The Null Device
Where punk still means something: There's a piece in the Observer about the trials and tribulations of Russian punk-rock protest group Pussy Riot, a sort of hybrid of Plastic People Of The Universe-style rock'n'roll absurdism with the semiotics and feminist ideology of riot-grrl and a touch of Situationism, who took on the Putin regime, and (in being crucified by it) may yet bring it low:
Russia's leaders have always understood the potency of the visual imagery of power. Of hammers and sickles. Of nuclear warheads and a well-muscled man doing manly, bare-chested outdoor pursuits. And, in the latest instance: of five young women in brightly coloured balaclavas jumping up and down in the symbolic heart of the Russian state: Red Square.
Miriam Elder, the Guardian's Moscow correspondent, who has covered the case assiduously, met a group of them shortly afterwards, one of the very few journalists to have interviewed them. "They were just very determined. Very purposeful. Everybody was so angry at that time. But what came across was just how educated they were. How well thought out their ideas were. They quoted everybody from Simone de Beauvoir to the Ramones. It wasn't just a silly prank. There was a real message behind it."The members of the Pussy Riot collective are anonymous, covering their faces and going by noms de guerre. Nonetheless, three members were arrested after invading a Russian Orthodox cathedral and playing a song calling for Putin to be dismissed, a gesture which was deliberately calculated to highlight the complicity of the Church with the Putin-era state in attempting to reassert absolute control over Russian society:
"More than this, though, is how the church has started to act as if it is the propaganda wing of the government. Before the election, Patriarch Kirill said that it was 'un-Christian' to demonstrate. And then he said that Putin had been placed at the head of the government 'by God'. No one was talking about this before. And now everybody is."The state has moved to make an example of the Pussy Riot Three; they have been detained incommunicado pending a trial, and face up to seven years in prison. Though public opinion, both within Russia and in the outside world, has moved against the state. Amnesty International, ignoring the tradition of religious privilege to take offence, has also designated the three to be prisoners of conscience.