prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Jailhouse Rock: Pussy Riot Found Guilty

Posted by prof e on August 18, 2012

In case you haven’t heard, members of the punk rock band Pussy Riot have been sentenced to two years in prison for, “hooliganism driven by religious hatred.” The trial and sentencing of the three Russian women has attracted attention and outrage from around the world. Amnesty International and other supporters of free speech and human rights have declared them “prisoners of conscience.” According to USA Today,

The three were arrested in March after a guerrilla performance in Moscow’s main cathedral, high-kicking and dancing while singing a “punk prayer” pleading the Virgin Mary to save Russia from Vladimir Putin.

Several celebrities have spoken out in support of Pussy Riot. Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion, as well as Paul McCartney and Madonna have expressed support for the rights of the performers. Russia does not have the same level of protection for speech that we appreciate.  Thanks to the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution, US citizens have much more freedom to speak our minds than do most other citizens of the world.

But we also want to be careful that free speech rights do not infringe on the rights of others. Hate speech is one of those sensitive areas where, even in America, free speech sometimes has to take a back seat. But who gets to decide that a specific act of speech crosses the line into hate speech and, in so doing, forfeits the rights of the speaker to protection under the law? That’s a question that many are asking in light of this sentence.

Update Aug 20: In an unusual twist, Madonna is being sued for over $10M by concert goers who “were offended by her support for gay rights during a recent concert in St. Petersburg.” See more here.

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7 Responses to “Jailhouse Rock: Pussy Riot Found Guilty”

  1. MT said

    I’ve been noticing more and more tabloid topics similar to this floating about U.S. media. I almost never read them because there are more interesting stories about the state of our own democracy to read, especially for issues related to threats to the First Amendment and pertaining to recent legislation attempts and supreme court rulings i.e, SOPA, PIPA, Citizens United, NDAA, etc; however, I do find that stories about political strife in Russia are of special interest to our own government, perhaps even encouraged by our government for coverage by our established corporate and so called “credible” media agencies. The U.S. is heavily engaged in attempts to stimulate popular uprisings in many states throughout the world. Similarly, Real Politic agendas and overt attempts by covert agencies within multiple competitor nation states are being promulgated surrep’titiously via social media with such an overwhelming frequency that the conspiracy nuts are on full alert. Planted stories by operatives seeking to promote coup attempts are everywhere these days, pushed by the elite intelligence agencies of several countries, but identifying them is rather precarious. Big things are happening via proxy war tactics and media disinformation campaigns, but academics can’t be bothered to speak publicly for fear of potentially losing a government job or pension. Sorry to be cryptic, that probably flew straight over some heads.

    This Pussy Riot case is rather lame, especially as it feeds a particular narrative that noisy Liberal celebrities who are always creating media hype over social issues –now– in OTHER countries just can’t help but to stir the pot for their own gain. Notice how the so-called Liberal Class hasn’t had much to say publicly here at home about all of the recent threats to our own First Amendment “privileges”, not to mention other constitutional issues, but the tabloid media is rife with stories about Liberal celebs speaking about injustices outside this country. The truth is that speaking out about scandals in America is taboo and actively omitted from our media discourse, except in the underground media.

    What a joke. I can just see some Conservative a-hole pointing his finger in condemnation of weirdos like Madonna, neither of whom have any legitimate gripe with each other but are encouraged to think divisively, which feeds this ever pervasive right vs left dichotomy here at home that intentionally keeps people distracted from the looting perpetrated by our own leaders. Meanwhile, we get to keep fooling ourselves that the state of the American Republic and its own Democratic institutions AREN’T rotting like a fish from the head down.

  2. Francesca Morrone said

    I believe that this article can go either way, honestly. I can see society’s point of view: There is a line, and they might have crossed it. Since Russia doesnt have as “Free of speech” as us Americans do, i can see where they might get out of hand. On the contrary, i do believe STRONGLY in expressing your individualism however you want to. The band members point of view it what i am leaning towards. Not just because Macca and Madge are showing their support either. I feel that if you don’t like someones way of expressing themselves, then dont zero in on it. Simple as that. I know thats how i feel about when i speak freely. Because most of the time people won’t like everything i have to say, but hey, i didn’t ask for there opinion so if they dont like it they can get out. Anyways, this relates to our class discussion because Prof e, (you) talked about how Paul McCartney and Madonna support the band. With that being said, that ties in with Media Hegemony, because once you see people as prominant in media as those two, the rhetoric kicks it and makes you sort of lean on that side of the argument.

