The emergency of everyday life: What activists who care about the Russia Olympics should learn from sex workers, and why

Published: August 26, 2013

 One thing that literature would be greatly the better for

 Would be a more restricted employment by the authors of simile and metaphor. …
 They always say things like that the snow is a white blanket after a winter storm.
 Oh it is, is it, all right then, you sleep under a six-inch blanket of snow and I’ll sleep under a half-inch blanket of unpoetical blanket material and we’ll see which one keeps warm,
 And after that maybe you’ll begin to comprehend dimly
 What I mean by too much metaphor and simile.
 
What Ogden Nash believed was good for the literary goose would surely be even better for the activist gander (that’s a metaphor, I know).  Yet once you’ve got a comparison in your head, it takes a brain tumor to dislodge it. The reigning simile these days is that Russians are Nazis. Therefore: Putin = Hitler, gays = Jews, 1936 = 2014, and the day after the Olympics = Auschwitz. The latest item is a Huffington Post piece which argues Russia’s anti-gay-propaganda law is exactly the same as Hitler’s 1935 Nuremberg Laws. The author proves this by replacing “homosexuality” in the new law’s text with the words “interracial relationships.” Q.E.D.
 
Unfortunately what his argument lacks is the other half of the comparison — a look at what the Nuremberg Laws said. Evidently the author hasn’t read them, because they say something quite different from Putin’s bill, and a single search-and-replace won’t make them identical. The Russian law treats sexualities as a kind of virus of persuasion, and restricts freedom of expression to keep unwanted ones from spreading. The German laws regarded race as an absolute divide, an unfathomable chasm in morality and biology that the State had to reflect. The Russian law is about defining and closing the public sphere; it censors what people say. The German laws ripped away both public rights and private safety: they stripped Jews of citizenship and began the process of criminalizing all relations, sexual and social, between the “races.” Race as it was in Hitler’s eyes can’t be turned into sexuality as Putin sees it.  You’ll never change the latter hatred if you imagine what it wants and where it comes from in the former’s terms.

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