The Honest Courtesan

Crumbling House

The truth which makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear.  –  Herbert Agar

Even ignoring the immorality of using lies to support one’s agenda, there is another major problem with the tactic:  unlike the truth, lies are unable to stand on their own.  Facts are what they are; even if they are neglected, forgotten, buried and denied they continue to exist, waiting to be uncovered again.  Events produce effects, and the evidence of those effects may not always be obvious to those interested in hiding the truth; it simply rests wherever it falls, awaiting a future day of discovery.  A lie, on the other hand, is like a wooden house in a wet climate: without constant maintenance it will soon begin to rot and fall apart, and if there are forces actively working against it that day will come sooner rather than later.  Unfortunately, it is the nature of human folly that most of our species prefer comfortable lies to uncomfortable truths, and even when those lies start to collapse many will ignore the process until the roof falls in on their heads…at which point they will invariably insist it was due to sabotage by their enemies rather than to the inherent unsoundness of the construction.

Somaly Mam has built an elaborate edifice of lies in which to house her extremely profitable business, and has never been terribly concerned about those she has hurt in the process.  In my column “Schadenfreude” I wrote,

…Cambodian police, aided and abetted by Somaly Mam (who is herself financed by money from neofeminists, religious fanatics, trafficking alarmists and the garment industry), have conducted a series of high-profile brothel raids and streetwalker sweeps, often accompanied by Western journalists like Nicholas Kristof who are interested in advancing their careers and reputations by pandering to “trafficking” hysteria.  None of these people care one iota about the lives, needs and desires of women; “rescuing” whores is to them nothing but a means to their own personal ends, and after the cameras stop rolling or Kristof stops “tweeting”  they are no more interested in these women’s welfare than they would be in the container which held a portion of recently-consumed food.  The “rescued victims” are thrown into filthy, crowded cells at Somaly Mam’s “rehabilitation centers” where they are beaten, robbed, gang-raped and starved while their “savior” hobnobs with celebrities and receives accolades from anti-whore fanatics.  Young girls who submit to brainwashing become…“poster children” and older ones are sent as slaves to sweatshops, while those who refuse are simply left to rot unless they can escape.  Groups like Human Rights Watch have repeatedly protested this horrific abuse, and sex worker rights groups have released short documentaries like “Caught Between the Tiger and the Crocodile” or videos like “Somaly Uh Uh” in order to alert Westerners to the atrocities their ignorant and ill-considered jihad against harlotry has enabled…

But in the two years since that essay, Mam’s jerry-built structure has begun to crumble.  First, it was revealed that women she had claimed in her press releases as underage and coerced were neither, and those she claimed to have been murdered or abducted by “traffickers” were alive and well.  Her ex-husband also revealed that their daughter, whom Mam claimed “had…been kidnapped and gang-raped in revenge for her mother’s activism …had simply run off with her boyfriend”; the daughter, who lives with her mother, has confirmed that.  A year ago it was revealed that Long Pros, a young woman whose eye had supposedly been gouged out by a “pimp”, and whom Mam had exploited as an “anti-trafficking” poster child, had never been involved in sex work and had lost her eye to a tumor.  Just last month Meas Ratha, Mam’s very first iconic “trafficking victim” at the beginning of her crusade in 1998, said she could no longer live a lie; she admitted that (like Long Pros) she had never been a sex worker, and that “her testimony…was fabricated and scripted for her by Ms. Mam.”  Former “rescued sex slaves” who worked for Mam’s organization AFESIP have reported endemic sexual harassment and even rape by male bosses, especially two named Phana and Ou Sophan (the latter one of Mam’s relatives); those who reported them were fired and anyone who sided with the victims was disciplined.  And in a recent interview, Mam’s ex-husband disputed even her own claims of having been “trafficked”:  “She was a prostitute.  Was she abused?  Yes.  Was she trafficked?  I doubt it.  No one has proof.

As you might expect, Mam’s organization denies everything.  She “misspoke” when she made false accusations of murder and rape.  A spokeswoman who insisted that Long Pros’ parents, doctors and medical records were all wrong told reporters, “you are now bullying victims of sex slavery.”   The reaction to Meas Ratha’s revelation was, “We don’t know why, nor will we speculate on why Meas Ratha has allegedly made [these] claims,” accompanied by an accusation that the paper which reported the story “has never been historically fair with Somaly” and is involved in a “witch hunt”.  “Trafficking” fetishist Nicholas Kristof, one of the major proponents of Mam’s legend, doesn’t care; his assistant told a reporter, “Nick isn’t going to give a comment because it seems the reports are unrelated to the reporting and writing he has done on Somaly Mam.”  And not one of the Hollywood stars, American politicians or fashion-industry moguls who have feted, promoted and bankrolled Mam and her exploitative “foundation” have seen fit to distance themselves from her or to publicly demand an explanation.  It won’t be long before they’re forced to do so by increasing media attention, but I don’t expect much fanfare; they’ll just quietly exit the collapsing building, dust off their expensive designer clothes, and move on to the next celebrity fad without so much as a word of apology to those who have been brutalized, marginalized and infantilized by the wicked schemes of the greedy, unscrupulous woman they have enabled for over a decade.