Kooky conspiracy theories are detracting from the very real issue of child trafficking
Photo by Mahir Uysal on Unsplash

Two years ago, I got off the phone after an interview and cried my eyes out. I'd just spent an hour talking to Tim Ballard, the founder of Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that helps fight child sex trafficking, and I just couldn't take it.

Ballard told me about how the training to go undercover as a child predator nearly broke him. He told me an eerie story of a trafficker who could totally compartmentalize, showing Ballard photos of kids he had for sale, then switching gears to proudly show him a photo of his own daughter on her bicycle, just as any parent would. He told me about how lucrative child trafficking is—how a child can bring in three or four times as much as a female prostitute—and how Americans are the industry's biggest consumers.


But you know what he didn't mention in our hour-long conversation? Pizza, hot dogs, Hollywood elites, or any of the other child sex trafficking conspiracy theories raging around the internet. Not one of them. Not once.

You know who else doesn't mention any of those things? The organizations that have spent years and years battling child sex trafficking while most of us blissfully went along in our daily lives, largely oblivious to it.

No matter our political, religious, or ideological leanings, the unfathomable hideousness of child sex trafficking is something all of us should be able to agree on. But that doesn't make conspiracy theories about pizza parlors and Satanic pedophile rings palatable, or even remotely acceptable.

Did people learn nothing from the man who believed the Pizzagate conspiracy and fired his AR-15 inside of Comet Ping Pong in Washington D.C. because he believed a baseless pedophile ring conspiracy theory involving the pizza parlor?

There are still people who think that Pizzagate thing is real. (For those who have been blissfully spared from that lunacy, you can read about it here.) But that's not even the kookiest thing I've seen lately. There's a veritable laundry list of child sex trafficking posts going around, including:

- Oprah, Tom Hanks, Ellen Degeneres and other "Hollywood elites" have actually been arrested, and the pandemic is all a distraction to cover up the crackdown on these celebrities. (Fact check here. Oh and another one here.)

- Model and wife of John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, is a pedophile because she's tweeted a whole bunch about pizza and because she had a sardonic sense of humor about the sexualization of little kids on the show Toddlers & Tiaras back in 2013. (Fact check here and here.)

- Wayfair—yes, the home goods products store—has coded listings for missing children being sold at exorbitant prices in a child sex trafficking scheme. (No, they don't. Fact check here.)

- Having children wear masks will make it easier for kids to be trafficked because no one can see the expression on the kids' faces or identify them. (As if child traffickers weren't already successfully trafficking kids without masks. Fact check here.)

- There's a concerted effort to make "age fluidity" a thing, and to make pedophilia an accepted sexual orientation. (There is one very small group called NAMBLA, which has been trying to abolish consent laws since the 1970s, but claims that there's some kind of "movement" to normalize pedophilia as a legitimate sexual orientation is actually an effort to harm the LBGTQ+ community. Fact check here.)

- Obama and Clinton are satanic leaders of a global child-sex-trafficking cabal—which includes most Democrats and Hollywood, apparently—who feast on children's adrenal glands in order to increase their power. (Fact check here, although if you seriously need a fact check for this you are already too far gone, my friend. On a related note, this article about the parallels between QAnon and "alternate reality games" is suuuuper fascinating and explains a lot.)

- Obama spent $65,000 on a "hot dog" party, which is code for little boys and pedophilia. (You know what? I'm not even going to fact check this, because come on.)

And that's not even all of them.

Of course, there are some legitimate questions to be asked about how much involvement certain celebrities and politicians, including Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, had with known pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Having watched a beloved figure like Bill Cosby fall from grace over sexual misconduct, we know what's possible. But none of those Epstein connections are a secret. It's all being reported on in the real news and has been since Epstein started being investigated. (There's also a lot of misinformation about who was involved with Epstein, and to what degree, and in what capacity, and none of these conspiracy theories are helping us get to the truth of the matter.)

The main problem is this: When you conflate the actual issue of child sex trafficking—which is absolutely real and serious and deserves our attention—with totally off-the-wall, debunked conspiracy theories, it causes people to put their energies in the wrong places.

The Polaris Project, a national organization that fights human trafficking, had to release a statement asking people to stop calling about Wayfair because it was overwhelming the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

"While Polaris treats all calls to the Trafficking Hotline seriously, the extreme volume of these contacts has made it more difficult for the Trafficking Hotline to provide support and attention to others who are in need of help," the group said in a July 20 press release. "We strongly encourage everyone to learn more about what human trafficking really looks like in most situations, and about how you can help fight trafficking in your own community."

What it often looks like is a family member trafficking a child, such as Melody Cholish's story she recently shared with us. Sometimes it looks different, and you can find all kinds of stories and information about child trafficking from the many organizations that have worked for years on this issue, including Save the Children, Operation Underground Railroad, the Polaris Project, Love 146, and Stop the Traffik. (Please use those sites for "doing research" instead of Twitter or QAnon or YouTube or memes that come through your feed.)

The other problem is that the issue of child sex trafficking is suddenly being used to deflect from every other important issue, because "Oh yeah? What about CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING???" is a fairly effective deflection. I mean, who doesn't think that child sex trafficking is the absolute worst of the worst things humans do? Black Lives Matter? What about CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING? Horrible pandemic situation due to inept leadership? What about CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING?

I mean, we can care about more than one thing at a time. The question is, why did all these conspiracy theorists not care this much about child sex trafficking until they thought it was "evil liberal elites" doing it? Why was no one calling child sex trafficking a "pandemic" until we were in the middle of an uncontrolled literal pandemic? Why were there no widespread protests against child sex trafficking until there were widespread protests for Black Lives Matter?

As I mentioned, Tim Ballard didn't say a single thing about Hollywood elites or pizza parlor basements or adrenal-sucking rituals or anything of the sort in our hour-long conversation about child sex trafficking. And he's an expert on this topic. He's also a conservative Trump supporter. He's not peddling any of these conspiracies, and neither are any of the legitimate organizations that are working to end child trafficking. Not one.

Either every major organization working to end child sex trafficking is a part of The Big Evil Global Elite Pedo Ring Plot or people who spend too much time on social media are being taken by baseless, politically-driven nonsense that's probably being pumped out of some guy's basement. My money is on the latter.

Stick with the organizations that have been doing this work for decades. Get your information from them. Stop sharing crazy internet conspiracies simply because you want people to know you care about children, or because it justifies your hatred of people you see as your enemies. We can—and must—unite to fight child sex trafficking without resorting to insane, debunked rumors that muddy the waters and distract from the real problem.

True

2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.

via Wikimedia Commons and Goalsetter

America's ethnic wealth gap is a multi-faceted problem that would take dramatic action, on multiple fronts, to overcome. One of the ways to help communities improve their economic well-being is through financial literacy.

Investopedia says there are five primary sources of financial education—families, high school, college, employers, and the military — and that education and household income are two of the biggest factors in predicting whether someone has a high level of financial literacy.

New Orleans Saints safety, two-time Super Bowl Champion, and social justice activist Malcolm Jenkins and The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation hope to help bridge the wealth gap by teaching students about investing at a young age.

Keep Reading Show less
True

2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.