Don’t Shoot The Messenger: Comedian Russell Brand Shouts Out Occupy, Predicts Revolution in Epic BBC Interview

In an epic 10 minute interview on BBC’s Newsnight – Russell Brand calmly and meticulously addresses everything from income inequality to corruption to corporate interests to revolution while explaining how his opinions render it impossible for him to cast a ballot in good conscious.

The clip begins with reporter Jeremy Paxman condescendingly questioning Brand’s ability to [guest] edit a political magazine (Russell Brand on revolution: “We no longer have the luxury of tradition”) given that Brand has never voted.  Brand’s subsequent takedown sets the tone for an interview where one party continues to ask fluff questions to another party who’s providing his thoughtful, respectful and passionately articulated thoughts on the world.

Nothing that Brand says is that original.  What’s noteworthy – and in fact buzz worthy-  is that his words are being spoken by someone with his level of influence on the BBC.

The revolution that he ultimately predicts is not his anymore than it’s Madonna’s or anyone else’s for that matter. He’s just able to talk about it and have millions hear what he’s saying.

Say what you will about celebrities getting political but I think those who are inclined to agree with Brand– to agree with the notion that the status quo is unsustainable and that there must be alternative means of getting things done that don’t result in an underclass, would be wise not to dismiss the performer outright. That said, it’s just as wise not to elevate him into something he’s not.

Natasha Lennard makes a similar point over at Salon when she says:

But the point of rethinking new political and social spaces together — as was felt profoundly by many of us engaged in Occupy’s headiest, fiercest days — was that we don’t need to align with, elevate, celebrate (nor indeed wholly reject or detest) any one person. Yes, we will continue struggle against vanguardism and sexism and so many co-constitutive problems within ourselves and each other. We will fail and fail better and fail. We will struggle to know and reconstitute what “we” even really means. And I take Russell Brand at his word that he wants to fight too. This is no referendum on the comedian or his intentions. But this is no time to forgo feminism in the celebration of that which we truly don’t need — another god, or another master.

I completely agree with her.

That said: Don’t shoot the messenger.

It’s a trap and it happens all the time.

Every time an artist or someone of influence embarks on the lonely endeavor of speaking truth to power we eviscerate them.  There must be something wrong with them!  Even when there isn’t, our society creates a reason to take them less seriously. Russell Brand has a funny accent.  He’s a comedian. He’s said some problematic things in the past.  I’m not electing him President, or marrying him, or even befriending him.  I’m just saying that for ten straight minutes he said shit about shit- on the BBC no less!- and it was real and our collective first instinct- and if it wasn’t the first it would have been the second- is to talk about Russell Brand as opposed to what he said.

We do this all the time.

Bob Marley was a stoner.  Tupac was a thug. Lauryn Hill was a racist.  George Carlin was Anti-American. The Beatles were Anti-Religion. Bob Dylan sold his soul to the devil.

The list goes on and on and I could find more dismissive throwaways about contemporary artists/ celebrities who try to use some of their influence to say and do real shit, but there’s more important shit to do.

We focus on the “celebrity” – we focus on the controversies and the personal lives.  The media perpetuates it, and you know what? – if we’re focusing on the superficial bullshit that the media perpetuates then we’re not listening to any of what’s actually being said.

Lauryn Hill once posited “music is supposed to inspire… how come we aint getting no higher.”

I think it’s because we’re so anchored to the illusion that in order to speak your mind you must be pure, you must  embrace a pre-assigned label and be an activist or a revolutionary or something besides being an artist and a human being to justify your ability to say things that are real.  Bob Dylan ran from the notion of being an activist or the voice of a generation because he’d already decided he was a songwriter.  That’s what he was doing.  The rush to turn him into something else, to make him explain himself, took the emphasis off the things he’d made which speak for themselves.  What you gather from them is up to you- but I don’t think he owed anybody anything besides making those things.

Art is a means of speaking your mind– and yet now we’re so focused on the implications of what’s spoken and whether or not the person speaking is with us or against us or a sell out or all these other things that aren’t real that we keep running in circles.  Music is supposed to inspire… but in mainstream culture it’s not about the music.  It’s about the album artwork.

