14 Jul That Way Madness Lies
Let us stipulate a few things up front today. First, child sex trafficking is bad. Second, 99.9% of people nominally on the political Right are opposed to child sex trafficking. Third, 99.9% of people nominally on the political Left are opposed to child sex trafficking. Fourth and finally, 99.9% of people not aligned with a political ideology or party are opposed to child sex trafficking.
Given all of the above, you might assume that opposition to child sex trafficking would be something on which we could all agree and to which we could all unite in opposition. But then, you would be wrong.
As it turns out, child sex trafficking is one of the more controversial and conflict-inducing issues of the summer – not because anyone is in favor of it, mind you, but because our radically and increasingly politicized society insists that it must be so.
The proximate cause of the uptick in concern about child trafficking is the long-delayed release of the film on that subject, “Sound of Freedom,” starring Jim Caviezel (previously seen as Jesus Himself in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”) Here, USA Today describes the movie, its genesis, and some of the controversy surrounding it:
The outside-of-Hollywood entry in the summer sweepstakes about a federal agent tackling child sex trafficking took in $19.7 million last weekend, according to Box Office Mojo. That makes “Freedom” the third most-popular movie in the country, behind top-grossing “Insidious: The Red Door” (which debuted with $33 million) and “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” ($27.4 million in its second weekend). The movie, which also stars Bill Camp and Mira Sorvino, has earned $45.7 million domestically since its release July 4….
Here’s what to know about the film:
“Sound of Freedom” draws upon the real life of Tim Ballard, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security agent who is credited with saving countless children, largely from outside the U.S., from traffickers who force them into prostitution rings aimed at pedophiles.
In 2013, Ballard started the non-profit group Operation Underground Railroad, which according to its website, “directly responds to international government requests to develop intelligence and assist to carry out rescue efforts.” In 2020, Vice News published reports critical of the organization.
Ballard advised then-President Donald Trump in 2019 on trafficking issues.
“Sound of Freedom” was shot in 2018 largely with funding from Mexican investors, according to The New York Times. Its writer and director, Alejandro Monteverde, is from Mexico. The film was originally slated for release by 20th Century Fox, but Disney shelved the project when it acquired the studio in 2019.
Angel Studios then stepped in to distribute “Sound of Freedom.”
Seems pretty simple and straightforward, doesn’t it? It’s more or less what we get when Hollywood covers a serious subject, i.e. the bare bones of a real and important story, told in a slightly overdramatized fashion in order to engage the audience and to hammer home the points that the artists involved wished to emphasize. No big deal, right?
“Sound of Freedom” is, in fact, a huge deal – mostly because of politics.
You see, Caviezel was in “The Passion of the Christ,” which was made by Mel Gibson, who is an anti-Semitic far-right lunatic. Gibson was also, allegedly, one of the “angel investors” at Angel Studios who enabled the film to be made. Caviezel himself has been linked to conspiracy theories, with various media reports saying that he has “voiced” “support” for “certain aspects” of the QAnon conspiracy theory but never providing the details of this “support.” And of course, as USA Today notes, the guy on whom the film is based once advised President Trump.
In any case, these connections to Gibson and QAnon and Trump, tenuous though they may be, have just been too much for some media enterprises to stomach. And they have, as a result, labeled the movie a conspiracy-laden fantasy written and produced to encourage the belief that Hillary Clinton runs a sex-trafficking hub out of a pizza restaurant in Washington DC. Or something. Rolling Stone, for example, called “Sound of Freedom” a “superhero movie for dads with brainworms.” Countless other reviews have called the movie a “QAnon” delusion or “QAnon-adjacent.” And everyone, it seems, has amazing hermeneutical abilities, which enable them to read between the lines, discovering that the whole thing is really just an allegory for the crazy pizza parlor theories and that the “true story” the movie is based on is a flimsy pretense to attack leftists as pedophiles and “groomers.”
In short, the Left-wing media and their millions of followers on social media have determined that child sex trafficking is a non-existent or, at the very least, radically exaggerated “threat.”
Because of politics.
In turn, of course, many in the right-leaning media and especially many “conservative” influencers on Twitter and the like have insisted that the only reason why anyone would not absolutely love “Sound of Freedom” and not praise it profusely is because he is, in reality, a pedophile or a pedophile-adjacent groomer who wishes to keep the children of the world vulnerable to predators. They post pictures of Charles Bramesco (the reviewer for The Guardian) and insist that he “looks like just like you’d figure a pedo would!” They insist that Disney shelved the film and kept it away from the public for five years because Disney is – as recent history in Florida has shown – “pro” Groomer. Instead of simply noting that the Left is politicizing an apolitical subject in order to “own the cons!” the (alleged) “cons” politicize the issue themselves, claiming that any opposition is driven by a perverse ideology that wants to further destroy the traditional family structure by enabling global child sex trafficking. Because of course.
We think the stipulations we laid out at the top of this piece are correct. Child sex trafficking is horrible, and virtually the entirety of the population – of all political or apolitical persuasions – agrees. As a society, however, we can’t help ourselves. We are so used to everything being political, to making everything political, that we are incapable of seeing anything through any other lens. We are simply unable to agree with something as basic and uncontroversial as opposition to child sex trafficking because doing so might align us with somebody we consider an “enemy.” And we CANNOT have that!
We’ve said it before, and we’re certain to say it again (and again and again…): that way madness lies.
And we’re well on the road to it.