Archive for August 24th, 2012

The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.  –  Philip K. Dick

We’ve talked many times about the way “sex trafficking” numbers are inflated by bogus “studies”, mathematically-unsound “estimates” and redefining an increasingly-large number of totally separate phenomena as “trafficking”.  But even those powerful tools of disinformation are insufficient if those who use them carelessly leave the real facts lying around for skeptical readers to discover; the really thorough prohibitionist covers his tracks by the use of so many dysphemisms that it’s difficult to tell what the hell he’s even talking about in the first place.  A recent “study” of so-called “sex trafficking” in Ohio provides an excellent example:

For the victims of sex trafficking in Ohio, the recruiters are usually women, and many buyers are men in positions of power and authority.  Those are two of the key findings from a three–year study of human trafficking in Columbus and four other major Ohio cities.  The report was based on a survey of 328 self-identified victims, including some who were adults and no longer involved in the industry…one year before they entered human trafficking, nearly half of the victims had an older boyfriend, 46 percent were unsure of where they would eat or sleep and 44 percent had trouble in school.  And more than 60 percent of victims from Columbus said they were persuaded to enter the industry in part by another woman who sold herself…A sample of 43 victims provided information about the professions of the “johns” — the buyers — in the human-trafficking industry…The profession that victims most frequently reported as manipulating them into providing sexual services was law enforcement, at 47 percent.  The other professions of buyers included businessmen, drug dealers, truckers and lawyers.  Also on the list:  politicians, military men, teachers, government employees, judges and pastors and ministers…

The fact that the subjects of this survey self-identify as “victims of sex trafficking” already introduces a selection bias so huge as to render the entire “study” worthless; this tells us nothing about an actual crime, but rather about the claims made by women who for whatever reason, truthfully or falsely or distortedly, want to think of themselves as passive victims of a currently-faddish construct of “social evil”.  But even if we ignore that for the sake of argument…what does any of this actually mean?  Though the word “underage” is not used anywhere in the article, phrases like “some who were adults”, “older boyfriend” and “trouble in school” strongly imply that; however, they are also described as “women” despite the fact that standard lawhead usage is to describe anyone below the Age of Shazam as a “child”.  There is also a strong implication that “sex trafficking victim” is being used in place of “streetwalker” (we’re told half were homeless), yet the trade is also represented as some kind of organized “industry” into which women are “recruited” (“persuaded” seems to be a dysphemism for “gave the idea to”).  The phrase “manipulated…into providing sexual services” is even more opaque; the fact that half of those who do this are supposedly cops implies coercion via threat of arrest, but the rest of the list would indicate it’s merely a convoluted, agency-denying dysphemism for “hire”.

This dense tangle of undefined terminology would render the whole report useless even if it had been drawn from a proper sample with rigid methodology, but in the present circumstances it has something like the effect of a lawnmower hitting a dog turd.  Since the “study” was sponsored by the Ohio Attorney General’s office, however, its total lack of real information is no barrier to its being used as an excuse for further criminalization of clients, infantilization of sexworkers and expansion of both police and prosecutorial power despite the report’s own pronouncement that police and other government actors make up the majority of the problem.

But bogus “studies” aren’t the only reports in which dysphemisms are employed to disguise the true nature of the subject; this recent case from Oklahoma displays a similar strategy:

…Gloria N. “Diana” Giammalva, 51, admitted that from at least 2009 through March 2012 she conspired with others in the operation of a multistate prostitution business that coerced and enticed women across state lines to participate in commercial sex acts…Juan “Fernando” Rosales Garza, 40, pleaded guilty…to conspiracy and money-laundering charges…[because] he agreed with others to benefit financially by transporting women across state lines into northeastern Oklahoma to participate in a commercial sex venture…The women who were used as prostitutes are from other countries, including Mexico and some Central and South American nations…

And so on.  Fortunately, court officials are less practiced at obfuscation than academics, so it’s much easier to tease the truth out of this one:  these luckless folks owned an escort service in Tulsa, which lies fairly close to where four states  (Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri) converge, hired some immigrant employees and allowed their girls to cross into towns just across state lines.  This simple act of careless administration and poor judgment was inflated by prosecutors into a nefarious multi-state “human trafficking” scheme; normal business discussions thereby become “conspiracy” and ordinary bank deposits such as everyone makes become “money laundering”.  And a routine prosecution for something which isn’t even against the law in civilized countries is thereby inflated into a triumph of “justice” over a dangerous criminal cartel, all via the magic of dysphemisms.

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