Lowest of the Low

I helped turn a weekly newspaper with a web site into a digital enterprise.”

– Tony Ortega, boasting to the New York Times Blog, September 14, 2012

We’ve been looking at various incidences of fallout following Ortega’s ‘help’ turning a failing weekly newspaper into a digital brothel enterprise, the likes of which the world has never seen.

In July 2011, at the height of Tony Ortega’s tenure as Editor-At-Large, the Village Voice was cashing in to the tune of roughly $30 million a year from Backpage’s prostitution ads.

Tony Ortega, who was called by some the operation’s ‘Minister of Propaganda’, worked tirelessly as a puppet mouthpiece. Ortega would sometimes evoke the First Amendment defending Backpage. Other times he would insist it was an issue of individual rights. But always Ortega would insist that what Backpage was doing was an exercise of free rights.

What made Ortega’s brand of propaganda so particularly insidious was his make-believe moral outrage coupled with his weaponization of feigned ignorance, as evidenced by such classic Ortega quotes as:

What happens when two adults find each other through Backpage.com? I couldn’t tell you.”

Luckily, Federal investigators, attorneys general from every state in the nation, and decent people across the globe weren’t buying what Ortega was selling. The government decisively concluded that Backpage knew only too well what happens when adults barter for sex in classified ads. Just as they knew their platform was a hotbed for pedophiles to purchase helpless children.

They knew because they built it to be exactly that. Which is precisely what Senate investigators concluded in their report:

Backpage knows that it facilitates prostitution and child sex trafficking. … Backpage does not deny that its site is used for criminal activity, including the sale of children for sex.”

Those of us who can tell right from wrong rightly see a scheme like the Backpage Brothel Business for what it is: unconscionable, indefensible, and unpardonable.

There will always be men like Tony Ortega who defend their vile actions as ‘free speech’ just as there will always be those of us willing to stand up and with our own right of free speech to declare: “Propagandists who condone and defend Backpage are the lowest of the low.”

The noteworthy difference — the facts are on our side.

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