BBC World Debate on Trafficking Online: Sex, lies and videotaping

Bollywood eye makeupThe BBC World Debate programme on Human Trafficking is now online.

I described why I was going to Luxor to do this debate, which took place 12 December 2010,  I made a short report when it was televised the weekend of 18-19 December and I was interviewed about it in the Huffington Post not long ago.

It has been edited heavily, so that all the audience interaction is cut in at random new points. One result is that Mira Sorvino’s UN Ambassador attack on me, which took place very early on, has been shortened, softened and moved closer to the end. Alas, the comment made that I am like a holocaust denier isn’t heard here.

Media mavens may notice how often they cut back to my reactions. There is no drama in four panellists agreeing about everything, and 50 minutes is a long time to expect television viewers to stay tuned. Now you understand why the BBC invited me and why the editors keep cutting back to me.

Some people who saw this on television criticised me for frowning, which leads me to reveal that those are not my own eyebrows but a Bollywood version added by a makeup artist at the last moment. I am far more likely to laugh than frown – which can also be criticised of course.

You can’t tell but the temperature had sunk to five above zero and we on the panel could not wear coats, so the whole time I was pressing my hands on my leg to avoid shivering and shaking.

The debate is in five parts, with the following description on the BBC site:

Human trafficking exists in almost every country on earth. As many as 27 million people are estimated to live in modern slavery. Can this problem be stopped?

Zeinab Badawi presents this World Debate from the Luxor Temple in Egypt.

The panel consists of:

Laura Agustin, Author, Sex at the Margins
Sophie Flak, Executive Vice-President, Accor
Rani Hong, Trafficking Survivor
Siddharth Kara, Author, Sex Trafficking
Ronald Noble, Secretary General, Interpol

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

5 thoughts on “BBC World Debate on Trafficking Online: Sex, lies and videotaping

  1. Divinity33372

    Yea, I also thought Ashton Kutcher (sp?) towed the “why do we have to know what the definition of human trafficking is” line. The kid’s just brilliant. Sure, let’s fight something without a clear definition of what it is. Jeez!

    I’m glad people are getting involved but it seems like celebrities only get in the way some times. They parrot talking points, don’t have a clear understanding of what they are talking about and have LOTS of followers.

    All in all; from what I saw after all the editing, you did a great job. It takes courage to be the only voice of opposition among sheep.

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  3. William Thirteen

    just finished watching the ‘show’. love how you ended up getting the last word despite the obvious editorial splicing.

    What did you think of your fellow panelists? Sophie Flak seemed a bit stunned most of the time, while Rani Hong was quite strident – which is what one wants in a victims’ advocate i suppose. Ronald Noble struck me as the most reasonable and willing to admit the complexity of the problem, even though he was sticking to his law enforcement remedies, after all, to a man with a hammer everything looks like a nail. Lastly, while at first i liked Siddharth Kara, as he seemed bright enough, in the end i had the feeling that he was planning to make a business of touring around on his book and was perfectly willing to reinforce any and all stereotypes if that’s what it takes to get on camera.

    I thought many of the suggestions from the audience were right on target, at least those about improving educational possibilities for women and reducing poverty – but who’s gonna disagree with that!

    as far as the hollywood squad – there’s a reason they’re in the business of repeating lines that others having written since, without the script at hand, they obviously aren’t that skilled at constructing complete, well formed sentences…

    I also think you did an excellent job at pointing out the obvious assumptions being made, and at just the right moments to keep the ‘debate’ from just sinking into a mutual admiration society…

  4. laura agustin Post author

    let’s face it, it was an incoherent group of people to be talking about trafficking, and i am sure the bbc realised it. sophie flak is a bigwig at the world’s biggest hotel conglomerate and must know a lot about sex work in that context, but she was not going to talk about it there. rani was invited at a late moment and did fine as a victims’ advocate, i thought. for me, noble was a typical voice of law enforcement, never straying from the script except that he accused me of saying the same thing over and over, which i did not, whilst he said the exact same line at least three times (‘…going from point A to point B…’. kara is a poster boy with big money behind him, i am going to review his book, more on that later. all together i don’t see how an ordinary person watching could have understood what was going on.

    if there appears to be any coherency it came from the video editors, who deftly snipped it up to appear more logical than it was.


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