Always willing to explore the contrarian position, Brendan O’Neill explains why Pussy Riot’s legal issues have gotten so much attention in the west:
Pussy Riot’s closing statements in their trial for blasphemy confirmed that they have not only inherited the original punk movement’s thrashing guitars and in-yer-face sensibility; they have also effusively embraced its art-school snobbishness.
Punk, in its original incarnation, was always as much a screech of rage against the “sheeple” as it was a two-fingered salute to the powers-that-be. Think Johnny Rotten wailing “They made you a moron!” in the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen”. “Don’t be told what you want / Don’t be told what you need”, sang Rotten, expressing the core belief of punk — that the vast bulk of the masses, effectively everyone except the punks, had been moulded into a moron by the man.
The same snobbish thinking animates Pussy Riot today. In her closing statement, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova bemoaned the “enforced civic passivity of the bulk of the population” in Russia. She said the Russian regime “easily manipulates public opinion” — which sounds like an attack on the regime but it is also a sly salvo against the Russian masses, who must have minds like putty if they can be so easily manipulated. In contrast to this civil slavishness, Pussy Riot are all about “authentic genuineness and simplicity”, said Tolokonnikova.
[. . .]
Now we can see why Pussy Riot are so popular among many liberal opinion-formers here in the West — it is because both share a view of the little people as less culturally sophisticated and more easily forced into conformism than the commenting, bohemian, punkish sets. But of course, making snobbish statements and singing rubbish songs should not be a crime. Pussy Riot should be freed from prison immediately and allowed to continue expressing their loathing of Putin’s regime and their disgust with the Russian masses.