Counterpoint: The only thing is, Peitzman didn't talk to any Russians living in Russia or Russian activists who may have better insight on whether the Russian LGBT community really is upset by the boycott, as he alleges it might be. Prominent Russian LGBT activist Nikolai Alekseev was dismissive of the boycott, though only because he felt it wasn't making a strong enough point, not because it was confusing gay Russian citizens.
"You don’t need to be an activist, but you can take a stand against the draconian anti-gay laws in Russia," Nina Long of RUSA LGBT, a Russian-American queer activism group, told The Daily Beast, explaining that she supports the boycott.
Assertion: It's Unfair to Label Everything Russian as Anti-Gay
"We cannot assume that anything Russian is anti-gay, just as it would be unfair to label every Russian person a homophobe," Peitzman wrote, explaining that Stoli, the brand receiving the full force of the boycott, is actually a gay-friendly company.
"Stoli has been our partner, and we shouldn't turn our backs on them now. Besides, it wouldn't help. Symbolism isn't enough," reads a letter from the staff at XES, a gay bar in Manhattan, echoing Peitzman's point about picking and choosing which products to boycott. The XES staff explains its compromise:
XES has decided to support groups like Amnesty International that know how to exert influence in similar situations and are dedicated to doing so in Russia. Starting today, XES will donate $1 from every drink we sell throughout the summer that's made with Stoli Vodka.
The Counterpoint: Savage would argue that it is fair to boycott Stoli because the message will ultimately be heard in Russia, which is the whole point. "Stoli is the iconic Russian Vodka and it's returning to Russian ownership in 2014," he wrote in his original blog post explaining why he's boycotting vodka.
In response, Stoli CEO Val Mendeleev wrote a letter rebutting Savage's claims:
The Russian government has no ownership interest or control over the Stoli brand that is privately owned by SPI Group, headquartered in Luxembourg in the heart of Western Europe.
And, yes, Savage had a response to that, while also questioning whether Mendeleev could conceivably be punished for this letter under Russia's new laws that prohibit gay propaganda. Savage wrote:
SPI is a Russian corporation, Stoli is a Russian vodka. And while it's nice that SPI is willing to market to homos who are lucky enough to live in Austria, the US, and South Africa, what has SPI done in Russia?
Assertion: This Boycott Isn't Really Doing Anything
To parse this criticism, you have to first define what "anything" means. Zach Stafford, at Chicago's RedEye, compares the boycott to the great Chick-fil-A boycott of 2012, which also had to do with homophobia: "Sure, the boycott raised awareness, but in the end it didn't change much for LGBT rights, or even change the CEO's stance. According to some reports, it had the inverse effect on the business as misinformed backers sent sales skyrocketing," Stafford writes.