Anders Solli Sal

34

Exploiting the Trafficking Myth

We have created a myth in the name of battling evil. While NGOs, politicians and the police all gain on maintaining the myth, this delusion comes with a price others must pay. Lying for a good cause may have dire consequences.

Publisert: 5. mar 2014

(Skrevet på engelsk siden den er ment for et amerikansk publikum. Men relevant også i en europeisk kontekst.)

Once, now a long while ago, I had a discussion with some friends about climate change. One of the guys, commenting on the mainstream view of climate change, said that it's hugely exaggerated, almost on the brink of being a hoax. I found myself thinking, oh no, he's one of them. He'd probably seen some cheap conspiratorial YouTube 'documentary' and now wants to lecture us about the "truth".

I confronted him with the little I knew about the facts (I was after all only majoring in philosophy.) His sources didn't seem as unreliable as I first suspected. Although I more or less withheld my initial position on the subject, I did open up for possibility that maybe some of its claims were exaggerated. Nevertheless, without fully thinking about the ramifications, I responded, "So what, if they are a little exaggerated? Maybe it will help the cause gather more momentum. Mobilize the masses and force politicians to react."

"No! This is radically wrong", another one solemnly protested – also a philosophy student. "Not just is it wrong in itself, in virtue of truth having an inherent value. It also has dire consequences. Someone will always poke hole in a hyped up bubble. The truth will come out and then you will lose your credibility. You've screamed wolf one time too many, and no one will believe you now. You should never lie, even in the cause of good."

The Super Myth of Super Bowl

These days, another topic and hype made me think of that discussion and the questions it posed. This is the idea of Super Bowl as a giant trafficking magnet, or a traffickers Mecca. If the cause is noble enough, it seems you can get away with pretty much anything. Even claims that border on the outright absurd.

In the run up to the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot said that, "the Super Bowl is one of the biggest trafficking events in the United States." On this year's Subcommittee Hearing about preventing human trafficking at major sports events, New Jersey Republican representative Christopher Smith claimed that more than 10 000 exploited women and girls were being trafficked to the Miami Super Bowl in 2010. Carol Smolenski, leader of the anti-trafficking organization ECPAT, who also spoke at the hearing, made the horrific claim that there are 100 000 children in the United States forced into the sex industry as sex slaves. And more horrible still, their mean age being 13-14 years old.

Luckily, this is all false.

First of all, we don't have any evidence that Super Bowl is a significant trafficking event at all. The organization Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women concluded in a 2011 report that there "is no evidence that large sporting events causes an increase in trafficking for prostitution." Police reports corroborate this conclusion. Even though the police increases its effort at finding and arresting human traffickers before and during these events, nothing out of the ordinary is recorded. As was the case in 2010, so it was in Phoenix 2008 and Tampa 2009.

And Dallas 2011, the state of General Attorney Greg Abbot in its Super Bowl year, saw zero trafficking related arrests. During the Super Bowl in Indianapolis 2012 there were two arrests. The same number was repeated in New Orleans in 2013. Finally, how about this year's Super Bowl? While one girl of fifteen was recovered, 17 were arrested (age 17 to 45) – though not for trafficking, but prostitution, promoting prostitution and some drug possession. In other words, ordinary sex workers.

Now, if these events really see influxes of thousands of trafficked girls and women, does the lack of a matching bump in arrest records mean that the police are incompetent?

Not only was the claim of representative Christopher Smith about 10 000 trafficked girls and women to the 2011 Miami Super Bowl false. His alleged source, The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, refuted the claim on their internet site. These numbers exist only as guesses. And strange ones at that.

