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To: Ip <email@example.com> From: David Farber <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: [IP] Warning to IP Readers: When "The Debate Show" Calls -- Hang Up! Date: Sun, 20 Jun 2004 09:32:50 -0400 Begin forwarded message: From: Lauren Weinstein <email@example.com> Date: June 20, 2004 1:26:40 AM EDT To: firstname.lastname@example.org Cc: email@example.com Subject: Warning to IP Readers: When "The Debate Show" Calls -- Hang Up! Dave, The L.A. Times article (avoid folding the long URL!): http://www.latimes.com/business/la-adfi-freston20jun20,1,5581013.story?coll=la-home-headlines online for now (registration required) tells the story of Tom Freston, chairman of Viacom's MTV Networks. The article suggests that Tom's style for MTV et al. might be the saving grace for Paramount and perhaps the rest of the entertainment industry. If MTV's model is the solution, we're in for big trouble. Hear my saga and avoid the fate that almost befell yours truly -- experts and spokespeople in the IP readership, you could be next! A few weeks ago, I got a call from a producer who identified herself as being with MTV Networks' "The Debate Project" -- who wanted to book me onto a new debate format show in production, to be taped a few days hence. She described the show (which she never actually specifically named) as oriented toward young people about important topics, with guests who were experts in their respective fields. They wanted me to debate a known spammer (who they wouldn't identify at the time) regarding the scourge of spam. It would be fun she implied, since the audience would of course be on my side. While MTV Net producing a show like this seemed a bit odd, it's not unheard of for them to do topical programming. She assured me the program would definitely air on an MTV Network but wasn't sure which one yet. Odd, but I've gotten stranger calls from more ordinary news-oriented programs. They sealed the deal by promising to send a car so I wouldn't have to hassle with driving in to Hollywood from The Valley through late Friday afternoon traffic, and even said they'd throw in $200 (egads -- payment for a "news" appearance -- unheard of in my experience!) OK, I'll bite -- sounds more interesting than typical interviews anyway. Then followed more phone calls from other staffers questioning me at length on the topic of spam, an e-mailed message with similar questions, and finally all was set to go. They were really excited about my joining them the next day they kept saying, and would call me in the morning before sending the car. That same Thursday night, with the show scheduled for Friday, I was increasingly uncomfortable. There was a bad feeling I just couldn't shake, an almost animal instinct of something amiss that I couldn't put my finger on. When the show had originally called, I had done some cursory googling but couldn't find anything relevant. This didn't seem too unusual for a show in production but not yet on air. Now I started googling in depth. At first I found nothing again. But then I started working backwards from the contact phone numbers I had for the show's production staff. This time I hit pay dirt, and while the pages unscrolled on my screen a cold chill ran down my spine. As the recent, angry testimonials I had found recounted, with a matching of modus operandi that left no chance for error, the show on which I was about to appear was a fraud. Not really a debate at all, the show is actually a program for Comedy Central (yes, an MTV/Viacom network) called "Crossballs" -- and its sole purpose is the embarrassment and humiliation of the expert guests who are brought on expecting a legitimate discussion program. Crossballs is a rigged "reality" show, where real guests, who have been kept in the dark about the show's real format, are paired off against actors (playing the debate opponents) for the amusement of the live audience. The stories I read from persons recently on the show included descriptions of crude, sexually-oriented verbal attacks (and worse, like being handed various sexual "apparatus") and concerns that their reputations would be ruined once the shows aired. As the alien commander said in "Plan 9 From Outer Space": "That was TOO close!" In a few hours I was scheduled to go on that show. If it were aired live I could have had some fun, since I now knew what was going on but they didn't know that I knew. But since it was taped there was no point. If I didn't react the way they expected, my segment would no doubt be removed or perhaps edited in some perverse way. I left a late night voicemail message with the producer, cancelling my appearance with "extreme prejudice"... Of course, I never heard from them again. No calls came. No car arrived. No explanations. No apologies. I had escaped Viacom's reality TV trap. The other guests scheduled for that Friday afternoon were probably not as lucky. So hear me oh readers of IP! When the e-mail arrives or the phone rings, and an earnest-sounding guy or gal asks you to lend your expertise to the betterment of young people in a late afternoon debate deep in the heart of Hollywood... Turn off the computer. Hang up the phone. Unplug the network connection. It's probably MTV/Viacom calling from the brave new world of "newsertainment" -- and unless you get your kicks from being humiliated before an audience of millions, this is one show you definitely don't want to be thinking back on years from now. One can't help but feel sorry for the legit news folks over at CBS' "60 Minutes" and other excellent news programs, who must share the Viacom name with the happy-go-lucky gang sucking victims into fake "news" shows over on Comedy Central. As long as this message is, it's merely the Executive Summary. Anyone interested in the gory details should feel free to contact me directly. Take care! --Lauren-- Lauren Weinstein firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800 http://www.pfir.org/lauren Co-Founder, PFIR - People For Internet Responsibility - http://www.pfir.org Co-Founder, Fact Squad - http://www.factsquad.org Co-Founder, URIICA - Union for Representative International Internet Cooperation and Analysis - http://www.uriica.org Moderator, PRIVACY Forum - http://www.vortex.com Member, ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy Lauren's Blog: http://www.vortex.com/lauren-blog ------------------------------------- Archives at: http://www.interesting-people.org/archives/interesting-people/ ------- End of Forwarded MessageBack to Lauren Weinstein's Blog
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