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Beads and Blankets in the 21st Century: Kim Dotcom, Internet Mana, the worm turns, PR disaster brews

GUEST OPINION

The Cult of Kim Dotcom appears to be suffering a few set backs as he and his “rent a party” struggle to figure out policy, direction, how to work with each other, and such an increasingly negative tide of publicity and anecdotal evidence that, as a fellow patron of mine at the Local said, “we are sick of him and the Internet Party.” The Internet Party may have had a chance to stand on its own two feet without Kim Dotcom and Mana, provided they had some unique policies, but this continued mashing together of Dotcom, Internet, and Mana is building to be one of the greatest PR disasters of the decade.

This week the revelation that the SIS felt they were overruled by “political pressure” to allow Dotcom residency. They were holding up his residency and were effectively overruled by as yet unidentified political force. The SIS tried, even after that, to block Kim Dotcom on this basis:

“On October 27, 2010, the SIS again urged Immigration NZ to discuss Dotcom with the police, saying “just from looking at his records INZ do have enough on his criminal history to not give him [residency].” – Source

Now, as we know, Kim Dotcom has an extensive criminal history with convictions largely to do with dishonesty, money, and hacking. If you or I tried to get into New Zealand with that kind of record we would simply be denied at the border and sent home. So how did Kim Dotcom get residency?

His and his hired party leader Laila Harré claim that it was all a vast conspiracy to get him into the country so he could be extradited to the US more easily. But according to extradition treaties, there would be absolutely no difference between extraditing him from Hong Kong vs New Zealand. Anyway, if that was the case, why didn’t they whisk him away the moment he landed here? Why did they wait so long? Why give him permanent residency before extraditing him? It’s an unbelievably bad spin on the entire situation and barely plausible in the weakest of conspiracy theories.

The reality is more likely that he bought his way in under the investor category just like a bunch of other international criminals. This is why the National Party is ducking for cover at the moment because after the massive fallout from the fracas this year over foreign investors, dragging up yet another one with a man who has an extremely colourful background is something that they will be desperate to avoid. John Key is basically in hiding over the situation and Bill English is looking a little shifty when he gets pushed. National is getting blood splatter on themselves and running a hundred miles in the other direction to escape more.

For those of you who want to read the entire press release from Internet Mana, you’ll find it here, I warn you, it does your head in to try and understand it.

So why come up with some nonsensical story about being given permanent residency so the US can extradite him more easily? Because if it were true that Kim Dotcom did buy his way into the country, then it makes him look bad too. He is desperately trying to reinvent himself as a man, with the hard left claiming he has been “radicalised”.  That allows the hard left to think they have “converted” him and soothes their own conscience in terms of taking a hard right capitalist’s money in return for giving over potential Maori seats to a “rent a party” with a man who is hell-bent on bringing the current government down.

This is beads and blankets in the 21st century, except today it’s internet access and fireworks.

The National Business Review has been following this entire saga quite closely and the fallout is interesting. Kim Dotcom is seen as a two-edged sword by a lot of people, he has always been a strength and weakness to whatever he lends his weight too. An article (note it is paid content) written by Nick Grant this week is titled “Baboom broker tries to distance capital raise from Dotcom“. It says:

“The reason for wanting as much sunlight between Baboom and the German entrepreneur is “he’s a bit of a double-edged sword,” says Mr Yeo, “people like him or absolutely despise him. And he’s obviously got ongoing legal issues, so basically Grant wanted to remove him as far as possible from the platform, so if something happens to him, he’s got no ties to it.”

Internet Mana would be well-advised to heed that advice.

It was common a year ago for Kim Dotcom to be held up as a challenger to the State, a man who was wronged, a champion of little people. However as we know over time the cult of personality fades and the worm turns. The NBR reader comments on a number of articles this week have been overwhelmingly in the negative, both toward Dotcom, and the Internet Mana Party. Here are the articles and some comments.

Nats in crisis over Dotcom SIS file

Dotcom residency revelations put Harre in a tricky spot

“What I can’t fathom is why Dotcom wanted residency in a country that could so easily extradite him to the US? Could he not have withdrawn his application? Presumably he wants the pleasure of residing here without the associated legal implications, i.e. the man wants to have his cake and eat it too. He appears to have effectively put his own head in the noose and is now whining about his near sighted decision.”

