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A Few Words About Pussy Riot

A Few Words About Pussy Riot

I’ve never heard their music.  It doesn’t matter.

There is nothing more odious, nothing creepier, nothing more outrageous than the jailing of people whose only crime were in thought, writing and expression.  It is the cornerstone of a free society–which Russia is clearly not–that all people have the right to express their views, and that right, contrary to some so-called anti-“hate speech” activists, is exactly the right to express an unpopular view.  As Rosa Luxemburg once said, “Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.”

This was a trial that took place as live streaming was barred from the courtroom and the defendants faced a 1% chance of acquittal against a transparently political charge of “hooliganism” against the regime.  Putin’s Russia is not unlike the Russia of his KGB youth when he could bully opposition into submission with threats of violence and imprisonment.  It is clear to anyone paying attention that Putin is a thug, a criminal, a fascist, a liar, and a thief.  The mere fact that he continues to strangle Russia with his barbaric klepto-theocracy is a testament to the failure of the world to end such shenanigans once and for all, and of freedom to assert itself in the face of tyranny.

What’s even more outrageous about the harsh sentence of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” is the pretext for their condemnation, the so-called hatred of that entrenched, easily offended and all too powerful Russian Orthodox Church.  Clearly the “blasphemy” of Pussy Riot is the true crime here, and why not?  History has shown us that any time a church has any power in society it uses its power to imprison the conscience of others, with “blasphemy” the catch-all crime that rolls political and religious opposition into one offense.  How scary for the Russians that their leadership is under the so-called moral authority of a fascist dictatorship that uses its monopoly on the truth to bully free thinking opponents?

And how outrageous that 20 years after the fall of communism, the same creeping statism continues to infect and destroy individual liberty in Russia, to the point where not a peep of support for Pussy Riot has been heard from their fellow musicians whose own survival depends on keeping quiet and complacent.  Well, they just lost their rights today, too.

Amnesty International considers Pussy Riot prisoners of conscience, and they are correct.  It doesn’t matter what sort of “hatred” they preach (even if it is a justified hatred against a corrupt theocracy)…if a band is being put in jail because of what they sing about, the world has suffered a devastating blow to freedom.

August 17, 2012Comments are DisabledRead More
Russia, Georgia and the Dirty War

Russia, Georgia and the Dirty War

Picture this.  A powerful, tested military power invades a small, militarily weak country with strong diplomatic ties to the Western powers, including the United States, Britain and France.  The invasion of this small country prompts an international outrage.

What’s next?  For World War II purists, the stage has just been set for a massive international conflict.  I know the Russians would revile at even considering a strategic likeness to the Great Dictator, but in essence, there is a parallel.  And that parallel does not lead down the right path.

What is most ironic, of course, is that the Russians claim that the Georgians themselves have perpetrated acts of genocide against the South Ossetians.  This claim has yet to be independently verified, but even if the Georgians don’t take kindly to the people of one of their two breakaway regions, most Georgians, no doubt, are completely ignorant of any sort of “ethnic cleansing” that occurs there.  If any such atrocities are occurring, most Georgians are innocent of the matter.

Unfortunately, the PR war that Russia is waging has been lost.  There is no way they can continue to hammer this poor country into submission without drawing criticism and, eventually, sanctions.  What is doubly ironic is that their war is being criticized most strongly as an overextension of military force by the country who has most exercised its own military force in recent times–the United States.  Not only that, but the country the United States has most recently beat down on–the country whose people did nothing wrong and whose leader could have been removed diplomatically through UN negotiations–and the country whose acts of genocide should have been punished when they occurred, in the early 90’s and not 12 years later–was, until recently, hosting 2,000 Georgian soldiers who were sent their to strengthen ties with the United States.

It seems that Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, had calculated everything.  Which is why it is so strange that he would order a military deployment into South Ossetia, when he knew it would provoke Russian ire.  But that’s a story for another day.

What is outrageous is the degree to which the Russians have been bombing–and invading–sovereign Georgian territory outside South Ossetia.  Most recently, over 60 civilians were killed in Gori, and bombings have been reported outside Tbilisi and in the port cities as well.  This is all part of Russia’s plan to weaken a military that could not be weakened any more.  For a country that receives it oil, electricity and internet from Russia, it seems to be doing pretty well for itself considering.

Parallels have been drawn to the 2006 Israel war with Lebanon.  But whereas the Israelis had declared war against a subnational terrorist group, Hezbollah, the Russians have clearly staked out to defeat the sovereign nation of Georgia.  The Lebanese were right to be angry, however, and the anger in Georgians today toward the Russians is at par with the anger of these Lebanese two summers ago.

Such anger is not going to go away when the last bombs fall.  On the contrary, it will brew, beneath the service, until open conflict erupts again.  It was inevitable in the rise and fall of international politics, just like it was sixty years ago and thirty years before that.  I just hope the United States intervenes before it’s too late for Georgia and its people.

August 12, 2008Comments are DisabledRead More