Social Opprobrium & National Sovereignty

julienblancHobyahs2smallJulien Blanc is a self-described pick-up artist, making his living giving seminars to men on how to manipulate women into having sex with them.  Let me be absolutely clear: I roundly condemn Julien Blanc’s behavior and chosen career. However…

I am uncom­fort­able with the British government’s deci­sion to bar his entry into the coun­try on the basis of a peti­tion decry­ing his work as bor­der­line rape pro­mo­tion.  Again, I am not defend­ing Blanc him­self nor am I defend­ing is work.  But deny­ing some­one free­dom of move­ment on the basis of pub­lic con­dem­na­tion alone strikes me as a dan­ger­ous prece­dent to set.

It is, unde­ni­ably, with­in the law­ful pow­er of the British gov­ern­ment to do this.  Per­haps what real­ly both­ers me about this case is the under­ly­ing assump­tion that the right of a nation to secure its bor­ders in what­ev­er ways it sees fit is a mat­ter of nation­al sov­er­eign­ty, and thus sacro­sanct.

The deci­sion to block Blanc’s vis­it to Britain was jus­ti­fied on the grounds that his pres­ence is not con­ducive to the pub­lic good.  Assum­ing that the state derives its pow­er from its role as pro­tec­tor of the cit­i­zens of the nation, this would seem like a per­fect­ly accept­able rea­son to exer­cise that pow­er.  But con­sid­er a sce­nario in which a social gad­fly with a well-known pas­sion for locks and lock-pick­ing is denied entrance to a coun­try on osten­si­bly the same grounds.  After all, his pres­ence might pro­mote safe-crack­ing and bur­glary.  Sure­ly this would be over­reach.  Or imag­ine a group of activist musi­cians being denied entrance to a coun­try with a strong reli­gious com­mu­ni­ty on the grounds that their anti-reli­gious behav­ior pos­es a threat to the pub­lic good.

We must be care­ful to not applaud deci­sions just because they agree with our (com­plete­ly jus­ti­fied, in this case) moral indig­na­tion with­out con­sid­er­ing the under­ly­ing assump­tions and impli­ca­tions of that deci­sion.

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