Beyond that it’s worth noting that every social hero that we idolize is a human being with their own set of vices and a million reasons to not elevate them as examples to be followed. In many painful cases, the messengers were actual shot.

If history teaches us anything- it’s that while you can kill a human, you can’t kill a vision.

That shared vision is very much at the heart of the defiance we feel when we hear someone say that things are wrong and we know that they’re right.

Things are wrong and they’ve been wrong and the way things work is fucked and in our hearts we know that not only can we make it better, but also it’s our responsibility to do so.

Historically, saying as much was enough to get you killed. Those messengers knew that their plight wasn’t about them and so they said things out loud anyways with the hope that some day their contributions would help lead us all to the promise land.

In today’s world we lament the lack of cultural icons and substantive artists in one breath and then in the next breath we chastise those who do try to do real shit for not being professional policy makers or theorists or philosophers or radicals or geniuses.

All the while we direct heat at them and if it’s not them it’s at each other.  One group of people’s failings- historical or otherwise- results in reasons not to work with “those kind” of people. We’re defensive in all the ways that don’t matter and we’re the ones who suffer for it.  Those who are profiting from the system’s failings don’t care if we scapegoat each other.  It’s better for them if we do because then we’re not going after them. As Brand himself said during this interview;

The burden of proof is on the people with the power.

It’s not but it should be.

Don’t shoot the messenger.

Russell Brand is not a political leader or a movement leader and he acknowledges as much.  He’s an artist and comedy is his art form- words and wit are his weapons and they were on full display in this interview.

At one point during the exchange, he confronts Paxman saying “You’re having a go at me because I’m not poor anymore.” Paxman replies by insisting “I’m not having a go at you about that.  I’m just asking why we should take you seriously when you’re so unspecific.” To which Brand replies:

You don’t have to take- firstly, I don’t mind if you take me seriously.  I’m here just to draw attention to a few ideas.  I just want to have a little bit of a laugh.  I’m saying there are people with alternative ideas that are far better then I am and far better qualified more importantly then the people that are currently doing that job because they’re not attempting to solve these problems.  They’re not.  They’re attempting to placate the population.

Doesn’t sound like he’s trying to lead the troops to me…

In truth, Russell Brand is as human as you and I.  He’s operating from his experiences and leveraging his art, and his platform, to shed light on what he knows.  If he says something problematic- there’s a chance he’s an asshole… but there’s also a chance that he just doesn’t know better; that he hasn’t come across better and that he doesn’t understand how something he says can be interpreted as hurtful and problematic.  If that’s the case, then it’s worth giving him the benefit of the doubt.  That goes for everybody.  We all tiptoe around conversations of privilege and race and class and gender – we shouldn’t be terrified of saying the wrong things because our perspectives are shaped by a world that is wrong.  I don’t think we’re at fault for our influences– nobody’s born bad but if you’ve grown up around bad then your perspectives will be shaped accordingly.  There  should be room for growth and redemption.  In the meantime– the absolute focus on the messenger has to stop.

Russell Brand doesn’t matter.  I don’t want to talk about the messenger.  I want to talk about the message.

Below are some excerpts from the interview that stuck out to me.  It’s worth listening to and thinking about and debating.  What he says is right– things aren’t working, the planet is fucked and there’s an underclass that’s not being served by the systems that are currently in place.  What we do about that is not Russell Brand’s decision.  I was annoyed by how much the interviewer focused on having him offer up some 30 second plan to change the world. (more…)

Thoughts on Madonna’s Art for Freedom

Madonna has teamed up with photographer Steven Klein to release artforfreedom.com — a project that witnessed its wide release Wednesday night in a 17 minute video available for free download through Bit Torrent.

The project has been in the works for quite some time- initially hinted at by Madonna in a Reddit AMA before it was it further teased in three separate online videos.

The short film is an incredible visual ride. Alternating between images of dancers contorting their bodies every which way and images of Madonna in a lengthy metaphor that spans the length of the film.  In the initial sequence Madonna is seen casually shooting her dancers as a voice over wonders:

What happens when people are afraid? They become intolerant.  They start pointing the finger at other people.  They say you’re the reason, you’re the problem, you’re to blame.  Get out.

Before concluding:

The enemy is not out there.  The enemy is within.

