The announcement of launching a US arm to ‘the Internet Party’ (by Mega founder Kim Dotcom) seems, on its face, quite good news. A rich, media-savvy person who understands technology getting into the US political scene to stir things up and fight for digital rights, and freedoms; sounds great, right?
There’s one big problem with Kim Dotcom’s new plan, and that’s Kim Dotcom. It’s the same problem that the Internet Party in New Zealand has.
To explain the big problem, you have to look at what the party does and says. Sure it says it’s for improved internet access, restricting government surveillance, and copyright reform, but that’s all it’s done, ‘said’ it. There are no actions, just some extravagant media events (often planned and advertised without even checking on the law). These events result in very little. That’s because the main focus of the party is not these topics. The focus of the party – its entire existence in fact – is to promote Kim Dotcom and to put political pressure on issues and people directly affecting him and his legal woes.
The agenda could already be inferred from his statements at launch, where he talks about being ‘Hillary’s worst nightmare, in the same breath as claiming to be a ‘Digital Freedom Fighter’.
However, it can also be observed from his previous antics in New Zealand, such as the mid-Septemberevent Dotcom hosted, with guest appearances from Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and Julian Assange. While that event was nominally about New Zealand’s participation in an international coalition of spying, it eventually denigrated into another attack by Dotcom on New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who Dotcom sees as an instrumental figure in his own personal legal battles.
It’s also ironic to include Assange, who in many ways is similar to Dotcom, in that he also started a political party. The ‘Wikileaks Party’, ostensibly on digital rights and accountability. This political party also became somewhat of a cult of personality, as has the larger Wikileaks organization. This resulted in that many strong supporters have left, or disassociated themselves with the group following Assange’s activities in recent years. These actions underscore Assange’s belief that he IS Wikileaks, and that the whistleblowing activities can only happen with him in charge. Effectively relegating the whistleblowing activities to secondary importance behind Julian Assange himself.
Needless to say, both the Internet Party and the Wikileaks party have fared poorly in recent elections, despite all the advantages they’ve had. In September, the coalition of Internet Party/MANA alliance managed only 1.42% of the votes and lost MANA’s only seat , despite spending lavishly and with good news coverage.
Meanwhile Wikileaks did even worse in the 2013 Australian Federal Election, having a high-point of 1.24% and even being the first-listed party couldn’t give any substantial boost to their electoral performance.
Of course, the (unstated) point of the Internet Party, and the Wikileaks party is not to win elections. Thus the losses were hardly surprising. They were attempts by the figureheads of the parties to exert political pressure, and to obtain free and easy publicity during a news-heavy period of time in their life. Any professed platforms are but shams, claims to tempt supporters with no substance or serious intent behind them.
How do we know this? Well, it’s quite simple. The setting up of a political party is time consuming, annoying and expensive (especially in the US), thus it’s not something you really want to do unless you have a strong political position that is currently unserved. In the US, Australia and New Zealand that political position is served, by Pirate Parties (since 2006 in the US, and 2009 for both Australia and New Zealand). While they don’t have the finances of Dotcom, or the media-hotline of Assange, they’ve worked steadily for a number of years on the exact same issues that both Assange and Dotcom profess to be working towards. And despite the lack of resources, they actually have produced some results.
Had Dotcom or Assange really been concerned by the issues, they would have worked with these parties. For the same resources they could have achieved much more, instead of working on the foundation they could have spent this time and energy on actual change instead. In addition, by setting up what are essentially clone parties, what they have done is split the vote making it even harder for either one to be elected and make real change.
In short, their actions show they’ll happily sell your digital rights out in order to get political leverage on their own personal legal
Meanwhile, the US Pirate Party (as well as the Australian and New Zealand pirate parties) will continue to make slow and steady progress in elections. Continuously fighting the issues, on the basis of competence and hard work, rather than flashy events or a cult-of-personality. The issues we fight for are both too serious and bigger than the ego of any one man.