Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Return of the Pillory.

You know, America is such an easy country in which to let your freak flag fly. If your two tickets to paradise consist of your boyfriend and a horse collar, Catherine the Great, then what happens in the bedroom is between you and Mister Ed. If the only way you experience that magic moment is to be swathed in Saran Wrap and hung from the ceiling while a midget in a clown suit throws pickles at you and yells "Verboten!", then get down with your bad self. In private. Please.

The remaining taboos are generally taboos for a reason. In light of this, NBC's success in bringing back the pillory in the form of the Dateline: To Catch A Predator series probably shouldn't come as much of a surprise. I mean really, after Disney cartoons, could there be more wholesome family entertainment than watching Chris Hansen grill these losers? Nuke some Orville Redenbacher's and watch a wannabe statutory rapist get proned out by the local heat; now there is a surefire formula for an evening's entertainment. Maybe it falls short of the old pillory in that you can't actually throw rotten fruit, but then again, no set of stocks in a New England village square was visible by the whole country, either.

Anyhow, as was bound to happen sooner or later, one subject of the show, after being busted cyberchatting up what he thought was a 13 year old boy, found out about his impending national humiliation and Did The Right Thing in the face of arrest. This being America, his next of kin sued.

What's amazing is that NBC settled out of court. We'll assume that the settlement was for considerably less than the nine figures demanded. A legal type I talked with off the record said he'd be surprised if it was high six figures, given the dead pervert discount.

What most surprised me was that the incident took place in Texas. Given the venue, NBC must have been sorely tempted to take it into a courtroom, if only for the satisfaction of seeing a jury say "Sorry about your brother, here's a dollar." Actually, given the venue, it wouldn't have shocked me to see a jury of Texans make the surviving family reimburse NBC's production costs for cleaning up their dirty laundry for them...

15 comments:

Homer said...

I'm reminded of Leon Uris' QBVII. That would, of course, require NBC to have a spine of sufficient diameter to support the effort of going top court.

No surprise there.

Divemedic said...

The problem here is with the organization that helps NBC entrap these guys, "Perverted Justice."

Let me say that I am no fan of child molesters, but this band of vigilantes has admitted that they will do whatever it takes to "bust" people. Entrapment? Check. Lie? Check.

When they do a "bust" this group has been known to contact the neighbors, friends, family, and employer to tell them that the person is a "pervert"

No trial, no due process, no rules of evidence.

I do not agree with their methods. Our courts exist for a reason.

Matt G said...

"Let me say that I am no fan of child molesters, but this band of vigilantes has admitted that they will do whatever it takes to "bust" people. Entrapment? Check. Lie? Check."


You're right, DiveMedic! We shouldn't lie to the poor, entrapped pediphiles! Instead, we should have REAL 13 year old girls talk that filth to the guys that go into the chat rooms with the explicit purpose of meeting children. That would be much more moral.

And, furthermore, it should be against the law for a person who actually talked to a pediphile, and was propositioned by the pediphile who thought that he was an 11 year old boy, to tell that pediphile's acquaitances about it. I mean, just because it's true, and they can prove it, and they're not part of a public organization bound by secrecy... they shouldn't be able to get away with telling on the poor misunderstood perverts that way.

As for "Entrapment," I do not think that word means what you think it means. It would be entrapment to have a 12 year old (or facsimile thereof) tell the guy that he or she wanted to talk dirty, and would he please do it? It is NOT entrapment to say "I'm a 12 year old girl, just here to talk in this chat room."

DiveMedic, I believe you when you say that you're no fan of child molesters, but would you believe me when I say that I think that you look a little bit like an apologist for them? :(

Tam, I've been seeing a LOT of these settlements lately, even when the side that settled did NOTHING wrong. "It beats the cost of going to trial," sayeth the bigwigs as they pen out another $40,000 check to the plaintiff. Yet there would be far fewer of these bogus lawsuits if the settlers didn't give the bogus plaintiffs such incentives to file them.

Tam said...

divemedic,

I first recollect reading The Anarchist's Cookbook in middle school. If there's one phrase from that book that I took away with me and which will stick with me for the rest of my life, it's "Never say anything on the phone that you wouldn't say with a cop in the room." Once those words leave your mouth (or fingertips, as the case may be) and enter that copper wire, they don't belong to you anymore.

The decedent in this case, a prosecuting attorney and former DA, surely should have known this better than I. When he smoked the barrel of his Browning, that wasn't the act of an innocent man. Even the most Dateline-damning, sympathetic portrayals, such as the one in Esquire, make this clear.

I would happily sit on a panel indicting the arresting department for its Keystone Kops media-driven shenanigans. At the same time, were I on a jury for civil damages in the suicide, not a red cent would be forthcoming from me.

HokiePundit said...

The problem is that NBC is making money off of this. While I'm not against making money, free speech gets some limitations once it becomes commercialized.

That we're willing to ignore our justice system and due process suggests one of two things to me:
Either we think we're above the law or we think the law is broken. I have a lot more sympathy for the latter position, but I'm not positive it's the one in play here.

José Giganté said...

If the only way you experience that magic moment is to be swathed in Saran Wrap and hung from the ceiling while a midget in a clown suit throws pickles at you and yells "Verboten!"

Get out of my head!

Seriously, though I've never watched the show proper, I don't see how NBC profiting off of this is any more unethical than COPS or all the car chase video news programs air.

og said...

Midget. Clown suit. Pickles.

I need to double layer the tinfoil. The freak is leaking out.

staghounds said...

Entrapment is the persuading of an otherwise unwilling person who does not already have a predeliction for the crime BY A LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY.

No matter what seductive techniques that fake thirteen year old uses, it's only entrapment if the police or their agents are tapping the keys. If your enemy hires a starving actor to ask you if you want to buy an unregistered Thompson he found in his recently deceased veteran grandfather's trunk for $500, and you do it, he can give the tapes to the BATFE and you're going to Leavenworth.

Since the "persuasion" it would take to get a person without prediliction to do this would be a GUN TO THE HEAD, good luck seling that.

I'm with Matt G on this one. I've been looking at PJ now and then ever since they started, and I think they are great. All they do is let the perverts run.

You couldn't MAKE a decent person say those things to a child, and PJ only posts the conversations where the pervert tries to set up a meeting. Check the site- look at their protocols and some of the conversations.

I WISH the police did as good a job.

Will Brown said...

Pedophiles be damned, try 'em, convict 'em, then take 'em 'round behind the barn and shoot 'em for all I care. But if you want people to show respect for the country's legal and social/moral standards, then act respectable when supporting them, especially when doing so in public.

There is a reasonable argument to support the notion that punishment should be memorable to further it's effectiveness as a deterrance. As I understand it, the argument is that a certain degree of entertainment of the witnesses serves that purpose.

Reasonable people can agree to disagree on certain points at issue.

I submit though that presenting punishment as entertainment works contrary to the stated desired outcome resulting from punishment - particularly public punishment.

Codes of personal conduct, whether public or private, are only as effective as the individual members of a society's willingness to treat them as being serious and worthy of their personal support and respect. A citizen (as opposed to a subject or some other catagory of societal entity) is personally responsible for the treatment accorded the accepted civic standards of behavior by his/her fellow citizens (or anyone else, come to that). Making those codes of behavior into a species of entertainment cheapens public regard for them and makes mockery of their continued adherance by others.

Civic punishment as entertainment is dangerous to liberty, down that path lies feeding the (fill in the minority of your choice here) to the hungry lions as a feature of the regular Saturday matinee.

We all take our entertainment where we find it, I guess. Mine simply differs, that's all.

Anonymous said...

I believe I heard it on Glen Beck maybe not, that no convictions resulted from Catch a Preditor If this is true it explains why none of the suspects acted like they were afraid at least that was my observation.

Tam said...

"I believe I heard it on Glen Beck maybe not, that no convictions resulted from Catch a Preditor[sic]"

That is untrue. No convictions stemmed from the show in Murphy, TX, but plenty of perverts have been jailed because of it elsewhere.

If only there was some magic network of computers that could be searched to find out such information... ;)

staghounds said...

278 convicted, by last count. Including plenty of previously convicted, and some murderers. Allah knows how many other perverts exposed or deterred, how many children not raped.

The PJ people are going to heaven.

Chris said...

Who is the judge in this case?

He is more worried about the well-being of the pervert lawyer than a television show which does a great job of flushing pervs out of the bushes.

I like the fact that child predators have to worry about being on MSNBC when they orchestrate their hook-ups.

For a good take on the child predator problem, watch "Hard Candy".

Miss you, Tam.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with divemedic here, they had the "child" call him 3 times and beg him to come over. Then the dirty perv didn't go.
Then the SWAT ninjas kicked down his front door, and escalated the situation. Instead of letting this hardend and dangerous man roam the streets.

The bottom line is a man died because they were serving rating not justice. They wanted him to show up and be all Chester Molester, and he didn't. So they orchestrated a rating friendly take down. If he was really that big of a danger it should have been the cops waiting in his yard for him to come out, not a camera crew.

Tam said...

As I said in a previous comment, I think the Murphy PD should get smacked down for playing stagehand for NBC.

HOWEVER: Suppose that they had handled it right, and just served a regular ol' warrant based on his pervy chatroom antics. Do you think Mister Closet Perv Rural Texas DA would have waited until the night before his court date to smoke his gun, or do you think he'd have ridden the bullet as soon as the serving deputies pulled out of the driveway?