Use of propaganda by politicians is not a new phenomenon. Much of this propaganda is backed by religion. It is important to be critical of propaganda as while the use of propaganda itself is not necessarily an “evil” thing, the process by which it is used can be detrimental, particularly if the intent is characterized by extremism.
Such is the case of Vitaly Milonov. Milonov is a Russian politician and a member of the legislative assembly of St. Petersburg. He is also “known for his uncompromising defense of Christian values”, such that it is characterized as extremism. Milonov has made the headlines recently and is very well-known in Russia and around the world, particularly for his stance on gay rights. He adamantly supports the ban on gay rights propaganda marketed toward youth and is in fact the author of the St. Petersburg regional law that bans the promotion of homosexuality in this regard. While the recent article, “Call for anti-gay crusader Milonov to be investigated for extremism,” by Alexei Danichev, does not give specifics regarding the propaganda that is, in fact, used in Russia to promote gay rights to minors, it is clear that Milonov is engaging in his own propaganda, which sparked the criticism that led to the article being written.
Specifically, Milonov is an active participant in various political rallies and, as the article reports, has “posed for a photograph with a gun while wearing a t-shirt with the slogan ‘Orthodoxy or Death’.” As well, the article notes “his other initiatives included the bill outlawing child beauty pageants, forced resettlement of homeless people to rural areas, a campaign against fake accounts in social networks and many others.”
Senator Konstantin Dobrynin has criticized the actions of Milonov, stating that his behavior is in direct contravention of Russian laws which are banned by Russia’s Federal Law against Extremism. He has twice written to the head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, but the Committee found that Milonov’s actions were not unlawful. Despite this, Dobrynin accuses Milonov of “assisting terrorist activities, public calls to commit such activities, organizing and participating in a terrorist cell, as well as illegal possession, transportation and carrying of firearms and explosives.” In response, Milonov accuses Dobrynin “of being anti-Christian and likening him to Judas Iscariot.”
It is clear that Milonov’s actions generate a lot of controversy and fall with the realm of propaganda, organized, and with the intent of persuading or manipulating people to support his beliefs. Indeed, the slogan “Orthodoxy or Death” “has been previously banned by the Russian Justice Ministry as extremist after experts decided it could spark hatred between religions by declaring supremacy of one religion over others.”
Despite the outrage generated by Milonov’s stances on particular issues, it appears that not much is being done in response to his extremist position. In fact, the federal parliament voted to adopt Milonov’s proposal on the ban on promoting gay rights to minors. Unfortunately, Milonov’s stances do marginalize particular minority groups, such as gay minors, and have the effect of stigmatizing them. For youth dealing with sexual orientation, the last thing he or she needs is propaganda directed at discriminating against him or her. What is particularly troubling is that a person of such influence in a political position engages in such extremist activities. While it may be true that Milonov is reflecting the views of the constituents that elected him, allowing him to continue to engage in propaganda which targets marginalized groups, such as gay people and the homeless, can only lead to disaster.