Julien Blanc. Photo: RSDJulien on Instagram
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Free speech must be defended, but not Julien Blanc’s incitement to violence against women

The American “pick-up artist”, who has been denied entry into the UK by the Home Office, directly promotes violence against women, and therefore forfeits the right to freely spread his ideas.

Pick-up artist Julien Blanc has been denied permission to enter the UK, where he planned to run a series of seminars sharing his “seduction” techniques. For some commenters, Blanc’s case is a free speech issue: unpleasant as his rhetoric is (and everyone seems to agree that his unstinting use of the word “bitch” and crass insistence that anyone with “a fat girlfriend” has failed at life is unpleasant), the government has no business limiting his ability to promulgate. But the issue with Blanc is not one of speech, but of acts. The line where freedom of expression runs out should be a hard and clear one: free speech ends where direct incitement to personal violence begins, and Blanc crosses that line with ease.

In his videos, he prescribes techniques such as “the choke opener” and “just grabbing girls’ heads … head on the dick” for men approaching women – in other words, he instructs his audience to commit acts of violence on women. On his website, he promises to teach his subscribers “how to overcome every single objection she might have when you’re pulling her to sooth her mind, and fuck you the same night”. It’s a prospectus (he calls it the “Pimp Method”) where consent is not even up for discussion.  “There is no such thing as rejection because it’s never over,” he says in one video. There is a word for refusing to accept “no” as an answer to your sexual proposition: the word is rape.

In the UK every year, approximately 85,000 women are raped and 400,000 are sexually assaulted. As few as one in 100 of these crimes may result in a conviction for the rapist. In this context of systemic sexual violence against women, Blanc’s seminars are essentially recruiting rallies for perpetrators. In with all the pseudoscientific flannel about “game” and “zones” and “vibing”, the only reliable principles a follower can learn from Blanc are those of coercion. That’s why it made sense for him to post a picture of the Duluth model (a chart describing different forms of intimate partner abuse) with the caption “may as well be a checklist #howtomakeherstay”.

Clearly, campaigns to deny Blanc access to venues and even the country are no-platforming of the highest order, but Blanc unambiguously merits the tactic. His “coaching” is in fact a series of directions to commit various forms of assault against women, and he has published videos of himself putting his “advice” into action on unsuspecting women. In law, an individual can be refused entry to the UK if “admitting the person may lead to a breach of UK law or public order” or “admitting the person may lead to an offence being committed by someone else”. Given the instructional content of his seminars, and the existence of footage showing Blanc assaulting women in Japan, the legal case for turning Blanc back at the border is clear. More importantly, the moral case for no-platforming him is solid. No-platform was originally a strategy of resistance to fascist speakers whose rhetoric was liable to inspire violence from their followers – and Blanc’s rhetoric amounts to an instructional course on sexual assault.

In an article for the Guardian, Dorian Lynskey positions Blanc as a victim of censorship from a “hashtag hate campaign” along with Dapper Laughs, Stephen Colbert and the installation Exhibit B, and suggests that the appropriate response in all cases would be protest and critique rather than no-platforming. “I worry that Blanc will turn a state ban to his advantage,” writes Lynskey. But it is hard to see why a martyred Blanc is a more dangerous figure than the man who tells his followers to choke women, and it is difficult for a woman to win a debate when her opponent is arm-barring her across the neck. The contentious and provoking deserve protection. But there is no requirement to tolerate speech that unambiguously directs violence, and there is no free speech defence for Julian Blanc.

Sarah Ditum is a journalist who writes regularly for the Guardian, New Statesman and others. Her website is here.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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