Tempered Response… On Second Thought!

April 5, 2012

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, by Honoré Daumier

When I was younger, I had the bravado to jump right into situations I really did not understand.  As I’ve said before, I was like Don Quixote, filled with half-truths, marching off to slay some dragon.   Worse yet, it was often a dragon of another’s making.  Over time, I’ve learned to let time temper my thoughts, my actions.

When I was in the Navy and had a few guys working for me, it was easy for me to get fired up when one of them had an issue like a pay problem.  So, I’d suit up and march off to war – me against the Navy paymasters.  The first few times, my unsophisticated attacks were easily repelled, more so by my lack of truth’s armor than anything my mystical foe did.  I’d go back, defeated, and explain why they were right and we were wrong so we were going to do things their way.  This did not sit well with me, but I learned from it.

I learned the dragon is not always wrong, the dragon often had valid reasons and cause for its actions.  I learned that people tell you what they think will influence you to take action on their behalf, while omitting pertinent facts that did not support attack.  I found I needed to weed out those with real issues, worthy of battle, from those that simply did not like a situation they often put themselves in.  Then when I found myself at the dragon’s lair, my thrusts and parries hit the mark and soon the dragon was subdued.  I learned to solve problems and gain the respect of my subordinates as well as from the dragon.

That is not to say I have given up tilting at windmills, all together, far from it.  All you have to do is read a few of my blog posts over the last two-years to see that is true.  No, I just don’t suit up for the urbane talking points of a particular issue.  In other words, I do a little digging to get below image someone else wants me to see.

Now days, there is a new minion whispering in my ear to suit-up and ride off to war.  It is one I invite in each morning with my coffee; it seems to know no bounds or limits on partial truths pushed forward.  Of course I am talking about the internet.  You can find support for most any opinion you have, but the question is the quality of that support.  Recently, I was accused of marching off to war with just such data or armor is you will.

In a recent blog post (read it here) I asked for a New York Times article[i] to be read on the subject of the sex-trade advertising in Backpage.com, owned by the parent company of another of New York City’s newspapers, the Village Voice.  I further called for people to vote on the matter by not supporting the Village Voice, and to that end the parent company, until they stop the practice.  Given the feedback, I had to wonder if I played Don Quixote one more time.

As I rule, I do not post responses to my posts that are obscene or outright vulgar.  Most regarding this blog were just that.  Still, there is one response worth pointing out.  It was by Clarence in Baltimore.  His response reads:

“I’d link you to plenty of refutations, but since you are too lazy to do any actual googling yourself (but simply accept these kinds of serious accusations at face value) I won’t bother.

Monkey see, monkey do. Perhaps I should be more charitable, but then it occurs to me that this is most likely a pattern for you and you’ve probably been a member of many a metaphorical lynch mob in your time.

The Village Voice deserves more intelligent, or at least more SKEPTICAL readers than yourself.”

This one made me ask myself if I’d been tilting again.  If is very hard to be impartial when self-refection is called for.  It is always easy to cut yourself too much slack.  Still, when juxtaposing my words and Clarence in Baltimore’s, I think I am not guilty of his accusation.  While my post deals strictly with the New York Times Op-Ed, there is plenty of material supporting its position.  Furthermore, I make a call for action based upon a reference.  I even supply a link to that reference, allowing the reader to make up their own mind.

The Village Voice’s response seems to be based on a First Amendment Right[ii].  Nowhere is it refuted that the Village Voice’s parent company profits from such ads placed in Backpage.com.  That is my point – I will not knowing support a newspaper owned by a company that profits off the misery of others.  Clarence, on the other hand, seems to have no problem, at all, with a company making money literally off the backs of exploited women.  It is not the Village Voice reporting at issue; it is the business practice of its parent company.

Another point, this one just for Clarence, I have done the research.  Your refusal to post the source of your opinions shows the weakness of your argument as well as your own laziness.  Clarence, please do not feel you need to be “charitable” with me, I am more than capable of defending myself.

[i] KRISTOF, NICHOLAS D. “Where Pimps Peddle Their Goods.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 17 Mar. 2012. Web. 18 Mar. 2012.

[ii][ii] Powers, Kirsten. “Sex-Slavery Facilitators: Backpage’s Sleazy ‘Adult Ads'” The Daily Beast. Newsweek/Daily Beast, 30 Mar. 2012. Web. 05 Apr. 2012. <http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/03/30/sex-slavery-facilitators-backpage-s-sleazy-adult-ads.html>.



  1. To repeat the words of the prominent Benjamin Franklin: There’s no shame
    in being ignorant, only in refusing to learn. Thank
    you for helping me learn.

