What! Would you make no distinction between hypocrisy and devotion? Would you give them the same names, and respect the mask as you do the face? Would you equate artifice and sincerity? Confound appearance with truth? Regard the phantom as the very person? Value counterfeit as cash? – Molière, Tartuffe (I, v)
The internet has made it much more difficult to lie about an entire group of people; now that everyone can blog, “tweet” and otherwise self-publish the members of that group can speak up for themselves, thus revealing the truth for everyone to see. As I pointed out in “Objectification Overruled”,
…the average person doesn’t deal with members of any given minority nearly as often as with members of the majority, and if hate or fear toward that group can be maintained he isn’t likely to have an intimate enough relationship with any of its members to learn that the prejudice and propaganda are false. If black people or Jews are segregated into ghettos and prohibited from frequent interaction with the majority, members of that majority don’t get the opportunity to learn the truth about them; and if homosexuals and whores are criminalized they are afraid to expose themselves…
The internet, however, allows whores to write about our lives without revealing our legal names to cops and prosecutors, and blogs like this one expose large numbers of people to the fact that most hookers are pretty much like anyone else, with a wide variety of temperaments, personalities, interests, educational levels, personal histories, etc. Needless to say, this makes prohibitionists very angry; their whole strategy relies on convincing the public that the vast majority of us are broken dolls with bad childhoods, a history of sexual abuse, poor education and a total absence of other options (either because of extreme deprivation or because we were literally enslaved by evil “pimps”). As I’ve pointed out to a number of journalists, can you imagine prohibitionists using me as a poster child? “This poor, eloquent, 33-year-old masters-degreed librarian with high self esteem had no choice but to accept sexual slavery?” They’d be laughed out of the marketplace of ideas so fast their pointy heads would spin. No, they have to make it seem as though people like me are fabulous beasts in stark contrast to emotionally damaged “child” prostitutes who are regularly dragged down streets behind pimps’ cars without sustaining life-threatening injuries or being seen by any witnesses. But how can they accomplish that when there are so many of us telling the truth? “Well, Maggie’s not representative, nor is Brandy, nor Kelly, nor Emily, nor Aspasia, nor Norma Jean, nor Brooke, nor Audacia, nor Tracy, nor Charlotte, nor Elena, nor Cheryl, nor Melissa, nor Sina, nor Ariane…” It begins to get pretty damned unbelievable as that list increases in length.
When I was in library school I once did a research paper on collection packing; I called it “Censorship by Commission” (as opposed to traditional censorship, which is accomplished by omission). Collection packing is when an unethical librarian purchases (with library funds) a large number of books representing a minority view, so that a casual library patron will believe that view is more mainstream than it actually is. For example, an unscrupulous creationist librarian might obtain as many books on “scientific creationism” as she could find and file them alongside books on geology and evolutionary theory, instead of consigning them to the religion section or the 001.9 ghetto where they belong. Prohibitionists do this as well; they present the “reframed experiences” of “survivors” to support their claims, but since these are a small minority the usual approach (as practiced by Farley, Kristof, et al) is to present the same stories over and over again with slightly-altered details so as to “pack the collection” of available narratives.
This can only go so far against the huge number of vocal whores, however; even the most credulous of prohibitionist marks will eventually notice that while we regularly post new material and interact with our readers, the supposed plethora of “human trafficking victims” are represented only in third person. And so a new weapon has become necessary: the sock puppet. Every tool can be used for good or ill, and while the anonymity of the internet makes it possible for whores to speak out without fear of arrest or other persecution, it also allows trolls to set up multiple accounts so as to create phantom “supporters” of their views. Some writers and activists suspect that a number of “big names” are directly behind the ever-increasing number of supposed “survivors” who write in an eerily-similar manner and tend to tell the same stories, but I think it’s far more likely that some of the copious grant money flowing from the likes of the US State Department, the Hunt Alternatives Fund and Google is going to hire full-time shills (some “survivors” but most just ghostwriters) to write blogs, post in comment threads and insult activists on Twitter.
You may feel I’m being paranoid, but I have several strong reasons for believing this. First, the number of such accounts has increased dramatically in the past year; if terrible experiences in prostitution were common, one would’ve expected that the proportion of “survivor” narratives to “happy hooker” narratives would have remained relatively constant for the past decade (with perhaps a gradual increase as “trafficking” hysteria grew). But that isn’t the case; the proportion has instead grown quickly in just the last few months. Second, these narratives appear to pop up just where they can do the most damage (such as in places considering the Swedish Model) rather than in areas such as Australia where they wouldn’t have a great deal of effect. Third, they often seem to be targeted against specific writers; for example, few if any self-professed “prostituted women” ever called themselves “call girls” before, but since January the phrase (which is especially associated with the works of Tracy Quan, Brooke Magnanti and yours truly) is suddenly popping up in the blog titles and screen names associated with neofeminist-flavored anti-sex worker propaganda. Finally (and in my mind most damningly), the style of many of these accounts is the same: they use the same terms, the same tactics and the same idiosyncratic phrases; they rely on the same propaganda techniques and commit the same logical fallacies; and they tend to tell the same stories and rely on the same sources (though this last is true of most anti-sex worker activists). These various online personas are either maintained by one small group of prohibitionists, or else a somewhat larger group of professionals working from a style sheet as the writers of Doc Savage and Tom Swift books did. But in either case, the result is the same: a number of mysterious “women” who share similarly stylized and melodramatic pimp-dominated “histories” in prostitution, and whose blogs, comments and “tweets” all bear the unmistakable odor of dirty socks.
One Year Ago Today
“Mind Reading” looks at “authorities” who claim to be able to read minds and unerringly discern the motives of people they wish to persecute.