Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Gordon Campbell on Dotcom, and recent events at Scoop

Gordon Campbell on Dotcom, and recent events at Scoop

The apparent resignation of Alastair Thompson from Scoop - there seems to be some dissent as to whether he has resigned or gone on sabbatical - was triggered by the release of information about his involvement with Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party. If his exit does prove to be permanent, this would be a sad way for Al to end his leadership role at this site. Scoop has been the flagship for alternative journalism in New Zealand for nearly 15 years.

I’ve personally known Al for over 20 years, since he walked in off the street while I was acting features editor at the Listener, and handed over a piece of well-researched journalism into the noise problem at Wellington Airport. Then as now, Al seemed to be a born journalist : curious, idealistic, and impulsive enough not to second guess whether something could really be done. Al just went ahead and did it, somehow. That impulsiveness has now come with a cost. Some of the fallout from his involvement with Dotcom has been at a personal cost for Al, some of it damages Scoop’s reputation. Obviously, this incident has not been helpful to the role envisioned for Scoop by its new investors.

Scoop has always struggled, financially. For much of its existence, it has had to rely on the willingness of the extended Thompson family to keep it afloat. Just before Christmas, Al informed me of his intention to get involved with Dotcom, and added that - understandably - strong misgivings were being voiced within his family about the wisdom of him doing so. At his request, I wrote an outline of the pros and cons for Scoop of his decision, which I did knowing that his decision was a fait accompli, and that the rationale would be used only to try and ease family tension. Ironically, many of the family’s initial misgivings have proven to be well founded.

For those of us connected with Scoop who watched the debacle unfold yesterday - and like everyone else, we did so by reading about it online - the details were alarming. It is painful to draw attention to them because Al’s entrepreneurial drive has been essential to sustaining Scoop as a forum of ideas ; but equally, it is impossible to condone a media outlet signing up the domain name of a political party, while reporting on political events. Al was an associate member of the press gallery. He also had an administrative role with Scoop that required him to generate new business for the site. Some hats that would be shared around in a traditional news organisation were worn by Al alone: such are the economic realities of Web publishing. These multiple roles always had the potential for conflicts of interest in both the political and business coverage.

For a news outlet however, a political client is not just another business client. Especially in an election year, any potential conflicts had to be identified and dealt with beforehand in a way that maintained the necessary distance. Instead, the boundaries in this case were actively blurred.

The domain name registration was indefensible. Left unaddressed, it would have been the sort of thing Scoop would normally seek to investigate and critically expose, if it were being done by anyone else. When that same political party also took out substantial advertising on the news site that has just registered its domain name - preparatory to launch - then the proximity became intolerable. One of the worst things about the situation is that Al’s resignation - assuming that it stands - was almost redundant. It was agreed that he would have been stepping aside anyway, if (a) he went through with his plans to become involved with Dotcom’s party and (b) if Dotcom’s own plans to launch a political party hadn’t fallen apart before then. As things stand though, it is now a moot point whether the unacceptable blurring of boundaries could have been addressed by bringing forward (by a few days or weeks) Al’s stand-down from his role as Scoop editor. The belated emergence of the news about the domain name registration made yesterday’s instant action necessary, and inevitable.

And what of Dotcom’s political party ? Assuming that it does eventuate - and this column will report on it fully once it becomes certain that the Internet Party does not disintegrate before launch - such a party has made a change of government its declared aim. To that extent, Dotcom has the potential to split the existing anti-Key, centre left vote - in much the same way that Ralph Nader did in the 2000 US election - without either winning an electorate or crossing the 5% barrier, nationwide. If so, a significant share of the centre left vote would be wasted. No doubt, Dotcom has foreseen that risk. One can only assume that he believes he can attract large numbers of new voters - most of them young, some of them in south Auckland.

To that extent, Dotcom’s efforts could arguably run in parallel with Labour’s announced plans to mobilise that pool of 800,000 non-voters nationwide, many of them resident in south Auckland. Dotcom certainly has the resources and contacts to wheel in hip hop /EDM artists who would get the attention of young voters way beyond the capacity of Labour and the Greens. Whether he can transform a dance party into a political party still seems a big call however, especially given the need to reach a 5% threshold. Much rests on pure faith that new high calibre political activists would somehow magically emerge out of the woodwork.

Moreover, the party name and scant details released to date suggest that Dotcom intends to focus almost exclusively upon Internet freedoms. In doing so, he seems willing to outsource the boring old political stuff - you know, like having a credible health policy or economic policy - to Labour and the Greens. If so, he cannot hope to have much pull with the libertarian, National leaning voters who might share his zeal for Internet freedom.

Because so much of the Internet Party looks like a toy and vanity project for Dotcom, the likelihood is that such a party will function - at best - as only a voter recruitment vehicle that by mid year, will have lost its ability to amuse Dotcom. Especially if and when the polls are indicating by then that the Internet Party hasn’t a hope of (a) winning a seat or (b) reaching the 5% mark that would make its “kingmaker” role anything more than delusionary. At which point, Dotcom may think that he can throw his imagined legions behind Labour or the Greens. If that’s Plan B, he’s dreaming. The likelihood is that the only lesson that Dotcom will have given to the kids of south Auckland is the one that they’ve already sussed out : never trust a politician. It is distressing to think that Al Thompson may have thrown away so much, for so little.

ENDS


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Ramzy Baroud: Gaza’s Resistance Will Not Be Crushed

On the 13th day of Israel’s so-called Operation Protective Edge, stories of entire families collectively pulverized, women and children keenly targeted by Israeli soldiers saturate the media. Until now, 430 Palestinians have been killed, mostly women and ... More>>

ALSO:

Ian Anderson: Rearranging The Deck Chairs On The Titanic? The Labour Party And MANA

Early in July this year, Labour Party leader David Cunliffe made headlines by apologising for being a man. Stoked by capitalist media sensation, Prime Minister John Key responded that “not all men” abuse women. More>>

Shobha Shukla: Break The Silos: Drug Use, HIV, HCV, TB, Laws And Funding

Viet Nam is one of the countries in the world that has made remarkable progress over the last decade in not only making harm reduction and HIV services available and accessible for people who use drugs but also reforming laws for supportive health ... More>>

ALSO:

Fiona Gordon: Illegal Wildlife Trading: The Global Response

At the closing session of the inaugural United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi last month, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “We need to act decisively to change humanity’s relationship with our planet.” More>>

Faisal Al-Asaad: Gaza: McCully’s Calls For Restraint On Both Sides Is Side-Taking Itself

Since June 12th, the world’s attention has been squarely focused on the events unfolding in the West Bank, Gaza and the occupied territories. The disappearance of three Israeli youths who were later found dead prompted a flurry of condemnations ... More>>

ALSO:

Tania Billingsley: Demand For Accountability On Sexual Assault

Since my assault I feel that people have been assuming that my idea of justice is to have Rizalman found guilty in a New Zealand court. While it is an important part of justice being done, my main reason for wanting this is not for my own sense of ... More>>

Leslie Bravery: Hold The Perpetrator To Account, Not The Victim!

In a 4 July 2014 statement to Scoop Independent News, on the violent deaths of four young people in the Israeli Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully made the following comments: 'The recent killing ... More>>

ALSO:

Santon Tekege: Investigative Report Into Oil Palm In Nabire Regency, Papua

Several companies’ plans to invest in the oil palm sector in Nabire have met with local opposition. People from the Yerisiam and Wate ethnic groups have staged several peaceful actions in Nabire against one of these companies, PT Nabire Baru1. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
TEDxAuckland
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news