Warning! The piece below from Forbes is chock fulla shit and could be detrimental to your blood pressure level. You’se been warned!
I’ve quoted the entire work below, so that no one can accuse me of “cherry-picking”. That’s an accusation particularly beloved of the more closed-minded, ignorant, and partisan posters on the Orthodox Forum (Bill and Fr Mike… it ain’t your fault, all the benighted Renovationist SVSniki are like that). You truly must read his juvenilia in its entirety. He expects us to take him S-E-R-I-O-U-S-L-Y! After all, he studied at Harvard and Oxford, and all we lesser sorts must do obeisance… his mindless arrogance and condescension suffuses everything below. What an overeducated boor and a supercilious tosser to boot…
Tens of Thousands Protest in Moscow in Support of the Orthodox Church… Illiberalism is Alive and Well in Russia
If you’re looking for a case study in the double standards of the mainstream media, a perfect encapsulation of how coverage is slanted in favour of groups considered friendly to Western interests and values, and against groups considered inimical to those interests and values, you could do an awful lot worse than look at the controversy over the provocatively-named radical feminist punk rock band Pussy Riot. Pussy Riot, in case you were wondering, is a rather self-important band of self-styled revolutionaries who, back in February, in the lead up to the presidential election, gave an impromptu “concert” at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. After an outcry from conservative Orthodox believers and clergy, particularly after the politically-influential Patriarch Kirill weighed in with an angry and rather un-Christian denunciation of their conduct, three members of Pussy Riot were arrested and charged with “hooliganism”, which carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years.
As a rock group composed of young iconoclastic women, Pussy Riot immediately attracted the sympathy and attention of Western journalists and NGOs. Amnesty International, amongst others, called for their immediate release, and they’ve attracted sympathetic coverage in, among a number of other venues, Bloomberg and the Washington Post. Although Twitter’s a distinctly unscientific method for monitoring opinion, I can honestly say that my feed, which features almost all of the most prominent Western journalists covering Russia, was virtually unanimous both in supporting Pussy Riot and in castigating their treatment by the authorities.
Just in case anyone doubts where my sympathies lie, let me state unequivocally that, in this instance, the Orthodox Church acted disgracefully, that Pussy Riot ought to be freed immediately, and that the “hooliganism” section of the criminal code should be modified to make it crystal clear that purely political speech of the sort in which Pussy Riot engaged can never be the basis of a formal charge. However, I learned a long time ago that the world cares little about my tender sympathies. What I find interesting, and want to explore, is the way in which the political conflict about the band has played out. I particularly want to look at the extent to which there has been a serious mobilisation of anti-liberal opinion, and the way the media covered this.
Given all of the anti-Putin activity over the past six months, the distinctly post-modern Pussy Riot, which posts its videos on YouTube, would seem to be a natural rallying point for the opposition, virtually the perfect foil for Putin and the “vertical of power”. One of the accused has an, ahem, a somewhat interesting background:
Ms Tolokonnikova was criticised especially harshly for participating in a 2008 orgy at a biology museum, in which she’s shown having sex with her husband just days before giving birth. She’s been condemned as desecrating motherhood and harming her child, who’s now an adorable braided blonde who made a taped appeal for her mother’s release. Indeed, the whole Pussy Riot imbroglio almost sounds like a plot from a Disney movie… a crusading young rock band, full of earnest youngsters, tries to speak out against tyranny, and a despotic backwards-looking religious figure of dubious personal honesty cruelly represses them. After we see the band wrestling with self-doubt and reaching the depths of despair in prison, the band’s friends manage to rally to their rescue and spring them from jail. Then, there’s an enormous impromptu concert in Red Square and we see Patriarch Kirill, realising that he, too, is just a misunderstood young rocker, joining in as the credits start to roll. Call it, “School of Rock… Moscow”.
Well, the only problem with the above scenario is that, judging from the evidence, actual Russians don’t really like Pussy Riot, nor do they seem particularly concerned about their rough treatment by the authorities. As Leonid Bershidsky noted in a column for Bloomberg:
President-elect Vladimir Putin saw fit to apologise to churchgoers and priests for what Pussy Riot perpetrated. His apology appeared neutrally worded, but the two detained women remain in jail pending trial despite the fact that they both have small children. A poll of 1,633 Russians in 130 cities, taken by the Levada Centre in mid-March, showed that 46 percent of those who had heard of the “punk service” believed two to seven years in prison to be a proper punishment for the women. Only 35 percent considered it too harsh.