Carol Smolenski's claims are even more bizarre. The prolific writer and savvy ex call girl Maggie McNeill makes the convincing case that the figure of 100 000 sex trafficked children probably stems from a misrepresentation of a 2001 study by Estes & Weiner. They made an estimate over the number of children, adolescents and youths – that is, up to the age of 21 – merely at the risk of sexual exploitation. Actually, 'sex trafficking' was their least prevalent form of 'exploitation', the definition of which included "stripping, consensual homosexual relations and merely viewing porn." With some of the risk factors being having access to a car and living close to Mexico, no wonder this number is at high as it is. How this warped into being 100 000 children actually in the sex trafficking industry only the gods know. As Estes himself conceded, the real number is about a few hundred.

Simple statistical reasoning demonstrates the equal bizarreness of the mean age of trafficked girls being 13-14 years. Among under age girls in prostitution, the proportion of girls aged 16-18 (or even up to 21, depending on the under age definition) is evidently large, presumably predominantly large. The cited mean being 13-14 years implies that there must be a similar proportion of girls younger than 13 years old. Now, if there really existed such a large number of prostituted girls being 8 or 9 years old, we ought to know, right? Luckily, this is not real, as it exist only in the fantasies of the delusional. (3.5% of the prostitutes in Western countries are under 18.)

A Whirlpool of Agendas

What is going on here? Why all the falsehoods? Like me in my naivete, they seem to be disregarding the value of truth in the name of a good cause. But then, as I was warned, you face the danger of being stripped of your credibility. Someone will always poke a hole in the hype, bust the myth.

But what if this myth busting is done time and again, yet the myth always seem to prevail?

In this case, the trafficking hype, there is an unhappy complex of mutually re-enforcing agendas (or incentive structures.) There are the humanitarian ideologues, the charismatic NGO leaders,who actually and profoundly believe these falsehoods. Helping the sacred victim is their life project, their raison d'être. Then there are the NGO's accountants and the more cynical parts, who understand that the organization's continued life is dependent on upholding this grim but false picture which render the organization necessary.

Then we have the police. New Public Management thinking, with its narrow focus on reaching quantified targets, and trafficking's rather loose meaning and wide specter of interpretations, is a terrible combination for poor prostitutes. They make easy targets indeed. In the words of a New York Police Department's vice unit coordinator: "I don’t know if the increased number [of prostitutes] is a legend or not but I am exploiting the opportunity." And they sure did. It has become standard procedure for the police to exploit these opportunities to raid and bust prostitutes. The number quota is satisfied, the mayor is happy.

Thus we see how both the anti-trafficking NGOs and the police force feeds of the trafficking myth. So do the politicians. What could be more noble than championing the case against trafficking? What could better convince the voters about the candidate's fine ethos than to mobilize in the fight against trafficking – irrespective of the actual truth of the matter?

Sadly, good agendas do not come with the promise of good consequences. In this case, sex workers are systematically targeted, if not outright harassed, by police measures allegedly intended to combat propped up trafficking numbers, with almost no measurable positive impact on trafficking itself. It helps spread suspicion and disbelief over both the claims of NGOs, the police and the politicians.

What's more, this construed trafficking hunt may create a beast on its own.

Fighting prostitutes with counter-terrorism measures

Stars and Stripescan inform us that former a military intelligence officer is joining forces with trafficking researchers and Praescient Analytics, a defense contractor, whose 100 strong staff usually provide intelligence to the U.S. Special Operations Command and the FBI, in order to hunt down traffickers in the prelude to the Super Bowl, using the same technology as combating terrorism in Afghanistan. By analyzing "large volumes of data from different sources," like sex workers phone numbers, and internet ads – allegedly searching for ingenious trafficking cues (like ads being written "in the third person") – they will see how the "prostitutes are deployed before and after the game". In light of all the Super Bowl-trafficking myth busting, this seams suspicious to say the least.

For combating terrorist threats, both domestic and foreign, one could argue the intelligence-cum-surveillance services are rightfully justified, or at least to some extent. The same could be said about combating organized drug crime. But in this case it is meant to be combating sex trafficking, something elusively vague, and based upon entirely fanciful numbers. The only source the article provides for its Super Bowl sex trafficking claims is, again, representative Smith's false statement. The circle is complete.

