A new face of the hybrid warfare? How the conservative, anti-LGBT movement is artificially amplified in Romania
Perhaps it is not quite a coincidence that homophobic discourse is growing dangerously in Eurosceptic countries, with severe democratic deficits, led by ultra-populist leaders such as Orban’s Hungary or Kaczyński’s Poland. These leaders always need an enemy, a false target, to distract the public: yesterday there were the migrants, then Soros, the abortions, now they are targeting gays and lesbians.
These are the kind of emotional themes, perfectly artificial, that stir imaginary dangers but bring guaranteed easy votes. They polarize society and help the above mentioned leaders to profile themselves ideologically. Leading with the cross in one hand, posing as the protectors of Christian morality, of tradition, they defend the country from the evils exported by the decadent West.
Therefore, whenever they are criticized by Burxelles for other harms they commit in their countries, these populist leaders already have the ready-made explanation: we are being punished for not swallowing the „LGBT propaganda”, a chorus more and more often heard in the domestic political underground.
But who setting the tone, who wrote the score?
A law passed on 15 June in the Budapest Parliament combines harsher punishments for pedophilia with sanctions against gay propaganda among minors. Given that the law is not precise, there are fears that even flying the rainbow flag in public could be punished or that films about family life could be banned.
Brussels saw Orban’s initiative as a new attack on sexual minorities, deftly camouflaged in a law dedicated to child protection. The political protest has echoed the world of sports, with displays of solidarity during the Euro2020 matches towards the LGBT minority.
As far as Poland is concerned, the European Commission is about to open infringement proceedings against this country because of the ‘LGBT-free’ areas set up by some local authorities. According to Reuters, Poland’s nationalist PiS party has made anti-gay policies part of its governing platform: it has explicitly banned same-sex couples from adopting children, while more than 100 cities and areas have declared themselves „LGBT free.”
In this increasingly hostile atmosphere, maintained in particular by the countries of the so-called V4 group, counter-reactions have occurred. Large-scale pro-LGBT demonstrations took place in Berlin and Paris last week. Even in Turkey, gay activists took to the streets, but there they were quickly dispersed with tear gas and several people ended up in police custody.
Also a week ago, Pope Francis felt the need to encourage an American priest who defends LGBT people: „You are a priest for all men and all women, just as God is a father to all men and all women.”
At the other extreme we find the Italian left, where two lawmakers have initiated a bill aimed at penalizing acts of discrimination and incitement to violence against gay, transgender (LGBT) and disabled people.
This time, the Vatican has not been so tolerant, and several Catholic bishops have harshly criticized the project, warning that it endangers the freedom of thought of Catholic believers and that it risks criminalizing those who believe, for example, that family is the union of a man and a woman.
Extremes in Hungary or Poland have therefore given birth to other extremes in Italy and have encouraged other populists to turn to homophobic discourse. „I find transgender people disgusting,” Czech President Milos Zeman recently said, commenting on the Hungarian law banning LGBT materials in schools.
But what does it have to do with us here in Romania, all these ideological disputes in Europe and the homophobic movement encouraged by Poland and Hungary?
How have the echoes of the anti-LGBT movement reverberated in a country where two-thirds of Romanians say they would support nationalist conservatives who promote religious and traditional principles?
There are at least three moments when we have witnessed the effects of the intense anti-LGBT campaign being waged at the European level. First, the adoption of the Matic report in the European Parliament. Several liberals representing the ultra-conservative wing of the party propagated in the public space a sinister manipulation, according to which „a law that allows men to give birth” was passed.”
The reaction of the liberals made Klaus Iohannis look less European in Brussels. Their speech puts the Liberals closer to AUR and the traditionalists in the PSD.
The second moment was the premier’s decision to bury the topic of sexual education in schools. Prime Minister Florin Citu announced that on June 22 the Ministry of Education will introduce „education for life” starting next year, and parents can withdraw their children from such classes, as in the case of religion.
„Education for life”, a surrender to religious groups in the National Liberal Party (PNL), would be taught in middle school and high school and would include sex, legal, road safety, and education for healthy eating.
In other words, a generous theme has been compromised because of internal elections at the PNL. Prime Minister Citu feared losing the support of the conservative group, which is very influential in the PNL, so he sacrificed sex education on the altar of party interests.
The third echo of the conservative wave raised by Europe’s populists was recently heard from the PNL leader. Orban from Bucharest spoke in Bacau on Sunday in the language of Orban from Budapest about the traditional values of Romanians, family, church, and coalition partners who do not swear with their hands on the Bible and do not make the sign of the cross.
The PNL president climbed the increasingly aggressive conservative wave, extremely present not only in his party but also on social media and in comments on articles about the LGBT community.
It is anyone’s right to believe in whatever values they see fit, conservative or liberal, traditionalist or progressive. There is no absolute truth, we are very different and we should respect our beliefs, but religion, sexual orientation, intimate life should never be mixed with politics.
Religion mixed with politics inevitably leads to wars, literally or ideologically. Rivers of blood have flowed from this kind of clenching throughout history.
Today we may not slay each other with our weapons, but we tear ourselves to pieces in the public space with words more lethal than bullets.
With religion and sex as political themes, we are rapidly reaching a deeply divided society, polarized at the extremes, such as Republican America under Trump, a counterreaction to the ideological excesses of the Democratic America under Obama.
Europe must learn from these ideological excesses, and avoid them. Neither religion nor sexual orientation have a place in rational political discourse.
When themes such as religion and sexual orientation become themes of internal election campaign, be sure that we are looking at populist leaders in crisis of arguments, in the rush for easy votes. This is exactly what is happening in the Republic of Moldova, in the midst of an election campaign, where the Kremlin candidate, Igor Dodon, is endlessly stirring up populist themes centered on LGBT, foreigners, and NATO superiority. And when these themes turn into continent-wide campaigns, then we need to look carefully at who is behind them.
Who benefits from division, from the extreme polarization, from portraying the West as a source of moral downfall and absolute evil?
In the midst of Europe’s tumult, the Russian foreign minister published an editorial critical of liberal democracies in the daily Kommersant. Sergei Lavrov wrote that students in Western schools are taught that Jesus Christ was bisexual and non-binary.
„In several Western countries, students learn at school that Jesus Christ was bisexual,” said Sergei Lavrov, who also described the supposed teachings as „attempts to violate human nature itself,” in addition to international law.
The head of diplomacy in Moscow made this statement, without supporting it with any examples, while stressing the „limitless permissiveness” of the United States of America and Europe, which „want to impose a rule-based order on countries such as China and Russia, which they label -autocratic democracies-„.
In other words, Lavrov says that the „Decandent West” has no right to organize other countries and export its democratic model as long as it tramples on the Christian morals defended by Moscow.
Even if Russia did not generated the ultra-conservative, anti-LGBT movements, it certainly poured gas on the fire: it exploited and amplified them through its trolls and the Kremlin’s propaganda apparatus. Lavrov’s text answers quite clearly the question of who is profiting from the waves rising out of the blue on a theme that divides America and, more recently, Europe.
PS: For those who have forgotten what a leader in the image and likeness of Viktor Orban looks like in Romania, it is enough to remember Liviu Dragnea, with his perfectly artificial theme set in 2018, in the form of the family referendum. It was the moment he wanted put up a huge smokescreen while his real goal was to destroy justice and avoid going to prison.
Traducerea: Ovidiu Harfas
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