Will Hollywood Riot for Pussy Riot?

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Friday in the newly constituted Soviet Union – or rather, Vladimir Putin’s Russia – three members of the aptly-named punk band Pussy Riot found themselves on the wrong end of a two year jail sentence for protesting against President Putin in a church. When protesters showed up to demonstrate their displeasure, Putin promptly arrested dozens of them, too.

What prompted Putin to target the band? It all began when Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Marina Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, took over Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral and took over the stage to blast Putin’s relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church. The judge ruled that the band had “committed an act of hooliganism, a gross violation of public order showing obvious disrespect for society.”

And, for the first time in recent memory, the celebrity community did something right: they stood up to a dictator. Led by Madonna, Paul McCartney and Sting, they called for the release of the band – a band which, by the way, was doing this as a publicity stunt, since they’d never even recorded a full record. Madonna led the way, doing a concert in Moscow with the name of the group emblazoned on her back. McCartney signed a letter stating, “I would like you to know that I very much hope the Russian authorities would support the principle of free speech for all their citizens and not feel that they have to punish you for your protest.” Sting said he found the sentence “appalling” on his website.

The question isn’t why these artists would stand up for Pussy Riot. It’s the right thing to do. No matter what your religious belief system, no matter how you feel about blasphemy in a church, there’s no excuse for jailing political dissidents for exercising the right to free speech.

The question is whether these artists would stand up if Pussy Riot had been a Palestinian women’s band taking over a mosque, and then sentenced to prison time.

Russia’s an easy target. Putin is a macho emblem of brusque disregard for human rights; he’s allied with a Christian religious institution. Both of these descriptors fall square within the left’s target area. But what would happen if Russia were Muslim? Where are Madonna, Sting, and Paul McCartney when women far more silent and far more tortured than the members of Pussy Riot get bullets to the back of the head for dressing inappropriately? Where were these human rights heroes when the US army was protecting such women from oppression in Iraq and Afghanistan?

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  • Leo

    This may be one of the most clueless articles you've ever been exposed to. It is not "free speech"–even in America–to interrupt church services with obscenities. Mr. Shapiro may care little for the rights of Christians not to have their services disrupted by amateur porn stars but I'm glad the Russian government does. Americans like the middle-aged adolescent "Madonna" may impress a boob like Shapiro but not us grown-ups. Putting your chips on this group of lunatics is only making Putin laugh. Pick a different fight.

    • southwood

      Ben Shapiro wants to defend violent movies (as he showed over the Aurora shootings ) and blasphemy of Jesus Christ and religious sensibilities. He's just another clueless liberal.

      • Questions

        Actually, he's just a subpar film critic. You, however, are a repellent authoritiarian. As for "violent movies," they've never caused violence in real life. If they did, the Aurora killers would have included members of the audience, not some armed nut waiting outside the emergency door for his Big Moment.

        You want real violence? Go to any all-black neighborhood in a U.S. city. You'll get your fill — guaranteed. Christopher Nolan isn't the problem.

        • southwood

          And you are a liberal with no true sense of values or you would not utter such nonsense.

          • Questions

            You are a schmuck. I see movies regularly, at least one a week in fact. That's not a poltiical statement; it's an aesthetic one. I doubt you could tell a Coen Brothers movie from a Farrelly Brothers movie if each came up and bit you on the behind.

            I love how self-appointed "culture warriors" label someone a "liberal" whenever they can't defend their position with any real evidence.

          • southwood

            "schmuck" now is it ? The ad hom is usually the sign of the hate filled liberal. As for evidence I have it in my own psyche as to how film can affect me. Which is why I detest them generally and never enter a movie house. Pornographic violence may be your cup of tea but I have standards.

    • mortimer post

      Looks like you're just another supporter of authoritarianism.

      • HadEnough

        If it takes authoritarianism to shut some of these people up, sobeit.

  • Brian

    Good for Putin. Good for Russia. We need a hooligan law here in America..

  • Frances

    Hey Ben. I've always been a fan of yours. But you are wrong on this one. These selfish, silly girls are in the wrong. Two years may be a bit of a long sentence, but i imagine most Russian sentences are a bit long. They'll survive.

    • Threshold

      The problem now is how to deal with their newfound celebrity status once they've been let out. My fear is that they will "exile" themselves in the US where we will be treated to them as never-ending guests on the multitude of loathsome talk shows like The View, Rosie(is she still around?), and the most loathsome and laughable of all, Roseanne!

    • Questions

      So much for due process. Suppose you were sent packing to prison for several years on a dubious charge. Hey, you'll survive. Right?

  • Alex Kovnat

    Better a pussy riot than a boring vagina monologue like we usually get from the academic feminist community.

    • Questions

      Better still are all-chick garage bands such as L7, the Pandoras or the Dum-Dum Girls. God, I'm in love.

