Putin's Porn

A successful political campaign relies on memes that can capture the hearts and minds of the people and turn them into voters. Words like "hope," "change," and "poor people" work, but in Russia, where campaign season is in full swing ahead of elections...

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Feb 6 2012, 4:00pm

A successful political campaign relies on memes that can capture the hearts and minds of the people and turn them into voters. Words like “hope,” “change,” and “poor people” work, but in Russia, where campaign season is in full swing ahead of elections on March 4, the memes are on another level entirely. Words aren’t necessary. Try tits and YouTube.

When it’s not inciting the largest anti-government protests the country has seen in decades and paying lip service to serious legal reform and authentic transparency, Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party has tried to build its case among the working class with all sorts of next-level marketing tricks. The first in a string of brilliant pro-Putin campaign ads released last summer features an attractive young lady promoting the politically savvy act of ripping off her shirt to a group of her hot friends, because they would rip anything apart for their leading man. To encourage other young Russians to join in, she then announces an online contest and the grand prize of an iPad 2. With a dollop of sex, populism, and a bit of gadget lust, the ‘rip off your clothes for Putin’ meme was born.

As a Putin’s Army group emerged on the social networking site Vkontakte, and videos began appearing on YouTube, more young ladies, clearly moved to action by the sight of their comrades’ erect nipples, donned some provocative garb, took to the streets and started washing Russian-made cars. The carefully-staged events – at which some of the prime ministers spin doctors were spotted – added to the ‘rip off your clothes for Putin’ meme the sexy car wash meme, a tried-and-true tactic used by Hooters restaurants, school sports teams and porno flicks the world over.

Not all Russians have been amused by the Putin porn shenanigans, if they care at all. “The event was supposed to be striking and patriotic – and there was clearly a considerable amount of money pumped into it,” said Nastya Surguch, a management student in Moscow and member of a group called 'Anti Putin's Army,’ of the Putin’s Army car wash event. "But it was pretty pathetic. That's often the way things are in Russia today. I'm not being nostalgic and saying things were better before, but even in the bloody years under Stalin the country wasn't so lawless."

But the idea had breasts, and so it had legs. President Dmitry Medvedev picked up the boob meme for a campaign drumming up support for the anti-liquor bill he introduced in the Duma in August. “Medvedev’s Girls” ask viewers to choose between a cold beer and their hot bodies, offering to remove articles of clothing when booze is emptied into buckets. To these horny guys, the choice seems obvious: all the best parts of a drunken frat party without the pesky hangover and guilt.

In a newer pro-Kremlin ad, a young model makes eyes at a voter before accompanying him behind the curtain of the voting booth – a literal rendition of Putin’s campaign slogan, “Together towards a great Russia.” Which sounds much better than “Voters Get Screwed.”

Taking the ‘Poon for Putin’ meme to its reductio ad absurdum, one determined young Russian created a pervy little meme indeed: A YouTube video of a dude who spent a month groping 1,000 women on the street and then shook Putin’s hand, transferring the power of the breasts he grabbed to his leader.

As America gears up for its own elections this year, and casts new aspersions on Putin’s Kremlin and his cult of personality, American voters might find in Putin’s Army a chance to consider the lengths that American politicians might go to get a vote. Our campaign ads are already a cesspool of negativity. If moral righteousness and religious affinities can take a backseat to ad hominem attacks in our ever-distractable political circus, campaigns that look like Frederick’s of Hollywood ads don’t seem so unlikely. There’s a reason you need to be 18 to vote.

Updated: February 6, 11.30 AM

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