Social Mood Conference  |  Socionomics Foundation

Robert Folsom | August 7, 2012

“Pussy Riot” strikes me as an exquisitely amusing band name for a group of young, politically-minded, female punk-rock musicians in Russia.

But there’s nothing funny about the fate of the three members of Pussy Riot who’ve been in jail since March, after they tried to stage a political protest inside Moscow’s main cathedral — specifically, a profanity-laced “punk prayer” offered against Vladimir Putin. They were charged with inciting religious hatred and face possible seven-year prison terms.

Their trial began last week and is getting broad international media coverage. Except, that is, in Moscow, according to a New York Times opinion piece by Russian journalist Masha Gessen. She says despite the media’s attention to the case, an important element of the story remains untold: namely, a court proceeding so conspicuously cynical that it defies belief.

“How cynical,” you ask? Well, when the trial was interrupted by a bomb threat, everyone was evacuated from the building except for the three defendants.

If that’s not conspicuously cynical enough, try this:

“The defense was hoping to finally begin calling witnesses, but the court marshals did not allow most of the people on the defense list to enter the building. Then the judge ruled that they would not be called to testify because they were absent. The defense objected; the judge pretended not to hear.”

The socionomic relevance of this story is threefold: First, women rise to prominent roles in a time of negative mood; second, authoritarianism also increases; third and most of all, the battle between authoritarians and anti-authoritarians gets very heated.

What’s more, the Pussy Riot trial doesn’t stand alone. It’s only the most visible example of more than a dozen “show trials” now underway in Moscow, in the wake of several new laws designed to curtail criticism of the government and of government officials.

Learn more by reading Alan Hall’s “Democracy Under Attack” (October 2011) plus his “Authoritarianism” series (April-May 2010), when you subscribe to The Socionomist. You’ll have complete access to the entire archive of past issues.

Andrea Dibben contributed research.

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