As a human rights advocate I subscribe to just about every social media feed out there to learn what others are doing and how we can do our job better. In the process, I’ve learned quite a bit on how not to end human trafficking. I thought I would share a few of them with you.
Let’s call these the “three pillars of how not to end human trafficking”.
1. Scaring people won’t make caring people
2. Celebrity endorsements are a joke.
3. Stop looking to the government.
While these may sound harsh, please allow me a moment to explain.
1. For some reason when people get turned onto human rights or animal rights for that manner, the natural inclination is to inundate their fiends via social media with horrid stories of abuse, frightening statistics and a general alarmist tone. THIS DOES NOT WORK!!!!!
Case in point: The ASPCA and Sarah McLaughlin. By this point we’ve all seen the video and we’ve all felt helpless and sick when we see the pictures and hear the sad sad styling of “eyes of an angel”. The youtube video garners about 300,000 views give or take. Compare that to the great video “Ultimate Dog Tease” which is a clip of a guy messing around with his dog and adding a voice over track to it. At last count that video has 128,358,369 views on youtube. Imagine if the positivity and fun of Dog Tease was combined with the message of the ASPCA. You’ve got a winning combination.
If you want to end human trafficking, don’t focus on all of the horrific aspects of the crime, focus on tangible positive aspects that people can do. During an interview a couple of years ago a gentlemen told me about the concept of “buycot”, not boycot. You tell people to avoid a product and it’s inherently negative, but if you promote a product people are more likely to hear your message. If you want more info, check out our 3ways blog post or New Years Resolution Post on positive things you can share to end human trafficking.
2. Celebrity endorsements are a joke. Ok, I know already that I’ll catch some flack for this but I don’t respect celebrity and I know many others don’t as well. Within the human rights movement I’ve seen celebrity after celebrity lend their names to items only to be trashed sooner or later by some indiscretion. It’s great that they want to be a part of something and testify before congress or make a PSA but the simple fact of the matter is that celebrities aren’t experts in the field and many make their money in some pretty unethical ways. Case in point Jada Pickett Smith who learned about human trafficking through her daughter and the KONY2012 video in the spring and by summer is testifying before congress regarding the passage of an intense and integral piece of human trafficking legislation. If a celebrity is truly serious about human rights issues, where is the ethically made clothing line they endorse, the viral music video about promoting literacy and ending poverty and their continued message of peace and good will. There is a serious difference between wanting one’s name associated with doing good and actually doing good.
If celebrities want to make a difference they should use their status to promote sustainable, ethical and repeatable solutions to making the world a better place; not just lend their name to a cause.
3. Stop looking to the government for leadership and guidance in human rights issues. For some reason the American public has forgotten that we play an inherent role in the government, the formation of policy and the enforcement of laws. Each presentation I do on human trafficking someone naturally asks “why isn’t the government doing anything about human trafficking”? I instantly respond with “if you’re not doing anything to end human trafficking why should the government care”? Slavery in all of its forms is illegal as outlined by the U.S. Constitution and numerous supporting court cases. To respond to the illegalities as outlined, numerous government agencies work on a daily basis to end human trafficking including ICE, HHS and the Department of Labor. In short, the government is doing quite a bit to end human trafficking. We the people need to step up and take some responsibility for our human rights issues and stop looking to the government to do it for us. The government has what, a couple of million employees? The US population is well over 300million, which group of people will have a greater impact if they choose to act?
I know that this blog post is a bit more cynical than most of what I write. I’m in a bit of a cynical funk right now after contacting numerous media agencies regarding the 8 missing girls in Youngstown, Ohio. I was told that it really wasn’t a story, or it wasn’t in their coverage area… yeah, who would care about 8 teenage missing girls in 9 months in one city.
So that’s it for now, I’ll try to be less cynical in the coming weeks.