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Super Bowl Sex Trafficking Myth Gives Good Cover for Federal Security Theater

Minneapolis is being transformed into a police state.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/FlickrU.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/FlickrGuests at this year's Super Bowl game in Minneapolis can expect cops, checkpoints, and security theater everywhere, in no small part thanks to the myth that the Super Bowl is a mass sex-trafficking event.

Dan Conboy, a police lieutenant in the Minnesapolis suburb of Edina, said cops from all over the area would be focused on sex trafficking this weekend, with help from federal authorities.

Their focus "won't just be hotels, but also the airport, clubs and bars–any area where large groups will congregate," reported the Minneapolis Sun Current.

In other words, "sex trafficking" gives federal and local authorities an excuse for posting police anywhere and everywhere people are gathering—and for enlisting citizens as spies, too.

"This year's Super Bowl will have the greatest deployment of federal resources yet, due to the city's relatively small police department," reported KTSA Minneapolis. Around 1,700 federal agents are expected in town, along with state and local police, the Minnesota National Guard, and officers from more than 60 police departments around Minnesota. In addition, "a 10,000-strong volunteer force has been trained to spot suspicious activity" around town.

"Minneapolis residents and visitors can anticipate increased police patrols, bomb-sniffing dogs, officers clad in tactical gear and helicopters overhead," KTSA noted.

There will also be motion detectors, metal detectors, mobile command centers, the deployment of human trafficking and counterfeit merchandise teams as well as high-resolution security cameras around the city, according to Alex Khu, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Minnesota and the federal coordinator for this year's Super Bowl.

In Super Bowl messaging from Homeland Security and other federal agencies, mentions of potential terrorists or drug dealers were eclipsed by warnings of intellectual property theft and an influx of human traffickers. We're transforming Minneapolis into a police state to enforce copyright law against small-time street vendors and crack down on an issue that almost everyone admits is imaginary.

After years of widespread hype about some supposed link between the Super Bowl and incresed sex trafficking, the past few have seen prolific pushback against this urban legend.

Sure, some folks have been doing this for a while (including us). "Despite massive media attention, law enforcement measures and efforts by prostitution abolitionist groups, there is no empirical evidence that trafficking for prostitution increases around large sporting events," found the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women in a 2011 report.

By now, however, mainstream news outlets from The New York Times to Sports Illustrated have fact-checked the idea that sex-trafficking spikes around the Super Bowl (or other big sporting events) and found it lacking. Academic researchers found no support for it. Even crony charity groups that spread all sorts of sex-trafficking misinformation found this myth too easily debunkable to keep repeating.

Pretty much the only folks who haven't gotten the memo that Super Bowl sex-trafficking panic is bunk are the law-enforcement agents who benefit from promoting it. Keeping vigilant for a nonexistent sex-trafficking spike during the Super Bowl nets cops some easy overtime hours. And it allows police to conduct old-fashioned prostitution stings under the auspice of "human trafficking intervention," thereby reaping all sorts of accolades—and collecting all sorts of money—for arresting adults attempting to have consensual sex.

The phantom Super Bowl trafficking menace has been big in recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) propaganda. The agency has been promoting its game-time shenanigans with a flashy new web campaign that even comes with its own hashtag (#ICEatSB52).

ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) "will be playing its best defense to protect the thousands of fans who will be in Minneapolis," working "with its law enforcement partners to .... target criminal enterprises that exploit the Super Bowl to promote human trafficking," the website read least week, when Vice first reported on ICE's efforts and pushed back against its trafficking narrative.

Since that time, the language about human trafficking has been removed from the ICE Super Bowl page. But the agency is still hyping the Super Bowl sex-trafficking myth on Twitter.

And federal agencies including ICE have been planning for this nonexistent threat since 2016. Since that summer, "Minnesota community leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sector joined with local and federal law enforcement agencies to... address the issue of sex trafficking at this year's Super Bowl," the FBI stated.

Mostly, "addressing the issue" has meant producing and promoting propaganda videos that play on people's rightful horror at human trafficking to sell these agencies' surveillance and arrest agenda.

The feds were busy promoting this notion in the lead-up to the Super Bowl, too. Earlier this month, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania put out a statement asserting that "large events like the NFC Championship football game that draw out-of-town crowds also lure sex traffickers." It asked Philly residents to "to help law enforcement identify predators and victims of sex trafficking" by reporting any suspicious activity to authorities.

Meanwhile, police in Minneapolis and nearby areas have been conducting their own propaganda campaigns. Officers from around the area are taking part in the Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force, "which is proactively working against prostitution and human trafficking during the Super Bowl," according to the Sun Current.

