The belief that Internet Mana has sold out to the nefarious Kim Dotcom has become orthodoxy in this chaotic election campaign. From the below the belt ‘sugar daddy’ accusations by John Key to the urban myth that Mana candidates and supporters are now turning up to community meetings in Mercedes cars, it seems founding a party and providing a substantial financial contribution are the two key alchemical ingredients necessary to “buy influence.”
In addition, none of the parties on the Left are willing to concede a seat at the table to Internet Mana and have themselves felt free to wage their own campaign of character assassination. Most of the criticism orbits around Kim Dotcom: his sexism; his racism; his capitalist credentials; his family violence record; and his criminal activities.
All of those above gleefully search for signs that the remarkable momentum of this potpourri of activists, the dispossessed, idealists and youth is on the road to perdition. Te Ururoa Flavell is notable here for his claim that the Internet Party and the Mana Party will split “six weeks after the election” into two separate, unrelated bodies, and he has been ably and suprisingly supported by Tame Iti who has accused his erstwhile activist colleague Annette Sykes of being “fanatical” and “crazy.” My friend Pat Spellman is convinced that Hone Harawira and Laila Harre have cooled to each other and the cracks are beginning to show.
All of this is to be expected. There’s a line from Leonard Cohen’s First We Take Manhattan that sums this up perfectly: “You loved me as a loser, now you’re worried that I just might win.”
I suspect the above is a heady mix of desire, hate, truth, lies and rage. However, at the base of all the accusations, the anger and the outrage is the discomfort that has been created when the fringe gets money from the centre. As a society, we are comfortable with our activists being poor. Those involved in activist communities hold a moral high ground in every and any issue by virtue of their much lamented poverty; those in the halls of power and money feel generous as they allow modest changes to the systems we live by as a boon to those outside the walls.
But we are now seeing what happens when this lived and condoned order of things is shaken, even moderately. We imagined that Aotearoa New Zealand was immune to the ructions seen overseas: the Occupy Movement faded away in Auckland and Wellington; Bill English assures us the GFC was no big thing for our economy (except when it was useful to say it was a big deal); we avoided the riots of Europe, and latterly Ferguson, let alone the revolutions in the Middle East. We have collectively patted our backs, congratulated ourselves for our cleverness; while the world burns we have maintained our staid, quiet status quo.
Kim Dotcom lobbed a grenade into the midst of all that and to the surprise of our mainstream media, sleepy upper middle class and political leadership, he found a fuel dump of inequality, disaffected young people, and unrepentant old activists. He started trouble with a few million dollars and a big personality. Prior to the investment into the Internet Party and Mana Party, most activists, poor and youth lived hand to mouth. Most of their days were spent paying the rent (unsuccessfully), buying food and picking which bills to pay. Dotcom’s finances have afforded the poor, the young and the angry space to look above the day-to-day and see the injustice of their inequality and their exclusion. When young people at free music concerts scream “Fuck John Key,” they mean it. When a @peace writes “Kill the PM,” it’s not for jollies; they are genuinely angry.
You shouldn’t be worried about the influence Dotcom may have bought; you should be worried about the space he has provided the poor, the young and the angry to reflect on our largesse and their suffering. Whilst I think Hone Harawira and Laila Harre want to be players in Parliament, very quickly the poor, the young and the angry in the party will realise they don’t give two hoots about that; they want revolution. They want what you have. No other party in this election campaign is as dissatisfied with system of Parliament as the members of Internet Mana. From National, to Labour, to the Greens, the Conservatives, New Zealand First, the Māori Party, and the rest; all of them want the seat, want the office, want the pay check and ultimately want to be out front, in charge and using the current systems to implement their policies. The people engaging with Internet Mana want to see it all burn; they want fundamental change to the political and social structures, systems and authorities.
The leadership of Internet Mana are like the prince riding atop the shoulders of Iron John. The party they have brought together is less guided by them than they are being taken for a ride by the excesses, the rage and excitement of people who have felt without a voice for a long time. If, as often happens, Internet Mana gets seats in Parliament and those members become part of the project of Parliament to maintain the status quo, this rage and excitement will find a new home. If you want to know how that might go, consider the protests in Ferguson, consider the riots in London, consider the mass disruption and running wars on the streets of Europe, particularly Greece and Spain. Inequality and exclusion will not stand. People will rise up. Internet Mana is not the end game, and is not about Kim Dotcom. Internet Mana is the first local expression of a coming wave of revolution.