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I’m going to assume most of you, even those with English degrees, are unfamiliar with the term “counter word”.  It’s a linguistic term; a counter word is a word or phrase with no current intrinsic meaning, which is used to signal one’s membership in the in-group who use that word.  “Counter” in this sense means a counter used in a game, such as a poker chip; it has no actual value outside of the game, but it is used to participate in the game.  Two examples from my younger days both came from television commercials for hamburger chains; one was from this 1992 commercial for Rally’s:

The ad was so popular that soon everyone (at least on the Gulf Coast) was running around yelling “Cha-ching!” at every available opportunity.  At first it was mostly used appropriately, as a way of saying something was expensive (“I paid $100 for these sneakers.” “Whoa, cha-ching!”) but it soon turned into an exclamation of victory or appreciation for an insult (something like the way people use “Oh, snap!” now), and within months, due to somehow becoming associated with the New Orleans Saints football team, it meant nothing at all; it was just something people would randomly exclaim to show that they were “cool” and in on the joke.  At the nadir of this absurdity, a local used car dealer actually exclaimed “Cha-ching!” at the end of one of his television commercials, apparently unaware that to anyone who remembered the original ad he was implying that his autos were badly overpriced!  The other example, which perhaps more of you may recognize, was from a 1984 Wendy’s ad:

As with “cha-ching!” it didn’t take “Where’s the beef?” long to go from an expression people used to mean something like, “What’s going on?” or “Are you kidding me?” to signifying nothing more than, “Hey, I’ve heard other people saying this, aren’t I cool?”  This isn’t a phenomenon of my lifetime; soon after the turn of the 20th century the phrase “23 skidoo!” went from meaning something like “let’s make tracks” or “scram!” to meaning, as in the other examples, essentially nothing; it was printed on buttons and pennants and people would shout it at each other in greeting as they did with “Cha-ching” over 80 years later.

If you’re wondering why I’m bringing this up now, it’s because the phrase “human trafficking” has become nothing more than a political counter word.  In the ’90s, it was generally used to mean the smuggling of people across borders in defiance of immigration restrictions, but by the turn of the century governments and anti-immigration groups had subtly twisted it to mean only exploitative smuggling practices (which they of course represented as all of them), and it didn’t take long for the exploitative labor situations migrants often ended up in to be rolled into the term.  Prohibitionists started representing all migrant sex work as a form of “human trafficking”, and the US government soon obligingly negated the agency of all underage sex workers by defining them as “human trafficking victims” whether they actually migrated, were coerced or were treated in any way which could even tangentially intersect the previously-understood meaning of the term “trafficking”.  Certainly, the shift in meaning of the term “drug trafficking” from meaning “drug smuggling” to mere “drug selling” is parallel and probably intertwined with this broadening and thinning of the meaning of “human trafficking”, but the latter became far more nebulous than the former ever did; by 2012 I had identified 23 different meanings of the phrase “human trafficking”, 11 of the phrase “trafficking victim” and 12 of the slur “human trafficker”.  In the past five years those related phrases have become broader and far more vague, and are applied willy-nilly to anyone and anything “authorities” or prohibitionists want to restrict, censor, spy on, interfere in, attempt to ban, or inflict violence upon.

“Human trafficking” (and especially “sex trafficking”) have become nothing but authoritarian counter words; they have lost their original meanings as surely as “23 skidoo” and “Where’s the beef?” did.  I therefore call upon all activists, allies, and well-meaning people in the so-called “anti-trafficking” movement (and yes, there are some, such as GAATW) to stop using the term unless there is no other alternative.  If you mean “exploitative labor conditions”, say that.  If you mean “forced prostitution”, say that.  If you mean “underage survival sex”, say that.  If you mean “smuggling undocumented migrants”, say that.  A phrase used to mean everything means nothing at all, and a phrase that means nothing isn’t a useful term for serious adults; it’s a fad for the immature and silly.

