Partial truths serve as more effective instruments of deception than lies…By using accurate details to imply a misleading picture of the whole, the artful propagandist…makes truth the principal form of falsehood. - Christopher Lasch
I often write about the way prohibitionists “reframe” facts to make them seem different from the way they actually are, both to make their own war on human sexuality look noble and heroic, and to make whores and clients seem evil, criminal or pathetic. Police and academic neofeminists (with the help of the sycophantic media) are especially skilled at this: escort services or advertising websites are described as “prostitution rings”; dumb luck or shotgun tactics are depicted as brilliant police investigation; status offenses are equated with violent crimes; escorts become either “criminals” or “victims”; their husbands or drivers become “pimps”, “traffickers” or even “gangsters”; young adults are called “children”; productive work is referred to as “being sold”, “servitude” or even “slavery”; denying the agency of women is described as “protecting” them; abducting and jailing them is called “rescue”; and so on.
Though many prohibitionists lie a great deal and others are simply delusional, good propagandists don’t have to invent anything; they simply omit what they don’t want, “cropping the image” to display only those isolated details of much larger picture that they wish to display. The most skillful of them artfully edit, rearrange and embellish the facts with emotive language, logical fallacies, euphemisms and dysphemisms, the prose equivalents of dramatic music and cinematic lighting techniques. Lately, I’ve run into three excellent examples of how this works; none of these have anything to do with sex work, but they graphically illustrate the techniques I’m talking about. If you wondered why I started the column with that iconic picture of the brave protester in Tianamen Square, and illustrated this paragraph with that cute little kitten, you’re about to get your answer. As it turns out, the famous image of man against tanks was only a part of the story; here’s another of the same scene which surfaced a few weeks ago:
It’s obvious that this one was taken a few moments earlier and at a much wider angle; the protester is almost lost in it, and the better-known photo calls attention to him at the cost of losing the incredible scale of the thing. I don’t believe that the photographer was intending to deceive, but the principle is the same; the first photo tells only a small part of the story. The same thing goes for the kitten; I myself cropped her out of this picture:
Seeing that tiny creature in her true surroundings inspires a totally different emotional reaction in the viewer than that elicited by the isolated detail; one might even say that the two pictures tell completely different stories. But my final example is the most striking of all; a clever film editor used scenes from the Robin Williams comedy Mrs. Doubtfire, accented with new music and a different production design (visual effects, editing style, etc) to create a trailer which makes it seem like a film of an entirely different genre:
In this case, the intent was to amuse rather than deceive; the impact is strongest when the audience already knows that the actual film is a comedy. But the principle is the same: skillful manipulation and omission of facts, with the proper emotional cues, can easily turn a mundane or even benign narrative into a tale of horror.
One Year Ago Today
“Here Comes the Groom” discusses a form of call somewhat more common in June: the bachelor party.