Wednesday, 14 February 2018

The strange case of the Oxfam scandal

The charity Oxfam has been rocked by the revelation that some of its workers used prostitutes in Haiti. The corporate media and the political elite have reacted to the disclosures with shock and moral indignation. Yet all the expressions of horror ring hollow.

It has long been known that aid workers have sexually exploited and assaulted the very people they are supposed to be helping. The problem has simply and consistently been ignored and covered up by so called NGOs, governments, the United Nations and the corporate media, rationalising disingenuously that bringing attention to such behaviour would discourage public support and thus undermine the humanitarian work.

Given that this exploitation has been in the public domain for at least a decade, one cannot but wonder about the timing, and the specificity, of this scandal: why now? why Oxfam? Obviously, I do not know the answers to these questions. However, the timing is very possibly due to the moral panic around sexual harassment that is currently sweeping the so called West. As to the focus on Oxfam, as distinct from all the other agencies that could just as easily be targeted, my guess is that it may well have something to do with the charity's well publicised criticism of economic inequality.

Oxfam has repeatedly exposed the extent to which the global economy is structured to promote the interests of a handful of men at the expense of the bulk of the world's population. The billionaire class do, of course, control the corporations, the so called mainstream media, and are able to buy political influence.

Perhaps, the current moral panic around sexual exploitation is simply a convenient way of silencing a vocal critic of economic inequality.


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