• Jonny S.

End Human Trafficking: A Call to Action

Human trafficking is one of those hard to stomach subjects. Most people don’t want to even begin to think about it, for most it’s just too disturbing. Though our denial of a problem does little to fix it, in almost all instances, it just makes it worse. Recently The Atlantic released an online article called The Great (Fake) Child-Sex-Trafficking Epidemic by Kaitlyn Tiffany, the print version will go by another name and will be released for the January/February 2022 issue. As most have probably gleaned by now a lot of media, especially the larger and older media companies, have been reduced to writing inflammatory, as well as extra sensational titles, in order to get any sort of attention, effectively now known as click bait. When you go to consume one of these articles you typically find an amalgamation of nonsensical points and oftentimes something completely unrelated to the title. In short, drivel.

Many of you may not know that our company, Sierra Whiskey Co., takes a portion of our profits and donates them to veteran-run, non-profit organizations that are helping in the fight against human trafficking. It’s something we feel needs to be addressed. You can find out more about the organizations we are working with here. That’s part of the reason why this Atlantic article really stuck in our proverbial craw when we saw it. If you’d like to read it for yourself you can find the article here. Allow us to summarize her position. Kaitlyn Tiffany, the author who is known as a tech writer simply surmises that human trafficking is bad, but just not as bad as everyone thinks. It’s hard to tell exactly her intent, one moment she seems like she’s writing a hit-piece on Operation Underground Railroad (OUR), one of the more popular groups helping to fight against human trafficking, and the next she’s making light of a disturbing sub-sect of crime while branding those volunteers she encountered as detached from reality. In it she uses every dismissive subject in an odd attempt to tarnish legitimacy. Among them is approximating those she encountered with the QAnon group, up-playing the common person’s expectation of the scope of human trafficking, then downplaying with statistics, then quoting a woman she encountered about such subjects as Jeffrey Epstein and Hillary Clinton. The author goes out of her way to mention that Epstein committed suicide, but fails to mention how Bill Clinton happened to fly on his airplane twenty-six times. Other played-out mentions which seem to have no real place in the article are things like anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, illegal organ harvesting, things about a not-so-long ago election, bunk COVID cures, and the MyPillow guy, Mike Lindell. It’s as if, going into this, she meant to throw the kitchen sink at the subject, the whole radical playbook of discrediting. In using these tactics an instant dismissal of any validity is almost assumed by the author and thereby the reader. This hollow strategy is becoming more and more transparent these days. Just put the phrase “conspiracy theory” with anything and it’s like a cheat code for instant debunking. Surprisingly, no mention of Russian collusion in this article.

The article goes on to focus more on OUR and their anti-trafficking efforts. She zeroes in on Tim Ballard, the founder of OUR. She takes care to mention that Ballard worked for the CIA and DHS and notes that those organizations wouldn’t provide his employment record to her without his written permission, which he did not provide. At this point you start to wonder what alternate reality she is living in. As if one of the most secretive organizations on the planet just wantonly divulge their documents and past employment history to a tech writer for The Atlantic. A direct quote from the article in reference to OUR, “it quickly made its name conducting sting operations overseas in which Ballard, or a colleague, posed, often hammily, as an American pedophile.” In case anyone was unsure Merriam-Webster defines hammily as marked by exaggerated and usually self-conscious theatrically. In other words, somewhat stagey, theatrical, see also dramatic. Truly odd that this woman should be an expert on how American pedophiles do, or should act. Bad marks for Tim Ballard’s acting, everyone knows a real American pedophile acts much more demure and understated. The article then goes on to cast aspersions on the OUR organization. In a matter of a few sentences the author states one law enforcement agency said that it was not worth the trouble being associated with OUR as the donations were not particularly useful, in other words insubstantial. Then it is mentioned that the Davis County, Utah district attorney has opened a criminal investigation of the organization about misleading statements and exaggerations on fundraising materials. Due to this the Utah attorney general’s office cut ties, but that’s after receiving $950,000 over four years from OUR. It is strangely contradictory to note that they aren’t giving enough money and then also showing they gave quite a lot of money. It’s almost as if there is intent to sully regardless of a cohesive direction. Stated otherly, as long as it sounds negative who cares if it makes much sense.

Now, our organization has no affiliation with Operation Underground Railroad, nor Tim Ballard. Through the grape vine we have heard favorable remarks. That being said, if there is some sort of misconduct, it deserves to be investigated. If nothing is found during that investigation hopefully no harm is done, and if there is, hopefully justice is meted.

