Brian Rudman 's Opinion

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Dotcom soap opera's latest season is best yet

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Kim Dotcom.
Kim Dotcom.

Can the Kim Dotcom soap opera get any more fantastical? In Season 1, it was the slow evisceration of Act leader John Banks for failing to rush to Mt Eden Prison with a feather mattress after our portly hero was banged up on orders from the FBI.

Season 2, and it was the turn of the constabulary, the spy service and Prime Minister John Key to be humiliated, as Dotcom's legal team revealed questionable search warrants, spies listening into conversations they should not have and evidence being sent off to the FBI illegally.

Now, Season 3 three has begun with a bang.

Hone Harawira, Mana Party leader, champion of the down-trodden and scourge of "White motherf***ers [who] have been raping our lands and ripping us off for centuries" is caught in bed - figuratively speaking - with an alien millionaire, negotiating a political marriage of convenience for the upcoming election.

This is the same Mr Harawira who split with the Maori Party because he couldn't stand its decision to cuddle up to the right-wing National Government.

Eighteen months ago, after the slap-stick bumbling and embarrassing forelock pulling by New Zealand authorities to their United States counterparts was revealed, I was moved to wonder if Dotcom was in fact a computer virus, slowly infecting our senior politicians and agencies of state, and transforming them into figures of fun.

Whether he is a virus, or a puckish imp, sent by the gods to mock those who would rule over us, Dotcom continues his uncanny facility to bring out the ridiculous in them.

Mr Harawira is only one of several who have succumbed to Dotcom's Internet Party project. But with a seat in Parliament, and a chance of being re-elected in this September's general election, he is the prize catch.

With an electorate seat to his name, the Mana Party - or any alliance of parties including Mana - can bring in a proportionate number of extra MPs on his coat-tail, regardless of the 5 per cent threshhold that parties without an electorate MP have to surmount.

Harawira's return would enable more Dotcom/Mana Party alliance list MPs to join him in the House, once their combined vote reached around 2 per cent of turnout.

For a man of strong ideological beliefs, it seems incredible that Harawira would be tempted by Dotcom's sweet-nothings before the Internet Party reveals its policy platform. The lure seems to be the $1 million-plus in campaign funding being dangled by Dotcom. Equally crazy is the party's intention to seek 500 members so it can officially register, before party policy has been dreamed up. Apparently that's in the hands of veteran New Plymouth-based journalist Jim Tucker.

In a welcome burst of sanity, Mana activist and former Green MP Sue Bradford has warned that joining forces with a millionaire facing various legal challenges "would really go against the kaupapa that I believe in". By that, she meant Mana was a party that stood for tino rangatiratanga and for all New Zealanders on low or no incomes.

She later added that Kim Dotcom had "tried to make a go of buying the Right - people like John Banks. That didn't work out ... and now he seems to be making a go of buying the Left".

Alternatively, you can see this as Dotcom having fun driving a great wedge into the middle of Mana. Great sport, like his earlier, very slow and very public pulling the wings off John Banks.

This talent to bring the powerful down to earth with a thud reminds me of English satirist William Donaldson, who in 1980 published the hilarious Henry Root Letters. Masquerading as Root, a retired right-wing wet-fish merchant, Donaldson wrote dotty, semi-deranged letters to the powerful of the land, often patting them on the back for something they'd done, and encouraging even more extreme behaviour. He'd often enclose a small bank note. Many recipients failed to spot they were being sent up, and replied, sometimes adding to their already outrageous views.

Following a Guardian expose on jury fixing, Root wrote to a senior Crown prosecutor, enclosing a pound note, nominating himself "as a rigged juryman" in "cases involving pornographers, blasphemers and those prone to civil agitation and disorder ... Put my name at the top of the list if you want a conviction". The money was returned.

When he told Sir David McNee, then Police Commissioner at Scotland Yard, that it was "better that 10 innocent men be convicted than that one guilty man goes free", the reply said: "Your kind comments are appreciated."

The resultant book became that year's number one best-seller.

By happenstance or design, Dotcom has ended up playing a similar court jester role in New Zealand. If the FBI finally succeeds in dragging him off for trial, it will be a much duller place.

- NZ Herald

Brian Rudman

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

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