The Somaly Mam story exposes the anti-trafficking industry as being distorted, and deliberately exaggerated for donations.
I can NOT ignore the harm done when an industry of fund raisers deceives a willing media over one faux-issue. Extreme and sensational stories titillate the public while, by doing so takes money away from other needs and just causes. I can’t ignore it. You shouldn’t either. Sex trafficking has been a media glamour story since 1999 and it is time to restore balance.
Cambodian Somaly Mam won over Oprah and the White House with her tale of sexual slavery, which has now been exposed as a lie. Some however are wondering why it took so long. By Gerry Mullany, as seen in the Bangkok Post on Sunday, June 1, 2014. Credit to The NYS and Agencies.
There are several other similar stories around the world and it appears now that Newsweek Magazine broke the original story. Good going Newsweek! Next is a link to that story – –
Here is the seminal trafficking story by Newsweek Magazine and Simon Marks that started the ball rolling to expose the dishonest trafficking industry for what it is, a faux issue built on a foundation of extreme and sensational antidotal stories out of sync with reality.
Please understand that I have the deepest respect for the care and well being of young women truly abused and forced into prostitution. But it is my studied opinion that they are few and far between. The industry attacking trafficking use it as a way to attack willing prostitutes all over the world. The issue of trafficking is loosely defined and out-of-balance with reality due to the entertainment value our media gains from extreme and sensational coverage that Ms. Somaly felt compelled to provide.
To recap the story Ms. Somaly Mam gained huge notoriety and funding for her NGO by telling extreme stories the media ate up. She has said: at 10 her virginity was auctioned off by a grandfather; at 14 she was married to a soldier; she spent 10 years in a brothel, and more. Due to the nature of the media coverage, including bloggers and celebrities, this extreme story has helped build a false common knowledge of the issue of sex trafficking for many people.
We have no way to know how US foreign policy was influenced by this one woman.
Even the United States Department of State Trafficking in Persons does nothing to put this issue into proper balance simply saying repeatedly that other nations must find more victims because there simply aren’t enough to satisfy their mission. Well, maybe there just aren’t as many victims as they have convinced themselves there must be thanks to many self-serving stories like Ms Somaly’s. This news story shows one of many steps that may have led to all of us misunderstanding this issue we came to call “trafficking.” In 1999 two women, maybe not unlike Ms Somaly, testified before Congress and this ball has been rolling down hill ever since. Read the early history of this issue here.
IMPORTANT QUOTES FROM TODAY’S NEWS:
Here is what Ms Somaly’s ex-husband, Pierre Legros, said, “She used the system and she was used by the system.”
And, “I’ve worked with lots of lots of organizations, and you are confronted with the same issue when you wanted money,. If you have no story, you don’t have money.” He went on, “I’m not surprised. What is surprising to me is that it took 10 years for people to discover it was a joke.”
A joke! Some joke. What’s the punch line:
(1) This entire episode, and others like it, helped pull the United States government into imperialistic behavior by making demands on other countries due, in part, to exaggerated and dishonest information.
(2) In 2012 alone $2,800,000 was raised by this woman for her organization, all money that might have been better spent elsewhere.
(3) The stories she told helped validate the exaggerations and deliberate falsehoods of many other bloggers and NGOs who needed to do their collective part to keep this issue in the news and bring in their donations.
My Bangkok Post, June 1st, has a letter-to-the-editor defending Ms Somaly’s good work, and she probably did a great job. The letter had the title “The Ends Justifies the Needs”. I disagree. Ms Somaly’s role in blowing this issue out of proper proportion and distorting American foreign policy say differently.
And another quote:
Taken from the NYT news article: Pierre Fallvier, who advised Somaly Mam’s anti-trafficking group, said the groups work illustrated aid organizations practice of using composite portraits of people they help in their zeal to raise fund. Quote, “People around me – all Khmer – were saying the stories Somaly told about herself and some of the girls were exaggerated.” he said.
A long list of people have used Somaly Mam’s extreme but false story to promote their version of the facts about trafficking. In this way the public has been taught a false, or at the least an unbalanced, understanding of this issue.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is by far the most egregious example. She was instrumental in furthering the State Department’s extreme Trafficking in Persons project which is seen by so many people around the world as imperialist behavior when the world’s wealthiest and most militant country demands juristic and cultural changes from most other countries in the world.
There is a long list of Hollywood and media celebrities who cashed in on on the chance to associate themselves with a proven winner, the cause of abused children. This website suggests strongly that the number of truly abused, as opposed to an industry largely made up of willing sex workers, is way out of balance with the truth and has even distorted American foreign policy.
Here are facilitators of this distortion:
President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Queen Sofia of Spain, Meg Ryan, Susan Sarandon, Sheryl Sandbreg of Google, and my personal favorite Nicholas Kristof.
Celebrity supporters 29
Somaly Mam Foundation claims having received support from the following celebrities: (Bill you’re breaking my heart, not you too!)