  3. This article just goes to show how lucky we are to have the freedom that we have in the United States. The first amendment is something that we’re fortunate to have, enabling us to speak our minds and voice our opinions. Countries such as Russia aren’t as fortunate and suffer the consequences when speaking about such sensitive topics. I do feel as if the sentencing was harsh considering the felony, although the felony is a lot more serious in a country where expressing your individualism isn’t looked upon as a positive. The reason for the sentencing was said to be “hooliganism driven by religious hatred.” After reading the lyrics I don’t understand how this would fall under religious hatred, Their lyrics basically state their opinion’s on Vladamir Putin and how they view him as dictator and his ability to silence those who rebel. Freedom of speech is something that should be valued and not taken for granted. I believe that one should be able to voice their opinion, to an extent. There’s such a thing as going too far, but in this instants I feel like the consequences were over the top. However, Russia isn’t the U.S. So who am I to say whether or not their statements were over the top. Russia’s government prevents a lot of the right’s that we in the U.S. have. So the severity of this topic is not taken lightly considering the lyrics were directed towards a major political leader in their country.

  4. Russ Tebaldi said

    Ive been hearing about this in one of my other mass comm classes for a few weeks now. I think when a lot of people read about this they forget that not ever country is like our own. You cant just lash out at governments like that and not expect someone to come knocking at your door. I think its great that certain celebrities have stood up and expressed their opinions about how Pussy Riot hasnt crossed a line, however, that wont change anything soon. In my opinion i think this is some form of a government using social media to make a point. A point that proves like i already stated that you cant just go bashing your government when you don’t live under one that gives you the first amendment. Not everyone is as lucky as we are to have the freedom that we do.

  5. Who is ultimately legally responsible?
    Lying and cursing are different issues, punishable by different fines.
    Juliet Lee, author of the post Nudity, Fleeting Expletives, and Lies, has discussed the court decisions that concern the Federal Communications Commission as it relates its position on obscenity through law cases.
    The federal government does not get to regulate content, but the FCC regulatory agency established to set and enforce moral standards, official fees and costs, still must be responsible for its decisions before the court.
    In recent 1st Amendment cases before the courts that reflect the court’s position on obscenities, Lee notes in her National Communication Association website’s October article, US justices have sided with the FCC and its regulations, but she provides examples of recent motions that support the expansion of 1st Amendment definitions.
    Public content providers like Fox and ABC want more clarity from the FCC, so they will not be surprised by after-the-fact crackdowns on uncontrolled live content.
    Obscenities leaving the mouths of celebrities during live coverage television, or what may or may not be considered graphic examples of nudity have been 1st Amendment cases before the supreme courts.
    What about photos of graphic violence posted by the LA Times? Asked specifically by the military to not publish those photos, the LA Times decided it was of the public interest.
    Whose interest is being catered to when considering the interest ‘of the public’? The FCC doesn’t regulate newspapers for content, because it is not responsible for their licenses. The FCC cannot be concerned regarding that content, but can the Navy sue the LA Times for publishing obscenity? Its lawsuit would most likely not involve obscenity, but the 1st Amendment rights of the paper and the public interest.
    Who is ultimately responsible for indecent content? In the Prf.e. blog post entitled Jailhouse Rock: Pussy Riot Found Guilty, the boundaries of what is considered indecent are discussed in light of a Russian perspective. A link through the blog post leads readers to a current thread indicating that Madonna supported the act during a performance in Russia. She, her tour managers, the building ownership where she performed, all are being sued by a group of young legal entrapanuers, who will stretch the Russian legal authority to make a decision.
    Where are the lines between church and state, obscenity and legal fees, between regulations and punishments? These issues are before the courts right now, who have ruled the FCC must specify what it believes to be obscene.
    Who is ultimately legally responsible?

  6. Jeff Clawson said

    This defiantly makes you think about the rights we have in the United States. If they would have been in the U.S. and they would have had a prayer to save everyone from Obama would it have been taken to this same level? I think it is safe to say no. If they were in the U.S. what rights do you think were violated was it the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, or both?

  7. Sarah Nako said

    Music is one of the more expressive and freer forms of mass media, and has been the center of controversy numerous times at many points in history. Arguably, the popular musicians of our country sing about much worse and shallower things than Pussy Riot did, who were trying to make a political statement (although in a unconventional and disruptive way). However, their government felt that what they were doing was detrimental to country. We have not talked about it in class yet, but the relationship between mass media and government is very intertwined and complicated. It is important as media consumers to know how the government regulates the media and when it is overstepping its power in doing so.

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