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The Truth and Beauty about the Pussy Riot

26 September 2012

Summary: The Pussy Riot episode revealed much about Russia, and the coverage in the western media shows its fraudulent nature. Today we have an excerpt from Truth & Beauty that explains both.

Today we have an excerpt from the September 14 issue of Truth & Beauty, by Eric Kraus and Alexander Teddy. They shine the clear light of common sense on Russia, cutting through the fog of misinformation emitted by the western news media. This is “Through Western Eyes – Russia in the Media”, about the Pussy Riot girls — what this episode tells us about Russia, and about the western news media. Reprinted with their generous permission.

Pussy Riot in custody

Contents

  1. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  2. Blunder in the Cathedral
  3. Reporters Storm the Cathedral
  4. Political Implications: Vladimir Vladimirovich says “Thank You, Pμssies!”
  5. About the author
  6. About Truth & Beauty
  7. For More Information about Russia

(1) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Nothing better illustrates the craven hypocrisy of Western coverage than the recent Pμssy Riot (PR) story; while it has received many hundreds of times the coverage it deserved, we cannot quite ignore it, given the indignant yelping of the tame Western media, as well as the truly extraordinary volume of political spin generated.

As an aside (and our personal feelings are here quite irrelevant) T&B feels sorry for them, as we feel sorry for almost anyone confined to a prison – from Bernie Madoff (with his medieval 150-year sentence for simple fraud) to the incarcerated PR provocateurs – but we feel sorry precisely as we would for someone who went looking for a gas-leak with a lighted match… it was not going to end at all well.

As is so often the case, what is interesting is not what it tells us about Russia (it is hardly a revelation that Russia remains a deeply conservative society, where the Church plays a role far greater than in secular Western Europe) but what it tells us about the West.

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Whether or not it may please the Western media, there are things one simply does not do in Russia. There are acts that one could probably get away with in Stockholm or Amsterdam, but which would have the direst consequences if performed in Moscow, Beijing, Riyadh or Bogota. The post-modern society of modern-day Scandinavia does not represent a “universal human aspiration” – it is a particular cultural variant, perhaps entirely appropriate to those societies that have adopted it, but it certainly is not viewed as a necessary or even a desirable social evolution by the citizens of numerous other countries. Indeed, Anglo-Saxon Political correctness has become a frankly totalitarian philosophy, arrogating the right to condemn any society that sees the world through a more traditional lens.

In any event, this is a strictly Russian problem – we would strongly suspect that the man in the street in New York or Stockholm would give nary a tinker’s damn for what Russians think of his particular social model… if only they could understand that the reciprocal also applies.

(2) Blunder in the Cathedral

To review what actually occurred, five members of Pμssy Riot (PR), an offshoot of the anarchist, (pseudo)-punk political collective Voina (headed by Pyotr Verzilov, husband of PR’s Nedezhda Tolokonnikova) invaded Moscow’s Cathedral – Christ the Saviour – wearing baklavas and brightly coloured provocative dresses, rushing to the front of the Cathedral, where they performed an obscene pantomime, kicking up their legs and shouting obscenities while several cameras rolled. No actual song was sung – the “music” was added post-production, with offensive scatological lyrics.

The performers were quickly removed from the cathedral by security, and three identified members were arrested over the following weeks, held in preventative detention for five months, tried for “acts of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”, and while apparently cleared of the “religious hatred” charge, sentenced to two years in a penal colony (a softer version of imprisonment, with the possibility of outside employment and home-leave at weekends) for “hooliganism” as defined in the Russian penal code.

While the Western press has been careful to try to create a “nice, spunky girl-next-door” image for the Pμssies, they have carefully avoided reporting upon their previous public acts – which would clearly nauseate the great majority of Western readers: these included filming a group sex with full penetration in a public museum (with one of the participants nine months pregnant) apparently to protest the selection of Dmitry Medvedev for President. Subsequently, a member of the group was videoed inserting an entire stolen chicken into that orifice which subsequently gave the “Punk Band” its name, again purportedly as an act of “political protest” (sic); the videos of these performances were proudly posted on the Internet by Voina.

What possible relevance any of these pornographic stunts had to the political issues they wished to protest is not self-evident; what they do demonstrate is the total alienation of the authors from the mainstream of Russian society – as well as a degree of cultural/political tone-deafness surpassing anything that we have witness by an already desperately-clumsy Russian opposition.

