Archive for January 21st, 2013

There is no god but God, and Mohammed is His prophet.  –  The Shahada

profession of faithMost modern religions have some basic profession of faith, a terse (as in Islam or Buddhism) or lengthy (like Christianity’s Nicene Creed)  formula which encapsulates the most basic tenet or tenets of that belief system.  Like most cults, “trafficking” religion has its professions of faith as well, and the most important one – which can be found in nearly every single article written by or about “Traffickists” – is their version of the Shahada:  “A lot of people think trafficking doesn’t happen in [the place about which I’m speaking], but it does.”  What is most interesting about this statement is that it almost acknowledges the lack of demonstrable proof, but then attests that the True Believer accepts the “trafficking” faith anyway.  Many “trafficking” creeds are like that, especially now that skepticism is starting to show its face among the proselytes; if one compares recent stories about the panic, one can’t help noticing that many more words are spent refuting facts that cast doubt onto the mythology than used to be typical even a year ago.  This article from the Baton Rouge Advocate  is a perfect example:

Judging by the “End Human Trafficking” billboards and the work of a Baton Rouge-based anti-trafficking group building a shelter in Livingston Parish, sex trafficking is a significant problem in south Louisiana…nevertheless, reliable statistics on the full extent of the problem remain elusive.  “A lot of people think trafficking doesn’t happen in Louisiana or in Baton Rouge, but it does,” said Lee Domingue, co-founder with his wife, Laura, of the awareness organization Trafficking Hope…Louisiana law defines sex trafficking as the inducement of a commercial sex act from an adult by force, fraud or coercion, or from a minor irrespective of force, fraud or coercion.  Transporting the victim is not required for a violation of the law; facilitating the sex act or benefiting, financially or otherwise, from it is enough to trigger a violation.

This incredibly expansive definition, especially that avails clause, is used to classify as “trafficking” things that no reasonable person would include under the label, then to pretend that the mythic narrative applies to all of it.  The fanatics even admit this is so, though they don’t recognize they’re doing it:

The term “trafficking” and its description as “modern-day slavery” can be misleading for both victims and the public, said Judy Benitez…of the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault.  “It puts the image in our heads of girls being physically restrained or handcuffed or put in a cage, but that is usually not the case,” she said.  “Usually it’s more akin to a domestic violence situation where…they could leave, but there are a variety of factors making them unwilling to do so.”  Those factors include threats of harm, intimidation, bullying, blackmail and coerced or forced drug use to the point of addiction and dependence…Although the girls do not admit to having been trafficked, Edwards said, the signs are unmistakable…

agency deniedIn other words, if “authorities” don’t like a woman’s choices they simply deny her agency and brand her a “victim”, then go looking for a “victimizer”.  This is particularly true if she’s a young woman beneath the Age of Shazam; obviously she is a “child”, exactly equivalent to a five-year-old, and therefore unable to feed herself, find shelter or money, read a map or reason that if one is running away from something, it might be a good idea to put some distance between oneself and the place from which one is fleeing:

“If a child has been missing, or has run away for a month or two, you know somebody is taking care of that child and you start to ask questions about who that person is and why,” [Edwards] said.  “Then if you find the child has gone to Tennessee or Florida or Alabama, has crossed state lines, those are things that really raise eyebrows.

Because clearly, American state borders are patrolled like those between Cold War-era East and West European countries, and thus form solid barriers like the chalk lines of cabalistic summoning circles to anyone who has not yet been struck by the Mystic Lightning of Adulthood.  But just in case anyone might see through this infantilizing myth of “innocence”:

…Trafficking Hope spokeswoman Molly Venzke declined The Advocate’s request to be put in contact with a trafficking victim willing to speak about the experience.  “We cannot offer that, especially because we haven’t been able to put someone through the process of 18 months of restoration,” she said, adding that it would be exploitative to do an interview…at this point…

Well, something’s exploitative, but it isn’t an investigation into “trafficking” claims.  The reporter isn’t completely asleep:

…the lack of data held up a 2011 reauthorization of the federal [Trafficking Victims Protection Act] because, as U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley…noted in committee, without more precise numbers, the government cannot determine whether funding to fight trafficking has been effectively spent…the U.S. government [has] no effective mechanism for estimating the number of victims…

But let’s not dwell on that too long; denying the agency of those who make decisions we don’t like is SO much more rewarding:

“Sex trafficking victims are easily manipulated by their traffickers and have mixed emotions, often believing they love the person”…said [Katherine Green of the Louisiana Human Trafficking Task Force].  “They don’t see themselves as victimsall whores are children at all because it’s a different normality they’ve had to survive.”

“Different normality” = “false consciousness”.  And of course we have to demonize clients and imaginary bogeymen, too:

…The reluctance of victims to testify can be frustrating for law enforcement officers who want to get traffickers off the streets and guide victims to the services they need, said Bobby Gaston…with the Louisiana Sheriffs Association…“Many of the cases we thought were trafficking turned out to be prostitution because we couldn’t prove they were being forced…they were so deathly afraid of their ‘johns’ (the purchasers) or traffickers (the pimps) that they wouldn’t give us good (information).”

Oops, we almost forgot to drag in “end demand” rhetoric, and to refer to the crusaders as “experts”:

…Sex trafficking would not exist if there were not a market for sexually exploited individuals, the experts said.  “Everything for sale has to have a market of people willing to buy, and that has never been a problem in this realm,” Benitez said.  “But nobody wants to talk about that”…Domingue said he supports the idea of “john schools,” where men who purchase sexual favors would learn more about the damaging effects on the women involved…

And last but certainly not least, no “trafficking” screed would be complete without an iteration of the “gypsy whores” myth:

…law enforcement and service organizations are gearing up to respond to the influx of commercial sex activity they believe will inevitably accompany the Super Bowl in New Orleans on Feb. 3…

All mocking aside and all things considered, however, this story actually gives cause for optimism.  The “Super Bowl sex trafficking” myth was relegated to a single line only six sentences from the end; the myth as a whole has never caught on in South Louisiana, and has not been heavily hyped by the larger media outlets in the area; and finally, only three out of 18 comments on the story were uncritical, and several of the others contained statements such as, “This looks like a solution in search of a problem”, “shameless yellow journalism…If there are no statistics to substantiate this imaginary problem, why are you writing articles about it?”, “Trying to convince people that they were abused sounds like the suppressed memory racket of years past that ruined a lot of lives”, and “you cannot get $ to stop prostitution so you call it Human Trafficking”.  And that is very encouraging indeed.

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