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Archive for April 12th, 2012

It is the true believer’s ability to “shut his eyes and stop his ears” to facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard which is the source of his unequaled…constancy.  He cannot be…baffled by contradictions because he denies their existence.  —  Eric Hoffer

On several occasions I’ve mentioned Maier’s Law, “If the facts do not conform to the theory, they must be disposed of.”  But when the facts cannot be disposed of because they’re too well-known, the true believer must indulge in complex mental gymnastics which tend to make him look like a complete idiot to anyone unencumbered by the flawed theory.  One such unsupportable theory is that prostitution is a “crime” (in a real sense rather than just by arbitrary definition) and that prostitutes are “criminals”.  No other major Western nation but the US defines prostitution itself as a crime (though many define various ancillary actions as such), every methodologically-sound study ever done demonstrates that decriminalization virtually eliminates what cops are pleased to call “associated crimes”, and even the vast majority of prohibitionists have shifted to the more-easily-defensible “victimization” model.  But to a dyed-in-the-wool lawhead, anyone defined as a criminal must actually be a criminal, just as anyone defined as a “child” must actually be the equivalent of a four-year-old in a real moral and neurological sense (until he commits a “crime”, at which point he instantly transforms into an adult criminal and is treated as such).  And so lawhead cops (and their journalist henchmen) must come up with elaborate and ludicrous explanations as to why “prostitution is not a victimless crime” (the Prohibitionist Creed).  I presented one rather amusing example one year ago today, and though today’s example isn’t at all funny its descent into tautology is illustrative of the inevitable result of attempts to defend the indefensible.  This comes from the Omaha (Nebraska) World-Herald and is encumbered by the pompous title “Omaha Prostitute Speaks Out”:

…Prostitutes don’t have to stand out on the street corner anymore, lean into a car window and negotiate a deal for sex in exchange for money.  That’s what the Internet is for, said Melissa Sykes, 23, who is serving time in the Douglas County Jail for prostitution.  Like any criminal enterprise, prostitution has evolved.  Sykes said the new wave of prostitutes can be self-employed.  They post an ad on the Web and just wait for a call.  It’s a system that worked for Sykes for about a year, until Wednesday, when she got arrested by an undercover Omaha police officer.

Regular readers are of course familiar with the popular but astonishingly ignorant belief that before the internet, all whores were streetwalkers.  But reporter Sam Womack’s ignorance goes even beyond that; I daresay he has never read as much as a single word on the history of prostitution, or he wouldn’t claim that self-employment – the norm in the trade since its earliest beginnings in the mists of prehistory – was some sort of recent innovation.  Though he doesn’t say it, the statement carries the reek of the “pimps and hos” myth.  But the most telling phrase here is “like any criminal enterprise.”  I’m sure Womack isn’t such a fool that he doesn’t understand that businesses use the internet to a far greater extent than any “criminal enterprise” does; he’s just struggling to force Sykes’ story into the “crime” narrative.

City Prosecutor Marty Conboy said Sykes is one of more than 50 people charged with prostitution and solicitation this year.  He said the recent crackdown on sex for money in Omaha is part of a larger FBI investigation into human trafficking…but the solicitation and “john” arrests are also crucial.  “It’s important to deter the crime, to remind them it is illegal and people are watching.  It’s like putting up radar on a busy street,” he said.

It’s obvious that Conboy doesn’t recognize the moral bankruptcy of his statement (or at least hopes we won’t).  He claims prostitutes are the “victims” of “traffickers”, but says they need to be arrested as a “deterrent”; that’s like claiming that arresting robbery victims will deter theft.  Conboy clearly isn’t stupid; in the next paragraph he states that “while there continues to be a relationship among street prostitution, violence and drug abuse, the same can’t be said for online solicitation…women arrested say they chose this path for economic reasons.”  His is the typical moral retardation of the prosecutor, which holds conformity to completely arbitrary laws above real people’s economic survival.

It’s after Conboy’s statement that the story gets most interesting; Womack goes into detail about how and why Sykes became a hooker:

Sykes, a single woman with a 5-year-old son, said she was working at a mall in Portland, Ore., making barely more than enough for gas money.  She has her high school diploma and took a few college courses, but lost her financial aid last year…[she] knew a few girls in the sex business and decided to give it a try.  Her son remained in Oregon with family…[while she] traveled from city to city…[charging] $120 for 30 minutes and $180 for an hour — definitely more than her mall job paid…

Yet even after hearing this story, Womack doesn’t get it; he doesn’t recognize that Conboy’s whining “the women who move from town to town make enforcing the law difficult” conflicts with his earlier claims about deterring “human traffickers”, nor does it arouse his suspicion that women smart enough to use language which “isn’t explicit enough to bring a criminal charge” in ads suddenly become stupid enough to use such language in person.  He apparently went back to the office from the jailhouse, made no attempt whatsoever at further investigation, ignored the clear absurdity of classing a young mother as a “criminal” for asking to be paid a living wage for a service that would have been totally legal if she had done it for free, and typed “the law is the law”.  But it’s not Maier’s Law; he hasn’t even bothered to dispense with the facts because he is too deeply invested in lawheadedness to recognize the glaring contradiction.

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