Lauren Southern : Phil Goff is "anti-free speech."
Auckland mayor Phil Goff was wrong to ban far right speakers Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux from council venues.

THE VEXED ISSUE of free speech and who is entitled and not entitled to it, has raised its head again with Auckland Mayor Phil Goff banning far-right Canadian activists Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux from speaking at council venues. The pair were due to speak at the Bruce Mason Theatre (tickets priced at $79) in August as part of an Australasian tour. They have since cancelled the visit.

Goff says that far right activists like Southern "incite hatred". Southern has responded that Goff is "anti-free speech".

I know little about the Canadian pair but the internet tells us that the two hold views that are well to the right and fairly predictable. Lauren Southern expresses, among other things, basic anti-gay, anti-Muslim and anti-left views. Perhaps when she gets a little older - she's just 23 years age - she might become a little more tolerant in her views. Then again, maybe she won't.

According to Vice News Southern sees her role as countering "the mass amount of left wing media we have that pretends to be impartial' in both her home country and elsewhere. I've heard similar views being expressed by the likes of Ann Coulter on Fox News. Her views are beamed directly into New Zealand living rooms.

Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneuz do have their supporters in New Zealand. The Whaleoil blog, which appears to be lurching ever more to the right, thinks that Southern "has been instrumental in making the mocking of feminism mainstream and leading a resurgence in traditional conservative beliefs among young people."

On Radio Live Southern said that she didn't mind people protesting at the meeting - but she objected to being banned because it was a denial of her right to disagree with 'liberal values'.

As readers of this blog will know, I've long supported free speech as a fundamental principle that can't be simply manipulated or tossed aside because some views might offend. You either have free speech for everyone or you don't have free speech at all. Rosa Luxemburg was right when she observed that "Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently." Unless we think the way that Luxemburg did, then the concept of freedom of speech becomes meaningless.

While the opponents of the two Canadians will no doubt rejoice in the ban,they also need to be reminded that they will have no legitimate right to protest when a right wing mayor decides to ban left wing radicals from speaking because their views are deemed to 'incite hatred' or be 'a danger to the public good'.

People like Green co-leader Marama Davidson, who supports the ban, needs to be reminded that hate speech laws aren't just used to suppress the far right but are also employed against the left. In 2016 for example , Canada’s then-conservative government threatened to use the nation’s hate speech laws to prosecute supporters of a Israel boycott on the ground that such activism is “the new face of anti-Semitism".

Also in 2016 , Hillary Clinton claimed the Israel boycott movement was evidence that “anti-Semitism is on the rise across the world" and argued that "measures" to "discourage' such views was justifiable.

In 2017 the German government ordered an influential left-wing website shut down on the ground that it “stirred up” unrest at the G-20 summit in Hamburg and was used to "incite violence".That site was Indymedia. Indymedia is a left wing global publishing network which also has a presence in New Zealand.

Supporting the suppression of free speech allows the right to portray the left as authoritarian and more than willing to squash dissenting views. The opposite is true. The western left was always at the forefront of struggles for greater political and cultural freedom in the 20th century.

The battle for ideas will never be won by trying to suppress opposing views, however unpalatable they might be. It needs to be remembered that it is not a battle for a world merely without slurs and bigotry against minority groups but a battle for  a world freed of all oppression. We have a world to win and that is the winning idea. And when you have a winning cause, freedom of speech is always on your side.


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