Anna Chapman: Political Economy of Lousy Spying

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 3/29/2011 12:02:00 AM
Oh, I just had to make a post on this bit of kookiness out of respect for my boss. What do Andrei Arshavin, Roman Pavlyuchenko, and Anna Chapman have in common? They are all boosters of the pro-Putin United Front. I have mentioned the now-infamous Miss Chapman previously in connection with the notion of "erotic capital." As it turns out, I may have underestimated her hypermarketing in Mother Russia. All this because of being a rank incompetent at what she was supposed to do--spying. I am beginning to think of her as another Russian Anna who was not really a top-rank tennis player but was a looker nonetheless--Anna Kournikova. Men are suckers for this sort of this non sequitur titillation; trust me. In any event, Vladimir Putin is oddly singling her out as a shining example of modern Russia (after being deported from the United States from not doing her job right, obviously). She is also being feted by the Putin Youth, better known as Nashi. The Guardian sheds light on the Russian government's efforts to create a cult of personality around Chapman; she is even being advanced as a political candidate:
A month after their deportation, Putin joined up with the failed spies for a karaoke-type evening, where they crooned together the Soviet-era song – and unofficial Russian intelligence service anthem – "From Where the Motherland Begins". After that cosy night out, things moved fast for Chapman. She was awarded a top state honour by President Dmitry Medvedev, posed for erotic – and lucrative – photos for men's magazines, and was handed her own primetime TV show. She did, however, turn down a role in a porn film, despite being offered a "substantial" fee by the Vivid Entertainment adult-film company. may not be attracting the right crowd when the triple-X crowd is knocking on your door. Then again, you might as well make some hay when the notoriety shines on you, I say. Fancy public office?
Chapman has also been made the face of the ruling United Russia party's youth movement and has been tipped to win a seat in parliament in upcoming elections. On top of all this, she has registered her surname as a trademark; has brought out a poker app and a slew of Chapman-own products, including perfume, watches and vodka, is expected to hit the shops soon. The 29-year-old provincial Russian also has a Max Clifford-type agent to handle "commercial projects", which include highly paid interviews and photo shoots.
And then, of course, there's the naked truth that all these commercial and political opportunities stem from Keystone Kops-quality "espionage":
The irony is, of course, that Anna Chapman is being rewarded for doing her job badly. Not only was she duped by the FBI into blowing her cover, but she apparently failed to turn up any useful information for Moscow. Espionage charges were not brought against a single member of the spy ring, as there was no indication that any classified information had been accessed. Prosecutors instead had to settle for charges of "failure to declare foreign agent status" and money laundering. Chapman and the other nine agents were exchanged for just four American spies. As US vice president Joe Biden put it: "We got back four really good ones. And the 10, they've been here a long time, but they hadn't done much."
Meanwhile, let's say the Russian blogosphere is not as taken by this dumbing down of public discourse as yours truly. I suppose that Putin's attempts to become the Eastern Silvio Berlusconi isn't going down too well with the intelligentsia:
But despite her ubiquity, it's arguable whether Chapman is popular among ordinary Russians. As ever in this country, it's the internet where people's true feelings find a voice. And Russia's assorted bloggers and message-board users seem to be unequivocal in their disdain.

"Citizen of the world Anna Chapman is undoubtedly the major hero of our vast country," writes one user on Live Journal – Russia's most popular blogging platform. "We all also dream of dropping our knickers abroad and stealing enemy secrets." "A true symbol of our time!" offers another. "How we need such people! Those ready to join whatever they are told to! To sleep with whomever they are told to!" Other comments are more explicit, involving combinations of the words "Putin" and "whore".
UPDATE: Don't miss her video interview, too.