Like a Pussy Rioter: Madonna’s support for free speech is good news

“I’m against censorship … my whole career I’ve always promoted freedom of expression, freedom of speech, so obviously I think what’s happening to them is unfair. And I hope … they do not have to serve seven years in jail - that would be a tragedy.”

So spoke Madonna Louise Ciccone (AKA superstar pop singer Madonna), referring to the Pussy Riot case ahead of her concert in Moscow tonight. Good for her, I say.

I’m not, I have to admit, a fan of Madonna’s music (she has plenty, she doesn’t need me). My favourite Madonna-related song is “Into The Groove(y)”, an excellent Madonna reworking by Sonic Youth and their noise-rock mates (yep, that’s the way I hang, musically).

But still - these words of support from a musical titan like Madonna are important (just like those from Jarvis Cocker, Sting, Johnny Marr, Pete Townsend, Kate Nash, Peter Gabriel, Alex Kapranos, Tobi Vail, Martha Wainwright, The Joy Formidable, Neil Tennant, Cornershop, Micachu and a mounting number of others. Keep ‘em coming ….). (Meanwhile, Amnesty's text campaign on the case is building substantial support - please add your own voice if you haven't yet done so).

It’s genuinely important, I think, this solidarity amongst artists. And there’s been another kind of solidarity on display in the Pussy Riot case - solidarity amongst prisoners of conscience. Russia’s best-known POC Mikhail Khodorkovsky has also been offering his support - from jail - to the Pussy Riot trio. He was actually tried at the very same courtroom two years ago and he’s described what it’s like to be in that glassed-in defendants’ box (the “aquarium”) currently holding Maria Alekhina, Ekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova:

“In the summer you feel like a tropical fish in that glass cage -  it is hot and the air from the air conditioner in the courtroom does not circulate through the glass … I cannot even imagine how all three of those poor girls manage to fit in there all at once.”

Khodorkovsky also speaks about the “dry food” rations of inedible noodles and porridge, the long sweat-raddled journeys through Moscow’s notorious traffic jams and the repeated all-body searches - and how all this will be taking a physical and mental toll on the three women. Add to this the apparently intimidatory use of large dogs by the police inside and outside the courtroom, and you have a picture of justice being enacted in a way that can only humiliate and degrade these still-innocent defendants.

The way the authorities are treating Alekhina, Samutsevich and Tolokonnikova is actually typical in Russia. It’s what thousands of people in the country’s pre-trial detention system go through. These three are getting the same regime; call it a harsh kind of democracy, if you will.

Meanwhile the trial, in all its politically-motivated, utter wrongheadedness is winding to a close. The prosecutors are demanding a jail term of three years for the women. As I’ve said before, there is simply no way these three people - armed with guitars or not - should be on trial for their stunt. Yes it was offensive to some (Pussy Riot’s own lawyer Mark Feigin says he’s a “religious person” who was “insulted by their act”) but it was not a crime. As Madonna says, this is question of being able to voice a view without going to prison for it.

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2 comments

I also welcome Madonna's statement on this matter. However it was a pity recently that she decided to open her world tour in Israel and when she did have a chance to mention the issue of Palestine failed to mention present issues which the Palestinians' are facing but instead resorted to a brief proclamation centred around world peace :

"I chose to start my world tour in Israel for a very specific and important reason. As you know, the Middle East and all the conflicts that have been occurring here for thousands of years - they have to stop," she said to cheers.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/05/31/uk-madonna-tour-idUKBRE84U1GD20120531

In fact some fans couldn't make the concert due to the separation wall :

http://972mag.com/watch-palestinians-going-to-madonna-concert-stopped-by-the-wall/47276/

Also her no doubt well intentioned move of giving out free tickets to peace activists. However a number were refused, possibly due to cultural boycott issues surrounding Israel.

Why be so explicit concerning Pussy Riot and the Russian authorities but so vague for Palestinians and the Israeli authorities ?

Daveyboy 5 years ago

Thanks for the comment Daveyboy.
I don't know the details of the Israel concert - I was just commenting on her Pussy Riot stuff in Moscow.
If she was, as you say, lukewarm about Palestinian human rights I guess it wouldn't be the first time that an artist was in some way inconsistent about these kinds of things.
Anyway, as regards the Pussy Riot case, I think her intervention has definitely been helpful and I hear that it made the issue just about the biggest talking point on the streets of Moscow this week.
Anyway, lt's see what happens with the verdict.
N.

NiluccioStaff 5 years ago