NZ POLITICS DAILY: Dotcom's Internet Party - can it succeed?

Dr Bryce Edwards
Amongst the circus surrounding Kim Dotcom’s new Internet Party, two big questions stand out: 1) Will it succeed, and 2) What does it stand for? Many of the more important and interesting commentaries look at whether it is genuinely relevant – rather than a trivial sideshow – and what impact it could have politically and ideologically.
1) Will the Dotcom Internet Party succeed?
Kim Dotcom reportedly aims to win seats at the 2014 general election. But is this really a plausible goal, given that no new parliamentary party has arisen from outside of Parliament since the Act Party at the first MMP election in 1996. All other parties have been established from within Parliament, and it has proven incredibly difficult for other new parties to establish and survive. After all it’s not easy to win an electorate seat, and to make it to the 5% MMP threshold requires about 125,000 votes. And, now, with Dotcom’s party for Monday night cancelled, there will be many people with less confidence in the whole venture.
One commentator who believes Dotcom could succeed is Chris Trotter, and he has written two very positive items about the potential for the Internet Party to win 5%. Trotter’s column, Dotcom's Megaparty of serious fun, emphasises the generational aspect of the Dotcom party’s appeal: ‘Its electoral base will be the generation born into the internet age: young New Zealanders in their late teens and early twenties; tech savvy, media wise, eager to make their mark but frustrated by an older, baby- boom, generation which refuses to make way for those best-placed to deal with the daunting challenges and changes of the digital age’. He points out that last year, ‘there were 333,840 New Zealanders aged 20-24 - more than enough to surmount the 5 per cent MMP threshold. A huge number of these young people are conveniently concentrated on the nation's campuses - making the universities and polytechs Megaparty's prime recruitment sites’.
Trotter’s second blog post, Showtime! Thinking About Kim Dotcom’s, draws parallels between the Internet Party and political contemporaries around the world: ‘If Dotcom has been studying the Italian examples, especially Grillo’s Five Star Movement (which won 25 percent of the popular vote in last year’s Italian general election) then he will understand that the fuel which fires such electoral phenomena is the disillusionment – bordering on hatred – which voters (especially young voters) feel towards the political class.  These professional politicians, who seem to speak a language and act in accordance with a belief system which is quite foreign to ordinary people, remain coldly unmoved by the demands of democratic majorities. They may be members of different political parties, but the policies which they espouse are almost all variations on the same neoliberal and profoundly undemocratic themes’.