Indeed, over the weekend, there was a truly impressive show of support, not for the jailed punk rockers, but for the driving force behind their prosecution, the Orthodox Church. As the Associated Press Reported:
Tens of thousands prayed outside Moscow’s main cathedral on Sunday to show their support for the Russian Orthodox Church in a controversy over a punk rock protest that has added to political tensions in Russia…
Patriarch Kirill described the punk performance as blasphemous and part of a broader attack on the church, which many Russians consider essential to their national identity and an intrinsic part of a powerful state. Kirill called on believers to attend Sunday’s service to pray “for our faith, our church, our sacred objects, and our fatherland”. The church maintains that desecration of icons and other acts of vandalism have become more frequent since the protest. As the patriarch led a procession around the cathedral, priests carried a crucifix and an icon damaged in attacks elsewhere in Russia this spring. Essentially, the gathering was a festival of illiberalism, with the patriarch almost going out of his way to make this apparent. He said that attacks on the church today aren’t comparable to those of the Soviet era, but that liberal ideology’s dangerous because it proposes “that we regard the very fact of blasphemy and sacrilege, of the mockery of shrines, as a lawful manifestation of human freedom, as something that we should defend in modern society”.
Now, let’s be clear… the people who marched in front of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour on Sunday aren’t representative of all Russians any more than the people who marched on Bolotnaya Ploshchad during February were. However, it seems impossible to ignore the sharply anti-liberal tinge of the crowd on Sunday and the movement that it represents. Viewed from one perspective, about 60,000 people marched in favour of blasphemy laws in the largest and most liberal city in the country. Blasphemy! It’s rather hard to square the narrative about a slowly emerging liberal-democratic majority in Russia with what happened this past Sunday. It also seems impossible argue that the Western media covered this demonstration, which was of roughly-equivalent size to several of the anti-Putin demonstrations, the same way it covered earlier ones. I very clearly remember reading the coverage of the Bolotnaya protests. It was (understandably) positive, even fawning… there were interviews with protesters, loving descriptions of the signs and placards they were carrying, and extensive summaries of their grievances, opinions, strategies, and goals. Indeed, a correspondent from Time magazine was right in the middle of the protest after Putin’s election, mingling with the demonstrators to such an extent that he was arguably not covering the event, but actively participating in it.
Yet, with the notable exceptions of the New York Times article to which I linked earlier and this Reuters article, the participants in the march on Sunday were portrayed as a mute herd. We easily learned quite a bit about what the Patriarch and his underlings think should be done, but what did the tens of thousands of ordinary Russian citizens gathered there think? Who were they? Hell, given the prevalence of imperial standards both on Sunday and at other demonstrations over the past 6 months, some of the marchers who were “defending” the church might very well have participated in the anti-Putin marches on Bolotnaya, Pushkinskaya, and Prospekt Sakharova. Why exactly were they there? What were their goals? What precisely motivated them? What sort of society do they want Russia to be? After the “For Honest Elections” demonstrations, these questions received swift answers, but outside of a vague and inchoate desire to protect the church, it’s not that clear to me what precisely motivated all those tens of thousands of people to gather. Yet, it’s hard to get people motivated, much less get them to march out in public, with vague generalities! Therefore, they must have had some specific goals in mind.
The main point I want to make is that this, once again, shows that political change in Russia is going to be neither swift nor easy. As should be clear from public attitudes about Pussy Riot, which is about as cut-and-dried a case of freedom of expression as you’re ever going to see, stridently, almost violently, anti-liberal opinions are still incredibly common in Russia. These attitudes aren’t simply the cruel inventions of the Kremlin or the imaginary artifice of Vladimir Putin… they’re the honestly-felt positions of many millions of people. It’s absolutely possible to change this for the better, Russian society, as a whole, is certainly more “liberal” than it was 15 years ago, but this can’t be done in one fell swoop, either through holding an election or through replacing a particularly bad politician. Indeed, as I’ve repeatedly said, it’s fully possible that a more-democratic Russia would be a less-liberal one. Of course, this is an extremely complicated topic, but, at an absolute minimum, you can see how public attitudes towards Pussy Riot should have us questioning the character of Russian public opinion. Russian society’s very complicated and has a long history of anti-liberal thought and action. We overstate the prevalence of liberalism, and understate the prevalence of illiberalism, at our own peril.
24 April 2012
Here’s some music by some of the Patriarch’s friends… the first by Alisa, the second by DDT, we have a Patriarch who “rocks on”… literally…
This screed reeks of “young elder” immaturity and self-interested pandering to the powers-that-be. The first’s inevitable… it’s a function of age, and one can overcome ignorance through experience and hard knocks. The second is a more basic character flaw… it indicates that this young smarkach will NEVER learn from his experiences. Actually, to be more precise, he’ll be in an environment that’ll blind him to his ignorance and cupidity, so, he’ll never get a chance to correct himself or abjure his notional ideas (he’s an ambitious little weasel of a goodthinker, isn’t he?). This is all on top of a general ignorance of Russian history, Russian culture, and Russian character. That’s to say, this mewling baby (who has full nappies that one can smell from here) has no clue of the ethos and Urgrund of the Orthosphere, let alone our historical path, recent or ancient.
