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domingo, 1 de abril de 2018

Roseanne Barr praises President Trump for his push against human trafficking

A Friday tweet from conservative actress Roseanne Barr thanking President Donald Trump for his efforts at combating human trafficking sent internet trolls into overdrive.

Barr, whose self-titled ABC show relaunched in March to a meteoric reception, said that she may “disagree [with Trump] on some things,” but she supports his efforts at freeing “so many children held in bondage to pimps all over the world.”

While there is nothing particularly polarizing about ending sex trafficking, liberal malcontents certainly found ways to turn Roseanne’s well-meaning statement into a burning controversy.

In discussions that were chronicled as a “Twitter Moment,” progressive Never-Trumpers attempted to frame Roseanne’s statement as a wild conspiracy theory based on alt-right lies, even suggesting that she was just trying to prove that “Trump has a bigger number [of human trafficking arrests] than the Black Guy” — referring to former President Barack Obama.

The tweet that sparked 1,000 Twitter feuds

How did Roseanne’s non-confrontational tweet escalate so quickly? It all started when users began questioning why the sitcom star was even talking about the subject.

MSNBC contributor and Business Insider senior editor Josh Barro was even more dismissive, suggesting that presidents don’t traditionally tackle human trafficking:

Contrary to Mr. Barro’s presumptuous brush-off, American presidents do, indeed, address human trafficking. Despite some questionable ties to child sex offenders, President Bill Clinton signed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act into law in 2000, establishing federal programs to fight involuntary servitude and provide sanctuary to battered women.

For his part, President Obama proclaimed January 2017 as the National Slavery and Human Trafficking Month.

During a speech celebrating this proclamation, Obama bragged about his administration’s contributions to ending this vile practice. 

Trump v. Obama on human trafficking

The most vocal critic of Roseanne’s human trafficking message was third-wave feminist Dianna E. Anderson. This Oxford-educated author made waves throughout the Twitterverse when she posted a short thread demeaning the Trump administration’s counter-trafficking efforts and characterizing Roseanne’s support as a fringe conspiracy.

Although Roseanne made no reference to the total number of trafficking arrests under Trump or Obama, Anderson quickly conflated her statement with conservative internet memes which suggest that the 45th president has done a more effective job of tackling this problem than his predecessor.

Anderson even suggested that Roseanne and her conservative supporters were being racist by comparing the two presidents:

Roseanne’s feminist naysayer continued by asserting that human trafficking arrests under Obama were accurate because they were reported by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), while Trump-era arrests were artificially inflated because these figures came from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests or were actually just “arrests for sexual solicitation,” rather than trafficking.


Just one problem

There’s just one glaring problem with Anderson’s line of thinking. The Obama-era arrests recorded by HSI that she takes at face value and refers to as “*actual* arrests” actually came from ICE — or the organization whose human trafficking figures she insists are inaccurate.

Obviously unknown to Anderson is that HSI exists as a component of ICE and was founded to root out transnational criminal enterprises. Therefore, if she is going to challenge the ICE arrests cited by conservatives, Anderson must also question the 2,000 HSI arrests under Obama in 2016 that she previously characterized as legitimate and immutable.

Besides, there is a wealth of accessible data which suggests that counter-human-trafficking arrests have accelerated under Trump, and Roseanne is right to commend him for this. Here are just a few from an exhaustive list:

– June/July 2017: In series of stings aimed at reducing sex trafficking across the United States, the National Johns Suppression Initiative resulted in over 1,000 arrests, including 1,020 sex buyers and 15 people who face trafficking-related charges.

– October 2017: In a huge national effort involving 55 FBI field offices, 78 Child Exploitation Task Forces and over 500 other law enforcement agencies across multiple states, “Operation Cross Country XI” resulted in 120 arrests of human traffickers and 84 children rescued.

– October 2017: During “Operation no tricks, no treats” Louisiana’s Polk County Sheriff’s Office detained 277 suspects involved in human trafficking and online prostitution. The suspects face 334 charges, “including human trafficking, traveling to meet a child for sexual conduct, transmit material harmful to a minor, soliciting another person for prostitution, offer to commit prostitution and more.” Five victims of human trafficking were saved.

– January 2018: The Los Angeles County Regional Human Trafficking Task Forces arrested 510 suspects and rescued 56 victims during a three-day sweep referred to as “Operation Reclaim and Rebuild.” Of those detained, 30 were suspected traffickers and 178 were alleged “johns.”

– January 2018: The Phoenix Human Trafficking Task Force netted 86 criminal arrests in a 10 day operation. Suspects ranged in age from 22 to 78-years-old.

– February 2018: Fort Collins Police in Colorado nab 21 suspects in a sting where law enforcement posed as sex workers.

It’s complicated

Critics of the Trump administration’s nationwide efforts to end human trafficking and child sex slavery might argue that the majority of these arrests were from those soliciting for sex, rather than actual human traffickers. Certainly, those involved in legitimate trafficking operations make up just a fraction of the thousands arrested in what were primarily undercover operations designed to attract “johns.”

However, it is equally difficult to assess how many traffickers were taken off of the streets from the reported 2,000 human trafficking arrests under Obama in 2016. Indeed, Noah Berlatsky of The New Republic argues that the term “human trafficking” has become “a call to moral panic.”

Berlatsky demonstrates how sex workers often include prostitutes who legally migrate to the U.S. to continue their illicit trade in more profitable territory. In A Global History of Sexuality, Robert M. Fuffington and Donna J. Guy support this contention, writing:

More often than not, these women have engaged in some form of sex work in their home countries and see work abroad as a chance to improve their circumstances.

According to a study by Truthout, the vast majority of the criminals ordered to go through sex trafficking court were actually just arrested for loitering or prostitution. In many cases, there was no migration at all and human traffickers are actually just child runaways who do not even take advantage of the services of a pimp.

The point? It is near impossible to accurately determine how many arrests under each administration included actual human traffickers, at least not without examining each individual case.

Gracefully bowing out

Yet, Roseanne never made these arguments, and her statement was subsequently mistranslated to suggest that she was advocating for white supremacy. All of this negative attention prompted the ABC star to issue a graceful apology that was entirely unmerited.

After sharing several links to support her initial statement, Roseanne explained why she initiated the conversation in the first place, tweeting that, “I thought today was a good day to talk about freeing kids from sex slavery, since it is Passover. I didn’t realize that so many were not aware of it. Anyway, no more opinions from me on Twitter, it invites bullying. Moving on.”

Roseanne’s star is rising, and as a consequence of her political leanings, she has invited all manner of nasty retorts from those who cannot stand to see a person of influence stand with the president. Her uncontroversial statement was twisted to take on racial connotations, and she was summarily blacklisted by the left for promoting “alt-right lies.”

Despite this, Roseanne maintained her class and integrity, gracefully bowing out and refusing to become a part of the verbal mudslinging. It’s no wonder, then, that Americans are so hungry for her relaunched sitcom and opinions that are outside of the Hollywood mainstream.


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