Dotcom logs on for a fight

KIM DOTCOM: The Internet Party promises more jobs, cheaper broadband, more modern schools.
KIM DOTCOM: The Internet Party promises more jobs, cheaper broadband, more modern schools.

What a relief to hear Kim Dotcom explain that he's not a Nazi sympathiser - he just likes war games and making lots of money.

For a minute last week I was concerned the "vision leader" (as opposed to someone-you-can-actually-vote-for leader) of the new Internet Party was not the sort of person New Zealand really needed pulling political strings in an election year.

It isn't a crime to buy a copy of the autobiography of one of the 20th-century's most monstrous figures, unless you live in France, Germany, Austria or Hungary - which ban the sale of Nazi memorabilia.

And there are legitimate scholarly reasons for owning a copy of Mein Kampf. No doubt the book is in most major libraries in New Zealand.

But let's be honest. Owning a rare first edition personally signed by Herr Hitler and gifted to Hermann Esser, one of the founders of the hated and feared Third Reich, is just a little bit creepy.

Actually, given Dotcom's German nationality, it's more than creepy. It's boorish, stupid, crude, and unthinkably insensitive. Most Germans would rather collect excrement than have anything to do with a regime they remain deeply ashamed of to this day.

But then, most Germans don't hold multiple identities, flee criminal charges, make a fortune out of hosting a web site that enabled large-scale internet piracy, live a self-described lifestyle dedicated to "fast cars, hot girls, super-yachts, amazing parties and decadence" before buying their way into a foreign country, fighting extradition to the United States on counts of fraud and racketeering and deciding to set up a political party dedicated to bringing down the prime minister.

Dotcom also feels it's OK for a German to pose at a party wearing an SS helmet because "I'm a young guy [and] I'm not always politically correct".

He's presumably relying on the sketchy general knowledge of younger New Zealanders, who might not be aware the SS were Nazi stormtroopers who, besides occupying half of Europe, were employed rounding up Jewish people and sending them to death camps to be exterminated.

But hey, let's not get all politically correct about it. I can see how clowning about in Nazi uniform could be a bit of light-hearted fun.

Dotcom's response to the revelations of his Nazi links is to play the victim and accuse his opponents - principally the National Party - of a vicious political smear. Which of course it is. National wants Dotcom out of the picture and preferably out of the country.

But it also happens to be true. And as Tama Umaga once memorably said, we're not playing Tiddlywinks. This is an election campaign. If Dotcom thinks it's tough now, he hasn't seen anything yet.

More is going to come out about Dotcom's background, his previous convictions, and his behaviour as a self-described international playboy, no matter how many legal writs he throws around to try to gag his former employees or the media.

Now that his Internet Party has the 500 members it needs to register as a political entity, Dotcom is officially a public figure and fair game. He would do well to remember this, and perhaps read up on Lange v Atkinson.

Of course, there will be people for whom these attacks on Dotcom's integrity are proof of the failings of the political process and who will see them as even more reason to vote for him. These - the 800,000 people who did not vote last election - are the ones the Internet Party is targeting.

Some detailed policy may help protect the party from accusations it is nothing more than a vanity project for an ego maniac concerned only about his reputation and avoiding spending time in a US jail cell.

So far there's been nothing but meaningless platitudes such as "a party for people who care about a digital future" and the hoary old "breath of fresh air … dose of common sense". The Internet Party promises more jobs, cheaper broadband, more modern schools, and, quite possibly, free apple pie.

Its more curious policies include a government-sponsored digital currency and a review of New Zealand's participation in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing agreement. But there's no costings, no detail, and of course no candidates and no leader.

Dotcom has promised a vote for the Internet Party won't be wasted because even if it does not reach the high 5 per cent threshold for seats in Parliament it will win an electorate seat courtesy of a sitting MP who has agreed to join the party but whom he will not name.

Even if he is not making this up, Dotcom is assuming a lot, given very few electorate MPs have managed to leave their parties and retain their seat at the next election. One of the few was Mana Party leader Hone Harawira, with whom Dotcom is currently performing a bizarre mating dance.

The pair are New Zealand's new political odd couple; an internet tycoon who recently complained New Zealand didn't have enough places for the wealthy to spend their money and a Left-wing Maori activist intent on improving the lot of his downtrodden constituents, most of whom have far more pressing worries than the speed of their broadband connection - assuming they're fortunate enough to have one at all.

Politics makes strange bedfellows, as anyone who has followed the career of Winston Peters will testify. Mana needs money, and the Internet Party needs membership and a guaranteed support base.

But Harawira is better than this. Surely he is far too smart to allow his mana to be damaged by association with Dotcom. Isn't he?

Sunday Star Times