Serious Funster: Kim Dotcom's ability to mix serious politics with the digital playfulness so defining of the 18-25-year-old age-group raises the possibility of his putative "Megaparty" mobilising a significant number of first-time and/or abstaining voters, thereby, as Fairfax journalist, Vernon Small, put it: "throwing a spanner in the works" of the 2014 General Election.
JOHN KEY must be hoping that Kim Dotcom is extradited before the election, because if Dotcom is still here in November there’s every chance that Mr Key’s Government won’t be.
Those who make it their business to know what’s going on politically began hearing the rumours more than two months ago. That talk of a Dotcom inspired and funded political party was no longer talk: that action was being taken to make it happen; that high-profile individuals were being approached to take on the public roles required to bring a new political party into existence.
These individuals are young, wired and mercifully free of the sort of ideological and historical baggage that connects both National and Labour politicians to the “failed policies of the past”. Dotcom’s “Megaparty” (its working title) will not be about the past, it will be about the future.
As a party of the future, Megaparty will appeal mostly to those voters with the most future to appeal to – the young.
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.
It’s a demographic that is at once aggressively individualistic and touchingly collective: keen to make their personal contribution, but equally eager to share it. A generation which, ideologically-speaking, finds little to connect with in either National or Labour. If these kids vote at all, it is probably for the Greens – but even there the wagging finger of environmental correctness is as likely to offend their anarchic instincts as it is to engage them.
Dotcom has already issued a compressed version of the Megaparty’s manifesto – tellingly to the international website/magazine, Vice:
“Government is supposed to serve us, the people. We are paying with our taxes [in the expectation] that they do a good job for us. But look what they do: they undermine our rights, they destroy our freedoms, they censor our internet. So we are the ones who have to bring that change.
“That is why I get involved in politics because I am f…ing tired of this nonsense and someone has to stand up and change this.”
That Mr Dotcom cannot actually stand for election (he is not a New Zealand citizen) will likely make his party more, rather than less, electable. The idea that someone might set up a party for strictly altruistic and politically limited purposes: to roll back the legislative assaults on individual rights and freedoms and preserve the independence of the Internet; will have huge appeal among the young who tend to view the political class in general and professional politicians in particular with withering disdain.
The documentary in which Vice News’s Tim Pool talks to Dotcom reveals a man with an unusually powerful grasp on what makes the younger generation sit up and take notice. Pool’s reaction to the larger-than-life Dotcom is equally fascinating. The mansion, the sprawling lawns, the high-tech toys, nothing on the multi-millionaire’s estate is either enviously resented or even slyly denigrated. On the contrary, the young reporter behaves like a child in a toy store and Dotcom shares in his excitement.
Business, commerce, capitalism itself: the younger generation doesn’t damn these things as bad in themselves. It’s the evil capitalism enables that they condemn. Like the Bible says: “The love of money is the root of all evil”. Dotcom’s singular gift is his ability to turn money into fun – and then share it.
Statistics New Zealand estimate that on 30 June 2013 there were 333,840 New Zealanders aged 20-24 – more than enough to surmount the 5 percent 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.
It’s even possible that the tightly-packed electorate of Auckland Central, with its tens-of-thousands of young, upwardly-mobile, inner-city apartment-dwellers, might end up being persuaded to guarantee Dotcom’s and Megaparty’s success by electing their (carefully chosen) candidate to Parliament.
Not when one considers the 1984 success of that other high-profile, beguilingly- roguish, self-made millionaire, Sir Robert Jones. Or the surprise defection of Auckland Central voters from Labour’s Richard Prebble, to the Alliance’s Sandra Lee, back in 1993.
Given his history of making the Internet dance to his tune, Dotcom’s political apps and communication strategies are likely to give Megaparty a reach and a level of sophistication that New Zealanders have never before encountered.
“Let the masses see your talent and your gifts”, the ebullient German entrepreneur told Vice’s Tim Pool. With the launch of his party in late-January, Kim Dotcom is poised to follow his own advice.
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 14 January 2014.