I am in two minds about yesterday’s lead article on the BBC website exposing the sham that is and has been the moral panic over trafficking at the forthcoming London Olympics. In two minds because it says pretty much everything i have been saying for nearly three years now, doing so succinctly and powerfully.
Good: nice, warm feeling to have been proven more or less right on what was initially an unpopular point of view. Bad: because suddenly everyone else is jumping on the bandwagon, and no-one remembers the stick some of us took for lighting the way.
I don’t, in this, include the excellent Dr Brooke Magnanti, with whom i have swapped ideas and figures on this stuff over the last couple of years. Or Laura Agustin, who has long ploughed a very lonely furrow on this issue.
But, since the truth is beginning to out, it may be worth, here, pulling together what we do know – and also what we know about the people who really are making apacket out of sex work: the usual three p’s of police, politicians and press.
First, there’s the “problem”. As the Beeb makes clear, there just is no evidence of additional sex trafficking at big sporting events. There is not, has not, and probably never has been such evidence…and that lack of evidence – and learned critique of same – goes back at least a decade.
Second, as Dr Magnanti makes very clear, there is no sane economic case for organised crime to lay-on extra trafficking for sporting events. Period.
So we’re all sorted? Not quite, because there is a third lesson here that, again, is left to those of us writing on the fringe to make plain.
There HAVE been beneficiaries of “trafficking at the Olympics”, the three p’s have done nicely, thank you, out of this issue either through extra sales, boost to reputation – or direct financial benefit. As the Beeb reports: the Met’s SCD9 unit was more than happy to collect £600,000 to deal with this non-issue.
Let’s hear it for the real culprits
We are hearing, now, weasel words from politicians like Theresa May and Tessa Jowell that they “did not know”. How pathetic is that? Because it really is not as though the counter-evidence was not out there.
I was writing about this issue back in 2009. Here’s a piece from 2010, in the Register, which sets out what was already very well known – old news, in fact – three years back.
But around the same time, Ms May came out in public dissing those who dared to question trafficking figures as irresponsible. Of course. Because they might have irresponsibly detracted from her rise as a tough career politician!
True: one can’t really expect those making policy on this issue to read everything being written about it, either by myself, Dr’s Magnanti and Agustin, or even the primary sources we were quoting.
But i wasn’tjust writing. I was talking with the politicians. I spoke to Boris Johnson’s Office back in 2010 – asked why they were wasting so much money on a non-problem. A hiss of disapproval followed. I spoke with the Met who, to give them credit, admitted off the record they didn’t really believe there was a problem to be tackled, even if their (dishonest) line this week is that SCD9 was set up “based on assessments made over three years ago”.
I spoke with a range of politicians: oh, they knew alright…or at least had very good grounds for suspecting the issue here was not as they and the press were depicting it.
The real crime
Writing, as i do, about the nastier end of sex crime, i find myself occasionally pilloried for not buying into the latest moral panic. But then, it is a constant source of irritation to watch politicians stupidly, slavishly following the latest dumb sensational direction signposted by press. And it matters: because resource directed at solving non-problems is not trivial.
The millions wasted on this particular wild goose chase could actually have been put to good use combatting violence against women, chilod abuse and yes, genuine trafficking. We should all be very angry indeed that it has instead been used to further career interests of individual police officers and politicians.