Thursday night, MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes trained its lens on the 2014 Olympic Games, as out Russian journalist, author, and LGBT activist Masha Gessen discussed her concerns about the situation in Russia and her belief that life for LGBT Russians will worsen when the Games conclude.
Gessen, author of the 2012 biography The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, asserted that Putin used the Games to try to elude the "humiliation" suffered in 1980 when the U.S. and other countries boycotted the Olympics in protest of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. In Gessen's words, Sochi was Putin's bid "to show that Russia was great again and that he was one of the world's leaders."
But the controversy surrounding the country's draconian anti-LGBT propaganda laws has compromised Putin's efforts in this regard.
Dartmouth professor Jeff Sharlet, who also appeared last night on Hayes's program, described "the pervasiveness of the fear" in Russia and "the perversity of the law." Sharlet recounted his experiences on the ground, which he detailed in a recent GQ article titled "Inside the Iron Closet: What It's Like to Be Gay in Putin's Russia" and which Hayes summed up as "thuggish vigilantism with tacit state support."
Sharlet told Hayes about the "dark cloud that hovered over every aspect of LGBT life" he encountered, stating that "people were going back into the closet," or fleeing the country in order "to keep their families intact."
In the interview, Hayes questioned whether Putin has pressed a "pause" button on the LGBT crackdown, knowing that the world's attention is now focused on his country. Gessen confirmed this assumption, before arguing that life for LGBT Russians would deteriorate after the Games ended. The government "will still lash out after the Games are over, believing that the eyes of the world are not on them," she predicted.
Watch the full segment below: