Note to readers: Sorry, but no joking around this week. I’ve just seen too many forwarded fake memes to be happy-go-lucky today.
No one of conscience could say that they support child exploitation. Yet QAnon’s hijacking of the human trafficking issue gives that impression: If you don’t believe what they say, you think sex trafficking is hunky-dory.
In logical terms, it’s known as a false dichotomy, giving you only two options: If you don’t say you support fighting child sex trafficking, you’re obviously for it. So I guess that since I refuse to repost all those QAnon trafficking memes, that must mean I’m all in on child abuse.
Seriously. Some people think this way. The world doesn’t work like that, no matter how many times one tries to insist that it does. (For example, one can be personally against abortion, but still support choice; it’s a medical decision that should be made between a woman and her doctor, not by government or anyone else. No, there is no such thing as a full-term abortion [what happens when a nonviable baby is delivered isn’t a cessation of care, but palliative care; it is not an abortion], and late-term abortions are exceedingly rare.)
My Facebook friends know I won’t repost something that hasn’t been checked out, just like I don’t write anything in my column or on this blog without thoroughly researching it (sometimes too much … research is a crutch and a rabbit hole for me). When some consistently share things that have been thoroughly debunked, I’ll post the debunking or comment with the correct information on the post. Not that it matters. At least one just ignores it.
The hashtag #SaveTheChildren started out as a fundraiser for the International relief group Save the Children, but over time, QAnon followers managed to piggyback on the hashtag, adding their own conspiracy theories about adrenochrome, Tom Hanks, Hillary Clinton, “panda eyes” (which are generally clinical signs of skull fractures or certain cancers, not trauma from sodomy, as claimed), and anything else they can think of, as well as putting their spin on legitimate stories about trafficking in order to further their own political interests.
Because, of course, politics has to be injected somehow. Sigh.
Kevin Roose wrote Aug. 12 in The New York Times: “The QAnon strategy of pushing some unobjectionable, often factual content about human trafficking in addition to wild conspiracy theories has blurred the lines between legitimate anti-trafficking activism and partisan conspiracy-mongering. Recently, some activists have marched in cities around the country demanding an end to child exploitation. Among them were QAnon believers, toting signs with messages like ‘Hollywood Eats Babies’.”
Which means that Trump is given credit for things he hasn’t done through cherrypicking and distortion of the record; so, no, he isn’t the last great hope to get rid of sex traffickers. That comes down to us.
This past weekend there were reportedly at least 200 Save the Kids marches around the world, which is a wonderful way to bring attention to an issue that affects all of us. But, yes, there were QAnon believers among them, though most organizers seemed to try to distance themselves from Q followers, realizing that it takes attention from the real issue.
As Whitney Phillips, an assistant professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Syracuse University, told NBC News, “This is not about pedophilia. This is not about child protection. This is about a conspiracy theory that’s trying to couch itself in other terms to get more people involved and sympathetic.”
Said Roose: “Part of the strategy’s perverse brilliance is that child sex trafficking is a real, horrible thing, and some politically connected people, including the financier Jeffrey Epstein, have been credibly accused of exploiting underage girls. And speaking out against child exploitation, no matter your politics, is far from an objectionable stance.”
Though if you see signs lambasting Hollywood, the Clintons, Obama or Soros, or you see signs referring to pizzagate, pedogate or WWG1WGA (Where we go one, we go all), it’s a sure indication that your rally has been taken over by QAnon.
What it means for real-life groups like the Polaris Project (polarisproject.org) that fight human trafficking, Roose reported, is that hot lines are overwhelmed with calls, and they’re having to spend large parts of their time debunking rumors and myths online; time that could be better spent actually working to end trafficking.
Human trafficking can happen anywhere to anyone (adults too), but it’s more rare that it’s preceded by stranger abduction (less than 1 percent of missing children are abducted by strangers, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, NCMEC). The bulk of missing children are endangered runaways, though 4 percent of missing children were abducted by family members.
Any of them are ripe for trafficking, but Morgan Nick Foundation Assistant Director Genevie Strickland told the Southwest Times Record this weekend that trafficking is sometimes in plain sight. “Right here in Arkansas, in Fort Smith, it looks like kids who go to school every day. They sleep in their beds every night. They’re at home, and no one knows they’re being trafficked.”
We must fight this scourge, and that starts with eliminating the market for child trafficking, as well as addressing the domestic and child abuse that often lead to it. Posting inaccurate/outright false memes from conspiracy theorists about a movement to lower the age of consent to 4 (I can’t even find a story about this, but it springs from the “age fluid” hoax) or the number of children missing (read the whole press release from the NCMEC for the context on those numbers) takes attention away from reality and how we might solve this.
Will this cause any of my inclined Facebook friends to cease posting inaccurate and often inflammatory information? Probably not.
However, I hope that it encourages them to examine the provenance of information before passing it along. Check with one of the many fact-checking groups that show their work (i.e., link to their sources), and if it proves true, sure, go ahead and share it.
And I sincerely hope they don’t frame it as “if you don’t agree, that means you support evil and don’t care about kids.”
We all should care about children. Heck, we should care about everyone and want to protect them. But we keep letting politics get in the way.