The ‘moments of zen’ in the election

Paul Thomas analyses the election and the “moments of zen”.

The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart’s signature sign-off is “Your moment of Zen”: a clip of a public figure making a goose of themselves through tone deafness, crassness, vehement ignorance, random imbecility or unconscious irony.

If Stewart had taken notice of our election, he would’ve had more moments of Zen than you could shake a stick at. After a rigorous process of elimination, I’ve chosen a top three.

Third was Internet-Mana party co-leader Laila Harre commiserating with the people of Te Tai Tokerau over the loss of their sitting MP and her co-leader Hone Harawira. Before her next political incarnation Harre might care to familiarise herself with the workings of democracy: the people she was consoling for being deprived of Harawira were the very people who gave him the broom.

Second was Labour leader David Cunliffe’s concession speech in which he did a passable impersonation of a man who’d just won an election. If his year-long impersonation of a leader of the opposition had been half as convincing, neither he nor Labour would be in the dark place they are now.

His shout-out to his staff and Labour’s campaign team was a riot of superlatives – “amazing”, “incredible”, “fantastic” – which raised the question: how catastrophically badly would Cunliffe and Labour have done if he’d surrounded himself with mediocrities?

Number one was Harawira’s comment, early on in the evening, that the people of his electorate “don’t like being ganged up on”. The general reaction to interlopers trying to influence the outcome in Te Tai Tokerau, he said, was “why don’t you guys piss off and leave us to make our own decisions?”.

Good points. David Cunliffe’s election night speech was dreadful. It was like he’d won, the man certainly showed that night that he was tone deaf to the reality of political life.

But what about the so-called Moment of Truth, a line dreamed up by Ira Rothken for Kim Dotcom? Could it be a conspiracy or something much simpler?

I’d suggest many voters were thinking exactly that, mostly in relation to Harawira’s benefactor and political partner Kim Dotcom, throughout the campaign. Dotcom’s manipulative antics culminated in the “Moment of Truth” damp squib which involved celebrity dissidents being flown or beamed in from various parts of the world with a brief to influence an election that was none of their business.

There were the Three Wise Men, the Three Musketeers and the Three Stooges. Here we had the Three Fugitives: Dotcom, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.

Whatever light dusting of moral authority Dotcom ever had was there by default, largely as a result of the theatrical yet sinister raid on his mansion by the paramilitary wing of the Keystone Cops.

It doesn’t seem to have penetrated the consciousness of the chattering classes here and overseas that Assange’s and Snowden’s claims to moral authority have been degraded by the company they keep and the lengths to which they’ve gone to avoid facing their accusers. I suppose this is understandable: unlike the rest of society, the chattering classes tend to believe words speak louder than actions.

Surely I should get a knighthood for managing to suck up 4 weeks solid of the election campaign. The plan worked perfectly…leaking all those emails to Nicky Hager to paint an awful picture of me and my friends…we sure managed to trick the voters with that one…the finest piece of dark arts ever concocted.

These interventions, and the left-of-centre parties’ embrace of them, backfired so badly that surely some hot-eyed, hollow-cheeked conspiracy theorist is working backwards from the outcome towards the sickening conclusion that Dotcom and Key were in cahoots all along. Far from being a disaffected maverick out to overturn the conservative status quo, Dotcom may in fact have been an agent provocateur on a mission to distract and destabilise the left.

When you look at it like that, it all makes sense: the weapon of self-destruction that was Internet-Mana; the “F**k John Key” rabble rousing; the demise of Harawira and Judith Collins; the mysterious hacker Rawshark for whom the election was about Cameron Slater rather than who should run the country; and Dotcom’s monumental failure to live up to the expectations created by his hyping of the “Moment of Truth”.

All of these gambits were supposedly meant to damage Key; in each instance he was the beneficiary. It may seem far-fetched but bear in mind the Roman adage Cui bono? – To whose benefit? – the principle that, when seeking to identify the perpetrator of a crime, you should begin with those who benefited from it.


The only other possible explanation is that the public got the idea that an arrogant blow-in and his various henchmen were trying to manipulate the election to advance narrow, self-serving, ideological agendas. In other words, Dotcom and co fooled very few of the people very little of the time.


-NZ Herald