Hooliganism in Moscow, Bullying in Delaware: A Rose by Any Other Name
The American commentariat has been having a field day – and rightfully so – berating the Putin government of the post-Soviet Russian nation for clumsily invoking that old Soviet favorite: the “hooliganism” statute. (After all, it was Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s secret police chief, Lavrenti Beria, who boasted “Show me the man, and I’ll find you the crime.” Hooliganism indeed has a considerable pedigree in that beleaguered land.)
To briefly recap, for those who may have been asleep these past few weeks: Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, three members of “Pussy Riot,” an all-female politically-oriented Russian punk collective, were jailed in March 2012 after staging a flash mob-style performance in Russia’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The young women entered the church in neon-colored balaclavas and sang a “punk prayer” titled “Hail Mary, Putin Run!” for 30 seconds before church authorities intervened. At their recent trial, the predictable verdict was announced: the judge sentenced Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and Samutsevich to two years in a penal colony for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” The young women have been imprisoned since their arrest, time which will count toward the two-year sentence.
he reaction in the American press was immediate: Victor Erofeyev scoldedPutin’s Russia in The New York Times, “Instead of a dialogue with enlightened citizens, the Kremlin offers fear. Russia refuses to be a modern civilized country.” And Cathy Young wrote for the Boston Globe: “Thirty years later in Russia, communism is gone, and God is back — and freedom is squelched in his name, too.” American academics were not far behind the press in theircondemnation of Putin’s transparent use of the notoriously vague hooliganism statute to suppress domestic criticism of his increasingly authoritarian rule. By now, just about everyone—including the US State Department (and Madonna)—has scorned Russia for its actions.
But back here in the States, the University of Delaware has begun using an equally vague handle – denominated a “disruptive conduct” code – to abolish what is increasingly becoming the American analogy to Russia’s “hooliganism,” namely “bullying” or “harassment.” [Read more]