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Archive for February 22nd, 2012

A fool and his money are soon parted.  –  John Bridges

Day before yesterday, I used the story of Chicken Licken as a metaphor for those who wildly overreact to regular events or even non-events, inflating the fall of a nut into Armageddon.  But while the identity of the various barnyard fowl (Henny Penny, Goosey Loosey et al) was obvious, you may have wondered who played the role of Foxy Loxy.  In most moral panics that would be government, fattening itself on the stupidity of the masses by granting itself ever-increasing powers to “fight” drugs, crime, terrorism, poverty, “trafficking” or whatever other bogeyman it can take advantage of.  But as I said on Monday, real moral panics are much more complicated than children’s stories, and there is plenty of room for more than one Foxy Loxy to feed on the fat geese who run around looking up at the sky for imaginary debris rather than paying attention to their surroundings and considering just who it is they’re trusting to “help” them.

The rescue industry is full of such scavengers, amoral profiteers who take advantage of a moral panic to rake in the dough.  They feed on government grants and private donations alike, and though jackals like Somaly Mam  entertain their donors with theatrics and may actually believe in their warped minds that they’re doing good, others simply weave fanciful tales of dangerous rescues that never happened.  Now, from the victims’ point of view the latter is infinitely preferable to the former, who destroy real businesses and abduct real women, stealing their children and abandoning them to beatings, gang rape and starvation in squalid, overcrowded third-world jails.  But from the donors’ point of view it would probably be the opposite; after all, the crowd craves real blood on the sand of the arena floor.

The problem, of course, is that there are only so many whores to brutalize and only a very small fraction are young enough to be cast as “trafficked children”.  So though competing rescue industry groups can repeat the same stories over and over, present pictures of Asian schoolchildren as “rescued trafficking victims”, and develop clever schemes to divert public funds from real issues, sooner or later they have to run out of tricks.  The next generation of “trafficking” scams therefore have to be more subtle, and to get money from new sources; that generation has already arrived.

As I pointed out in “One Born Every Minute”, con artists are always willing to take advantage of people’s unrealistic fantasies or their desire to get something for nothing, so it was only a matter of time before they used “trafficking”.  The “fake conference” scam has been making the rounds since about 2004; marks receive an email advertising an imaginary conference for a nonexistent NGO, and since many academics and professionals are always looking for a paid vacation they don’t really care that they’ve never heard of this organization before.  So they send money for registration, accommodations, etc…and of course that’s the last they hear of it.  Most of these supposed conferences are for environmental and social welfare causes; child abuse, racism and HIV are among the most popular topics, as you can see on this lengthy list.  Here’s one a correspondent of mine received on January 25th:

Dear Colleague,

It is a great pleasure to invite you to the World Congress on human trafficking and forced labour 2012.  The theme of this conference is:  Combating Human And Sex Trafficking Worldwide.  This topic not only invites us to reflect upon the basic and classical criminological ideas from a contemporary perspective, but also proposes to discuss their current transformation, modification, and new developments.

The world congress on human trafficking and forced labour is scheduled to take place from Monday 27 February to Thursday 1st march 2012 at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City and 5th to 8th march 2012 at Firenze Conference Center Vicenza Italy.  The congress is hosted by the Campaign against Sex Trafficking and sponsored by other benevolent donors worldwide

Objectives of the world congress on human trafficking and forced labour objectives are:

1. To Increase awareness about the many types and ramifications of Human Trafficking
2. To serve as a resource to the public and advocates by providing valuable information about other initiatives working to address human Trafficking sex trafficking
3. To provide rehabilitation services to current and potential victims.
4. To encourage policy at local and national levels that will contribute to reducing human trafficking and abuse.
5. To provide insight in the activities in the field of science and policy interface;
6. To build a platform of knowledge at an international level;

For more information please contact the conference organizing committee via E-mail:  htafl2012secretariat@mynet.com

Sincerely,
Ms. Michael Judith
Youth organizing World Congress (Y.O.W.C)
E-mail:  congress.invitation@gmail.com

The clumsy grammar, poor punctuation and intermittent adherence to rules of capitalization would reveal this as a fake even if the scammers had bothered to create a website for the “event”, which they didn’t.  But a careless academic who really believed in the “trafficking” mythology might not be too scrupulous about checking out somebody who promised him a university-sponsored week in Italy.  And this is a good thing; the more good money is poured down the “trafficking” toilet, the more “Grey Man” and fake conference scams we see and the more ridiculous the bogus statistics get, the closer we come to the day when this whole house of cards collapses under its own weight.

One Year Ago Today

The second part of my interview with sex worker rights advocate and real sex trafficking survivor Jill Brenneman.

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