong with Adolf’s love of dogs. He was almost British in that respect.

Stalin was a monster who murdered even more millions than Hitler. However, because of that one can’t take exception to his liking, even appreciating, real music. One may even lament that our own ‘leaders’ prefer listening to the anomic, anti-musical stuff screamed by tattooed plankton to the accompaniment of the same three chords the world over.

Putin is still lower on the monstrosity scale than either Stalin or Hitler, but then he has at least 12 productive years ahead of him. Considering his apprenticeship in the KGB, history’s most murderous institution, and his propensity for either imprisoning dissidents or bumping them off, he may still match Stalin’s achievements.

Yet this doesn’t mean that every piece of legislation ordered by Putin and passed by his rubber-stamp parliament is ipso facto bad. For example, I quite like Russia’s flat 13-percent income-tax rate. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had it here? Why, we wouldn’t even bother to cheat.

Of course the Russians pay other, less publicised taxes in the form of bribes, kickbacks, protection money, extortion by every government official from a traffic cop to a financial inspector. But that’s a different story, one that has nothing to do with the arguments pro or con flat income tax.

By the same token, any decent person will be appalled by the frequent assaults on homosexuals in Russian streets. These are conducted with the acquiescence, sometimes participation, of the police, and the perpetrators are seldom prosecuted, never mind convicted.

Such abominations, however, don’t cast aspersion on the intrinsic value of the law recently passed by Duma, the country’s legislative body. The law in question bans the promotion of ‘non-traditional’, meaning homosexual, relationships to children.

When it was passed a couple of months ago, all progressive mankind was up in arms. Not counting myself a member of this elite group, I’m tempted to ask why. Do they think it’s a good idea to promote homosexuality to children? Perhaps they do, which is part of what progress is all about.

The rest of us wouldn’t mind having such a law here, along with one banning the promotion of heterosexuality as well. One could even be so subversive as to suggest that perhaps it would be more productive for our schools to teach little tots how to read and write, rather than how to use condoms for contraceptive or prophylactic purposes.

Such shocking beliefs aren’t shared by the good folk who own British gay bars and clubs, including those run by the influential G-A-Y Group. If these chaps equate sexual licence with liberty, they ought to ponder the fact that the first major country liberalising homosexuality was Soviet Russia between 1917 and 1934, a place and time not otherwise known for a laissez-faire attitude to life.

Be that as it may, gay drinking establishments in London and Manchester are now refusing to stock Stolichnaya and Russian Standard vodka brands. Considering that the latter alone sells 2.9 million cases a year, and that clubs of that orientation still constitute an infinitesimal proportion of its business, the damage done to the Russian economy will be mostly symbolic.

And the customers at those venues will be better off, for they can now switch to better vodkas than either Russian product.

I would especially recommend the superb if little-known Sterling Tanqueray, made by the same people who make the gin. Absolut, Finlandia and Smirnoff Black aren’t bad either, and Grey Goose is excellent, if overpriced. In fact, Gerry’s off-licence in Soho carries 130 vodka brands, and most are at least Stoli’s equals.

The only real casualty in this vodka war is the truth. For rather than opposing the neo-fascist Putin regime for its brutality, suppression of the free press and playing fast and loose with elections, it is now being criticised for one of the few things it has got right.

In their desperation some conservative Christians, feeling betrayed by their own governments, even turn to Putin as their last hope. This is misguided intellectually, though understandable emotionally.

Criticise Putin’s regime and boycott Russian products by all means. But do so for real, not spurious, reasons.    



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