Henry Rollins: The Column! When It Comes to Cracking Down On Protests, Are We Any Better Than Russia?
[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Saturday KCRW broadcast.]
See also: Who Is Pussy Riot, and Why Do So Many Western Musicians Care?
I have been thinking a lot about the three members of the band Pussy Riot and the two year jail sentence imposed upon them for their action at the Cathedral in Moscow in February. The women are likely to get two years in a prison camp for what seems to be nothing more than public disturbance; their formal charge was "hooliganism." Makes you remember the great Bill Hicks routine.
From what I have read about how and where they perform their music, I have nothing but admiration for them. Intruding upon a religious ceremony to stage an action would never be something I would want to do, but their boldness in Putin's Russia is incredibly brave. It probably had less to do with where they staged the action and more their content.
What did the members of the band think was coming their way when they chose to tread on the tiger's tail by calling out Russian president and ex-KGB ghoul Vladimir Putin? I imagine the members of Pussy Riot are anything but stupid and knew full well how Mr. Putin plays. The great Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya has a book, A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya, which contains the kind of journalism that gets you killed on the job. Ms. Politkovskaya was critical of Putin and put it in print. In October of 2006, she was shot and killed in the elevator of the apartment building she lived in. At this time the case is unsolved, but it should be obvious that Putin doesn't like to be called out.
Those who think Putin should have stepped in and pardoned the members of Pussy Riot or had their sentences lightened don't know Russia. Giving the three women a break would be seen by many in Russia as a sign of weakness. He can't afford such a slip.
Basically, I can't believe that the members of Pussy Riot didn't know what they were up against and what the outcome could be. I don't know if that makes them stupid or Mujahideen tough. I read some postings at the bottom of articles on the case and was surprised at the amount of people who stated that they wished the sentences the women received were much longer. At the time of this writing, two other members of the band have escaped Russia and have not publicly disclosed their locations.
I imagine that at the end of their incarceration, the band could re-unite and, if it were possible, get out of Russia and have some success in the world. I reckon the European festival circuit would welcome them as well as some of the higher end American multi-day gatherings. Since their arrest weeks ago, Pussy Riot have become the poster children for protest and defiance all over the world.