UPDATE / Aug 15: So much for Laila Harre's pledge during her NBR Ask Me Anything session that "we don't censor youth expression".
The Internet Party said in a statement this afternoon that it has taken the controversial "F**k John Key" video off its official YouTube channel.
It has been replaced by an edited, "family friendly" version.
The move followed a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority by Family First.
"Although the ASA cannot compel Internet Mana to take down the clip, the party has opted to voluntarily remove it from its Youtube channel following the ASA’s decision to uphold the complaint," the party said in a statement.
"Internet Mana believes that while the original footage featured legitimate political expression by a large group of politically disaffected young New Zealanders, it respects the decision by the ASA, which is a self-regulatory body."
I'd struggle to call it the defining issue of the election, but the Internet Party's leader has broken her pledge not to censor youth expression, and we can no longer hear the Christchurch students in full cry. The poor lambs.
Internet Mana's 'F**k John Key' video: nasty fascist overtones or drunk students having a laugh?
UPDATE Aug 7: Internet Party spokesman John Mitchell says: "No free alcohol was served. The venues we held the parties at have strict liquor licensing obligations, not to mention that we are not permitted to supply free alcohol. No paid Internet Party staffer took part in, or led, the chanting. It was completely spontaneous."
The Internet Party is drawing flak for a video placed on its official YouTube channel.
The clip (below) shows Kim Dotcom onstage addressing students during a rally in Christchurch.
"Are you ready for a revolution? Are you ready to take down the Government?," the Mega founder asks the crowd.
"Are you ready to extradite John Key?"
The next shot shows the crowd with right arms raised chanting "F*** John Key".
The editing makes it impossible to tell if Mr Dotcom led the chant, or it was spontaneous.
The Internet Party says the latter was the case, and it was simply a case of student exuberance at the rally.
"We don't censor youth expression," Internet Laila Harre said of the clip during her Ask Me Anything with NBR readers this afternoon.
However, Ms Harre has yet to answer a question from one reader, who posted: "It is disturbing on so many levels, and many parallels are being made to Hitler's 1935 speech, right down to the hand gestures. How can you possibly align yourselves with a person like that?"
NBR political columnist Matthew Hooton says the longer-term impact of the video would depend on whether evidence emerged that the "F**k John Key" chant was planned.
"Laila Harre is saying it was a spontaneous response from a drunk Christchurch crowd, which is one thing," Mr Hooton said. "But information is emerging it was planned by Mr Dotcom's strategists, who planted paid Internet Party staffers in the crowd to start the chant on cue," Mr Hooton says.
"Apparently, the same chant began at exactly the same time at a similar event in Wellington. If that's the case, this is an extremely disturbing development in New Zealand politics, with a real Munich Beer Hall feel."
That might be pushing it, but the official video definitely feels a bit feral for a party trying to position itself as a serious policy contender.
It comes down to whether it's drunk students having a laugh, or an orchestrated mob moment.
Neither are what Laila Harre signed on for.
The Internet Party leader's thoughts must be turning to Kim Dotcom's anti-John Key rally scheduled to be held at Auckland Town Hall a week before the election, and what shape that event will take.
Massey University political marketing specialist Claire Robinson says she can't believe the the Internet Party has sunk so low. She sees clip as robbing Laila Harre of the moral high ground after she slammed John Key over his "sugar daddy" slur.
Otago University lecturer and political commentator Bryce Edwards has a more upbeat take.
"This video could be wildly successful for the Internet Mana Party," he tells NBR.
"It fits perfectly with the election campaign strategy that the party is running — of being an anti-Establishment party with an unconventional and youth-based orientation. The use of the ‘F**k John Key’ slogan by the partygoers will be almost entirely uncontroversial to the youth target market of Internet Mana.
"Of course, the aggressive swearing will be controversial and repellent to many in middle New Zealand, especially amongst more conservative voters. But Internet Mana isn’t attempting to win over such audiences.
"The 'F**k John Key' video nicely encapsulates and captures some of the enthusiasm and sometimes-radical nature of the party. It also shows Kim Dotcom resonating with youth — which is the message that the party is trying to get across to the public. And the party is able to convince the public that it has a growing support base, this will feed into the ‘bandwagon effect’ in which voters are more likely to support a party because they believe it is fashionable to do so."
Some voters — especially those that are already disillusioned or less enthusiastic about the mainstream parties - will find the colourfulness of the Dotcom campaigning to be quite refreshing, Dr Edwards says.
"Therefore, although the video doesn’t fit into the usual political marketing style of political parties, it will help the party differentiate itself even more.
"The video is likely to receive controversial media coverage, and that will only help Internet Mana more. Minor parties are clamouring for public visibility at the moment, and Internet Mana is showing that it has a huge capacity for winning attention. Once again, the polarising nature of Kim Dotcom will keep the party in the headlines."
There is also the secondary issue, however, of how voters in Mana leader Hone Harawira's Te Tai Tokerau electorate will see the clip — or, for that matter, voters for potential coalition partners Labour and the Greens.
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