August 11, 2012 – 6:52 pm

If you see it reported in the American press, it must be true. Not so fast, says Mike Whitney.

In March 2012, three women from the feminist punk-rock band Pussy Riot were arrested and charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility” for staging an unauthorised and profane performance at Moscow’s Christ the Saviour church.

The women who were arrested - Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samutsevitch - claim that their action was not intended to ridicule the church or poke fun at religious believers, but to draw attention to political repression under Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We did not want to offend anybody… Our motives were exclusively political,” said Tolokonnikova.

The trial of the three girls is now underway in Moscow where a verdict is expected any day. The prosecution is asking for a three-year sentence in a minimum security prison.

The trial has attracted worldwide attention and a number of celebrities, including Sting, Madonna and Danny Devito, have spoken out on the defendants’ behalf. Here’s an except from an article in Reuters which appeared on Tuesday morning:

“Pop singer Madonna urged Russia on Monday not to jail three women from the punk band Pussy Riot for staging a protest in a church, while jailed former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky likened their trial to a medieval inquisition.” (Reuters)

Interestingly, Khodorkovsky’s opinions have been inserted into a great many of the articles that have been written about the incident, which suggests that the media’s coverage is part a larger agenda to discredit Putin. Keep in mind that “In October 2003, Khodorkovsky was arrested, flown to Moscow and charged with various counts of fraud of tax evasion.” And in May, 2005 “judges found Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev guilty of six charges including tax evasion and sentence them to nine years in prison each.” (BBC) The idea that a calculating oligarch like Khodorkovsky is an innocent victim of a political witch hunt is spurious nonsense propagated by the western media. Putin summed it up best when he said, “A thief should sit in jail.”

So, what’s really going on here? Why would Reuters use a quote from Khodorkovsky, a convicted criminal, in a headline defending a punk-rock band? (“Jailed Russian tycoon says Pussy Riot trial “medieval”: Reuters).

Imagine if BP’s Tony Hayward had been thrown in the slammer for polluting the Gulf of Mexico. Would that make him an expert on the US justice system? Would Reuters then consult Hayward on matters concerning civil rights violations? Can you see how stupid this is?

It only makes sense if the media is engaged in some larger, covert strategy to attack Putin. And I would say - after reading 30 or more articles about the incident at Moscow’s Christ the Saviour church - that that is exactly what’s happening. This isn’t about Pussy Riot and their run-in with the law, nor is about feminism or freedom of speech. It’s all political maneuvering to make Putin look bad. That’s all there is to it.

Just take a look at Google News. As of Monday night, there were 2,453 articles about Pussy Riot, every one of them singing the praises of the courageous girls who took on Vladimir the Terrible and exposed themselves to seven years of jail time. That’s the basic storyline with virtually no exceptions. Over and over again, the same tedious theme; “Pussy good, Putin bad”.

Now wouldn’t you think that in a country as fanatically religious as the United States, that at least one or two of the journalists would defend the position of the church or find fault in what the girls did?

Of course, they would, but I didn’t find any articles like that, which is why the coverage doesn’t pass the smell test.

So, let’s do a little thought-experiment and dig a little deeper into this matter. Let’s say an all-girl punk-rock band stormed into St Patrick’s Cathedral or a major Jewish synagogue in downtown Manhattan and commandeered the altar so they could execute a raucous and blasphemous performance that derides believers as well as Barack Obama. Do you think the media would be as supportive as they have with Pussy Riot?

Of course not. The whole idea is absurd, right? So, what’s the difference here?

Putin, that’s the difference. The media is after Putin.

And - another thing - do you think the girls would have been escorted out as considerately as they were in Moscow or do you think that they would have been tasered, pepper-sprayed, bludgeoned and dragged off in chains by a small army of New York’s finest?

Everyone knows the answer to that. They’d probably all still be in the hospital today. You don’t mess with NYPD!

The media has been ganging up on Putin for some time now, ever since he challenged the idea that the world should be controlled by “one center of authority” (in a speech in Munich in February 2007). The bigwigs in Washington don’t like that kind of talk. It upsets them.

The media doesn’t like to point out civil liberties violations at home. They’d rather point the finger at someone else. That’s why there are nearly 2,500 articles defending poor, abused Pussy Riot and not a word about Bradley Manning, Julien Assange or the thousands of Occupy protesters who were gassed, pummeled and incarcerated during the protests last year.

These people’s musings don’t appear in the headlines either - like civil rights champion, Khodorkovsky - because they’re not rich and powerful and don’t have a propaganda service to defend themselves. They’re invisible.

By the way, have you heard the news that Pussy Riot’s three rising stars were scuttled off to a remote island penitentiary where they were waterboarded, kept awake for weeks at a time listening to AC/DC at full-volume, stripped naked in a freezing 6 x 8 cell, force-fed through a plastic tube that was pushed up their noses without an anesthetic, and forced to crouch in a kneeling position for 12 hours at a stretch? Did you hear about that?

Of course, you didn’t. Because the “tyrannical” Putin doesn’t torture the people he’s arrested. Only the US treats its prisoners like that, which is another reason the media has this whole Pussy story backwards. They should be reporting on the appalling treatment of prisoners in US custody, not casting stones at Putin.

And that goes double for the legal proceedings.