To the extent that their effort can actually help uncover forced or underage prostitution, this is of course greatly welcomed – but only given that the focus is actually helping these few ones and not punishing the large majority of voluntary sex workers. From earlier experience this doesn't seem all that likely. In effect, this will be combating sex work, which is something consensual and therefore incongruous with the idea of liberty itself – if not also with the constitution, as was ruled in Canada. This is an aspect which is peculiarly absent in the anti-trafficking discussions, made vividly clear by the consistent passive forms used, like talking about things; prostituted women, women being trafficked and deployed.

No Reason to Lie

Why lie about human trafficking when the truth is sufficiently worrisome? Like the climate is in fact changing due to human environmental interference, some underage girls and women are in fact forced into providing sexual services. It is true as one initiative director at Praescient Analytics said: "Sex trafficking is a really hard-to-see problem." But we shouldn't thereby create an imaginary monster, expensive to combat, both in terms of dollars and in human cost for the already troubled and stigmatized – the sex workers. And along the way, help fuel the already rapidly accelerating surveillance capabilities, with its inherent possibilities of misuse and threats to privacy. Here, the US seems to be following China’s precedent.

Maybe we should concede that my friend was right: We should never lie, even for a good cause.  

Kommentar #1

Markus Plesner Dalin

0 innlegg  1 kommentarer

Feministisk mytemakeri

Publisert over 7 år siden

Dette er standard feministisk mytebygging. De spredte også myten om at det er en eksplosjon av konebanking under Superbowl og det ble rapportert som sant i pressen i årevis. I realiteten er det tatt rett ut av løse luften. Eller hva med påstanden om at de fleste fosterskader er forårsaket av av menn som slår gravide kvinner. Igjen tilbakevist og tatt helt ut av løse luften. 

En høydare var påstanden om at det dør 150 000 kvinner i USA alene verdt år av spiseforrstyrrelser? Naomi Wolf spredte den påstanden i boken the beauty myth der hun også hevder at skjønnhet er en sosial konstruksjon skapt av menn for å holde kvinner nede og fullstendig ignorerer forskning som viser at symmetri ansees vakkert i alle kulturer, at rundt 0,7 hofte midje ratio også er det etc. Sannheten er at det dør 525 kvinner i året i snitt i USA av spiseforstyrrelser ikke 150 000. Tragisk, men ikke det folkemordet hun påsto de 150 000 kvinnene representerte.

Wolfs bok er videre full av så ekstremt feilaktige påstander at en fyr som gikk gjennom kildene hennes utviklet the WOLF factor (Wolfs overdo and lie factor) hvor han gir skår til alle hennes tall for hvor mange ganger det er overdrevet eller underdrevet. Alle tallene er for høye, gjerne flere hundre ganger for høye, bortsett fra tallene for menn med spiseforstyrrelser som selvfølgelig er for lave. Gjennomsnittlig var tallene 800% for høye:

http://www.scienceofeds.org/2012/06/07/naomi-wolf-got-her-facts-wrong/

Pussig nok gjorde boken Wolf til et feministisk ikon og det er hun fortsatt. 

Slik er det på nær sagt et hvert felt feminister uttaler seg om. Her er en gjennomgang av noen flere slike myter: 

http://chronicle.com/article/Persistent-Myths-in-Feminis/46965

Noe av det mest hårreisende er kanskje det konsekvente og tiårlange forsøket på å fornekte forekomsten av partnervold mot menn som gjennomgås her:

http://pubpages.unh.edu/~mas2/V71-Straus_Thirty-Years-Denying-Evidence-PV_10.pdf

Eller hva med Eve Ensler som har spilt en stor rolle i å skape oppmerksomhet rundt voldtekt av kvinner i Kongo som fullstendig utelater å nevne at over 40% av de kvinnelige ofrene oppgir at det var andre kvinner som voldtok/seksuelt misbrukte/seksuelt torturerte dem og at andelen mannlige ofre for voldtekt og seksuell tortur i Kongo ikke ligger særlig langt under den kvinnelige andelen:

