40,000 Hookers at the World Cup: News Trafficking in Horse Manure

two_prostitutes_by_cellar_fcpHeadlines ’round the world are warning us that 40,000 prostitutes are headed for South Africa and soccer’s premier event, the World Cup. (Just google  “South Africa 40,000 prostitutes”.) The story is a total fabrication. It’s a repeat of an alarmist story that was told before the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The figure was put at 10,000 trafficked sex slaves before the Sydney Olympics in 2000. It was doubled to 20,000 before the 2004 Olympics in Athens, then doubled again for the World Cup in 2006.

Brendan O’Neill at Spiked has the scoop on the hooker unscoop. He says the ongoing international urban legend springs from the fertile imaginations of folks seriously concerned about sex slavery, as well as deeply biased assumptions about working class men, sports, etc.

The sport-sex-slavery scare springs from officials’ and campaigners’ warped minds rather than from anything remotely resembling evidence. As an in-depth study by a Canadian research group discovered recently, ‘the commonly held notion of a link between mega sports events [and] tafficking in persons is an unsubstantiated assumption’. Profoundly this scare speaks to an elite fear of unpredictable movements across borders, of working-class male behaviour, and of Third World women being easily tricked into a life of sexual bondage. Already, for the London 2012 Olympics, the UK government is scaremongering about ‘international criminal gangs… tricking and abducting women from abroad and selling them for sex in London’, to use Harriet Harman’s hysterical words. How many forced hookers will they claim are arriving in London for 2012? Forty-thousand again? Or maybe they’ll double it to 80,000? Any advances on 80,000? Who’d like to take a bet on this perverted new sport?

I think the tragic, brutal truth of international sex trafficking deserves even more coverage in the press and attention from all of us. But urban legends like the World Cup of Prostitution have the opposite effect. Because the story is untrue, it tends to drive down legitimate concern and make true stories seem untrue.


Want a parallel? The Right warned us there would be communists in our cupboards after health care reform was passed. Now that it’s passed and our cupboards remain bare of totalitarian teacups,  the Right’s entire argument is shattered. Another problem is that serious dangers — the climate crisis come to mind — are downplayed because the public grows weary of alarmist stories of all kinds. So, urban exaggerators and news traffickers, cut the horse manure. Whether your cause is bad (denying health care to your neighbors) or good (ending sex slavery), lies, exaggerations and alarmist rhetoric will ultimately stink up your boots.

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About Glenn W. Smith

Glenn W. Smith has spent the past 30 years in journalism and politics, where he’s made a name for himself as a writer, campaign manager, activist, think tank analyst and, as Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas says, a “legendary political consultant and all-around good guy.” “There’s no one like him,” says author George Lakoff. CNN commentator Paul Begala says, “He has unmatched experience, a graceful pen (or pixel nowadays) and deep insight into the best and worst of us.” Novelist Sarah Bird speaks of his “lucid and lyrical” prose. And, she says, he’s fun. Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington says Glenn writes with “grace and abundant humor” and “uses his colorful experiences in Texas to enlighten us all.”

Smith led Ann Richards’ successful 1990 campaign for Governor of Texas. He worked for former Texas Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen. Earlier, Smith was a political reporter for the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Post. He’s coordinated national campaigns for groups such as MoveOn.org. In 2004, he authored the highly acclaimed book, The Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction. He also wrote Unfit Commander, a book that detailed George W. Bush’s mysterious disappearance from military service.

In 2004, Smith was featured in the film, Bush’s Brain, a documentary about Karl Rove. Smith provided commentary on Rove’s role as then-President Bush’s senior advisor. He has made numerous media appearances with Chris Mathews on Hardball, Joe Scarborough, Brit Hume, and many others. He writes a regularly for top national web sites, including FireDogLake and Huffington Post.

As a senior fellow at George Lakoff’s prestigious Rockridge Institute in Berkeley he studied, wrote and taught on the power of metaphor and narrative in political communications. He also lectured on religion and politics at the Starr King School for Ministry in Berkeley. As a sponsor and organizer, he has pulled together numerous national events with progressive religious leaders. He also organized a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King at Riverside Church in New York City as well as “Freedom and Faith” bus tours, which was a nationwide campaign for social justice and progressive values.

Smith’s play, Double Play, which explored American Western myths and legends, was held over to sold-out audiences. He’s even written and performed songs in the Americana tradition, such as his best-known song, “Helping Marty Robbins,” a tribute to his hometown, Houston.

Most recently, Smith is the creator of DogCanyon, a political and cultural web site covering state, national and global issues from a Texas perspective. DogCanyon is an exhilarating and unique site that gets the connections between politics and culture and explores both the personal side of politics and the ups, down, craziness and beauty of “life its ownself,” as humorist Dan Jenkins would say. DogCanyon offers heartfelt personal essays, hard-hitting political analysis, and, most importantly, laughs.

As Paul Begala said, Smith writes in “the finest, firmest, fearless tradition of Texas essayists like Molly Ivins.”