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Archive for August 13th, 2011

Metaphors are much more tenacious than facts.  –  Paul Deman

Advocates for the decriminalization of prostitution repeatedly point out that when any activity is criminalized, it is pushed into the shadows and thereby attracts the kind of vermin who thrive in the darkness.  Those who prey on others and scavenge profits from their misfortunes cannot stand long exposure to the light of truth, and must either wither or go scurrying back into the woodwork whence they came.  The cockroaches who populate the rescue industry are like this, enriching themselves at the expense of prostitutes and those who do business with us under cover of the thick, greasy smoke of disinformation spread by neofeminists and trafficking fetishists.  But when light is cast onto their activities, they must retreat in order to survive.

Roaches don’t care where their food comes from, and neither do Trevor and Maggie Neilson of Global Philanthropy Group, the “celebrity charity consultants” who make a fine living from Hollywood types who want to look good for the public by giving money to “worthy causes”.  The Neilsons were the ones who suggested Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore dump their excess cash into the “DNA Foundation”, pumping them up with ridiculous stories of 300,000 child sex slaves; this is not to say that the Kutchers are not equally culpable, since any reasonable person should have checked his facts rather than mindlessly parroting nonsense to everyone who would listen.  But the Neilsons might have continued to enjoy their ill-gotten profits (made at the expense of further persecution of voluntary adult whores) had Village Voice Media not decided to shine a light on them; as I reported in my column of July 1st, Maggie Neilson told reporters she didn’t care whether her facts were accurate or not: “I don’t frankly care if the number is 200,000, 500,000, or a million, or 100,000…the people who want to spend all day bitching about the methodologies used I’m not very interested in.”

Within a few days of the Village Voice article, however, Neilson and her husband realized that daylight had intruded into their cozy little crevice.  Though most of the public was still buying the “for the children!” excuse, many others were starting to wake up and the Neilson’s poster boy was having a very public meltdown on Twitter which, though it won a few supporters like American Airlines and Seattle mayor Mike McGinn, actually resulted in even more unwelcome attention.  Maggie Neilson attempted damage control with a July 6th Huffington Post article which trotted out further misinformation wrapped up in logical fallacies and appeals to emotion; that same day, Village Voice property Seattle Weekly published an article which refuted just about every claim the Neilsons and Kutchers had made about Backpage and displayed the erroneous statements as part of a larger pattern of ignorance and disinformation distributed by both couples.  Undeterred, Trevor Neilson followed his wife’s example by writing a July 13th Huffington Post article in which he accused Village Voice Media of doing exactly what he and his wife were trying so desperately to do:  protect their income by lying and otherwise distracting people from looking too closely at the facts.  He even called the company’s exposure of his ignorance “a series of wild columns” in an article which referred to adult escort ads as “children being sold for sex” and pretended that “300,000” is a reasonable approximation for “4”.

Apparently, Neilson woke up soon after writing this silly screed and realized that sooner or later his attack, based as it was on incredible exaggeration and blatant misrepresentation, would collapse under the weight of its own absurdity and might even take his company with it if the far larger Village Voice organization decided to pursue the legal remedies available to the targets of libel campaigns.  Sometime in the last couple of weeks it obviously dawned on him that spreading demonstrably false claims in an attempt to undermine a company’s business constitutes criminal defamation and a “reckless disregard for the truth”, and so he decided to backpedal on his previous position (as reported in the July 25th Seattle Weekly):

Global Philanthropy Group president Trevor Neilson, who on July 14 e-mailed a letter to Seattle Weekly advertisers urging them to withdraw their advertising from the publication on account of ads allegedly involving underage sex trafficking on parent company Village Voice Media’s adult classifieds service, Backpage, today e-mailed a second letter to those same advertisers, stating that he is “no longer calling on advertisers to withdraw their ads from the Village Voice, the Seattle Weekly, or any of their related publications.”

“Over the course of the last week I have had numerous discussions with Village Voice, and have come to believe that they are serious about working diligently to prevent their digital classifieds website from being used by those seeking to exploit children or others,” writes Neilson, who’s been associated with Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore and their DNA Foundation on the topic of sexual exploitation of minors.  Shortly after Seattle Weekly and its VVM sister papers ran a cover story which was critical of DNA’s interpretation of numbers surrounding underage prostitution, Neilson brought the issue to the attention of Seattle mayor Mike McGinn, who ultimately responded by pulling city advertising from the pages of Seattle Weekly.  (Unlike the web-based Backpage, which relies on credit card and ISP information to track its users, Seattle Weekly checks the ID of all individuals appearing in the adult classifieds section of its print edition.)  Since Neilson reached out to McGinn, Backpage representatives have met with the mayor and City Councilmember Tim Burgess, as well as the DNA Foundation, to explore security enhancements associated with the site.  Following is the full text of Neilson’s July 25 letter to select Seattle Weekly and Village Voice Media advertisers:

Dear [advertiser]:

I wanted to update you on the situation with Seattle Weekly and Village Voice Media that I emailed you about on July 14.  Over the course of the last week I have had numerous discussions with Village Voice, and have come to believe that they are serious about working diligently to prevent their digital classifieds website from being used by those seeking to exploit children or others.  Currently, I am informed they are looking at ways that new technology can be used to verify the ages of those whose photos appear on their websites.  It is a task that hasn’t been perfected on the web yet but I am assured by Village Voice and Seattle Weekly that the resources, manpower and effort are being marshaled by them in consultation with IT and safety professionals to address the issue.  I am encouraged by their actions in the last week, and believe they have demonstrated a serious commitment to stopping online predators who traffic in underage children or other victims.  Based on these discussions, and what Village Voice and Seattle Weekly have demonstrated, I wanted you to know that I am hopeful that Village Voice Media’s efforts will be successful, and I will do what I can to be helpful in the process.  In light of these efforts and commitments, I am no longer calling on advertisers to withdraw their ads from the Village Voice, the Seattle Weekly, or any of their related publications.

Sincerely,

Trevor Neilson, President
Global Philanthropy Group

As a popular comedian of the late ’60s used to say, “Verrrrry interesting.”  Of course we’ll never know what was really said at those meetings, but any reduction in “child sex trafficking” rhetoric is a welcome change.  And what of Demi and Ashton?  If a recent DNA “tweet” calling attention to this news story is any indication, they may now be attempting to steer their loose cannon toward “end demand” nonsense; in any case, it’s obvious their private war on whores is far from over.

One Year Ago Today

In “Friday the Thirteenth” I examined the possible origins of the popular superstition about the day, and proposed it as an occasion for speaking up for the rights of sex workers.

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