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Paul Thomas is a Weekend Herald columnist

Paul Thomas: Anti-politician image lets Dotcom duck real criticism over Nazi buy

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Kim Dotcom could have hedged his bets by buying any number of assets less unsavoury than Mein Kampf. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Kim Dotcom could have hedged his bets by buying any number of assets less unsavoury than Mein Kampf. Photo / Sarah Ivey

According to the target, it was a "disgusting smear campaign", but the revelation that Kim Dotcom owns a signed copy of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf doesn't seem to have done his fledgling political party any harm.

Within days of launching, the Internet Party had 1000 members and registered sufficiently in a TV3 poll to suggest an alliance with Mana would give both parties a seat in Parliament.

Perhaps the public believes you can't judge a person by what they read. Actually, you can and we do.

Invited to someone's place for the first time, you happen to notice their bookshelves are crammed with hard-core pornography of the non-consent sub-genre, or white supremacist pamphlets, or jihadist bomb-making manuals.

Do you process this as evidence of an inquiring mind, or suddenly remember that you're having a heart transplant in an hour's time?

It was suggested it's not really any different from owning a copy of Karl Marx's Das Kapital. Actually, it is. Das Kapital is a critical analysis of capitalism and the class system that has stood the test of time, not a blueprint for future communist societies, let alone a road map to the Gulag Archipelago and the Killing Fields.

Take away the anti-Semitism and Mein Kampf has little relevance to any place or time outside post-World War I Germany.

Then there's the argument that it's just a book, what's the big deal? After all, reading The Silence of the Lambs didn't make us want to eat a census taker's liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti.

Hitler wouldn't have bought that. He understood the power of ideas and the impact of the written word. Shortly after he took office, an orgy of book burning kick-started the systematic suppression of literature deemed incompatible with Nazi ideology.

Finally, there's the line that it's not a book as such, it's an investment. Personally, I struggle to see why it's okay to own Mein Kampf provided the object of the exercise is to make money.

Leaving aside the fact that, with an estimated net worth of $200 million, Dotcom hardly needs to make a killing on his Mein Kampf punt to keep the wolf from the door, there are limitless investment opportunities available without having to dabble in Nazi memorabilia.

At the Chicago Mercantile Exchange you can trade pork bellies, dry whey, lean hogs and skimmed milk powder, to name but a few. Then there are stamps, art, antiques and precious metals. For that matter, there are thousands of rare books that weren't written by the person responsible for World War II and the Holocaust.

If John Key or David Cunliffe tried to accumulate wealth by speculating on Mein Kampf, their judgment would be questioned and their brand damaged.

Dotcom gets away with it because he's perceived as an anti-politician and therefore doesn't have to abide by the standards we impose on professional politicians. Indeed, the more he flaunts his difference, the more popular he is.

His wealth is an even more obvious example of this syndrome.

Key's affluence supposedly means he's out of touch; despite being four times wealthier than Key, far more of a conspicuous consumer and a comparatively recent arrival in this country, Dotcom supposedly "relates" to ordinary New Zealanders.

To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, he can aspire to wield power without having to demonstrate responsibility.

100% Pure danger

A fortnight ago, I suggested our tourism authorities must be tempted to rush out a press release whenever a week goes by without a tourist being raped, robbed with gratuitous violence or mauled by dogs.

I was being facetious, but not facetious enough: a week is setting the bar way too high.

The very next day two Czech women who have hitchhiked around Europe without incident were robbed by a motorist who picked them up in Hawke's Bay and dumped them on the side of the road with nothing but the clothes they were wearing.

At least it was robbery without gratuitous violence.

A week later, another pair of visiting hitch-hikers were attacked on the West Coast.

One was stabbed in the neck three times, the other suffered a broken pelvis when escaping from a moving vehicle. Their assailant then tried to run her over.

A police spokesman observed that if they hadn't got away, "we could've been dealing with something considerably more serious".

I think I get where he's coming from.

A Kiwi friend of one of the hitch-hikers noted that she'd gone through Southeast Asia unscathed: "You would think New Zealand would be the last place in the world you'd expect to encounter something like this."

I wouldn't, and nor should anyone else. In fact, the sooner visitors to this country throw away their rose-tinted spectacles, the safer they will all be.

- NZ Herald

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