Superstitions are habits rather than beliefs. – Marlene Dietrich
I’ve noticed a definite trend in the “gypsy whore” and “sex trafficking” hype around Super Bowls over the past few years; the three-word version is “less and later”. For the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas, the panic was already in full swing by November, and the claims were both grandiose and stated as a certainty. It’s impossible to guess how much money was wasted on this police theater, but considering that it involved eleven different “law enforcement” agencies (including the FBI) over a two and a half week period, and two dozen extra staff being “brought in” (which means travel, hotel and per diem x 24 x 18), I’m sure you can imagine. And all this to catch how many “human traffickers” out of supposedly thousands? One. Not an international gangster, either, but an ignorant wannabe pimp who got the idea from the police/media hype just a few days before the event. The number of arrests made by this “task force” – 133 in all – was extremely typical for Dallas, especially considering that only about half were prostitution-related. And so the cops were forced to rig the statistics and make ludicrous claims about the weather and the efficacy of their “preparations” in order to save face.
Indianapolis officials seem to have learned something from Dallas; though nobody other than sex workers, a few academics and a very small number of journalists dared to question the hysteria out loud while it was happening, the egg on Dallas officials’ face was hard to miss and some Indianapolis officials were a little gun-shy. Though attorney general Greg Zoeller started beating the drum in July and held his first press conference in September, the police chief of Indianapolis was unimpressed, several reporters called the story into question and Snopes officially listed it as a debunked myth. And when the imaginary “traffickers” and their white slaves failed to materialize, officials quietly let the matter die in order to save themselves the embarrassment (though Chicago sheriff Tom Dart later bizarrely claimed that a crusade which netted only 565 victims over ten days in eight states [a mere 7 per state per day] was somehow Super Bowl-related).
Since this year’s game was in New Orleans, naturally I was especially interested in how the hysteria would develop; however, November and December came and went with only the most perfunctory idiocy from police officials. The first article I considered worth mentioning was from the January 7th Baton Rouge Advocate and, while the reporter allowed herself only token skepticism, the comment thread was overwhelmingly dismissive of the myth. The police “crackdown” didn’t really start until January 14th, and the FBI used its existing “Innocence Lost” program rather than establish a special operation just for the Super Bowl. Furthermore, the ritual repetition of the myth-narrative didn’t begin in earnest until February 1st, thus virtually closing the window of opportunity in which debunkers could get responses into print before the game on February 3rd; most tellingly, the “authorities” waited until after the event to hold their big press conference, so they would know exactly what kind of yarn to spin:
In an effort to combat the rampant sex trafficking that authorities say has historically accompanied the Super Bowl, a multi-agency task force arrested 85 people during the week leading up to Sunday’s game in New Orleans. Those arrests represented just “the tip of the iceberg” of a growing problem, State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said at a news conference…Operation Innocence Lost, carried out by the New Orleans Police Department, State Police, FBI and Department of Homeland Security…netted arrests on charges of human trafficking, prostitution, pandering, narcotics and weapons charges, authorities said. Fifty-three people were arrested in the New Orleans area, while 32 were nabbed in the Baton Rouge area…Authorities booked at least two men on charges of sex trafficking and rescued five women who were allegedly brought to prostitute in New Orleans against their will. Two were trafficked from Oklahoma; two were brought from Georgia, [said Capt. Doug Cain, a State Police spokesman]…Details on the fifth victim’s story were scarce because she was 17 years old, so she is considered a minor by federal authorities…four other children were rescued in the operation, police said, however they were not themselves being sexually exploited. Two of the children, ages 10 and 11, were found by New Orleans police officers and state troopers during a sting operation. The children were waiting in a car outside a New Orleans location where their mother was prostituting, Edmonson said. “The looks in those kids’ eyes was so sad…They thought this was normal.” The children are now in custody of the state Department of Children and Family Services…The other two children were rescued from a similar situation in Baton Rouge…The FBI will continue to provide services for the victims…
Okay, let’s get this translated. First, note the implication that all 85 arrests were both Super Bowl and prostitution-related; in fact only 53 were in New Orleans, and only seven of that 53 were for anything to do with prostitution. The total number of “traffickers” arrested? Two, and you can bet that means they were either drivers or boyfriends of those five “rescued” (in other words, arrested and jailed) women. Note that “trafficked” from Oklahoma or Georgia actually means the arrested women had drivers’ licenses from those states; they could have been living in New Orleans for up to a year rather than being recently trucked in like produce. The most troubling detail is the state abduction of the children, who will now be condemned to the nightmare of “child protective services” (possibly forever) because “authorities” disapprove of their mothers’ work. If those women are “victims” as claimed, how can they justify aggravating that victimization by stealing their children? But they don’t want us to think about that; to paraphrase Edmonson, “The filth coming out of these cop’ mouths is so disgusting…They really think persecuting people for consensual behavior is normal.”
Still, it’s good to see this ugly annual drama beginning to fade; next year we can probably expect it to be smaller still, and for there to be an even larger number of critics. The next Super Bowl is to be held in East Rutherford, New Jersey, and this autumn I plan to start encouraging New York City-area sex worker rights organizations (of which there are several) to make pre-emptive strikes on the mythology by calling press conferences and presenting reports (of which there are many), thus demonstrating once and for all that “Super Bowl sex trafficking” is nothing but a perverse masturbatory fantasy and an excuse for devoting extra money and manpower to the War on Whores.