Thursday, March 01, 2007

"Date" Line NBC

I'm really tired of smug crusader Chris Hansen and his "\to catch_a predator" series, apparently the only thing on "Dateline NBC" anymore.

It goes without saying that I don't want any harm to come to an actual underage victim, yada yada yada, BUT....

First off, don't these guys have to sign a release form to have their privacy invaded?

Second, the men are charged with an "attempted lewd act on a minor" or something, but the decoys are actually adults pretending to be underage. So where is the "minor" that the "act" was "attempted" on?

Are there any underage girls on the web wanting sex with these older men, or are they all decoys?

Do the guys really think that the girls are 14 or whatever, or do they think it's a young adult being edgy? Does it matter? Does it matter that the decoy is lying?

Hansen made a big deal about one guy who lied about his age to make himself seem younger, but it's OK when the decoy does it?

They also make a big show about a horde of cops lurking around the corner who suddenly run out, guns drawn, all shouting at once, and wrestle some 140-pound guy to the ground. Yay, brave macho dudes.

Some guys on the show have even just driven up, thought better of it, then attempted to drive off when they were apprehended. On what charge? Slowing down a vehicle in front of the fake home of a pretend minor?

Or the cops search the guy's car. Do they have a warrant? I don't see where probable cause has anything to do with it when he's already out of his car.

Hansen uses the transcripts of the chats to damn the men, then reports that they pleaded "not guilty" to the charges. Well, Internet chats aren't delivered under oath, so who knows how much is fantasy and how much is reality?

It's also a little puzzling for the letter of the law to equate a newborn with someone who is 17 years, 364 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds old, calling each a "child". At the stroke of midnight on one's 18th birthday, then, one is assumed to be infused with the wisdom of the universe, but before that, one is a drooling infant, incapable of anything more than instinctual behavior.

Reality is cloudier than that. I'm sure there are some 14-year-olds who are more on the ball than some 24-year-olds, etc. But, to make it easy, the law draws the line at 18 (to vote, have sex, and sign contracts), or 21 (to drink) or 16 (to drive) or 35 (to run for President), or....

Some comments on the show's blog are from fine upstanding citizens who call these guys monsters and otherwise demonize them. Leaving aside the questions of entrapment, aberrant behavior, and consent, it is a form of denial for people to think that the average person does not have some thread of the same feelings running through their being. Everyone has every feeling, just to different degrees. Most of us have filters that, say, prevent us from following through on our murderous feelings during a bout of road rage. Some don't, and they're the dangerous ones. But to adopt an air of moral superiority and vilification is nothing less than hubris.

And finally, why is it that sex offenders must register with authorities, having their names, addresses, and photographs published where all can see? Why not murderers, rapists, thieves and arsonists? Don't we want to protect "our children" from them too?

Oh, right, this is the Puritan country afraid of sex, but in love with violence.

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