Like many of us this week no doubt, I've put the names Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux into the search engine, curious to find out why the Mayor of Auckland considers their views too dangerous to be given a public platform in our fair city.
The search turned up video clips of Southern, a young Canadian holding a microphone in the middle of a demonstration. A woman with a nose ring was berating her for insisting there are only two genders in this world. Another clip showed her invading a woman's march against sexual harassment. She was asking the marchers whether they wanted "women's rights or Islam?"
She opposes unchecked immigration, particularly if it's Islamic, and she has exposed something that worried me when an Economist report mentioned in passing that Italian naval craft were going almost to the North African coast to pick up "refugees" who had only to jump out of a boat.
Southern is essentially a journalist who asks unwelcome questions, questions that lurk in the mind of probably all of thinking people and challenge the dominant sympathies of the mass media today.
Molyneux is an intellectually heavier proposition. He subscribes to a theory that IQ differs between ethnic groups and claims it is based on US Army records of IQ tests of its ranks over the years. He is very glib and very serious. He doesn't foam at the mouth. He says he doesn't want to believe the results of his research but has no choice. It leads him to conclusions you are not allowed to say these days.
But suppression is never the right answer. My answer to Molyneux would be, I don't care, because people are not ethnic groups they are individuals and I want to live in a state that does what it can to try to ensure nobody's education or life opportunities suffer from racial stereotyping.
He would have an answer to that for those who were still listening, and many would be. His views are socially dangerous but the answer is not to block them from public venues. This is New Zealand.
We have freedom of speech, which means our law allows you to say what you think as long as you are not inciting violence. You are allowed to be offensive and even extremely provocative. In 2010 our Supreme Court quashed the conviction of one Valerie Morse for burning the New Zealand flag across the road from the Wellington Cenotaph where people were assembled for the dawn service on Anzac Day. That is how close you can come to inviting violence here.
If Southern and Molyneux's visit sparked any violence it would have come from demonstrations against them, including, ironically, by one Valerie Morse who calls herself Auckland Peace Action. She had threatened to confront their supporters on the streets and blockade their venues.
They had booked the Bruce Mason Centre in Takapuna, the nearest thing to a Town Hall we have on the North Shore. It was built back in the days we had our own city council and the late George Gair was mayor. Now, like everything else we had, it's owned by a distant body that often sounds foreign to us.
Mayor Phil Goff has decreed, "Auckland Council venues shouldn't be used to stir up ethnic or religious tensions. Views that divide rather than unite are repugnant and I have made my views on this very clear. Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux will not be speaking at any council venues."
Goodness. The Bruce Mason has accommodated a number of events down the years that not everyone on the Shore would have welcomed, including, surprisingly often, the Labour Party's annual conference.
Ethnic and religious tensions are only some of the subjects that divide public opinion. Are Auckland Council venues to be also closed to the anti-vaccination people, anti-flouridationists, advocates of euthanasia? They pose a more immediate risk to our public health and human life in my view, but I wouldn't want them banned.
A town hall is supposed to be every community's open forum. When televised election debates are styled "town hall meetings" it means they are at least pretending to be free and open to unscripted views of all sorts. In the last days of our 2014 election campaign the venerable Auckland Town Hall was the venue for Kim Dotcom's ill-fated final rally, featuring an American left-wing journalist and leakers Edward Snowden and Julian Assange.
That was about as repugnant to many Auckland ratepayers as any event I can recall. Yet I heard nobody say they should not have been allowed to use the Town Hall and nobody suggested that by making it available, the Auckland Council endorsed what Dotcom and his guests were saying. This country is not afraid of free speech.