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2011/jul/17/the-rape-of-men

Når Ensler snakker får alle inntrykk av at det bare var menn som sto bak voldtekter av kvinner, på tross av at hun selv må vite at over 40% av overgriperne var andre kvinner. Tallene for kvinnelige overgripere og mannlige ofre fremkommer nemlig i samme undersøkelser som ser på totale antall kvinnelige ofre og mannlige overgripere. Tallene står rett ved siden av hverandre i tabeller og i sammendraget.

Og så har vi de endeløse overdrivelsene av forekomsten av voldtekt:

http://www.leaderu.com/real/ri9502/sommers.html

Et hjemmlig eksempel er de påstandene om at kvinner har større samlet arbeidsbyrde enn menn. Disse verserte i flere tiår uten at det var sant og på tross av gjentatte tilbakevisninger helt til Rolness til slutt fikk tatt liv av løgnen:

http://www.dagbladet.no/2013/06/15/kultur/meninger/lordagskommentaren/ideer/kjetil _rolness/27722667/

Feminister internasjonalt har spredt tilsvarende myter om kvinners overarbeid. Ser man på statistikken over samlet arbeidsbyrde i forskjellige land ser man at i noen land jobber menn litt mer og i noen jobber kvinner litt mer. Den vanlige tekniken har da vært å vise statistikker som bare inkluderer de landene der kvinner jobber litt mer og hevde at slik er det overalt i hele verden. 

En annen var Inga Marthe Thorkildsen som har kommet med ulike varianter av røflig samme feilaktige påstand. Vold mot kvinner dreper flere kvinner enn malari, kreft, ulykker, og krif til sammen. Mange feminister internasjonalt har spredt lignende myter. En kjapp sjekk av WHOs tall viser at dette er bare tull. Forøvrig er det langt flere menn enn kvinner som dør av vold internasjonalt. Det nevnes nesten aldri og ansees som uproblematisk.

Det frekkeste er de tilfellene der man har presentert de samlede tallene for mannlige ofre og kvinnelige ofre som bare kvinnelige ofre. Slik forsvinner mannlige ofre helt og forekomsten av kvinnelige ofre vokser enormt. En beslektet variant er at man presenterer et tall for menn og et annet samlet tall for kvinner og barn og så i neste omgang blir tallet for kvinner og barn et tall som liksom gjelder bare kvinner eller bare "women and girls". Veldig vanlig i fremstillinger fra internasjonale organisasjoner. Slikt talljuks har en tendens til å så bli refert til som en sikker kilde og så referer man til hverket som refererte til den feilaktige kilden som enda en kilde osv. Så sitter man til slutt igjen med en haug med "forskning" som alt sammen vistnok viser det samme, men egentlig bare viser tilbake til en eneste opprinnelig myte. Et godt eksempel på det siste er den feministiske forskningen som viser at bare 2% av voldtektsanklager er falske. Påstanden er opprinnelig tatt omtrent ut av løse luften, fant så veien inn i en forskningsrapport som igjen ble referert til osv. Tallet har sirkulert som sannhet siden 70-tallet og blir fortsatt presentert som sant av prominente feminister på tross av gjentatt tilbakevisning og mange andre studier som viser noe helt annet:

http://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2216&context=llr

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_accusation_of_rape

Woozle effekten er navnet på en variant av denne typen rot med referanser:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woozle_effect

Boken Who Stole Feminism av Christina Hoff Sommers er full av dokumentasjon på tilsvarende konsekvent talljuks og mytemakeri. 

WOLF faktoren kan med fordel byttes ut med en mer almenn FOLF faktor, Feminist Overdo and Lie Factor.

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