And so at last the year has arrived. Five years ago today in “Crystal Ball“, I wrote this:
…major moral panics only tend to last about 20 years…about the time it takes a generation to grow from infancy to adulthood (during which time a lot of the “leaders” who enable such panics die off or at least retire, and young liberals who reject their elders’ crusades on general principle come into power)…Given this pattern, the “human trafficking” hysteria should be dead by the end of this decade…official designation of it as a “world-wide problem” occurred in 2000 and the genuine hysteria did not begin until about 2003…If things run according to form, we can predict that…skepticism about “trafficking” (especially in regard to its conflation with sex work) will slowly increase, and by about 2015 it will be possible for a major media outlet to publish articles critical of both the statistics and the very concept. By 2017 public funding for anti-sex worker hate groups will begin to dry up, and by 2019 or 2020 we should expect it to virtually disappear from public discourse except for a wave of books and documentaries by “experts” who couldn’t be bothered to speak out against it while it was going on but are happy to make a quick buck from it after it’s safely over…
As regular readers already know, the first part of my prediction has occurred right on schedule; articles critical of “sex trafficking” nonsense started to appear in 2013 and increased in 2014, and by 2015 were fairly common in major publications such as Reason and the Washington Post (whose fact checker, Glenn Kessler, has been hammering at it for two years now). This year even USA Today, the government-funded NPR and the Journal of Ireland got in on the act, and pro-decrim, anti-hysteria articles regularly appear in small newspapers all over the world. As of this year media outlets are asking activists to comment on raids and stings, and the increasing desperation of prohibitionists is like the stink of fear; they’ve even backed down from most of their stupider claims, and you may have noticed we haven’t heard very much “Super Bowl sex slaves” nonsense this time around (though the repeatedly and thoroughly debunked “average age of 13” is still popular). So if my track record holds, sometime in the next 12 months we should see the level of government funding for anti-sex worker hate groups begin to dry up; we’ll be able to tell by their increased pleas for funding and press releases about how vital their work is and how they need the public to help more, plus an increased number of fundraisers (with increasingly silly premises) and perhaps even more money from sociopaths like Swanee Hunt to try to close the gap. All through 2018 the hysteria should die down dramatically, and by the end of 2019 only the most fanatical will still be talking about it and the majority of the public will be looking for something else to panic about.
So, by three years from now (four at the outside), we’ll be able to get through a day without having to hear fetishists like Nick Kristof non-consensually foisting their nasty wanking fantasies of gang-raping traumatized 13-year-olds in bondage upon us. Cops and politicians may still prattle about it for a while, but once they realize nobody actually cares any more, that will soon fade away. Unfortunately, the laws spawned by the panic will still exist and will continue to be used to destroy the lives of sex workers and our clients and families until decriminalization is achieved a decade or two from now; then sometime in the mid 2030s we’ll begin to see people railroaded into prison on bogus “trafficking” charges released, as the victims of the Satanic Panic have been over the past three years or so. I don’t think it’s likely I’ll be around to see that, but many of you will be. And when it happens, please remind people that I said this, and use it as an example to fight the next moral panic, whatever it may be.