Pussy Riot Trial: A Worldwide Outrage, Thanks to the Internet

Pussy Riot in Moscow.
Three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot, having been sentenced to two years' hard labor for the crime of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" have seemingly lost their battle for free speech against President Vladimir Putin's regressive regime. Their crime: performing an anti-Putin "Punk Prayer" in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Though there is still an appeals process in effect, and the US State Department officially issued this statement last Friday, it's looking likely that Pussy Riot will do time. Despite the best efforts of Amnesty International and a concerned international populace, the fight to free Pussy Riot so far has failed.

But is their own freedom of speech all that they fight for? Hardly. In a day and age where Western egalitarianism is increasingly viewed as the norm, one galvanizing issue of the Pussy Riot trial was the means by which it came to the world's attention -- the social Internet -- and how online dynamics so quickly and forcefully subverted the story told by the Russian government. In the face of Putin's obsession with maintaining the general complacency of his nation's populace, the Internet practically screamed.

Pussy Riot's is the kind of story that used to land on page A26 of the New York Times, to be resurrected by a poly-sci grad student years later to the disbelief of all but the most ardent seekers of injustice. Now everyone and their grandma is talking about a punk band in Russia and generating quite a lot of enthusiasm in the process.

Not only would it have been impossible for Amnesty and other organizations to spread awareness of this issue without the viral conflagration that online media can spawn, but the popularity of this cause rests primarily on a threat to the freedoms that the online populace takes for granted. It was all too easy for any number of cyber wiseasses to think, "that could have been me," while watching this whole Pussy Riot ordeal go down.

And yet one can't imagine the backbone these women display on very many online trash-talkers. A casual perusal of their heroic and eloquentclosing statements suggests that these three have had a long game in mind the entire time. By drawing global attention to the plight of Russians, their mission has at least partly been accomplished. They may serve their time -- and more may follow them -- but the chink in Putin's armor remains.

Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown, follow Alee Karim @AOKarim, and like us at Facebook.com/SFAllShookDown.

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I think that Putin has much more important affairs to worry about than PR

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