Even police willing to admit there's no evidence for a surge in sex trafficking around the Super Bowl are still planning on using the game as an excuse to conduct prostitution stings. Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) Sgt. Grant Snyder explained the theory: More men than usual may be looking to pay for sex this weekend, and even though most of the people they'll approach will be consenting adult sex workers, someone getting paid for sex could be a trafficking victim. Therefore—rather than rescuing victims, or finding the people exploiting them—the police are going to arrest a tiny fraction of potential prostitution customers and publicly shame them. (It's the thought that counts, right?)

For the 10 days leading up to the Super Bowl, MPD has been working with other agencies to conduct "Operation Guardian Angel," in which police post online ads posing as adult sex workers and arrest those they lure to meet them. "People who are coming to Minneapolis and are thinking about illegally buying sex know there's a really good chance they're talking to law enforcement, that we've infiltrated and embedded ourselves in the networks that are trying to sell sex," Minneapolis City Council Member Steve Fletcher said.

Photo Credit: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Flickr

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  • Don't look at me.||

    It's only because it's a good distraction from a boring game.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    What's the Superbowl?

  • Hank Phillips||

    I think it's... an Orwellian Apple commercial?

  • Crusty Juggler||

    I heard in Minnesota children are forced to eat a disgusting concoction called a "tater-hot hotdish", so it wouldn't surprise me if children are being abused in other ways.

  • lap83||

    I was never forced to eat that. Lutefisk, on the other hand...

  • Crusty Juggler||

    My God.

  • Conchfritters||

    Roll that up in lefse and there's your Norwegian taco.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I had a Norwegian taco once. She said "Takk skal du ha".

  • Leader Desslok||

    Golf clap.

  • operagost||

    SKOL clap.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    That looks pretty good to me.

  • Joirep||

    We cant let Vicky (real name might be Jose) consent to sell her body to another consenting adult cause Vicky might be a human trafficking victim. So we will arrest Vicky charge her with prostitution and anything else illegal she might be doing and then after she is done serving her sentence in a male prison where she will most likely be subject to rape, we will send her back to her shitty country. All this is to protect her though because nothing is more dangerous than a man willing to pay for sex.

  • Joirep||

    >All this is to protect her though because nothing is more dangerous than a man willing to pay for sex

    Except a cop pretending to be a man willing to pay for sex

  • Aloysious||

    ...because nothing is more dangerous than a man willing to pay for sex.

    Yes. That is why we must arrest the wimminz. Patriarchy. /jk

  • Joirep||

    >All this is to protect her though because nothing is more dangerous than a man willing to pay for sex

    Except a cop pretending to be a man willing to pay for sex

  • Joirep||

    The irony of all this is that the current first lady was also a "working girl".

  • operagost||

    That was ruled libel, misogynist.

    But hey, women are sluts to the left, amirite? LOL!

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Beginning [in this country] with the Salem Witch Trials and up to the present day, never underestimate the power of hysteria.

  • Longtobefree||

    So no cheerleaders at this superbowl?

    Because one of them might have had sex, and that means they are trafficked?

    It's so hard to keep up with all the madness, I think I will just not give a damn.

  • Jerryskids||

    What about the huge spike in wife-beatings that takes place on Superb Owl Sunday? And can we still look forward to the possibility of the sewer system imploding when every single person in the country simultaneously flushes the toilet at halftime? I also heard from my neighbor's babysitter's mother's hairdresser that the annual avocado shortage is worse this year because the global warmcoldwetdry has made for a poor harvest in Mexico so some crooks have taken to smuggling in the fruit of the dingleberry cactus, which look just like avocados but are a favorite nesting spot for the 12-legged Peruvian Red-Winged Tarantula so there's a good chance that "avocado" you're buying is actually a green fuzzy ball of spider eggs.

  • sarcasmic||

    That explains a lot.

  • Eric Bana||

    I knew that avocado I bought seemed off.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Dayam, you'll be giving Agile Cyborg a run for his money at this rate.

  • Tionico||

    the REAL question is this:
    does your neighbour's babysitter's mother's hairdresser have her cosmetology license to DO that kind of work?

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    And by work we mean "work"

  • Joirep||

    Next year they will claim that children are being kidnapped at these events so they can be organ harvested or sold on the dark web.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    I remember when the Super Bowl was about commercials. Then, it was about Janet Jackson's nipple. Now, it's about making sure no woman in the entire city exposes a nipple in the privacy of a home.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    The real reason for almost all laws is to make everyone arrestable for any reason whenever the state or its minions deem it necessary.

