Foreign Correspondence, Vol 71
How Putin inadvertently boosted support for LGBT rights in Ukraine
Hello, happy Friday, and, to those observing, Eid Mubarak! This Ramadan went by exceptionally fast, and seeing it come to an end has been bittersweet (bitter because I’ll miss the stillness of the month; sweet because I’ve been reunited with my morning coffee). I had the opportunity to write a couple of Ramadan-related stories over the past month, including one on why more non-Muslims are fasting during Ramadan and another on the first U.S. city to offer Eid al-Fitr as a paid holiday for its employees (more on that below).
But first, on the subject of not-so-great Eid gifts: Elon Musk made good on his word yesterday and stripped all legacy verified Twitter accounts of their blue checks. My account was not spared, nor were many of the other thousands of accounts belonging to journalists, athletes, and public figures who refused to cough up $8/month for a Twitter Blue subscription. (Those who do subscribe are not required to provide any documentation confirming their identity—just a phone number.)
If I’m going to miss anything about the blue check, it’s probably the professional legitimacy it conferred. As a journalist, Twitter is—or was—a vital resource for connecting with sources and colleagues. Knowing that the account I was engaging with was genuine, and vice versa, helped me reach people I might not otherwise would have—from lawmakers and activists to wartime rescue workers and people fleeing persecution from Afghanistan, Xinjiang, and more. The blue check wasn’t a status symbol; it was an incredibly useful tool. Now, thanks to one tool in particular, it’s been rendered effectively worthless.
What I’ve written
When Vladimir Putin announced Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, he framed the move in part as a means of defending traditional values from Western attitudes—in particular, the acceptance and legal recognition of LGBT people.
By justifying the war with homophobia, Putin had perhaps hoped to galvanize support for it among Ukraine’s conservative and religious populations. I wrote about how, in practice, that gambit now appears to be backfiring.
Since the war began, Ukrainian society has seen a sharp increase in support for the country’s LGBT community and, in particular, for the queer soldiers serving in the military. Calls for LGBT people to have access to civil partnerships have grown. For some, homophobia has become almost synonymous with Russian aggression.
Inna Sovsun, a Ukrainian lawmaker who last month introduced a bill that, if passed, would legalize same-sex civil partnerships, tells TIME that what is happening in Ukraine is a direct consequence of Putin’s actions. “Because Putin made homophobia such a big part of his political agenda and [Russian] national ideology, people automatically associate him with homophobia,” she says. “So if we are different from him, then we should be different in that area as well.” Keep reading here
Municipal employees working for the city of Dearborn, Michigan, won’t be going to work today. That’s because Dearborn is now the first U.S. city to offer Eid al-Fitr, one of Islam’s major holidays that marks the end of Ramadan, as a paid holiday for its employees.
“What we’re doing is bringing equity into the equation,” Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud told me. “And this is what it looks like.” Keep reading here
For TIME100, our annual list spotlighting the year’s 100 most influential people, I wrote about German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. You can find the full list of honorees here.
What I’ve read
This piece on the pro-life movement’s plan to completely eradicate abortion in America, whether voters support it or not (The Atlantic)
Even as the anti-abortion movement lacks a Next Big Objective, a new generation of anti-abortion leaders is ascendant—one that is arguably bolder and more uncompromising than its predecessors. This cohort, still high on the fumes of last summer’s victory, is determined to construct its ideal post-Roe America. And it’s forging ahead—come hell, high water, or public disgust.
This column on the myth of English nationalism (The Economist)
If English nationalism is on the march, no one has told the English. Like the life of St George, the rise of English identity is largely myth, argues Sir John Curtice, a political scientist. Even after devolution of power to Scotland and Wales, Britain’s departure from the EU, the rise and fall of the UK Independence Party and four straight Conservative general-election victories, the proportion of British people who identify as predominantly or only English has barely budged. If anything, it has fallen. In 1999, 31% of people fell into this bracket, according to the British Social Attitudes survey, the most comprehensive snapshot of opinion. In 2020, 22% did.
This eulogy for Buzzfeed News, which is shutting down (The Atlantic)
I am sad and angry that the extractive practices of modern finance, the whims of rich and powerful investors, and the race-to-the-bottom economics of the digital-media industry have stripped BuzzFeed for parts. I’m worried, on a practical level, about what might happen to the site’s archives, as well as the nearly 200 people the company plans to lay off. What’s left of the company (including the good, hard-working employees who are not fired) will have to navigate the wreckage created by an industry with a broken economic model. It seems likely that a zombified form of BuzzFeed will become the embodiment of everything the previous version wasn’t: terrified, obsessed with squeezing every ounce of shareholder value from its employees, and constantly bending to the forces of new technology like artificial intelligence, rather than harnessing and growing alongside them.
What I’m thinking about
How Palestinian-Chilean artist Elyanna (aka the Palestinian Shakira) became both the first Palestinian and first artist to sing an entire set in Arabic at Coachella. Representation—we love to see it!
Until next time,