Trotter concludes that ‘If Dotcom is able to combine these three elements: popular mistrust of the political class; an unmediated means of communicating with the masses; and carefully staged opportunities for cathartic political release; then he has every chance of polling well above the 5 percent MMP threshold’.
Rightwing blog Roar Prawn asserts that ‘there is a serious possibility that after the next election – Key maybe sitting down thrashing out a coalition with DotCom. Wonder  who will be sweating then?’ – see:  Internetting the dotty commos. She explains why a Dotcom party can connect with Generation Y voters: ‘These digital natives distrust everything and they hate most the things which impinge their ability to move around on the net sucking up what the want when they want at the least cost…. He is seen by the GenYers as the man who is fighting against big business, what they see as Big Brother Governments and fighting for freedom in their new digital playground… He is a hero they can identify with, a victim of tyranny, a winner,  a master of the digital universe and irreverent. GenY struggles to take anything really seriously unless its something that impinges on what they see as their freedoms. So they revere him.  They see him as the only one who is fighting for their freedom on the net – the place they are most at home."
Not everyone is convinced of course. Gordon Campbell has written a very thoughtful blogpost today discussing many aspects of the Dotcom party – see: On Dotcom, and recent events at Scoop. He admits that Dotcom has a chance: ‘Dotcom certainly has the resources and contacts to wheel in hip hop /EDM artists who would get the attention of young voters way beyond the capacity of Labour and the Greens’. But ultimately Campbell is distinctly unimpressed with Dotcom’s chances: ‘Because so much of the Internet Party looks like a toy and vanity project for Dotcom, the likelihood is that such a party will function – at best – as only a voter recruitment vehicle that by mid year, will have lost its ability to amuse Dotcom. Especially if and when the polls are indicating by then that the Internet Party hasn’t a hope of (a) winning a seat or (b) reaching the 5% mark that would make its “kingmaker” role anything more than delusionary. At which point, Dotcom may think that he can throw his imagined legions behind Labour or the Greens. If that’s Plan B, he’s dreaming. The likelihood is that the only lesson that Dotcom will have given to the kids of south Auckland is the one that they’ve already sussed out : never trust a politician’.
Danyl Mclauchlan also thinks it will be less than successful: ‘My gut feeling is that people aren’t going to give votes to a foreign national with a past history of criminal convictions who is facing extradition to stand trial in the US. But Dotcom’s formidable intellect and vast fortune make him highly unpredictable. I think he might take votes off the Green Party? Maybe? And maybe younger male National voters who think reducing World of Warcraft server latency is an important policy? But my best guess is that he’ll get less than 0.5%’ – see: Microparties.
To have a chance at getting to 5%, the Internet Party is going to have to make a big impact when it launches properly or it will end up being cursed with the ‘wasted vote’ syndrome which scares off voters, afraid that their party vote will be wasted – especially when the race for government looks to be close. Without a strong first impression and showing in early opinion polls, the party will be doomed. No doubt there have been plenty of high profile individuals approached to run as candidates. For example, Wallace Chapman has revealed that he was approached – see Rachel Glucina’s Summer Diary, and Russell Brown was also ‘sounded out’ – see: Crashing the party before it starts.
2) What will the Internet Party stand for?
What are Kim Dotcom’s politics and ideological leanings? What will his party campaign on? What would it do in Parliament? What type of government would it support? These are some of the important questions about the political nature of the Internet Party.
Many are assuming that the party will be broadly leftwing. For one of the best discussions on this, see Carrie Stoddart-Smith’s blogpost, Kim Dotcom: Left or Right? She looks at the reasons many are viewing the new party as being leftwing, and then plausibly refutes each one. For example, she dismisses the involvement of leftwing blogger Martyn Bradbury, saying that ‘any anti-capitalist blogger that gleefully teams up politically with a capitalist who is part of the 1% the anti-capitalist despises, does not indicate alignment to the left for the party. It indicates a hypocritical blogger’. According to Karl du Fresne, Bradbury’s involvement is more about personal self-aggrandisement, and he argues that Bradbury is just another in a long line of leftwing activists who has sold out for the money – see: Dotcom and Bradbury: a match made in heaven – or should that be hell?
For further ideas about what the Internet Party might stand for in terms of policies, see Gordon Campbell’s On Dotcom, and recent events at Scoop. He says, ‘Dotcom intends to focus almost exclusively upon Internet freedoms. In doing so, he seems willing to outsource the boring old political stuff – you know, like having a credible health policy or economic policy – to Labour and the Greens. If so, he cannot hope to have much pull with the libertarian, National leaning voters who might share his zeal for Internet freedom’. But perhaps more significantly, Campbell discusses what electoral impact Dotcom could have: ‘Dotcom has the potential to split the existing anti-Key, centre left vote – in much the same way that Ralph Nader did in the 2000 US election – without either winning an electorate or crossing the 5% barrier, nationwide. If so, a significant share of the centre left vote would be wasted’.
