Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre McIvor: Owning a book doesn't make you evil

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Kim Dotcom. Photo / Charles Howells
Kim Dotcom. Photo / Charles Howells

I have no time for Kim Dotcom. I don't find him charming and picaresque. I haven't tried to wangle an invitation to his Coatesville parties and I was a little disturbed by those members of the media - and those members of Parliament - who chose to hang out with the big guy.

He may or may not prove to be hard done by with the shutdown of his company Mega Upload. He may or may not be a proponent of National Socialist political theories. I don't know. But I do know that owning a book doesn't make you evil. Not even a signed copy of Mein Kampf, Hitler's manifesto.

I wouldn't want the thing on my shelves but nor would I want any war memorabilia in the house. Plenty of other people are fascinated by World War II and the key players and battles of that six-year bloodbath. And I doubt that collectors of war memorabilia are all Nazi sympathisers.

The hysterical breathless reporting of Dotcom owning a copy of Mein Kampf distils down to "man owns book". A nasty book, certainly. One written by a man whose world view was alarming at best, deeply disturbing at worst.

But it's just a book.

I understand the power of propaganda. When I was 13, my Sacred Heart Girls College history class went to see a screening of Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will.

Our wonderful teacher had told us how the German people had suffered in the years after the Treaty of Versailles. Some might say deservedly so, given that German aggression had led to the devastating World War I. But young Germans growing up in the inter-war years didn't feel guilty. They just felt hungry, angry and bitter.

Mrs Gawn showed us images of girls and boys our age dressed in rags with the pinched faces of the malnourished.

Then off we went to the film of the Nazi rally at Nuremberg. I was enthralled at this beautifully shot piece of propaganda with all its neat columns of strong-jawed, handsome young men in splendid uniforms, the rhetoric from the leader promising to deliver people from depression and oppression and poverty and isolation.

I asked myself whether I would have had the strength to say no to Hitler. Would I really have been willing to accept anyone of any race and creed if I had been poor and angry and desperate?

It frightened the hell out of me to think that in another time and another place I might be tested - and found wanting.

Watching Triumph of the Will taught me a valuable lesson, but it didn't make me a Nazi sympathiser. Reading Mein Kampf, with the advantage of distance, makes you wonder how such cliched tosh could have seduced so many people.

And it puts you on your guard for other opportunists who might want to use economic and political vacuums to their own advantage.

Books aren't evil. Reading 50 Shades of Grey , didn't make me crave a millionaire hunk who would chain me and manacle me and stick all manner of paraphernalia up my hoo-ha.

Reading the Koran didn't make me want to convert to Islam. And as an acquaintance of mine said, watching Brokeback Mountain didn't make him want to engage in loving cowboy sex.

Owning a copy of Mein Kampf doesn't make that posturing buffoon Dotcom a Nazi. And suggestions that books are bad are evocative of book-burning demonstrations - demonstrations the like of which the author of Mein Kampf was particularly fond. And we all know where that led.

All for the good

The number crunching has been done and it appears Kiwi taxpayers' investment in Team New Zealand's America's Cup campaign has been worthwhile. The Government put $36 million into the campaign and Team NZ raised a further $144m, most of it off-shore.

Eighty five per cent of the campaign's total budget was spent within New Zealand and that has to be good for this country's business sector. Of course, finessing numbers is something of an art form and I am sceptical of economic impact reports that inflate the credit side of the ledger with intangibles such as media coverage and feel-good factor.

But on the face of it, a $36m investment and an $87m return seems to stack up and make the next America's Cup challenge seem a bone fide financial investment opportunity. Whether Kiwis want to put the emotional investment into another campaign is another matter.

• Kerre McIvor is on Newstalk ZB, Monday-Thursday, 8pm-midnight

- Herald on Sunday

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