I was flipping through the television last night and up popped NBC Dateline’ To Catch a Predator and was amazed that the show still has airtime. Every time I see the television show being promoted by a respected television network, my blood pressure rises.
Though, I do not know the complete history of the show, initially, the concept was based upon a police sting operation documented by NBC Dateline to show how young teens could be communicating with dangerous internet predators.
Rather than stop with the one or two episodes, showing the dangers of internet predators, the concept of catching an internet predator grew into a television franchise. (I had a former co-worker who would grab her dish of popcorn and sit in front of the television to watch the show religiously.)
For some reason, the producers decided a successful television franchise could be made showing the sting operation over and over again.
In case you never saw the show, the theme and strategy is the same for each episode. The goal is to lure would-be child internet predators to engage in an internet conversation with an adult police decoy posing as a child. The decoy and the predator have set up a meeting over the chat line and the audience tunes in to the show as the predator actually arrives at the decoy’s house generally set in a nice Caucasian neighborhood.
These slugs from all walks of life, generally appear at the house with their alcohol, condoms, or whatever turns them on ready to begin their illegal rendezvous. (The audience drools with anticipation when the person/predator showing up is a teacher, politician, an evangelical religious youth minister, or better yet a married father).
Just as they are about to get comfortable and naked, in walks NBC Dateline correspondent Chris Hansen who surprises some of these guys who often sometimes now have their pants down.
Acting indignant and sometimes sympathetic, Hansen poses a series of interviews for these poor slugs. In a gotcha moment, these men squirm and deny that they were there for a sexual encounter and have arrived only to be a friend for then obvious lonely teen. To show that their motives are not so genuine, Hansen pulls out a transcript of the police decoy internet chat conversations to read to the sweating pervert. To titillate the viewers’ imagination during Hansen’s reading of the graphic chat line trash, there may be pictures of shirtless men, blocked out pictures of a male genitalia, and loud bleeping out of graphic sexual words.
After being interrogated by Hansen, many of these guys now in tears, are relieved because they did not have the sexual encounter and the nice guy Hansen announces to each of them, " you are free to go." Of course, when they walk out the door, the relieved potential predators are arrested by a group of over weight policemen who jump out of the bushes with their guns drawn yelling for them to drop to the ground.
A predator was caught and America’s youth is a bit safer.
I really don’t care what happens to these guys, but I am amazed that there appears to be a television audience that enjoys watching miserable people getting entrapped on television by a police sting operation.
I tend to believe that the producers of the television show, the police agencies which allow the live filming, and most certainly Chris Hansen are deliberately pandering to a television audience who is as sick as the predators they are catching.
Could it be that Hansen and his television crew and producers are as sick as their audience is---I should hope not.