For background information on Tony Ortega, please visit The Cooked Story (especially the article entitled “A Man of Secrets”), “Atheists or Religious Haters?“, and The Daily Cannibal. Please note that the information on these websites may be upsetting to some—the true facts that bigots like Tony Ortega, Mike Rinder, Marty Rathbun, et al work so desperately to hide about themselves are nothing short of sickening and repulsive. The content on this page may be offensive to some. As such, discretion is strongly advised.
This is Part Two of a series of articles covering the anti-religious extremism and hypocrisy of tabloid blogger Tony Ortega. If you haven’t already, please read Part One.
This article is a rather long and exhaustive examination, so for those whose attention span is ridiculously short, the tl;dr summary follows (which will still be too long for most of Tony Ortega’s hardcore fanatics, but this isn’t for them anyway):
Tony Ortega, former editor-in-chief of The Village Voice and Voice Media Group (formerly New Times Media and Village Voice Media) are complicit in the sex and human trafficking of children and women through Backpage.com, established in 2004 as an alternative to Craigslist.
Tony Ortega and former chief Voice Media Group executives (and current majority shareholders of Backpage, which now exists as a legally separate entity from VMG interests) Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin knew of the illegal activities and transactions — including, but not limited to sex and human trafficking — that have been conducted on Backpage since its founding in 2004 and which continue to the present day in violation of state, federal and international laws, as well as constituting a gross violation of basic human rights, decency and dignity.
Tony Ortega, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin have never admitted guilt or complicity and have continually denied that sex and human trafficking was ever being conducted on Backpage.
Tony Ortega, for his part, has persistently argued that allegations of sex and human trafficking on Backpage were and are baseless and simply the result of “mass panics” on the part of overzealous “political activists.” He denounces accusations of sex and human trafficking as a “national fantasy” and has attempted to link them to the moral panic among many Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians in the 1980s regarding allegations of Satanic ritual abuse, which were found by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to be imaginary.
It is unconscionable and unspeakably offensive for Tony Ortega to attempt to discredit actual cases of sex and human trafficking by claiming these are the products of delusional children, women and political activists with an overactive imagination and attempting to link trafficking to the “Satanic panic” of the 1980s.
That Tony Ortega is a sex and human trafficking denialist is an established fact and he has himself admitted in his own words that he denies the existence of such trafficking. The same holds true of Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, who have similarly denied the reality of sex and human trafficking.
As such, Tony Ortega, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin are nothing short of criminals and psychopaths. They have no credibility whatsoever, and even worse, they lack even the most fundamental and basic aspects of human decency: compassion, mercy and the ability to tell the simple truth under oath.
On his tabloid gossip blog, The Underground Bunker, Tony Ortega — who has a bizarrely surreal habit of referring to himself in the plural, even though he is the sole author of his blog posts (e.g. we rather than simply I like a normal, sane human writer) — often laments that actual media outlets and professional journalists ignore his blog posts or that their coverage of Scientology contradicts his own claims and allegations about Scientology. He has never once admitted that the reason for this is that he is simply not a credible nor legitimate “journalist” and actual professionals really don’t care what he has to write or say. But careful now, because if you call him out on his asinine ranting on his blog comments section, you might very well find yourself permanently banned from ever posting there again.
It gets even more absurd. Over the years since Tony Ortega began obsessively blogging about Scientology in 2008, there have been a few brave souls who actually dared to question the veracity of certain claims and allegations based entirely on hearsay or “anonymous insider sources” (like his drinking buddies over at the National Enquirer and Weekly World News, his paramount source of anti-Scientology gossip) that he would post to his blog and present as if it were all completely sourced and verifiably factual. Those who did dare venture to do so would soon find their comments mysteriously deleted, usually without even a hint of an explanation.
