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Will Hollywood Riot for Pussy Riot?

Posted By Ben Shapiro On August 21, 2012 @ 12:40 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 38 Comments

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?

In fact, where are they even with regard to Russia? It’s easy enough to “raise awareness” by raking in cash in Moscow for Madonna – and her Pussy Riot gear just gives her credibility as a rebel. But why didn’t she cancel her concert, as so many artists have with regard to non-human rights violator Israel? Why didn’t she demand a meeting with Putin’s government? Why don’t these other artists try to set up meetings with Putin? Why don’t they tell their record labels to stop marketing their materials in Russia? Why don’t they put their money where their mouths are?

It’s easy enough to play at rebellion when there’s nothing at stake. Madonna has done this song and dance before – in France, she drove controversy by plastering a swastika on Marine Le Pen’s forehead; in Israel, she used Hitler imagery. Neither country was going to do anything about it. Even in Russia, the chances of the government touching her were slim to none.

But what if Madonna had actually tried to do something substantive rather than shocking? What if she’d stood up to Putin in a real way?

Not a chance.

These celebrities only use their political might in Western nations, where the risks are far less extreme. If they boycott Israel, they lose little money – Israel’s a small country. If they protest the United States, there’s no shot they’ll land in prison. But if they take on the Muslim world, they could find themselves awaiting a blasphemy sentence; if they cut themselves off from the Russian market, they’ll lose millions of dollars. Their concern for human rights, it appears, only extends as far as their next paycheck.

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