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Why the child sex trafficking film 'Sound of Freedom' is getting such conflicting reactions

People who laud the film are accused of being QAnon quacks, and those who criticize it are accused of being evil pedophiles. Here's how we got to this ridiculous point.

Sound of freedom trailer screenshot

"Sound of Freedom" has made more than $90 million at the box office.

The Angel Studios film "Sound of Freedom," released over the 4th of July weekend, has been a somewhat surprise box office hit, earning more than $90 million so far and earning a top spot at the box office.

If you follow conservative media, you may have gotten the impression that this film is an incredibly important, eye-opening look into the skeevy world of child sex trafficking and a hero who takes on the bad guys who snatch and enslave children into the sex trade.

If you follow more liberal media, you may have gotten the impression that this film is QAnon propaganda, with a starring actor who spews conspiracy theories about elites trafficking children in order to harvest their blood for youth-maintaining rituals and all manner of unspeakable debauchery.

So how did we get to a place where people who criticize this film are accused of being evil leftist pedophiles, and people who laud it are accused of being QAnon quacks?


As with most things poisoned by conspiracy theories and rank partisanship, the story is a bit muddled. I don't claim to have all of the answers, but I've interviewed Tim Ballard (the founder of Operation Underground Railroad (OUR), the subject of the film and the driving force behind it), I've written about other organizations combatting child sex trafficking and I've done my best to debunk the QAnonsense that has unfortunately become entangled with this very real issue. So I'm familiar with the road that brought us here.

"Sound of Freedom" was still in production when I interviewed Ballard in 2018. At the time, he seemed like a full-blown superhero in my eyes, utilizing his Department of Homeland Security training and expertise to root out the traffickers who buy and sell children for sex—the worst of the worst things humans do to one another. I spent an hour talking with him and cried after I got off the phone. Child sex trafficking is horrific, it's a real issue, the industry is bigger and more lucrative than most people might imagine and in order to combat it, someone has to be willing to go into the belly of the beast.

I learned a lot talking with Ballard, but notably missing from our conversation was anything QAnon-related. He mentioned nothing about pizza parlors or Hillary Clinton eating babies (remember Pizzagate?), nothing about Hollywood actors secretly being arrested for some global sex trafficking ring run by elites, nothing about adrenochrome or any of the other QAnon claims that were already well underway in 2018. The industry he talked about was similar to what other anti-trafficking organizations I've spoken to have described.

But in the years since I spoke to Ballard, I've been dismayed to see him and OUR tacitly courting of QAnoners who have completely wrong ideas about what child sex trafficking looks like. I've watched partisan politics play a bigger and bigger role in Ballard's anti-trafficking messaging (and fundraising) and have been baffled by his and OUR's seeming refusal to denounce any specific QAnon kookery—despite the comment sections of their social media accounts being filled with the stuff.

When fake claims that children were being trafficked through the Wayfair website by people ordering furniture with specific girls' names started circulating, I was hoping Ballard would set the record straight. Instead, he tweeted, "With or without Wayfair, child trafficking is real and happening!!!" totally leaving the door open for people who believed the story, despite it being unequivocally false. He also said, "Children are sold that way...no question about it, children are sold through social media and on websites," but that statement could easily be interpreted as him saying that kids are sold through major online retailers' storefronts rather than simply through online channels. That's false and misleading and plays right into the hands of QAnoners.

All I've ever seen from Ballard and OUR are vague statements like, "We don't support conspiracy theories," which is meaningless, because QAnon folks don't see themselves as conspiracy theorists. When the big #SaveTheChildren push came about in 2020, with its skewed statistics and total misrepresentation of the scope and reality of child sex trafficking, neither Ballard nor OUR corrected the widespread misinformation QAnon followers pushed. Instead, they saw the attention as an opportunity.

“Some of these theories have allowed people to open their eyes,” Ballard told the New York Times. “So now it’s our job to flood the space with real information so the facts can be shared.”

That approach belies a naive-at-best and disingenuous-at-worst understanding of how QAnon-addled minds operate. No matter how much "real information" and "facts" OUR and Ballard share, by not directly correcting and denouncing outlandish claims about child sex trafficking, they allow conspiracy theorists to conflate the real with the fake. The comments under every OUR post reveals how deep and twisted the misinformation goes, but from what I've seen, OUR has allowed those comments go unchallenged.

It may be worth noting that, in 2020, donations to OUR more than doubled, from $22 million to $47.5 million.

The way Ballard and OUR have neglected to set the record straight with their QAnon following has directly led to the extreme reactions to "Sound of Freedom." And frankly, it was totally predictable.

Of course, it doesn't help that the lead actor in the film, Jim Caveizel, appears to have fallen head-first into QAnon quackery himself and that Ballard has fully embraced the right-wing media machine that makes every issue into a partisan, politicized fight between good and evil. I've been watching with interest as Mira Sorvino—who plays the lead character's wife in the film and who has served as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the Global Fight against Human Trafficking since 2009—has done damage control, explicitly denouncing QAnon and trying desperately to explain that child trafficking is not a political issue.

"Sound of Freedom" is a fictionalized film based on some real events. However, the ethical nature of the raids OUR has been involved in is certainly up for debate, and OUR's tactics and credibility have been called into question multiple times. Certainly, the Rambo-style rescue narrative with the good guys busting in on the bad guys and saving the children can be, and has been, criticized for both sensationalism and shifting the focus away from victims and their stories.

At the end of the day, "Sound of Freedom" is not a QAnon film. It's also not the best depiction of child sex trafficking, according to many who work in the anti-trafficking field. The vast majority of child trafficking victims are not lured by strangers, but rather trafficked by people they know and trust, such as a family member, friend or romantic partner. And as it's a fictionalized account, there are parts of the film that aren't even true to the real story it's depicting (which OUR clarifies on its website).

People sure do love a dramatic hero story, though

For an excellent, in-depth rundown of the film and its various issues, read this Slate article by Molly Olmstead. And if you are interested in learning more about child sex trafficking and organizations combatting it without the controversy, check out:

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

The Polaris Project

Love 146

The Exodus Road

PACT (Protect All Children from Trafficking)

Thorn

International Justice Mission

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3 organic recipes that feed a family of 4 for under $7 a serving

O Organics is the rare brand that provides high-quality food at affordable prices.

A woman cooking up a nice pot of pasta.

Over the past few years, rising supermarket prices have forced many families to make compromises on ingredient quality when shopping for meals. A recent study published by Supermarket News found that 41% of families with children were more likely to switch to lower-quality groceries to deal with inflation.

By comparison, 29% of people without children have switched to lower-quality groceries to cope with rising prices.

Despite the current rising costs of groceries, O Organics has enabled families to consistently enjoy high-quality, organic meals at affordable prices for nearly two decades. With a focus on great taste and health, O Organics offers an extensive range of options for budget-conscious consumers.

O Organics launched in 2005 with 150 USDA Certified Organic products but now offers over 1,500 items, from organic fresh fruits and vegetables to organic dairy and meats, organic cage-free certified eggs, organic snacks, organic baby food and more. This gives families the ability to make a broader range of recipes featuring organic ingredients than ever before.


“We believe every customer should have access to affordable, organic options that support healthy lifestyles and diverse shopping preferences,” shared Jennifer Saenz, EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer at Albertsons, one of many stores where you can find O Organics products. “Over the years, we have made organic foods more accessible by expanding O Organics to every aisle across our stores, making it possible for health and budget-conscious families to incorporate organic food into every meal.”

With some help from our friends at O Organics, Upworthy looked at the vast array of products available at our local store and created some tasty, affordable and healthy meals.

Here are 3 meals for a family of 4 that cost $7 and under, per serving. (Note: prices may vary by location and are calculated before sales tax.)

