In 2011 when Dmitry Medvedev began the process of handing?political power back to Vladimir Putin, it not only sparked mass protests in Moscow, it led to the formation of an eccentric?all girl punk activist movement.
Pussy Riot and their protest music that also included staged theatrics such as dumping pillow feathers, holding colored smoke flares and shooting off fire extinguishers were now the masked face idols of Russian rebel youth and the anti-Putin movement.
Pussy Riot is more than a band that shows up on stage and plays provocative music and shouts provocative things. They are a small band of feminist activists masquerading behind?colorful masks as they storm symbols of what they view as patriarchal oppression and vanity or symbols of heavy handed religious and political nationalism. One of their first shows was a staged guerrilla flash show where they walked into a women’s boutique in Moscow and started shouting their lyrics from the sales floor. Their stunts, as head scratching as they might have been, were?certainly mischievous but for the most part nonviolent and simply meant to shock a Russian culture unfamiliar with westernized punk music or westernized protest tactics.
But it was in February of 2012 when Pussy Riot sparked international interest when they spontaneously tried to demonstrate on the Altar of the Christ the Savior Orthodox cathedral in Moscow. The members of the band were promptly shut down by security and arrested by police. If anything is puzzling about their performance and arrest, it’s that no incident spawned the motivation for it. It was just three girls showing up a place of holy worship because they wanted to protest the Orthodox church. They claimed they protested it because it represents the union of Church and State, which they disagree with.?It was a completely nonsensical but then again that’s mostly what punk music is.
There’s nothing more controversial in Pussy Riot’s songs as say there ever was in the Sex Pistols or Dead Kennedys, and nothing more mischievous about their antics than anything UK stencil artist Banksy does. It’s their methods however that draw attention. “Pussy Riot is a form of oppositional art” Maria Alyokhina (who also has a degree in journalism) declared during their trial in Moscow.
No one has to be a political dissident or even agree with Pussy Riot’s methods to see that they were the ones calling attention to Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian tendencies. Not the disappearance of political enemies, or the poisoning of journalists. It was a loud punk rock protest group that can barely play their instruments or actually sing their songs.
They have the advantage of being young ,attractive and very well spoken females which plays as a perfect antithesis to the strong, brooding overly-macho image projected by Vladimir Putin. “Their punishment must fit the crime” Putin told RT television when asked about their stunt at the cathedral.
How could American media and celebrity culture possibly ignore them now?
Madonna showed her support on stage by writing “Free Pussy Riot” on her body which immediately lit a spark under web and social?media. Suddenly people all over the world supported them, no matter the politics.
They were imprisoned for 6 months after their arrest without visitation rights and then sentenced to two years in a Russian penal colony, which is probably about as terrifying as it sounds. Yekaterina Samutsevich won a suspended sentence upon appeal.
Whatever opinion is formed on political feminist activists whose lyrics include “Kill all sexists. Kill all conformists. Kill all Putinites” and have titled their performances “Putin Pissed Himself”, no one can deny their treatment at the hands of Russian prosecutors has been heavy handed. In statements read in court, members of Pussy Riot warned of Vladimir Putin causing instability both within Russia and outside it’s borders.
They have been proven correct. Putin has ruled largely unchecked in the region and as a result is expanding his power the only way he knows how, with military force into Crimea and now Eastern Ukraine.
While imprisoned, Pussy Riot gained support from another group besides Hollywood millionaires – Occupy Wall St. Nevermind that Occupy Wall St. advocates for the same kind of government system that causes mass oppression that Pussy Riot was being jailed for. All that mattered was how loud the noise was and that they looked cool in their colorful masks. Pussy Riot members apparently got the message as they have now brought their anti-establishment (no matter what the establishment is apparently) to the States and along with it their gratitude for Occupy’s support and a PR support system intent on making them the face of the new feminist war of women.
Pussy Riot has been appearing?DC at press junkets for corporate media like the New Yorker, the White House Correspondents Dinner and posing for photos with Hillary Clinton. Last week in New York, as an act of solidarity with Occupy, they visited Occupy protestor Cecily McMillan at Riker’s Island who recently pleaded not guilty to assaulting a New York police officer, and was convicted when video tape evidence showed her cold cocking him with her elbow deliberately during an Occupy attempt to retake Zucotti park. Her defense was she thought she was being sexually groped and was acting out of pure self defense, which honestly, who could blame her.
The jury has since recommended that McMillan serve no further sentencing and that a felony on her record be enough punishment. Not exactly the kind of leniency?shown in Putin’s Moscow.
Pussy riot visited McMillan in prison and advocated for her release on Twitter, which included telling Americans to start their own Pussy Riot here, whatever that means. Pussy Riot’s English language Twitter account is run more like a hired PR person trying to sell T-Shirts with slogans. Pussy Riot in their own words are more up front and honest about what they want.