In a statement following the film’s launch she expands:

My goal is to show by the example of secretprojectrevolution my creative commitment to inspire change in the world through artistic expression. I hope my film and other submissions to Art for Freedom will be a call to action and give people a place to voice their own creative expression to help fight oppression, intolerance and complacency.

The film certainly accomplishes her first objective.  There is no question– this is Madonna’s project and she wants you to express yourself.  At one point she states:

I keep telling everyone that I want to start a revolution but no one is taking me seriously.  If I had black skin and an afro would you take me seriously? If I was an arab waving a hand grenade would you take me seriously? If I was wearing combat gear and I had an AK47 strapped to my back would you take me seriously?

She acknowledges that people want to her to show them her ass and to that she responds:

“Okay. But I still want to start a revolution.  Somebody’s got to.

She later clarifies that hers is a revolution of love.  As she delves into the specifics advocating against uniformity and conformity the camera depicts her continuing to shoot her dancers.  Before the video’s end, she “unshoots” them and arms them.

This film is really beautiful – and honestly I was moved at points -  but there’s a lot to unpackage.

While there may be a temptation to dismiss it outright as a disingenuous marketing ploy – I think doing so ends the conversation prematurely.

I don’t think a revolution of love is Madonna’s to start.  She’s certainly built a platform and I think that’s great- amazing in fact!- but I also worry that it reinforces this notion that we’re at a loss for leaders and as a result we need to wait around until the right person comes around and points us to the promise land.

Leaders are really, really flawed human beings.  That being the case, there’s nothing stopping any of us from leading.

In my view, one of the most revolutionary things you can do is to simply love yourself, to treat yourself with respect and kindness and to extend that to other people.  It’s not as simple or as corny as it sounds.  Our culture breeds self-loathing.  Whether it’s through media depictions that attempt to pigeonhole us, policies that ultimately impede us, or the resulting statistics that give us reason to believe the hype; this world gives us ample reason to hate ourselves.  Our ego interjects and sometimes that hate manifests outwardly– we blame other people, even subconsciously.   I think Madonna’s right about that and I would argue that the act of simply being kind to yourself, and by extension being kind to others, is a radical one.

It’s a really hard thing to do.  Our default is to critique.  Our default is to see a piece of art and to question the motivation- the artist- the point.  Everything isn’t radical enough- nothing goes far enough, or worse (!) it goes too far- there’s a million ways each of us would do it differently.  We’ve become a culture of commentators.  Everything is wrong, and in everything there’s inspiration to say something snarky in 140 characters.

We get nowhere. We find ourselves being called to action – being called to love and hope- by politicians and rock stars and humanitarians.

Yet the truth is that they’re all as human as the rest of us.

If I view Madonna’s secret project as her own “awakening” then, yeah, something about it resonates with me.  If I view consciousness as the act of being aware, actively striving to think about what lands outside of one’s peripheral vision, then I do believe that this project and others like it serve a very real and important purpose.

But at the end of the day it’s not up to Madonna to arm anyone else.  It’s up to each and every individual to wake up to the nuances of this crazy thing we call life.  To decide to see other people and if we’re so bold to listen to them.  Not to respond but to try to understand and relate to their experience.

During the video Madonna wonders out loud “are you with me?”

I wonder if we see her.

Not for the Pop Star but for the person who’s traveled and seen things and is trying to show them to us.

Deciding to see other people’s humanity is a solitary act.

If you embrace that then who the fuck cares if anyone is paying attention or taking you seriously.

Russia: Selena Gomez Visa Yanked over LGBT Rights Petition

 

A Change.org petition asking Selena Gomez to speak up about LGBT rights during her Russian concerts received over 12,000 signatures in one day. And now the Russian government has revoked the platinum-selling singer’s visa. The twenty-one year old Gomez, who got her start on Barney & Friends and dated Justin Bieber before he turned into a chavy douche, was scheduled to play St. Petersburg’s Ice Palace on Sep. 23 and Moscow’s Olimpiysky stadium on Sep. 25.

The petition, organized by John Becker, managing editor of Bilerico Project, called on Gomez to

 stand up for Russia’s LGBT community when she’s in Russia next week.

