OPINION: Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom might come to regret his foray into politics, if indeed he's not having second thoughts already.
The day before Dotcom launched his Internet Party this week, it was revealed the colourful German had bought a signed copy of Adolf Hitler's Nazi manifesto Mein Kampf. Dotcom seemed bemused that his interest in WWII memorabilia had blown up into a mini-scandal and quickly found himself denying he was in any way sympathetic to a fascist regime synonymous with evil (which is a public statement anyone in politics fervently hopes is never necessary to make).
Dotcom dismissed the story as a trivial smear campaign, and no doubt many voters took a similar view.
The reality Dotcom needs to face up to, though, is that he is entering a world that is subject to intense media and public scrutiny, and he is doing so in an election year. An internet mogul owning a copy of Mein Kampf would hardly rate a mention, but an aspiring political figure hoping to influence the makeup of the next government of New Zealand owning one is a matter of legitimate public interest.
We hold our political leaders to very high standards in this country, and anyone who is asking for a mandate from voters should expect to have their background, beliefs and associations come under the microscope. While stories in the media about what's on one's bookshelf might seem trivial, perhaps even unseemly, it's this level of transparency that gives voters confidence in the health of our democracy.
The challenge for the Internet Party is that it's indistinguishable from the man who conceived it yet, due to his lack of New Zealand citizenship, he is not eligible to stand for Parliament. The party's policies risk being completely overshadowed by the colour and controversy that seem to follow Dotcom wherever he goes, and in whatever he does. It's difficult to shake the feeling that this week's Mein Kampf revelations are simply the beginning of a political sideshow that could last until polling day.
Dotcom's showmanship has largely served him well in his commercial ventures and in his battles with his critics, but it could quickly become a liability in an intense political campaign. His claim, for example, that he has already lured at least one sitting MP to jump ship to the Internet Party has more than a whiff of the bluff and bluster he has become renowned for.
Dotcom might have enjoyed cultivating an air of mystery and intrigue around his profile in the past, but he's about to find out that in the world of politics he won't always get to dictate the terms. The plan to use The Square as the terminal for InterCity buses seems to have stoked fierce debate. We're keen to hear your views, so send a letter to the editor. You can email email@example.com.
- Manawatu Standard
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