O Organic’s Tacos and Refried Beans ($6.41 Per Serving)

Few dishes can make a family rush to the dinner table quite like tacos. Here’s a healthy and affordable way to spice up your family’s Taco Tuesdays.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 22 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 packet O Organics Taco Seasoning ($2.29)

O Organics Mexican-Style Cheese Blend Cheese ($4.79)

O Organics Chunky Salsa ($3.99)

O Organics Taco Shells ($4.29)

1 can of O Organics Refried Beans ($2.29)

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning to beef along with water [and cook as directed].

3. Add taco meat to the shell, top with cheese and salsa as desired.

4. Heat refried beans in a saucepan until cooked through, serve alongside tacos, top with cheese.

tacos, o organics, family recipesO Organics Mexican-style blend cheese.via O Organics

O Organics Hamburger Stew ($4.53 Per Serving)

Busy parents will love this recipe that allows them to prep in the morning and then serve a delicious, slow-cooked stew after work.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 7 hours

Total time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 ½ lbs O Organics Gold Potatoes ($4.49)

3 O Organics Carrots ($2.89)

1 tsp onion powder

I can O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 cups water

1 yellow onion diced ($1.00)

1 clove garlic ($.50)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Transfer the cooked beef to a slow cooker with the potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic.

3. Mix the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, onion powder and Italian seasoning in a separate bowl.

4. Drizzle the mixed sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix thoroughly.

5. Cover the slow cooker with its lid and set it on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until the potatoes are soft. Dish out into bowls and enjoy!

potatoes, o organics, hamburger stewO Organics baby gold potatoes.via O Organics


O Organics Ground Beef and Pasta Skillet ($4.32 Per Serving)

This one-pan dish is for all Italian lovers who are looking for a saucy, cheesy, and full-flavored comfort dish that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 27 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 can O Organics Diced Tomatoes ($2.00)

1 can O Organics Tomato Sauce ($2.29)

1 tbsp O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 1/4 cups water

2 cups O Organics Rotini Pasta ($3.29)

1 cup O Organics Mozzarella cheese ($4.79)

Instructions:

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.

2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder

3. Add tomato paste, sauce and diced tomatoes to the skillet. Stir in water and bring to a light boil.

4. Add pasta to the skillet, ensuring it is well coated. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese and allow it to cool.

o organics, tomato basil pasta sauce, olive oilO Organics tomato basil pasta sauce and extra virgin olive oil.via O Organics

Marcos Alberti's "3 Glasses" project began with a joke and a few drinks with his friends.

The photo project originally depicted Alberti's friends drinking, first immediately after work and then after one, two, and three glasses of wine.

But after Imgur user minabear circulated the story, "3 Glasses" became more than just a joke. In fact, it went viral, garnering more than 1 million views and nearly 1,800 comments in its first week. So Alberti started taking more pictures and not just of his friends.



"The first picture was taken right away when our guests (had) just arrived at the studio in order to capture the stress and the fatigue after a full day after working all day long and from also facing rush hour traffic to get here," Alberti explained on his website. "Only then fun time and my project could begin. At the end of every glass of wine, a snapshot, nothing fancy, a face and a wall, 3 times."

Why was the series so popular? Anyone who has ever had a long day at work and needed to "wine" down will quickly see why.

Take a look:

Photos of person after drinking glasses of win

All photos by Marcos Alberti, used with permission.

assets.rebelmouse.io

Photos of person after drinking glasses of win

assets.rebelmouse.io

This article originally appeared on 11.19.16

Images provided by P&G

Three winners will be selected to receive $1000 donated to the charity of their choice.

True

Doing good is its own reward, but sometimes recognizing these acts of kindness helps bring even more good into the world. That’s why we’re excited to partner with P&G again on the #ActsOfGood Awards.

The #ActsOfGood Awards recognize individuals who actively support their communities. It could be a rockstar volunteer, an amazing community leader, or someone who shows up for others in special ways.