Both Madonna and Lady Gaga spoke out for LGBT rights at their concerts last year, and Cher has said she turned down an offer to open the 2014 Sochi Olympics.  Elton John is scheduled to play in Russian in December, though his visa has not yet been issued. And it might not be, given Sir Elton’s recent statement:

I’m supposed to be going to Moscow in December. I’ve got to go. And I’ve got to think about what I’m going to say very carefully. There’s two avenues of thought: do you stop everyone going, ban all the artists coming in from Russia? But then you’re really leaving the men and women who are gay and suffering under the anti-gay laws in an isolated situation. As a gay man, I can’t leave those people on their own without going over there and supporting them. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ve got to go.

In a statement, Becker told E! Online:

This cancellation of Selena Gomez’s visa shows that the Russian government is sensitive and on the defense, and shows that the pressure from people all around the world and the backlash against these laws is strong. They’re afraid to have someone like Selena Gomez come in and potentially use her platform to advance LGBT rights.

Madonna and Gaga are facing lawsuits for promoting

homosexual propaganda

to those under 18. That statute is part of larger effort to crack down on LGBT Russians. In response to harsh anti-LGBT laws and rhetoric there has been a boycott on Russian vodka in bars across the United States and a call to boycott the  2014 Olympics.

Elton John to Play Moscow: “I’m Doing It for Gay Russians”

Oh Elton, Elton.  I am so confused, but I just can’t quit you. Remember when his remark about being very happy with civil unions became a rallying cry for Prop 8 and anti-equality forces? Once there was a hue and cry about his naivety ignorance of basic facts, he came around and ended up playing an amazing concert as a fundraiser for AFER and becoming a spokesperson for marriage equality. Then he played Rush Limbaugh’s wedding for  huge fee. (I’d like to hope that he donated that fee to pro-equality groups as a puckish fuck you to the forces at the EIB, but I guess I’ll never know).

Elton John played Sun City  in South Africa during apartheid, and yes that was 30 years ago. He played Tel Aviv just three years ago saying:

Musicians spread love and peace, and bring people together. That’s what we do. We don’t cherry-pick our conscience.

Oh?

Then Sir Elton thumbed his nose at China’s cultural politics by publicly dedicating his 2012 concert in Beijing to  to “the spirit and talent” of dissident artist Ai Weiwei,  prompting the Chinese culture minister, Cai Wu, to demand that only stars with university degrees be allowed to play in China. Sir Elton told the Guardian:

“Ten thousand people went ‘Eugh!’, but how could you not?. He’s become a friend, and what he’s suffered as an artist is unbelievable. During and after the show, my tour manager was interrogated for three hours, and what he said to them was true: I bought a beautiful Ai Weiwei piece, I was grateful and we’ve become friends. I didn’t feel in any danger.

Sir Elton adds a new item to his wish list: He’d like to go back to China and talk to the government about AIDS. According to the performer:

the country’s leading AIDS activist has claimed that the government’s estimate of 650,000 HIV cases is barely a 10th of the real figure.

Elton John wanted to play in front of the Pyramids of Giza, but claims be was banned because he is gay. And his very public gayness has ruffled feathers in other locales, the Guardian reports:

a church in Tobago organised a protest against his appearance there, while he received threats from an Islamic group when he played in Morocco.

So what about his proposed December concert date in Moscow?

Listen, I went to Russia in 1979 and I knew we were being watched all the time: I had an interpreter that they’d clearly set up. Actually, I ended up having sex with him on the roof of my hotel.  I’m supposed to be going to Moscow in December. I’ve got to go. And I’ve got to think about what I’m going to say very carefully. There’s two avenues of thought: do you stop everyone going, ban all the artists coming in from Russia? But then you’re really leaving the men and women who are gay and suffering under the anti-gay laws in an isolated situation. As a gay man, I can’t leave those people on their own without going over there and supporting them. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ve got to go.

Elton John certainly flies in the face of Putin’s  ban on homosexual propaganda. He and longtime partner David Furnish united in a civil union ceremony in 2005, one of the first in Britain, and are planning weddings in Britain and in California now that it is legal to do so– and the couple has two children Zachary  and Elijah. In 2009 the Ukrainian government block Sir Elton’s adoption of an HIV+ baby, citing his age and single status; the Ukraine does not recognize same-sex unions.  Adoption officials had another point of view:

Albert Pavlov, head of the Happy Child foundation for orphaned and sick children in Zaporizhia, said he opposed adoption by gays, but called for removing age and marriage restrictions for adopters.