In those early, heady days of his anti-Scientology blogging, Ortega relied on a low-paid IT staffer over at The Village Voice to commit these blatant acts of censorship, because he has no technical expertise whatsoever and even today, relies entirely on his virtually unpaid personal attorney, Scott Pilutik, who does his work for Ortega out of atheist, anti-religious solidarity and comradeship. They may not have much money, but all things considered, at least they do have each other, though apparently their New Atheist idols Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris have been laughing all the way to bank for years now, with Dawkins reportedly worth at least $135 million USD and Harris — who is often credited with having launched the movement — having certainly made more than a pretty penny with his semifictional doom and gloom narratives. Ortega simply doesn’t have the same kind of cult following to sustain a viable career in anti-Scientology preaching and what is frustrating him to the point of insanity is that he’ll never reach those same lofty heights of financial success. The same also holds true for others in his gang who have been trying in vain for years to turn out some kind of profit from their anti-Scientology “careers,” including his cult partners Mark “Marty” Rathbun, Mike Rinder, Marc Headley, Amy Scobee, Karen de la Carriere, Jeffrey Augustine, Garry Scarrf (whose bizarre association with the Jonestown tragedy still raises questions), Donald Myers (the infamous Angry Gay Pope, a borderline sex offender who gets his jollies harassing Scientologist children on their way to school) and once in a blue moon, Jason Beghe and Paul Haggis, who tend to throw this gang of jokers a few bucks here and there. [Some may note that a few key names are missing from this list, but I have my reasons for not lumping certain other figures in with these characters. Unlike the anti-Scientologist extremists, I don’t paint everyone with the same brush, no matter how opposed to Scientology they all are.]
According to sources I spoke to at Publishers Weekly, sales figures for anti-Scientology literature have been consistently disappointing from the start, with the only possible exceptions being Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman and Going Clear by Lawrence Wright, both of which miserably failed to sell out on their first printing. One need only pay a visit to large discount booksellers like Powells, Half-Price Books or The Strand to find dozens of brand new copies of these books just sitting there catch dust on shelves and in musty backrooms. My source at Publishers Weekly told me in the starkest possible terms, “Books critical of Scientology just don’t sell very well, and that’s been true for years. The popular interest just isn’t there.”
I sincerely cannot blame Tony Ortega for being frustrated with the predicament he found himself in at The Village Voice in 2008. Living in New York City — in the heart of Manhattan, no less — having to manage a once venerable and respected force in progressive politics and activism that could barely stay afloat while at the same time trying to balance his books and figure out how to pay his rent on time, pay for groceries without having to apply for food stamps, and as if all that weren’t enough, figure out a way to divorce his Indonesian Muslim wife, who he was cheating on with an atheist Israeli woman named Arielle Silverstein, whose anti-Muslim and anti-Arab prejudice and racism would not allow Ortega to maintain the facade of his marriage until at least he could find some breathing room to sort out the mess that his life had become.
The Village Voice itself had been rapidly declining under its new owners, the Phoenix-based New Times Media, who had purchased it in 2005, along with several other major alternative weeklies across the country, which sparked an outcry among many long-time readers, in particular due to New Times Media‘s ownership of Backpage, an ill-conceived alternative to Craigslist, but lacking any semblance of oversight, nor even the slightest shred of decency, compassion, and humanity. I could present you hundreds of links to nearly countless pages, petitions and articles with information about just how deep the rabbit hole goes when it comes to New Times Media tacit involvement in sex and human trafficking, such as the following listed below, but as if all this wasn’t enough to make you sick to your stomach, wait until the quote that comes after this long and exhaustive list:
- Backpage.com accused of facilitating sex trafficking by Julie Strupp, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism / September 02 2011
