Russia Best Rethink Letting 'House of Cards' Film at the United Nations

The hit Netflix show 'House of Cards' was denied a request to film in the United Nations Security Council chamber after Russia protested. Dumb move, Russia.

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The hit Netflix show House of Cards was denied a request to film in the United Nations Security Council chamber after Russia protested. Dumb move, Russia.

Foreign Policy had the scoop late last night:

Russia's United Nations delegation on Tuesday blocked a request by the producers of the popular Netflix political drama to film two episodes in the U.N. Security Council, citing the need to keep the world's leading security chamber available for unanticipated crises, according to a series of confidential email exchanges between a Russian diplomat and his Security Council counterparts.

Of course, it should be noted that many of the recent United Nations Security Council emergency sessions have been called in response to Russia's extra-curricular activities in Ukraine, but no bother.

In characteristic fashion, the Russian response arrived quickly and forcefully, adding that, in addition to the breakout of possible crises, "we consistently insist that the Security Council premises are not an appropriate place for filming, staging, etc." 

But Russia has long disagreed with what passes for theater at diplomacy's biggest stage in Turtle Bay. In May, it called a Security Council resolution that would refer Syria's civil war to the International Criminal Court a "publicity stunt." And then, after browbeating President Obama in The Times  for threatening to strike Syria without United Nations approval, Russian President Vladimir Putin acted unilaterally in invading and annexing Crimea (and fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine).

None of these are the real reasons why Russia's denial of House of Cards is idiotic. As Julia Ioffe wrote of Putin last year when he was repeatedly credited for being a master strategist:

Putin does not orchestrate, he reacts. Putin is no chess player. He is a knee-jerk, short-sighted little tyrant."

The truth is that in the short term, this is a characteristically jerky move with no foresight. But think about the context of the show, the very same dystopian vision of American politics and relentlessly grim sausage-making, the machinations of a corrupt system, the antidotal cold shower to post-Cold War cheery optimism (as depicted inThe West Wing), all of these are themes that Russia seems bent on making the world believe about America.  

Despite the Chinese subplot involving House of Cards lead Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) and shady Chinese land deals, China not only loves(!) House of Cards, but uses it to instruct its citizens about American corruption. As Bree Feng wrote last month, the show was the lede in a Chinese Communist Party missive titled  “From the Popularity of ‘House of Cards’: A Perspective on Corruption in Western Developed Countries,” which was written by Zhao Lin, who works for "the Institute of China Supervision, an organization affiliated with the Ministry of Supervision."

Corruption as a chronic social illness is deeply rooted in the political, economic and cultural soil of Western developed countries,” Mr. Zhao explained. “Not only are they unable to eradicate their own corruption, they have become the instigator of the internationalization of corruption.”

Putin and Frank Underwood are natural dancing partners. Or, with various plot twists in mind, perhaps more.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.