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Pussy Riot, freedom of expression and Western hypocrisy

20 August 2012

The verdict in the Pussy Riot trial in Moscow is significant in what it reveals about Christianity and culture. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Maria Alekhina were sentenced to 2 years in jail for their part in an uninvited performance of an obscene and blasphemous song in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow.

Many Orthodox Christians, in Russia and elsewhere, have said that

  1. The Pussy Riot group were wrong to perform in the cathedral as they did
  2. The prosecution and trial did more harm to Orthodoxy than the group themselves did

For more on that see Pussy Riot — the verdict.

But the reaction of the Western media and politicians and others is also very revealing, though it reveals far more about Western society and culture and values than it does about Russia. Consider this, for example: iafrica.com | world news | ‘Pussy Riot’ verdict slammed

“The United States is concerned about both the verdict and the disproportionate sentences… and the negative impact on freedom of expression in Russia,” said State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland.

“We urge Russian authorities to review this case and ensure that the right to freedom of expression is upheld.”

Amnesty International, a formerly-respected human rights organisation, really went over the top when it urged its members to send protest letters to Russia with the following wording:

Amnesty International has declared these women to be prisoners of conscience, for they are detained solely for the peaceful expression of their beliefs. Therefore I respectfully urge you to immediately and unconditionally release Maria Alekhina, Ekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova. Furthermore, I call on you to immediately and impartially investigate threats received by the family members and lawyers of the three women and, if necessary, ensure their protection. Whether or not the women were involved in the performance in the cathedral, freedom of expression is a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and no one should be jailed for the peaceful exercise of this right.

You just have to Google for “Pussy Riot” and “freedom of expression” or “freedom of speech” to see how widespread this was. The Western consensus, among politicians, the media, and celebrities, at least, is that Pussy Riot did nothing wrong, they were simply exercising their right to “freedom of expression”.

And it’s all sanctimonious, hypocritical twaddle.

The Western media would be better advised to be concerned with their own freedom of speech, because many of them were too chicken to even mention the name of the band. How’s that for freedom of expression?

P*ssy cat, P*ssy cat, where have you been?
I’ve been to London to visit the Queen
P*ssy cat, P*ssy cat, what saw you there?
I saw a little mouse under a chair.

We see what we want to see, and in this case the little mouse seen by the Western media and celebrities is called “freedom of expression.”

Let’s imagine that the boot was on the other foot, and that a punk collective like Pussy Riot stormed into the studio of a broadcasting group like the BBC or CNN or Sky News, and took over, replacing the scheduled broadcast with such a song.

They would, of course, not be arrested, or even asked to leave, because they would simply be exercising their right to freedom of expression.

And if they marched into a newspaper printing works, stopped the presses, took off the plate for the front plage of the next edition, and substituted one of their own, they would simply be exercising their freedom of  expression in terms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And the same would apply, of course, if they hacked the web site of an online edition of any news organisation. Go ahead and do that, if you like, because the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that you have the right to freedom of expression.

Or what if a group like Pussy Riot stormed into the B ritish Houses of Parliament, ot the US Capitol in Washington, and performed such a song there? Of course we know that the United States would be so concerned to uphold their right to freedom of expression that they would never be arrested, much less charged with an offence. The Western politicians who have spoken so sanctimoniously about the right to freedom of expression would never do anything so wicked as to restrict the freedom of expression of anyone who entered the hallowed debating chambers and expressed themselves as freely as the members of Pussy Riot did in the Moscow Cathedral, would they? Of course they wouldn’t. They are not like the wicked wicked Russians. They uphold freedom of speech.

And as far as Wikileaks is concerned…

… Pretoria is best, of course, at jacaranda time.

____________

Some other blog posts on this topic:

15 Comments leave one →
  1. 20 August 2012 3:23 am

    Why fuss (or puss) when they obviously did what they deserve in accord with their own time and society. Speech is free but everyone has to paid, don’t we?

  2. Bill Everett permalink
    20 August 2012 12:14 pm

    Two wrongs don’t make a right. First (perhaps) wrong: Western media (and Amnesty International) criticism of the Pussy Riot sentence. Second (perhaps) wrong: your criticism of their criticism.

    In describing what Pussy Riot did, you could strive for objectivity and accuracy. For example, in your 9 August blog post, you wrote: “five girls wearing brightly colored balaclavas stormed into Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral.” All reports I have seen indicate that they entered the building openly, peacefully, and calmly. They were wearing ordinary winter clothing. They were not wearing brightly colored balaclavas.

    In contrast to what you offered above as an analogous example in a western country (“stormed into the studio of a broadcasting group like the BBC or CNN or Sky News, and took over, replacing the scheduled broadcast with such a song”), Pussy Riot took over nothing and replaced nothing. I don’t know if it is relevant that the broadcasting studios you refer to are private property. Where Pussy Riot performed on 21 February is a cultural monument owned by the government of the City of Moscow and was open to the public when the girls peacefully entered. All reports I have seen indicated that there were only six or seven other people in that large chamber including a janitor and concessionaires selling candles and souvenirs.

    I am not trying to defend Western media coverage, which I often find ill-informed and presumptuous. Even less am I trying to defend Pussy Riot, whose antics I find ridiculous and offensive. I only seek an objective basis for understanding what seems to be a significant event in Russia, as much as I can.

  3. Rangjan permalink
    20 August 2012 1:25 pm

    I understand that not only did Pussy Riot not storm into the cathedral, but they did not interupt or replace an existing service in the cathedral. They were found guilty of “hooliganism” suggesting that their acts were somehow irrational and mindless. On the other hand they were making a clear political statement. So the empasis on the “crude” medium/message that they used is a way to belittle or undermine the statement they were making.

  4. Daniel LIeuwen permalink
    20 August 2012 5:28 pm

    Ah, but don’t you realize that for the secularist, freedom of religion is trumped by almost anything else? They aren’t necessarily hypocrites. They have a hierarchy. And religious believers are practically non-persons in it.

  5. 21 August 2012 8:24 pm

    And this too is worth reading On Pilgrimage: Two days with Patrirach Kirill before he was patrirach

  6. 24 August 2012 6:18 am

    You can find more about

  7. 24 August 2012 6:35 am

    Bill Everett: you can read more about “Orthodox atheists” here Theological education — Albania | Khanya, but I was not referring to those, but rather to people like the editor of the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate. Perhaps the Russian “Orthodox atheists” also overlap with the “Orthodox Bolsheviks” mentioned here Notes from underground: Evidence that demands a verdict?. That refers to those who moved straight from the KGB into Orthodoxy and tried to apply KGB methods to impose Orthodoxy as a new form of political correctness.

  8. Chris Rowe permalink
    26 August 2012 5:56 pm

    Those who are for pussy whatever clearly do not understand individual liberty. Hypocritical picking and choosing some rights and ignoring others seems to be the case here. May I ask. Can I go to a secular meeting and religiously demonstrate on there property? Clearly not.

Trackbacks

  1. Saturday Link Encyclopedia and Self-Promotion « Clarissa's Blog
  2. The Hypocrisy Of the West and Pussy Riot » Dystopia Earth

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