How will Putin and Russian government deal with Elton John, a venerable and flamboyant, visibly gay figure in pop music who refers to himself as the Queen Mother? Madonna and Lady Gaga  played St Petersburg and spoke out from the stage, violating, according to the Russian government, the terms of their visas.  Lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to ban fans under 18 years old from Gaga’s concerts. Madonna and Gaga are post-modern hetero-normative, basically straight ladies who like teh gheys, have a platform to speak out, and do. Elton John is waaay more risky–he’s clearly queer and the very act of playing in Russia is pretty subversive/transgressive, especially given his outspokeness on  stage and off.

In July, 2103 Elton John was scheduled to play a concert in Krasnodar, Russia which caused great consternation.

Local party leader Mikhail Abramyan recommended that Elton don a knee-length kaftan, knee-high leather boots, and a fur hat for the July 14th gig.

He said: ‘It would be more respectable.  We have suggested it to the promoters and we hope he’ll wear it.’, according to Russian news agency Ria Novosti.

Despite calls from Krasnodar clergy to ban Sir Elton’s July 14th concert because the singer represents homosexual propaganda, no ban was issued. Rather the concert was postponed, then cancelled due to the singer’s illness.

Somehow I think, and maybe I am just an optimist, that Elton John playing Moscow is his attempt at activism, and is motivated by the desire to make a positive change, rather than to line his pockets. It will be interesting to see what bombshells, like that in China, he drops from the stage–maybe playing “All the Young Girls Love Alice”? And I wonder if Edward Snowden will be backstage! Now that would be a Facebook photo op!

HT: Back2Stonewall

Blurred Lines: Russia Dances With Gay Propaganda, Fights Lady Gaga and Madonna

“Tonight, this is my house Russia.  You can be gay in my house.  And if you ever need me Moscow I will just be a telephone call away.”

So promised Lady Gaga at a December 2012 concert in Russia (remarks begin at about the 3 minute mark).

Yet for fans in Russia those calls may be temporarily left unanswered.

With the 2014 Winter Olympics around the corner, the country has come under considerable heat for its anti-gay laws.  In Russia, the act of voicing support for gay rights in and of itself is considered to be “propaganda” and is therefore illegal.

In the face of international criticism Putin’s Russia is doubling down, with authorities currently investigating  both Lady Gaga and Madonna for failing to comply with their travel Visas and/or for vocally supporting gay rights while in Russia. The lines on this one are more blurred than a Robin Thicke song.

Vitaly Milonov, an official with the Prosecutor General’s Office in St. Petersburg and a sponsor of the law that bans gay “propaganda,” first raised concerns that their visas, approved as a sort of cultural exchange, did not permit either pop star to reap any financial benefit from their performances.

Yet these allegations have a political undertone.  Milonov first filed an application regarding Lady Gaga after her December show suggesting that she promoted homosexuality to children.  Madonna was similarly sued for 10 million dollars by an anti-gay group for causing them “moral suffering” for also expressing pro-gay sentiments.  Those charges were ultimately dropped.

Both stars are being investigated and could face fines or be banned from the country outright.

Regardless, they’ll find themselves in good company.

Blake Skjellerup is a New Zealand speed skater who hopes to compete on behalf of his country in the Winter Olympics being held in Russia.  Skjellerup is also gay and thus engaged in a tap dance of sorts with Russian authorities who are trying to avoid looking like assholes while holding firm to their anti-gay laws.

Milonov, the same official who’s going after Lady Gaga and Madonna, has made it clear that Russian officials don’t have the authority to suspend the gay ban for the Olympics.

That said, a Russian sports minister assured news agency RIA Novosti that while gay athletes could compete, any sort of propaganda would not be tolerated.

Skjellerup isn’t fazed, vowing to wear the same rainbow button he wore attending the 2012 Olympics and promising;

“If I’m stopped at the border, I’m stopped at the border. My presence there is going to be important for me and important for the community and I guess we’re just going to have to wait and see.”

Indeed.

‘Till then, express yourself.

