Propaganda must be limited to a few simple themes and these must be repeated again and again. – Adolf Hitler
Back in antediluvian times we had these plastic discs called “records”; they were a lot like CDs except bigger and usually (though not always) black. They held a lot less music than CDs do, and because they were played via the barbaric expedient of actually dragging a diamond-tipped needle along a long spiral groove etched into their surfaces, they were subject to damage which might cause the needle to jump grooves (thus skipping portions of songs) or even worse, to jump backward and thereby play the same phrase of music over and over and over and over and over and over again until one either moved the needle or became infuriated enough to hurl the disc against the wall, shattering it into a number of vinyl shards.
OK, so I’m kidding just a bit; most of my readers are old enough to remember vinyl records, and even those who aren’t have probably seen them in movies or at your parents’ houses. But when I was trying to think of a title for this essay and “broken record” leaped to mind, it occurred to me that some of my readers under 30 might not have an instant understanding of the phrase as we senior citizens do. It was a common expression at one time: “he sounds like a broken record” was immediately understood by almost everyone to mean that the person so described tended to repeat himself both mindlessly and endlessly. In this case, it’s the moronic gypsy whores myth: you know, the claim that there is a Lost Tribe of Gomorrah some 40,000 or more strong who are “trafficked” around the globe in pursuit of major sporting events. Nobody ever sees them come or go, and nobody knows where they sleep or work; the high cost and low availability of hotel rooms at such events has no effect on these mysterious harlot nomads, who move like shadows, live in invisible tents and caravans and then vanish into the dust like Bradbury’s Autumn People until the next mega-competition. Repeated debunking has no more effect on those who repeat this nonsense than it would on a skipping record; they’ll just go on and on and on in the same old groove until jarred out of it by physical force.
Perhaps that force is on the way, at least for the London Olympics; though the BBC has generally embraced trafficking hysteria, it must be given credit for publishing an article by Mario Cacciottolo which references several of the studies I’ve linked in the past and includes passages like this:
…Tessa Jowell, who once told the Commons about her determination to combat sex trafficking at London 2012, now admits that “current intelligence would suggest that we are unlikely to see large scale trafficking into London as a result of the Games”…Jowell also says that it is “hard to know” whether the lack of evidence for Games-related trafficking “was a result of the measures that were put in place” by her officials “or whether the threat simply hasn’t materialised”…[and] a Met Police Authority report on SCD9 published in October 2011 said the “intelligence currently held does not support any increase in prostitution in the Olympic Boroughs and actually shows a decrease in some locations”…Conservative London Assembly Member Andrew Boff has compiled the Silence on Violence report which also says there is “no strong evidence that trafficking for sexual exploitation does in fact increase during sporting events”. He also says raids on brothels were increasing as the Olympics approached…Sarah Walker, of the English Collective of Prostitutes, echoes this view, saying recent frequent police raids on east London brothels represent a pre-Olympics crackdown…Another group representing sex workers, x:talk, is calling for a moratorium on arrests, the detention and deportation of sex workers until the end of the Olympics…
Dr. Brooke Magnanti also wrote on the subject, but because she is a retired call girl herself and doesn’t have to be politically correct, she didn’t mince words or quote weaselly politicians as the BBC article did:
You might be wondering…why there isn’t sex trafficking during these events. The answer is simple. Criminals may be criminals, but organised crime does not exist for the purpose of being evil. It exists to make loads of tax-free dosh. Does it make financial sense for sex trafficking to occur at these events? With London rents skyrocketing around the venues, with the Home Office plans to tighten border security, with the police already well misinformed about the magnitude of the trafficking problem, you’d have to be mad to pursue this as a business plan. There was perhaps a time, back in the 90s, when sex trafficking in some parts of Eastern Europe might have netted you some cash if you already had the distribution network, but it’s not the case now. Add to that a large proportion of the UK native population willing and legally able to exchange money for sex and you’d be laughed out of Dragon’s Den for even suggesting it as a goer…
In spite of all this, we are still treated…with the same old guff such as stories that sex trafficking ‘almost doubled’ during the Athens Olympics. In this particular case, ‘almost doubled’ means that the number of reported incidents was 181, a 90% increase over the previous year. So yes, they did ‘almost double’. However…in the year before the Athens Olympics, the reports of sex trafficking at 95 represented 0.45% of all prostitution in Greece. And after the Olympics? 0.86%. Less than 1% of prostitutes in Greece were trafficked both before and after the Olympics…Let’s say in the year 2008, there was 1 death in all of Scotland from a vending machine falling on someone. Then let’s say a year later, in 2009, there were 2 such deaths. While it would be technically true to say that the number of vending machine accidental deaths ‘doubled’, is this a fair representation of the data? Is this a significant trend that is likely to continue?…The change from 1 to 2 in a given year seems clearly attributable to chance…
She then goes on to point out that when police are given extra money and told to find “trafficked women”, but there are few or no trafficked women to find, they harass consensual sex workers instead. Hence, x:talk’s call for a moratorium on arrests which was mentioned in the BBC article, Magnanti’s article above and another in The Guardian which quoted her. X:talk has drafted a petition asking the Mayor of London and police officials to stop this pointless, dangerous political exercise and leave sex workers alone, at least until the end of the Olympics, and I’d like to join x:talk and Dr. Magnanti in asking that you consider signing it. Perhaps together we can jar the needle out of the groove for now, at least until the next time the record is placed on the turntable for the next major sporting event.
One Year Ago Today
We often discuss the advantages of decriminalization for sex workers, but “If It Were Legal” examines ways in which it would benefit clients and academics.