One of the most widespread diseases is diagnosis. – Karl Kraus
One of the most insidious forms of propaganda for imaginary crises is the rigged “quiz” or checklist, which is nothing more than an elaborate use of the “false choice” principle. As I explained in “Misdirection”,
“False choice” is the principle that if a person is given a choice, he believes he has acted freely; a magician uses this when he asks you to pick a card from a doctored deck. As Teller points out, “You think you’ve made a choice, just as when you choose between two candidates preselected by entrenched political parties.”
A checklist is really just a quiz without the question marks; “the person does x” is the semantic equivalent of “does the person do x?” Such a list gives the illusion of a process of elimination or accumulation of evidence through its resemblance to real diagnostic lists or questionnaires, thus fooling the mark into believing such a process has taken place. But in reality the rigged checklist is designed so that many or even most people in the target group will be “proven” to fulfill the requirements for whatever-it-is. Melissa Farley is well known for using such “tests”; one rigged questionnaire is designed to “discover” that 67% of sex workers have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and another to “prove” that virtually all men “dehumanize and commodify women, view them with anger and contempt, lack empathy for their suffering, and relish their own ability to inflict pain and degradation.” Of course, this is nothing new; neofeminists have for at least three decades produced checklists designed to brand all normal men as members of some pathological category such as “rape supporters” (in the early ‘90s it was “batterers”, though the rigged lists common at that time gave way about 15 years ago to more psychologically valid tests as the hysteria died off).
In the past decade the practice has spread into other moral panics; the “Sexual Addiction Screening Test” manages to “diagnose” a large segment of the population with a psychological disorder which does not even exist, and Laura Agustín recently called attention to this “sexual exploitation” checklist from an Irish-government-sponsored group with the ridiculous name “Blue Blindfold”:
People who have been trafficked for sexual exploitation sell sex on the street or in brothels, massage parlours, lap dancing clubs, and in private houses.
- They move from one brothel to another or work in various places.
- They are escorted whenever they go and or return from work and other activities.
- They have tattoos or other marks indicating ‘ownership’ by the exploiters.
- They work long hours or have few, if any, days off.
- They sleep where they work.
- They live or travel in a group, sometimes with other women who do not speak the same language.
- They have very few clothes.
- They have clothes that are mostly the kind typically worn for prostitution.
- They only know how to say sex-related words in the local language or in the language of the client group.
- They have no money of their own.
- They are not able to show an identity document.
- They are afraid to reveal who is controlling them and lie about their story.
- Their mobile phone keeps ringing when they are out.
While a couple of these might indeed be signs of something odd going on, the rest could apply to all sorts of people. Aspasia pointed out that mothers “work long hours and have few, if any, days off”, and that it’s not unusual for restaurant staff to work at multiple places. Brooke Magnanti argued that most of the criteria apply to single women on holiday in foreign countries, and Jemima and I both added that clothes “typically worn for prostitution” are those typically worn by women, period. The last two are almost guaranteed “yeses”, the last for many modern young people and the penultimate because any statement of the suspected “victim” which disagrees with the “trafficking” narrative will automatically be taken as a “lie” due to fear of imaginary “pimps”. When I was working again in New Orleans from 2004-2006, seven out of the thirteen applied to me, counting the “afraid to reveal”; it would have increased to eight if some busybody stranger had demanded that I show her my ID.
I’ve often ridiculed turgid “trafficking estimates”, but if one considers checklists like this one and the absurdly-broad definitions of “trafficking” thrown about by fetishists, I’m actually surprised that the claims are only in the tens of millions.