Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. – A.J. Liebling
Considering that “sex trafficking” hysteria grew from the same fertile racist manure as “illegal alien” hysteria, one would have thought that Mexico, long the chief target of American xenophobia about migrants, would’ve been named as the chief North American source, destination or corridor of “sex trafficking” from the very beginning. So why wasn’t it? Maybe it was because the anti-immigration panic-mongers had already cast Mexican women as welfare cheats and producers of the dreaded “anchor babies”, so the “trafficking” alarmists were concerned that there weren’t enough of them to go around. But whatever the reason, it seems to have gone by the wayside now; prohibitionists and their flying monkeys in the yellow press are touting stories about whole Mexican towns populated entirely by “pimps and hos”, and apparently making up for lost time by multiplying claims about their numbers of clients far beyond the bounds of logic and sanity.
We might theorize that if immigration reform becomes a reality American racists will have to recast Mexican women as “trafficked slaves” and Mexican men as “traffickers and pimps” in order to keep using them as convenient bogeymen. But that wouldn’t explain why the Mexican media have jumped on the bandwagon as well; up until a year ago Mexican prohibitionists had little success in pushing an aggressive anti-whore agenda in their country, where most news coverage of sex workers recognizes that sex work is work and that women engage in it to get an education, provide for their children, etc. So why has Mexico now passed an “anti-trafficking” law which “…establishes penalties for those who buy space in newspapers or on websites to serve ads that encourage trafficking, even if they disguise themselves as a legal activity“? It sounds suspiciously like the US campaigns against Backpage, and is comparable in the damage it will cause if not overturned; in a recent editorial in El Norte, Sergio Sarmiento pointed out:
…Mexican law has always prohibited trafficking in persons…[and] prostitution is legal. The new law does not prohibit it. It has long proscribed pimping…[and] the new legislation…does not add anything on this subject…What is new…is the punishment, with penalties of 5 to 15 years in prison and a fine of a thousand to 20 thousand minimum daily salary wages of those “who lead, manage or edit…print, electronic or virtually…publish[ed] content…which facilitates, promotes or procures any criminal conduct…” This provision violates the freedoms of expression and publication…[by seeking] to punish publishers and media executives that publish advertisements for prostitution, although prostitution remains legal in our country…[furthermore] Article 33 speaks of publishing “content”, not just advertisements, “through which…to facilitate, promote or provide any of the criminal conduct” [covered by the law]…With this law the Mexican government would not only [have] imprisoned Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita, but also his publisher and the marketing director of that publisher. A similar problem arises from Article 34, that punishes with 2 to 7 years imprisonment those who, “knowingly” give a loan, lease or rent a property, house or room in the commission of offenses established under this law. It punishes not only those who participate in trafficking, but who rents and leases real estate…
As I pointed out in the discussion about New York’s new “taxi sex trafficking” law, “knowingly” is a mighty thin defense once the police and prosecutors decide to railroad someone under such a law. In the US we’ve been building toward this sort of tyranny for years, but in Mexico it happened rather suddenly; when I asked the Mexican journalist who provided me with this editorial and its translation why that was so, he explained (paraphrased to help retain his anonymity):
In Mexico most big newspapers carry adult ads of all kinds (including independent sex workers) both in the paper and on the website. Well, about a year ago Reforma (a paper in Mexico City) uncovered an illegal deal between Televisa Network and Nextel Telephony and Radio which was accomplished while the government looked the other way. Lots of people got in trouble and many millions of dollars were lost. In revenge, Televisa started a big “investigation” which alleged that the sex ads in Reforma were being sponsored by “Sex Traffickers”, including the owners of the newspaper. Despite huge amounts of TV coverage they could never prove that any ads were sponsored by sex traffickers, but the politicians Televisa owns were instructed to revive the moribund sex trafficking law and push it through with additions stipulating severe punishments for the owners of media carrying sex ads. You should have heard how the Televisa news anchormen emphasized that part…
Armed with this information, I think we can see why Mexican “sex traffickers” have also become big news in Los Estados Unidos during the same time period. And beyond that, one has to wonder if there isn’t some similar rivalry involved in the anti-Backpage crusade supported by rival media outlets such as CNN and The New York Times.