Thursday, May 22, 2008

To TREAT a predator, posted by Robert Paisola

Should news agencies smudge journalistic ethics for higher ratings? MSNBC does not seem to mind - that is precisely what it does on its now infamous series of investigative reports on pedophiles, “To Catch a Predator”.

As host Chris Hansen smugly grills men on Dateline MSNBC “To Catch a Predator” he may or may not know that these men are (in most cases) neurologically compromised and are cursed with obsessive intrusive thoughts, which lead to behavioral responses most in the public do not want to believe: uncontrollable compulsions.

In a recently televised report Hansen and his team, as they routinely do, catch a middle-aged male who had been chatting with a decoy from Hansen repeatedly asks questions like, “Why are you here? Why are you doing this? Don’t you know this is wrong?” The guilt-ridden man writhes in shame and struggles to provide the impossible – a rational reason or excuse. The answer – the man’s brain is diseased.

Certainly, pedophilia particularly in the Internet age is a problem. It needs to be dealt with by legislating and enforcing laws that call for humane, evidence-based solutions to protect society.

The men shown on Dateline NBC exhibit symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - dysfunction in a human organ - the brain. Similarly, diabetes is caused by dysfunction in a human organ – the pancreas. In both cases the organ does not create or regulate the correct amount of a vital biochemical. In the case of OCD, the neurotransmitter serotonin has been implicated by research. In both cases, medication has the capacity to regulate the irregular biochemical activity. If someone with diabetes does not take medications such as insulin they become ill and may die. If someone with OCD does not take their medications they can not control their impulsive thinking which leads to compulsive behavior.

OCD is no different in its basic etiology – it is hereditary and biological in nature, and society’s best chance at reducing pedophilia is to understand and accept its biological nature and design and implement interventions based upon evidence based medical psychiatric research.

The individuals’ lack of control is shown by MSNBC as they highlight several repeat offenders who admit to having seen “To Catch A Predator”, were wary of entering a trap, but came in anyway. Sane people don’t take those kinds of risks – people with diseased brains do.

This past June, NBC’s former Dateline Producer Marsha Bartel sued NBC for one million dollars for allegedly firing her for voicing ethical concerns about how the men seen on the show are solicited for entertainment. She alleges that NBC pays Perverted Justice to run what she calls “trolling operations” to lure men to homes to have sex with minors by using actors in internet chat rooms. She alleges that, “NBC unethically provides law enforcement with video equipment and video tapes.”

These men need help. In some instances it may need to be forced on them. Legislation is required to make mandatory neuropsychiatric treatments and police monitoring of computers and movement of these individuals. If Dateline MSNBC can “catch a predator”, certainly, as a society we can develop a system to “catch, treat and monitor a predator” rather than catch, humiliate, and profit off of a predator.

Although not as sexy, a constructive report would be to investigate whether or not legislation exists to enforce mandatory psychiatric treatment and police monitoring of perpetrators’ movements and their Internet activity. If such legislation exists, is it being enforced? Is it working? How can it be improved? Additionally, mandatory (chemical) castration should be debated and considered.

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