The Stupidity of the West's Criticism of the 'Pussy Riot' Trial and Anti-Putinism

Benedict By Benedict, 31st Jul 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/2q_zmqa6/
Posted in Wikinut>News>Politics

Western condemnation of the Russian trial of three Pussy Riot members, a self-described feminist punk-rock band, underscores how political correctness and hypocrisy rule criticism of Putin's Russia. Far from defending human rights, critics actually ignore the far greater legal injustices prevalent in the West, especially the EU.

If You Want to Make a Point, Cause Offence...

The well-known saga started in February 2012. Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samutsevitch entered the clergy-only Altar area of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow to perform an offensive punk-rock song incorporating a parody of a Russian Christian prayer laced with profanity.

The altered lyrics included praying to Theotokos, the Orthodox name for the Virgin Mary, to 'chase Putin out'. Another part of the song included calling the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church a 'bitch'. Most controversially, the 'Sanctus Hymn' became 'shit, shit, shit of Lord God'.

Now arrested, all three women face lengthy jail sentences for 'hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility'. In the West, such a charge is more commonly referred to along the lines of 'inciting racial or religious hatred'.

Amnesty International is but one of the many sections of society, Russian and international, to oppose the trial. Regardless, such attacks on the Russian legal system gloss over the severe responses of the West in dealing with offensive speech in particular.

Indulging in Hypocrisy

Ignorantly, the biggest detractors of Putin cast the three women on trial as 'victims'. The overarching problem with this is that they conveniently forget the way individuals are now regularly jailed in the West for merely saying offensive things, much less doing them.

Given its size and political clout in Europe, the United Kingdom provides an excellent case study. It is also, might I add, on the 'softer' scale for prosecuting someone for their speech, as evidenced in its refusal to extradite Holocaust denier David Irving to places such as Germany and Austria. Yet this does not stop its legal system from routinely pursuing those who fall afoul of restrictive, even draconian, limitations on free speech.

The example of Liam Stacey, a 21-year-old Welsh university student jailed for 56 days (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-17515992) for his offensive tweets about the near-death experience of Fabrice Muamba is remarkable (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-17434587). For those of you who do not follow British football, let alone the rather mediocre Bolton Wanderers, Fabrice Muamba was the 23-year-old African player who suffered a cardiac arrest mid-game against Tottenham in their FA Cup tie. 'Dead' for some time, he recovered remarkably in hospital. Though the tweets were not only offensive but in the poorest taste, to imprison Stacey for his words is manifestly excessive when we consider the rather lenient sentences (at least in a moral sense) often handed out across the United Kingdom for actual physical violence. Most first-time offenders, which I believe Stacey was, would have a very hard time being sent to jail at all for, say, breaking someone's front teeth in a fistfight, or even glassing someone. Most importantly, this episode highlights the extreme hypocrisy of those in the EU fiercely attacking Russia for its handling of the Pussy Riot affair. If jailing Stacey is appropriate, how is a group of women deliberately intruding upon and trespassing in the most sacred Church in Russian Orthodoxy not deserving of a similar or greater punishment? The act was clearly designed to cause offence, even more so than Stacey's tweets. It was intended to insult and mock a religious group's traditions and its freedom to worship in peace. However disgusting they were to civilised and respectful minds, Stacey's tweets were just some of millions poured out across cyberspace everyday. To pass over Pussy Riot's intolerance, whatever legitimate cause motivated their actions, but incarcerate this British man is beyond the pale.

Regrettably, the Western world continues to sing one tune while dancing to another. It has moved to the point where a group claiming to represent a particular viewpoint such as feminism or one that simply one targets a government loathed by the 'Free World' will automatically receive intense moral and political support. Nonetheless, similar or identical actions (or in most cases, speech) perpetrated in the West but not under a 'political banner' receive legal sanction and frequently sentences of imprisonment. The irony is stifling.

