Ignorance is not innocence but sin. – Robert Browning
One year ago today I published “Handy Figures”, a synopsis of numbers relating to prostitution issues with links to where that information can be found. None of that information is esoteric; most of it can be found online with a few minutes’ search, and the rest would be available in any decent library. So while the average person might lack the research skills to locate it, or the critical thinking skills that would enable him to realize he should look for it in the first place, one would hope neither of those things would be true about journalists. Alas, that would be a vain hope: with a few notable exceptions, investigative journalism is a lost art, and the bulk of the Fourth Estate is happy simply to swallow any lie put forth by politicians or special-interest groups; nor would the average reporter know how to find the proper information if he had a notion to. Still, even if that’s true of small media companies it’s almost inconceivable it could apply to the BBC, or Reuters, or The Australian; so when these sources release stories that 45 minutes of research would’ve invalidated, I have no choice but to assume they didn’t find the truth because they didn’t want to, which is a serious moral and ethical lapse.
The least of these sins is that of The Australian, both because it lacks the hefty reputation of the others and because the misinformation isn’t quite as obvious to the uninitiated or obtuse:
Drunken lads’ holidays in Thailand and Indonesia, involving unprotected sex with prostitutes, are boosting Queensland’s HIV rate. And men from north Queensland are picking up the virus from trips to nearby Papua New Guinea, a country with one of the world’s highest HIV rates. The alarming hike in the rate of human immunodeficiency virus, a forerunner to AIDs [sic], has led for calls to again push the safe-sex message amid fears young people are becoming lax…Australian Medical Association Queensland president Dr Richard Kidd said the increase in WA and Queensland was likely due to the mining boom in those states. “Young men, isolated from their families, earning lots of money – and whether they are going to Thailand and having sex with prostitutes or whether prostitutes are coming in from other countries, the data doesn’t quite tell us. But they are both legitimate concerns”…
Absolute total rubbish, was the response from Sexual Health Services specialist Dr Arun Menon to [newspaper claims]…that the rise in syphilis cases in the North West was due to dubious sex practices in illegitimate brothels in Mount Isa. “The problem isn’t with sex workers or brothels; it’s with young people aged 15 to 30…” Dr Menon said…
Now, HIV is not syphilis, but protection is protection and the condoms that prevent one will prevent the other; if the rise in syphilis isn’t due to hookers we can be relatively sure the rise in HIV isn’t either. And how does Dr. Kidd know the “drunken lads” got it from prostitutes? Did he see the viruses under the microscope wearing microbial fishnets and infinitesimal spike-heeled pumps? As usual, amateurs who just fall into sex without protection (because “good girls” don’t carry condoms) get a free pass while those “dirty whores” get the blame.
Reuters’ offense is far greater because its reputation demands it consult facts which have been fairly well-publicized rather than repeating urban legends:
Ukraine will use fighters and helicopters to guard its air space and put security and health services on full alert during the European soccer championship, but officials said on Tuesday they could do little to stem a likely flood of prostitutes…social and feminist watchdog groups like the Kiev-based Femen…say the Euro soccer tournament will only give a spurt to the already booming sex industry in Ukraine which demeans the international image of Ukrainian women…
Here, Reuters, let me help you: The myth that there is some lost tribe of harlots which wanders the Earth in pursuit of major sporting events is total and utter bullshit which has been disproven by researchers time and time again. Got it?
But the BBC’s behavior goes beyond the merely sinful; the garbage vomited out in this recent “investigation” rises to the level of full-scale criminal negligence in its reliance on rumors, repetition of US State Department “estimates” of unexplained derivation, willful misinterpretation of migration and sex work, use of inflammatory language, and embrace of “end demand” rhetoric, when all it had to do for the facts was contact the English Collective of Prostitutes or Dr. Laura Agustín. This is not new for the BBC; it sponsored the infamous one-sided “debate” at the “End Human Trafficking” event held in Mubarak’s Egypt (without a hint of irony) in December of 2010. But that was a year and a half ago, and the facts about “trafficking” have become much more accessible to the general public since then…yet the world’s largest news broadcaster continues to promote myths and lies rather than reporting politically-unpopular facts, thus demonstrating its commitment to propaganda and ignorance rather than information and truth.