There was a time when the phrase “Free Pussy Riot” was more likely to be an offer on Craigslist than a rallying cry of political support. And once upon a time, musicians were making news by committing crimes like impersonating an FBI agent and crashing a drug-laden car into JFK International Airport (here’s to DMX for the most ridiculous string of crimes in the same baffling incident).

But these days, we seem to live in a new Orwellian age. The Russian punk band Pussy Riot was arrested for a litany of vague charges: “Hooliganism.” “Undermining the social order.” And the ever-misogynistic “Hysteria.” A quick glance at the average headline seemed to tell the story: Protest against the establishment and Big Brother (incarnated as Vladimir Putin) locks you away.

Meanwhile, our masked, guitar-shredding heroines have been hailed as veritable pariahs — especially in the face of a stark two-year prison sentence. More recently, the trio of prisoners was nominated for the Sakharov Prize, one of the most prestigious awards for the defense of human rights.

Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King … Pussy Riot? Really? Are we ready to go that far just yet? In fact, does anyone really know the whole story, beyond the cursory details? It seems all we’ve been hearing is the Sparknotes version: Female punk band protests overbearing government, and is accordingly thrown in jail. Somebody tell Muse to write a song about it.

But it’s not that simple. And, unlike DMX, this wasn’t your classic “roll out of bed, decide to go on a crime spree” story.

One wintry day in Moscow (which is probably the beginning to any story in Moscow), five of the rebel rockers walked into the Russian Orthodox Church, where they pulled on colorful scarf/masks called balaclavas and began what they called a “punk prayer.” This evidently involved walking up to the altar, where they bowed and crossed themselves repeatedly, and eventually playing some of their patented punk music. And yes, all of this was while the church was in use.

If that sounds like some batshit Sinéad-O’Connor-level antics, that’s because it is. Think about it: What if Rise Against rolled into your local church, synagogue or mosque and started rocking through “Help Is on the Way?”

And the group’s outspoken condemnation of Putin was a large factor in the activists’ treatment. But here in the U.S. — a country practically founded on protest movements — nobody would get away with such disrespect. There is a time and a place for an effective, even extreme demonstration. But protesting in a house of worship is not okay by most conventional standards, regardless of the cause.

That being said, there has been a distinct flavor of injustice throughout the entire proceedings, and the decision of the Russian court was almost surely influenced by politics. The country’s increasing ties between government and religion have probably also had some effect on the outcome.

Amnesty International seems to be the most accurate in classifying them as “prisoners of conscience,” as they were imprisoned based on political views. But to glorify the group’s actions as a righteous resistance movement is embellishment.

And I hate to say it, but let’s talk about the rather crude elephant in the room: Every chance to talk about the band is a chance to say the word “pussy” and get away with it. That may seem like a relatively inconsequential aspect of the story, but consider the following: Noted skeptic Penn Jillette once attributed some of the popularity of the “Breast Cancer Awareness” movement as an excuse to talk about breasts in public. While that claim is essentially impossible to prove right or wrong, it at least demonstrates the various impulses that affect the human psyche.

Let’s re-tell the story of Pussy Riot, or at least a tale of its musicians, prior to the band’s arrest.

The singer and guitarist of the band is an outspoken proponent of protest rights. This rebel musician frequently organizes exhibitions and events inspired by the government’s oppression of human rights, and has even publicly called out Putin’s complete disregard of the country’s constitution. Even though government agents have shut down this person’s protest events, they plan to continue their efforts until there is a serious political change.

Sounds like someone worthy of an award, right? Trick question — the person above is successful protest musician Vasily Shumov of the Russian band Center. You’ve never heard of him, though. Perhaps his band should consider genitalia for a name.

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