  • operagost||

    This is the moment I realized that "sex trafficking" really is just hype created by the police state in order to stifle the movement to legalize sex work. Man, legalize cannabis and prostitution, what the heck are the cops going to do all day? They'll have to actually investigate thefts, murders, larceny... you know, the boring stuff.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Sex traffick and "the wrong kind" of plant leaves are today's Christian National Socialist bugbears replacing "jewishness" in their 1920 platform. It's a pity we can't again round up today's National Socialists and try them at Nuremberg for the initiation of deadly force founded on superstitious pseudoscience.

  • Verbum Vincet||

    This year the National Anthem has been changed to "The Safety Dance," to better reflect America's evolving values. Be sure and thank our generous sponsors at the US Army, NSA, Unertl and Homeland Security. And please remember folks - tonight's heroes aren't those flag-hating apes running with the pigskin - the REAL heroes will be watching you from 40 hidden sniper's nests (courtesy of Unertl scopes) so be sure and salute them often! Crack open a Bud Light, ready your buttscratchers, and get ready for some FOOTBALL!!!

  • desanimeaux||

    And now they have those neat new nanotech toys and new ultra weapons. The CEO of Lockheed Martin just made a statement about these.

  • Wax Pragmatic||

    This is terrible news. With all these authorities looking for sex traffickers, why would any of us buy airline tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, and Superbowl tickets? I just flushed $9,000 down the toilet. My wife will be so disappointed we won't be getting a sex slave at this year's Superbowl.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Clearly the low levels of sex trafficking they find this year will be exclusively for to the increased presence, and will need a bigger presence to maintain the same level next year.

    Pro tip to Minnesotans: hide your dogs this weekend. And I'm not taking about your daughters.

  • silver.||

    Might consider hiding their daughters, too, lest the girls think it's okay to innocently chat with a man who's actually an undercover cop. They'd be jailed in 5 seconds for saying, "hi."

  • Scott Thinks||

    I kind of felt that same way about prostitution being "adult consentual sex," until I met and heard the story of a lady close to my age who had been forced to be a prostitute since age 9. Just because you can't see a chain binding someone to a captor doesn't mean they are not a slave. Psychological chains can be far stronger than metal.

    And maybe the Superbowl doesn't lead to an increase in prostitution - but considering that anyone who has traveled with other adults knows that people are much more likely to engage in reckless sex when far from home, so it seems pretty likely that it does. And it is in Minnesota, and I don't know their ranking, but South Dakota is in the top 3 for sex trafficking, so I feel there is legitimate reason for concern.

    Having said all that I have no doubt that the police are using this as an excuse to justify actions that go far beyond sex trafficking prevention. However that is a separate issue from sex trafficking, and it is very irresponsible for Reason.com to imply that sex trafficking is an insignificant problem.

  • jmlandry||

    I engage in Reckless sex when I am at home. Not buying it.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Mystical bigots consider aprocrypha, curbside parables and hearsay THE solid evidence upon which to responsibly send men with guns out to kill any and all who are not quick enough about crawling in submission to "the" Law. Scottie here is the perfect reincarnation of Comstock Law Prohibitionst holdovers from 1872--a century before the Libertarian Platform wrote the Roe v. Wade decision.

  • Incredulous||

    What fascist nonsense.

    First of all, there is no need for quotation marks. Prostitution is adult consensual sex. Period. It's a basic human right to engage in adult consensual sex, even "reckless sex."

    Second of all, government "sex trafficking" statistics are total bullshit since they conflate adult consensual sex with non-adult and non-consensual sex. And yes, it is a pretty insignificant problem, grossly exaggerated by fascists who want to control people's lives. It would be even more insignificant if fascists left people alone and stopped destroying people's lives for engaging in adult consensual sex. Prohibition destroys people's lives and drives everything into the dangerous underground.

  • jmlandry||

    Yes, this is exactly what I responded to in the other Super Bowl article. As a Minneapolis property owner and someone with mortgages at US Bank I pay for all of this bullshit.

    If one of my rental properties was declared a nuisance, say, for example that there was human trafficking going on at my property. The city would pull my rental license and shut my ass down.

    Not so for the Super Bowl. They get special treatment. They get free police support for the nuisance of sex trafficking associated with their business practices. Rather, police support paid for by Minnesota property owners.

    Note to Rodger Goodell and Ziggy wolf. Go f*** yourselves you c*** bitches.

  • Hank Phillips||

    I looked it up. According to Sinfest of this date in 2011, the True Spirit of the Superbowl is that it's all about guys beating the shit out of each other; nothing to do with literature or computer technology empowering individuals.

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