Saturday, August 25, 2007

NBC's "To Catch a Predator" Faces Lawsuits, Mounting Criticism

From AlterNet:

Dateline's "To Catch a Predator" series has become a target itself for criticism -- by 20/20, Esquire, and an online magazine, as well a former producer, a Georgia judge, a local news reporter, and the relatives of two of the show's targets.

In the news segments, online decoys lure men to a house to meet underaged sex partners -- where instead the men are videotaped and arrested. Last year the Washington Post reported that the decoying group received more than $100,000 from NBC after they "hired an agent to negotiate." The show's former producer now says Dateline violated "numerous journalistic ethical standards," and challenges Dateline's argument that the police are performing a separate, parallel investigation, calling it "a ruse".

According to a May lawsuit which appears on The Smoking Gun site, former producer Marsha Bartel objects to NBC also purchasing the surveillance systems used by the police, and notes that the network even pays or "indirectly reimburses" law enforcement officials for the stings. Saying this blurs lines between television and law enforcement, she also spills details about the show's other apparent lapses in journalism. (For example, Dateline's failing to report the police officers "waving rubber chickens in the faces of sting targets while forcing them to the ground and handcuffing them.")

More here.

I think I've written before about how much I hate this show. It is presented as news but is obviously of the "reality television" genre, staging almost everything, and is consciously titillating, making numerous references to online chat logs which go into often surprisingly lengthy detail about the anal and oral sex fantasies of the would-be child molesters who are entrapped in the "sting." Speaking of being entrapped, this whole thing reeks of entrapment. That is, even though these guys' sexual desires are definitely harmful if acted upon, one wonders if they ever would have even left their computer screens in the first place if they hadn't been egged on by NBC. The self-righteous tone taken by pretty much the entire program is also disturbing, kind of like with the show's close cousin, Cheaters.

I especially hate how it's so goddamned difficult to change the channel once it's on. It's like watching a fucking car crash, horrible but hypnotizing.

It's good to hear they're in trouble. The sooner this trash is off the air, the better.