The Sleaziest Show on Earth

Many long-time Shakesville/Shakespeare’s Sister/AotSP readers will recall that I’ve written posts looking critically at the MSNBC televised freakshow series “To Catch a Predator” (and legal/public action regarding sex offenders) for about the last year or so. It all started with this post, where I noted:

I knew that things were going a bit far when they pulled a “gotcha” on one guy who was truly disgusting. He was due to arrive at prison in four days for a 11-month stretch for soliciting a minor. And here he was, getting in a quick one before going to jail. Nice.

Here’s what got me: when the guy showed up at the house, faraway tracking shots showed him to be a Little Person. Not that such a thing matters, but after the big reveal of Hanson’s pop-out, he took the guy over to the kitchen counter to interrogate him. This was a normal-sized counter with barstool seats.

“It took a long time for him to get up on the seat,” sneered Hanson in voiceover, “because this predator is only five feet tall!”

This solidified that Datline had gone from “protecting your children” to “everyone come to the freak show.” Were we supposed to laugh at him because, not only is he a pedophile, but he has the nerve to be a Little Person as well? Was he even more horrible because of this? Not only is he an *internet predator,* he’s also not like us physically!! Even the tone of Hansen’s voice was very melodramatic and mocking. (He has one of those “news announcer” voices that comedians love to imitate.) They could have arrested this guy and thrown him in jail where he belongs, but Hanson had to beat him up, first.

Look. I can’t stand people like him. Anyone that abuses a child deserves the harshest punishment available. The idea of someone trolling the internet for underage sex partners makes my skin crawl.

But I have to say, this “throwing them to the lions” style of television makes me a little sick, too.

Well, it would appear that my impression that this show was one of the sleaziest things on television has been confirmed by a former producer, who’s now suing the show, alleging “she was let go from NBC News after she complained of ethical lapses on the show’s pedophile-sting series ‘To Catch a Predator’.”

[Marsha Bartel] contends that she was fired after raising several issues about the conduct of Perverted Justice, the organization that is paid by NBC News to carry out the sting operations, and NBC. The lawsuit calls it a “shadowy vigilante organization.” She said she was rebuffed in her concerns and said she couldn’t produce “Predator.”

She has also provided details about how many of the exploitative aspects of the show that first prompted me to write about it in the first place:

The setup usually involves the targets’ exposure and humiliation on camera by nauseatingly smug host Chris Hansen. Then they’re arrested by local police outside.

In her lawsuit, Bartel claimed that NBC pays a vigilante group called Perverted Justice to lure targets into the sting, and that the network’s relationship with the group and law enforcement agencies crosses ethical lines.

Contrary to NBC policies and guidelines, the suit said, targets often are “led into additional acts of humiliation (such as being encouraged to remove their clothes) in order to enhance the comedic effect of the public exposure of these persons.”

“Nauseatingly smug.” I love it. It looks as if “Perverted Justice” might want to change their moniker to “Perverted Tactics.”

Marsha Bartel, who said in a $1-million lawsuit against the network that she had worked for NBC News for 21 years, claimed that after she was appointed as producer of the highly rated series on Internet predators, she quickly realized that she would have little supervision over the operations of the group Perverted Justice, which the show’s executives had hired to lure adults to a house, fitted out with hidden TV cameras. The marks, who expected to meet teenagers for sex, instead found themselves confronted by Dateline reporter Chris Hansen, followed by a squad of police officers. Bartel said she complained to her superiors that Perverted Justice refused to provide complete transcripts of the conversations between their teenage-posing decoys and the targets but later learned that they “sometimes beg individuals to come to the sting locations even after the targets of the sting initially decide not to come.” She claimed that NBC News executives looked the other way at ethical lapses in its dealings with Perverted Justice “because it was more interested in sensationalizing and dramatizing the “Predator” series for profit than news reporting.” Finally, she criticized the network for its collaboration with law enforcement agencies in the production of the program, thereby allowing itself to become “a material witness” rather than “a newscaster reporting on the news.”

I’m sure you’re all shocked—shocked—to learn that Dateline would exploit people this way in order to bury themselves in cash. After all, no one in their right minds would ever object to what they were doing; why not use any tactic possible to lure, entrap, and humiliate them? They’re pedophiles; they deserve it. Right? Who cares if they might never have done it if we hadn’t begged them to come? And if we happen to coax them into stripping right away, so what?

As I’ve said in all of my disclaimers: I do not support or condone anyone that sexually assaults a child (or anyone, for that matter), nor do I intend to suggest that convicted sex offenders should not be punished for what they did. I believe that extra caution and taking steps to protect children from being assaulted is a good thing. I just can’t get the word “entrapment” out of my head.