What would possess US journalists to criticize Moscow’s so called “show trial” when Gitmo terror suspects get no trial at all? Have you thought about that? In fact, they have no rights at all; no right to appear before a judge, no right to a jury of their peers, no right to prove their innocence. Zero freedom in the “land of the free”.

But the insightful journalists covering the Pussy trial don’t feel like that’s worth mentioning even by way of comparison. Doesn’t that strike you as a bit odd?

Now get a load of this clip from Spencer Ackerman at Foreign Policy magazine:

“Pussy Riot is - to borrow the Clash’s mantle for a second - the only band that matters.

It almost doesn’t matter what the court says. The three women of Pussy Riot - an explosive, obnoxious cross between a band and an anonymous Russian dissidents’ movement - have, in an important sense, already won their farce of a trial in Moscow. Every day that their trial for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” continues, they call international attention to the paranoid repression of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.”

(The)… three women haven’t just shamed Putin and indicted his gangsterism, but have redeemed the aspirations of a global protest culture.” (“Making Punk a Threat Again”, Spencer Ackerman, Foreign Policy)

Hooray for Pussy Riot! Boo for Vladimir Putin!

Have you ever read such rubbish in your life? Pussy Riot is not Martin Luther King. (Sorry to break the news, Spence.) They are “useful fools” in a scheme to sling mud at Putin.

Did you know that Putin is probably the most popular political leader in the world today? It’s true. He just won a landslide victory in the presidential election capturing a full 63.6 per cent of vote, more than any American president in recent history. And - unlike elections in the US - the ballots were not tallied on corporate-owned voting machines whose proprietary code eschews any public investigation of the results.

No, this was a real election, where flesh-and-blood people voted and they actually counted the ballots.

According to Russia Today: “The overall organization of the election process and the monitoring system has received positive feedback from the majority of Russian and international independent observers.”

Of course, the US media claims the voting was rigged, but that’s just sour grapes.

The truth is Putin kicked ass. But what does that prove? It proves that the Russian people are either very gullible or that the western media is just spreading more lies. So which is it?

The elections also prove that most Russians don’t share Pussy Riot’s views on Putin. Most people don’t want to “send Putin packing” as the girls said in their so-called “protest prayer”. And that’s understandable, too, because Putin has raised the standard of living for most Russians. He’s reduced poverty, increased literacy, and cut the number of people living in extreme poverty in half.

Life is better under Putin. Not perfect, but better… unless you are an oil oligarch, that is. Then things are pretty grim.

The media has been ganging up on Putin for some time now, ever since he challenged the idea that the world should be controlled by “one center of authority” (in a speech in Munich in February 2007). The bigwigs in Washington don’t like that kind of talk. It upsets them. And they don’t like the way Putin criticizes US foreign policy either. That’s why they’ve dispatched their journalist attack dogs to denounce Putin as a “KGB thug” or an “autocratic despot”, because they want to put him in his place.

What Washington really wants is regime change. They want a Karzai-like stooge to replace Putin so they can get their grubby hands on all that fabulous oil and natural gas. That’s what they really want. Pussy Riot is just another step along that path.

Note: Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion. He can be reached at [email protected] The above article was posted at CounterPunch.

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By Chris Randolph

[On August 8], CounterPunch printed an ignorant defense of the pending imprisonment of Russian female punk band Pussy Riot by economic columnist Mike Whitney. I choose the word “ignorant” carefully; Whitney seems genuinely uninformed about the decades-old Russian punk movement and the Russian social conditions they navigate.

Once upon the time the Left was in favor of free speech, feminism, and confrontational protest, and simultaneously suspicious of authoritarian predatory privatizers, misogynist clerics and prudish censors.

From the many articles and comments like Whitney’s in the (putatively) left of center blogosphere, we learn that the American Left is now quite alright with misogynist religion, censorship, rigged trials and the like just as long as the oppressing government is a foreign policy foil of the United States. This turns so-called progressives into just another group of intellectually dishonest bigots.

The first logically erroneous and morally indefensible position of the Pussy Riot-bashers is the notion that because Vladimir Putin sometimes has decent (and self-interested) foreign policy positions, it should not nor could not be possible to criticize him for any other reason.

Click here for the full article.

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  1. One Response to “THE PUSSY RIOT FLAP”

  2. One can be against Putin and even for feminism (and punk rock) and tell that the Pussy Riot story doesn’t pass the smell test.

    Khodorkovsky (like most wealthy people) has certainly broke some laws in obtaining (and retaining) his wealth; but Putin just as certainly targeted him for his political opposition, and while his imprisonment may have been in accordance with Russian law, there is no doubt that it was unjust.

    Pussy Riot (lime most punk bands) is almost entirely about their own self-glorification and press seeking, and only incidentally about any cause. A punk band in Russia saying they are against Putin is about as original as a rock band in the USA proclaiming their support for Obama. Pretty girls (only the pretty one is actually a member of the band) singing protest music is hardly a novelty.

    The analogy of storming a church to perform a rock concert is entirely apt. Because that’s what happened. The only reason you’d support such an action is if you were against religion (and private property.)

    Stalin fought the Nazis, but it wasn’t for the love of Jews. Putin imprisoned Pussy Riot, but they were not noble creatures either.

    By Aaron on Aug 13, 2012

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