After having had their appetite for blood whetted by the successful shutdown of adult ads on Craigslists, moral crusaders and the mainstream media are now expanding their anti-speech feeding frenzy to include ads in local publications.
This HuffPo article starts off with the obligatory reference to a tragic story of exploitation, which is really more of an unsubstantiated tale told by a college-educated Chinese woman who, with the support of her family, contracted with criminal smugglers to illegally short circuit U.S. immigration laws, but wound up working in a New York brothel instead. The article then goes on to make further generalizations which are protected from challenge with the standard no-one-knows-for-sure disclaimer.
Anyway, the HuffPo article goes on to explain that, while activists were able to successfully shut down classified ads affordable to individual prostitutes, more expensive local publications were charging “hundreds or thousands of dollars” for similar ads.
“It’s not just an individual who can afford these ads,” said Jean Bucaria, Deputy Director of NOW-NYC.
So, these are the kind of ads that are more likely to be affordable to actual criminal enterprises? While they were busy attacking $5 ads that gave independent prostitutes a tool to safely screen their clients, no one bothered with expensive ads catering to criminal organizations? That looks to me like the attack on cheap ads was really targeting voluntary prostitution and not “traffickers”.
In an effort to combat the ads’ impact upon human trafficking victims, NOW-NYC created a pledge and approached local publications; asking them to commit to being trafficking free.
Of course, to be “trafficking free” with any certainty (assuming such a guaranty were even possible), they would have to reject any ad that even hints of sexual activity.
The advocacy group asked publications not to accept advertisements from escort service or ads from businesses claiming to be massage parlors that could not provide a massage therapy license from the State of New York.
As we’ve seen in most of these cases, anti-prostitution crusaders want to set themselves up as arbiters of what constitutes legitimate free speech. They want mere suspicion to be the threshold by which the right to free speech can be summarily squelched and they want to define what constitutes that suspicion.
On a more upbeat note, the article also contains encouraging news about the efforts by some outlets to resist the paranoid rush to sacrifice fundamental freedoms in the name of saving women and children:
Many of the same law enforcement officials and advocates who were at the head of the campaign against Craigslist’s adult services section have asked Village Voice Media to stop running explicit ads. The owner of The Village Voice and Backpage.com, Village Voice Media, has adamantly refused to strike the adult advertisement sections from its publications and websites. In a statement released in September, the organization said that “censorship will not create public safety nor will it rid the world of exploitation.” The organization claims to cooperate willingly with authorities when asked to supply information regarding the alleged prostitution of minors.
Good for Village Voice Media. I wish Criagslist would similarly have stood up to the pressure, but then we must remember that a number of state attorneys general as well as the U.S. Congress were major actors in the high profile intimidation campaign against Craigslist. Even the First Amendment will not withstand the power of the government coupled with the acquiescence of the population.