We do NOT recommend opening the enclosed links – certainly not on a full stomach. Nevertheless, for those readers who might doubt our version or who wish to learn more about these (deeply diseased) individuals, Voina has kindly posted links to their previous “artistic-political endeavours” – which we provide for your delectation.

Neither of the previous stunts received any criminal sanction (despite both being clearly illegal under Russian obscenity statutes) and one comes away with the impression that Voina was left just enough rope to hang themselves – indeed, if prior to the Cathedral stunt the hypothetical question had been posed as to where they could create the greatest possible outrage, along with maximal media coverage, one might have guessed the Christ the Saviour Cathedral. If this was indeed their intention, then they succeeded – apparently beyond their wildest expectations.

(3) Reporters Storm the Cathedral

Anyone not in a coma or immured in a cave will be aware of the media frenzy surrounding Pμssy Riot – ironically, on the same day that they were sentenced to two years in a penal colony, 42 striking miners were shot down in South Africa, while a Texas school teacher – the mother of three young children – was condemned to five years in prison for having had sex with several of her pupils, none of whom were minors at the time. Needless to say, neither of these stories received onehundredth the media coverage of PR.

The PR story had all the elements necessary for a media circus – three sexually-attractive young females, anti-Putin protests, a postmodern subtext, human interest (two of them were mothers of young children) – all in all, it seemed a wonderful stick with which to bait Putin. Coverage was by necessity highly selective – to have openly discussed their previous antics (see footnotes) would have quickly converted sympathy to disgust, so these were glossed over.

Along with their ugly history, PR was neither a band (they have neither recorded a song nor done a tour; official criteria for membership involve the ability to scream, certainly not to sing), nor punks (punks are quintessentially apolitical). The press was equally parsimonious with other inconvenient truths – Vladimir Putin almost certainly had nothing to do with their prosecution, having learned of it in the press, and that, while initially the Russian populace was fairly indifferent, as public awareness of the details of the case increased, the opinion polls showed an overwhelming majority in favour of truly draconian punishment.

At the climax of the circus, an ex-Beatle and a superannuated rock-star generated some free publicity by calling for the immediate release of PR, while the editorialists apparently launched a competition for the most ludicrously inaccurate portrayal of the whole affaire.

While personally, T&B hoped that the Pμssies would get off with a reprimand and time spent in pre-trial detention, our view was clearly in the minority – opinion polls showed that Russians were overwhelmingly in favour of a tougher sentence, with only a very small minority wishing to see them freed outright. While issues of criminal justice are not decided by opinion polls, neither are they to be influenced by foreign rock-stars and bent journalists.

(4) Political Implications: Vladimir Vladimirovichshould say “Thank You, Pμssies!”

Had the Russian administration deliberately sought for a means to trip up and discredit the political opposition, we very much doubt whether they could have dreamt up anything as devastatingly effective as the PR Cathedral stunt. In fact, the means to discredit the opposition was handed them on a platter. The collapse of the USSR and the havoc and misery of the 1990s left Russians with precious little confidence in their institutions – to put it mildly, neither the press, the presidency, the courts, the legislative branch, the army nor the police force are universally admired – certainly none of them can compare with the widespread veneration of the Orthodox Church.

Whether the reader believes that the modern Russian Church deserves such respect is neither here nor there – Russia has no history of separation of secular and temporal power – no Guelphs versus Ghibellines, certainly no Canosa. Whatever the Yeltsin-era constitution may say, an alignment of Church and State are taken more or less for granted. Russia remains a deeply conservative society, and with the Marxist ideology discredited with the collapse of Soviet Communism, from the 1990s the Church has personified the return to deeply held Russian values and traditions, as well as a turning away from the internationalist rhetoric of the Soviets towards a more nationalistic, Slavic tradition.

Therefore, from a purely political standpoint, for a renegade pack of Muscovite “alternatives” to attack the Church was an act of political idiocy rarely if ever matched in recent history. PR assured itself the support of that tiny fraction of post-modern Russian society that already hated the Putin administration, while earning the contempt of a substantial majority of the population. To gratuitously antagonise the populace you hope to liberate is insane, and can only suggest that they were so totally cut off from the mainstream of Russian society as to somehow imagine that their performance would discredit the Church, not themselves.

