The True Blasphemy: Zizek on Pussy Riot

Pussy Riot mem­bers ac­cused of blas­phemy and hatred of re­li­gion? The an­swer is easy: the true blas­phemy is the state ac­cus­a­tion it­self, for­mu­lating as a crime of re­li­gious hatred some­thing which was clearly a polit­ical act of protest against the ruling clique. Recall Brecht’s old quip from his Beggars’ Opera: “What is the rob­bing of a bank com­pared to the founding of a new bank?” In 2008, Wall Street gave us the new ver­sion: what is the stealing of a couple of thou­sand of dol­lars, for which one goes to prison, com­pared to fin­an­cial spec­u­la­tions that de­prive tens of mil­lions of their homes and sav­ings, and are then re­warded by state help of sub­lime grandeur? Now, we got an­other ver­sion from Russia, from the power of the state: What is a modest Pussy Riot ob­scene pro­voca­tion in a church com­pared to the ac­cus­a­tion against Pussy Riot, this gi­gantic ob­scene pro­voca­tion of the state ap­par­atus which mocks any no­tion of de­cent law and order?

Was the act of Pussy Riot cyn­ical? There are two kinds of cyn­icism: the bitter cyn­icism of the op­pressed which un­masks the hy­po­crisy of those in power, and the cyn­icism of the op­pressors them­selves who openly vi­olate their own pro­claimed prin­ciples. The cyn­icism of Pussy Riot is of the first kind, while the cyn­icism of those in power — why not call their au­thor­it­arian bru­tality a Prick Riot — is of the much more ominous second kind.

Back in 1905, Leon Trotsky char­ac­ter­ized tsarist Russia as “a vi­cious com­bin­a­tion of the Asian knout and the European stock market.” Does this des­ig­na­tion not hold more and more also for the Russia of today? Does it not an­nounce the rise of the new phase of cap­it­alism, cap­it­alism with Asian values (which, of course, has nothing to do with Asia and everything to do with the anti-​democratic tend­en­cies in today’s global cap­it­alism). If we un­der­stand cyn­icism as ruth­less prag­matism of power which secretly laughs at its own prin­ciples, then Pussy Riot are anti-​cynicism em­bodied. Their mes­sage is: IDEAS MATTER. They are con­cep­tual artists in the noblest sense of the word: artists who em­body an Idea. This is why they wear balaclavas: masks of de-​individualization, of lib­er­ating anonymity. The mes­sage of their balaclavas is that it doesn’t matter which of them got ar­rested — they’re not in­di­viduals, they’re an Idea. And this is why they are such a threat: it is easy to im­prison in­di­viduals, but try to im­prison an Idea!

The panic of those in power — dis­played by their ri­dicu­lously ex­cessive brutal re­ac­tion — is thus fully jus­ti­fied. The more bru­tally they act, the more im­portant symbol Pussy Riot will be­come. Already now the result of the op­pressive meas­ures is that Pussy Riot are a house­hold name lit­er­ally all around the world.

It is the sacred duty of all of us to pre­vent that the cour­ageous in­di­viduals who com­pose Pussy Riot will not pay in their flesh the price for their be­coming a global symbol.

—Slavoj Žižek (Originally pub­lished on Dangerous Minds)

  2 comments for “The True Blasphemy: Zizek on Pussy Riot

  1. zero
    31 August 2012 at 12:28 am

    “Free Pussy Riot” written in blood at Russian murder scene
    By Thomas Grove | Reuters – 2 hrs 25 mins ago
    Related Content

    Members of the fe­male punk band “Pussy Riot” (R-​L) Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina sit in a glass-​walled cage after a court hearing in Moscow, August 17, 2012. REUTERS/​Maxim ShemetovEnlarge Photo

    Members of the fe­male punk band …

    MOSCOW (Reuters) — Two women were found stabbed to death in a Russian apart­ment with the words “Free Pussy Riot” written on the wall in what was prob­ably blood, in­vest­ig­ators said on Thursday, stir­ring more pas­sion over the women jailed for a protest in a church.

    A Russian Orthodox Church of­fi­cial said sup­porters of Pussy Riot now had “blood on their con­science”, the Interfax news agency reported.

    A lawyer for the women, who were sen­tenced to two years in prison this month for sta­ging a “punk prayer” against Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral, said nobody in the band or con­nected with it was in­volved in the crime.

    Nikolai Polozov, said the words scrawled on the wall may have been a “pro­voca­tion” aimed to dis­credit Pussy Riot.