Those convicted of racial or religious abuse in-person face even more stringent penalties. Another Briton, Jacqueline Woodhouse, 42, received an astounding 21-week sentence for a drunken racial tirade she made on the Central Line Tube network (http://uk.news.yahoo.com/woman-jailed-racist-abuse-tube-train-113407769.html). To cop a punishment of nearly six months, even as a second-time offender as I believe Woodhouse was, surpasses the point of lunacy, bearing in mind that permanently disfiguring someone in a savage assault could attract a comparable or lesser reprimand. To reiterate, the point here is by no means to condone her words, readily available on YouTube in all their bigoted ignorance. It is to illustrate that our conceptions of offence are horribly skewed in the way we interpret them domestically as opposed to the disgust we readily unleash on legal systems abroad.

Using the British context, how would many people react if a group of human rights protestors stormed into a mosque and sang Muse's Uprising in the building's prayer hall to campaign for religious freedom in the Middle East? Christians and apostates are regularly persecuted and even murdered in places such as Saudi Arabia yet supporting such a cause would not save them from criminal prosecution. This makes the Pussy Riot uproar all the more illogical.

Only words, such as 'Britain/the world would be more peaceful without Islam', could land most people in a Western European court. So, tell me please, how should marching up to a priests-only area of a Church, where Christ resides more than anywhere else, be an act without criminal repercussions in Russia? I am still waiting for a thoughtful answer to that!

Inasmuch as I disagree with most (though not all) prosecutions of so-called "hate speech" and associated laws in the first place, the crux of my message is still applicable to those who argue for criminally punishing it. If a standard is applied - and supported - in the West, for the sake of consistency and fairness it should be expected that similar standards will condition our responses to what occurs in other countries. Unfortunately, this does not happen. General revulsion of or unfavourable attitudes towards Russian politics by the Western public make an objective assessment of the Pussy Riot trial almost impossible. Therein lies the biggest impediment to removing the double standard.

Simplistic as it is, the appropriate phrase for the West in dealing with Russia is, "Those in glass houses should not throw stones."

Tags

Hypocrisy, Political Correctness, Pussy Riot, Putin, Putinism, Russia, Vladimir Putin

Meet the author

author avatar Benedict
I'm an unconventional young man with a predilection for saying and doing what I feel.

I seek adventure and abhor most forms of political correctness.

I crave travel, debate politics and love life.

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Comments

author avatar Robb714
1st Aug 2012 (#)

You go B! Just when I was thinking of expatriating the grand ole USA, your article gives me hope because I say a lot of things and thank God everyday that I have the First Amendment right to do so! You need to post more articles because you rock, by the way!

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author avatar Simone
3rd Aug 2012 (#)

Good article.
I'm British, and I agree that the Liam Stacey and Jacqueline Woodhouse sentences were ridiculous. To be fair though, the Stacey sentence was not justified even by the sentencing guidelines. In other words, the judge decided to ignore the sentencing guidelines. Blame the judge and his unjust and politically motivated sentence.

If he had followed the guidelines, Liam Stacey would have had a fine or community service at most.

In the Jacqueline Woodhouse case, the judge decided that she had been making "threats" whereas, in context, they were hollow threats. Not real threats. No sensible person would regard her words as threatening.

British judges have far too much power, and far too much opportunity to hand down politically motivated. There needs to be far greater control of the judiciary.

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author avatar Benedict
3rd Aug 2012 (#)

Simone, the problem is with the legislators for the most part. The Parliament controls both 'proactive' legislation (new initiatives, many of which are alarmingly Orwellian) and 'reactive' legislation (many examples, such as the need to restrict a perceived vigilanteism of judges contrary to accepted guidelines or even laws).

Though the EU legal supremacy makes things more complicated, generally speaking all these laws in the UK are determined by Parliament's supremacy over the executive and judiciary.

The Parliament is responsible as it holds the leash for determining in what context judges decide on cases and punish people. The judiciary applies the law but all the tools are given by legislation.

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