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Dotcom Gaining Upper Hand?

03/04/2012

The saga of the improbably-named Kim Dotcom continues to occupy New Zealand media headlines. Latest: his bail terms have been relaxed, allowing him internet access, a daily swim in his erstwhile mansion’s swimming pool (perhaps with the inflatable tank for company), and time away from ‘minor mansion’ to cut his album.

In reporting these latest proceedings, the media again paints the picture of a hapless New Zealand Crown Prosecutor again wringing her hands in anguish at the seemingly naive willingness of the New Zealand judiciary to cut Herr Dotcom some additional slack. But in the time since his dawn arrest back in January, the man – and of course his advisers – has shown an impressive feel for the ‘tall poppy syndrome’  which as much as rugby, racing & beer, as much as the quarter-acre and the pavlova, define the notion of ‘Kiwi’.  Decapitating a tall poppy is genetically programmed into all New Zealanders, including District and High Court judges.

And here, in The State of Virginia (West, I think) versus Dotcom, there’s no doubt who’s the tall poppy. Were it a case of Dotcom in a legal stoush with his neighbours in the northern reaches of Auckland, obviously he would be. But when it’s the United States of America on the front foot, and a larger-than-life German who’s bought his way into New Zealand – and Kiwi hearts – on the other, having brought about the arrival of twin daughters here no less, being articulate and upfront in front of cameras, accused of committing what the average Kiwi will struggle to identify as a ‘crime’, being a petrol head, having a penchant for giving the finger to authority, well, it’s a different story. Despite all its impressive power and status, despite our collective admiration for the country – even in its dismissal of us, the United States of America is plainly the tall poppy in the Kim Dotcom case.

It hasn’t been decapitated – yet. But you can bet your bottom dollar (as Americans might say) that in the District Court of North Shore and the High Court of Auckland, the judges have been having a good old chin-wag about this case, as it’s gone from this or that proceeding, a bit of a laugh, of course always expecting the utmost integrity from both sides – and on the Dotcom side having been given little or no reason to doubt that what the man says, the man will do – but still having a chuckle, relishing the role thrust on the judiciary to sort out interesting questions on bail and pre-hearing extradition procedures, asset forfeitures and the paperwork thereon, the constitutional role of the Crown in the assistance of foreign powers, and so on. And on top of it all, not being averse to an application – where circumstances permit – of the tall poppy syndrome.

The thing is, Kim Dotcom is not accused of heinous crime, notwithstanding the attempts of the United States authorities via their New Zealand mouthpieces  to paint such a picture. There are no enslaved child prostitutes or child soldiers, no drug lords or drug addicts, no corpses, no robbery victims, not even investment victims – there is just copyright infringement. You only need to say it out loud to know that this is a different order of alleged criminality.

Which is not to say it’s not criminal, if it’s what he’s done. And it’s still early days, with the substantive extradition hearing not due till August.  But the tall poppy syndrome is a discerning beast. It knows when decapitation is needed and who it’s needed on. One can’t help but get the overwhelming feeling that the United States of America picked the wrong country to extradite Kim Dotcom from.

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