“Couldn’t, Wouldn’t, Shouldn’t”: Tony Ortega’s Paper-Thin Defense of Backpage Torn Apart

It’s been a tumultuous week here in the United States, with all signs pointing the fact that there are still many surprises to come in the days and weeks ahead.

It’s within this context that we share with you excerpts from the following article unexpectedly shared with us overnight by a reader of this blog who advocates on behalf of sex-trafficking victims.

Originally posted on the CNN website in June of 2012, the opinion piece —written almost 6 years(!) before Backpage would be raided and forcibly closed by federal agents — hits the nail on the squarely on head.

Its opening sentence exposes the root problem, proclaiming bluntly:

Underage sex trafficking is an awful thing, on that we can all agree. But the growing clamor by individual U.S. states for the shutdown of Village Voice Medias web-based advertising site, Backpage.com, is… panicky, scattershot, legally suspect and potentially just as dangerous. 

Firstly, how refreshing is it to see a voice in the media calling out the connection Tony Ortega has for so long attempted to downplay — namely, the incestuous nature of the relationship between the Village Voice (where Tony Ortega served as Editor-At-Large with near absolute control over what got printed) and Backpage, run by Tony Ortega’s then bosses, Michael Lacey and James Larkin.

With the benefit of hindsight we can look back at the 8 years which have come and gone since and see, happily, the ‘clamor’ to end Backpage was by no means motivated simply by ‘legally suspect scattershot panic.’ 

Rather, as has been borne out by facts over time, it was an absolutely necessary move to but truth to Ortega’s oft repeated lie that Backpage was about freedom. As with so much of Tony Ortega’s infamous ‘propagandistic opinioneering’, nothing could have been further from the truth. 

A fact with which the editorialist readily agrees, as he blows a hole in Ortega’s fictitious representation of Backpage. He notes:

Backpage.com is a personals website with a special adult” section containing a wealth of listings for escort services. Like the back pages of most alternative local news weeklies, or for that matter the Yellow Pages of the phone book, the website contains ads and pictures that make no pretense about what is being offered. These are ads for prostitutes. 


Tony Ortega really wanted you to believe the sole purpose for Backpage was to provide a way for people to express themselves freely and meet. “After that,” Ortega once deceptively declared, “I really couldn’t tell you what happens…”

So which is it Tony, couldn’t, shouldn’t, or wouldn’t

We know that you would never turn against the criminal pals paying your salary. And we all know that you like the moral/ethical framework which prevents decent people from selling themselves as shill for the underage sex trade, so let’s take that should out of the equation. 

This, of course, leaves us with a deeper, almost philosophical puzzle: whether or not Tony Ortega could be even physically capable of telling the truth… 

Can Tony Ortega speak without lying? Is such a feat possible? Thus far, this question is proving considerably more difficult to answer.

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