Streetwise Professor

July 19, 2009

Arrested Development

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 8:31 am

Even though I am tattoo free, I am a big punk rock fan; my musical tastes are a case of arrested development.  Indeed, the name of this blog was inspired by a punk song.

Last night I was able to do something I’ve wanted to do in a long time–see East Bay punk legends Rancid live.  I dragged my daughters and a friend of my youngest daughter to the Verizon Wireless Theater in Houston to see the show.  #1 daughter said (on Facebook) “I must have gone temporarily insane to agree to this.”  The kids were particularly dismayed to see that there were no seats on the main floor where our tickets were for–just a throng of people.

I wasn’t the oldest guy there, but I was definitely one of an elite few.  I’ve never seen so much black in my life.  It’s kind of what you’d expect to see if people went to funerals in T-shirts.

The show was all I’d expected, just too short.  Rancid was the opening act for Rise Against, so their set was only 50 minutes long.  But it was a great 50 minutes.  The girls sort of hovered on the fringe of the crowd in front of the stage but I went in pretty close.  Not mosh pit close (I’m not that hard core), but pretty close.  It was a blast.  Really got a kick out of new drummer Branden Steineckert–now that’s a workout, nearly an hour of non-stop arm exercises.

The projected visuals were interesting.  A lot of black-and-white excerpts from movies (hard to describe–basically scenes from old films modified to look like moving line drawings).  The two that caught my eye were the car chase scene from Bullitt (Rancid being a Bay area band) and some scenes from the Who’s Quadrophenia.

My only disappointment (other than the length, or lack thereof, of the set) was that they didn’t play anything from Rancid 2000.  But that’s a minor quibble.  All and all, a memorable experience.

And speaking of arrested development, now the Russian authorities would have another reason to place me under surveillance if I were to go back:

The  St. Petersburg Prosecutor’s Office has admitted that local music fans are under police surveillance — officially as a measure to counteract “extremist activities.”

The city’s Primorsky District police “have organized the exposure of members of informal entities, whose activities may have an extremist nature, on a permanent basis,” the web site of the Prosecutor’s Office reported on July 2.

According to the report, the district’s criminal police have identified and included on a register “88 people who attribute themselves to informal entities such as ‘Skinheads,’ ‘Aggressive Football Fans,’ ‘Punks,’ ‘Emos,’ ‘Black Metallers,’ ‘Fans of [the band] Kino,’ ‘Alternative Rock Fans,’ ‘Anarchists’ and others.”

Once exposed and registered, the music fans and members of the other “informal entities” are the subject of “preventive work” conducted by the district’s police officers, the district’s administration officials and educational institution staff to “prevent crimes, including those of an extremist nature.” [“Preventive work.”  That sounds ominous.]

. . . .

On what grounds have the police and prosecutors decided that fans of music groups and people united on common philosophical grounds such as anarchists could be involved in extremist activities, Maxim Ivantsov, coordinator of the Youth Human Rights Group asked in a letter to the district’s prosecutor and police chief.

He also wondered what “informal entities” are meant by the word “others.” Finally, Ivantsov inquired whether such activities by the Primorsky District’s criminal police are lawful.

Earlier this year, an unidentified police detachment stopped a concert at the local club Arctica and detained some 400 fans for hours, fingerprinting and taking photos of them, which can only be done with a person’s consent under Russian law.

The St. Petersburg Times article notes that Britney Spears is playing in the city this weekend.  Now if that’s not a legitimate excuse for extremism, I don’t know what is.

Having spent last evening amidst such dangerous types, I can say with near absolute confidence that this is just another manifestation of the foolishness and depravity of official Russia.  Yeah, I can’t say that I saw too many kids that I would peg as high achievers.  There were a few idiots there–like in any crowd.  But for the most part, it was just a bunch of awkward kids looking for a place to fit in and a good time.  (Which raises questions about what the hell I was doing there, no?;-)

But a social threat?  What a laugh.  I would think that the St. Petersburg police would have more important things to worry about.  (And are punkers, etc., likely to be particularly profitable bribe targets?  I wouldn’t think so.)  The use of the coercive power of the state to harass the unconventional in order to impose conformity to officially condoned standards of behavior is disturbing–and pitiful.  The metastasizing scope of the phrase “extremism” and the legal powers it justifies says a great deal about Russia’s regression from anything remotely resembling a free society.  Not that it ever got that close in the first place.

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  1. The FSB is building a data base with the assistance of the local cops obviously. What’s sad in the article is the 400 young Russians that are so clueless about their constitutional rights. Lucky Putin.

    Comment by penny — July 19, 2009 @ 2:42 pm

  2. Add to this that the Kremlin can now open and read anybody’s mail

    and you have a fully realized neo-Soviet state, realized by the actions of the Russian people themselves, who can no longer claim to be victims.

    Woe is Russia.

    Comment by La Russophobe — July 20, 2009 @ 2:03 pm

  3. Loved the title of the post since Arrested Development is my all-time favorite TV show. And I though I was the only parent crazy enough to take college age kids to this kind of stuff!

    Comment by Scott Irwin — July 21, 2009 @ 7:14 pm

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