  • tagalog

    "It's easy to be a rebel when there's nothing at stake." Truer words were never spoken. In America, we're used to saying it with an opposite slant: "When you ain't got nothin', you got nothin' to lose."

  • Carlos Perera

    I, too, am a regular reader and fan of Ben Shapiro's commentary . . . but I agree with the other commenters here who have pointed out that the right to free speech does not entail taking over _private_ property and desecrating a church. I wonder if he would be quite so tolerant of such behavior if, for instance, a similarly motivated girl band with a nasty name had taken over Temple Emanu-el in New York City to make their point. If that is wrong, then so was the action of Pussy Riot in Moscow. (Incidentally, another Jewish opinion journalist, Ed Koch, has written a very good editorial on this topic, taking the opposite side of Mr. Shapiro.)

    • southwood

      Good old Koch. God bless him. Know where I can view it ?

      • Carlos Perera

        @southwood: I read his column–which is syndicated and appears in several newspapers around the country–on jewishworldreview.com this morning.

        Best regards,
        Carlos Perera

        • southwood

          Thank you, I will check it out.

  • PaulRevereNow

    Why don't these other artists try to set up meetings with Putin? Good point, Ben. I guess they're reluctant to sacrifice for a very worthy cause. And as far as these "selfish, silly girls" go; G-d many times picks unlikely people to further His cause. Go Pussy Riot!

    • southwood

      Go Pussy Riot, straight to jail for a looong time.

  • RAS

    I am not a fan of Putin or Russian justice but I do support vigorously the right to peacefully assemble and worship. To protest the Russian court's judgment on a bunch of hooligans who disrupt a legitimate worship service is foolish. However, it is typical of many of the clueless, narcissist, entertainers of our age. We pay far too much attention to them forgetting that they are merely mimics not particularly endowed with much common sense or intelligence, save their ability to pretend and rake in dough.

  • consp77

    "The fact that Christ the Savior Cathedral had become a significant symbol in the political strategy of our powers that be was already clear to many thinking people when Vladimir Putin’s former [KGB] colleague Kirill Gundyaev took over as head of the Russian Orthodox Church. After this happened, Christ the Savior Cathedral began to be used openly as a flashy setting for the politics of the security services, which are the main source of power [in Russia].

    Why did Putin feel the need to exploit the Orthodox religion and its aesthetics? After all, he could have employed his own, far more secular tools of power—for example, national corporations, or his menacing police system, or his own obedient judiciary system. It may be that the tough, failed policies of Putin’s government, the incident with the submarine Kursk, the bombings of civilians in broad daylight, and other unpleasant moments in his political career forced him to ponder the fact that it was high time to resign; otherwise, the citizens of Russia would help him do this. Apparently, it was then that he felt the need for more convincing, transcendental guarantees of his long tenure at the helm. It was here that the need arose to make use of the aesthetics of the Orthodox religion, historically associated with the heyday of Imperial Russia, where power came not from earthly manifestations such as democratic elections and civil society, but from God Himself.

    How did he succeed in doing this? After all, we still have a secular state, and shouldn’t any intersection of the religious and political spheres be dealt with severely by our vigilant and critically minded society? Here, apparently, the authorities took advantage of a certain deficit of Orthodox aesthetics in Soviet times, when the Orthodox religion had the aura of a lost history, of something crushed and damaged by the Soviet totalitarian regime, and was thus an opposition culture. The authorities decided to appropriate this historical effect of loss and present their new political project to restore Russia’s lost spiritual values, a project which has little to do with a genuine concern for preservation of Russian Orthodoxy’s history and culture.

    It was also fairly logical that the Russian Orthodox Church, which has long had a mystical connection with power, emerged as this project’s principal executor in the media. Moreover, it was also agreed that the Russian Orthodox Church, unlike the Soviet era, when the church opposed, above all, the crudeness of the authorities towards history itself, should also confront all baleful manifestations of contemporary mass culture, with its concept of diversity and tolerance.

    Implementing this thoroughly interesting political project has required considerable quantities of professional lighting and video equipment, air time on national TV channels for hours-long live broadcasts, and numerous background shoots for morally and ethically edifying news stories, where in fact the Patriarch’s well-constructed speeches would be pronounced, helping the faithful make the right political choice during the election campaign, a difficult time for Putin. Moreover, all shooting has to take place continuously; the necessary images must sink into the memory and be constantly updated, to create the impression of something natural, constant and compulsory.

    Our sudden musical appearance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior with the song “Mother of God, Drive Putin Out” violated the integrity of this media image, generated and maintained by the authorities for so long, and revealed its falsity. In our performance we dared, without the Patriarch’s blessing, to combine the visual image of Orthodox culture and protest culture, suggesting to smart people that Orthodox culture belongs not only to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Patriarch and Putin, that it might also take the side of civic rebellion and protest in Russia." http://olenskae.tumblr.com/post/29137327674/yekat

  • http://vnnforum.com DeShawn

    Lets not forget that hollywood is owned by godless khazar jews who pump degenerate filth into all of our communities. So yes, they will protest against putin because their angry that the lying cheating jewish oligarchs who are trying to loot and destroy russia are being stopped by putin. Why is it that you satanic jews cause misery and destruction everywhere you go?