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If you have medical questions don’t get second-hand information…from a ghost.  –  Dr. Jen Guntner

Yes, I’m actually subjecting you to an old episode of Family Feud, not only because it has the cast of the old Batman TV show on it, but because one of them is Vincent Price (who honestly doesn’t have a big enough part to make me happy).  If this annoys you, blame Franklin Harris.  And you can blame the links above it on Jesse Walker (“Dracula”), Eddie J Cunningham (“never”), Scott Greenfield (“state”),  Korhomme (“ghost”), and Clarissa (“safe”).

From the Archives

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Poor Spider. Just on his way to work, and no one wants to sit with him.  –  Chrissy Nicole

This very strange Soviet animated short from 1989 is entitled “Fru-89 From Left to Right”; the words at the beginning read, “Frustration – a state of repressed needs”.  It was provided by Walter Olson and the links above it by Jason Kuznicki (“light”),  Jesse Walker (“nightmare”), Tim Cushing (“safety”), Ed Krayewski (“Melbourne”),  Amy Alkon (“laws”), and Violet Blue (“states”).

From the Archives

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Victimless crime creates the surveillance state.  –  Wendy McElroy

Amazingly Stupid Statements

License to Rape

At least the European media aren’t afraid to apply the word “rape” to the actions of rapist cops:

Hundreds of people took to the streets of a Paris suburb…to denounce police brutality, after a 22-year-old black man was…sodomised with a baton during an arrest last week…One [cop] was charged…with rape, while three others were charged with assault…The man suffered severe anal injuries which required surgery and was also treated for damage to the head and face…The severity of his injuries led a doctor to declare him unfit to work for 60 days…[cops] deny the [obvious evidence] and [pretend] they were targeting lookouts for drug dealers…

Decentralization

Wendy McElroy on bitcoin and consensual crime:

…There are people who use bitcoin to buy “immoral goods” (whatever that means) just as there are people who use cash to do so.  As long as the participants are consenting adults, that’s their business.  Not yours, not mine.  The state is the one who interjects violence and harm when it points a gun at peaceful adults…The attack on bitcoin will be framed…as a way to protect vulnerable and misguided individuals who use their own bodies in “unacceptable” ways.  Or it will unfold as a campaign of resentment against those individuals who do not pay their so-called “fair share” toward maintaining the surveillance state.  A moral attack must be met with moral indignation, not an apology…

Broken Record 

How fetishists are trying to back away from the thoroughly-debunked “Super Bowl sex trafficking” trope without abandoning the larger “gypsy whore” myth:

While there was a considerable increase in the number of [sex work] ads surrounding the Super Bowl, other events like a Memorial Day motorcycle rally in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and various industry conferences had a bigger impact than expected, suggesting that resources devoted to combating the problem of forced prostitution have been misdirected….[“sex trafficking” fetishists fantasize] that traffickers and pimps use online classified services like Backpage.com to advertise their victim’s sexual services…[pigs bizarrely fantasize that] words like “young” and “no pimps” can be indicators that the person in the photo is a trafficking victim…

Imaginary Evils

Since there are virtually no actual “sex trafficking” cases in the UK despite massive, multi-million-pound crusades to discover them, cops keep themselves busy with fantasies of “pimps” lurking behind every ordinary escort ad:

West Midlands Police has confirmed they now [waste] a substantial part of their [time] in [fantasizing about] sex trafficking victims in the region…[based on propaganda from] The Salvation Army…The content of profiles leads to more suspicion…A lot of the prostitutes also claim to be ‘independent’…But [since we know women are too stupid to plan travel or get pictures taken] their profile pictures…[and] the fact they move around the country would…allude to a larger, more organised, illegal operation…

Cops and Robbers

These are the kind of people who call us “bad” women:

…a group of sex workers…operate from one of three houses [in suburban Johannesburg] which were attacked by [a mob which]…marched to their house on [February 5th] and tossed their belongings outside before torching them.  Beds‚ bedding‚ plasma TV sets‚ music systems‚ clothes and money were some of the things that the girls lost in the [unprovoked attack which] locals [rationalized as taking] a stand against what they say are drug dens and brothels run by Nigerian nationals…

Guinea Pigs (#630) 

Maker of fascist surveillance software uses Backpage as a prop for self-fellation:

Marinus Analytics LLC has joined DeliverFund’s International Human Trafficking Analysis Center (iHTAC), a consortium of organizations who’ve partnered to [come up with more ways to profit from hysteria over]…human trafficking…The combined capabilities of Marinus Analytic’s Traffic Jam and DeliverFund’s uniquely qualified personnel allowed [pigs]…to continue [oppressing people] without disruption during the recent Backpage.com’s closure of its adult ads section…

To Molest and Rape child-molester-cop-chris-wilbanks

Lying, tricking someone into doing something wrong, threatening harm to compel behavior…gee, I wonder where he learned to act this way?

