For once, the media left Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux rattledby Diana Wichtel
Paddy Gower was left baffled, but over on Sunday, there was a moment that stopped alt-right provocateurs Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux in their tracks.
Gower shared his battle stories on The Project. “It was sort of like being thrown down in front of a machine gun of nit-pickery. You could say to them, ‘The sky is blue’ and they’d come back with, ‘No, it’s not’,” he reported dolefully.
In New Zealand, the pair got bags of free speech and publicity. 1 News called them “the two Canadian conservatives”. This inadequate description would be upsetting to Canadian conservatives who aren’t alt-right nutters.
Asked by 1 News about the cancellation, Molyneux speculated that the venue’s owner was threatened. “… it means that it was the use of threat of violence for political ends,” explained Molyneux. He eyeballed the camera. “Straight-up terrorism.” He offered no actual evidence for this. None was asked for.
Both 1 News and Newshub put it to the pair that their rejection was, more likely, just free speech in action. The venue owners got some bracing feedback from their community. As Gower later put it, “The market has spoken.” They weren’t having that.
“In terms of an intellectual argument, they totally nailed me,” said a defeated Gower on The Project. His interview demonstrated there’s little to be gained from playing their sort of game. Southern has said diversity causes weakness. New Zealand is known for its diversity, said Gower. “Are you saying New Zealand is weak?” Southern replied by saying he must then believe that women should be stoned for being raped. These are tactics from the playbook of Holocaust deniers and other cranks: change the goal posts, cherry-pick facts, deploy logical fallacies, sow confusion. Generally cause your questioner to lose the will to live.
In the face of criticism, TVNZ 1’s Sunday broadcast its interview with the pair. Their shtick involves lamentable rhetoric about immigrants, Islam, feminism, IQ and race … Sunday marshalled an impressive and – Molyneux and Southern’s worst nightmare – diverse array of voices. “Can you say it to me: ‘It’s okay to be white’?” a grinning Southern badgered interviewer Tania Page. No, said Page, pointing out she is “indigenous Māori”. “Oh. Okay,” said the Canadians, stopped, for once, in their tracks. Professor Paul Spoonley compared their rhetoric to bog-standard racism. “We have people who are articulate, who are thoughtful and who then express similar views, but in a much more sophisticated and acceptable way.”
Sophisticated is not the word that comes to mind when viewing a video Molyneux has since posted. It’s a call to arms, warning of “the war that is coming”; a frenzied invocation of all kinds of left-wing havoc: “the demonic mob”; “eye of the beast”; “truly dying West”. It’s also a call for alms: “We lost a venue and that’s costly … We take bitcoin …” The reception they got in Auckland clearly rattled him.
As for the television coverage here, our reporters mostly didn’t know what hit them. Gower clearly wanted to go into battle but didn’t have the ammunition. If the media are going to engage with these sorts of people – and they aren’t going away – they must learn to do better.
On the plus side, the encounter had something to say about this country. “I think you’ll see from the reaction they’ve had from New Zealanders that their views are not those that are shared by this country, and I’m quite proud of that,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
It’s like those phone calls from scammers trying to scare money out of you by saying something’s wrong with your computer. In the end all you can say is, “No thanks, we’re good. Go sell crazy some place else.”
This article was first published in the August 18, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.
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