Serious criminal activity is not entertainment.

[Tip ‘o the energy dome to Deeky for pointing me to the story. Links to all of my past posts on this subject can be found in this post.]

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35 Comments

Filed under 02_paul_the_spud

35 responses to “The Sleaziest Show on Earth

  1. Melissa McEwan

    After all, no one in their right minds would ever object to what they were doing; why not use any tactic possible to lure, entrap, and humiliate them? They’re pedophiles; they deserve it. Right? Who cares if they might never have done it if we hadn’t begged them to come? And if we happen to coax them into stripping right away, so what?

    And so what that Louis Conradt killed himself? So what if even if he was possibly “beg[ged]…to come to the sting location” and still decided not to come, so the cops went to his house with camera crew in tow, and forced their way into his house, and he shot himself rather than suffer the public humiliation? So what that Perverted Justice wouldn’t not disclose the details of Conradt’s chat with someone posing as a 13-year-old boy, as long as their director assures us “It was sexual in nature”? So what, right?

    I really, really hope that after Bartel’s disclosures, someone goes back and looks at Conradt’s case, because it stinks to high fucking heaven.

    I cannot begin to express how profoundly I loathe sex offenders, although I’m guessing I don’t need to, considering many of my other posts. But this show doesn’t help. This show is a travesty.

  2. I don’t understand why police are waiting around for a television show to get their footage before arresting someone for committing a crime. Even Cops, as bad as it is, tends to just show police officers working.

    I’ve got kids, and I hate and even fear sexual predators. But there’s something very disturbing about the place they occupy in our society and the types of laws that are being passed regarding their treatment.

  3. Exactly right, Spudsy. This is not entertainment. The fact that NBC makes money off of this, and that it finds a willing audience, is disgusting.

    That it is less disgusting than the activities of the pedophiles themselves is hardly an endorsement.

  4. Perverted Justice seems an appropriate name

  5. I have noticed that Hanson has much more respect for men who are white, educated, and look good on camera.

    There was one man who was a tall, handsome professional. Hanson was respectful and even characterized him as a “regular guy” or something like that.

    Hanson probably does this because he assumes that his audience will have more sympathy for a white, handsome father of three than a Middle Eastern guy wearing a turban — who he condescends to.

    I’ve been watching the show mainly because I noticed that Hanson treats minorities and “working class” folks quite differently than he does the more priveledged members of our society.

    Perhaps he knows that a bright, handsome man could turn the tables and make him look like a villain. So, he backs off quite a bit in those cases.

  6. BTW: How much do you want to bet they’ll be selling an “uncensored” DVD version? It will include naked predators and explicit language. (Hey, this has made Springer a fortune.)

  7. I’ve been watching the show mainly because I noticed that Hanson treats minorities and “working class” folks quite differently than he does the more priveledged members of our society.

    You’re right there, Fritz. The first guy they “caught” getting naked was East Asian. He’s also really brutal on men that seem “slow,” or mentally challenged.

  8. BTW: How much do you want to bet they’ll be selling an “uncensored” DVD version?

    UGH. I hope not.

  9. Melissa McEwan

    That it is less disgusting than the activities of the pedophiles themselves is hardly an endorsement.

    Spot fucking on.

  10. OMG!

    Paul, My BF just told me that he’s actually seen an “uncensored” version of the show — Predator Raw: The Unseen Tapes!

    Here’s the show description:

    “Just when you thought you’d seen it all, we bring you more of the inside stories from Dateline’s To Catch a Predator series, featuring never-before-seen footage and interviews.”

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036750/

    The DVD is probably in the works.

  11. Paul, My BF just told me that he’s actually seen an “uncensored” version of the show — Predator Raw: The Unseen Tapes!

    Vomit.

  12. And so what that Louis Conradt killed himself? So what if even if he was possibly “beg[ged]…to come to the sting location” and still decided not to come, so the cops went to his house with camera crew in tow, and forced their way into his house, and he shot himself rather than suffer the public humiliation?

    And considering some states are mulling over the death penalty for sex offenders (I had a link earlier this week but can’t find it now; I’ll post it later), I’m wondering how many more suicides we’re going to have?

  13. I’m bothered that this show probably causes predators to change their tactics because they’re forewarned. Seems like the spectacle is antithetical to the secrecy required to catch them.

