June 17, 2014

Somaly Mam

Somaly Mam

And”€”I did not pick this out of Tom Wolfe’s wastepaper basket”€”Kristof rode “€œshotgun with Mam on a raid of one of those brothels”€”a stunt he also “€˜live-tweeted”€™ to his million-plus followers.”€

Kristof also “€œrescued”€/purchased a couple of “€œsex slaves”€ for the cause. Those last two courageous acts sound like violations of Cambodian and international law, at least to this expert.

After Newsweek hit the stands, Kristof vowed he”€™d “€œ”€˜poke around”€™ for the facts.”€ (An unfortunate choice of words from a Pulitzer Prize winner, perhaps, but at least he didn”€™t type “€œget to the bottom.”€)

In an impressive display of concern trolling”€”I give it a 3.9″€”Kristof signed off by scolding us plebes: it would be “€œvery sad”€ if “€œthe debate about Somaly’s back story will overtake the imperative of ending the trafficking of young teenagers into brothels. Let’s remember that this is about more than one woman.”€ Too bad Kristof’s keyboard doesn”€™t have a “€œtsk”€ shortcut and a “€œshakes head”€ macro.

So, once more: How? Jesse Walker of Reason, surveying the Mam/Kristof wreckage, reminds us that the racially-charged captivity narrative is “€œa primal storyline in American culture.”€

One needn”€™t reach back as far as Maria Monk or the “€œwhite slavery”€ moral panic for proof. Not a few jewels of American cinema concern some female’s rescue from sexually-charged entrapment: King Kong, Chinatown, The Searchers (and its 1970s “€œremake,”€ Taxi Driver“€”note Harvey Keitel’s Indian-looking pimp and Travis Bickle’s Mohawk). Depending on what day you ask me, I”€™d even toss in The Apartment.

Nicholas Kristof’s sorry public journey from Somaly Mam’s (metaphorical) john to pimp to rescuer and back to john again is less archetypal, but no less pathetic. I suspect that, overruling every objection his urbane liberal mind could muster, Kristof secretly saw himself, at the start, as John Wayne’s Ethan Edwards.

“€¨Today, he’s more like Immanuel Rath: proper moralist professor turned whoremonger, then, finally, clown. At least Rath has the decency to die at the end of The Blue Angel, clinging to his old desk at the university. When I last checked, Kristof was still holding on to his post at the Times, and still breathing.




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