Why Is The Movie “Sound of Freedom” So Controversial?

Why Is The Movie “Sound of Freedom” So Controversial? July 21, 2023

child trafficking victims need our help
Child trafficking victims need us to sort through the controversy and help them.
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Why would a movie about the horrors of child trafficking be controversial? Obviously, nobody is getting on the Internet to endorse child trafficking. Ending human trafficking is not a contentious subject. So why is the movie “Sound of Freedom” so controversial?

False perceptions about human trafficking hurt the efforts to end trafficking

According to actual experts in human trafficking who have spoken out against ‘Sound of Freedom,’ the film may genuinely hurt anti-trafficking work. Sensationalized embellishments depicted in the movie reinforce false perceptions about child trafficking. 

Though the idea of sinister strangers coming to town in order to kidnap small children makes for an interesting movie, the truth is that most victims of child trafficking are teenagers who know their traffickers. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Teresa Huizar, CEO of the National Children’s Alliance, explains that the majority of trafficked children know and trust their traffickers.

Most commonly, vulnerable youth find themselves in some sort of relationship with an adult who is “helping” them or who refers to themself as a boyfriend or girlfriend. This adult then goes on to traffic the child. 

Erin Albright, an attorney who has worked in the anti-trafficking movement for 15 years, details to Rolling Stone how harmful the sensationalized narrative of films like “Sound of Freedom” can be. Victims need to be able to recognize themselves in the narrative. However, when trafficking is presented as malevolent strangers lurking in wait and dramatic international rescues, most victims will doubt whether they are actually trafficking victims.

Similarly, when a blockbuster film depicts human trafficking as a sensationalized thriller, jury members or politicians voting on policy may not recognize actual victims or the foundational issues that make children vulnerable. This can make it more difficult to convict traffickers. Likewise, it can make it more difficult to enact policies which help prevent trafficking in the first place. 

Jim Caviezel from the movie "Sound of Freedom"
Jim Caviezel’s support of conspiracy theories brings controversy to “Sound of Freedom”

Conspiracy theories delegitimize the real problem of human trafficking

So much of the buzz around ‘Sound of Freedom’ is intertwined with QAnon and 4Chan conspiracy theories. NPR’s Shannon Bond clarifies why QAnon supporters are backing this movie. She specifically details how the film’s star, Jim Caviezel, is connected to some popular conspiracy theories associated with child trafficking. 

In press appearances to promote the movie, Caviezel has doubled down on some wild conspiracy theories. For instance, in an interview on Steve Bannon’s podcast, Caviezel repeated the unfounded and bizarre claim that an international collective of powerful people are abusing and killing children to extract a substance called adrenochrome.

In other interviews, Caviezel echoed conspiracy theories like the spurious one the Pizzagate man believed about the international Satanic sex abuse ring hosted by powerful Democrats and operated through the kid-friendly pizza restaurant, Comet Ping Pong. Caviezel has also perpetuated the unsupported Wayfair furniture story, in which conspiracy theorists claim that child traffickers hide children in Wayfair furniture in order to secretly transport them. Like the adrenochrome rumor, both of these theories have been deemed false.  

When the truth of human trafficking becomes swallowed up in the waves of wild conspiracy theories, the work of real anti-traffickers becomes harder. If the general public is left to sift out the truth from the fictional tales of the alt right, the proverbial baby may end up being thrown out with the bathwater. 

Hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance contribute to human trafficking

According to the US Department of State, some of the people most vulnerable to human trafficking include  

  • ​children in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, including foster care
  •  runaway and homeless youth
  •  unaccompanied foreign national children without lawful immigration status
  •  LGBTQI+ individuals 
  • individuals with substance use issues

Many of the same conservative people who are touting the movie “Sound of Freedom” and raising the alarm about child trafficking support policies that contribute to the vulnerability of children, targeting them for trafficking. 

When we reduce funding for social welfare programs, we leave people in poverty vulnerable to victimization. As children age out of the foster care system and are left without financial and practical support, they become susceptible to trafficking. 

When we separate minors from their parents at the Southern border, those minors are more likely to become child trafficking victims. 

The more conservatives demonize the LGBTQI+ community, the more likely it becomes that LGBTQI+ youth will be kicked out of their homes or feel compelled to run away. This leaves those youth vulnerable to traffickers.

As substance abuse issues are criminalized and considered moral weaknesses rather than illnesses to be treated, young people who struggle with substance abuse will continue to be targets for traffickers. 

End Human Trafficking
Ending human trafficking isn’t controversial, so why is “Sound of Freedom” so controversial?

Sure, heart-stopping, thrilling tales depicting undercover agents traveling into remote jungles to rescue little girls certainly makes for great movies. However, the anti-trafficking work we can all invest in involves supporting policies and ideologies that get to the root of what makes victims vulnerable.

But it sure is easier to support a sensationalized, fictional movie about human trafficking than it is to actually work to end human trafficking. This is what makes “Sound of Freedom” so controversial. 

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