Archive for April 4th, 2013

Like an ideal deity, the ideal devil is omnipotent and omnipresent.-Eric Hoffer

McCarthy's listThough moral panics may differ in their particulars, they all share two important characteristics: the menace is claimed to be both enormous and all-pervasive, and to represent an existential threat to Our Treasured Way of Life.  During the “Red Scare” of the 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy claimed that communists had so infiltrated the United States that there was practically “a red under every bed”; he stated that 20% of all government employees were communists, that they presented a clear and present danger to American liberty, and that it was therefore permissible to abrogate that liberty in a crusade to ferret out communists and neutralize the threat they presented.  And today, we are repeatedly told that “traffickers” are everywhere, that they are lying in wait on the internet to abduct “innocent children” into “sex slavery”, and that widespread human rights violations and the expenditure of millions are necessary to stop them.  Every small town and rural state in America scrambles for its place on the “trafficking” gravy train by insisting that “trafficking happens here, too!” and eagerly labeling every streetwalker a “victim” and every hapless client or driver a “trafficker” in order to create statistics where there were none.  Larger towns join the “king of the hill” competition, each proudly claiming to be a leading source, destination or “hub” for the imaginary slave caravans (usually on the bizarre basis that interstate highways pass through the area).  And even poor countries within the American sphere of influence get into the act, accepting whatever arbitrary “grade” is assigned them by the US State Department in its methodology-free “TIP Report”, then persecuting whores and clients in a twisted game of “fetch” to please their prudish masters.

Stories spouting these myths are so common now, I could literally reprint one every day and not ever run out of them; to demonstrate, here are six examples from a six-day period early last month.  The first appeared on March 6th and comes to us from the big booming metropolis of Rapid City, South Dakota:

Human trafficking for sex is not a crime that only occurs in other countries or in large cities.  It also happens in South Dakota, according to U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson…trafficking is more prevalent in the Sioux Falls area, but it will happen eventually in Rapid City, Johnson said.  Sex traffickers target…vulnerable girls that they ultimately end up selling for sex…Once they’re inside, women feel they can’t ever leave the commercial sex-trafficking ring…

Then 87 minutes later and roughly 600 kilometers south, we got this one:

Human trafficking is occurring all over the state, according to Nebraska Family Council Executive Director Al Riskowski, and current laws do little to prevent or punish offenses…Riskowski said that Interstate 80 is part of the main route that victims, most often female minors, are shuffled along as they are forced from city to city by their captors…[a proposed law] would make it nearly impossible for an escort service to operate within the state because it would require these businesses to register for a permit…Riskowski said he was compelled to take up the issue of human trafficking after finding escort services in the Lincoln phonebook. He went to the chief of police, who said he knew very well that the escort services were prostitution rings.  “My only thought was, ‘How could they be advertising prostitution in the phonebook?’” Riskowski said.  “The ad even said that a minor would be sent out on request”…

He was shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, to discover escort services in the phone book!  That last whopper is incredible even by prohibitionist standards; “Minors available upon request?”  Really?  Does Riskowski assume his audience can’t look the ads up for themselves, or just that they won’t?  The hilarious lawhead delusion that passing a permit law will somehow stop harlotry isn’t limited to the hinterlands, though:

This week the Huntington Beach City Council voted in support of…[a] proposed ordinance [which] would require establishments to obtain certification from the city and would prohibit massage therapists from performing services in their own homes…Police Chief Kenneth Small…urged council members to pass the ordinance…and…expressed significant concern for the sex workers themselves.  “Overwhelmingly based on our investigations in Huntington Beach and throughout Orange County and Southern California, the women involved in most of these massage parlors are trafficked in,” said the Chief, who explained that many were forced to work six days a week at the coercion of pimps and panderers…In 2011 the [Orange County] Weekly reported on the issue of human trafficking, child sexual slavery and the difficulty in accurately reporting its numbers.  While crusaders such as Ashton KutcherAsstoon were pegging the figure between 100,000 and 300,000 sex slaves in America, most researchers offered significantly smaller numbers…

The Orange County Weekly is a Village Voice property, hence the skeptical tone which is wholly absent from this lugubrious idiocy published three days later in Denver (despite the fact that it does quote sex workers rights advocates down near the end):

Describe the tragedy of a 12-year-old being controlled by someone…who takes payment from scumbags for acts that shatter the child’s innocence, and repeatedly damage her body and soul…”We are definitely seeing an increase in the number of cases involving the commercial sexual exploitation of children, forced and coerced prostitution and organized prostitution,” according to Sgt. Dan Steele of the Denver Police Department…It’s called sex trafficking when a vulnerable person (of any age) is forced, coerced or lured…into providing sex acts for cash…the prostitute is a victim who may not even recognize that fact…Nina Martinez, executive director for Street’s Hope…[says] “We are unique in that we are faith-based, and right now a lot of our funding comes from churches”…Billie McIntire…[of the] Sex Workers Alliance Network…says the issue of sex trafficking has been seized by…”abolitionist feminists” and members of ultra-conservative Christian groups, as a way to help push their desire to eradicate the sex industry entirely…

Yes, you read that correctly; a prohibitionist group claims that being religious makes it “unique”.  But while FBI collaborations with local cops in Colorado are liable to involve “sting” operations and psychological abuse of sex workers, those conducted in small countries to satisfy State Department demands involve far less refined tactics:

…immigration officials, along with San Fernando CID officers, swooped down on the popular Classic Seamen Hotel…[in] Marabella, where they found 76 scantily dressed women, allegedly soliciting clients…the women ran at the sight of officers but were easily captured as the premises is surrounded by high walls topped by barbed wire…In 2012, the US Department of State’s Human Trafficking Report said that [Trinidad and Tobago] was “a destination, source and transit country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking”…

And the next day on the mainland, lawyers demonstrate the unbelievable credulity that allows cops to get away with the most outrageous lies in court:

…members of The Jacksonville Bar Association…[were told that] Florida ranks third in the U.S. in human trafficking cases behind California and New York…2.5 million people are in forced labor at any given time as a result of trafficking, 1.2 million children are annually trafficked, a majority of victims are 18-24 years of age and 95 percent of victims experience physical or sexual violence during trafficking…”Human trafficking rivals Microsoft in what it makes annually in sheer profits.  It’s one of the greatest growth industries that we currently have in the world, which is a sobering statistic for all of us,” said [Terry] Coonan [of the Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights]…the…trafficking symposium…included Telisia Espinosa telling her story of being a victim of human trafficking…Members of the law enforcement panel agreed that one of the problems in human trafficking is that some people don’t think that they are victims…

balloon crashJust a few days after Albany Law School had the sense to feature an actual sex worker on the panel of its “trafficking” symposium, the Florida Bar Association instead featured an attention-seeking religious fanatic whose unverifiable horror tales contradict both the experiences of thousands of sex workers and plain common sense.  But that’s the way it is with moral panics; the numbers grow ever higher, and the stories ever more ridiculous, until even the lowest common denominator can no longer believe in them and the whole hysteria collapses like a punctured balloon.

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