Much more significantly, PR/Voina left the already weak and fragmented opposition in a truly parlous position: having to chose between condemning the Cathedral invasion along with the variously obscene Voina stunts – which would simply antagonize their own desperately narrow electorates – or failing to condemn them, and thus being tarred with the same brush. Mostly they stumbled, issuing weak and contradictory statements, attempting to simultaneously distance themselves from the provocations and from the prosecution. To the Russian everyman, this “wet” response made them look like supporters of sacrilege and sexual depravity – never a good base for the construction of political parties.

PR has succeeded in unifying Russia as no one since Ivan III. Communist Party Chief Gennady Zyuganov has come out with a statement strongly supporting the Orthodox Church. The Russian Jewish Federation supported the government, saying that it would have worked out far worse for them had they tried their stunt in a synagogue. Creating unity in Russia has always been a huge challenge, and they came as close as anyone else, though perhaps not in the direction they had hoped for.

Not surprisingly, a number of our liberal Russian friends and correspondents – many of whom have been highly critical of the Putin government – have recently sent us messages of support or even contrition. For the second time (the first being Russia’s repulse of the Georgian attack on South Ossetia) they are confronted with an unambiguous illustration of the dishonesty, hypocrisy and Russophobia of the Western press, the handmaidens of their governments engaged in an age-old geopolitical competition. It is hardly surprising that most Russians ultimately choose to side with the interests of their own country – not with those of its rivals. Welcome home!

© Eric Kraus

(5) About the author

Eric Kraus is a French expatriate living in Russia. He’s worked in several investment-related capacities for investment banking firms. He started publishing Truth and Beauty in 1997.

Please join Eric Kraus and Alexander Teddy at the Truth & Beauty website, where you will find back issues, articles of interest, and some lively debate. Readers are encouraged to contribute their views, or suggest articles or research to post.

(6) About Truth & Beauty

Truth & Beauty was born 14 years ago on the eve of the Great Russian post-Soviet Financial Meltdown – which, in fact, marked the beginning of the Russian Resurrection under President Vladimir Putin.

Seeing the need to counter the widespread disinformation in the Western Media, and to guide investors interested in accessing what were to prove to be the world’s best-performing bond and equity markets, Eric Kraus and collaborators rode out against the windmills – bent oligarchs, hypocritical neocons, and lazy journalists. Today, we continue to do battle with those who would intentionally mislead Western perceptions of the complex and ever changing Russian reality.

Since 1997, T&B has endeavoured to shine the clear light of common sense on the irregular world of Russian finance, geopolitics, sociology and night-life – which fascinate and frustrate to equal degrees. Of course, as Russia has gradually normalized and integrated with the global economy, local markets are increasingly moved by the global macroeconomic context – to which we now give far greater attention.

With this website, T&B seeks to encourage not only a greater readership, but also to develop greater intellectual debate on both Russia and the wider macro environment.

(7) For More Information

(a) Other posts with excerpts from Eric Kraus’ Truth and Beauty:

  1. Truth and Beauty: on the collapse of the world’s other monetary zone, 28 July 2008
  2. Big changes loom before us; why are they invisible to most experts?, 29 July 2008
  3. Rumors of financial war: Russia vs. US, 22 September 2008
  4. The evil of socialism approaches!, 22 October 2008
  5. A free lesson from Russia: how to manage a banking crisis, 6 February 2009
  6. A different perspective on the US and China, seen by an Frenchman living in Russia, 23 March 2009
  7. A view of the world from Russia, 30 May 2010
  8. Something obvious about today’s world that’s seldom mentioned by our journalists, 21 April 2011

(b) About Russia:

  1. More news about Russia’s demographic collapse, 6 June 2008
  2. Rumors of financial war: Russia vs. US, 22 September 2008
  3. Before we reignite the cold war, what happened in Georgia?, 12 December 2008
  4. More weekend reading; information you want to have!, 23 December 2008 — Russia as the last man standing in a region of demographic collapse.
  5. A free lesson from Russia: how to manage a banking crisis, 6 February 2009
  6. How the Soviet Menace was over-hyped – and what we can learn from this, 13 October 2009
  7. Is America fighting the tide of history? Are we like the Czars in the 19th century?, 29 July 2010

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. 26 September 2012 1:36 am

    During the Cold War when the US would ignore stuff that “our bastards” were doing, it was relatively easy to make the greater good argument. The crux of it went something like this, “Sure Diem might be evil, but he’s holding back the Red Tide for us. We tolerate his human rights violations out of cold self-interest, so we don’t end up in a Soviet dominated world.” On the other hand, stuff that “their bastards” were doing was trumpeted. “See this is why we have to stop the commies in Vietnam, Korea, etc. Otherwise you’ll wake up one day and they’ll be doing it to you!”

