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Open Letter: Katie Courac, Today Show

"Designer Prostitution" was the topic of an interview by Katie Couric on the Today Show, August 11, 2003. It represented the horror of the middle and upper classes as they have fallen victim to the free-market forces as defined by Adam Smith. This is an open letter response and editorial to that nationally syndicated "town meeting" interview.
As most American's, I adore Katie Couric and was quite horrified by the teenage prostitution termed "designer sex" by the author that brought the issue to light because these young girls from rich families were trading their bodies for designer clothes and gadgets. However, I was far more troubled by the presentation of the story than I was by the fact that upper-class prostitution exists.

The author, "researcher", "scholar"... ?" made a statement to the effect that it was horrifying that prostitution had come to upper and middle class teenagers. Has it not been horrifying for centuries that poor children have been pressed into selling their bodies for scarce living essentials... a necessity of the impoverished classes artificially created by social and economic pressures? Where is our national shock and despair and social outrage for those economically disadvantaged children? The "Scholar/Researcher" author of this mini-tome is not advancing social awareness she is simply appealing with her work to the prurient interests of society; hers is not a consciously compassionate effort but a salacious pandering to base human curiosity.

It is the zeitgeist to focus on the plight of the wealthy and privileged classes and to lament their woes in the modern age. The sadness wrought on those who have traditionally sought and found safety in economic privilege is a modern curiosity as awareness dawns that economic advantage is not actual security because there is no security without social equity arising from conscious compassion; to care for you neighbor. Compassion is from the Latin and literally means; "to feel with." It is possible to have compassion for anyone outside of our own social class? Could this explain the dismissal of teenage prostitution among the impoverished by both the "researcher" and the interviewer? The following casual statement was made by the author as if it meant nothing... "Teen age prostitution among to poor economic classes has existed for years but this is the first... ."; as if the novelty gave upper class prostitution... "designer prostitution"... greater importance than the statistically more probable and centuries old exploitation and abuse targeted at economically disadvantaged youth.

These wealthy children are selling their bodies for designer items because it is easy money... that's what the "researcher" said. What was avoided, at all cost, were the social and economic forces that exist to create that market opportunity. The privileged, supported by commercial interests, have created a world of exclusion to which few can gain entry however they have laid a trap of values for their children. By portraying wealth and ostentatious displays as the highest good they have debased the value of; character, integrity, charm, whit, personality and all other noble human characteristics and replace them with material goods in defining a good life. These wealthy children are simply falling into the vacuum of social values endorsed by their parents and supported by society; a virtual monotheism of capitalist values. Middle and upper class teenage prostitution is simply a natural consequence of a social disease that attacks noble human values.

As a social commentator; I see Adam Smith at work in this equation and perceive an natural economic consequence. The market place has found equilibrium. There has always been a market for young flesh, however, artificial social pressures a demand for consumer items promoted by corporate interests and endorsed by the wealthy to create social and cultural symbols that exclude poor by identifying the wealthy have created greater social pressures on their own children by creating a huge consumer demand that the family cannot financially meet, thereby, exposing their children to a perceived need of material goods and created a new market of wealthy children ripe for exploitation. It is a simply the free market functioning as Adam Smith defined it. Why should anyone, especially the elite wealthy, be outraged or horrified by free market principles? Are these not the same principles staunchly defended by conservative political interests and exploited by corporate capitalist interests and represented by the success of the wealthy? Why should there be a greater concern with this trend of prostitution among wealthy kids than there is concern for the exploitation of poor kids? Why should society willingly accept the exploitation poor children and, yet, be horrified by wealthy kids who choose to trade their being for consumer goods... are not all men created equal and endowed with the right to choose? Why should anyone be horrified by the opening of a new economic market? Don't free market principles rely on notion that all men have economic choice and the poor have simply exercised poor economic choice? Why should the wealthy be outraged that the chickens of Adam Smith have come home to roost? Why should greater concern be placed on the welfare of the economically privileged than the welfare of the economically disadvantaged?

It seems that the wealthy are overly horrified by this exactly because they cannot have any compassion outside of their social and economic class. Their compassion is limited to their economic class creating a cultural taboo to exploit anyone among that social class just as ancient unwritten social and cultural taboos prohibited incest and cannibalism. "Designer Prostitution" is literally an economic cannibalism... wealthy men exploiting the children of economically advantaged families... the rich eating the rich... and it is shocking because it is a new social event. Exploitation of the economically disadvantaged is a commonly accepted social practice to which the wealthy have always been immune but there is a new cultural vampire that has no respect for those cultural traditions and, therefore, threatens to overthrow the old order that contributed to the establishment of the culture of wealth and power. This book and this interview is nothing less than a gathering of the towns people vigilante style, torches in hand, to confront and eliminate this monstrous threat and to return to the status quo. The torches, pitchforks, and lynching ropes are replaced by cultural rhetoric, economic advantage, and propagated fear. The meeting place was not the ancient town square but the modern NBC today show.

I look forward to the day when the media begins to address social issues from the root causes and not from the position of identifying threats to mainstream social, corporate, and political interests. That will mark a revolution in social consciousness and compassion. Simply reacting to social events and pandering to the salacious fears that both entice and revolt the mainstream audience is to perpetuate and exploit the ignorance and fears of the majority; it alienates conscious cultural compassion in favor of cultural and commercial solipsism.

Unfortunately, the networks are incapable of walking any high moral ground because like Pavlov's dogs they hear the ring in pandering to the weak of mind and weak of heart and like dogs they salivate at the financial reward promised by promoting ignorance and fear. Behind the veil of shareholder interest they crouch in hiding to plot the next assault on American ideals. The objectives of capitalism are hostile to the ideals of democracy because shareholder interest is privatized interest whereas the ideal of democracy is intended for the sovereign; generalized liberty, equality, and speech. Because there is no advance of shareholder interest; this editorial will never be read on the air. There is more profit in promoting fear and ignorance than promoting positive social change or democratic principles. It is sad to see media darlings dressed and primped and exuding confidence and compassion selling themselves in that marketplace to advance corporate and shareholder interests. How much different is that act from the acts of those little rich girls or the behavior of the president? In fact, it is all the same thing and nothing less than hooting out to fat moneyed businessmen in chaffered limousines while walking on the decrepit broken-down boulevard of American Dreams.

Ernesto.

Yes, I am quite aware of the irony of my position. I have compassion for anyone who would willingly sell out more noble human characteristics for some transitory material gain and that extends beyond my own social class, however, it is quite impossible to write a position piece without taking a position. All of this was stated in the opening paragraph but defensive aggression being what it is reiteration is always necessary... on a very pedestrian level... to prevent people from throwing the baby out with the bath. Thank you for your attention to the matter.