Sound of Freedom Pushes Harmful Myths About Human Tr*fficking

Jul 21, 2023

What do conspiracy theories and movies about white saviors have in common? A lot, but mainly that they’re both based on misinformation that hurts *actual* tr*fficking victims.

The latest rendition of “white man saves victims of tr*fficking under completely unrealistic circumstances with lots of shooting” is Sound of Freedom, a film supported by and starring QAnon conspiracy theorists that is doing alarmingly well at the box office.

Sound of Freedom is a fictionalized account of real life Tim Ballard who left his job as a Homeland Security agent to start the religiously funded nonprofit OUR (Operation Underground Railroad). He explicitly compares himself to Harriet Tubman while orchestrating “operations” to violently catch people for allegedly tr*fficking children. He does this by recruiting donors to set up situation rooms in their homes, and filming a group of well armed men who pose as sextourists outside of U.S. jurisdiction. They then stage elaborate raids where the children are “rescued” only to be returned to the dire and impoverished circumstances from which they came.

While the movie is based on a real person, the way that tr*fficking is portrayed has absolutely no connection to reality. Like many of the white slave panic films that came before it, Sound of Freedom features a dangerous stranger staging a sudden kidnapping. Most tr*fficking victims know their abusers. The majority of tr*fficking is labor tr*fficking of adults, which is not well addressed in our society.

Perpetuating the myth that the majority of human tr*fficking has anything to do with s*x tr*fficking of very young children or middle class kids means that the public, and even the police, can’t recognize real exploitation actually happening in their communities. These misrepresentations have harmful consequences for real victims of tr*fficking.

Movies like Sound of Freedom also fosters the idea that all we need to resolve systemic issues like tr*fficking by way of a violent white man with a badge and/or gun. These films are copaganda and promote criminalization as the only way to save victims of tr*fficking.

As SWers, we know what keeps us safe: Decriminalizing SW and providing resources to those who need support. We also know what doesn’t work: Criminalizing SWers, our clients, and conducting violent raids like the ones depicted in Song of Freedom. Over-policing only leads to more desperate victims being put in harm’s way, because everyone, including law enforcement, is looking for signs of tr*fficking in the wrong places.

Do not go see this movie. Do tell your friends about decriminalizing SW.