“We need to destroy the whole system. It’s rotten from head to tail. Only radical revolutionary action can change anything. Talk and compromise get you nowhere.” members of the band stated in the HBO documentary?A Punk Prayer which chronicles both the band of activists and their opponents in Russia.
Is Pussy Riot advocating that Americans rise up against an overbearing, Statist government? They tried and were promptly audited by the Internal Revenue Service and targeted by its top agents. Are they advocating the destruction of capitalism, the system that allowed the message of their imprisonment be spread via social media on iPhone, laptops and tablets? If Pussy Riot’s intent is to come to America and advocate for the elimination of a ruling capitalist structure, perhaps they can start by asking Madonna to refund the money people spent to see her write their band name on her back and arms and therefore spread awareness globally.
The protesters in Zucotti park had 3 months to prove that a communist, class-less society could flourish at the very foot of imperial capitalism and they self imploded. Pussy Riot says they sympathize with Occupy Wall St, the very individuals that want the kind of socialist class system that Vladimir Putin used to imprison and silence them.
Occupy is not a pro-freedom movement. It’s a movement filled with sexual assault, black bloc, anarchy, discrimination, anti-semitism, property destruction and in McMillan’s case, endangering the safety of law enforcement who tolerated a barrage of daily insults for months in the shadow of the World Trade Center. McMillan’s case has nothing to do with political freedom. Pussy Riot was imprisoned for criminal mischief and trespassing while committing a victim-less crime against the Russian Orthodox church. McMillan’s admitted goal was to set out to illegally claim property and incite the same black bloc mob tactics that rendered Occupy politically insignificant. Occupy protesters are not political prisoners. They are convicted of crimes. Sexual assault, conspiracy to commit mass destruction (Bomb plots), and destruction of property. Of the three-thousand plus arrests in the Occupy movement, not one of them was a direct result of simply speaking of their anarcho-communist beliefs.
When they spoke upon exiting Riker’s island of their meeting with McMillan and voiced their support for her in person and online, were Nadezhda Tolokonnikova?and?Maria Alyokhina?hauled off in armored cars and put into a glass box?
Perhaps all this is a mistake lost in translation and perhaps Pussy Riot simply believe in anarchy. Perhaps they truly are simply against any ruling form of establishment, which is fine also. If that is the case however, why is Pussy Riot posing for pictures with Hillary Clinton and only taking shots at Sarah Palin? Why do they accept invites from establishment media? Are they now simply lobbyists for a progressive ideology? Was this the goal worth spending two years in a Siberian penal colony? To be the young feminist mouthpiece for the Democrats and a corporate media complex until they are no longer needed? Can anyone picture Sid Vicious attending a Nerd Prom unless his sole intention was setting the room on fire and locking the doors?
Being punk and especially getting into trouble for being punk is fine; It’s encouraged. Kids see it and want to emulate it. Selling out to the ideologies that made them personally suffer is not. Spending two years in a Siberian penal colony and then posting a picture on social media of the Soviet flag with the slogan “Socialism without repressions” is either blatant hypocrisy or lacking perspective. Pussy Riot are too articulate to be this blatantly self unaware. They are being used.
If Pussy Riot really wanted to punk out in America, their first three songs would be about?an authoritarian and corrupt?IRS targeting conservative Americans, Barack Obama’s drone kill streak & the liberal tolerance police organizing and firing people for their free speech and they would do it wearing this T-Shirt?.
These are human rights causes they stood for in the sub zero temperatures of Moscow winters dressed only like anarchist Teletubbies. By not speaking out against true violations of human rights and choosing a DC photo op with Hillary Clinton, one of the most glorified establishment Wall St. backed politicians in 25 years, and sympathizing with a movement notorious for sexual assault, Pussy Riot just becomes another PR tool for the Democrat party, who currently controls 2/3 of our government. Pussy Riot can support Occupy Wall St. or they can support Hillary Clinton. Not Both.
Pussy Riot should come to the United States. They should bring their message of the dangers of Vladimir Putin and in doing so should realize that our capitalist country might be the only hope in stopping him. Anti-Fascist punk music has to be rooted in principle, otherwise they are simply just another Sandra Fluke with guitars. Supporting the whole of an Occupy movement long concerned with rape tents and assaulting police may work to satisfy the image of a PR department and enrich their wallets for giving speeches on college campuses, but it does nothing for real political prisoners around the globe.
Punk activism in Russia means speaking out against the state no matter the costs. While stateside, Pussy Riot apparently believes punk activism means cozying up to it and in doing so, losing all credibility.
– SM –