A [South Carolina cop] was arrested after federal investigators say that he coerced an 11-year-old girl into sending him a nude picture, then told her to send more naked photographs or he would show the first one to others…Chris Wilbanks…is charged with production of child pornography…[he] posed as a 14-year-old boy nicknamed “Redneck Rick” on social media and talked to the girl, who said she was 12…the girl sent about a dozen pornographic images to Wilbanks and was crying in many of them…

Challenge (#677)

What could be more Orwellian than referring to groups trying to take away women’s rights as “women’s rights groups”?

Two women’s rights organisations are to feature in a High Court challenge to a new law making it illegal for men to pay for sex in Northern Ireland…Space International, a [prohibitionist] group [backed by the nuns who abused women in the infamous Magdalene laundries], and Equality Now, [a group led by a former prosecutor who resigned in disgrace after railroading two innocent black men for rape,] have been granted intervener status in proceedings brought by sex worker Laura Lee…amendments to the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act breach [sex workers’] human rights to privacy and freedom from discrimination.  Northern Ireland is currently the only UK region to make the purchase of sex a criminal offence…

The Naked Anthropologist (#701) 

Noah Berlatsky reviews Laura Agustín’s new book:

Laura Agustín’s novel The Three-Headed Dog…argues that the notion of innocent young girls exploited, waiting to be rescued by daredevil Kristofs, is a pernicious myth.  People who cross borders generally do so to find a better life.  They end up doing sex work because it can sometimes be the best option available, especially given prejudiced restrictions placed on immigrant entry and employment…Immigrants are often victimized, but they aren’t solely victims…The Three-Headed Dog doesn’t have an exciting rescue narrative…[it shows] exploitation [as]…a fact of life, a constant backdrop too ubiquitous to be felled with a single punch or raid…

The War Goes On 

We have so many more vocal allies now than we did when I started blogging seven years ago!

Last month, authoritarians…forced Backpage, the world’s second-biggest classified-ads website, to shut down its adult section.  A motley crew of elected officials at all levels of government…bullied Backpage and its executives into getting rid of it, supposedly because they were concerned about people being “sex trafficked”…Of course, as Reason’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown points out, Backpage was already cooperating with law enforcement…something that won them numerous accolades from state and federal cops.  Purely with respect to fighting crime, the government’s victory was somewhere between empty and actively harmful…What’s more, politicians and law enforcement conflate sex trafficking with voluntary prostitution. As…Maggie McNeill has been arguing for years, there are no good data to suggest anything but a tiny fraction of sex workers are trafficked…a lot of prostitutes…used Backpage’s adult section, and the government’s self-indulgent crackdown put their livelihoods at risk…

I Swear To God (#708)

Michelle Chen on how the US tests oppressive tactics abroad before inflicting them domestically:

One of the first policy measures taken by Donald Trump…was reinstating and expanding a piece of presidential policy known as the “Global Gag Rule.”  The policy bars USAID funding for any organization abroad that provides abortions or even presents abortion as a family planning option…In another global campaign to spread “Christian values,” the US government’s long-standing “anti-prostitution pledge” restricts funding from going to any organizations that promote or support sex work.  The oath forces organizations to choose between providing comprehensive services to their constituencies, or cutting back on certain services in order to get US funding…the worst abuses of Washington’s hegemonic power have always taken place in international arenas before creeping inward.  The use of private detention facilities and military contractors in border enforcement and migration detention have been experimental sites for the most exploitative forms of prison profiteering.  It was, after all, the expansion of immigration detention that helped revive the private prison industry across the country, after the traditional prison industry’s profits plateaued after decades of mining black communities to fill its facilities…