Come on Matthew you can do better than this. -getting caught up in the conspiracy yourself. The buffoon Dotcom signed his own death warrant By coming to NZ if he thought extradition was a possibility The sooner this clown leaves the better”

“No fault of Harré’s perhaps, but she should shut-up. Her stance is akin to saying ‘I’m pleased to be here but they should have aborted my mother’.

“When will Dotcom go away. Nobody cares about him any more. How is he even a celebrity. We have so many people in NZ who earn more money than him yet have no media face time. I dont care his house was raided and if he wasnt doing anything legal than neither should he. If he is so innocent go back to the USA and face the charges. Or move back to germany. NZ doesnt want him here.”

Now, you can be forgiven for thinking that the NBR is no gauge of public sentiment when it comes to these things. They are pro-business, conservative, and lean blue, however in support of Chris Keall they do touch on wider issues. So who do you go for the younger, left view? Reddit of course.

Reddit Kim Dotcom has Hired the Town Hall

So the background on this is:

“Kim Dotcom says he has proof the Prime Minister lied about when he first knew about him (John Key has long maintained he did not know about his electorate constituent Kim Dotcom until the eve of the raid on his mansion). The Internet Party leader told 3News he plans to release his evidence at an Auckland Town Hall rally five days before the election.” – Source

A touch of Winston Peters one could say. If you read the Reddit comments, from a website that is hand-built by the votes that the Internet Mana Party want, you can see that the majority are negative. Kim Dotcom is hurting the Internet Mana campaign with these types of stunts. Here are some of the comments:

“There is nothing this spoilt brat could say that would make me change my vote. Who the fuck cares if John Key knew him before he claims he did. Hiring the town hall and telling the world is the most stupid thing I’ve read in a long time. I would be more impressed if he threw money at actual need rather than his look at me look at me bullshit. I know people he still owes money too, maybe pay your debts to the little guys first.”

“Dotcom is a nastier piece of work, and very clever. I expect him to be more creative than labour.”

“I used to like this guy, I thought he would bring something to NZ politics. But when he teamed up with Mana it showed he only cared about taking the government down instead of trying to improve things. Ever since then his party has become more and more of a joke.”

“Dotcom is a master of selling the sizzle rather than the sausage. Which makes a lot of sense. A bloke that fat probably knows a thing or two about sausages.”

“He’s assuming that we actually give a f**k about him anymore.”

Not quite the cheering of a year ago, is it?

Finally, an Internet Party belies that it has something to do with technology, and yet, as of June 13th, the top five most voted policies by members were:

  • Decriminalise cannabis.
  • Remove religion as a charitable purpose.
  • Support for electronic/internet voting.
  • Work with other parties on a policy-by-policy basis.
  • Against the TPPA.

Source

It amazes me that Mana has agreed to the first one, which according to Vikram Kumar (the Internet Party’s Chief Executive) they have. Mana were vehemently against it based on the damage that it causes in the isolated communities they represented.

This is a PR disaster of epic proportions in the making. Someone will trace the money that is bankrolling this entire circus and the truth I am quite sure will be of no surprise to those of us who have watched this for the last year or so. Until then, we wait for Kim Dotcom to wield that double-edged sword some more and see who else is going to (accidentally) wear it. Internet Mana appear to have no control over him at all, he doesn’t even bother wielding them like puppets, he just does his own thing and the rent-a-leader and chief executive are forced to run around trying to spin it into something positive. They must get little sleep.

Fascinating.

Ian Apperley blogs at strathmorepark

Comments and questions
2

In the Reddit thread I notice you've picked largely unpopular comments and cited them as being how NZedditors feel about Dotcom, which isn't really true. I'd say people just feel apathetic, like he's underdelivered, more than being against him. There are quite a number of comments in that thread supporting him too.

You are right, when I wrote the op ed the comments were quite limited. If you go back now, after a few days, then yes, they are a lot more balanced.