- Protests against sex trafficking by Jessica Rubio, Daily Titan / October 10 2011
- With Allies Like These, Who Needs Enemies? by Kevin M. Ryan, President and CEO, Covenant House / August 02 2012
- Children Don’t Belong on the Backpage by Wendi Adelson, Attorney and Author / July 11 2012
- The Internet, Backpage, Child Trafficking, Congress — and Our Responsibility to Vulnerable Children by Malika Saada Saar, Director, Rights4Girls; Special Counsel on Human Rights for The Raben Group / July 10 2012
- Financiers and Sex Trafficking by Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times / March 31 2012
- Goldman Sachs Sex Trafficking Controversy: Company Sells Stake In Village Voice Media via Reuters / April 01 2012
- Three Teens Sue BackPage.com Over Sex Trafficking by Kevin Dolak, ABC News / July 30 2012
- Congresswoman takes aim at Backpage and sex trafficking by Nancy Cambria, St. Louis Post-Dispatch / March 13 2014
- Nicholas Kristof Blames Backpage For Aiding Child Prostitution by Simon McCormack, The Huffington Post / March 27 2012
- Backpage.com and the thin line between free speech and sex crime by Matt Pearce, The Los Angeles Times / July 30 2012
- Combating Sex Trafficking in the Internet Age by Allison Wiseman, Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review / October 30 2012
- Online And Anonymous: New Challenges To Prosecuting Sex Trafficking All Things Considered, NPR / August 03 2013
- Violent Backpage.com pimp Leon Brown guilty of sex trafficking by Shayna Jacobs, New York Daily News / August 27 2013
- Kirk Proposes Legislation To End Sex Trafficking by Colleen Connolly, NBC5 Chicago / March 10 2014
- Backpage.com’s adult ads continue to normalize, increase demand for sex trafficking by Thanh Tan, The Seattle Times / April 25 2014
- Fighting Online Sex Trafficking in Arkansas by Marine Glisovic, ABC7 KATV Arkansas / April 27 2015
- Local prostitution ring busted in national FBI crackdown on human trafficking, ‘Operation Cross Country’ by Matt Nussbaum, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette / June 22 2014
- Sex trafficking an old problem in Bellevue with new challenges by Brandon Macz, Bellevue Reporter / August 7 2014
- 2 face charges for sex trafficking by David Harris, Orlando Sentinel / August 27 2014
- Stop Selling Women: Backpage.com Getting Away With Sex Trafficking by Penny Nance, President and CEO, Concerned Women for America / October 28 2014
- Alleged child sex trafficking victims suing Backpage.com by Travis Andersen, The Boston Globe / October 17 2014
- Backpage.com: We Aren’t Liable For Hosting Child Sex Trafficking Ads by Susanne Posel, Occupy Corporatism / October 22 2014
- Pair arrested at Bangor motel on sex trafficking charges involving a minor by Dawn Gagnon, Bangor Daily News / January 02 2015
- Trafficking in North Dakota is on the rise, and often the victims can’t escape by Amy Dalrymple and Katherine Lymn, Forum News Service / January 04 2015
- Police Apprehend Sex Trafficking Suspect in Providence by Frank O’Laughlin, NECN Rhode Island / January 30 2015
- Three men arrested in undercover sex-trafficking operation by Rikki Mitchell, KGUN0 Tucson / January 30 2015
- National sex trafficking sting nets nearly 600 arrests before Super Bowl by James Queally, The Los Angeles Times / February 02 2015
- Hundreds Of Johns Arrested In Sex-Trafficking Sting That Culminated On Super Bowl Sunday by Kim Bellware, The Huffington Post / February 02 2015
- AG Healey Files Brief Arguing That Backpage.com Can Be Held Liable for Facilitating Human Trafficking Commonwealth of Massachusetts / February 20 2015
- Atlanta joins fight against Backpage’s alleged role in promoting sex trafficking by Phil W. Hudson, Atlanta Business Chronicle / February 20 2015
- Sex Ad On Backpage.com Leads Agents To Man Trafficking Teen Runaway In Sunnyvale Motel CBS San Francisco / February 26 2015
- Six Major Cities Wage Alleged Use of “Backpage” in Child Sex Trafficking San Francisco City Attorney’s Office / March 12 2015
- Shut Backpage.com Down by Joanne Giannini, GoLocalProv / April 06 2015
- Oregon AG married to owner of Willamette Week, who uses Backpage on his site by Dan Tilkin, KOIN6 Portland / April 29 2015
- Sex trafficking, the dirty side of the Kentucky Derby by Miranda Combs, WKYT-TV Lexington / May 01 2015
- Backpage Sex Trafficking at the Kentucky Derby by Trench Reynolds / May 02 2015
- Wellhouse founder to discuss sex trafficking, prostitution in Birmingham area by Ana Rodriguez, AL.com [Birmingham, Alabama] / May 11 2015
- Backpage child sex trafficking lawsuit nixed thanks to ‘internet freedoms’ by Andrew Orlowski, The Register / May 21 2015
I remember the last couple of mass panics. Do you?
