John Mailer, son of writer and Village Voice co-founder Norman Mailer, has joined the campaign on Change.org calling on Village Voice Media to shut down the adult section of its Backpage.com classifieds site where individuals have advertised children and teens for sex.
According to the petition, started by Groundswell, a “multifaith social action initiative”:
A Georgia man was arrested for pimping two 17-year-old girls around the Nashville area. Detectives responded to a suspicious ad on Backpage.com and drove to a motel. There, they found the teens and their 37-year-old pimp, as well as a laptop computer, likely used for the online advertising. Just four days prior to that, four people in Denver were arrested for forcing a teen girl into prostitution. They also advertised her sexual services, including semi-nude pictures, on Backpage. And last year, a South Dakota couple was arrested for selling underage girls for sex on …. wait for it … Backpage.com yet again.
Here’s what Mailer, just one of the petition’s 80,000 supporters, had to say:
“The Village Voice was born out of the desire for an independent media voice for the people, a voice that had the freedom and authority to hold those who abuse power accountable for their actions. While I understand firsthand the financial difficulties facing all print publications today, the fact of the matter is that Village Voice is making money from selling advertisements that others have used to buy and sell minors for sex.”
He went on and also criticized the paper’s editorial direction.
“As my father’s son, knowing all of the hopes and dreams that went into the work of creating this particular paper, the Village Voice appears to have lost its way from the days when Dan Wolfe, Ed Fancher, and my father began it. For the sake of the Village Voice brand and for the sake of the legacy of a great publication, take down the adult section of Backpage.com, before Village Voice must answer for yet another child who is abused and exploited because you did not do enough to prevent it.”
Here’s part of the statement that Village Voice Media had issued in October addressing an open letter and full-page ad in The New York Times by a clergy collective:
Backpage has spent millions of dollars and dedicated countless resources to protecting children from those who would misuse an adult site.
It is true that, in carrying out their crimes, criminals continue to utilize services such as cell phones by Verizon and AT&T, and overnight delivery services such as FedEx and numerous internet sites . But that does not shift the blame from criminal predators to legal business operators.
If someone is caught shipping contraband through the Post Office, we do not shut down the U.S. mail.
Complicated issues require sophisticated solutions, not PR flurries.
It will be interesting to see what sophisticated solutions will actualize.