It was frighteningly authoritarian when Mayor of Auckland Phil Goff decreed by tweet on Friday words to the effect that he would make sure people whose political opinions he disagreed with would never be permitted to use any of the many large, council-owned venues available for commercial hir.
It’s frightening because freedom of speech and freedom from discrimination by the government based on your political opinions are fundamental human rights, not granted by government, but by God. Government’s role is merely to guard these natural laws. It is certainly not to lead in their violation.
The mayor’s dictum was issued less than a month from the date for which I and my business partner had a contract with the Bruce Mason Centre to bring libertarian/conservative speakers, best-selling authors and YouTube sensations, Lauren Southern (a video sampler below) and Stefan Molyneux, and their mainstream, right-of-centre ideas to Auckland and Australia.
Specifically Goff wrote,
@AklCouncil 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. Let me be very clear, the right to free speech does not mean the right to be provided with an @AklCouncil platform for that speech.
The NZ Herald followed up with commentary by one of its arguably more facile feature writers and columnists, whop argued that reserving the right to exclude people from the private, ticketed events for bad behaviour or security concerns is the moral equivalent of government discriminatting against unapproved opinions. Compounding intolerance with inanity, there followed a string of tired pejorative labels as substitute for a remarkable lack of factual or logical insight, plus some fake news about Southern and Molyneux allegedly being banned from entering Australia. Keeping up with the news is a chore apparently for those so keen to gag others, as the Australian work visas had been granted, albeit after suspiciously unusual delays.
The voluminous torrents of character assassination is straight out of extreme leftist playbook, Saul Alinksy’s Rules for Radicals. And Goff is most importantly and self-evidently wrong about the repugnancy of “views that divide instead of unite”. The one-party authoritarian state of China is run with one view. With eery similarity to Mayor Goff’s style of leadership, China labels people who rock the boat or challenge the status quo as “trouble-makers”, bad for the “social harmony”.
Ironically, Goff’’s view is one that divides rather than unites. Will he now ban himself from council venues? Integrity and consistency demand he must, because the responses to the look-at-me righteousness of his tweets have been very divided. So where’s the unity, Phil? Is it in the “social harmony” you’re trying to enforce?
Where was his aversion to bona fide extremism when he allowed a pro-Hezbollah demonstration on a council site last month? Where was it when Fidel Castro was patting him on the back? Where was it when he met and literally held hands with infamous terrorist leader Yasser Arafat? So much for the hard line against anyone accused of “stirring up ethnic or religious tensions”. He’s even been accused of flying the Viet Cong (communist) flag from the Auckland cenotaph back in the day. No one violated his free speech rights when he threw paint and spat at veterans returning from Vietnam.
He insists, “The right to free speech does not mean the right to be provided with an @AklCouncil platform for that speech.”
Yes it does. It absolutely does. So does the New Zealand Human Rights Act which protects against discrimination based on political views.
Now if he’d said free speech doesn’t mean the right for Auckland Council to pay the speakers a fee for expressing views you disagree with, I’d agree. Just like Yasmin Abdel Magied can say what she wants, even if I disagree, but taxpayers shouldn’t have to fund her bile on the ABC.
And though the venue is owned by the residents of Auckland, the operation is commercial, and the contract required an eye-watering fee for the privilege. No one was subsidising the use of the facility.
And here’s where the NZ Herald’s commentator is oblivious to the facts. Open invitation has been made by the speakers for dissenters to come along, listen, and challenge their views in the Q&A portion of the evening. The Herald man also misses the fact that the venue is available to hire for anyone to have their right of reply: zero censorship. I won’t stand in their road. I fully support everyone having the same rights to free speech as the speakers he savaged with his uncensored right of free speech. That doesn’t absolve patrons of the responsibility of personal civility.
Likewise, no one should be made to feel comfortable to engage in incitement to violence, intimidation or harassment of patrons. The city and its law enforcement should protect its residents’ rights to peaceful assembly, and their attention should be entirely focussed on those threatening and promising to cause trouble, not those giving a public lecture and showing a documentary in a purpose-built, commercial venue.
I, my partner in Axiomatic.Events, and the speakers we’re promoting also fully endorse the right to peacefully protest our events. Get a permit, follow police directions, don’t trespass private property or obstruct the public thoroughfare and peacefully express yourselves to your heart’s content.
It’s wonderful how we can all get along in a civil society, protecting the fundamental freedoms of a tolerant, inclusive and liberal democracy.