There was the daycare scare of the 1980s, when we were told that child molesters had infiltrated childcare centers across the country. From the beginning of the panic, with the infamous McMartin Preschool trial (which ended in zero convictions), it should have been obvious that there was something hard to believe about the media reports of this nationwide crime epidemic.
Toddlers who had been hypnotized reported that they were being flown to Mexico to be sexually abused, killed, eaten, and then magically restored before Mom and Dad could pick them up (that is actual testimony from one particularly incredible trial that did, in fact, send a Texas couple to prison).
Gripped by mass fear, it took the public some time to wake up from that fever dream. About the same time, America was hyperventilating over another nonexistent threat: satanic cults that, experts swore, were sacrificing thousands of victims across America.
Remember that one? I’m sure Geraldo Rivera does.
We’ve panicked in other ways since those days, but if we tended to see terrorists everywhere after 9/11, at least there was vivid evidence that we had become a target.
But even that threat is fading. Our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are receding fast from public consciousness. Our economy is gradually crawling back. Crime remains at record lows. A new presidential campaign is only in its earliest stages.
What’s there to panic about today?
A small group of political activists is quite ready to provide the answer. In the second decade of the 21st century, we are being told that there’s a widespread, growing, and out-of-control problem to fear in our country. And it has a catchy name: “trafficking.”
In cities across America, we are told over and over, like a mantra, that “100,000 to 300,000” underage sex slaves have been stashed away from public view, with more joining them every day. It’s a problem growing so quickly that the United States soon will be no better than Moldova or Nepal in regard to child sex trafficking. Why go to the Third World looking for this nightmare when our cities and suburbs are bursting with children in bondage?
Feel that panic in your chest? Must have been what Geraldo experienced. Now, step back and take a deep breath.
—Tony Ortega, Editor-in-Chief, The Village Voice July 6 2011 / CNN’s Amber Lyon Ambushed Craigslist — But She Won’t Talk To The Village Voice
Yes, dear readers, that was Tony Ortega’s response to all of the hundreds upon hundreds, if not thousands of cases worldwide of pimps, madams, brothels, drug cartels, gangs, and other assorted scum of the earth who have all been convicted in numerous courts of law for sex and human trafficking, including child prostitution. Is this the behavior and attitude of a person that you can sincerely trust? And this was the response he presented to the media even after he had been presented with overwhelming evidence in the form of court documents, witness testimony, photographs, videotapes, and digital media conclusively proving that Backpage was guilty as sin and that as New Times Media‘s pointman and corporate enforcer from the very outset in the early 2000s, he was — alongside chief executives Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin — complicit in the sex slavery and forced prostitution of countless children and women around the world.
Ironically, a little over a year later, in spite of his ironclad loyalty to his bosses in Phoenix, Tony Ortega was ordered to resign his position as editor-in-chief of The Village Voice effective September 2012, under terms that he has chosen, to this very day, not to disclose. Not even to those twenty or thirty devoted cult followers of his daily anti-Scientology blog.
The official story given to the media by The Voice and himself was that he was leaving of his own accord in order to spend all of his free time writing a book about how much he hates Scientology and wealthy, successful Scientologists.
The unofficial story that was whispered around the hallowed halls of The Voice was that Ortega was being unceremoniously canned for spending too much time blogging about Scientology and not enough time doing what his Phoenix bosses demanded him to do.
But, what of the real story, or more accurately, the raw story? Tony Ortega’s bosses in Phoenix were shredding and burning all the evidence implicating them in this global scandal that had spiraled so out of control that they were once again at risk to go to prison, perhaps this time for the rest of their pathetic and miserable lives. Tony Ortega was promised that as long as he kept his mouth shut, he’d be rewarded with an executive assignment as chief editor at a far “more lucrative and prestigious” rag than the “lowly” Voice. After a few months, to his mounting horror, he discovered that this so-called “lucrative and prestigious” rag wasn’t even a real rag, but an online news website called The Raw Story. Far from being anything remotely close to “lucrative” or “prestigious,” The Raw Story is essentially the liberal tabloid opinion counterpart to something like The Daily Caller or Breitbart, only worse.
