The video speaks for itself. I have a soft spot for Pussy Riot. I don’t really know how young Russians see them or their recent 2 year jail term, but anyone with an authentic punk sensibility is generally ok in my book.
Plenty of articles have documented their story as their trial came to an apex this week. You can catch up on the facts in this story from the Financial Times.
If you want to survey their work including the offending video, there is a pretty good inventory of their audio and video releases and public protests here. I actually like the song a bit btter in their music video that protests the Russian version of their 1% - the super rich. These guys have been a consistent thorn in the side of the establishment for some time. Whether they are true anarchists or merely against the abuses of power and the current political leadership isn’t clear. Anarchism is a dead-end street from my POV. Protesting the man is often necessary. So I like them but am admittedly naïve to all that they stand for and how actual Russians see them. Visit their Live Journal site to follow their story including the single they released upon hearing the verdict.
My appreciation for them was sealed in this quote from the FT article:
“She (Shayba) counted 11 band members, with names like Balaklava, Cat, Seraph, Terminator and Blondie but said: “There is no fixed number, entrance is not limited – in principle anyone can join.”
Another band member, Garadzha, said musical ability was not a limiting factor in potential recruits. “You don’t have to sing very well. It’s punk. You just scream a lot,” she told daily newspaper Moskovkie Novosti.”
I mean, that’s so Sex Pistols.
But a 2-year jail term for their actions is just wrong as much as it was inevitable. Even though rational, real-politik-ians, would be right in saying “what did you expect would happen”, we can all be outraged at the thought of three young, creative women sitting in jail for a performance.
How to Support Pussy Riot
Amnesty International wants us to donate money such that they can send a “truckload of balacalvas” to Putin’s office. Really? This isn’t Capitol Hill. And this isn’t 1989. I cannot think of what could matter less than a truckload of ski masks at the Kremlin. All due respect to Amnesty International but this just seems like a waste.
There are plenty of other protest actions happening (or that have happened). Some say they collect money for a defense fund. But now that these women are in jail, how can we really help if we really care?
Idea Bar #14 - No, Really. How to Support Pussy Riot
These guys are artists. They aim their art at their view of justice. Rather than vain attempts to use Western advocacy tactics, what would help them the most? No direct pressure will get them out of jail. It’s likely that their sentence could be commuted but from what I read about the Russian justice system, I wouldn’t count on it.
I see two possible strategies that may help them. One is the protest approach, the other is the support-their-work approach. Maybe they can be combined.
Lets raise money for a giant bribe to present to the Russian prison administration to release them. I don’t know the Russian prison system to be a corrupt entity. Certainly, there is an reputation for corruption in some parts of the legal system. But this is just a ploy to keep them in the news. Since Pussy Riot blasts the President Putin leadership and its unhealthy connections with religious, business and justice leadership, lets just go there. (If I have just insulted the Russian legal system, I am sorry. Feel free to pile on about the defects or weaknesses of US culture and politics. I mean it's election season here and there is plenty to find fault in)
Through Kickstarter, we can establish a goal of $300,000. At $100K per Pussy Rioter that’s both within reason (the most money raised via Kickstarter was $3.3M for The Double Fine game). It is the Pussy Riot Prison Bribe Fund. Unlike most corrupt transactions, this one is open to the public. Complete transparency. We all see the number go up as we donate our $100. The plans for delivering it to prison authorities are documented online.
Will it get them out of prison? No. It’s a protest. Then where does the money go?
They get out in two years (hopefully less). Lets make them independent artists but underwriting their work. Now, it’s entirely possible that the Madonna’s of the world already plan to offer material support. I can just see the press photos now. But these women are serious. Their track record of protests makes that clear. Lets give them the means to be creative on their own terms.
The Kickstarter fund will actually be a “Prison Bribe or Rebuild the Band Fund.” When the bribe is not accepted, which it won't be, the effort now goes into building the band a nest egg to help their family’s get by (at least one of them, Nadya Tolokonnikova, has a 4-year old daughter) and most importantly, gives them money to expand the practice of their art.