Controversial self-styled dating guru Julien Blanc has been banned from entering Singapore.
Singapore is not the first country to bar the outlandish self-proclaimed pick up artist from its shores. The United Kingdom has already denied Blanc entry and Australia cancelled Blanc’s visa mid tour. Many petitions have also sprung up across the world to prevent Blanc from entering their countries to host a series of questionable dating seminars for men.
Based on a Google search of what he seems to advocate and after watching a couple of YouTube videos which give an indication of his dating methodologies, I have no inclination to ever attend any of his seminars. Nor can I agree with his opinions, which seem to be misogynistic and blatantly ignorant at best. His attempts to defend himself are also pathetic and weak.
That said, is banning his entry the best way to tackle his ill-conceived opinions and dubious morals?
Social and Family Development Minister, Chan Chun Sing has said in a Facebook post:
“Some of you have shared with me your concerns about Julien Blanc and his seminars in various countries to advise men on how to use violence against women when dating them. I share your concerns fully.
ICA has discussed with MSF. ICA will not allow Mr. Blanc into Singapore, especially if he is here to hold seminars or events that propagate violence against women. Violence against innocent people is unlawful and totally unacceptable. We cannot allow people to perpetuate such unlawful activities in our country.”
While the commitment of violence and the abetting of violence are crimes, are Blanc’s despicable views tantamount to crime? Do his deplorable dating tactics actually abet violence? On what basis is his entry denied? If we are denying Blanc’s entry on the basis of his views, are we not flouting the right to free speech too?
However much I may disagree with his racist, sexist and misguided dating advice, will the ban only serve to enhance his reputation? Now treated as forbidden fruit, will he gain a bigger following? The publicity that has been generated from the Internet campaign to bring him down may actually serve to increase his profile.
From a Singaporean context, this ban reminds of what happened during the banning of local movie To Singapore With Love. If the ban was meant to prevent Singaporeans from watching it, it could not have delivered a far more different result. The Streisand effect phenomenon could very well ring true here as it did for To Singapore With Love.
While we clamour for free speech, we also have to respect that some views aired may not be what we find savoury. What we can do to tackle distasteful views such as Blanc’s would be to beat him at his own game through mass media, social media and vigorous debate. While Blanc’s views may appeal to a small percentage of men, it is my vehement belief that most Singaporean men would have the good sense to disregard Blanc’s advice, which in many instances border on the ridiculous.
Many have claimed that Blanc should be banned because he crossed the fine line between free speech and the incitement of violence. I do not condone any of his views and reiterate that I find them morally reprehensible. However, is it really an incitement of violence? Does Blanc really have that persuasive sway? Arguably not. His arguments hint at puerile insecurity, which really convinces no one but those who are easily influenced. Can the error of those views not be vociferously corrected through rigorous debate in the same media?
By banning him, we are giving credence to his ignorant opinions and providing him the publicity that he does not need. It also sets a dangerous precedent against free speech. We cannot censor someone just because we disagree with his views. Instead we should challenge each one of his bigoted views with logic and civility. It will not be too hard to poke holes at his false bravado, which holds no substance apart from cowardly swagger.