To this day, Tony Ortega refuses to answer any questions about his sordid and disgusting history with New Times Media, later renamed Village Voice Media in a vain and unsuccessful attempt to wish away the seemingly neverending story of Backpage sex trafficking. When that didn’t work, they renamed it again, this time to Voice Media Group, which also — big surprise — didn’t have any effect in convincing anyone that it wasn’t the same company anymore or that they had repented and changed their ways. A journalist from one of the nation’s most respected papers once quietly related over a round of drinks at an ancient pub near Wall Street, that after one of the senior executives of Voice Media Group became fed up and incensed at her persistent questioning regarding his company’s complicity in the global trade of sex and child trafficking, he bursted out at her in a violent and racist rage, using extreme and derogatory epithets highly offensive to those of Mexican and Latino background and screaming a name that has since been etched into her mind permanently: Tony Ortega.
Will Tony Ortega ever step forward and come clean with the raw story? Not likely. On his blog, or the couple of web-based message boards that his cult followers generally control, forget it. If there’s one thing Tony Ortega has no tolerance for whatsoever, it’s dissent in the ranks. If you want to be part of the Ortega/Rathbun/Rinder cult and allowed to post comments on their blogs and forums, you absolutely cannot, under any circumstances, question them, their motives, their actions, or anything at all that could potentially put them on the stop and actually tell the truth. It simply is not done. It cannot be done. Thus far, all who have tried have gotten themselves permanently banned from their blogs and forums. Several veteran anti-Scientology critics, who’ve been doing what they’ve been doing for many, many years longer than Ortega, ended up getting themselves in such hot water with these three, that those who actually observed the proceedings were blown out of their minds that Ortega, Rathbun, and Rinder could behave so outrageously, especially to fellow anti-Scientologists!
Tony Ortega’s cultish fans can deny it all they want, but the man is no different than Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder, both of whom have deliberately cultivated a cult following in an attempt to present an “alternative” to the Church of Scientology. It sounds completely and totally absurd and ridiculous, but anyone with an ounce of honesty would come to same exact conclusion if they did their research and observed the various insanities of the Ortega/Rathbun/Rinder cult.
As an example of how ridiculously absurd things have become and to what excesses his fanatics are capable of, just this past January, a few days after New Years Day, one of his most devoted cult followers had a mental collapse that the dozen or so hardcore Ortega fanatics were witness to and involved her making criminal threats against his personal attorney and blog webmaster, Scott Pilutik. It all began with this seemingly innocuous comment by Ortega:
This was followed by a lot of mutual backslapping and heaping gratuitous piles of worship and praise all over Tony Ortega. Obviously, they were all very much in high spirits in anticipation and excitement at the announcement of his new book, which turned out not to actually be about Scientology, as he had been claiming all along, but a biography about Paulette Cooper, the first tabloid writer to attempt to smear the Church of Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard with baseless and unsubstantiated lies and vitriol, all in a little pocket paperback — the kind usually sold in corner stores and next to the Weekly World News in supermarket checkout lines — entitled The Scandal of Scientology. So, everyone was happy and all was fine in the land of Scientology-haters. Until … oh, dear, what have we here?
Oh, okay. A minor glitch in WordPress or the theme that Scott happened to be using (or a combination of both, as often happens) messed things up and he ended up doing something that “ruined the Monday surprise.” He doesn’t actually give any details as to the nature of this alleged “ruin”, whether that meant he posted the announcement of the release date prematurely or something else. Whatever it happened to be, whatever the reason may have been, it obviously wasn’t all that big of a deal. After all, we’re not talking about life and death here. Or are we?
Uh … wait a minute! What the hell?! Are you @$#& serious?
That’s all you’re going to write in response, Tony?! For #@$% sake, she just told the poor guy — your dear friend and humble manservant of many, many years — to go “cut his fingers off” because it would be “harder to type with stumps”! Alas, the Dictator of The Underground Bunker remains absolutely silent. But, she’s not done yet. Oh, dear Lord, no.