Wallace Chapman has also been quoted detailing what he’s discovered about Dotcom’s plans: ‘Some big issues he wants to push are our spy laws, the role of the Government Communications Security Bureau in our society and in our country, and the way that our fibre connectivity is woefully outdated’ – see Rachel Glucina’s Summer Diary.
There are further glimpses of policy in Duncan Greive’s very good Guardian feature, Kim Dotcom: 'I'm not a pirate, I'm an innovator'. For example, Dotcom talks about his plans to ‘create tech jobs by creating the right environment for companies to come here and establish a presence in New Zealand’.
Even the Internet Party’s logo is being examined for ideological clues – for example, one article says, ‘The logo's colours appear to be deliberately neutral from a traditional Left-Right perspective, comprising white text against a purple background’ – see Stuff’s Activist linked to Dotcom's Internet Party. Dan Satherley also looks at the party’s branding in Kim Dotcom unveils the Internet Party.
Is the party relatively apolitical? Indeed, is it primarily an attempt by Dotcom to avoid extradition? Cameron Slater puts forward that argument: ‘Sources tell me that his plan is to upset the election so that he can never be extradited, believing that the Labour party would be far more sympathetic to him than National. Using money to influence an election to buy yourself an outcome to a legal problem is called what readers?’ – see: The Internet Party strategy revealed.
Finally, as is appropriate for an Internet Party, there has been plenty of lighthearted and/or insightful analysis on Twitter - see my blog post Top tweets about Dotcom’s new Internet Party.
Bryce Edwards
Today’s content:
Kim Dotcom and the Internet Party
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): The Internet Party strategy revealed
Julie Moffett (Newstalk ZB): Kim Dotcom's party turning into a circus
Chris Trotter (Daily Blog): Showtime! Thinking About Kim Dotcom’s
Adam Bennett and Isaac Davison (Herald): Editor resigns to work with Dotcom party
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Where to for Scoop?
Simon Wong and Dan Satherley (TV3): Details leaked about Doctom's Internet Party
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): The Internet Party
No Right Turn: New parties
Peter Cresswell (Not PC): Internet Party
Carrie Stoddart-Smith (Ellipsister): Kim Dotcom: Left or Right?
Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai (Mashable): Kim Dotcom to Launch His Own Political Party
Amanda Sachtleben (Idealog): Dotcom set to party over new party
Pete George (Your NZ): Internet Party bombshells
Stacey Kirk (Stuff): Dotcom to launch 'Party Party'
Laura McQuillan (Newstalk ZB): Dotcom reveals name of political party
Greg Presland (The Standard): The Internet Party
Pete George (Your NZ): Bradbury’s semi-denial
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): Did you forget this tweet Martyn?
Steven Cowan (Against the Current): The Kim Dotcom Show
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): Who else is owned by Dotcom?
Patrice Dougan (Herald): 9000 bottles in Fonterra cream recall
Matthew Backhouse and Patrice Dougan (Herald): Fonterra cream recall sparks illness concerns
Chris Gardiner and Gerald Piddock (Stuff): Farmer calls for heads over second Fonterra recall
Gerald Piddock (Stuff): Fonterra still tracing source of E coli
Colin Craig
Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Colin Craig I am (slapped legs & wham)
Rob Salmond (Polity): Herald on Colin Craig
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): Brian Edwards on Colin Craig
Electorate boundary changes
Michael Cummings (Manawatu Standard): Editorial: Electorate decision dumps on towns
Jono Hutchison (TV3): ACC dumps workplace training scheme
Adam Bennett (Herald): ACC to can programme after $19m spent
Laura McQuillan (Newstalk ZB): Govt accused of stitch-up with Taxpayers' Union
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): CTU tries to defend their troughing
Brendan Horan
Adam Bennett (Herald): Horan lifts lid on new party plan
Stacey Kirk and Tony Wall (Stuff): Brendan Horan to start new party
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Horan cleared
Len Brown
Jimmy Ellingham (Herald): Embattled mayor faces new date: in court
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): Pants down Brown faces corruption charges
National Party
Laura McQuillan (Newstalk ZB): Retiring MP had "a great grasp of the people"
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Roy retires
Labour Party
Carla Penman (Newstalk ZB): Added incentive for Whangarei MP
Tracey Chatterton (Stuff): Aspiring MP charged with attempted murder
Patrick Leyland (Progress Report): More NZ Labour selections…
Offshore oil and gas
Aaron Hawkins (Daily Blog): The oil free future is needed now
Patrick Smellie (Stuff): Be careful what you wish for
Rob Slamond (Polity): English lies on impact of tax switch
Ferry contract
Olivia Carville (Stuff): Patients to run health care online
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): The healthcare portal
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): 2013 Kiwiblog Awards Voting
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): New Zealand General Social Survey
Brendan Manning (Herald): Logging company fined $60k over death
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Some 2013 posts
Danielle Nicholson (Herald): Whistleblower sacked by council
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): What blogging was…and is