  14. nightshift66

    OK, I’ll be the bad person on this one. Spuds, you are absolutely correct in your criticisms of the MSNBC show, and crime should not be used as entertainment. This show further coursens the culture and has a negative impact on society, and for that reason I disapprove of the show and do not watch it. That is my honest, sincere, intellectual assessment.

    Now, on an emotional level… I just don’t care what is done to the pedophiles. I don’t mind if the crime carries a life w/o parole sentence. In fact, I wish every pedophile everywhere would commit suicide and spare the world their existence. Since one cannot be coaxed into, or tempted by, something in which they have no interest, I don’t consider Conradt innocent. I have a limited supply of sympathy and see no reason to waste it on their ilk.

  15. PortlyDyke

    Not to mention that the vast majority of child sexual abuse happens within the family home, usually with someone the child knows.

    Here’s a concept — why not dedicate those thousands of dollars in production costs to doing a regular weekly show on education about prevention of child abuse.

  16. Lee Ann

    Thank you, nightshift, for putting into words what I had roiling about in my mind.

  17. Frito

    I only watched the show for like five minutes and it made me sick. As noted above it is less about exposing the reality of sexual abuse and more about passing off a vision of the Internet filled with dark skinned perverts drooling over innocent pictures of your children.

    And when the next series of anonymity destroying, Internet choking and free speech violative laws come up in Congress will the rallying cry of a thousand Mrs. Lovejoys’ “Think of the children! Won’t somebody please thing of the children!” drown out the rational discourse about the merits of the legislation.

    And when it passes and the Internet is a safe place for children to be, Billy is still getting diddled by Father Badtouch and Suzy is lying about staying over at her friends house to sneak into bars.

  18. Nik E Poo

    I have a limited supply of sympathy and see no reason to waste it on their ilk.

    I’ve meted out more than my fair share of aggression against scumbags of their ilk in my life. Some might say, with just cause. But when society at large, indulges in humiliation, torture and death, out of revenge or disgust, its an entirely different matter. Society must protect everyone … even the worst among us … from injustice.

    I promise you … [my hand on the Fuckable Bible] … that if one group becomes worthy of such treatment … it will spread to others.

    Everyone hates the ACLU sometime.

  19. nightshift66

    Nik,
    I understand your point, but I probably disagree with you about what treatment, exactly, constitutes ‘justice’ with regards to pedophiles. And no, I’m not supporting vigilantism. I am saying that any concern I have about that show is about its impact on culture, society, and the rule of law.

  20. Nik E Poo

    I am saying that any concern I have about that show is about its impact on culture, society, and the rule of law.

    Which I think is the crotch of what Paul is saying. It just doesn’t pass the smell test.

  21. Spudsy,
    Did you see the one with the Rabbi? Hanson went crazy on the guy. It was not fun to watch a middle aged man’s world crashing around him, but Hanson just piled on the guy. Which is just the opposite of what he did – the acting job he did, the “I’m disgusted” bit he did when they dude showed up with his kid. He walked away in practiced disgust.

    The tactics used are now starting to make sense. How many people really show up with some of the stuff these guys bring and then just take their clothes off. I’ve never had that happen on a date. Come on in… take off your clothes. Either these are the dumbest people on the face of the earth of Perverted Justice is asking them to do certain things before they spring the trap.

    The show is starting to be more and more disturbing.

  22. Melissa McEwan

    Now, on an emotional level… I just don’t care what is done to the pedophiles.

    Guess what? Me, neither. Except here’s the thing: It becomes more obvious with each passing revelation about how this show operates that they’re not even casually interested in making sure the people they “expose” are genuinely pedophiles. Someone who decided not to meet “the child” but had a conversation we’re told was “sexual in nature” killed himself because of this show! And “sexual in nature” is a huge red flag for possible major spin: We all remember how the Mark Foley chats were described, even before the transcripts were made public–“graphically sexual” and so forth. I don’t buy it.

    Frankly, there’s nothing that informs more starkly why we should care about whether these situations were manipulated than the fact that we don’t give the tiniest shit what happens to the men involved if they weren’t.

  23. There is also a strong possibility that some men find the program to be titillating.

    They get off hearing Chris Hanson read the x-rated transcripts and seeing the men humiliated in a way that is almost sexually sadistic.

    They keep promoting the show with the clip of Hanson confronting and humiliating a nude man. This scenario seems to be right out of a gay porn novel.

  24. PortlyDyke

    The most disturbing thing to me about the premise of the show is that it plays on the “drama” of pedophilia, and stereotypes of what a sexual predator looks like, which in some sense, I believe, desensitizes the viewer to the fact that a pedophile can be anywhere, and look like anyone, and that the sexual abuse of children, in reality, rarely ends with a “Cops” moment.