Are we having fun yet? I sure as hell am not. Honestly, and in all sincerity, I find this “Barbara Angel” character to be hopelessly disgusting and in all likelihood, completely out of her mind, or what remnants of a “mind” she may have left after all the years of smoking heaven knows what and hell no, I wouldn’t “want some” even if someone put a gun to my head.
I captured the whole ridiculous exchange for posterity, in case Ortega or Pilutik decide to purge the whole thread of comments, as they are so apt to do in spite of being “anti-censorship.” I guess the rules only apply to everyone except Tony Ortega. I won’t provide any links to Ortega’s site, but anyone competent with a search engine can easily find it in a few minutes, but I wouldn’t recommend it. For those who don’t want to go through the trouble, yet remain morbidly curious as to how the rest of this pathetic melodrama plays out, if I get enough requests I’ll put all this on a separate page. But, as I’ve written, it’s beyond stupid. As the saying goes, stupid is as stupid does and as certain as there is a heaven above, you are the company you keep.
The most curious — and telling — aspect of this unfortunate incident is that Ortega did not only not give “Barbara Angel” a firm rebuke, he didn’t even ban her. Not even temporarily. Any civilized blog, forum or message board would have permanently banned her for such a violent outburst of that sort. People have filed lawsuits against each other over less, and as the law has demonstrated time and time again, all over the world, that what you put out on the Internet, even private data “hidden” from public view, can and often will have serious repercussions in the “offline” world — in other words, there is no legal distinction between the abstract immaterial universe of cyberspace and that of the objective material universe of sense perception. I use the somewhat outdated and anachronistic term cyberspace because it not only is inclusive of the Internet as a whole, but also all other abstract immaterial forms of communication and transmission, such as telephony, radio, light, and all other forms of optics and waves.
Conversely, when someone posts something that sends Ortega into a blazing rage of madness, such as a question about his private life, or how his Israeli girlfriend is doing, or what happened to his Indonesian wife, that unfortunate soul is permanently banned and excommunicated for life, immediately and without question nor qualification. It has gotten so bad that the core fanatics — whether of Ortega, Rathbun or Rinder — actually censor themselves. It’s like in the days when there was only “the love that dare not speak its name” — except in this instance, we have “the [insert whatever question or comment that angers Ortega/Rathbun/Rinder enough to get you banned for life] that dare not speak its name.” You certainly won’t see anyone discussing this website, and I can promise you that even if Ortega/Rathbun/Rinder allow open and honest discussion and debate, absolutely no comment would be tolerated that could be interpreted as being “positive” or constructive in any fashion — in other words, if they do happen to allow comments about Answering Scientology Critics, you would only be allowed to do so as long as you royally dump on its author and call for the infidel to be beheaded.
And once you’re out of Ortega’s good graces, you’re out for life. The man holds a grudge like someone holed up in an underground bunker during the last days of a dying regime. Even the mere hint of such a question in his presence is enough to get you on his permanent blacklist, making you persona non grata in his tiny inner circle of dunces that gathers two or three nights a week at the back of a dingy dive bar in Midtown Manhattan, in the deepest, dankest bowels of Hell’s Kitchen no less — one of the rare few that can still legitimately claim the lofty title of being a true, honest-to-goodness dive, a label so coveted by the hipster doofuses of Williamsburg — where they drink themselves into a stupor, complaining endlessly why Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are so filthy rich and why they are condemned to an eternity of poverty.
If this sick and surreal saga is sounding more and more like something out of a badly pretentious and hardboiled detective novel from a long lost and forgotten era, then I have successfully conveyed to you, dear reader, the bleak misery and despair that wreaks havoc upon Tony Ortega’s mind and conscience, keeping him awake at night with his cats in a tiny apartment that smells like a zoo, with a girlfriend that snores at a volume that even the neighbors next door can hear and screams indecipherable vitriol in her sleep — in Hebrew.
We are all the products of the realities we make for ourselves. There is no escaping the inevitability of justice, not for any criminal on the face of this earth, and most especially not for those like Tony Ortega and his accomplices who deny their crimes against humanity.