Western media coverage of the Russian organization known as "Pussy Riot" (PR) has been among the most egregiously distorted in recent memory — in an era where Western media coverage of most everything about Russia is agonizingly superficial and propagandistic. Now that they have been found guilty of hooliganism it is worth stepping back and looking at this group and the media phenomenon surrounding it a bit more clearly.
These young women are uniformly portrayed as an innocent punk rock protest group who have had their freedom of expression shut down by the evil monster Vladimir Putin who just cannot help crushing anyone and anything opposed to his government because he was once in the Russian KGB! It is as simple as that for the Western press. And those creations of the Western media, the various vapid pop stars and other entertainers, who have through history served as useful idiots to push the cause of the day, have all lined up against the KGB monster who wants to silence all dissent and bring back the Soviet Union.
That so much about the infamous incident of February 21, 2012, when this group ascended the altar of Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in central Moscow clad in bright clothing which masked their identities to scream out a poem, remains unreported, unexplored, unconsidered speaks volumes about the Western media abrogation of its historic role in a free society. As it has come to be expected, thanks to the Internet and what the libertarian website the Daily Bell calls the "Internet Reformation," individuals are stepping in where the media/propaganda outlets have failed and providing real information and investigation.
Thanks to an extremely well-researched blog post by "Mercouris" we come to understand much more about the event, the actual charges against the perpetrators, and the background and origins of this strange group of individuals whose philosophy seems to be much more akin to shock for shock's sake and nihilism than any kind political position or attraction to feminism -- though again, in the Western mainstream media they are portrayed as "feminist punk rockers," akin to a movement in the US known as "Riot Grrrls."
In fact the "group" never seems to have recorded or actually written a single song.
They do have some interesting backers in addition to the usual Western entertainers, however. As is well-documented, PR has open connections to the National Endowment for Democracy (surprise). Oksana Chelysheva, listed as the head of the group's support campaign, also happens to have been "Deputy Executive Director" of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, a strange pro-extremist outfit which is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy. Chelysheva also has other extensive US government ties through her leadership roles in other NED and George Soros-funded outfits like the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum and the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum.
Does Chelysheva funnel State Department money to the members of Pussy Riot through these front groups? It would not be the first time such support is covertly given to an organization seen as undermining a foreign leader viewed as out of favor with Washington.
As Mercouris points out in the above-linked article, the crime of hooliganism under Russian law, which these women are being charged with, is certainly not unique and not at all unusual in other Western countries. In Britain, for example:
Section 5(1) of the Public Order Act 1986 makes it a criminal offence for a person to use “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or to display any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting” to another person. Section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986 creates a further offence where the “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour” was intentional. Section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986 creates a further offence where the “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour” give rise to a fear of violence. All these offences are aggravated under Section 31 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 where the offender “at the time of committing the offence, or immediately before or after doing so” …”demonstrates towards the victim of the offence hostility based on the victim’s membership or presumed membership of a racial or religious group or the offence is motivated (wholly or partly) by hostility towards members of a racial or religious group based on their membership of that group”. (see also Section 28 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998) (Italics added). Penalties for these offences can range from fines to terms of imprisonment ranging from two years up to fourteen years (double that allowed by the Russian law) where there has been damage to property.
In Poland merely speaking blasphemous words in public may result in a two year prison sentence. In the United States, of course, laws against disorderly conduct and trespass are on the books in virtually every state carrying a variety of penalties including jail time.
So the offense is not uniquely punished in Putin's Russia. Let's get that out of the way.
Also seldom reported is what the women actually said while trespassing in the altar area of the church. Falsely reported as a "punk prayer to the Virgin Mary," the poem they recited was in fact grotesquely scatological and objectively disrespectful and blasphemous. It was not a prayer of any sort, and in fact was a kind of a vulgar parody of the beliefs and rituals of believers.
Does this sound like a prayer in any meaning of the word:
Holy shit, shit, Lord's shit!
Holy shit, shit, Lord's shit!
St. Maria, Virgin, become a feminist...
Patriarch Gundyaev believes in Putin
Bitch, you better believed in God
Are they feminists? Do they have a philosophy? Politics? It is debatable. The origins of the group are in the strange collective known as "Voina," which means "war" in Russian. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, one of the defendants in the current case, was an active member of the group Voina whose actions leave one scratching one's head as to the real purpose of the group. Could any of the below-described actions be described as "feminist" in any stretch of the word:
Since its formation in presumably 2008 Voina has staged in public a succession of extreme actions described as performance art. These have included the painting of a male phallus on a St. Petersburg Bridge, the staging of a public orgy at the Timiryazev Museum in Moscow involving nudity and (apparently) full penetrative sex (Tolokonnikova was a participant though heavily pregnant), the throwing of live cats at the staff of a McDonald’s restaurant in Moscow, the overturning of police cars apparently on one occasion with a policeman inside, the firebombing of property with petrol bombs, the staged hanging of an immigrant and a homosexual in a supermarket, the projection of a skull and crossbones onto the building housing the Russian government, the spilling of large live cockroaches onto the stomach of a pregnant member of the group (Tolokonnikova again) and the theft of a frozen chicken from a supermarket, which was stuffed up the vagina of one of the women members (apparently Maria Alyokhina, Tolokonnikova apparently was also present).
What tends to be overlooked in the mass of commentary about Voina and Pussy Riot is that their actions take place in public places within the possible sight or hearing of children. This was true of the phallus painted on the bridge, the orgy in the museum and the theft of the frozen chicken in the supermarket. Film of the last event shows a young child present though he may have been brought there by one of the group’s members.
Some defenders of the group laud the invasion of the church to spew scatological verses as an exercise in "civil disobedience." In fact that may be considered the case if any kind of clear political statement can be discerned from the actual words screamed from the altar, and if one accepts the premise that the Russian Orthodox Church is an arm of the Russian government -- which most would not accept. Indeed there is little relationship between those who resisted the unjust laws in the United States against racial minorities decades ago and those who invade a place of worship to pointedly attack aspects of that worship and the leader of that particular faith. As someone else pointed out, imagine the outrage were a skinhead group to occupy a synagogue in the US. It is certainly a far cry from sitting down at a lunch counter.
While one hesitates to applaud when an individual faces incarceration by the state, it is remarkable how little time is spent considering the rights of the targets of these protests. What about the right to go into a grocery store and not see women placing food items inside their private parts? What about the right to religious activity free of scantily clad women screaming expletives at the Lord, the Virgin Mary, and the local Patriarch? Well sadly those are not much considered by the defenders of these women in the entertainment and media industry because by and large they have long since abandoned any of these sorts of "retrograde" views and beliefs. They are members of the elite who look with scorn on babushka-wearing women who still believe in God and the Church. As from Lenin back to Robespierre back to the original rebel, the old order must be overturned in the name of freedom and progress. In their view, those who resist this inevitable march of history do not deserve to be considered. They do not count.