Date: August 19 2012
Moments after the sentence in the Pussy Riot trial came down, dozens of people in my social network feeds posted a single word: shameful.
Straining to shove emotion aside, I am left with another key word for this surreal process: unprofessional. The entire case was a triumph of amateurism on every conceivable level, as one participant after another forewent logic, law, and commonsense in favour of personal grievances, knee-jerk responses and anger.
The authorities took a marginal act of arty protest and, through sheer cruelty, made it into an international cause. (In covering the trial live, CNN and the BBC have broadcast what essentially amount to long infomercials against investing in and visiting Russia.)
Clueless Western supporters have glommed on to the story at its most black and white, imposing easy narratives on it and making a balaclava look as cute as a hemp tote. (Melena Ryzik's piece in the August 17 New York Times marks the beginning of a subtle backlash: in her dry description of a Pussy Riot benefit at New York's hip Ace Hotel, the case is seen as a magnet for vapid celebs and people who unironically use the word ''shero''.)
Finally, the women's defence team, especially the lawyer Mark Feygin, proved extraordinarily capable of stooping to whatever level the other side had decided to drag the discussion. Mr Feygin decided to ''address critics'' on his blog by posting his work ID and his mother's birth certificate (to prove that he is not a Jew, thus affirming that the opposite would have been a liability).
The only professionals anywhere in sight are Pussy Riot. From their name, perfectly pitched to both shock and attract the media, to their instantly recognisable look; from their initial punk posturing in interviews, to their pointedly academic statements to the court; these women, and they alone in this mess, know exactly what they are doing. Minutes after the verdict, the band released a new single, Putin Lights Up the Fires, through the London-based Guardian.
Such PR precision may open up a slightly icky discussion of whether, in the meta-artwork that is Pussy Riot's story, imprisonment is an integral part. But now is not the time for that discussion. When you trim away everything else, three young women will spend two years in jail for dancing in a church.
Guardian News & Media
Michael Idov is the editor-in-chief of GQ Russia.
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