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.

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Michael Gove definitely didn't betray anyone, says Michael Gove

What's a disagreement among friends?

Michael Gove is certainly not a traitor and he thinks Theresa May is absolutely the best leader of the Conservative party.

That's according to the cast out Brexiteer, who told the BBC's World At One life on the back benches has given him the opportunity to reflect on his mistakes. 

He described Boris Johnson, his one-time Leave ally before he decided to run against him for leader, as "phenomenally talented". 

Asked whether he had betrayed Johnson with his surprise leadership bid, Gove protested: "I wouldn't say I stabbed him in the back."

Instead, "while I intially thought Boris was the right person to be Prime Minister", he later came to the conclusion "he wasn't the right person to be Prime Minister at that point".

As for campaigning against the then-PM David Cameron, he declared: "I absolutely reject the idea of betrayal." Instead, it was a "disagreement" among friends: "Disagreement among friends is always painful."

Gove, who up to July had been a government minister since 2010, also found time to praise the person in charge of hiring government ministers, Theresa May. 

He said: "With the benefit of hindsight and the opportunity to spend some time on the backbenches reflecting on some of the mistakes I've made and some of the judgements I've made, I actually think that Theresa is the right leader at the right time. 

"I think that someone who took the position she did during the referendum is very well placed both to unite the party and lead these negotiations effectively."

Gove, who told The Times he was shocked when Cameron resigned after the Brexit vote, had backed Johnson for leader.

However, at the last minute he announced his candidacy, and caused an infuriated Johnson to pull his own campaign. Gove received just 14 per cent of the vote in the final contest, compared to 60.5 per cent for May. 


Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.