Pussy Riot v. Saint Putin

For those of you who just tuned in, an all-female Russian punk band called Pussy Riot has been jailed for hooliganism and religious hatred. The fact that they were singing an anti-Putin song in front of that church is irrelevant; the church is the important part.

We missed you, Russia.

I've been following this as a fan of punk and human rights. As such, there isn't much to say, the case is cut and dried--Putin sucks. And "Pussy Riot" is the second best female-genital themed band name I've ever heard.

Way to stomp all over the 1st Amendment, jerk. Russia has that, right?

In addition, Garry Kasparov beaten and jailed for attending the trial, and as of a little while ago, six arrests in a protest in NYC

SpacePPoliceman wrote:

I've been following this as a fan of punk and human rights. As such, there isn't much to say, the case is cut and dried--Putin sucks. And "Pussy Riot" is the second best female-genital themed band name I've ever heard.

...go on...

I have to admit: I kind of want "hooliganism" on my record. It just has such a ring to it.

Just to be clear, the only one who can stop Putin at this point is James Bond, right?

kazooka wrote:

Just to be clear, the only one who can stop Putin at this point is James Bond, right?

You just want the next Bond film's title to be [em]Pussy Riot[/em].

It would be cool to see James Bond stop being such a grim customer and enjoy life a bit more like in the old days.

Wait, so this isn't some elaborate troll by Putin to get the world media to say Pussy Riot? That certainly brings him down some more notches in my book.

So is the religious hatred charge because they were at a church, or because Putin is the state religion?

Headline: Obama spokesman condemns ‘disproportionate’ prison term for Russian punk band members

This lecture comes to you from a culture that will happily lock up a guy for decades after "three strikes" of minor felonies or for selling drugs. Yes, you can't get locked up here for playing a song, but some of the things we lock people up for over here are really no less trivial.

Of course, if you run a financial company that takes a billion or two dollars of client money and "loses" it as it struggles to pay off its own trading debts, then in our government's eyes that's just an unavoidable accident that really could happen to anyone and doesn't merit a single criminal charge.

Hypatian wrote:
kazooka wrote:

Just to be clear, the only one who can stop Putin at this point is James Bond, right?

You just want the next Bond film's title to be [em]Pussy Riot[/em].

Well, the next Bond Girl at least.

Funkenpants wrote:

Headline: Obama spokesman condemns ‘disproportionate’ prison term for Russian punk band members

This lecture comes to you from a culture that will happily lock up a guy for decades after "three strikes" of minor felonies or for selling drugs. Yes, you can't get locked up here for playing a song, but some of the things we lock people up for over here are really no less trivial.

It's not about a song, or about drugs, or about the trivial nature of crimes. It's about what kind of trial you get if you're on the wrong side of the people in political power. Not that we're perfect, not that we don't have problems, but you know, if in one country a businessman winds up in jail for being on the wrong side of the president and in the other his ordeal winds up being things like losing the Groupon sponsorship for his reality tv show, I think there's room for a lecture.

The verdict has been criticized for being unnecessarily harsh. As someone pointed out in another thread, we have more people in prison that any other nation. Our per capita rate of imprisonment is 20% higher than the number 2 country, Russia. Where do you think all those prisoners come from? Someone with few minor felonies on their records can end up sentenced to decades in prison. We're willing to send people to prison for years for selling drugs, a crime that involves a willing transaction between buyer and seller. Our sentencing structure is extremely harsh, even as the prisons are increasingly crowded and dangerous.

Yes, we do not lock people up for free speech violations. But I don't see how anyone could look at the case of Bradley Manning and argue that the potential punishment fits the crime. Then there's the case of the guy who got two years in prison after fake bidding at a government auction while making a political point.

I agree that the U.S. government isn't a dictatorship or as heavy-handed at Putin. But our hands aren't clean. You mess with the powerful people in this country, and they will come after you with every legal weapon they can find just to make an example of you.

Funkenpants wrote:

The verdict has been criticized for being unnecessarily harsh. As someone pointed out in another thread, we have more people in prison that any other nation. Our per capita rate of imprisonment is 20% higher than the number 2 country, Russia. Where do you think all those prisoners come from? Someone with few minor felonies on their records can end up sentenced to decades in prison. We're willing to send people to prison for years for selling drugs, a crime that involves a willing transaction between buyer and seller. Our sentencing structure is extremely harsh, even as the prisons are increasingly crowded and dangerous.

Yes, we do not lock people up for free speech violations. But I don't see how anyone could look at the case of Bradley Manning and argue that the potential punishment isn't way more harsh than is necessary to discourage similar behavior. Then there's the case of the guy who got two years in prison after fake bidding at a government auction while making a political point.

I agree that the U.S. government isn't a dictatorship or as heavy-handed at Putin. But our hands aren't clean. You mess with the powerful people in this country, and they will come after you with every legal weapon they can find just to make an example of you.

So you think that because we've been horribly treating someone who leaked a bunch of government secrets and put someone in jail who disrupted a government auction, that leaves us with hands so unclean we can't lecture someone who puts people in jail for two years for being disruptive in a church? I think your examples actually prove my point.

