Thursday, 26 April 2007

Internet entrapment

Internet entrapment is less about crime prevention than public spectacle, says Charles Laurence

Miss America has used her charms in a 'honey trap' to catch internet paedophiles in a stunt for a 'reality TV' show.

This breathtaking confluence of some of America's nastiest social trends - the artifice of the beauty pageant, the public humiliations of 'reality' shows, internet sexual prurience and police entrapment schemes that are illegal in Britain - airs on Saturday on Fox TV's America's Most Wanted.

Lauren Nelson, who is 20 and an all-American blonde from Oklahoma, paraded her wares in 'chat rooms' while monitored by police from New York's Suffolk County suburbs. What is it about suburbs?

Not surprisingly, she attracted a few hits. Then she pretended to be under age.

"I would say 'I'm a 14-year-old female from Long Island'," Nelson said breathlessly through Fox publicity. "Some would continue chatting, it would only take a matter of time before it got pretty explicit."

So four mugs trooped off for in-the-flesh meetings with a young woman who looked perfect for what they had in mind. Did they really think they would get that lucky? Cameras and cops were waiting.

"I was nervous," Nelson said, "but it was a very controlled environment, very safe."

Host John Walsh, who turned the tragic murder of his own child, long ago, into a multi-million-dollar TV franchise, sprang his trap. The men were caught on film, and in handcuffs.

Nobody condones paedophilia. But what had America's 'most wanted' done, exactly, before they switched on their computers? Would these fools have been child-molesters if they had not been lured by pictures of the beauty queen as a teenager?

Blind justice will certainly never know. But this has more to do with the cheap drama of Homeland Security America than protecting children.