Julien Blanc shut down

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By Ed Kennedy

November 6 2014 was not a good day for Julien Blanc. Just after 6pm a demonstration began at St Kilda Pier that ended in his Australian visa being cancelled. The outcry in days following becoming so substantial Time Magazine asked just a week later ‘Is Julien Blanc the most hated man in the world?’

Up until his visit to Australia, Blanc was unknown in St Kilda. He is a self described ‘pickup artist’. Others may call him a dating coach or even a motivational speaker. The exact title of Blanc’s occupation is not as important as the content of his seminars, for within them is the promotion of choking and groping of women – as a means of dating technique – that has seen his reputation grow rapidly in infamy.

While these are not the only techniques Blanc advocates – and much of his seminars content is built around the stated aim to grow confidence in the men who attend them – it is plainly clear this brand of ‘confidence’ when built upon the abuse of women is a severe perversion of the word and its definition. Furthermore, the encouragement to choke and grope women as a means of interaction are not the sole disputes with Blanc’s viewpoint, but are instead the tip of the iceberg.

Though Blanc’s website is only a mouse click away, much of what the man espouses could not be more distant from St Kilda’s long-held community values and traditions. Attendance at his seminars promises to deliver the power to “Make Girls BEG To Sleep With You After SHORT-CIRCUITING Their Emotional And Logical Mind…” and a technique that will address all “Possible Speedbumps Along The Way So The Girl Has No Alternative But To End Up With You” Blanc admits “It’s Offensive, It’s Inappropriate, It’s Emotionally Scarring, BUT IT’S DAMN EFFECTIVE” Though this last sentence comes with a qualification he’s “just kidding” many understandably found such language no laughing matter.

Debra Low, a theatre teacher from Preston felt the protest – officially called Shut Down Julien Blanc – was an unmissable event after hearing of it online.

“I heard about the protest. Then I looked at footage on the internet, I looked at twitter and could only think it as deeply concerning.”

“What’s worse, as opposed to Blanc and his group having any shame in their actions the celebrate it, like some sort of sick television evangelist.”

It should be noted at this juncture Blanc – while clearly representing stark departure from mainstream values – nonetheless is not a sole actor. Rather, he is a member of the group Real Social Dynamics.

While a detailing of all the other issues that have arisen as a result of this group would be too expansive for this article, it should be noted Blanc is not the only member of the group to have generated controversy as a result of his ideology.

As Tim Cushing of TechDirt wrote in the days following the protest “Real Social Dynamics has attempted to perform some damage control, but there are far too many fires to put out.”

It should also be indicated that even amongst the pick up artist ‘industry’ – while granted the mere existence of it as a group remains a contentious issue for many St Kilda’s residents – nonetheless has seen Blanc denounced by many quarters, with Richard La Ruina of PUA Training seeking to underscore there is a difference between individuals like him and “women haters” elsewhere on the scene.

It is this issue of pick up artists not so much encouraging men to be more confident – but to instead be demeaning and derisive of women – that so compelled Debra Low to attend that November evening.

“If the seminars was a way to teach you how to meet fellow human being that’d be one thing. But this is not doing that, instead it is treating women a scorecards”, said Ms Low.

“This is tapping into a false sense of what other men are apparently doing, but its just not true. The myth that other men find their worth in acting like this just dosen’t add up.”

These sentiments were echoed by Nat Pestana, a photographer from Melbournes North, and one of the organisers of Shut Down Julien Blanc.

“Teaching young men its okay to abuse young women under the guidance of a confidence trick is not acceptable”, Ms Pestana said.

“In spite of the threats, or harassment, it really proved why it was important to us to take a stand about attitudes and violence against women in the community.”.

The protest and lead-up to November 6 culminated in Blanc’s event – originally to be hosted at the Como Hotel – being cancelled. After many attempts to reschedule, seminar attendees were instructed to meet at St Kilda pier where they would be collected and taken to see Blanc’s presentation at an undisclosed location. While the mood on the foreshore was calm – and police in attendance ensured it remained so – the scene was also highly emotive.

This was partly owed to the fact a number death threats were levelled against protest organizers online in the lead up to the evening. Reportedly these threats came from supporters of Blanc.

Alongside this, the presence of a number of unidentified males filming the group with cameras – who were understood to not be known to the demonstrators nor part of the media covering the event – further unsettled the group.

This feeling amongst the protestors culminated in a tense scenes within the CBD as the group assembled – having followed the attendees from the original meeting point of St Kilda Pier to the Yarra – attempted to forestall the seminars commencement.

Though the protestors failed to achieve their aim to disrupt the seminar from taking place entirely, the event had a significant follow-on effect, with Blanc’s visa being cancelled in the days following. It then set off an international outcry and chain of events that saw Britain and Brazil deny Blanc a visa, as well as other nations reportedly considering this course of action also.

In a statement Immigration Minister Scott Morrison indicated Blanc’s views were at odds with accepted community standards and attitudes, and the Immigration department acted after public outcry.

““This guy wasn’t pushing forward political ideas, he was putting a view that was derogatory to women and that’s just something that our values abhor in this country,” he said. “The matter was raised with us, and we had it investigated, and we had this fellow looked at.’’

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