Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Haider, Jörg (1950 - 2008). Austrian politician,

b. January 26, 1950
d. October 11, 2008,

Haider was a right-wing Austrian politician who had been featured on the covers of Time and Newsweek, caricatured as neo-Nazi industrialist Richard Dressier played by Alan Bates in the movie The Sum of All Fears (2002, directed by Phil Alden Robinson), and had shaken hands with Saddam Hussein before the American invasion of Iraq.

He was Governor of Carinthia on two occasions, the long-time leader of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) and later Chairman of the Alliance for the Future of Austria (Bündnis Zukunft Österreich, BZÖ), a breakaway party from the FPÖ.

Haider was controversial within Austria and abroad for comments that were widely condemned as praising Nazi policies or as xenophobic or anti-Semitic. Several countries imposed mild diplomatic sanctions against his party's participation in government alongside Wolfgang Schüssels ÖVP, starting from 2000.

On October 11, 2008, a heavily intoxicated Jörg Haider crashed his car while driving twice the speed limit. The last thing Haider did before he died was visit a gay bar.

During his political career, he avoided making inflammatory anti-gay speeches - but voted against relaxing anti-gay legislation. He was married, and never admitted to homosexuality - but was widely assumed to be so, often surrounding himself with a bevy of beautiful young men - known as Haider's Buberlpartie or "boy party".

When the German newspaper Bild-Zeitung published interviews after his death with a man claiming to have been Jörg Haider's lover for many years,his widow took the paper to court, and won an order which ruled it illegal for media to call Jörg Haider a homosexual because it would be "breach of personal and privacy rights", with a fine of up to €100,000 for any contravention. By then, however, extensive evidence was already known. As early as 1991, a number of intellectuals had begun to expose Haider's hypocrisy, in a series of indirect outings. On the night of his death, he had been photographed in the gay bar Zum Stadtkrämer in Klagenfurt, consorting in beautiful company.

Haider matters to glbtq culture in several but contradictory respects. First, persistent rumors about his sexuality did not harm his political career, thus suggesting that homosexuality has ceased to be a major issue in Austria. However, the fact that no mainstream Austrian politician or journalist dared to out Haider may suggest the opposite: that homosexuality is so taboo as to be unspeakable.

Perhaps most pointedly, Haider did great damage to the Austrian glbtq community. In opposing pro-gay policies he reinforced the stereotype of hypocritical politicians who privately enjoy the freedoms won by the glbtq movement while taking public positions against the movement. 

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