It'll take two posts to get through my observations of tonight's big reveal at the Auckland Town Hall. This one's on the timing and strategy around the revelations
Sitting in the Auckland Town Hall tonight – both in the hall meeting and the press conference after – two old sayings kept passing through my mind: "it's all about the timing" and "the devil's in the details". Both truisms couldn't be more true when it came to the Internet Party's Moment of Truth.
Glenn Greenwald was a little too jocular, Julian Assange a little too off-topic and Bob Amsterdam a little unnecessary, but it was a fascinating event. Edward Snowden though was just right – the evening's Goldilocks. Not only was he eloquent in extoling his principles, he was specific in how he had seen many New Zealand emails and claimed there's an NSA "facility" in Auckland. Snowden stole the show.
Of course it's just so disappointing that it was a show. Whatever the status of those individuals within the world of internet freedom and global whistle-blowing, Laila Harre's attempt to spread credibility equally across all of them when she called them the "three prisoners" fell flat. Dotcom ain't Snowden.
The simple fact is that Greenwald and Snowden hitched their horse to the wrong wagon by getting pulled into Dotcom's orbit. They may respect his stand in internet freedoms, but at this time and in this country, he over-shadows their message. Most New Zealanders have made their mind up about Dotcom, and increasingly it's unfavourable [edited], so any information coming through the Dotcom filter is falling on deaf ears. Most New Zealanders think Dotcom is about Dotcom. They are entrenched. They have stopped listening.
I don't accept the oft-repeated line that it's all about him trying to avoid extradition; if the government changes I don't see why or how a Labour justice minister would treat his case any differently from a National justice minister. It seems more to be simply about personal revenge; and a national election is no place for vendettas.
Greenwald says his schedule is due mostly to the fact that he's just one journalist trying to report on thousands of documents involving the five eyes countries. New Zealand was last on the list and he wanted to get here before the election, but was working flat-out to get his investigations done in time. So far, so typical. Journalists always work right up to a deadline!
The sad thing for him is that there's not the time for more considered investigation and debate; the timing looks cynical. And whether they are true or not, any government would respond to such claims with denial and obfuscation knowing it just had to stall a few days until the election.
So while I don't see anything sinister in the timing, the fact is it's poisoned the message, not least coming as it has after weeks of Dirty Politics. Many voters are fed up with issues they don't understand and so return to their gut – Key seems a decent enough guy, Dotcom's self-interested and who are these know-it-alls trying to confuse me when I want to vote on issues such as education, wages and health.
And even if they accept something might be going on, as with Dirty Politics it's very easy to simply shrug it off as not directly impacting them and, hey, everyone does it.
Ideally, Greenwald would have revealed this months ago (he did have New Zealand interviews lined up several months ago when his book was released, but he pulled out of them). Ideally, he would have done his reveal at a meeting held by a university or charity or some group with more public credibility, less easily to be dismissed.
But that's largely sizzle. And sadly it's getting more attention than the sausage. Tonight, for example, there was no mention of the Warner Bros email and no great 'moment of truth' where Dotcom proved Key lied about knowing about the German migrant before the raid on Dotcom's home.
I produced the interview when Dotcom first made that claim; he was adament he had documented proof Key knew of him and had lied. While Key denited it and has spent the intervening months looking down the back of every couch to make sure there of his rebuttal, it seemed possible Dotcom's lawyers had got something from the legal discovery process.
Instead, today, came an email Warner Bros. Except both Key and Warner Bros both dismissed it, with the movie company calling it a fake. Yes, perhaps they would say that. But that argument cuts both ways.
At the press conference after the town hall meeting, Dotcom, Harre and Amsterdam all refused to discuss it in substance, refusing to say where Dotcom had got it from and when. That's suspicious and make you wonder if they too are now doubting its veracity.
Yet all of that misses the substance of the debate. Are GCSB and Five Eyes spies conducting mass surveillance of New Zealanders? This is where the focus needs to be. The detail. The meaning of the words.
And that's the subject of my next post.