I don't agree with your argument because I think people should go to prison (or heavily fined) for selling drugs. And I've had family members go to jail for being drug dealers.

The thing about drugs is that the pricing policy and nature of the product causes crime. Junkies commit a lot of crime. This is actually harmful to a society and people.

Punk bands in churches aren't.

CheezePavilion wrote:

So you think that because we've been horribly treating someone who leaked a bunch of government secrets and put someone in jail who disrupted a government auction, that leaves us with hands so unclean we can't lecture someone who puts people in jail for two years for being disruptive in a church?

Considering that's exactly what I wrote, I'd say there's a very good chance that's what I think. I don't expect people to agree with me, and I don't want to derail the thread with a discussion on drug policy. So that's it for me.

Crossed in posting.

I'm pretty much just waiting for Gorilla's lowdown on the situation.

I detest what's going on with them, but its been interesting hearing the dour NPR radiocasters carefully enunciating the name of the band every hour on the hour.

Interesting perspective 'Rilla. I think I agree with you on a lot of this and will need to ponder it more.

Prederick wrote:

I'm pretty much just waiting for Gorilla's lowdown on the situation.

Thanks you my brother.

My take on the situation: it is convenient for the West to view this incident through the "punk rock jailed over anti-Putin protest". Inside Russia, however, the Putin angle is not seen as significant at all. These women are being punished by the "system", to be sure, but the cries for the punishment are instigated not by the state, but by Russian Orthodox Church. While the church, which is it's customarily called in Russian media by its abbreviation ROC, or РПЦ, as as if it was a state agency, is indeed in many aspects a state proxy, here its acting independently and deliberately.

The women deserve every possible form of respect for their act of bravery and citizenship. They have, however, miscalculated the risks of the possible reprisals. THAT mistake was dumb, as it set them down on the path towards predictable consequences.

The main issue here is not the target of their act (anti-utin Putin), but its format (a mock "mass"). One thing that should be known about Russia is that the country is experiencing a huge resurgence of religiosity. The return to Easten Orthodox "values", or at least their outward manifestations, is nothing short of stunning to anyone within and without Russia who cares to take a moment and reflect upon it. The country's general populace is well on track to become as, or even more devout than, say, Poland. The overall sentiment among the newly pious Ivans and Maryas is that the Christianity has suffered at hands of Soviet regime enough, and should be protected from those who continue to be poisoned by the godless kommissars' ideology. Thus, while there is a swell of support for Pussy Riot in Moscow and other megapolises, the populace at large is highly critical of the band's act. For all the demonstrations demanding the girls' release, there were equal crowds demanding the reprisals.

The place where the girls chose to stage their act doesn't help either. The Cathedral of Church The Savior is a very potent symbol of the country's past godlessness period. Built to commemorate Russia's victory over Napoleon, it was demolished in 1931 by the Bolsheviks. Gaudy and blocky, it was rebuilt in 2000 in what was seen as a triumphant return of the country to its spiritual roots. As an aside -- I visited it while in the country in 2006. There was a group of schoolchildren there on a schooltrip, accompanied by their teacher who led them in prayer. The unfamiliarity and ridiculousness of that scene has really perturbed me. Anyway, that church is seen as a widely accepted and very recognizable symbol of Christian pride and endurance.

Which brings us to the band's performance. Wearing bright colors, shouting a song, dancing provocatively and above all yelling profanities was seen as an open defilement of the church by everyone. The political message of the performance, which the Western media has seized upon, is really secondary here. Noone in Russia would bat an eyelash had they not chosen to perform at church. In fact, they staged a similar performance on Red Square a month prior to that, titled with an expression that can be loosely translated from Russian as "Putin has pissed himself wet in fear", and lived to tell the tale. The argument for the persecution of an anti-Putin stunt pretty much ends right here.

But, what they have done in their next gig was to confuse the political message with what is customarily described in Russia with French word epatage in its pure and naked form. Now on to the most ridiculous part, from the standpoint of a Russian observer -- the international appeals from everyone beginning with Amnesty International and ending with Madonna. The appeals to Putin to "do something". Putin, in a rare instance of proper judgement, has done the right thing -- let the judicial process take its place. One can debate that the court was stacked against the girls, and the hearing was incredibly one-sided. Again, what the external observers are omitting out of the view that the charges of deliberate insult to the churchgoers and the defilement of the church premises are not contested. Everyone who on any other day considers Putin a dictator (rightfully so), all of the sudden started asking him to do something that would exactly befit a dictator -- to influence the court.

On the punishment. The charge, "hooliganism with an aim of fostering religious hatred", carries term up to 7 years. The prosecution asked for 3. The judge's sentence is 2. Two of the girls have underage children, and can expect their term "applied conditionally" and converted into probation -- the Russian criminal code is actually quite lenient towards women, specifically mothers. Some in Russia believe that as the appeals process begins, the ROC, pleased that the sinners have been shamed and a proper message has been sent, will make a public gesture and ask for a remand or altogether commutation of the sentence, although I do not believe in that.