Madonna and Satan vs the Exorcists, Plus a Pro-Inquisition Cruise

Oh Madonna, first it was the critics and tabloids, and now it’s the exorcists.  The pop star/actress/director/rich lady will be the subject of a discussion at a Polish exorcist convention.  Father Andrzej Grefkowic–an exorcist and one of the organizers of the conference, held every two years at the Jasna Góra monastery–said:

Part of the conference is dedicated to the hidden subliminal message in communication, and the choice of this subject was inspired by the woman who dares to call herself Madonna.

Poor Father Andy must have missed the 1980s (and every decade afterwards), never bothering to read even the flimsiest biography on Madonna: It was Madonna’s parents who “dared” to bestow that name on their daughter.

Father Andy also will  warn the 300 or so clergy and lay people expected to attend the five day conference of a growing risk from Satan, citing the increasing popularity of tattoos, body piercings, horoscopes and magic shows as ways evil could corrupt people. Because Christians don’t get tattoos or body piercings. Oh wait, whoops, they do!  And magic shows! Oh teh horror! Teh horror! David Copperfield is scary and will make you worship Satan. (And barbecue babies!) I would have expected a more up-to-date scintillating sin-posé, like how the “LOL” in Lolcats Cats means “Lucifer On Line” but maybe Father Andy is still using dial-up and AOL.

Okay, in all fairness to the Polish exorcist convention and their tenderly held convictions, if one felt so inclined, one could analyze the lyrics in Madonna’s hit “Lucky Star” as a hymn to Lucifer, in that it refers the the first star to show at night and in the morning, Venus.

How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations![Isa 14:12-15]

Meanwhile in arcane theological and conspiracy circles, there is some debate about whether or not Satan and Lucifer, the morning and evening star, are even the same being, but that is on a par with how many angels–or devils–can dance on the head of a pin (blame John Milton and Paradise Lost for that one). Just gets more confusing, in the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as the Morning Star. Maybe Madonna means Jesus and not Lucifer and/or Satan. You decide. Oh, but wait there’s MOAR!  Check out the lyrics for “Beautiful Stranger,” in which Madonna croons:

I looked into your eyes
And my world came tumbling down
You’re the devil in disguise
That’s why I’m singing this song

Oh yeah, that’s clear evidence:::snort::that Madonna is league in with the Devil.  Holy Xenu’s toenail, seriously Madonna stopped being (superficially) transgressive and thus controversial in the flyovers after her book “Sex” came out, so I hope she feels honored to be recognized as a relevant force of evil these days.

But actually even with its creaky retro themes, the Exorcist Fest sounds way more fun than the “Defending the Faith” Caribbean cruise:

The special focus of this cruise will be defending the Catholic faith, something all of us are going to need to get better at in the days to come…Our apologists can arm you with the knowledge and the methods that you need to answer the challenges you encounter to your Catholic faith – on any topic, from the basic to the advanced….

  • Learn to defend your faith using the Bible, the Church Fathers, and the official documents of the Church.
  • Explore the link between faith and reason so you can confront the militant atheism sweeping our society.
  • Practice debating skills that few outside the world of professional apologetics know

Not only do you get daily Mass and a chance to see Hairspray in the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Sea theater (wait, is Hairspray too blasphemous?), you’ll have the early seating at dinner so as not to miss exciting programs like this one offered by Catholicanswers.com‘s director of development, Christopher Check:

On the cruise, I’ll be defending the Church against the charges that the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition are events for which we Catholics need to apologize. [emphasis mine]

Oh, no of course there’s no need to apologize for torture and murder of thousands, for forced conversions, expulsions, the seizing of property. And Malleus Maleficarum, ignore it. That handy guide to barbaric torture and hideous ways to kill women suspected of witchcraft was written by German Inquisitors. Chris Check will be defending the Spanish Inquisition, not the German one. WTF? Cabins are still available if you’re interested in trolling the blue water of the Caribbean this November to ask how these apologetics plan to explain the physical and sexual abuse of children by clergy members.

 

Madonna vs St. Petersburg Over LGBT Rights

Madonna declared on her Facebook page that she will speak up against a new stringent anti-LGBT law in St. Petersburg, Russian which calls for fining anyone who promotes

the false perception that traditional and non-traditional relationships are socially equal.