Stupor Bowl (#711)

Liz Brown finds the usual total lack of “sex trafficking” at this year’s Super Bowl:

To hear the hysterics tell it, thousands—perhaps tens of thousands—of sex-selling women will flock like cockroaches to cities where sports-fans gather, and only some will be there willingly; the rest, including many children, are trucked in by opportunistic pimps and traffickers.  As ample people have pointed out…there’s not a shred of evidence to support this rumor…examinations of actual arrest data in Super Bowl cities shows no corresponding spike in sex trafficking, compelling prostitution, or any other similar charge—despite the verifiable spike in law-enforcement and media attention to the issue…Between the Saturday before the Super Bowl and the Tuesday morning after, no criminal complaints were filed against anyone [in Houston] for sex trafficking, soliciting a minor, pimping, promoting prostitution, compelling prostitution, etc…[the rumor is] what people today like to refer to as “fake news,” and the people who propagate it year after year—police departments looking to justify vice stings and asset forfeiture, missionary groups looking to fundraise or justify federal anti-trafficking grants, sensationalist media, and state and national politicians with human-trafficking measures to promote—are not…“abolitionists” but propagandists, plain and simple.

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Exit, stage left!  –  Snagglepuss

Every so often Pandora gives me a gift by introducing me to a delight I didn’t know existed, and a few days ago this one popped up on my Beatles station (yes, I have a Beatles Pandora station; shut up).  It’s the title track from Ringo’s most recent (March 2015) studio album, Postcards from Paradise, and its lyrics largely consist of the titles of Beatles songs.  If you’re not a Beatles fan you probably won’t like it, but I am so I do.  Yes, I’m old; I know it’s easy to forget that since I look hotter than any two chicks half my age.  Anyhow, the links above it are from Jesse WalkerTim CushingMistress Matisse, Tim Cushing again, PopehatElizabeth N. Brown, and Ricardo  Cortés, in that order.

From the Archives

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I like to see people dressed when they’re in public.  –  Tom Weathersby

I don’t generally like these “Top Ten” video things, but I wanted to honor the passing of John Hurt, possibly one of the most underrated actors of our time, by reminding you of his many top-notch performances.  The links above the video were contributed by Brooke Magnanti (“steakification”), Tim Cushing (“easy” and “first”), Emma Evans (“paging”), Lucy Steigerwald (“police”), and Carol Fenton  (“counseling”).

From the Archives

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[Jessica] McGraa’s death has prompted many to ask how we have created a climate in which sex workers call anyone but the police.  –  Frankie Mullin

Lying Down With Dogs

Melissa Ditmore on Russia’s terrible anti-whore policies:

Russian President Vladimir Putin…half [joked]…that…Russian sex workers are “of course the best in the world”…but…Russia’s regressive policies on sex work, LGBTQ people, and sex education are counter to good health.  LGBTQ people are stigmatized and discriminated against and face grave violence, sex work is prohibited, the most effective HIV prevention strategies for people who use drugs are against the law, and comprehensive sexuality education is not offered in schools…

The Mote and the Beam

Liz Brown was the only non-prohibitionist invited to appear on this Al Jazeera show; in this article she discusses the incredible ignorance of the other panelists, who call for more laws without even knowing what the current ones say.

An Example To the West

Two thousand signatures:

The National Network of Sex Workers has released a statement challenging the conference being organised by the “The Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution International”…The statement has been signed by over 2000 sex workers in India who reject the conflation of trafficking with sex work, and the conflation of sex work with violence.  It calls for…an end to the use of morality to stigmatise and discriminate against sex workers…

Broken Record 

The broadest “gypsy whore” claim ever:

a new report from 2016 [redefines criteria to claim that] the number of human trafficking cases in [Florida] doubled in the last year…Florida’s reputation as a tourist destination means traffickers respond to the demand for sex tourism by trafficking victims to the state during tourist season…[prohibitionist] Bethany Gilot [publicly fantasized about]…the prevalence of sex tourism in the region…

