This has been an interesting summer for news: the pro Chik-fil-A vs. anti Chik-fil-A war of words, two mass shootings, and now making the news is the trial of Russian punk, feminist, band/performance art troupe– Pussy Riot. I’ll have to admit, it was amusing and entertaining to hear serious journalists like Amy Goodman of Democracy Now say the words Pussy Riot over and over again. On Friday, the Pussy Riot trial came to an end with the verdict of the band being found guilty of “hooliganism” and a “hate crime” and sentenced to two years in a “labor camp.” In case you didn’t know, the trial is the result of Pussy Riot disrupting a church service and playing their song “Prayer For Putin.” The most fucked up element of the situation is that they were charged with a “hate crime.”
Hate crime legislation is absolute bullshit. A hate crime is a thought crime. It’s a matter of punishing someone’s motivation and adding a more ghastly label onto an already illegal act. Whether someone is killed because of the color of his or her skin or if someone is killed over five bucks, both victims are equally dead. At that point, the motivation for murder becomes a moot point. It’s not as if a different motivation would change the outcome in either case.
The other bullshit thing about hate crime legislation is that it is not unilaterally applied. If a bunch of psycho-ass rednecks tie a Black man to the back of a truck and drag him for a country mile, they are charged with a hate crime. If a couple of gang-bangers beat down a White kid for being the wrong color, in the wrong part of town, and at the wrong time of night, would they be charged with a hate crime? I doubt it. Laws that are not unilaterally enforced are unjust, bullshit laws, which is one of my major issues with the war on drugs, but that’s another issue for another day. Right now, I’m still talking about Pussy Riot and free speech.
So if Pussy Riot had staged their impromptu to disruption/ protest/ performance in a super-market instead of a church they would not have been smacked with “hate-crime” charges. What if they felt hatred towards the super-market. Ah-ha, now we reach the crux and bullshit of the matter: a religious institution has protected status, and a super-market does not.
To be honest I really don’t understand why the Pussy Riot story has been making waves. Let’s see, three Russian women in neon colored ski-masks disrupt a church service with performance art as a protest against Vladimir Putin. Isn’t this the type of shit that is usually relegated to a blurb in the news of the weird as opposed to head line,/cover-story content? As this chapter of the Pussy Riot saga comes to a close, I can’t help but feel grateful that I live in a country that has a First Amendment that protects artists and the rights of dissident voices, well some of the time.
I have a long memory, and I’m always doing a compare and contrast with all sorts of things, so when I found out about the Pussy Riot verdict, I started thinking about obscenity trials of musicians right here in America in the past: I thought about the obscenity trials of Jello Biafra and the Dead Kennedys, Luther Campbell and the 2 Live Crew, and Wendy O’ Williams and the Plasmatics. The aforementioned cases are really more dissimilar to Pussy Riot than they are similar, due to a few crucial factors: Along with all of the aforementioned plaintiffs being acquitted, in the cases of the Dead Kennedys, the Plasmatics, and 2 Live Crew, they faced obscenity charges because of the content of their albums or concerts that their fans bought or went to of their own free will.
Pussy Riot essentially forced their art on an unsuspecting audience; they aren’t entirely innocent. If they were living under a democracy, instead of an authoritarian state, they probably would have been charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct, which usually amounts to just a fine. In the case of Pussy Riot, the amount of time they were sentenced to does not match the severity of their action. I think the verdict is bullshit, but is it an injustice?, maybe a minor injustice, but not a major one. If the members of Pussy Riot fell into a time portal and were magically transported back to old Soviet Russia, what type of punishment would they face for pulling their little stunt? (a lot more than two years) What would have happened if they had staged their protest/performance in a mosque in Saudi Arabia? They would have probably been put to death.
I find it hard to get worked up over Pussy Riot. You won’t see me in a free Pussy Riot shirt anytime soon. I don’t view them as some type of righteous martyrs, regardless of what Madonna or the Red Hot Chili Peppers say. I do not view the group in the same light as people like Nelson Mandela or the Dali, fucking, Lama. As I follow this story, I simply shrug my shoulders and move on. But I must admit, those neon ski-masks look cool as fuck.