Wednesday, October 31, 2012

For PR, Russian Prison Is Not Quite Holiday On Ice

Since Russian prison warehousing is brutal, it was only a matter of time before Reuters would run this headline, Pussy Riot "risk lives" in Soviet-style prisonsThe freed member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, was interviewed at a small McDonald’s outside Moscow because of security concerns. 
"There is no hot water in Mordovia and there are only special prison clothes given out which are very cold for the weather," said Samutsevich. "THEY CAN DIE. There is no medicine. In Soviet times they thought that if people fell ill, that was their own problem ... if someone gets sick and nobody helps them, they can die - unfortunately there have been such cases and they happen periodically."

While four days earlier, in Reuters, the same reporter, Michael Stott wrote 
President Vladimir Putin flatly rejected Western criticism of imprisoning the Pussy Riot punk protest band, saying they deserved their fate, "deserved what they got," because appealing to the Virgin Mary, to get rid of the president, amounted to "group sex" and threatened the moral foundations of Russia.
Damn kidsThe point of the dinner was business, Reuters explains, but sicken-ly quotes Vladimir, "when BP managers came to me and the government and said we want to cooperate with Rosneft, we could not say no." Reflecting a mood and vernacular of a certain film franchise.

Yes, concern is business and imprisoned citizens' fate just afterthought. So the two Pussy Riot members face harsh, Soviet-style prison camps where their lives may be in danger due to a lack of medicine and no hot water amid sub-zero winter temperatures, according to a recently released band member.
Though for accuracy, putting the band member on the spot for verification seems questionable because Russia's prisons are not for the pampered and for them to suddenly be more habitable is assumptions on paper or computer screens just meant for entertainment. That's what the trial's horror was about. The situation Pussy Riot was being railroaded into.
Again, though words are Samutsevich's, it hardly seems necessary for her to carry such weight on her shoulders. According to Reuters - Samutsevich predicted that Putin's government would in the end fall victim to mass unrest and said the clampdown on dissent now under way in Russia showed just how scared the Kremlin was. "The system itself is crumbling. It's becoming more repressive ... those in power have very strong fears and their behavior is more and more wild. We could end with a total collapse like the Soviet Union." In their situation how could she think of anything that didn't sound dramatic. 
Still Vladimir. These are your people. Czars stood up to their own citizens. Stalin died on top, but I'm telling you his legacy sucks. Carnegie and Rockefeller left memories such that their eventual benevolence almost completely overshadows their prejudices toward common people on their rise to the top. But remembered for a repressive regime is what you're up against. Not whether or not the president sleeps in a nice bed every night. 

Samutsevich said Pussy Riot's top priority now was to campaign to free the band's two imprisoned members and it would call on other members for help. "The band doesn't consist just of the three of us," she said. "There's more, way more people, around 20 members in the band." Way more? Ya gotta love these women's positive outlook. 
Reuters prints she said, Putin was trying to present the sentences against the band members as "some kind of ordinary court case for an ordinary criminal charge. But this is totally wrong and he is not succeeding". 
However according to Reuters - Polls have shown that in Russia's predominantly conservative society, where Orthodox Christian believers are a majority, most citizens approve of the jail terms for Pussy Riot and dislike their actions. More than 40 percent in a recent poll said the women's prison terms should have been longer.  
Not surprising where questioning government is not safe. 

So - Asked about popular hostility to the band, Samutsevich said the Kremlin had used its control of state television channels to present a distorted picture of Pussy Riot. This obscured the band's real purpose and its political protest message. Instead, official media constantly emphasized that the group were anti-religious blasphemers.

I don't recall anti-religious sentiment as part of the show. The blaspheming was human and simple, nothing about it denounced anyone's belief in God.

Viewers, Reuters recounts, Samutsevich said, "didn't see us, they didn't hear us because the federal TV channels have done their best to cut out our speech. They would cut all the episodes from the video (of Pussy Riot performing in the cathedral) where you could hear the lyrics of the songs. And when people hear the lyrics, they immediately understand the purpose of our action."
Opposition figures have pointed to the irony of Putin, a former KGB spy, speaking solemnly of the sanctity of religion in a country where, for decades, the Soviet Communist Party - which the Kremlin chief served for decades in his KGB role - repressed all forms of religious expression.
Satire Vladimir, all it was, was satire. You need to start standing tall for everyone, and not just those you can convince to worship the icon of Kremlin power.