Do you know someone in your community doing #ActsOfGood? Nominate them between April 24th-June 3rdhere.Three winners will receive $1,000 dedicated to the charity of their choice, plus their story will be highlighted on Upworthy’s social channels. And yes, it’s totally fine to nominate yourself!

We want to see the good work you’re doing and most of all, we want to help you make a difference.

While every good deed is meaningful, winners will be selected based on how well they reflect Upworthy and P&G’s commitment to do #ActsOfGood to help communities grow.

That means be on the lookout for individuals who:

Strengthen their community

Make a tangible and unique impact

Go above and beyond day-to-day work

The #ActsOfGood Awards are just one part of P&G’s larger mission to help communities around the world to grow. For generations, P&G has been a force for growth—making everyday products that people love and trust—while also being a force for good by giving back to the communities where we live, work, and serve consumers. This includes serving over 90,000 people affected by emergencies and disasters through the Tide Loads of Hope mobile laundry program and helping some of the millions of girls who miss school due to a lack of access to period products through the Always #EndPeriodPoverty initiative.

Visit upworthy.com/actsofgood and fill out the nomination form for a chance for you or someone you know to win. It takes less than ten minutes to help someone make an even bigger impact.

Family

Two girl dads debate on which public bathroom they should take their daughters into

These dads disagreed on whether the women's of men's bathroom was best. So they asked TikTok to weigh in.

@djdrewski/TikTok

It’s a dilemma every girl dad must eventually face—choosing whether to take their daughters into the women’s bathroom, or the men’s. Sure, some places (more and more these days) have all-gender or family bathrooms with changing stations, but generally speaking those are far and few between.

Recently, DJ Drewski found himself and his brother—a fellow girl dad—facing this common predicament, and each father had a different opinion on which bathroom was the correct choice. So, Drewski thought he might settle the debate on TikTok.

“So two girl dads in Disney, we're in Disney World right now,” Drewski begins. “As a girl dad, I bring my daughter into the men's room, of course, into a stall in that bathroom. My brother brings his daughter into the female restroom. The women's restroom. We don't know which is the right way to do it or how women feel.”

@djdrewski As a “Girl Dad” which restroom are you supoose to use with your toddler DAUGHTER in public places??? #question #girldad #toddlersoftiktok #disney ♬ original sound - DJ Drewski

Where Drewski “doesn’t feel comfortable’ going into the women’s restroom, his brother argued that the women’s room is cleaner, and therefore better suited for his daughter. The second opinion matched the rationale of a girl dad Upworthy covered back in 2021, who lamented that “Men's bathrooms are DISGUSTING. They smell like pee and nothing is set up for a woman or a person with a child.”

Other moms seemed to share a preference for dad’s entering the women restroom, so long as they announce they’re coming in.

“Women’s rest room just yell girl dad coming in,” one person commented

Another said, “Ladies will accept you, just announce yourself. If any ladies give you trouble, they obviously don't have kids. Ignore them.”

However, folks weren’t vehemently opposed to taking daughter’s into the men’s room.

“As a Girl Dad... men's room straight to a stall... never have I ever had any issues .. lol” one viewer quipped.

Another shared, “My dad used to bring me to the guys bathroom and have me close my eyes until we got into the stall! Never was a problem to me or my mom ! Whatever you prefer I think.”

And of course, another viewer added that it sure would be nice to “normalize” changing tables in men’s rooms as well.

It’s clear that each of these dads are trying to do what’s best for their daughters, and are willing to have open conversations about how to best go about it. That’s perhaps the biggest and best takeaway of all here, regardless of which bathroom they choose. Just wash those hands!

Pop Culture

Man's seemingly obvious 'dishwasher hack' is blowing everyone's minds

One man’s observation about his dishwasher may change the way you do dishes forever.

Mike McLoughlan realized something very important about his dishwasher.

