I’ve been meaning to weigh in on the NBC Dateline Predator series for some time now. Like many others, I’ve been captivated by the show, whose premise is to lure Internet predators to a sexual rendezvous with an underage boy or girl.
Instead, when they arrive at the ‘victim’s’ house, the men (and they’re always men) encounter an NBC Dateline film crew and correspondent. They’re immediately interrogated, usually reduced to a tearful confession and then told they’re free to leave. Instead, a group of burly, local cops, skulking right outside the home, toss the bad guys down on the ground and arrest them.
Now, this obviously makes for great television. And Dateline and its partner in the show, Perverted Justice, which helps identify and invite these guys to the "teen’s" home are providing a genuine public service.
But, the more I see the show, the more I see the lines being blurred. The Perverted Justice actors are so good at portraying young and willing sexual partners that, in my mind, they come mighty close to entrapment. Most of the predators are sleazy guys who’ve had a history of scrapes with the law, etc. Others, though, are seemingly upstanding citizens. There have been Iraqi War veterans, smart and seemingly sophisticated white collar workers and loads of guys who seem to be your normal, well adjusted family man caught in the Predator trap. And, now, courtesy of Dateline and Perverted Justice, their lives have been turned upside down. One public official actually committed suicide just as his house was being surrounded by local law enforcement officers and Dateline.
So, who’s the predator and who’s the prey? Is Dateline going too far in doing good? They’re clearly helping to put bad guys away and, hopefully, deterring others from entering chat rooms and trying to hook-up with kids. But, are the methods they use kosher? Is it cool to ruin people’s reputations and, in at least one case, a person’s life?
It’s an interesting image and reputation question since, in my mind, there is at least a suggestion/possibility of entrapment going on here. I’d be interested in knowing what others think.