Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Where Rock is Criminal, Criminals Rock

Joshua Foust:

In Russia, Pussy Riot's newfound Western fans are taking a serious issue (Russia's degrading political freedoms and civil liberties) and turning it into a celebration of feminist punk music and art. Feminist punk music and art are great, but they are not the solutions to this particular problem, and pretending that they are takes attention away from more worthwhile efforts. Pussy Riot might have made punk music, but they got themselves imprisoned for an act of political dissent. Their unjust imprisonment doesn't necessarily make anything done in their name -- or, particularly, in the name of their punk music -- a step forward for Russian political rights.

...Pussy Riot are part of a larger movement within Russia to demand political freedom, one that Putin's regime thugs are literally, physically beating back. American celebrities are right to be outraged about Pussy Riot's treatment, but it's a shame that so few seem to have investigated what happens to the activists who aren't Western media darlings for their all-women punk bands with sexually suggestive names. Rather than the Pussy Riot trial catalyzing a broader Western awareness of Russian authoritarian backsliding or even a popular movement to pressure Moscow to loosen its restrictions, it seems to have inspired little more in the West than outrage about how sad it is for some punk rockers to go to jail for a silly little church concert.

Yeah, Pussy Riot's okay, but he's supporting less-mainstream Russian activists now. They're pretty obscure; you probably haven't heard of them.

Not that he's wrong—most of the writing in the blogosphere about this case is useless. The authenticity-envy of so many American smartphone-revolutionaries is embarrassingly palpable in their naked desire to vicariously experience punk rock as something other than a safe career choice. (Personally, I prefer vintage Chris Bowers when it comes to vapid morons who think dabbling in revolutionary politics makes for an impressive CV, if you're into ironically appreciating that sort of thing, but I digress.) But let's not pretend that feminist punks and Free Tibet stickers are distracting serious people from practicing the "awareness" and "attention" that would, uh, somehow cause democratic upheaval in authoritarian states.