By Sudo Nyme
In case you haven't heard, self-proclaimed pick-up artist Julien Blanc has been barred from entering Singapore. According to the Straits Times article, no definite reason was explicitly stated, although it hinted that the bar was due to his seminars/events that propagate violence against women.
To be immoderately pedantic, this is the quote (by Chan Chun Sing) that I'm referring to:
"ICA will not allow Mr Blanc into Singapore, especially if he is here to hold seminars or events that propagate violence against women."
Before the feminists cry foul over my perceived misogyny, let me state clearly my position: I do not agree with, nor support, his pick-up "tactics". But I absolutely disagree with outright barring him from entry.
Firstly, barring Julien Blanc because of the content of his dating seminars/courses is akin to censorship. What is the practical difference between denying him (and the information he preaches) entry and denying access to websites hosting questionable content? In my opinion, not much, if at all. I'm hugely against all (except in the most extreme cases) forms of government-imposed blanket censorship because of the ethical quagmire it presents.
1. What is the criteria for assessing the suitability of information for the masses?
2. Why is it so?
3. Who developed this set of criteria?
4. Why do they get to decide what I get to access?
5. And more in the same vein...
I would prefer public educational campaigns to establish a mentally resilient populace who can resist the decadent moral corruption of deviant websites. After all, as you may well know, the Internet is a living breathing creature which can never be completely subdued. Block a website and 2 more appear in its place... or tech-savvy consumers could just opt for VPN and proxy services to circumvent the restrictions.
With the exceptions of certain extreme elements like pro-terror propaganda and socially divisive hate speech that have the potential to cause widespread turmoil and outsize harm to a nation, all other "milder" forms of undesirable content should not be subject to censorship.
And this thus sums up my first reason.
My second point revolves around the effectiveness of "censoring" his physical presence. If the reason for disallowing him entry is to prevent the dissemination of his poisonous misogynistic ideas about women, why are his Facebook, Twitter, Instagram accounts, blog, website, and YouTube channel accessible? In this wired era of Internet connectivity, wouldn't the unfettered online transmission of his ideas have a significantly larger impact than the seminar-style coaching offered in person?
And my second reason can therefore be concluded as such: Barring him from entry is an empty statement that is for all intents and purposes ineffective in attaining the supposed outcome.
A fellow Singaporean Charis Mah actually initiated a petition to protest Julien Blanc, which garnered more than 8,500 supporters. In my opinion, 8,500 supporters does not count as widespread support.
If 8,500 is indeed not widespread support, why has a state-wide "censorship" policy been instituted to pander to the clamor of an underwhelming minority?
If I'm mistaken, and 8,500 is indeed considered widespread support, then let the money (or the lack thereof, rather) speak. Allow him entry, and watch him struggle to fill up the auditorium seats. In a market economy like ours, money speaks the loudest. Prices function as signals of demand. If Singaporeans are truly peeved by his misogynistic ways, why would they pay to attend his events?
As you can probably tell, I am positioned towards the liberal end of the conservative-liberal spectrum. I genuinely disagree with the move to disallow him entry, on the grounds that this establishes a dangerous, slippery-slope precedent for future events.
This article was first published on Literally Kidding.