12 Years a Slave (2013) won best film at both the 2014 British BAFTAs and the American Oscars. But, apart from some casual asides about the evils of modern trafficking, very little was said about its contemporary American human-rights relevance. This was strange because, by contrast, for over two years the corporate media had focused intensely on human-rights abuses – specifically Russian replications of British homophobic clause 28-style oppressions, and Russian clampdowns on protest rights. But however bad things were – and there are plenty of horrible anecdotal stories about the treatment of gays – the Russians certainly hadn’t built any Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib torture centres for their gay citizens. Nor had they carpet-bombed gay civilians. And as for restricting the right to protest, this was exactly what the British had done at the 2012 London Olympics, where you could be ejected for wearing a T-shirt protesting corporate fast-food sponsorship, let alone raising anti-war, antiimperialist Anglo-American issues. Yet for the Russian Sochi Winter Olympics, the American Obama administration and its ‘friends’ in the British government invoked the actions of the 1968 Black Power salute athletes to support political protest over gay rights at the games. Apparently the very US institutions that had previously insisted that there was no place for politics at the Olympics, that had banned and persecuted black athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos and had connived to end the career of white Australian sprinter Peter Norman for wearing a badge of support on the podium, were happy to manipulate their sacrifice when it served America’s geopolitical ends. This cynical attempt at ‘coopting’ other people’s struggles was an insult to a generation of Black Power dissidents and to current LGBT activists, and it served to obscure the United States’ own human-rights crisis.
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