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Pussy Riot convicted of 'hooliganism': What if US rockers were given same fate?

Brad KnickerbockerThe Christian Science Monitor

The two-year prison sentence for the women of “Pussy Riot” has us musing about the political shenanigans of American performers.

Pussy Riot, you’ll recall, is the Russian band convicted of “felony hooliganism” for criticizing President Vladimir Putin in its performance of a “punk prayer” in the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow in February. The episode – the women wore bright dresses and balaclavas as they lip-synched “Mother of God, cast Putin out” – lasted less than a minute before security hustled them away.

Would such a thing in the United States be considered “hooliganism” (a wonderful word bringing to mind European soccer fans and some congressional hearings)? If so, should that be a punishable offense in this country, and what would be an appropriate legal response?

Let us consider some examples.

Former Metallica guitarist and Megadeth founder Dave Mustaine has called President Obama “the most divisive president we've ever had.”

Not only that, he’s become a birther, according to a Daily Beast report.

"I know he was born somewhere else than America," Mustaine told a Canadian television show. "How come he was invisible until became … whatever he was in Illinois?"

Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello writes in Rolling Stone that Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan (who claims to be a fan of the band) “is the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades.”

“Don't mistake me, I clearly see that Ryan has a whole lotta ‘rage’ in him,” Morello writes. “A rage against women, a rage against immigrants, a rage against workers, a rage against gays, a rage against the poor, a rage against the environment. Basically the only thing he's not raging against is the privileged elite he's groveling in front of for campaign contributions.”

Rolling Stone, of course, is a kind of samizdat for political dissidents among the cultural elite.

At one of their concerts just before the US-led invasion of Iraq, the Dixie Chicks famously declared: “Just so you know…. We do not want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” And what can you say about Ted Nugent?

Among his less profane or vulgar political pronouncements, he’s described the Obama administration as "vile," "evil" and "America-hating,” and he’s suggested that if the President is reelected “I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”

For sure, government officials are keeping a close eye on such things.

Nugent toned things down for a minute or two when the Secret Service paid him a little visit.

“Ted Nugent, Kidd Rock, and Megadeth front man Dave Mustaine are all essentially on the record as foot soldiers in a war against Obama’s reelection,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina was quoted as saying earlier this year. “As of today we will be dedicating time, money and resources to monitoring the onstage ramblings of political neophytes.”

“Monitoring?” That sure sounds like thought police to us.

We mentioned congressional hearings, where “Code Pink” protestors frequently pop up, waving signs and shouting imprecations and maledictions at lawmakers. They did it at President Bush’s second inaugural ceremony too.

Code Pink describes itself as “a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end US funded wars and occupations, to challenge militarism globally, and to redirect our resources into health care, education, green jobs and other life-affirming activities.”

If that’s not subversive of America’s natural political order, we don’t know what is. And would they get away with disrupting meetings of the Russian Parliament? We don’t think so.

That’s hooliganism plain and simple, and it needs to be dealt with appropriately.

For musician-activists disrespecting our national leaders, we recommend several hours of Lawrence Welk re-runs.