  2. I do appreciate that you have not resorted to personal insults nor called me a ‘pedophile apologist’ or some other dehumanizing or demonizing term for daring to be skeptical of the wisdom of this enterprise as well as the motives of some of its most strident participants.

    The way I see it is if the Village Voice newspaper goes out of business due in any part to this mess then a good and valued news source will have been stifled and over an issue that the closure of the Backpage, or the bankruptcy of the Village Voice won’t make a lick of difference about in the first place.

    • You have your opinion and are entitled to it, just like every other soul on this planet. It is by engaging differing points of view we learn and forge a better opinion. I would be wrong to say your responses have not made me think through my opinion.

      You at least must agree that the owners of VV need to respond and smooth the waters before that happens. The sad fact is bankruptcy my be a foregone conclusion. There finances are a mess and I have heard rumors over the last year or so regarding them closing up shop.

      The thing I really do not understand is their not seeing the danger this issue posed in the first place. Given their readership, it was bound to bite them in the ass sooner or later. That is not saying the protest it right or wrong, simply that the leadership should have done a better risk analysis of the substitution. They seem to be saying “the public be damned.” They do not have a Vanderbilt standing behind them, they need to do a little more kowtowing unless they intend on folding up shop.

  3. Well:

    You could have let the Village Voice defend itself rather than merely reading some half-alleged summary of its argument on the Daily Beast.
    1. http://www.villagevoice.com/sex-trafficking/

    If you still feel that way after reading some of those articles, then at least you will have “both sides” of the story – and the links at that Voice page come from a variety of sources including the Washington Post. The Superbowl trafficking myth is a rather new one, that the Superbowl is a “big day” for domestic violence is one that goes back to the early 90’s. Both are debunked by Snopes:
    What do these 5 links prove?
    A. Nothing is more prone to hyperbole in the political atmosphere of most western countries over the past 30 years than the subject of sex crimes of all types. You might remember the Satanic Ritual Daycare Abuse scandals of the 1980’s and early 90’s which resulted in famous injustices such as the McMartin pre-school case.
    B. If you are going to call for a Boycott of someone it would be nice to:
    1. List the specific sins of the people involved and what they can do to mitigate the problem you see
    2. Ask if the proposed solution – in this case the destruction of ALL adult ads on Backpage.com – helps or hinders solving the larger problem – coerced underage prostitution.
    In my opinion, no, it doesn’t. Since Backpage is constantly trawled by law enforcement and since Village Voice Media has never had a problem being of assistance to the cops when they make a case, I don’t see how Backpage is doing anything but operating as one of the best “sting” operations ever conducted.
    3. Make sure the people you are boycotting have the power to do the thing you want them to do.
    The Village Voice paper does not own Backpage.com. It’s owned by an entirely different company that brought both the Voice and Backpage:

    “The company was previously named New Times Media. On October 24, 2005, New Times Media announced a deal to acquire Village Voice Media, creating a chain of 17 free weekly newspapers around the country with a combined circulation of 1.8 million and controlling a quarter of the weekly circulation of alternative weekly newspapers in North America.[citation needed] After the deal’s completion, New Times assumed the Village Voice Media name”.


    The initial impetus for these attacks seems to be the story that the Voice ran last year where it attacked the foundational myth of vast amounts of underage prostitutes being trafficked, hither and yon throughout the land of America. In any case, the amount of hysteria and the absence of facts that many critics of the Voice are bringing to bear on this subject is disgusting, and whether you like this opinion or not it is my contention that most of the people who are “attacking” the problem of child (and teen since these are conflated) sexual slavery -which, I believe to actually almost certainly be exceedingly rare (prostitutes younger than 15 or 16 )- are doing so for reasons of ideology (Some Christians and there “war” against prostitution), money, prestige, or power. And they are doing far more harm than good.

    • The Village Voice has a platform to promote its point of view. I do not see them being the all-inclusive repository for this debate. I make my points, they make theirs. It is fair that way. Still, you seem to think my issue is with reporting content. I assure you it is not. I really do not care about the back and forth between the VV and the NYT and who has the details of prostitution right. My focus is on the profits made by Village Voice Media by allowing subordinate companies to accept ads for illegal activities. They can no more hide from the business practice of a subordinate than Bayer or BASF can hide from their subordinate company, IG Farben’s production of Zyklon-b nerve gas in World War II. The best means as influencing the parent company is by impacting its most public face, in this case, the Village Voice.

      Let me ask you this, how is this any different than profiting off of ads for illegal drugs or ads for a hit-man? It is the promotion of an illegal activity. Do you see prostitution as victimless crime? Is that your justification?

