The by now global reach of #PussyRiot It’s all about the social networking, and could be called 4GW (4th Generation Warfare) – the ability of a tiny opponent to severely damage and sometimes even bring down a vastly more powerful adversary. Think David and Goliath, or the Arab Spring.
As we’ve seen time and again over the last two years, social media doesn’t favor a despot. Rather than tamp down the band’s protest, Putin has essentially plugged the young punk rockers into a giant wall of stacked Marshall amps, and from there to a worldwide broadcast to desktops and devices on every continent.
Social media doesn’t light the initial flame. That happens on the streets. But social media does send the message instantly across the planet, and sometimes the message goes viral. Breaking news anywhere is always on Twitter first, and Twitter is difficult for governments to block. Tweets can be texted, sent by mobile devices, relayed by bots, and worm their way across the planets via proxy servers. (This is of course also true of Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, blogs, etc.)
But the wish to crush political dissent, in this way and at this time, is Mr Putin’s alone. Pussy Riot had two points to make, both of them valid: that the Orthodox Church provides intellectual and religious cover for Mr Putin’s increasingly messianic political brand; and that this man is driving Russia straight up a cul de sac.
A feminist punk band has changed Russian politics. Who said punk was dead?
Pussy Riot’s gig at Christ the Saviour took place on 21 February. Five members broke into the Moscow cathedral, performing a “punk prayer” from the altar. Their song “Holy Shit” is a condemnation of the Russian Orthodox church’s close ties to Putin. “Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin,” they sang, “chase Putin out!”