I caught this disturbing NBC Dateline program this week, To Catch a Predator, where NBC and a pedophilia watch group called Perverted Justice snared dozens of men looking to have sex with minors. The members of Perverted Justice pretend to be minors online in chat rooms and give these men directions to a house rented by NBC. Once there the men are confronted by reporter Chris Hansen in a series of bizarre and distasteful interviews before being arrested by waiting police.
I’ve got mixed feelings about this whole affair. Sure these guys are creeps who deserve to be arrested, but I feel like NBC has crossed some ethical Rubicon here. The members of Perverted Justice, working with NBC, were deputized by the police to meet evidentiary requirements in Ohio. Should a network news agency be actively entrapping people and working in collusion with law enforcement authorities? Seems I’m not the only one troubled by this new arrangement between networks and law enforcement. I makes me uneasy to see this blurring of the line between government and the fourth estate, especially when it is done to sell shampoo and potato chips.
Of course it makes one wonder how literature’s most famous pedophile would come across on network television.