    I think this gives the viewer the out to feel “safe” and distant from the whole experience, and to carry the sense that “I’m not like those people, and I don’t know those people, and child abuse is just some drama on TV.”

  25. PortlyDyke

    There is also a strong possibility that some men find the program to be titillating.

    Thanks for saying that, Fritz. I almost did, but I thought I was too close to the subject to be objective on that one.

  26. nightshift66

    Melissa, to me, anyone who continues to ‘chat up’ a kid, after being told they are talking/chatting with a kid, is a pedo. The fact that he loses his nerve (or got warned off) before physically molesting the kid doesn’t change the pedo’s nature. It only means he (almost always ‘he,’ BTW, as you know) didn’t ruin a kid’s entire life TODAY.

  27. Melissa McEwan

    Melissa, to me, anyone who continues to ‘chat up’ a kid, after being told they are talking/chatting with a kid, is a pedo.

    You say that as if I said something to the contrary. I didn’t. My point is that someone with an admitted agenda describing a chat as “sexual in nature” but refusing to make the transcript public doesn’t tell us anything real. It literally has not even been made public whether the guy refused to meet and severed communication as soon as he found out he was talking to “a child.”

    You’re filling in the gaps in information with the worst case scenario (which is precisely what we’re meant to do), and that may very well be the correct interpretation, but the fact is that we don’t know that for sure.

    And now we probably never will. Because he’s dead.

  28. PortlyDyke

    Melissa, to me, anyone who continues to ‘chat up’ a kid, after being told they are talking/chatting with a kid, is a pedo.

    I agree with you on that, nightshift. I’ve worked with any number of clients who were damaged by the sexualization they experienced as kids, whether there was a physical violation that was “technically” criminal or not. (Old Uncle So-an-so who wanted you to “sit on his lap” all the time, etc. Eww, eww, eww!)

    I try to keep a watchful eye on my own personal rage about child abuse, so it is sometimes difficult for me to comment on threads like this. I would no doubt be dismissed from a jury in a child-molestation trial based on my personal history, and I actually think that’s probably a good thing. I am NOT objective on the subject, at least not at this point in my life.

    My central objection to the show is that, rather than really doing anything meaningful to end child sex abuse, I think it might actually be helping it to continue.

  29. Melissa McEwan

    My central objection to the show is that, rather than really doing anything meaningful to end child sex abuse, I think it might actually be helping it to continue.

    Not only that, but because they are so fast and loose with the facts, and because the situation does so whiff of entrapment, it feeds rape denial. I’ve actually seen the show cited as an example by rape apologists who show how sex offenders are really just “men who have been railroaded.”

    I can’t begin to tell you how furious it makes me that the show plays to every erroneous assumption about sexual assault prosecutions: The evidence is sloppy, the guy didn’t really do anything, the “victim” isn’t even really a victim… Even Chris Hanson’s exploitative “gotcha!” moments are infused with the glee that rape apologists read into posts on sexual assault by feminists/victims advocates. None of us feel happy and excited when we write that stuff–but Chris Hanson sure is. Creepy shithead.

    And worst of all, as I know has been mentioned in this thread and others before it, is that it gives parents the false security that something’s being done, when the situation is being made worse, not to mention lulls them into a false sense of security that pedophiles are easy to catch. They’re not! “To Catch a Predator” is catching the dumbest fucking morons of the lot. Meanwhile, the smart pedophiles, the ones who will create dozens or hundreds of victims before they are caught, are busily inserting themselves into the lives of unsuspecting families–as priests, as teachers, as coaches, as scout leaders, as friendly neighbors. And the show just makes them smarter, offering a How To on avoiding internet stings.

    Up, down, sideways, backwards, inside, and out the show is fucked. up.

    I literally could not hate it more.

  30. Geoffrey Rettan

    I doubt this will be a popular comment, but:

    I also dislike how the show marginalizes the “pedophile” label.

    Yes, older men/women who attempt consciously to pick up on below-the-legal-age individuals on the internet are incredibly sleazy, and should be dealt with appropriately. What I don’t like, though, is that the show reinforces the perception that there’s something distinctly unnatural about the existence of attraction between said older people and post-pubescent younger people; and, in doing so, ignores the danger posed by those who prey on younger children *and* elicits sympathy for the offenders.

