Holocaust denier David Irving. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. World Trade center bombing suspect Bilal Philips. All have had their visas canceled by the Australian government at one time or another.
Last Thursday, “dating coach” Julien Blanc joined the list. A week after he arrived in Australia to teach a series of dating seminars, his visa was canceled in response to an Internet campaign against the self-styled “pick-up artist” because of his controversial tactics in pursuing his goal of sex with women.
Blanc works for Real Social Dynamics, a business that profits from a growing online subculture of men’s rights activists and pick-up artists (PUAs). They pay thousands to attend “boot camps” at which Blanc and others teach guys how to “game” their “targets” (PUA lingo for women) using tactics criticized as misogynistic and even violent. You might recognize the language and ideology from the manifesto of Santa Barbara sorority shooter Eliot Rodgers, who frequented PUA message boards.
“It’s Offensive, It’s Inappropriate, It’s Emotionally Scarring, BUT IT’S DAMN EFFECTIVE,” Blanc says of his techniques on his Web site, PimpingMyGame.com, where he posts videos with titles like “My Girlfriend Passed Away” — The Twisted Humor That Inevitably Knifes Through To Her Panties.”
Blanc’s tutorials promise to help men “develop panty-dropping masculinity” and learn skills like how to “make girls beg to sleep with you” or “how to pick up an eastern European model in the day.”
One of his more controversial tactics is called the “choke opener,” which involves approaching a woman by grabbing her around the neck. On his Twitter account, @RSDJulien, he posted photos of himself grabbing women with the hashtag #ChokingGirlsAroundtheWorld. Some of his pitches appear designed primarily to elicit outrage, and the accompanying publicity.
The backlash to Blanc in Australia began with Jennifer Li, an activist in Washington, D.C. A week ago, she started the hashtag #takedownjulienblanc after she saw a video of a seminar Blanc gave in Japan where he gave this advice on picking up women in Tokyo: “If you’re a white male, you can do what you want.” He talks about “romping through the streets” and “grabbing women” to shove their faces in his crotch. “All you have to say to kinda like take the pressure off is just yell ‘Pikachu’ or ‘Pokemon’ or ‘Tamagotchi’ or something,” Blanc said. The video concludes with footage of Blanc grabbing actual women on the street and shoving their faces in his crotch.
“I couldn’t believe this guy was videotaping himself assaulting women and getting away with it,” Li said in a Vimeo message about the campaign. She started a Change.org petition calling on venues to cancel Blanc’s tour and Web sites to remove his content. It had more than 41,000 signatures as of late Sunday night.
“What disturbs me is that he and his company are profiting from promoting rape culture and instructing men how to terrorize and assault women,” Somayya Shazia, an Australian backer of the movement, told Buzzfeed News.
By last Wednesday, the Como Hotel in Melbourne and the Mecure Hotel in Brisbane had canceled Blanc’s events in response to the uproar. According to Mashable, the ticketing Web site EventBrite removed all Real Social Dynamics events from its site.
By Thursday, Blanc’s visa was revoked. “This guy wasn’t putting forward political ideas, he was putting forward abuse that was derogatory to women,” Australian immigration minister Scott Morrison said, according to the Guardian.
Protesters gathered on the banks of the Yarra River in Melbourne Thursday night, according to Australian news site the Age. A river cruise boat had canceled a Blanc event earlier that day, and police were called to remove the men who came to hear Blanc speak.
Success in getting Blanc kicked out of Australia fueled momentum for #takedownJulienBlanc. “The goal is to shut them down entirely,” Li told the BBC. She is posting information about upcoming Real Social Dynamics events on Twitter and calling on people to pressure the venues to cancel them. “I don’t want them to have the space where they can teach men to harass other women,” she said.
Not everyone applauded the success of the campaign. “The answer to bad speech is more speech,” Simon Breheny, director of the legal rights project at the Institute of Public Affairs, told the Age. “If someone says something I don’t like, rather than calling in the police and saying this guy should be fined or sent to jail, we should explain to people why we think those ideas are bad and why we shouldn’t listen to him,” he said.
Deakin University social media academic Deb Waterhouse-Watson disagreed: “You shouldn’t have freedom of speech if you’re advocating crime,” she told the Age.
“I think Julien’s video was absolutely stupid,” Real Social Dynamics co-founder Owen Cook, who uses the name Tyler Durden online, wrote on the company’s Web site. “It was totally out of context and he posted it to get shock, not realizing the full outcome. I’m sorry about the video.”
Some think the publicity could help Blanc. “I’m glad this sort of thing is getting exposure in Australian media. There’s a sizeable swell of the population that hate political correctness and being told how to think but they’re drowned out by the unwashed hordes,” one Redditor wrote on a thread defending Blanc.
Blanc’s supporters started their own Change.org petition opposing censorship of Blanc. It had more than 1,800 signatures by late Sunday night. “It is not a crime to provide men with dating advice,” a supporter wrote in the comments. “Julien is a man who teaches socially awkward men, whom nobody else will help, how to maintain successful relationships and meet women. He is a positive influence on the internet, and a role model for many young men,” another said.
Feminist writer Clementine Ford takes a different view of Blanc’s tactics. “It won’t help them communicate with women. It doesn’t encourage any kind of genuine connection between men and women. It only encourages objectification,” she told the Age.