Brunei: Hype and hypocrisy

When Russia first passed a law banning the spread of homosexual propaganda, people all across the western world were up in arms. All major news outlets were extremely critical if not blatantly outraged, bars boycotted the sale of Russian vodka and people even called for the United States to boycott the Sochi Olympics.

Recently, another international scandal has arisen after the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, announced the first implementations of Sharia law within the country. The Islamic-based criminal law is set to include punishments such as flogging, dismemberment and death by stoning for crimes such as rape, adultery and sodomy. These religious tenants will operate alongside the civil law and will apply to both Muslims and non-Muslims.

Luckily, I do not feel as if I even need to humor this development with any opinion condemning such actions because any sensible person will recognize that this is a horrible travesty that should be stopped. Unless of course you’re a moral or cultural relativist.
My main concern, aside from the fact that countless human rights violations will potentially occur, is how people, the media, our government and celebrities have chosen to respond.

I’m sure I would not surprise anyone by claiming that the current state of our mass media and international relations have degraded to the point where you can’t put your trust in any outlet, but this situation really exemplifies why.

Firstly, the media delayed quite a bit when it came to reporting such developments abroad. In fact, Ellen DeGeneres, the NBC hostess, tweeted about the situation nearly a week prior to any publication from CNN or Fox News. In fact, most articles regarding Brunei have more to do with the fact that celebrities have begun protesting the Beverly Hills Hotel rather than how awful such a reality is for those who live there.

I can’t help but feel the fact that Brunei sits on a large amount of oil reserves has something to do with the reluctance of any government official or major news outlet to make a large fuss about it. While the spokesperson of the State Department has expressed some concerns over the implementation of the law and its possible implications, not one government official has issued any statement condemning the actions on a political level or a moral one.

I do not wish to seem like a conspiracy theorist, but to me this just serves as a great example of political maneuvering. I can only imagine that the reluctance to issue any official condemnation is done in order to avoid provoking unfavorable reactions from leaders and countries the United States has a vested interest in.

It always amazes me that the United States will topple regimes in the Middle East and attack the Russian Federation, but will twiddle its thumbs when countries like North Korea have forced labor camps, and will ignore war crimes committed by its allies.

Aside from the hypocrisy of our own government, I can’t help but be extremely critical of this public outcry from our glamorous Hollywood stars.

I can’t tell if they are simply naïve or if they are just acting for the sake of publicity, but their protest of a famous Los Angeles hotel owned by the Brunei Investment Agency does very little to effect Brunei and will probably just result in some uninvolved people losing their jobs.

There are currently over 80 countries where homosexuality is illegal, but you hardly ever hear people outside of full-time advocacy groups raising alarm bells over this. Such knowledge hasn’t stopped movie stars from filming in these countries, musicians headlining shows there and celebrities vacationing there.

You don’t see celebrities getting upset over laws condemning homosexuality in Belize, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Jamaica, but as soon as a hotel located in their own backyard is owned by an investment firm located in a country that condemns homosexuality, all hell breaks loose.

To me, it seems that a few celebrities act in such a way not because they care, but so they can feel a momentary wave of self-righteousness by “making a difference.”

While I’m not sure what’s worse—a media that manipulates news, a government that puts political and economic interests over human rights, or rich celebrities seeking public recognition to satisfy their egos—the whole situation makes me sick, and my heart goes out to those who experience violence at the hands of extremist regimes.