One thing we believe should be challenged is what the title of this article asserts, that the epidemic of human trafficking is in anyway fake. To state as such is insanely damaging to a much-ignored cause, regardless of what the final tally on the numbers happens to be. There has been an extreme focus on the color of one’s skin these past couple years and beliefs in systemic issues that perhaps are, or are assumed to be, remnants of bygone slavery. The Atlantic has had many articles discussing racism of that sort but choose to publish one downplaying current, real, and growing modern-day slavery. It is not only absurd, but downright shameful. Let’s look at some interesting things that seem to fly in the face of what this article states.

In a 2015 study funded by the Department of Justice, done by the University of San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene University, found that 8,000 underage victims fall prey to sex traffickers in San Diego County annually, which netted an estimated $810 million of revenue per year. A lot of the recruitment was happening directly on school campuses. It’s estimated that 20-40 million people worldwide are currently slaves. These are often referred to as the “hidden figure of crime” because the vast majority of these instances aren’t detected or catalogued. Annually it is thought that global profits of human trafficking are roughly $150 billion. With $99 billion of that likely coming from commercial sexual exploitation. Think about that! If it were a fake epidemic, it would surely make less money than the largest company in the world, which is Apple Inc., who netted $94.7 billion in 2021. If you add the net income of Microsoft and Google, who were respectively the second and third largest earners last year, that would equal $138.5 billion, still $11.5 billion shy of the global profits of human trafficking. This is no small problem! Though human trafficking victims can be any age or gender it disproportionately affects women and children as they comprise about 71% of the victims.

Let’s say we take some data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which has some of the most extensive data on trafficking within the US. The data sets for 2021 show that Nevada was the state with highest rate of incidence, with 7.5 cases per 100,000 people. It’s about the equivalent of your chances of dying from electrocution, radiation, extreme temperatures, and pressure, about 1 in 13,000. Now that might not seem like strong odds but included in those 100,000 people are an enormous amount of what would be considered low value or non-targets by human traffickers. Those non-targets could be demographics that are older, appear to be able to “handle” themselves, men, perhaps those which don’t meet an appearance or age standard, etc. For example: Women comprise 49.8% of the population of Nevada and minors comprise 22.5%. Being that 71% of the victims are women and children the rate of abduction will shift dramatically accounting for these factors, so at first glance the abduction rate for the hotline does not tell the whole story. Furthermore, that data is based on instances reported, so it is a far cry from the actual numbers, as we’ve already mentioned trafficking tends to be a “hidden figure” in crime.

Though the author of the article we’ve been looking at ultimately delivers a very soft-serve agreeance that modern day slavery is not such a good thing, she does nothing but damage and dismiss quite a few people who are fighting the good fight. Effectively branding them as conspiracy theorists, but later mentioning in the last handful of lines, “They were warm and friendly, the kind of people you’d hope to have around if you got a flat tire or had a fainting spell.” It’s a strange apology for earlier calling them a bunch of loons. It’s highly probable she would change her tune if one of her loved ones, or perhaps herself had experienced any of these horrors firsthand. She didn’t bother to interview or interact with any victims of human trafficking for the article, or if she did, no mention was included.

This is somewhat of a synchronistic time for The Atlantic to release this article. It coincides with the Ghislaine Maxwell trial wrapping up, two CNN employees being revealed as pedophiles, and also just so happens to fall directly within the National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, which is January. Please don’t take me as a conspiracy theorist, life just happens to have loads of happy, or perhaps in this case, unhappy coincidences.

Regardless of all of these facts and figures, human trafficking is a despicable thing. There is a need for good people to actively engage against it. Even if it were only a very small number of instances this modern-day slavery is so immoral and horrific that it deserves in no way to be diminished. The majority of people made truly aware of what these poor souls are subjected to are quickly made sick to their stomachs. This is likely a prime reason a lot of people choose to ignore the issue, as it’s almost too much for the psyche of a moral person to bear. However, those with good in our hearts must bravely choose to face the evil at hand. If not, only more darkness shall encroach.

You can report suspected human trafficking by calling 911 or through the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888. You can support the groups we support who are fighting human trafficking, Guardian Group and Covenant Rescue Group, by visiting our mission page here or support them indirectly by purchasing our products such as Undertac and other collections here.









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