My own take. I admire and respect these girls. They are brave, they are courageous, and they are citizens. However, this act smacked too much of a poorly forethought stunt, where the sheer bad taste has crowded out the political message. I disdain the regime of embezzlement and all-permeating corruption that Putin has built, or has allowed to crystallize. I despise ROC for becoming the true "third pillar" in its war on secularism and its open drive for becoming an "official state religion". But I do not support things like Pussy Riot's act at the Christ The Savior. Why? I don't want it to open doors to, say, Slavic skinheads defiling a synagogue under the guise of a political statement and only getting an "administrative sentence" slap on a wrist for it. Neither I want Wahhabi radicals being able to get away from defiling a Christian church and only paying a nominal fine. Not because I like this or that religious institution itself (I am an atheist), but because I like the nascent ability of Russians to be and let be, which includes being able to worship, if desired, and not have your religious symbols deliberately trampled for the sake of a political message, even if that message is noble.

Gorilla.800.lbs wrote:

I despise ROC for becoming the true "third pillar" in its war on secularism and its open drive for becoming an "official state religion". But I do not support things like Pussy Riot's act at the Christ The Savior. Why? I don't want it to open doors to, say, Slavic skinheads defiling a synagogue under the guise of a political statement and only getting an "administrative sentence" slap on a wrist for it.

It's a nice idea, but once you reward religion by showing that it has political power things tend to go downhill very quickly.

It only took us 30 years to have the religious crazies running an entire political party.

Remember the Frank Herbert quote from Dune:

"When religion and politics travel in the same cart, the riders believe nothing can stand in their way. Their movement becomes headlong – faster and faster and faster. They put aside all thought of obstacles and forget that a precipice does not show itself to the man in a blind rush until it’s too late."

Gorilla.800.lbs wrote:

Which brings us to the band's performance. Wearing bright colors, shouting a song, dancing provocatively and above all yelling profanities was seen as an open defilement of the church by everyone. The political message of the performance, which the Western media has seized upon, is really secondary here. Noone in Russia would bat an eyelash had they not chosen to perform at church. In fact, they staged a similar performance on Red Square a month prior to that, titled with an expression that can be loosely translated from Russian as "Putin has pissed himself wet in fear", and lived to tell the tale. The argument for the persecution of an anti-Putin stunt pretty much ends right here.

I don't think it does. You can't point to one incident that goes unpunished as sufficient evidence that things are not wrong--the Police State threads would be a lot shorter if that were true.

On the punishment. The charge, "hooliganism with an aim of fostering religious hatred", carries term up to 7 years. The prosecution asked for 3. The judge's sentence is 2. Two of the girls have underage children, and can expect their term "applied conditionally" and converted into probation -- the Russian criminal code is actually quite lenient towards women, specifically mothers. Some in Russia believe that as the appeals process begins, the ROC, pleased that the sinners have been shamed and a proper message has been sent, will make a public gesture and ask for a remand or altogether commutation of the sentence, although I do not believe in that.

Did they actually commit hooliganism with an aim of fostering religious hatred? That's at the heart of this, and why people are saying it was the anti-Putin message. The question is whether they committed the crime they were charged with, or did they get accused of a crime but 'convicted' (and punished to this degree) for something else, that something else being the anti-Putin message.

My own take. I admire and respect these girls. They are brave, they are courageous, and they are citizens. However, this act smacked too much of a poorly forethought stunt, where the sheer bad taste has crowded out the political message. I disdain the regime of embezzlement and all-permeating corruption that Putin has built, or has allowed to crystallize. I despise ROC for becoming the true "third pillar" in its war on secularism and its open drive for becoming an "official state religion".

This is the other issue in at least my mind, and I think that of many others who have been paying at least passing attention to Russia over the past couple of years: if the ROC is becoming an official state religion, were they convicted for religious hatred, or hatred of the state religion? There's a big difference. In a theocracy, treason and heresy are one in the same.

But I do not support things like Pussy Riot's act at the Christ The Savior. Why? I don't want it to open doors to, say, Slavic skinheads defiling a synagogue under the guise of a political statement and only getting an "administrative sentence" slap on a wrist for it. Neither I want Wahhabi radicals being able to get away from defiling a Christian church and only paying a nominal fine. Not because I like this or that religious institution itself (I am an atheist), but because I like the nascent ability of Russians to be and let be, which includes being able to worship, if desired, and not have your religious symbols deliberately trampled for the sake of a political message, even if that message is noble.

Why can't a competent court distinguish between those acts and this one? Courts disbelieve the proffered explanations of criminals all the time when determining motive. I don't think the slope is as slippery as you are making it out to be. I think it's possible to not support what they did, be sufficiently concerned with the kind of violence you are talking about, yet believe they were unfairly punished.

Thanks gorilla. You're our man on the inside, so to speak. I had no idea about the shifts in Russia's religiosity.

How did they film at the church without the church's permission? I haven't actually seen the video.