      My position is this, I will not support a corporation that makes money off prostitution. What is yours, that you support companies profiting this way? While the Village Voice does not own Backpage.com, it is owned by the same ones that do. Impact the Voice, you impact them. The fact that you pay attention to this post in the first place illustrates the effectiveness of the strategy. I tell you what, I’ll carry my sign that asks the Village Voice owners to stop profiting from ads promoting illegal activity, you carry a sing saying it is OK that they do.

      Your list of points is rather stilted and short-sighted:

      In response to A: Apples and oranges argument, there is no dispute the ads are placed and profit is made. I do not suggest profiting is illegal, I suggest it an unethical business practice.

      In response to B: point 1, I did list the specifics. The ads are accepted and profit is made. There is no mitigation or half-steps to accept. Just stop taking the ads. Point 2, You define the problem as coerced prostitution. I define it as a company profiting from ads promoting prostitution, an illegal activity. While you are entitled to your perception of the issue, you do not get to define mine. Obviously, you see it one way, I see it another. While I understand your argument, I see it as bankrupt at its base. To suggest that they allow the ads to aid law enforcement is disingenuous at best. Point 3, The Village Voice is the flagship of the parent company of Backpage.com, Village Voice Media. By boycotting it, you effectively impact the ones responsible for the ultimate decision. The Village Voice is the public face of that corporation and a valid target when responding to the parent company’s ambivalence.

      Not once have I attacked the Village Voice for the content of its reporting. It is the business practice of its parent company I take issue with. The most effective way of getting the parent’s attention is through the child, metaphorically speaking. In the end, I see it very simply – boycott the Village Voice until the parent company stops profiting from ads promoting illegal services.

      • It seems to me, you’ve “moved the goalposts” and are now changing your argument. So now it’s not “child sexual slavery” but the fact that some of the ads that Backpage accepts promote prostitution, even if they don’t specificaly offer that service?

        In any case, you are not arguing the same as people such as Kristof.
        The main reasons that boycotts are being organized against The Village Voice newspaper are:
        A. Because allegedly Backpage.com takes money from human traffickers. Brought to you by the same people who conflate all prostitution as human trafficking.
        B. Many lazy people imagine the Village Voice newspaper has control over Backpage.com. Heck even you want to punish the smaller and less powerful company for the “sins” of the larger ownership company. I just love how you conflate a company running ads by prostitutes – and in many cases not only trying to block ads by those underaged but actually help cops catch the rather few child-sex pimps who do make it past the many filters – to freaking IG FARBEN! Wow, reasonable argument there. I wonder if I should call in Godwin’s Law?

        In any case:

        1. Yes, in my opinion prostitution when properly regulated is a victimless “crime”. Only people who hold to religious (and thus non-rational) arguments against pre-marital sex or virtue, people who conflate prostitution with patriarchy (hi radical feminists!) or sexual slavery, or people that hold that sex is inherently “dirty” possibly believe otherwise. Well, ok, perhaps a subset of women (since most prostitutes are women) who want absolute control over male sexuality and thus hate men being able to “get some” outside a “committed relationship” (what a laugh with the divorce laws these days). Prostitution, like pot , should be legalized and regulated.

        2. You haven’t made the case that :
        A. The amount of prostitution will go down if Backpage is closed.
        B. The amount of “human sexual trafficking” of children (see, I separate the two) will go down if Backpage is closed.
        Indeed, I see it as making it harder for the cops to catch some of these people and thus a form of “shooting yourself in the foot” if your alleged “goal” is to end this type of crime.

        So I’m not really sure what the alleged “good” is that will come of this rather silly and stupid crusade. I do know the vitrol and laziness often possessed by those against Village Voice Media over this “issue” does not impress me.

        In any case, if you want to boycott companies that in some way “support” prostitution, I suggest you have dozens if not hundreds of media companies, medical companies, entertainment venues, clothiers and, heck, other countries and the entire state of Nevada to boycott and protest. Better get cracking. And you, and the rest of the mob can at least be honest that you are trying to eliminate prostitution rather than child sex trafficking, or hell, sex trafficking in general. They aren’t the same thing, and conflating them is a dishonest rhetorical trick used for emotional purposes. If we are going to bring in the Nazis well, Goebbels would be proud.

      • I guess you and will have to agree to disagree on the issue but let me clear up one issue you seem to attribute to me, I am not christian, not now – not ever. One other thing, if prostitution is regulated,like you suggest, it would not be a crime. As it stands now, it is.

  4. A++..After watching “The Whistleblower” I began to face how “real” this situation is. Worldwide. My uncle came home from the Korean War & acknowledged it way back then. I remember him cautioning us teen girls to be careful.
    Your blogs are quite comprehensive & broad of scope. I apppreciate the wide range of information you share & your efforts to “jolt our brains”. Please continue these. It is time-consuming but so relevant to many important issues we sometimes let “slide by”. Thank You Michael.

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