Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Kony-ification of Pussy Riot

A great piece by Joshua Foust of the American Security Project on social media slacktivism, Kony and Pussy Riot:
The world wants to help, and that's great. but that effort may actually misunderstand both Russia and its challenges in ways that are not always constructive. Pussy Riot have been turned into a cause célèbre by Western pop culture mavens. Madonna, Paul McCartney, Bjork, even Sting -- who apparently learned his lessons after screwing up in Kazakhstan, where he once sold his services to a dictator -- have publicly issued statements supporting the fem-punkers.
Pussy Riot are being unjustly persecuted (in a free society, they'd have been given a slap on the wrist and a fine, then let go), and that's appropriate and good to protest. But the support movement also carries some uncomfortable echoes of the Kony 2012 campaign and its many less-infamous predecessors, repeating an unfortunate practice of activism for the sake of activism, of enthusiastic support for someone who seems to be doing the right thing without really investigating whether their methods are the best, and privileging the easy and fun over the constructive....
In a real way, Kony 2012 took a serious problem -- warlords escaping justice in Central Africa -- and turned it into an exercise in commercialism, militarism, and Western meddling. Local researchers complained about it, and a number of scholars used it as an opportunity to discuss the dos and don't of constructive activism.
In Russia, Pussy Riot's newfound Western fans are taking a serious issue (Russia's degrading political freedoms and civil liberties) and turning it into a celebration of feminist punk music and art. Feminist punk music and art are great, but they are not the solutions to this particular problem, and pretending that they are takes attention away from more worthwhile efforts. Pussy Riot might have made punk music, but they got themselves imprisoned for an act of political dissent. Their unjust imprisonment doesn't necessarily make anything done in their name -- or, particularly, in the name of their punk music -- a step forward for Russian political rights.

"What does Madonna understand about Russia? Nothing.  What  does Madonna understand about publicity? Everything."
-JB

Meanwhile, my fellow fellow Taru brought up an analogy of Pussy Riot and the Dixie Chicks, and I am running with it.  Where were all you tough-talking rocktivists when the Dixie Chicks were getting pilloried?  Did you offer a note of support when they were getting socially and culturally ostracized?  

No comments: