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.