Unless you’ve been living on Mars under one of those rocks that haven’t yet been upturned by the Curiosity Rover, you probably know that three members of an all-girl punk band called Pussy Riot are on trial in Russia this week for having performed a song critical of Russia’s dictator president Vladimir Putin. OK, so they sang their song “Punk Prayer” in a church, while wearing ski masks in high-fashion colors, and they prayed to the Virgin Mary to have Putin removed from office. Well, wonder of wonders, Putin has no sense of humor, or maybe he just has no patience for people going around pointing out the absence of freedoms in Russia. I mean, even in the U.S. these days you can get yourself arrested and held indefinitely without warrant, charge, or trial (in case you missed it, our president signed that one quietly into law last winter; a federal judge just declared the provision unconstitutional, but our government may nonetheless be continuing to use it as a basis for arrests). So we should be keeping a sharp eye on Russia, because certain Putin-style unfreedoms are starting to take root here as well.
And you have to hand it to Pussy Riot: they really did get their clear, simple message across. What political statement could be more pure than praying to be liberated from an oppressive regime? The group’s three lead singers—Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29—are also clearly intelligent political thinkers. Even after having been locked away for months in unreasonable detention, apparently under very poor conditions, all three of them managed to produce coherent, moving, incisive closing statements to be read out during their trial last week. And now you can read these statements on N+1, which published them yesterday. I strongly encourage you to read them. I found the strength and intelligence of these young women profoundly inspiring. And then I started wondering how it was that we were able to read these statements so quickly, seeing as none of our major news organizations (with all their resources and staff translators) bothered to provide us with translations. And it turns out that this was a volunteer effort of the sort facilitated by the existence of social media.