I Swear To God

And yet “feminists” were perfectly happy when it was sex workers’ rights which were the forbidden topic:

Donald Trump signed [an] executive order…reinstating a ban on international aid…to nonprofits that provide abortions or promote information on them, regardless of what other services they offer…A…group of more than 100 public health, women’s issues, and civil liberties organizations have already issued a statement opposing the return of…”the global gag rule”…[the policy is very much like] the anti-prostitution pledge…[which] stipulated that no grant money could be used…to “provide assistance to any group or organization that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution”…

That Old Black Magic

I’m not sure which aspect of this is the stupidest:

A woman accused of trafficking a Nigerian woman into the country and forcing her to work as a prostitute has claimed that the alleged victim was having an affair with her husband…The complainant previously told a jury that she underwent a “voodoo process” in Nigeria during which she swore she would not report the alleged trafficker, Joy Imasogie…once in Ireland she had to have sex with up to 10 men a day to pay off a €50,000 “debt”…arising from her being brought to Ireland…Imasogie said sometimes the woman would come to her house to do her hair in exchange for food but denied making her work as a prostitute…she…also claimed the mother of the alleged victim was using voodoo to take her husband away from her but “did not succeed”…

Monsters 

A 26-year-old Detroit man…[shot] a transgender woman in the face after paying her for sex.  Jason Lamar Hogan was charged…with [attempted murder]…She escaped and got treatment at Grace Hospital…

Paint By Numbers

“Dumb ‘awareness-raising’ stunts” is going to be the funniest appendix in my history of “sex trafficking” hysteria:

The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay is urging you to drop an F-bomb.  No, not the swear word.  In this case, F stands for Friend…They’re using memes with a very serious message.  It’s something we don’t like to think is happening in our community: kids forced to be sex slaves.  But Florida is one of the top three states for human trafficking…Ken Gibson from the Crisis Center…says…“It’s little kids…who are being targeted by pimps”…

Checklist (#542)

Can this reporter actually be so credulous as to believe it takes 20 cops to check to see if a strip club is displaying the magical scrolls demanded by Florida politicians?

There was no dancing when deputies and code enforcement officers were at a strip joint called Icon.  Except for the 20 or so officials, the club was nearly vacant…But the deputies didn’t mind the empty stage, as they were there to ensure that the club was in compliance with a new county ordinance requiring anti-human trafficking signs in adult entertainment establishments…

The nauseating sound of bootlicking is deafening.

Perquisites (#582) 

Yawning.

…University of Louisville…director of basketball operations Andre McGee hired strippers and prostitutes as a way of gaining favor with high school recruits from 2010 to 2014.  The scandal broke wide open in 2015, when Katina Powell, who was in charge of organizing the women to bring to campus, published a book detailing the racket, titled Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen…

Surplus Women (#614) 

It will never be completely safe for any sex worker, or really any woman, to call the cops.  But we need to give the cops far fewer excuses to force interaction with sex workers:

Jessica…McGraa’s death sent waves of horror through the sex work community across the UK.  As an independent worker, advertising online, she was part of one of the fastest-growing sectors of the industry.  Her story was close to home for thousands of people working in similar circumstances.  How many of them would have called the police?…

To Molest and Rape rapist-cop-evan-cramer

Once again: if you think it matters whether a rapist cop was “on duty” at the time of the rape, you are part of the problem:

Evan Cramer…pulled [a woman] over…for a minor traffic violation…[he said] she had multiple warrants out for her arrest and said she could avoid jail time if she [submitted to rape]…Cramer…then…[forced] the [woman] into his cruiser and [drove] her to a vacant lot where…he [raped her]…The woman then went to the hospital and reported the [rape]…

A Tale That Grew in the Telling (#705) 

Though this is mostly just the usual idiocy, note that “children” is defined as “people under 26”.

There are likely more than 313,000 victims of labor and sex trafficking in Texas, and roughly a fourth of them are children and people under the age of 26 who have been forced into prostitution…[fetishists] from…University of Texas…[pretend these wild exagerrations represent] “a conservative understatement of the prevalence of human trafficking in Texas”…

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