Finding The Right Words: To an electorate grown weary of the bland rhetoric of parties content to play politics-by-numbers, Kim Dotcom's invitation to "bring down the government" has a novel and, for a great many younger New Zealanders, irresistible appeal.
ARE YOU READY FOR A REVOLUTION? When was the last time anybody asked a crowd of young New Zealanders that question? Seriously? When was the last time a political party, with a reasonable chance of putting at least five people into Parliament, had five candidates for whom the idea of participating in a revolution wasn’t utterly abhorrent?
Honestly? The last time such a thing happened was nearly 100 years ago, when Peter Fraser openly admitted that, were he in Russia, he would be a Bolshevik; and when Labour’s first parliamentary leader, Harry Holland, in his maiden speech, informed the New Zealand Parliament that:
“We of the Labour Party come to endeavour to effect a change of classes at the fountain of power. We come proclaiming boldly and fearlessly the Socialist objective of the Labour movement throughout New Zealand; and we make no secret of the fact that we seek to rebuild society on a basis in which work and not wealth will be the measure of a man’s worth.
“We do not seek to make a class war. You cannot make that which is already in existence. We recognise that the antagonisms which divide society into classes are economically foundationed, and we are going, if we can, to end the class war by ending the causes of class warfare.”
Both Peter Fraser and Harry Holland were former members of the militant trade union organisation known as the “Red Feds” (The New Zealand Federation of Labour) and were well versed in the ways of inspiring their mostly young audiences. Being good Edwardians, they would have shied away from the public use of Anglo-Saxon expletives but, as good Socialists, they would not have hesitated to state in 3,000 impassioned words what a boisterous crowd of Canterbury students this week condensed into just three. Confronted with this government’s and this prime minister’s record, the essence of Peter Fraser’s and Harry Holland’s message would also have been: “Fuck John Key!”
The young advisers to the Internet-Mana Party, at whose urging the in/famous FJK clip was posted on YouTube (21,665 hits and counting) knew what they were doing. Quite apart from accurately anticipating the reaction of their peers, they also hazarded a shrewd guess as to how the “offensive” clip would be received by the political and media guardians of the status-quo.
And they have not been disappointed. Almost to a person, the conservative commentariat has condemned Internet-Mana in the most extravagant terms. PR maven and political commentator, Matthew Hooton, tweeted that the clip contained images reminiscent of a Munich beer-hall circa 1920, thereby setting in motion a Kim-Dotcom-as-Adolf-Hitler meme that within hours would infect huge chunks of the mainstream media. Curiously, very few media commentators appeared to consider how gratefully such criticism might be received by a movement whose primary objective is to be seen as the antithesis of everything old and well-behaved and conventional and boring.
The over-riding goal of Internet-Mana is to be branded as dangerous and transgressive. The Powers-That-Be have co-operated splendidly.
Then again, they may have had no choice. The internal polling of the major political parties may well be detecting the invisible effects of what the visible manifestations of Internet-Mana’s efforts are signalling. The packed halls and enthusiastic chanting of the hundreds of young people who have turned out for the party’s public meetings may simply be the tip of a vast iceberg of political re/engagement on the part of those who usually keep well away from the electoral fray. The pool of voters may be expanding; bringing into play for the first time since 2005 the marginalised, the disillusioned, and – most alarmingly for the forces of the Right – the angry and aggrieved. The sort of people who need very little excuse to begin chanting – “Fuck John Key!”
This is the stuff of nightmares for the Right. Rising participation in the electoral process has always spelled doom for conservative administrations. John Key’s best-case scenario has always been one of mass political somnambulance: in which hundreds of thousands of voters, convinced by the pollsters and their journalistic interpreters that the election was already won, would march, zombielike, into the polling-booths and make the media’s prophecies come true. Kim Dotcom’s unparalleled ability to disturb and disrupt has put this fantastical scenario to the sword. Even worse (from John Key’s perspective) the political spell he has cast cannot now be recalled.
Even were all the rumours of dark secrets soon to be revealed proved correct, the effect of their release would likely be very different from that anticipated by their purveyors. The Establishment, in its hysterical reaction to the FJK clip, has already demonstrated a willingness to do almost anything to upend Internet-Mana’s campaign. Even the most scurrilous revelations will now be received by the insurgent party’s target audience as yet further proof of the extraordinary lengths to which the Powers-That-Be will go to bring Dotcom down.
The optimum strategy to derail Dotcom was always to completely ignore him. But even that option is now denied his enemies. In his Auckland Town Hall meeting of the 15 September Dotcom has laid a trap which the National Government cannot escape. If it attempts to persuade the news media to stay away from the meeting and/or wilfully misrepresent its significance, Dotcom’s case will be made against Key with a force equal to or greater than any evidence he may, with Glenn Greenwald’s internationally visible assistance, produce.
Like Brer Fox and his Tar Baby, Kim Dotcom has, in Internet-Mana, created an object which the Prime Minister and his allies simply could not resist. In his version of the story, however, there will be no Briar Patch into which the Prime Minister can, like Brer Rabbit in “Uncle Remus’s” famous tale, be conveniently thrown and thus escape his fate. If all goes according to Dotcom’s plan, the refrain upon which this story ends will not be “Born and bred in the Briar Patch, Brer Fox! Born and bred in the Briar Patch!” but “Fuck-John-Key! Fuck-John-Key! Fuck-John-Key!”
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 8 August 2014.