    Nowadays, though, the hypocrisy just seems to be operating on auto-pilot. For example, in Honduras, recently, there was the murder of a human rights attorney: “Slain Honduran human rights lawyer complained of death threats before killing“, Associated Press, 24 September 2012.

    Notice the context. There’s an investigation. They aren’t sure who’s responsible. They’re waiting for the authorities to come to a conclusion. The US is helping with the investigation. Etc. Here’s an article from the same paper about Pussy Riot: “Pussy Riot members should continue their mission even if freed“, Washington Post, 14 September 2012

    Now, it is true that one is an editorial and one is a news story. However, I did search for an editorial on Trejo Cabrera in the Washington Post and I didn’t find one yet. That doesn’t mean there won’t be one. Even if there is though, he’s never going to be as important to the Western media as the silly women of Pussy Riot.

    The coverage I’ve read of Pussy Riot seems to treat it as, “The greatest injustice in history!” The coverage of Trejo, except for a few Left leaning advocacy sites, has been altogether more muted.

    Now, partly that was because he was doing boring legal gruntwork for poor people, while Pussy Riot were making an obscene spectacle of themselves (and I mean, I’m not attacking them, that has always been their collective goal). The thing of it is the proportion. Trejo was an effective force for good in Honduras. He was one of these doomed, saintly people who you find in all sorts of dictatorships fighting the good fight with the regime and being killed for it.

    Pussy Riot seem to be dime store versions of Lady Gaga (though more obscene, and less musically talented) who got a slap on the wrist for something very few Americans would tolerate in, say, St. Patrick’s Cathedral for a microsecond. They intended to get arrested. Maybe they seriously thought they might be tortured or killed but… it doesn’t seem like it, does it?

    • Bluestocking permalink
      1 October 2012 3:55 pm

      Frankly, I’m not surprised at all…why would anyone be? it’s hardly a secret to any intelligent, perceptive, and/or particularly well-informed individual that the US excels at ignoring human rights violations in any country that is 1) an ally (even if it is at best an uneasy one) and/or 2) a third-world and/or poverty-stricken country which has no resources we particularly need. There are numerous examples of this, the Sudan being just one.

      Russia does not really fit either of the aforementioned criteria which typically encourage us to turn a blind eye. It was not so long ago, after all — well within my memory, certainly — that the US considered Russia the “Evil Empire” and Enemy Number One. Even now, despite the fact that the Cold War has been in a state of prolonged cease-fire for more than two decades, Russia is not really our friend — they continue to oppose and obstruct us often enough (which in itself may not altogether be a bad thing) to keep that from happening. Russia is also not a third world country, and it is certainly not one which has no resources we need. Actually, were it not for the fact that Russia remains one of the world’s most formidable military powers (second only to us) and lies in close proximity to another of the world’s most formidable military powers (China, which is third), the possibility cannot be ruled out that the US would have at least contemplated attacking Russia by this time — for that matter, there may be people in DC as we speak who have contemplated and/or are contemplating such an attack despite the fact that any victory which we might achieve (providing we could in fact hope to achieve one) would almost certainly be Pyrrhic.

  2. 30 September 2012 10:49 pm

    Squeaky From. The Tate murders. Manson. Now that was shocking. PR is bush league. No one beats Team America when it comes to cultural depravity.

  3. david jones permalink
    1 October 2012 3:32 am

    well, that was eye-opening . . . but where are the baklavas [section 2 paragraph 1]?

  4. Noah Malmstadt permalink
    21 October 2012 7:28 am

    Dude; punk is not “quintessentially apolitical”. The Dead Kennedys recorded “California Über Alles”; the Clash dedicated an entire album to “Sandinista!”; let’s not get started with Crass or Bad Religion or hell even the Minutemen.

    Christ. Who in hell thinks punk is apolitical?! Even the Ramones, the most quintessentially apolitical of punk bands, recorded “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg”.

    • 21 October 2012 3:54 pm

      Thanks to all of you who introduce discussions about art into the comments! It’s something beyond my ken, so you’re filling a large hole in the perspective shown here!

      I read these with interest, but have little to say (unless someone wants superficial comments about the politics of Katy Perry’s songs).

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