Boarding the Pussy Riot bandwagon

Following the past year’s Occupy protests, students countrywide are no longer foreign to social activism. The intention behind the Occupy movement was clear and projected loudly: to expose the oppression of the lower classes that are hurt by tax cuts for the wealthy.

While some protests are more worthy of support than others, supporters often don’t take the time to thoroughly investigate their causes’ backgrounds. Many instantly backed the Kony 2012 movement by Invisible Children, though they had never heard of the crimes committed by Joseph Kony before the movement’s explosion on social media. The lack of insight created great backlash, when Jason Russell, founding member of Invisible Children, was charged with public indecency and intoxication soon after the group’s video went viral.

Organizations like TOMS and Hello Somebody quantify just how our addiction to social activism defines our self-worth. This has become especially apparent for artists and American citizens’ public support for the Russian band Pussy Riot.

Regardless, it is dangerous to lend support without all the facts.

Vadim Nikitin for The New York Times said in a column, “Standing behind Pussy Riot only now, when it is obviously blameless and the government clearly guilty, is pure opportunism.”

Supporters of Pussy Riot claimed they were charged with “hooliganism” for speaking too freely for Russia’s liking. Yet they seem to forget the extreme disrespect of their actions. Many of the Pussy Riot’s supporters would not, as Nikitin points out, encourage one of the member’s participation in a riotous orgy held at a national museum in 2008. Nor would they encourage the burning of police cars by Pussy Riot.

This is the key issue with backing issues outside American citizens’ cultural jurisdiction.

As a country, we have no idea just how culturally disrespectful Pussy Riot’s actions were. We have no right to back their cause or speak out against the Russian government’s actions when we cannot claim intimate knowledge of their cultural and national perspective. This week on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” a former Russian citizen and New York resident called in to speak against Pussy Riot’s actions. To the caller, Pussy Riot’s actions were comparable to having sex in one of New York’s Catholic Parishes during Sunday mass.

American people are addicted to supporting causes that make us feel good. We seldom take the time to look into a cause before supporting it. Our intentions are not to combat social injustices, but to feel warm inside and to feel good about speaking out against what our misperceptions of justice.

True social injustice cannot be fought until we use our influences as the one of the most powerful countries in the world. We must effectively investigate causes before publicly announcing our support. Advocacy groups around the world will lose credibility unless this sheep-like herding ends.

 

Reach the columnist by email at caleb.varoga@asu.edu or on Twitter at @calebvaroga.

 

Read other musicians’ opinions about the Pussy Riot controversy here.