Democracy might not have died in Auckland on Friday, but mayor Phil Goff hammered a massive nail into its coffin when he ruled that Canadian libertarians Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux would not be permitted to speak at a council-owned venue.
They had booked the Bruce Mason Centre, but their visit has now been cancelled.
Mr Goff insisted on Friday that the decision to bar them from using any council-owned venue had been made by Regional Facilities Auckland, but that takes some believing.
Since when did council minions start making decisions regarding who is politically acceptable and who isn't? The organisers claimed on Friday that the facilities managers had not raised any concerns when the booking was made.
'How he can describe his city as tolerant given this outrageous silencing of views that he suspects he will not agree with beggars belief. He might more believably have said that he had caved into objections from the Left, and was not prepared to host two people whose opinions some might find offensive.'
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Perhaps they had second thoughts. Perhaps they went home and googled Lauren Southern, and realised they had done a dreadful thing. Believe that and you'll believe anything.
Perhaps they simply did their job, and were overruled by a politician who either finds Lauren Southern's world view distasteful, and believes everyone else should too, or was persuaded that Auckland would erupt in racial violence if she was allowed to speak. The language he used on Friday left very little doubt that he found her deeply offensive.
In any event, it was Goff who announced the decision (by Twitter, very Donald Trumpish), not the faceless Regional Facilities Auckland. And whoever made it, he was more than comfortable with it. Auckland, he said, was a multicultural, inclusive, tolerant city, and Southern and Molyneux were not welcome.
How he can describe his city as tolerant given this outrageous silencing of views that he suspects he will not agree with beggars belief. He might more believably have said that he had caved into objections from the Left, and was not prepared to host two people whose opinions some might find offensive. That at least would have been credible, albeit weak. Goff clearly sees bigoted as the better option.
Whatever his motivation, he has now placed himself in notable company in deciding that views that do not align with his shall remain unaired. He would certainly receive no criticism from Chairman Mao and any number of other despots who believe/believed that ideas can be dangerous, that freedom of speech, even freedom of thought, are to be discouraged, or more to the point banned.
So just how destructive are Lauren Southern's views? Take a look: if you'd like to get some idea. Watch it, then ask yourself if this woman really is a danger.
Judge for yourself a woman, described by some as a libertarian, by others as from the 'alt-right', who proclaims her unequivocal opposition to apartheid (maybe that explains some New Zealand opposition), but believes that the communist-inspired regime that has succeeded it in South Africa is actually worse for many people in that country, who laments the systematic dispossession and even murdering of white South African farmers, and the attendant destruction of the country's economy. Is Mr Goff correct in saying that puts her to the right of Stalin?
Ask yourself who is being served here. Those who, were they to hear her, would be at risk of having their minds filled with hate, or those who are afraid to allow any views that don't align with theirs to have any sort of platform because they will be exposed for the bigots they really are? Who, exactly, are the extremists? What comes next? Burning books?
Hunting down those who have surreptitiously tapped into the internet to see what she has to say? Should they now be in fear of a knock on the door in the dead of night?
The promoters of her aborted visit to Auckland said last week that Goff was the victim of extreme leftists, that the situation was a classic example of the "soft bigotry of low expectations". They insisted that Lauren Southern is neither bigoted, racist nor intolerant.
They accused her critics of misrepresenting her beliefs. You decide — it isn't hard to find examples of her philosophy. Then ponder what sort of society we are becoming.
Incidentally, the tour was abandoned because it would have been "logistically impossible" to find another suitable venue in time. The Auckland Council seemingly has a monopoly when it comes to big auditoriums, which must be of some comfort to the city's self-appointed gate keepers.
The promoters also labelled Goff's disgraceful decision as providing a template for those who wish to silence anyone whose views are unacceptable to the Left. They also allowed for the possibility that Goff was more concerned about the safety of the city's employees, assuming the Bruce Mason Centre was about to become the focus for some sort of terrorist response to the presence of Southern and Molyneux, than he was about freedom of speech. The writer's money is on the former.
The real question is whether this apparently unilateral decision was inspired by fear of unrest within this multicultural, inclusive, tolerant city, or whether it was a manifestation of a governing regime that is increasingly intolerant of anything that does not align with a clearly leftwing world view. A regime that preaches (and extols) tolerance but does not practise it. One staunch critic of the critics, who predicted that Southern would be turned away, is in no doubt.
He told the Northland Age last week that anyone planning to speak publicly in favour of Western civilisation, of the traditional family, of the right to life, of heterosexual marriage, was now a target for violent attack, and almost all public authorities had shown themselves more than willing to appease the villains.
This was a form of terrorism, which had to be firmly opposed, he said. And who would disagree? Well, Phil Goff for a start.
The real test is still to come though. Chelsea Manning, the former US soldier who was convicted under the United States' Espionage Act and jailed after leaking close to 750,000 files that prosecutors claimed had cost some of her fellow soldiers their lives, is scheduled to speak in this country later this year. Unlike Lauren Southern, Manning is a convicted criminal. Unlike Southern, she is a hero to the Left, and is likely to be welcomed as one.
It is inconceivable that Regional Facilities Auckland will decide that she is not the sort of person who should be speaking at a council-owned venue, or that Phil Goff will make a unilateral decision to silence her.
Have you ever noticed that the Right doesn't get exercised about what the Left is doing? That those who stand accused of racial and social bigotry have better things to do with their lives than censor what others are allowed to do, see, hear, read, or even think? Perhaps they understand the importance of ideas, and the right to express them.
Certainly they won't turn out at any venue where Manning is to speak with placards, chants and threats of violence.
They will do what the Left should have done in the event of Southern speaking in their tolerant, inclusive city — they will stay away.