Internet party amateur and vain

KIM DOTCOM: The internet entrepreneur is now heading into politics.
KIM DOTCOM: The internet entrepreneur is now heading into politics.

The imminent but aborted birth of the country's newest political party this week has been one of the most bizarre non-events in recent political history.

From the first tweet-fuelled rumblings of the human headline that is Kim Dotcom to the ignominious cancellation of the launch party, it has been a study in the politics of naivety and a glowing example of the gullibility of certain sections of the New Zealand news media and public.

Let's just get a few basic facts established before I continue. Kim Dotcom is not a New Zealand citizen and cannot run for office. He has zero political experience apart from making a questionable donation to a failed mayoral candidate.

Furthermore Herr Dotcom is facing extradition to the United States on serious charges and has already been convicted of various commercial crimes in other jurisdictions.

He may have been illegally spied on and didn't get any loo paper when he got arrested in a slightly over the top police raid in 2012. He likes fireworks and rap music, wears a lot of black because it is slimming and is good at playing Call of Duty and, one presumes, Grand Theft Auto V on Xbox. Now I've only been covering politics for 30 years or so but even I can see those attributes make it extremely unlikely, even if he has a million twitter followers or Facebook friends, that he can, in less than 12 months, form a single issue party than can either win an electorate seat or get five per cent of the popular vote.

Those odds get even longer when you discover that a left wing, self- promoting, little-read blogger with the nickname "Bomber" is the mastermind of his political strategy and the new party's secretary is a hard working but naive journalist who has broken Press Gallery rules and breached media ethics resulting in his forced resignation before a single meeting has been held.

What shortens the odds however is an uncritical celebrity-obsessed media full of self-appointed pundits and commentators who seem more than happy to entertain the idea that Kim Dotcom and his cronies might actually represent some meaningful and significant change in New Zealand's political landscape.

Whilst it might rob the tabloid headline writers and breathless young television reporters of meaningless fodder for their daily dross, the cruel truth is as it stands the Internet Party is little more than an amateurish exercise in vanity politics perpetrated by a publicity-seeking convicted criminal.

Strangely enough though, I do have some sympathy with what, in the absence of a meaningful manifesto, seems to be the party's single issue, internet access.

This country has been woefully served by successive governments when it comes to regulation and control of telecommunications and the development of communications infrastructure. Whilst the broadband roll out might be touted as a solution to that problem, it isn't really and we do not have any truly inspirational leadership in that field. Concerning as that is, it would be madness to give Kim Dotcom or any of his acolytes the balance of political power in this country simply to address that issue. The hundreds of thousands of people who have concerns about copyright and net issues would be far wiser to collectively lobby established mainstream political parties to modify their policies than try to foment revolution through support for a bumbling and inept new party.

Admittedly, many of the minor parties seem to be in trouble right now. If John Boscowen is truly the answer to ACT's current troubles they should probably be asking a different question and Colin Craig's continuing weirdness is likely to put the Conservatives firmly in the fringe alternative category by the time the election rolls around in November.

I wonder if by then Kim Dotcom and his free political fireworks might not have fizzled out in a frenzy of tweets, blog commentaries, online leaks and unfulfilled promises to reveal all and take on the system.

Despite the hysteria of the commentators, the past week suggests the old and tested political brands will offer Kiwis more bang for their voting bucks.

The Dominion Post