Dotcom's straight talk wins over Kiwis
Kim Dotcom erupted on to the national stage when he was hauled at gunpoint from his multimillion-dollar mansion by New Zealand police on allegations he is an international fraudster ripping off US Hollywood studios.
He then moved into the centre of a political scandal embroiling John Key's Government over donations to John Banks.
Throughout this strange journey through the national consciousness, the man mountain German with the made-up surname has begun to win some public favour.
In an almost ironic twist, given his height, girth and extravagant persona, Dotcom has become the little guy, the David against the Goliath of Hollywood business interests, the straight talker versus the obfuscating New Zealand political establishment.
This was shown in a Sunday Star-Times readers' poll this past week where 65 per cent of respondents rated Dotcom as more trustworthy than Epsom MP Banks.
It seems improbable that there could be so much support for a man who has a list of crimes attached to his name – hacking, computer fraud, handling stolen goods, embezzlement – and now faces copyright infringement charges for which he could face up to 50 years in prison.
Public relations specialist Felicity Anderson said Dotcom has carefully turned the New Zealand public around.
"I think people thought he was just a big rich wanker. Now they are looking at him, and thinking actually 'I quite like him telling the establishment to get stuffed'," Anderson said. She believes Dotcom quickly and shrewdly worked out Kiwis are likely to react to feelings of injustice.
"I think he's been working with a local and international media team to understand the national psyche and once he tuned in to how this nation thinks, they teased out the whole idea that maybe things weren't done quite right."
Brand specialist Jill Brinsdon said Kiwis have fallen for Dotcom because he has all three elements of a "fantastic brand" – consistency, relevance and stimulation.
"He backs himself and has the courage to behave in the ways that many of us would really like to. He has this incredible X-factor, he is like a mad genius with a big heart. Like it or not, he is one of the leaders of the online world we find ourselves living in."
Also in Dotcom's favour is his sense of humour. Kiwis like a person who can laugh at himself, says Anderson. "He is really quick on his feet."
This is most wickedly shown in his Amnesia rap, produced by Printz Board, who writes songs for the Black Eyed Peas. The song was released a week after Dotcom claimed Banks had asked him to split a $50,000 donation in two anonymous contributions.
Banks' initial response was that he could not remember details.
Close to 120,000 people have viewed the video via YouTube.
Brinsdon: "It says it imaginatively, creatively and courageously. He is a huge larger-than-life character and I don't just mean physically ... He's a big boy with all the toys and he's having fun."
Dotcom is a family man with seven children, two of them adopted from his wife's brother.
"He could have gone out and done stories for Woman's Day, Woman's Weekly and flashed the family around but he hasn't. He has really been quite muted. I think people in New Zealand respect that," said Anderson.
Brinsdon again: "He's gone to jail, kept his head down, kept the family very private, and then stories come out that he happened to be the guy that donated the fireworks to Auckland and he happened to put $1m towards Christchurch."
Sunday Star Times