    • not_anti_black

      I agree with the "degenerate filth" part of your statement but I think you let your anti-semitism dilute its power.

      • Questions

        I say that the "degenerate filth" part of the accusation is as contemptible as the anti-Semitic part. Get thee to a multiplex and see "The Bourne Legacy."

    • Zionista

      get back to work washing the toilets of rich Jews you miserable troll!

    • BS77

      DeShawn….poor little sick puppy….truly pitiful, pathetic case…..all you can do is shake your head and sigh.

  • consp77

    I submitted two comments a little while ago, which may have been of unacceptable length, as they were excerpts from first by two Orthodox priests, and then Yekaterina Samutsevich herself. So I will try to summarize:

    While the interruption of the religious services was deeply offensive and immoral to all Orthodox believers, (regardless of whether their intention was to offend or not) their real crime was to protest Putin, who is USING the Church, as many Russian rulers have before him, to consolidate and and aggrandize his political power.

    And, furthermore, Shapiro's main point (which doesn't actually need a whole essay, just like many points don't actually need a whole essay here on Front Page) is a simple question which can be tweeted, and which I retweeted for Shapiro:

    Would #Hollywood defend #PussyRiot if it had been a #Palestinian women’s band taking over a mosque? bit.ly/SfFYOd

    We all already know the answer to that question.

  • Bartimaeus

    "a Palestinian women’s band taking over a mosque, and then sentenced to prison time."
    Sorry but the concept of a Palestinian women's band protesting in a mosque has a certain humorous quality.

  • Ted K

    "It all began" at the church — no it didn't. P-Riot has done these foul stunts for some time including one in which they performed group sex in a museum ("performance art" of course) and stuffing grocery store chicken up a woman's you know what and stealing it. Naturally this is all legitmate "free political speech" since they film the acts adjacent to signs protesting Putin. How long before this technique arrives on our shores? Before Nov 6?

  • Guest

    So you condemn an evil act by encouraging the free expression of another evil act. That is the problem with liberals and libertarians. They simply can't see any act as evil unless it is an act of taking away someone's liberty to do whatever they wish whenever they wish. This is the kind of superficial freedom that has no moral convictions and will lose all freedoms to Islam. You simply cannot stand for what is good. Whenever anyone can do whatever they want whenever and where weever they like chaos ensues. When chaos rules, someone or something will step in to fill the void and force their will upon all others.

    Pussy riot got what they deserved, and I applaud Putin for having the kind of guts that are sorely lacking in the weak kneed west.

    • Max

      Great post, exactly, those exact sentiments you express and explored in remarkable detail at the manhood academy at manhood101-dot-kom

  • Octomil

    This is story without good hero: it is clash between westernized leftist C-Riots and Putin’s old style commie leftist.
    Unfortunately in this case Putin’s side may be at least partially right and thus this idiotic prank at the end serves to Putin.
    Crime is small (better to say offence) And Punishment is big … and being is not a crime.

    But what if such action takes place in some neo-socialist western country (let say GB, Belgium, France … USA) mosque? Would you expect lesser punishment for “islamophobia crime” ?

  • Ron Lewenberg

    The 5 members of Pussy Riot broke into a church, interrupted services, blasphemed all in the name of political protest. Had they done so at a Church in the US to protest opposition to gay marriage, we would all be condeming the libertines. Putin should be protested, but this is categorically not the way to do so. They undermined the very cause they claim to support. As someone who wants to see a freer Russia, I am disgusted both with the leftist activist of the 5 harlots, and the support they get here.

  • Ghostwriter

    What's forgotten here is that what Putin did was so heavy-handed,it was unnecessary. If this happened in America,what would have happened was them being arrested for disturbing the peace or something like that. That would have either have been fined or spent a few weeks in jail. That would have ended the matter right then and there. What Putin did was heavy handed and harsh. It was too excessive and while what that female punk group did might have been wrong,the punishment didn't fit the crime in this case.

  • Soloview

    Just to get a better appreciation of the nastiness of the provocation: the cathedral of Christ the Saviour, which is the largest in Moscow was demolished by Stalin in 1930's and rebuilt in 1990 by Gorbachev as a gesture of national reconciliation. Every Russian knows this ! There is about 5% support in Russia for Pussy Riot; over 60% want them in jail.

  • McMurphy

    Free speech was originally intended to give us the right to criticize the government.

    Free speech ends where private property begins.
    Nobody has the right to say whatever they want inside my house or my place of worship.

    If this band (with a profane name) is allowed to sound off inside of a church,
    then there nothing to stop a bunch of Skinheads from displaying Swastikas at a Bar Mitzveh
    or an NAACP meeting.