    Take the Mark Foley thing, for example. Yes, what he did was really terrible ethically, and those in the media were quick to label him a pedophile. Yet unless I missed something, his victims were exclusively in their later teens; in fact, I recall reading that (had there not been the “online interaction” law that he helped to push) his conduct wasn’t technically *illegal*, as the people in question were past the age of consent. Again, please don’t think I’m condoning the behavior.

    My fear is that this will do two things. Firstly, by stressing the “post-pubescent” pedophiles–and by stressing the unnaturalness of the attraction, not the illegality of the conduct–the show will engender sympathy for those whose illegal *actions* are part and parcel of easily-rationalized biological attraction (especially when the lure in question is a 14 year old or 15 year old teen). Secondly, by focusing on the “internet lure” method, the show entirely ignores the danger posed (as mentioned by countless here) of those who prey on much younger children, whether they be family members or elementary school kids in a park. Those pedophiles–those whose attraction tends towards the prepubescent–are both far more dangerous and far more difficult to help. As sleazy as the 40 year-old stranger is who wants to hump a 14-year-old cheerleader, he’s probably rehabilitatable–and much easier to spot, to boot.

  31. I will play devil’s advocate here.

    I suspect that if Hanson were less smug, we would find the show a lot less offensive. Yet Hanson’s smugness, annoying as it may be, is a trivial matter. I suspect that if the show did more to show why it’s so necessary to fight these predators – perhaps interviews with sexual assault crisis center directors, psychologists and adult survivors – we would find the show less offensive.

    These guys are not “being naughty.” They are predators who sought underage targets, people who could be dominated and intimidated, people who could be abused and threatened, people who lacked the means even to identify them for child support. Many of them used their positions of community trust to further their crimes or cover for themselves (rabbi, ministers, felony prosecutor, etc.) The rabbi in question lived 40 miles from me and worked with teenagers for most of his career. I shudder.

    The show’s sense of superiority over these thugs is tiresome. We should all feel guilty for failing to fight sexual violence, predation, abuse, intimidation and harassment. It represents a massive, daily human rights outrage screaming to the heavens for vengeance. Hanson should be encouraging his viewers not to enjoy a “he got his” moment but to donate time, money and political support to local sexual assault crisis centers, whose funding often got slashed after 9/11 and has not recovered in many cases.

    Anyway, my respectful dissenting view. Peace to all.

  32. Melissa McEwan

    Bruce, I don’t really understand with whom you feel you’re disagreeing. No one in the thread anywhere minimized what these guys were doing to “being naughty.” (You’ve put it in quotes, but I can’t find anyone else who used it besides you.) To whom are you directing your “dissenting view”?

    (I’m not being bitchy or anything; I’m genuinely curious.)

  33. “[T]here’s something very disturbing about the place [pedophiles] occupy in our society”.

    That position, Stephen, being “people it’s okay to lie to, steal from, humiliate, beat up, sexually abuse or murder”.

    In other words, they’re the new faggots, the new niggers, possibly even (the poor souls) the new women.

    Bruce, your suggestion that the show should offer something more than a “‘he got his’ moment” is pretty naive. That would be like suggesting that Laura Schlessinger, Ph.D. (Physiology), should offer helpful advice instead of filthy abuse. Or that Caligula should take the Christians down to the arena and arrange counseling on good citizenship for them.

    That’s not what the audience comes to see.

  34. Pingback: Religious Hipster, American Dipster - Chris Hansen, Sleazemaster Extraordinaire

  35. cassandra

    I know someone who was caught on the show. For what it’s worth, he fully admits that he has a sexual addiction – an ADULT sexual addiciton that he’s in treatment for, and he’s certainly not asking to get off scott free. For many of these guys, group chat rooms started talking about role playing with age – some talked about the movie a history of vilence. They sent a picture to one guy of a woman at least 21 years old, a woman who was talking very sexually about role playing-remember the cheerleader scene from the movie? Their screenname had a name with 15 in it (which you might assume would be obvious as her age). The “decoy” suggests a private chat which is now what is “recorded” – none of the group chat was recorded. Within the first 5 minutes of the recorded chat, she says she’s 14.

    Now at this point, a guy (who admittedly is rather sick with sexual addiction) has a photo of an adult, and the woman has already lied about her age. He was dumb enough to show up to a house to meet, and if you watch the show. was acutally met by a “young looking 20 year old”. Yet by watching the show, all you saw was a very exploited situation that has completely ruined his life and though wrong for him to be there, certainly wasn’t what it seemed on TV.

    This is not a unique situation with many of these guys. Luckily the one I know of is getting help. I feel like internet pornography addiction will easily surpass alcoholism soon – it’s a real problem that needs to be addressed.

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