Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Dual Post: The Pussy Riot Debacle

Hi all,

Sorry, I've been a little slack on the whole Blog thing of late.

I'm calling this one a "double post" as the story at the centre of the post is somewhat suited to both my news blog (http://missed-information.blogspot.com) and this one, my music blog.  I will be posting it in both locations.

I have been following the buzz surrounding the Russian feminist-punk group Pussy Riot and their current trial for "Hooliganism".  If you've missed the story, the group performed a balaclava-clad mime to a song advocating people NOT to vote for incumbent president Vladimir Putin.  They just happened to do it in the biggest Orthodox cathedral in Moscow.

The story is somewhat interesting on a number of fronts.

For a start, they are charged with "Hooliganism motivated by religious hatred".  That's a trumped-up charge if ever there was one.

Secondly, they have been held since March in custody without charge.

Thirdly, isn't there something in the Geneva Convention that says that people defending themselves in a court of law can't be held and restrained in a cage?  Russia is supposed to be democratic now, right?

Take a look at the video of what they did.   Looking at the footage there seems to be nothing to suggest they were blaspheming in their actions.  It was pretty mild.  Even their genuflections seemed authentic as they prayed to Mother Mary to dispose of the President.

As the accused have said themselves, their motivations were political, not religious.  They had no intention of being blasphemous.  Still, if you wanna annoy the establishment, there's no better way to do it than by being (even mildly) outrageous in a religious building.

The charge is clearly ludicrous and if there is a misdemeanor at all, it would be trespassing.  Protesting is not a crime in a democracy, even if it is done in a church.  Besides that, the House of the Lord is supposed to be open freely to all who wish to use it.  Punk prayers too, if that's what it takes.  It appears that they were asking for divine intervention to overthrow the president.  They're not the first people in the world to ever have done that!

We could argue the merits of such an action in the first place.  If it took such an action for the point to be heard, then just how stifled is free speech in Russia?

It's hard to imagine that sort of thing in a country like Australia, where we regularly get loud-mouthed shock jocks telling the Prime Minister she's a liar or threatening to tie her up in a chaff bag and throw her out to sea; and then they get away with it with barely a hint of outrage.  I'd like to see how some of our shock jocks would fare in Russia when a punk group cannot play a song of protest against Mr Putin!

Watch the clip on YouTube and decide for yourself.  The dancing is ordinary, the song isn't great, but that's just my opinion.  Musical and artistic merits aside, freedom of speech appears to exist in a vacuum in Russia and Pussy Riot are learning that first hand.

A comment on a story posted on The Guardian's website indicated that since the fall of Communism in Russia, very little has changed.  When the verdict is handed down in this case later this week, we'll see for certain.  Vlad has been lukewarm in his reaction to this case in the press, but he doesn't want too much bad press on the issue.  Whatever the result, he can sure the world is watching...

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