Pussy Riot Face Off With Clueless, Prudish Global News Media

Russian TV interview is absurdly trivial, while NBC's Brian Williams declines to say band's name

Pussy Riot, interview, Ksenia Sobchak, Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, NBC, Brian Williams
Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova react to the first question from Ksenia Sobchak
Marc Hogan WRITTEN BY
Marc Hogan

Pussy Riot are finally free, but the newly released members of the Russian agitprop punk band now face an adversary a lot less scary than Vladimir Putin: we, the so-called news media. Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova got out of their respective prisons on December 23 under a Russian amnesty law widely seen as pre-Olympic window dressing. Their first joint TV interview was with "Russia's answer to Paris Hilton," and the questions were as ludicrous as that descriptor would suggest. Here in the United States, meanwhile, at least one top news anchor has shown a bizarre unwillingness to say the band's name on the air.

Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova's December 25 interview (below) with Ksenia Sobchak was in Russian, but BuzzFeed's report gives you an idea of its risibility. Sobchak started the interview by asking, "How much is the Pussy Riot brand worth?" Comparing the group to recently deceased AK-47 developer Mikhail Kalashnikov, she added, "We can bravely say Pussy Riot is a global Russian brand."

And then it got weird. Sobchak reportedly compared the two to John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Then, she compared them to Destiny's Child and asked if Tolokonnikova would go solo, because "no one remembers Destiny's Child, but everyone knows Beyoncé." She asked if it was sexist that Tolokonnikova gets more attention, on account of being "pretty and thick-lipped."She asked, "I can't not ask the most important question — what's up with your eyebrows?" She asked them the meaning of life. She read to them from Nietzsche. See, the American Paris Hilton would know better than to do that last part.

Meanwhile, a debate is underway about the U.S. media's handling (or lack thereof) of Pussy Riot's name. Hacker collective Anonymous' YourAnonNews Twitter account set off a flurry of speculation earlier today when it wrote, "Censorship: NBC has ordered affiliates to not say Pussy Riot on the air." That's unconfirmed (a spokesperson for NBC couldn't be reached for comment at press time), and you don't have to go any further than NBC reporter Jim Maceda's interview with Tolokonnikova this week to hear him actually say Pussy Riot on the air (you can also hear him mispronounce "Bono").

But NBC anchor Brian Williams' decision not to say Pussy Riot's name in the introduction to Maceda's report is glaringly obvious. And awkward. Given Williams' prominence at NBC, it isn't hard to imagine other NBC journalists feeling discouraged from uttering the dreaded P-word even without an official ban. We'll update if and when the network gives an official comment on the matter. Until then: What is this, Russia?

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