What Putin’s Russia and other homophobes around the world are doing with their iPhones

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) holds an iPad as he talks to participants of a forum of pro-Kremlin youth groups.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) holds an iPad as he talks to participants of a forum of pro-Kremlin youth groups.
Image: Reuters/Michael Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin
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Apple CEO Tim Cook’s revelation in Businessweek that he is gay has elicited a generally positive response from around the web, garnered mostly praise from media journalists, and led LGBT rights watchdog group Human Rights Campaign to say that Cook’s “courageous step forward” is destined to “save countless lives.

And then there are the other points of view.

  • The stridently anti-gay Texas Senator Ted Cruz weighed in on CNBC today, calling Cook’s orientation his “personal choice”—the current anti-gay party line—but adding the rejoined, “I’ll tell you, I love my iPhone.”
  • In Russia, Vitaly Milonov, the St. Petersburg lawmaker notorious for his “gay propaganda” ban which would be the nation’s model, said today that Tim Cook should be “banned for life” from entering the country, asking “what can [Tim Cook] bring us? Ebola? AIDS? Gonorrhea?” Milonov, too, has an iPhone—though he declared the iPhone 6 to be too vulnerable to spying—as well as an iPad.

Among Russian politicians, he’s hardly alone. The author of Russia’s federal anti-gay “propaganda” ban, Elena Mizulina, also has been seen using an iPad. Kremlin Propaganda Chief Dmitry Kiselyov, who finds gay people’s hearts more fit for burning than for transplant, uses a pink iPhone. Russian manufacturer Caviar offers titanium iPhone 5S and iPhone 6 cases embossed with the face of Vladimir Putin. Prime Minister Medvedev also has an iPhone. Presumably, these are all personal devices: the Kremlin dropped official use of iPads in favor of Samsung Galaxy tablets earlier this year.

Then there’s the irony of a homophobe’s ire. Martin Ssempa, the virulently anti-gay pastor who backed Uganda’s ultimately defeated “Kill the Gays” bill, has been disturbed by rumors of Cook’s sexuality for months—and has been using his iPad and MacBook this entire time to voice his hate.

@tomsj @AndyTowle @tlrd iPad, MacBook . I did not realise that that our money is going into enriching Sodom and Gaymorrah! #babylonsystems

— Martin Ssempa (@martinssempa) June 27, 2014

Far off in Syria, the International Center for the Study of Radicalization said that the “three top travel items” that jihadi fighters were asking for in 2013 were “toilet paper, a first aid kit, and an iPad.” Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty, the A&E reality show suspended briefly for its patriarch’s views, “made the switch to iPhone” last year.  And the Westboro Baptist Church, the Kansas based hate group infamous for their signs declaring Divine “hate” for gays and joy over dead soldiers, absolutely “geeked out” before the release of the iPhone 6:

The iPhone 6 will allow us to preach to this sinful nation more effectively than the 5s! Bigger screen to see our signs more clearly—like ‘Repent or Perish’ or ‘F** Marriage Dooms Nations’! …. Which device do you think our ‘Why Did God Destroy Sodom?’ will display best on? iPhone6, Galaxy 5, or HTC? I bet the preaching will be effective, by God’s hand, as viewed in all of them – don’t you think?


Will the world’s most vocal homophobes be able to say, “I love my iPhone”—and will that iLove be able to outweigh their animus toward the gay community?

If not, a lot of homophobes may be switching devices (but they’d be just as incensed by Android and Google, one of whose lesbian executives just became America’s CTO).  The world all over, it’s looking a lot harder for homophobes to boycott Apple than Starbucks.