The Continuing Adventures of the Dotcom/John Key fiasco

This post was writen a week ago but I’ve not had the energy or interest to give it the once over. As such, I’m publishing it now because if I don’t, I won’t ever.

Last Tuesday night John Campbell and his team of intrepid reporters and researchers presented the latest findings in the continuing saga of Prime Minister John Key and MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom.1 You can watch the “Campbell Live” report (again) here.2. I’m not going to summarise or rehash the story: if you want an excellent detailing of the particulars and the peculiars of what has happened and is alleged to have happened, you can read Russell Brown’s post here or Danyl McLauchlan’s.

What I’m interested in is whether the claim a conspiracy exists, which seems to be at the root of the Campbell Live story, is warranted/justified by the evidence. Essentially, can he/they show that:

a) there exist plotters who
b) operated in secret
c) towards some goal?

If all three of these conditions can be satisfied, then it seems we have a prima facie example of a conspiracy on at least part of the Government of New Zealand, which would be grounds for asking/expecting someone to resign.

So, what about that evidence? Well, we know that Key and Fletcher met on several occasions, and that these meetings really don’t reconcile nicely with the Prime Minister’s public accounting of his relationship with his old chum/the new head of the GCSB. The Prime Minister’s accounting looks increasingly suspicious the more we learn about the relationship between the two men, and if someone isn’t hiding something, then they are doing a good job of pretending to hide something.

It also looks increasingly unlikely that the Prime Minister had never heard of Dotcom prior to the raid (which is not to say he was definitely briefed on the matter: there’s a difference between “not knowing” and “not knowing about”), all of which suggests some plotting by Key and the government. It’s this latter matter which is weird: Key could, at the very least, say he knew about Dotcom but not the GCSB’s interest in him. Someone suggested to me that Key denied knowing anything about Dotcom initially as a kind of reflex “This isn’t important!” action, and now has to stick with the denial in order to save face. If that’s true, it’s a dangerous situation to be in, since all the Opposition or Dotcom (who I guess is part of the Opposition now) need do is show that the Prime Minister knew about Dotcom before he claims he knew about Dotcom.

As to why the PM is denying knowing about Dotcom and claiming he didn’t really know Fletcher (when clearly he knows him really quite well, having suggested he apply for the job, asked him to fly to New Zealand for brunch, et cetera et cetera)… Well, the supposition is that Key, Fletcher and probably many other senior members of the Civil Service and the Government are plotting towards some goal along the lines of “appeasing the Americans” or “wanting to play in the big leagues of security”. As such, they are hiding both their intention/goal and who exactly is in on it, since they are, in effect, lying to the public to keep whatever it is they are up to secret. This supposition, if true, would satisfy either the claim it’s all about copyright or it’s all about terrorists using MegaUpload for malign purpose.

Thus, the mystery/central question is whether the Prime Minister is being dishonest about when he met with Fletcher and what he knew about Dotcom prior to the raid on the “Christco” Mansion (which strongly suggests a hidden goal) or is he merely weak of memory (which does not strongly suggest on its own a hidden goal, although it is not incompatible with some other evidence of such). It seems hard to shrug this off as a non-story, as David Farrar claims over at KiwiBlog.3 The more information which surfaces about the Fletcher appointment, the more questions it raises, questions which are neither answered by the Prime Minister’s prevarications or by shrugging and saying: “This is business as usual.” At the very least, we have a group of people who look to be be plotting, possibly together, operating under either the veil of increasingly implausible lapses of memory or contempt for the public. Certainly, this is not the kind of behaviour which instils trust in the Prime Minister, and given what else has happened under this particular government (Judith Collins, Maurice Williamson, to name but two recent examples), it’s not at all unreasonable to suspect something fishy is going on.

It’s what is fishy about the situation that is the issue, though. As Danyl McLauchlan points out, this entire story is framed by reference to the Kim Dotcom story. Yet there are a number of other people the GCSB “incorrectly”4 surveilled, and our notion of motive seems entirely dependent on that framing. As such, the goal condition is vague, phrased in a way which makes sense of the Dotcom material. Now, I’m not saying the Dotcom interpretation/framing is incorrect, but it points towards a potential problem with this particular claim of conspiracy: we don’t really know the “Why?” of it all.

Now, this might be expected if a conspiracy is in existence: after all, a somewhat successful conspiracy is one in which the conspirators keep secrets. However, it also makes researching and warranting the existence of the conspiracy all the harder: if we don’t know what they were up to, then finding further evidence might be harder. As such, let’s hope that the Campbell Live team keep digging. If they find something, we have a serious story and a claim of conspiracy to investigate. If they don’t, well it still reflects badly on the Prime Minister, who increasingly looks like the kind of politician who is it for the power and the PR opportunities and not so much interested in taking responsibility for the awkward decisions and compromises of being in government.


  1. Like the last Star Wars trilogy, there’s an awful lot of references to banking policies and not much decent Han Solo action.
  2. TV3 does not seem to like providing people with embeddable videos of their news stories, which just seems pointless in this modern age
  3. I’m not linking to KiwiBlog because the comments threads there are so deplorable.
  4. The GCSB, of course, denies that it did anything wrong. Other institutions might well disagree.

About Matthew Dentith

Author of "The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories" (Palgrave Macmillan), Matthew Dentith wrote his PhD on epistemic issues surrounding belief in conspiracy theories. He is a frequent media commentator on the weird and the wonderful, both locally and internationally. On occasion he can be caught dreaming about wax lions but, mostly, it is rumoured he works for elements of the New World Order.