No one likes doing the dishes, but the tedious chore is made much easier when using a dishwasher. However, an alarming amount of people have reported that their dishwashers can actually make the job harder because they don't properly fit their dishes.

And that's where Twitter user Mike McLoughlin (@zuroph) comes in.

Back in January, McLoughlin made an observation about his dishwasher that would change the way he does dishes forever. For a decade, the Irishman thought that the bottom rack of his washer simply was too small for his large dinner plates. Then he made an amazing discovery:


The tweet went totally viral, and was shared over 14,000 times. He even tweeted a picture to show just how much he could fit in the dishwasher now that he knows the racks are adjustable:

The "hack" (is it still called a hack if the appliance is doing what it is supposed to be doing?) blew people's minds:

But other people were basically like, "Seriously, dude?"

While a group of others tried to one-up McLoughlin with stories of their own:


Okay, go on and check your own dishwasher. You know you want to.


This article first appeared on 8.16.18.

A husband admitted he tended to "trust" his mom's parenting advice more than his wife's.

A dad who goes by @sergey.be.be on TikTok reached out to viewers in hopes of better navigating a perpetual argument with his wife.

In the clip, he shared that his wife is “frequently offended” that he seeks advice from his mother on how to raise their daughter. But since his mom has had “experience raising three children” compared to his wife’s first time at motherhood, he “tends to trust” mom’s advice more.

Unsurprisingly, this has led to frequent quarrels, and has persisted after the baby was born.


The dad went on to explain that, unlike his mother, his wife “insists she knows everything, suggesting we can always look things up on Google if needed.”

He then offered this example: “when I inquired about swaddling for our newborn, my mother recommended swaddling with straightened legs because if you don't swaddle your baby, his legs will be crooked, while my wife disagreed, saying it was a thing of the past."

@sergey.be.be My wife is frequently offended when I seek advice from my mother regarding raising our daughter. Our differing opinions have led to frequent quarrels. How can I navigate this situation? #newborn #momanddaughter #baby #babylove ♬ Surrender - Natalie Taylor

Well, not taking sides here, but a quick Google search does in fact list several resources which state that straight-leg swaddling is, in fact, not recommended, and considered potentially harmful. So it’s understandable that this man’s wife might be frustrated that her husband actively chooses his mother’s objectively inaccurate opinion over her own research.

Viewers unanimously agreed with this sentiment, though the responses ranged somewhere between gentle and brutally blunt.

“I guess he is TRYING to get divorced,” one person wrote.

Another quipped, “You should marry your mom 💕 hope this helps!”

Others tried to help illuminate the wife’s point of view, and point out why this husband’s action might be so upsetting.

“Your wife probably did HOURs, DAYS MONTHS of researching the current safe ways of doing things,” one person argued. “If you aren't’ going to trust her, at least ask to read what she’s reading so you can get insight. Then, if after reading you still have doubts, talk to your wife. Do not bring up your mom’s opinion.”

Another reasoned, “that’s like her asking her dad how you should be a father.”

Professionals also weighed in. A NICU nurse wrote, “things have changed in the last 3 years alone. Your mother doesn’t know. This is the woman you chose, learn and grow with her.”

And finally, I think this warning from a couples therapist really sums it all up: “prioritize your new family over your old family.”

If this man was indeed seeking advice (and not justification for his actions) then he certainly got what he asked for. Either way, the conversation can hopefully help put things into perspective for others.

Lunch looks a lot different outside of the U.S.

For those of us who grew up in the United States eating lunch in a cafeteria, the idea of looking at a bunch of trays of school food may be less than compelling. But what's surprisingly interesting, however, is what children from the rest of the world are eating instead. Check out these common lunch dishes from around the globe and let us know they seem accurate.

The photos were part of a project entitled "School Lunches Around the World" by Sweetgreen In Schools, a program "that educates kids about healthy eating, fitness, and sustainability through fun, hands-on activities."

This article originally appeared on 10.30.17