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13 Comments & Questions

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If KDC simply campaigns on honesty and transparency he will trump the offerings of all existing political parties.

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Yes, but will he deliver?

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Interesting article with some facts not previously apparent. I disagree that Dotcom's only attractive to younger voters, as a boomer past my use by date albeit still productive commercially his stance on Internet and Spying issues resonates strongly with me so would not rule out party voting for him, will depend on how Conservatives fare as at present the possibility of seeing Binding referenda as a tool to keep politicians honest and reflecting majority opinion more important than Dotcom's Internet/spying stance. A party that encompassed both - well that would be a sure fire vote winner.
I don't believe a new or small party needs to have policy on everything, concentrate on key issues important to target market and be clear on what you are trying to achieve and be knowledgable and cogent in dealing with unimportant issues like - did man land on the moon - who cares its not relevant to political issues and only a total Moron would ask such a question. Likewise constant references to past personal history as a negative connotation should reflect on the multitude of politicians some currently in Parliament who have committed financial crimes - Winston/Helen Clark and probably others whose true history of incompetence or complicity is yet to be revealed. Commentators and media should stick to the facts or issues and only bring in personal issues were they are relevant to and explain that relevance so the listener is informed.

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Mr Edwards writes a fascinating summation.
There is however an angle that might be labelled John Keys nightmare and that is when the 'Revenge of the Nerds' turns into very real voting numbers not just from the youth market, but a major injection of seniornet type internet savvy grey hairs. The more thoughtful old folk, and I gladly wear that label also, are very much followers of the George Carlin philosophy on politics and politicians.
At my grand age would I give Dotcom a vote ? Even just for sport...You bet.

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A great vehicle for a protest vote by young urban professionals and others dissatisfied with pathetically slow infrastructural progress under the current government - especially poor technology infrastructure, essential in a modern society.

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Interesting, to read in the Herald that Business leader Derek Handley offered tacit endorsement, by describing Key's National Party as -- bullying, arrogant and lacking in vision. All true of course.

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DOTCOM is fighting extradition to the US to face internet piracy charges.
If found guilty he will spend a considerable amount of time in goal.
How does he avoid this?
1. Delay the process by countless court appeals, spiced with lawyers statements describing what a victim DOTCOM is
2.Make lots of public appearances accompanied with press releases given to journalist in bite sized pleases easy to digest
3. Form a political party, gain further public support, gain a platform to denigrate those who he feels are against him
At the end of this process does he get on the plane or avoid his day in Court?
Am I being cynical or is this just a rich guy with lots of money and resources manipulating gullible old NZ?

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Is he manipulating or just thumbing his nose at the political establishment. A lot of people will be happy to join him in doing that. Rather than feel manipulated, they will probably enjoy that opportunity.

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So it's all about sticking it to the man. Radical.

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Actually, if KDC does manage to get his party up and running, and he is extradicted to the US prior to the election, he will garner a significant amount of sympathy from the various groups he appeals to and in turn, undoubtedly attract a lot more votes. Interesting times.

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I'm in his target audience, disillusioned and digital native, and I would *never* support someone so self-interested.

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Because other politicians aren't like that at all....

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Well Mr joking right, you are a bit stuffed.
Look around you all your work colleagues and especially your boss, every one of them angsting and stressing with self interest.
No place for you in politics either, greens supporting self interested al gore, Young nats supporting any cuckoo they can help manipulate into a safe seat and I could go on.

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