Photo: Ivanka Trump on Twitter

In what sure as hell looks like a deeply cynical ploy to excite supporters of QAnon, the bizarre conspiracy theory that's rapidly becoming a pillar of the Republican Party, Attorney General Bill Barr and Chinese merchandise importer Ivanka Trump teamed up for a visit to Atlanta yesterday, where Barr announced the Trump administration would be awarding more than $100 million in new grants to programs that fight human trafficking and which provide services for victims of trafficking. That's on top of $35 million in grants awarded in August, and another announcement in January, all aimed at sending the message that the Trump administration is super concerned about fighting human trafficking, especially of children.

Because we all want to protect children from harm, don't we? And if Trump and company can convince some QAnon cultists that their delusions are real, and the administration is rescuing children from the clutches of George Soros and Hillary Clinton, that's surely a good use of taxpayer money. Only a monster who approves of the baby-murdering cabal could possibly object.


Now, to be clear, all the actual governmental action and spending appears aimed at helping legitimate efforts to help victims of trafficking and task forces that are fighting it. Human trafficking is a real thing, particularly when it comes to keeping immigrants in what amounts to slavery. And crimes against kids are real, too.

The new Justice Department grants will go to a whole bunch of worthy causes, with $22.7 million going to task forces aimed at fighting human trafficking, $35.1 million to provide housing aid for victims, $23 million to services for victims. Other grants will help victims of labor trafficking and sex trafficking, including education and job training and the like.

While in Atlanta, Barr and Vanky joined Gov. Brian Kemp and his wife, Marty Kemp, to visit the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy, a nonprofit group that works with victims of trafficking. In addition to helping exploited kids, the group works with caregivers of kids who've been trafficked and helps kids in foster care with education and life skills.

It's all very admirable, and it all has pretty much nothing to do with the QAnon bullshit conspiracy theory that excites such a large portion of the Republican base. Thank goodness — no grants to the Alex Jones Foundation for Survivors of Human-Alien Hybrid Breeding.

Needless to say, at the presser that followed, Barr and Trump never actually used any of the QAnon shibboleths. But Q believers surely wouldn't be put off by what they did say, either:

Tim Tebow was there to say, "We have to live with a sense of urgency to be able to rescue as many lives as possible," and how could anyone object to that? Or to Barr's calling on federal, state, and local government to work together — along with the private sector — to "ultimately end the victimization of those boys and girls." Gov. Kemp promised to " stay in the fight to end modern-day slavery [...] with all of the folks at this table and those who are not and that are out there working away right now."

There's nothing at all in any of those statements that references QAnon. But to true believers, it also had to sound like sweet music, even without any mention of the "storm," or summary roundups of Democrats and celebrities. Besides, at this point, the mere official mention of the word "trafficking" is all the believers need to validate their delusions about a vast cabal of Democratic elite pedophiles who rape, torture, and murder untold numbers of children, drinking their blood to get high off "adrenochrome." And while Brian Kemp probably meant cops and social workers when he referred to the people who weren't at the press conference, maybe that reference to folks who "are out there working away right now" was a secret shout-out to all the "researchers" helping to do God's work and break up the cabal.

The Trump administration's newfound zeal for fighting human trafficking feels like the other side of the coin from the attempt by QAnon to recruit new members by holding marches to "save" the kids, who in this case don't even exist. If QAnon is exploiting people's understandable concern for missing kids to rope folks into a cult, then the sudden profusion of grants for real anti-trafficking organizations seems just as clearly aimed at reassuring the QAnon faithful that they're being heard, and that the administration really is helping rescue children from somewhere. (Trump just can't come out and say it's from a cabal of Hollywood cannibals, because he needs to prevent panic, maybe.)

So is all this real money to real organizations a bad thing, necessarily? It's certainly gross that the administration appears to be providing the funds as a nod to a bunch of delusional cultists. And there's entirely too much hype and confusion around the recent "Operation Not Forgotten," a two-week action in which state and federal officials located some 39 missing children in seven different states. Unfortunately, the operation was frequently misreported as if it had been a single sting operation that "rescued" all 39 kids in one fell swoop, supposedly from a "sex trafficking ring." In mere reality, there were no raids, no stings, and most of the kids were either runaways or had been taken in custody disputes. A few were actually wanted for crimes themselves.

Further, as Michael Hobbes explains at HuffiPost, the 15 minors authorities suspected may have been victims of "sex trafficking" weren't necessarily victims of abduction. Rather, "trafficking" is used by law enforcement to refer to any case where a minor has sex for money or in exchange for something else of value, like lodging, food, or a ride. Erin Albright, a trafficking expert who consults with law enforcement and social agencies, explains it's an entirely different kind of tragedy:

In the majority of underage sex trafficking cases, Albright said, the child is homeless, has run away from foster care or has been kicked out by their parents, often due to being queer or transgender. Many of these kids end up trading sex for money, drugs or a place to sleep because it's their only way to survive. Under the legal definition, their "trafficker" could be a pimp but could also be a customer.

[...] Implying that all child victims of trafficking are abducted can cause policymakers to ignore critical supports like youth homeless shelters and gender-affirming housing.

"No one is saying it's OK to pay a 15-year-old for sex," Albright said. "What we're saying is that law enforcement can't be our only response. Children in these situations need a lot of support. What they don't need is to be arrested, which unfortunately still happens in too many cases."

It's a sobering read about the sad realities of why kids end up in terrible situations, none of which include a worldwide cabal of rich pedophile cannibals. But the real needs of these kids — counseling, safe places to live, providing housing for homeless kids, and fundamental reform of the foster care system — are all too likely to be dismissed as wasteful big government by the very people howling for Trump to "save our children." Many groups that work with trafficked kids are concerned that QAnon, in missing the point entirely, is likely to do more harm than good.

But as Hobbes notes, all the services needed by real victims of the sex trade are terribly underfunded. Weird to think that in attempting to pander to its looniest supporters, the Trump administration might incidentally do some good. How's that for a 2020 surprise feel-good ending? Or at least a feel-ambivalent ending. Doesn't mean Ivanka Trump gets nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, though.

[Atlanta Journal-Constitution / AP / Department of Justice / HuffPo / San Diego Union-Tribune]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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