US "pickup artist" Julien Blanc promotes the use of physical and sexual assaults against women to "seduce" them.
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Why Julien Blanc should not be let into the UK

The US "pickup artist" has crossed a line by promoting violence against women. 

In one week we have seen the debate about Dapper Laughs, the ongoing campaign against Ched Evans going back to train with Sheffield United, and the news of Julien Blanc planning an imminent tour of the UK. We have also seen thousands standing up taking a stand – and making a real difference. Dapper Laughs has lost his TV show and "retired" his character; Charlie Webster – herself a victim of abuse – and Jessica Ennis-Hill have drawn a line in the sand by telling Sheffield United they do not want to be associated with a club that employs Evans, and Blanc has had his Australian visa revoked after a petition to the immigration minister.

There is a real question to ask about whether we should allow Julien Blanc into the UK.  In his seminars he promotes the use of physical and sexual assaults on women in order to "seduce" them. He has explicitly endorsed behaviours associated with domestic abuse to sexually manipulate women.

Today the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, wrote to Theresa May to ask her to consider using her powers to exclude him if she assesses that his presence is not in the public good. There is a clear precedent for this - our border controls mean we are under no obligation to allow people into our country if there is evidence they intend to incite violence. When we know that reports of incidents of domestic violence and sexual assaults are on the rise, are the "dating tricks" from Blanc really what we want to see in Britain? And at the end, he will leave the country with his earnings, while young men and women will be left with the impression that things he says and the actions he promotes are acceptable here in Britain.

We all defend free speech, but we also need to make choices when free speech crosses a line towards promoting or inciting acts of violence. If Julien Blanc's language had been about the way white people should behave towards black people (or the other way round), or the way able bodied people should treat disabled people, rather than being about male attitudes to females, would our response be different? Would we think he was inciting hate crime? The values Blanc espouses are hateful. He suggests women are worth less than men and can be used and discarded at will. These aren't the values parents want their sons and daughters to grow up with. 

The Labour Party has been lobbying the government hard to have compulsory age-appropriate sex and relationship education (SRE) taught in schools to help promote the understanding that no form of violence in relationships is acceptable. Last week I also wrote to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan again to urge her to change the government’s stance on SRE. We need to push back against misogynist attitudes in society, not encourage them.

At a time when we know one in three teenage girls experience unwanted groping at school, when sexting and revenge porn is on the rise, it’s clear we need a broader conversation about what we see as acceptable and in line with our values. One thing is clear, Julien Blanc is not.

Seema Malhotra is shadow minister for preventing violence against women and girls

Seema Malhotra is Labour MP for Feltham and Heston and shadow chief secretary to the Treasury.

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Erdogan’s purge was too big and too organised to be a mere reaction to the failed coup

There is a specific word for the melancholy of Istanbul. The city is suffering a mighty bout of something like hüzün at the moment. 

Even at the worst of times Istanbul is a beautiful city, and the Bosphorus is a remarkable stretch of sea. Turks get very irritated if you call it a river. They are right. The Bosphorus has a life and energy that a river could never equal. Spend five minutes watching the Bosphorus and you can understand why Orhan Pamuk, Turkey’s Nobel laureate for literature, became fixated by it as he grew up, tracking the movements of the ocean-going vessels, the warships and the freighters as they steamed between Asia and Europe.

I went to an Ottoman palace on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, waiting to interview the former prime minister Ahmet Davu­toglu. He was pushed out of office two months ago by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he appeared to be too wedded to the clauses in the Turkish constitution which say that the prime minister is the head of government and the president is a ceremonial head of state. Erdogan was happy with that when he was prime minister. But now he’s president, he wants to change the constitution. If Erdogan can win the vote in parliament he will, in effect, be rubber-stamping the reality he has created since he became president. In the days since the attempted coup, no one has had any doubt about who is the power in the land.

 

City of melancholy

The view from the Ottoman palace was magnificent. Beneath a luscious, pine-shaded garden an oil tanker plied its way towards the Black Sea. Small ferries dodged across the sea lanes. It was not, I hasten to add, Davutoglu’s private residence. It had just been borrowed, for the backdrop. But it reminded a Turkish friend of something she had heard once from the AKP, Erdogan’s ruling party: that they would not rest until they were living in the apartments with balconies and gardens overlooking the Bosphorus that had always been the preserve of the secular elite they wanted to replace.

Pamuk also writes about hüzün, the melancholy that afflicts the citizens of Istanbul. It comes, he says, from the city’s history and its decline, the foghorns on the Bosphorus, from tumbledown walls that have been ruins since the fall of the Byzantine empire, unemployed men in tea houses, covered women waiting for buses that never come, pelting rain and dark evenings: the city’s whole fabric and all the lives within it. “My starting point,” Pamuk wrote, “was the emotion that a child might feel while looking through a steamy window.”

Istanbul is suffering a mighty bout of something like hüzün at the moment. In Pamuk’s work the citizens of Istanbul take a perverse pride in hüzün. No one in Istanbul, or elsewhere in Turkey, can draw comfort from what is happening now. Erdogan’s opponents wonder what kind of future they can have in his Turkey. I think I sensed it, too, in the triumphalist crowds of Erdogan supporters that have been gathering day after day since the coup was defeated.

 

Down with the generals

Erdogan’s opponents are not downcast because the coup failed; a big reason why it did was that it had no public support. Turks know way too much about the authoritarian ways of military rule to want it back. The melancholy is because Erdogan is using the coup to entrench himself even more deeply in power. The purge looks too far-reaching, too organised and too big to have been a quick reaction to the attempt on his power. Instead it seems to be a plan that was waiting to be used.

Turkey is a deeply unhappy country. It is hard to imagine now, but when the Arab uprisings happened in 2011 it seemed to be a model for the Middle East. It had elections and an economy that worked and grew. When I asked Davutoglu around that time whether there would be a new Ottoman sphere of influence for the 21st century, he smiled modestly, denied any such ambition and went on to explain that the 2011 uprisings were the true succession to the Ottoman empire. A century of European, and then American, domination was ending. It had been a false start in Middle Eastern history. Now it was back on track. The people of the region were deciding their futures, and perhaps Turkey would have a role, almost like a big brother.

Turkey’s position – straddling east and west, facing Europe and Asia – is the key to its history and its future. It could be, should be, a rock of stability in a desperately un­stable part of the world. But it isn’t, and that is a problem for all of us.

 

Contagion of war

The coup did not come out of a clear sky. Turkey was in deep crisis before the attempt was made. Part of the problem has come from Erdogan’s divisive policies. He has led the AKP to successive election victories since it first won in 2002. But the policies of his governments have not been inclusive. As long as his supporters are happy, the president seems unconcerned about the resentment and opposition he is generating on the other side of politics.

Perhaps that was inevitable. His mission, as a political Islamist, was to change the country, to end the power of secular elites, including the army, which had been dominant since Mustafa Kemal Atatürk created modern Turkey after the collapse of the Ottoman empire. And there is also the influence of chaos and war in the Middle East. Turkey has borders with Iraq and Syria, and is deeply involved in their wars. The borders do not stop the contagion of violence. Hundreds of people have died in the past year in bomb attacks in Turkish cities, some carried out by the jihadists of so-called Islamic State, and some sent by Kurdish separatists working under the PKK.

It is a horrible mix. Erdogan might be able to deal with it better if he had used the attempted coup to try to unite Turkey. All the parliamentary parties condemned it. But instead, he has turned the power of the state against his opponents. More rough times lie ahead.

Jeremy Bowen is the BBC’s Middle East editor. He tweets @bowenbbc

This article first appeared in the 28 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Summer Double Issue