To Catch a Predator, not Stop a Predator

In honor of TV Turnoff Week 2007, I'm going to write about television.

I watch "To Catch a Predator." It is an entertaining show, as you get to see a terrific comedy of errors every episode. What appeals to me most, however, is what lies beneath the dramedy. Sure, they usually lock up a few bad guys and ruin a few marriages, but, as an engineer, my thoughts tend to drift towards the net effect of the whole exchange. For instance, you put in a pervert, a decoy, a wiseacre host and hidden cameras. What's the net effect? A caught predator, not a stopped predator.

Think about this. Recently scientists have found that a few men with frontal lobe brain trauma had completely lost their sexual inhibitions. One had a tumor obstructing his frontal lobe, which, after removal, resulted in him being a perfect citizen. However, when the tumor returned, simultaneously he resumed his disinhibited ways.

So lets assume these predators have lost a good chunk of free will in these situations. They are unable to control their addictions. Do we see them going to a shrink and then getting a brain scan? No, NBC just shows them handcuffed in the van, which appeals in that end-of-the-thriller-movie way. But what happens when they get out? Will the icy glare and rapier wit of Chris Hansen stop people from doing what they're addicted to? Hell no. In which case, all that comes out of the dirty stew that NBC creates for ratings is the public humiliation of perverts, the catching, not the stopping. Which is cool, except if the perverts never had control over it before. The best way to treat a problem is at its roots, not at the end of the chain.

At the thrift store this weekend, I heard a worker talk about his ghetto pass, that he'd use to get drugs. He works for the Salvation Army, which means that he probably is in rehab for his addiction. It made me really happy to hear that someone was getting his life in order. Maybe someday when "To Catch a Predator" does that I can go back to watching it for laughs.

Another article about the brain and free will from Neurophilosophy

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