A tyranny based on…deception and maintained by terror must inevitably perish from the poison it generates within itself. - Albert Einstein
Nassau County, New York has wholeheartedly embraced the evil quackery of “end demand” with the exuberance of a broke hooker going into a multi-hour call with her favorite client. But there the similarity stops; while the latter interaction is a moral, ethical, peaceful, consensual and mutually-beneficial one, the men upon whom District Attorney Kathleen Rice violently forced her loathsome attentions were deceived, brutalized and humiliated, and the only people who benefited were Rice (who scores brownie points with neofeminists), the police department (which scores stolen money and other property), and the individual vice cops (who gain the sadistic joy of harming others and fodder for later masturbatory fantasies). But if Rice and her sleazy accomplices thought they were going to win public praise for their asinine exercise in the victimization of citizens, they were badly mistaken; even the fourth-grade-level “humor” in the name of their “operation” (“Flush the johns”, get it? Get It? GET IT???!!??? DO YA, HUH? GET IT??!!!? HAW HAW HAW YUK YUK YUK!!!!) has received at least some small measure of the universal scorn it deserves from anyone older than ten. Though sex worker rights activists always criticize large “sting” operations, the outstanding malodorousness of this one inspired some outstanding responses from our allies. Jacob Sullum of Reason, whose support is always vocal and unwavering, had this to say:
It is hard to imagine a bigger waste of law enforcement resources than “Operation Flush the Johns,” the month-long sting that resulted in 104 arrests announced by…District Attorney Kathleen Rice…These men, whose names and photos Rice eagerly disseminated, were arrested…[for] a trumped-up version of a phony crime. If anyone committed a real crime here, it was the cops, who lured these poor horny bastards to a hotel room under false pretenses, only to lead them away in handcuffs…[for]…patronizing a prostitute in the third degree. Think about that for a minute. There is no such thing as patronizing a pornographer in the third degree, patronizing a liquor dealer in the third degree or patronizing a race track in the third degree…because New York’s legislators have decided to allow these consensual transactions, even though moralists take a dim view of them, while prohibiting the voluntary exchange of sex for money. That dictate entails some pretty arbitrary distinctions. If two people meet through an online ad, one buys the other a nice dinner and they have sex afterward, they have committed no crime. But if two people meet through an online ad and have sex, after which one of them hands the other $100 so she can buy herself a nice dinner, they may both be subject to arrest…Rice defends punishing these men for words they allegedly said to fake prostitutes by arguing that she is thereby protecting real prostitutes from risk…yet…the prostitution ban that Rice enthusiastically enforces makes sex workers vulnerable to abuse by traffickers, pimps…customers…police and courts…black markets created by such edicts are dangerous places characterized by fraud and violence, in contrast with the honesty and peace that tend to prevail in legal versions of those very same markets…anti-prostitution crusaders…refuse to acknowledge…the role they play in creating the victims they claim to be saving.
Sullum also debated criminalization on HuffPost Live against Michael Shively (who makes a very good living whoring his mad research skillz to Swanee Hunt) and Hall of Shame member Dennis Hof. Yes, you read that correctly: Hof is in favor of client stings and even promotes “pimp” propaganda for the same reason owners of established restaurants want food trucks harassed and owners of taxi cartels favor persecution of internet and smartphone-enabled competition (and yet he still has the nerve to portray himself as an advocate for sex workers). On Sullum’s side (and ours) was also Lane Filler of Newsday, who published this on the subject:
…Why was this suddenly such an important crime to focus on?…[only] 39 people had been arrested on such charges in Nassau County … over the past decade. More than 100 in a month shows a pretty serious change in emphasis, and one that goes beyond this sting, and beyond prosecuting customers. In 2012, 26 cases involving prostitution charges were resolved in Nassau. This year there have already been 140 prostitution arrests…Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice has never shied away from the spotlight. In fact, she…seems drawn to it like a moth to a porch lamp…
And here’s one from the newest “Friend of Whores”, Cathy Reisenwitz:
…I guess the presumption of innocence isn’t a thing in Nassau County? Even if they evade prison time, this arrest will haunt them for the rest of their lives. And let’s not forget that their children and wives have been humiliated right along with them. And for what? The string comes as a result of “complaints about prostitution in hotels”…what business is it of anyone’s if a man contacts a woman…and meets her…for sex?…And while the police and DA are arresting and prosecuting over this victimless crime, they don’t have enough time to prosecute the gang-rape of a young girl with an IQ of 50 in a Nassau County public school…
And one from sex worker Cathryn Berarovich, who takes aim at one pet-peeve-triggering element of the story the non-sex-working allies missed:
…My first problem is the use of the word “John.” In all my years as a sex worker, I have never once heard a hooker call her client a John. I’ve never really swapped tales…with outdoor workers, but I’m not sure if those ladies even refer to clients in such a degrading, dehumanizing way. The only people I’ve ever heard use the term were either anti-sex work civilians or police officers, two groups who generally don’t draw distinctions between the individuals involved in the sex trade, either as customers or providers. I hate the term “John” because…stripping clients of their individuality contributes to the stigma surrounding my profession: if the men who pay for sexual services aren’t individuals with normal human needs, it’s okay to demonize [those]…who cater to those needs…On a related note, it really, seriously bothers me to see these mugshots publicized. People go to sex workers for a number of reasons–because they are ashamed of their desires, because they don’t have time to pursue relationships…because their partners are unwilling or unable to fulfill certain fetishes, because they are too awkward to approach nonprofessional women. Absolutely none of the reasons that motivate most men to patronize sex workers are a cause for public shaming and humiliation…it’s sordid, tacky, and frankly vicious and so far as we know, none of the men pictured did anything to deserve such punishment…
Rice is of course trying to win the votes of moralists and ignorant women; her Swedish-flavored rhetoric casts her in the role of the “savior” of women victimized by men’s dirty, evil lust, and she’s even spoken up against the use of condoms as “evidence”. But fewer and fewer people are buying it, and perhaps this vicious attack on an activity a large fraction of the electorate enjoy from time to time will backfire on her. It’s long past time to flush politicians like Rice, and the brutal repression of human needs and desires they champion, down the same filthy commode in which support for the Drug War is already circling before vanishing into the sewer where they both belong.