Attend to his “humble” description of himself:
A native Philadelphian and reluctant Washingtonian, I’ve been lucky enough to be educated first at Harvard and then at Oxford (though one should not judge those fine educational institutions for the inevitable typos in my posts) and received instruction from some of the finest teachers one could ask for. I’ve written for a number of student-run publications, blogged at True/Slant before its acquisition by Forbes, write a weekly column for INOSMI, and occasionally appear on RT. In addition to all of that, I frequently make pronouncements of great importance on Twitter.
NO ONE’S a “reluctant Washingtonian”… the District’s a roiling snake-pit full of unscrupulous political landsharks and bloodsucking human piranhas… and not a single one’s “reluctant”… neither is Mr Adomanis. They’re all QUITE willing… they’re drawn by POWER. Either they wish to exercise it themselves or they want to be around it. Mr Adomanis is NO exception… his piece is pure District pandering to the prevailing opinion. One wonders if he’s part of the crackbrained Hard Rightwing circle around Paffhausen and Potapov (Adomanis is a Greek name, after all).
There are too many howlers here to mention. Let’s take a few, though. He says, “Russian society, as a whole, is certainly more ‘liberal’ than it was 15 years ago”. Izzat so? Fifteen years was 1997… from his photo, Mr Adomanis looks about 25-years-old. That means that he was about ten-years-old fifteen years ago… which means that he has no mature recollection of Russia at that time. Let’s see… Yeltsin the Toper was president… Khodorkovsky the landshark stole billions through Yukos with the connivance of his Western liberal corporate pals… Berezovsky trumpeted pro-Western Neoliberal anti-state views through his media outlets… regional governors were elected… Chechnya was in flames (with the insurgents receiving covert Western aid)… “thieves-in-law” and prostitutki roamed the streets. Let’s see… today, Vova’s gonna be Prez again… Khodorkovsky’s gnarly arse is in a hard Siberian hoosegow… Berezovsky’s in deserved exile… regional governors are appointed… Chechnya’s quiescent… and the streets are more orderly. Hmm… it appears that Mr Adomanis’ facts and mine aren’t the same. Hey, Mark, give me the name of your supplier… that’s some good shit that you’re smokin’, and you should share with all of us where to find it.
Now, look at what this snot-nosed toddler called HH… “a despotic backwards-looking religious figure of dubious personal honesty”… my, my, my… Before this cretinous Young Fogey was even born, Kirill Mikhailovich was working to save the Church’s bacon in Sov times. It wasn’t easy… and this patronising Harvard snot never had his head on the line… oh, no! He’s ridden the gravy train; it’s obvious from his dunderheaded comments. If HH is “below the salt”, why, Mr Adomanis? Because you say so, in your wisdom and education? I note that you didn’t mention that HH spends a part of every major Church holiday with sick, disabled, or underprivileged kids. I note that you didn’t mention that HH always does something special for a handicapped kid on his major trips. I notice that you didn’t mention that HH runs one of the best Yolkas for kids at New Year’s/Christmas (it’s one hell of a zabava, I’m told). I notice that you didn’t mention that HH doesn’t mind if people protest OUTSIDE the Khram Spasitelya… that happened during the Diomid Dzyuban affair, for instance. If someone pulled the same sort of stunt inside St Pat’s in the City, or in St Peter’s in the Vatican, they’d be in bracelets and the coppers would drag them off to the slam for disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, and deliberately provoking a public incident.
Mr Adomanis, I think that you’re an ignorant overeducated piece of shit sucking up to people you perceive as powerful. You couldn’t take one percent of the crapola that HH took in the Sov times. Oh, by the way… HH was born in 1946, he came of age in the Rock Era, and he’s a bro with Yuri Shevchuk and Kostya Kinchyov. He’s also tight with Aleksandr “the Surgeon” Zaldostanov and the guys in the Night Wolves MC. If I had to choose between Kostya Kinchyov and Aleksandr the Surgeon on the one hand, and a bunch of prune-faced tight-arsed Harvard and Oxford pukes on the other, it’s no contest! I know where I stand, smarkach… and I’m NOT alone…
One last thing… when HH denounces “liberalism”, he’s against the enormities of Neoliberalism, which is known as “conservatism” and “libertarianism” in the Anglosphere. HH is on record denouncing the injustice of the Free Market and the excesses of the Consumer Society… in short, he opposes the godless anthropocentric “Vulture Capitalism” regnant in the West (especially in the USA, cf Mitt Romney, the Koch Brothers, and globalisation). Go figure…