Fines can be as high as $15,000, and St Petersburg city assemblyman Vitaly Milanov says he will attend the concert to insure its
moral content
and that Madonna is charged under the new law if she refers to it negatively or makes any positive statements about LGBT rights. The bill, which also bans the promotion of homosexuality and pedophilia to minors, was signed into law by Mayor of St Petersburg Georgy Poltavchenko, a former KGB officer and close friend of Vladamir Putin. 

On her Facebook page, Madonna wrote:

I’m a freedom fighter.
My show
My songs
My work
My art
Is all about freedom of expression
Freedom to choose to speak to act
Always with humanity and compassion
I will come to St. Petersburg to speak up for the gay community, to support the gay community and to give strength and inspiration to anyone who is or feels opressed.
I don’t run away from adversity.
I will speak during my show about this ridiculous atrocity.

Why it is not illegal to be gay in Russia, LGBT events have been violently disrupted by police, who claim the events upset the populace, and the Russian Orthodox church urges punishment or hospitalization for gays.

Madonna’s concert appearance in August is causing friction in the LGBT community. Yury Gavrikov, head of the St. Petersburg branch of Gay Russia movement told AFP:

We intend to protest against the hypocrisy of pop stars. In Russia, they have fantastic earnings, and this allows them to forget about the problems of human rights. If people like Madonna boycott their concerts particularly in Saint Petersburg that could have economic consequences, and that is important, while declarations of support for gay rights at concerts mean nothing.

Meanwhile, in Moscow, Igor Kochetkov, chairman of the Russian LGBT Network spoke to the Daily Mail, saying:

We consider that Madonna’s visit and her address to millions of her Russian fans with words in support of freedom of expression for everyone will bring more good than a boycott would.

(Icon caption from “Crimes of Passion,”  by Madonna and Kevin Bray)

Elvis Costello Cancels Israel Concerts

Elvis Costello has canceled his two concert dates in Israel June 30 and July 1 to protest the Israeli treatment of Palestinians. On his website, Costello wrote:

It is after considerable contemplation that I have lately arrived at the decision that I must withdraw from the two performances scheduled in Israel on the 30th of June and the 1st of July.

One lives in hope that music is more than mere noise, filling up idle time, whether intending to elate or lament.

Then there are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent.

I must believe that the audience for the coming concerts would have contained many people who question the policies of their government on settlement and deplore conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security.

I am also keenly aware of the sensitivity of these themes in the wake of so many despicable acts of violence perpetrated in the name of liberation.

Some will regard all of this an unknowable without personal experience but if these subjects are actually too grave and complex to be addressed in a concert, then it is also quite impossible to simply look the other way.

I offer my sincere apologies for any disappointment to the advance ticket holders as well as to the organizers.

My thanks also go to the members of the Israeli media with whom I had most rewarding and illuminating conversations. They may regard these exchanges as a waste of their time but they were of great value and help to me in gaining an appreciation of the cultural scene.

I hope it is possible to understand that I am not taking this decision lightly or so I may stand beneath any banner, nor is it one in which I imagine myself to possess any unique or eternal truth.

It is a matter of instinct and conscience.

It has been necessary to dial out the falsehoods of propaganda, the double game and hysterical language of politics, the vanity and self-righteousness of public communiqués from cranks in order to eventually sift through my own conflicted thoughts.

I have come to the following conclusions.

One must at least consider any rational argument that comes before the appeal of more desperate means.

Sometimes a silence in music is better than adding to the static and so an end to it.

I cannot imagine receiving another invitation to perform in Israel, which is a matter of regret but I can imagine a better time when I would not be writing this.

With the hope for peace and understanding. Elvis Costello

While Santana and Gil Scott-Heron also canceled their Tel Aviv concerts, Leonard Cohen, Paul McCartney and Madonna have played there in past year, with Elton John and U2 scheduled for this summer.

More Celebs, More $ for Haiti

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Not on Our Watch, a international advocacy and humanitarian assistance non-profit founded by Don Cheadle, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, David Pressman and Jerry Weintraub has made a $1 million grant to Partners In Health (PIH), which

presently has relief efforts underway providing emergency medical care for the wounded, and is addressing the critical shortage of hospitals and care centers destroyed during the disaster.

Madonna also donated $250,000 to PIH.


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