Nick Kristof and the Holy War on Pornhub - 2020-12-10

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F0.png Nick Kristof and the Holy War on Pornhub December 10, 2020, Melissa Gira Grant, New Republic

Anyone who wants to know that Pornhub has engaged in abusive and exploitative behavior toward women need only listen to the women whose videos were posted to the free porn site without their consent. That includes the abuse of people like Rose Kalemba, who has written about how she had to impersonate a lawyer to get Pornhub to remove a video that recorded a man raping her more than a decade ago. That also includes the numerous porn performers who have spoken publicly about how Pornhub routinely allows videos they made to be pirated and posted to the site, where it profits off the performers' work and leaves them with nothing. Journalists who cover the tech company critically and with an eye toward its human costs have all been on this beat for some time. Slate covered the monopolistic model behind Pornhub's parent company, Mindgeek, more than eight years ago, citing, among others, reporting by ABC's Nightline, which preceded it, with performers stating they felt they couldn't speak out against the company for fear of retaliation.

A failure to engage with this history and wider context is a failure to capture the real stakes of the conflict with Pornhub, and that's the fundamental limitation behind the picture of abuse related by the New York Times op-ed columnist Nick Kristof in the latest entry in his long oeuvre concerning abuse, women, and sex. When Kristof turns his notebook in the direction of women with stories of trauma, the resulting narratives most often fall somewhere between beneficent voyeurism and journalistic malpractice. (Kristof, writing about his coverage of refugees in 2006: "It's often agonizing to try to figure out how far you can go in identifying a rape victim, for example, so that a column will come alive—without putting her at risk of revenge.") He has yet to face any professional consequences for his role in advancing the Somaly Mam Foundation, the anti–sex trafficking organization that, thanks to him, was able to launder allegedly invented sex slave stories through the paper of record. (New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan, in 2014, after one of his key sources was exposed for lying about sex trafficking: "Nicholas Kristof Should Give Readers a Full Explanation About Somaly Mam.") Kristof, meanwhile, became the mainstream writer most responsible for establishing the terms of the sex trafficking debate for liberals and conservatives alike. Now he has pivoted from websites like Backpage, which sex workers once relied on for advertising and which was later shuttered by federal law enforcement, to websites like Pornhub. Poised to get the Kristof bump this time is a campaign run by a religious right organization, Exodus Cry, founded by a member of a Christian dominionist ministry, which has advanced anti-gay, anti-abortion, and antisemitic views.

Kristof's Pornhub story, which took up the full front page of the Times Sunday Review section, relies on the tropes that have defined his career. He gives graphic, detailed descriptions of "recordings of assaults on unconscious women and girls" and their associated search terms. Then, in a passing mention, he introduces the work of Exodus Cry—though he omits the group's name. "An organization called Traffickinghub, led by an activist named Laila Mickelwait, documents abuses and calls for the site to be shut down," Kristof notes. Kristof's story now sits at the top of the campaign's site, boasting an "as seen in" featuring the paper's iconic masthead.

Wikipedia cite:
{{cite news | first = Melissa Gira | last = Grant | title = Nick Kristof and the Holy War on Pornhub | url = | work = New Republic | date = December 10, 2020 | accessdate = December 27, 2020 }}