There is almost nothing more convincing than a live human being who takes the stand, points a finger at the defendant, and says “That’s the one!” - Elizabeth Loftus
After I participated in the Albany Law School Symposium in February of last year, the organizers asked if I’d like to submit a research paper for inclusion in the school’s journal; the invitation was both enticing and intimidating. On the one hand, it would allow me to present my arguments in a form and medium through which they would both reach a professional audience that might otherwise be denied me, and give those arguments a certain gravitas denied to the contents of a “mere” blog. On the other hand, I had not written a scholarly paper in twenty years, and even then not for a journal; furthermore, I was unfamiliar with what might constitute an acceptable style for a law journal, and also with the citation format. I was assured that they would be happy to hold my hand if necessary on the matter of style, and that the editors checked all citations and put them into proper format.
So I accepted the invitation, and though the deadline wasn’t until September I worked on it through last June and submitted it on July 2nd so as to give the editors plenty of time for all the revision I was sure it would need. To my great pleasure it needed very little; the editor wanted to double-check some citations, asked for a couple of alternate sources and requested that clarifying text be included in a few passages. Finally, the journal was published in March and I received a box of copies last week. I scanned it into a PDF and uploaded it, and today I’d like to formally present “Mind-Witness Testimony: The Unreliability of First-Person Accounts in Sex Trafficking Discourse” (Albany Government Law Review, volume 7). It’s much longer (34 pages), much more formal and much more scholarly than my usual writing, but I don’t think y’all will find it too dry and the points it makes are, in my opinion, very important. Here’s the concluding paragraph of the introduction:
…While some fraction of the firsthand accounts, related by those who represent themselves as victims of “sex trafficking”, are almost certainly true as related (subject to the usual distortion of time), and another probably larger fraction have been altered by the process of stereotypical conformation described [herein], it is likely that the majority of reported narratives are not factually correct in any way, however real they may seem to the self-identified victim. I realize this is an extremely bold and controversial claim; however, in this paper I will present three types of evidence to support it: first, that “sex trafficking” is neither as common as the public has been led to believe, nor as consistently and stereotypically exploitative; second, that there is extremely strong evidence for a mechanism for the formation of absolutely false memories, and that the narratives reported by self- identified “trafficking victims” bear a striking resemblance to past examples that experts and the legal system alike now agree are undoubtedly false; and third, that there are strong sociological, political, and economic reasons for certain parties to encourage the development, dissemination, and public acceptance of these narratives.
It’s a topic I’ve covered in this blog before, but it’s examined in much greater depth in the paper; you may also appreciate the historical overview in the first section. Oh, and one more thing: I reduced the scans by 40% to keep the PDF down to a manageable size, so you’ll need to expand the display to read it properly. Class dismissed, and I promise not to give you a pop quiz.