Is Pussy Riot’s Persecution Getting Too Much Coverage?

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Yesterday in Pakistan, members of the Taliban stopped three buses full of people, checked their IDs, and slaughtered the 22 Shias onboard. You can read about it here, courtesy of Salman Masood, on page A10 of this morning's New York Times.

If you go to the Times's website right now, however, you will notice that the top story, accompanied by an imposing picture, concerns the Putin regime's sentencing of the three members of the band Pussy Riot to two years in prison. The verdict, perhaps, marks the depressing conclusion to another depressing story out of Russia.

It is also a story that almost everyone who follows the news has read a lot about.

I don’t want to undercut the reporters who have chronicled Russia’s long, miserable record on free speech. Locking up a band for criticizing the president, or the church, is terrible. But I can’t help but think there’s something a little off-kilter in the sheer amount of attention Pussy Riot is getting. The coverage is morphing into the human-rights equivalent of the blanket coverage afforded to the lone white girl who goes missing on a tropical vacation.

Of course, you can’t measure every story by whether it is more or less outrageous than the slaughter of 22 bus passengers who happened to come from the wrong religious sect. But the media frenzy does make me think that for many people in the news business, the story of the band is appealing in large part because of its name and the camera-friendliness of its members–not to mention the celebrity of Pussy Riot defenders like Madonna, Sting, and Paul McCartney. 

Brave dissidents get locked up every day, all over the world. And while Pussy Riot is a sad reminder of Putinism’s thuggery, the obsessive focus is starting to feel more prurient than informative.

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