Pussy Riot

24 Aug

The Pussy Riot sentencing sent a chill up my spine and not just because of the echoes of both Stalinism and McCarthyism. It served as a very real reminder that free speech is in jeopardy wherever governments seek to control dissent.

As someone who speaks out against the US government, Obama’s National Defense Authorization Act could technically land me in much greater peril than even Pussy Riot. The characterization of Pussy Riot’s church performance as hate speech is flimsy to the point of being laughable. If pointing out an organization’s hypocrisy and history of exploitation means inciting hatred and is therefore illegal, then virtually any sort of substantive protest is effectively banned. The eerie similarities between the Russian charges and the provisions of the NDAA’s definition of “supporter of terrorism” should not escape anyone.

Let’s be clear though, Pussy Riot is an activist group using performance art as a means of protest. As they themselves admit, if they operated purely as a band and worked within established channels (playing clubs, releasing records), they would not have as great an impact or have become as great a target.

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