    The bodies of a 76-​year-​old pen­sioner and her 38-​year-​old daughter were found on Wednesday in their apart­ment in the city of Kazan, the fed­eral Investigative Committee said in a state­ment. They died from knife wounds.


    “At the crime scene, on the wall of the apart­ment was dis­covered an in­scrip­tion pre­sum­ably written in blood: ‘Free Pussy Riot’,” said the com­mittee, which is Russia’s top in­vest­ig­ative body and an­swers to Putin.

    Footage on state-​run Rossiya tele­vi­sion showed the words written in big red cap­ital let­ters on the kit­chen wall. There was no ap­parent con­nec­tion between the vic­tims and Pussy Riot.

    Five mem­bers of the group burst into Moscow’s Christ the Saviour cathedral in February and per­formed a “punk prayer” asking the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin, who was then cam­paigning for elec­tion as pres­ident after four years as prime minister.

    The trial and sen­ten­cing of the act­iv­ists has drawn sharp cri­ti­cism from for­eign gov­ern­ments, mu­si­cians and rights groups, and was seen by Putin’s foes in Russia as polit­ic­ally mo­tiv­ated pun­ish­ment for dissent.

    The head of the church de­part­ment for re­la­tions with the armed forces and law en­force­ment agen­cies, Dimitry Smirnov, sug­gested the crime might not have oc­curred if Pussy Riot had not re­ceived vocal sup­port from Russian and Western critics of their trial.

    “This blood is on the con­science of so-​called com­munity that has sup­ported the par­ti­cipants in the act in Christ the Saviour cathedral, be­cause as a result people with un­stable psyches have re­ceived carte-​blanche,” Interfax quoted Smirnov as saying.

    The Russian Orthodox Church has cast the per­form­ance as a blas­phemous at­tack on the country’s main faith, and na­tion­alist pro-​church act­iv­ists have called for vi­gil­antes to pro­tect churches from desecration.


    Polozov, a lawyer for the jailed per­formers, said the crime was not con­nected with Pussy Riot or its supporters.

    “It’s hor­rible. In my view it is either a mon­strous pro­voca­tion or the act of a sick ma­niac. In any case it’s not con­nected with Pussy Riot be­cause Pussy Riot only sup­ports peaceful and non-​violent protests,” he said.

    “There have been many protests in sup­port of Pussy Riot and they’ve never been vi­olent,” said Polozov, who ap­pealed the Pussy Riot con­vic­tions on Monday.

    A spokesman for the re­gional Investigative Committee branch in Kazan, 800 km (500 miles) east of Moscow, said he did not be­lieve a sup­porter of Pussy Riot was responsible.

    “It was a reg­ular rob­bery, a reg­ular rob­bery and some de­gen­erate wrote that. It’s doubtful that some (Pussy Riot) sup­porter wrote that,” Andrei Sheptitsky said by telephone.

    Bloggers sym­path­etic to Pussy Riot said it would be ri­dicu­lous to blame the crime on their supporters.

    “Supporters of Pussy Riot are re­spons­ible for let­ting loose war in Syria,” Slavik Tsener wrote with ap­parent sar­casm on his Twitter microblog.

    Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were con­victed of hoo­liganism mo­tiv­ated by re­li­gious hatred on August 17.

    They said the per­form­ance, which came amidst a series of op­pos­i­tion street protests that were the largest of Putin’s 12-​year rule, was meant as cri­ti­cism of Putin’s tightly con­trolled polit­ical system and the close ties between church and state in Russia, which the con­sti­tu­tion says is a sec­ular country.

    A survey re­leased on Thursday by state-​controlled All-​Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) showed 33 per­cent of those asked found the two-​year sen­tences too harsh, while 31 per­cent said they were appropriate.

    Fifteen per­cent said they were too le­nient and 10 per­cent said the women should not have been tried at all, ac­cording to VTsIOM, which in­ter­viewed 1,600 people in 46 provinces.

    (Additional re­porting by Maria Tsvetkova; Editing by Steve Gutterman and Andrew Roche)

  2. Illan
    2 September 2012 at 7:37 am

    The above story was a do­mestic dis­pute between a man (now charged) and one of the vic­tims. He ad­mitted to leaving the ‘Free Pussy Riot’ note to try to throw the po­lice off the scent: http://​www​.nytimes​.com/​2​0​1​2​/​0​9​/​0​1​/​w​o​r​l​d​/​e​u​r​o​p​e​/​p​u​s​s​y​-​r​i​o​t​-​m​u​r​d​e​r​-​a​-​d​o​m​e​s​t​i​c​-​d​i​s​p​u​t​e​.​h​tml

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *