Top Five Most Ridiculous Media Experiences

December/2007: Now that the top five best media experiences have been covered, time for the inverse and the far more interesting... top five most ridiculous media experiences. With successful media like "To Catch a Predator" nationally and prior to that, tons of successful local media stings across the country, I've been subjected to many a bad pitch. And of course, doing a ton of interviews also means that I've dealt with some idiotic media "personalities" or aspects. It was hard to narrow this list down to five, but what follows? Definitely some ridiculousness.

Let's get listing! And yes, beware, each write-up is far longer than the first part of this. Get some popcorn or something, but if you plan on reading this... well, you'll be here a while.

5: Larry and the Dots
I was asked to do Larry King in a "round-table" sort of segment. Chris Hansen and John Walsh were also slated. I guess the point was for us to talk about the "Predator" series and everything to do with it. Of course, the experience was something I found to be, well, quite ridiculous on a number of levels. First, doing remote media is always somewhat difficult because you've got an IFB in your ear, you can't see who they have queued on screen and there are no real "second takes." It would be quite easy to fuck up. However, usually, the host is well... predictable. Either he'll throw it to you at the start of the question or the host will know who should answer what question in a multi-guest setting.

Larry King? Not so much.

Being on a multi-guest show with Larry King was like playing a really warped game of hot potato. You had no idea who he was throwing a question to and he had no idea who he SHOULD throw a question to. He asked John Walsh something about how Predator operates. Walsh has no idea and responded with a confused answer. He asked me something about missing kids... something Walsh is an expert in. He just threw questions around randomly, with that hilting hitchy delivery of his. It was unnerving and annoying to say the least. Still, that wasn't the most ridiculous thing about doing the Larry King show. Nor was it the idea that they wanted a makeup person for me (I declined) because to me, if Larry King can go on TV looking how he looks, then it doesn't matter how I look. No, neither of these... it was the dots.

Prior to the show, the technician has to put together the background, lighting, etc. Usually I have a Portland backdrop behind me on every interview, because normally I'm sent to Fisher Pathways, the main satellite studio here in Portland, Oregon. For CNN, they sent me to a new, different one because... they had the dots. That's exactly how it was explained to me. New studio has the dots (Fisher Pathways now has the dots too!) so I have to go there. They didn't explain what the dots were or why they were important, but I would later learn. Anytime you watch the Larry King show, all the guests have these little slightly-moving dots behind them. Larry King has the dots, the guests have the dots. Everyone has the dots. Check out the show tonight, you'll see dots.

See? Dots.

Well, these dots I come to find out are very important. I get there and the technician brings out this old big TV screen. He pulls out a DVD and explains to me that he has to put on the dots. He puts them on, calls into the Larry King producer who tells him that the dots are too dark. Dots are too dark, have to brighten things. Technician tries to brighten the TV. Dots too bright! Dots aren't showing right! Back and forth, for about an hour... the dots, the dots. the dots aren't working! Eventually, after much boring back and forth, the Technician gives up and tries to order a new TV quickly. Can't be done. So yes, he'll have to get a new TV that shows the dots better at some point.

What happens? They pull out a night-time Portland background and I use that. So you see Hansen... has the dots, Walsh... has the dots. Me? Night-time Portland. I could tell the Larry King producer was none too happy about it because the first thing they say into my ear when I finally get the IFB on? Apologies over the dots, not having the dots, we're sorry the dots aren't working! Like I care if they have moving dots behind me. I'm nice, explain that it's cool, I like night-time Portland, dots aren't a big deal... and then the producer starts bragging about being the guy that created the dots. You see, these are important dots indeed.

It was very surreal. I was barely out of "Wow, dots" mode when Larry King started throwing around random questions like a baseball pitcher with tourettes.

4: Montel and the Hat
Back in 2004, Del, Frag, DMO and I found an abducted kid. Yeah, that's still weird to write. Anyways, there was some controversy because the cops in the area tried to sluff the blame off of their inability to do anything onto the kid, slurring the kid to the media and talking a lot of ridiculous shit. I then attacked them, we eventually as an organization brought enough pressure to bear that the police had to apologize to this family. It's a long story, it's a messed up story. Due to this, every freakin' talk show was contacting the kid and her family, trying to book them. They decided to go with Montel Williams. As part of it, they wanted Del and I to go and "meet the family for the first time" and explain how things went with the recovery.

First question I had to the booking producer was... "Can I wear my hat?" She said she had to check and then emailed back yes. Then I agreed to do the show. Fact is, if you're a show and you think I can't wear a hat, then I'm not doing your show. I wear a hat. I always wear a hat. I like hats, I have many of them. It's something I always check on, especially with daytime talk shows because I had already heard horror stories about how ridiculous they can be. So we get to New York, they book us in a nice hotel, have a limo service, they really deal you to the nines. Del and I hadn't met prior in person. We had fun. I blogged about all that.

What I didn't blog about was Montel and the fucking hat.

First, if you don't know, TV talk shows tape a ridiculous number of shows in a row. They tape like a whole week at a time usually. The experience is very frenetic, everyone is very rush rush and for good reason. People think that these hosts are all friendly and personable, but they're not. You never meet them. Montel never says hello or anything like that, not even to the kids on the show who had been recovered. You're hustled like cattle, here and there. The producers are all really nice, but the experience is rather weird because once you get on the stage, a talk show host will act like he's your best pal. Just a very fake experience in general.

I'm backstage, we're ready to go on. All of a sudden, I hear yelling from the soundstage area, the area where they tape the show right in front of the live studio audience. "Nobody wears a fucking hat on my show, I don't care who the fuck they are." A pause, the producer responding to which I can't wear. "I don't fucking care what you told him, he's not wearing a hat on my show." Just really angry yelling, near hysterical screaming from this guy in front of his studio audience. It's fucking unbelievable. I'm standing back there and thinking "Wow, this guy is a fucking psychotic." It's a hat, you're screaming because a producer told a guy he can wear a hat. Seriously?

The producer, basically with tears in her eyes, comes backstage and informs me that I can't be on the show with a hat, so it's up to me what I want to do. She apologizes for Montel's unprofessional outburst and I basically replied that he sounded like kind of a jerk and that I was told I could wear my hat, and that I'm cool with Del doing the spot and just going home because again, Montel sounds like a real asshole and not professional. Of course, I end up doing the show without a hat. Why? Del and I were supposed to leave that day, right after the taping. Rush, rush, like cattle, remember? They offered Del and I another expenses paid night in New York. I did the math later on, getting me to do the show without a hat cost ol' Monty thousands of dollars. They had to rebook the flight, get us new accomodations, etc, etc. That was good enough to buy me off.

So I did the show, Montel was nice as pie during the actual questioning part, and then we left. They asked me to come on again a year later for another show, I can't even remember the topic and I declined, explaining that I basically think Montel is crazy. And he has Sylvia Browne on every other day for fuck's sake. He's definitely a crazy psychopath.

3: Everyone wants to be Chris Hansen
With PeeJ, I'm the primary media contact. That means I get all the media requests. Now, just because you work with the media and have basically created a popular show (To Catch a Predator), this doesn't mean anyone will want to hear new ideas from you. When producers contact you, they basically give their pitch. You listen, usually reject it, and then they try to conjole you with compliments, promises or some other sweet nothings... well, as you will come to learn! Beware, number three here? Very long. Why?

Because literally, everyone wants to fucking be Chris Hansen.

- Prior to us doing "To Catch a Predator", Al Roker wanted to be Chris Hansen. Roker's production crew had seen the local stings we had done and "The Roke!" wanted to do the same thing. The pitch? Guys would come to a house, knock on the door and America's Favorite Weatherman would confront them about trying to have sex with a kid. I respect Al Roker (Fuck, never thought I'd write that in my life prior to PeeJ) because the guy doesn't try to be just a weatherman, but the idea of him confronting internet predators is just too ridiculous not to chuckle at. CourtTV ended up telling them that they wouldn't air predators without unblurred faces (this is all prior to large-scale police cooperation), so the issue was moot anyways. Still, you have to give Roker props for wanting to be "Chris Hansen" before Chris Hansen.

- After "To Catch a Predator" got popular, we started getting a deluge of requests. How about Dr. Phil? The Dr. Phil show contacted us wanting to do a segment where we opened a house and had predators arrive. Then Dr. Phil would be in the "Chris Hansen" role grilling predators. We, for obvious reasons, declined the offer.

- John Walsh and his production company contacted us wanting to do TCAP editions on America's Most Wanted with Walsh in the Hansen role. We declined the offer, again. Walsh went on to do his own TCAP-copies while trying to attack the "To Catch a Predator" shows saying that his are better (Which, btw, is pretty fucking odd. The point is to expose pedophiles, what is this competition shit?). Of course, they never mention that they tried scooping us up away from Dateline.

- Internet gossip website TMZ wanted to discuss a show opportunity with us. Again, another entity wanting to be Chris Hansen. I still to this day have no idea how the hell this would fit into their syndicated gossip show. Apparently my mind isn't attuned to the level of genius that show producers are. I've been attacked a couple times on since turning down the proposal though, so I think they're uh... not happy when jilted?

- Current talk show host Steve Wilkos (Ex-bodyguard of Jerry Springer) and his staff emailed me a very unique proposal. Oh, did I say unique? Here, judge for yourself:

Dear Perverted Justice/To Whom it May Concern,

I would like to make a request for your participation on the new "The Steve Wilkos Show". Steve Wilkos, a former police officer and Marine, was Head of Security for "The Jerry Springer Show". He now has his own talk show, starting this fall.

We would like to tape an episode similar to Dateline's "To Catch a Predator" - with the hopes that it will be ongoing through the series. If you have an exclusivity with Dateline, it is still possible that we may be able to work with you as well, we are daytime not primetime - and like Dateline, we are also an NBC/Universal show.

In exchange for working with us, you would be featured in the show, as well as have your organization mentioned on the show, and in the credits.

To Catch a Creep (working title)
The Steve Wilkos Show
Tentative taping date: Mid-Late August
On location and possibly in our Chicago studio

To Catch a Creep, huh? Well, we turned down this opportunity as well. I did recently catch Wilkos on his show grilling a convicted sex offender so apparently they found another way to do this. It's not that I hate guys like Wilkos, they're just trying to put on their show. But to cook up something like this without even consulting with us? It's amazing how unimaginative producers can be. Too many are simply wanting to copy other crap rather than trying to put heads together to come up with something new.

- Ever hear of Dr. Keith Ablow? Well, he Dr. Keith Ablew and I think his show has been cancelled. Awful, awful show. I saw one episode about polygamy where ol' Ablow was going on and on coddling and defending the polygamists. At the end of the show, he pretty much came out and said there was nothing wrong with that lifestyle and that people should have an open mind. His production crew wanted his show to have a weekly segment where Dr. Keith put on his Chris Hansen pants and confronted predators we'd have arrive at a location. Unfortunately, it simply wasn't meant to be as I turned them down. Ironically, this was the same producer that pitched us the T... oh wait, that comes up later on!

- The whipped cream and cherry on the top of the wannabe Hansen parade? The Maury Povich show. It's not that I have all that much against Povich, I've never been on that show and... well, there's a good reason I've never been on that show. The Povich show has some sort of weirdness going on with it. They put a producer on getting our cooperation to work with them. I talked to this lady a few times, because they would email and call with various ideas. The producer well, how to put this delicately... was a sexkitten? At least, that's how she came off or was ordered to come off. Constantly hitting on me and saying stuff like "I just can't wait for you to come out here" and basically asking me out to dinner (Weeeeeiiirrrrrddddd), the whole experience just creeped me out. I will give her the credit of having a very attractive voice though. It almost felt like the whole Sirens thing in the Odyssey, really.

As if wanting Maury Povich to be an ass-kicking predator confronter wasn't bad enough, I kept getting the feeling as if they thought I'd be so stupid as to believe their producer really wanted to "get to know me" in person. Well, later on, I heard about a lawsuit at the Maury Povich show. The producer in question's name was Bianca Nardi. The person suing the Povich show? You guessed it, Bianca Nardi. You can read more about the lawsuit here.

The claims in the lawsuit included the following:
Among the many inappropriate things she says she was forced to do under threat of being fired include the following:

# wear short skirts, low-cut blouses and push-up bras
# go backstage and have her breasts photographed or videotaped
# speak in a "sexy voice" and talk "dirty"
# use adhesive tape on female guests breasts to create cleavage, earning her the nickname "tape lady"
# pose in "sexually explicit positions"
# go undercover wearing hidden cameras or microphones to bars to "secretly videotape married men agreeing to have sex with her"
# watch porn with Faulhaber in a private room

I can definitely testify to the bolded section. I would not in any circumstance believe this producer was speaking in that voice or flirting with me unless she were ordered to by her superiors. I keep trying to find a resolution to this suit, but "journalists" are great at reporting seedy gossip... not so great at following up on it. Regardless, I'm glad I was born with a brain large enough to see through such things, otherwise we might have been subjected to Maury Povich trying to talk tough to internet predators.

Truly, everyone wants to be Chris Hansen.

2: The Predator and the Movie Premiere
Everyone knows what extravaganza's movie premieres can be. Red carpets! Stars! Cameras! Screaming fans! Well, one movie wanted something extra to spice things up... an internet predator to randomly show up. Now, I'm no movie producer, but that's a really stupid fucking idea. We can't remember which movie it was, exactly. Del says the movie was "Hard Candy", but I think the movie was "CHAT", I'm 99% sure of it. Either way, what a terrifically awful suggestion.

I can't imagine the scenario, really. How in the world were we to get the predator there to begin with? "Hi, I'm thirteen and I'm going to a movie premiere about internet predators, lol, want to come and have sex with me?" Not to mention, how in the world is anyone supposed to stop the guy when he gets there, or how was he supposed to actually be interviewed for the... audience? Yeah, just a minute ago you were thinking that nothing sounded more ridiculous than Maury Povich confronting internet predators, weren't you? And now you're thinking "Wow, that's more ridiculous, holy shit."

I'm not sure precisely how they were going to plan on doing this, as we rejected the pitch very quickly.

1: Tyra fucking Banks
You might wonder why I feel so confident doing this blog entry now. "But Xavier", you might be thinking, "there could be a more ridiculous media experience to cover later!" Fact is, I can do what I do for another twenty years and nothing will ever top Tyra fucking Banks. Or, well, Tyra fucking Banks producer. The same producer that wanted us to do weekly "stings" with Dr. Keith Ablow also wanted us to do something "new" with Tyra! Then the female producer proceeded to give me the absolute worst pitch of all time.

You see, they wanted us to pose as perverted photographers. Yes, adult males. We were then to go into internet chat rooms in the Las Vegas area and solicit teen girls to do photo shoots. Yes, photo shoots where they would be expected to take off some of their clothes. The girls would then arrive at the location, be greeted by a male Tyra producer (I guess), and then after they agreed to but prior to them disrobing, Tyra Banks would pop out from behind the back like Soul Sistah Number Eleven and lecture the girls on being so unsafe!

That, for so many reasons, is truly the most awful idea of all time.

But, it gets worse. The producer also went out of her way to say that we could not have any of our gay volunteers working on this, as the show "isn't a gay show" and that there were not to be any gays working on this or any gay females or males, apparently, to show up to their mythical photo shoot. To this day, I have no idea why she said this. She was leaving me a voicemail, so it's not like I brought up gay people. She was just rambling on about this idea they wanted to have us help them with. I guess we just have a rep of having a lot of gay volunteers. No matter where it came from, the idea that the Tyra Banks show couldn't have gay volunteers associated in any way is a bit odd since y'know, America's Next Top Model has all sorts of gay "characters" on the show each year. The entire pitch was bizarre enough, but that factoid capped it off in quite the odd way.

After that, I stopped taking calls from the producer who pitched me that level of awful. I doubt it will ever be topped, as no producer before or since was daft enough to suggest that we go solicit kids to do pornographic photography shoots. Of course, now that I watch "highlights" of the Tyra show on E!'s "The Soup", I understand the level of lunacy associated with the Tyra Banks show. Then, however, I was almost scratching my head until it bled. The world is often too stupid for me to process mentally.


There you have it, the best and most ridiculous five media experiences in our four and a half year history. Perhaps I'll be surprised and we'll end up having pitches or... whatever... top the level of crud I've described, but it'll take some work on the part of those in the media. Without any doubt, I seriously don't know how I would have lived with myself had we taken up the vast majority of those pitches.

People in the media world can be very stupid, very often.

Top Five Best Media Experiences

December/2007: I've been cracking away at the whole thing for four and a half years now. Long time, and for almost all of it, we've been dealing with the media. Having to deal with reporters and the media can be an odd thing. I'm going to post my top five best media experiences in this blog. The NEXT blog will be the top five most ridiculous media experiences. I've got some doozy's we've never talked about planned for that one. I'd just do that one (because it's the really good one) but you can't do the most ridiculous without the best.

So without any further ado, the top five best media experiences.

5: The French!
Back in January 2007, I got an email from a guy named Dominique asking if we can help him on a story for French television. I was pretty busy at the time and replied no. The French were so excited about doing the story that they had already FLOWN TO PORTLAND to do the interview prior to ever talking to me.

Apparently they had talked to Frag and Del and the French had started calling them incessantly for weeks, to the point where both of them didn't even want to answer the phone anymore. Well, at some point, the French had gotten confused, and thought they had spoken with me. Long story short, the French were sad, disappointed and sitting around bored.

It was one of the rare times I relented on saying "no" to something as the emails from these guys were basically broken disappointed English. I mean, read this and tell me you could say "no" afterwards.

Emails from the French:
Unfotunatly, we stay in Portlnd a very quick time.
I really want to meet your association since we're convince we must o the same in France and we want to explain it.
So, what can we do? If you are agree for a report, we can wait till tomorrow, if not, we must leave because we have a very short time to do it.
Excuse me to be so direct. I don't want to hurt you.
It will be a great pleasure to meet you

C'mon, that's adorable.

They had booked one of the most expensive and oldest hotels in Portland, which I thought was pretty weird too. I guess people don't know any better coming into town. I did the interview and was struck by just how nice those guys were. They were simply nice people wanting to do an interview and talk about how citizens can fight against predators and pedophiles. As regular readers of my blog know, I'm not much a fan of the media but guys like these help redeem doing any media to begin with.

Definitely the nicest media people I've dealt with and they were French. Goes against the stereotype, eh?

4: Beating down Julie Posey
Back in early 2005 I was asked to go debate a woman named Julie Posey on an old Fox News program called "Dayside with Linda Vester." Posey had been going around attacking us for being private citizens conducting chats, despite the fact that Julie Posey was herself a private citizen that conducted chats. The difference between us was/is pretty simple... Posey says that only she can do such chats, we say anyone can be trained to do so. She trolled rooms for nine years and got about sixty convictions. Kudos for that, but considering that in 2007 alone we have over 120 convictions... well, let's just say I couldn't wait to finally be able to address her bullshit directly.

I had one my research on Posey and realized that her anti-citizen message wouldn't play well with most watching. What I didn't know about the Dayside program is that it had a live studio audience. The audience surprised me by applauding everything I had to say (chiefly that Posey is a goofy elitist hypocrite and in it for personal fame) against her. At the time, our "Conviction Machine" was just being built, but we had come off a nice run of arrests and convictions. After that head to head debate, Posey stopped trying to criticize us. Probably both from the embarrassment of her performance and due to the fact that since then we've accomplished what took her nearly a decade in the span of barely a year's time.

3: Calling out a defense attorney on CourtTV Radio
Yes, you can obviously tell I like strife too much. I was asked to do a radio segment on CourtTV talking about online predators, To Catch a Predator, etc. I love doing radio because it's long-form explanation. You can actually take the time to develop ideas unlike television and print media. On this particular show, a really mouthy female defense attorney was on trying to shit-talk us, stating that our cases don't hold up in court, the usual defense attorney bullshit. It was the first time I got to take on some mouthy celebutorney and I did something she didn't expect nor knew how to respond to.

I called her out.

Rather than listen to her blather on hypothetically, I made an off-the-cuff challenge... to go take a case! Insulting her, I stated that she had no chance, couldn't do anything more than a public defender and basically would get beaten down by our evidentary procedures if she even dared to take a case. I asked her where she could practice law, she noted California... fuck, we have dozens of arrests in California. So I out and out challenged her to go take her pick of any arrest we have in California and to defend the case pro-bono. She stuttered and then after having her shit called out, weakly said she would.

She never did. Now, anytime a defense attorney talking head gets mouthy? I just call them out and tell them to go take a case. They never do and never will.

2: Shenanigans on the O'Reilly Factor
The second time I was on the O'Reilly Factor I was booked to "debate" the Mayor of Murphy Texas, a Bret Baldwin. This guy had no PR training and I got to go straight at him. It felt almost unfair, I have been doing dozens of these types of Cable News interviews and I'm certain he had never done one. End of the day, I beat him down and went straight at him. The guy just didn't know what he was getting into. Not to be too pompous, but all I did in college was do formal debate. I was mean at it and won quite a few trophies the two years I did it. End of the day, getting into a verbal confrontation with me in such a setting probably isn't going to go too well for anyone.

The element that made this my second favorite media experience? Calling shenanigans. It can easily be guaranteed that no person on this planet has ever said "I call shenanigans" during a cable TV news interview, let alone on the O'Reilly Factor. Ending one of my verbal attacks on Baldwin, I literally "called shenanigans" on him. I'll likely never do another cable news interview (What's there to talk about? Internet predators isn't a hot news topic anymore) and that's fine because I doubt I could do anything cooler during one than that.

Otherwise, O'Reilly went on in later segments to attack us because we work with NBC (O'Reilly and MSNBC have had a long-running feud) but what will never be aired is the last laugh I got. O'Reilly had me on to talk about the Marsha Bartel lawsuit against Dateline NBC. He went on and on about how NBC would have to settle and how the producer raised "serious issues." What he didn't know was what I know... she's a liar and her claims were groundless. Well, as any reader of knows, Bartel's lawsuit was tossed out of court like the cheaply written piece of shit it was. After that, I couldn't resist emailing O'Reilly.

My petty but fun email to the lead producer of his show:
Hello Ron Mitchell,

The Marsha Bartel lawsuit against NBC News and Dateline NBC was tossed out by the New York Supreme Court. You might remember it as it was the one O'Reilly told me that NBC would "have to settle on" because Bartel "brought up serious issues." I told him that NBC would not settle and would win and that she was a liar. Since then, all you guys have done is attack us without any logical reasoning, seemingly just because we work with NBC News.

Just wanted to officially note:
O'Reilly: 0
Von Erck: 1

Xavier Von Erck
Director of Operations

PS. It'll be 2-0 when the sister of the child pornography freak loses her's too. :)

Mitchell replied that they may do an update to the story. Of course, they never did. Doesn't matter, I got to write the "O'Reilly: 0, Von Erck: 1" line which felt fucking awesome to do. Of course, none of this is to say O'Reilly is a bad guy in my eyes, out of all the cable news hosts that I've done interviews for, he's the only one that takes the time out of his day to have a cordial quick conversation with his guests before going on air. It's the little things when you deal with the media that make the difference to me.

1: Al Roker asks me if I'm a Nazi
Yeah, anyone who reads my blog should know this story as I already blogged about it years ago. The full story can be found by clicking this link. Yeah, I blogged this already. Look, I wanted to do something different for the best media experience, but I have to be honest. Al Roker asking me if I'm a Nazi will never be topped. It's impossible. I can't think of anything more surreal, more off the wall and more strange than having America's Favorite Weatherman ask you if you're a follower of Hitler.

When I reconnected with a couple old friends I hadn't spoken with since college, the first story I told of what I had been doing was Al Roker asking if I'm a Nazi. When I spoke with my half-brother who I hadn't spoken with over ten years, one of the first things I mentioned when he asked about my life was the Al Roker story. I love that goddamned story, so it shall be number one for eternity.

I'll be posting the top five most ridiculous media experiences in the next couple days. Everything on that list is stuff I haven't talked about before, some of the most ridiculous pitches you can imagine, a bunch of dots, drama over a hat, and... a movie premiere? You'll be left scratching your head, without a doubt.

Lord knows I was at the time, myself.

I now understand why "gamer" is used as an insult

December/2007: Anyone that knows me knows that I've been playing video games since the original Atari. When the NES came out, my grandparents bought it as a gift for Christmas, 1986. I was seven and I still remember this. We used to do gift-giving on my mother's side of the family on Christmas Eve because I would have to go to my father's side of the family on Christmas Day, that is, until I hit the age where I could say "no mas, no mas" to that arrangement. I came back a couple days later and there were two NES systems.

My grandparents had played mine while I was gone and had gotten hooked. They had to have their own system after that.

Since then, I've played video games more days than I haven't. My grandparents turned into huge gamers as well, playing every RPG that came out for the NES, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis... all the way through the original Playstation and Nintendo 64. They loved video games and one of the saddest parts of their getting old and dying was watching them no longer be able to enjoy them as they once did. Fun turned into frustration as memory went away and games became more complicated. Still, they both played video games nearly until the day each of them died.

Both of them died before became well, what it is. Which, obviously, means they died before they could witness the media stories and learn much of the ridiculousness that comes along with those. Reporters are always looking for an angle with which to attack you, so they ask you about your hobbies a lot of the time. I've always responded that I play video games. I had no reason not to, in my mind. I've been playing them as long as I can remember and I consider it a great hobby to have. It certainly beats weekend drinking, partying and the random stupidity that most people of my age at the time made frequent practice of.

What surprised me at the time was that this fact was made into a frequent attack. "He's a gamer!" Even recently, a goofball reporter for Rolling Stone wrote a over-the-top hyperbolic article and literally, wrote the following sentence to describe me...

Rolling Stone
One of the few who know their true identities is their elusive leader, Xavier Von Erck, a twenty-eight-year-old libertarian and atheist who kills on Civilization IV.

You might think I used the italicizing for effect. I didn't. It's in the piece italicized like that. Obviously, anyone who has ever played Civilization 4 is snickering at the description right now. KILLS on Civilization 4? A person couldn't be more out of touch than writing that. When you think of a game that would satiate a "bloodlust of killing!" you wouldn't really think of Civilization 4. It's a nation-building strategy game, of all things.

Of course, that's just one example!

Random Internet Moron
Perhaps we need to begin asking whether it is acceptable for unemployed twenty-something drop-out computer-gamer cyber-vigilantes or pretend-news entertainers to hand out death sentences


Easily, I could go on and on. Since the summer of 2003 when we had our first media attention, those seeking to attack the organization via myself, the founder, have often used the fact that I play these apparently evil video games. For the last few years, I've found the entire tactic humorous. It is hard to look at it any other way, as the entire idea that is evil because the founder of the organization enjoys video games just happens to be one of the most absurd statements I can imagine from looking at things from a logical perspective. However, the general public often doesn't do this. For example...

Man, just look at that douchebag

The guy above is a fellow named Jack Thompson. He's a Florida "attorney" who is on a huge campaign against video games. One of his favorite targets is one of my favorite companies, Take Two Interactive, the publishers of Civilization, the NBA 2K series, etc, etc. They also publish games like Grand Theft Auto, Manhunt, Bioshock, etc, all games with disturbing elements to them, admittedly. Anyways, this guy is bat-fruit-nuts-crazy. He's more certifiable than your average piece of sports memorabilia sold on QVC. He submitted pornography in an argument to a court, has staged countless publicity stunts, has settled out of court regarding a lawsuit against him and has come within a hairsbreadth of being disbarred in Florida.

Still, despite all this, Jack Thompson is regularly featured on cable news programs, his "work" has resulted in some really wonky legislation (all of which has been struck down due to the efforts of the games industry) and the guy makes crazy money going around the country to give speeches regarding the evils of video games.

I mean seriously, the guy is fucking bonkers, check out these quotes:

- "The 'video game community' (what's next, 'the necromancy community'?) surely seems exercised about someone who is a 'joke' and who is accomplishing nothing. You all seem rather bothered and worried about a nonentity. God is in this battle, and I am privileged to be a foot soldier. You all should be concerned, not about me, but about Him."
- "Any letter from a video gamer like you would deepen his concern. Are you actually so confused that you think gamers have any influence on anyone. Gamers are considered by normal people to be cretins. Get used to it."
- "Jack Thompson keeps racking up wins and you gamers just can't handle the truth. What's the truth? It is this: Adults with common sense and common decency who respect law enforcement are still running this country. Video gamers are not, and never will..."
- "I have made a choice, and it is a choice for Jesus Jesus said: "If any of you should cause any of these little ones to stumble, then it would be better for you that a millstone be tied around your neck and that you be cast into the sea." Rockstar is marketing adult murder simulators to kids. You are an apologist for that molestation. You're the one who needs to square his actions with the Bible, not I. I'm the one winning cases in the Bible Belt, not you. Please go to Hell more quietly. Thanks."
- "Actually, I'm succeeding and you're not. We're moving toward the trial in Alabama, and Rockstar is on the ropes. You and Xenu can go to Hell."

While I'm no fan of ol' Xenu myself, the guy is bats in the mental belfry. However, because he's more cracked up than Courtney Love hanging out with Kate Moss, the media loves to put him on television. And of course, he goes on there and says crazy alarmist things that make great soundbites to scare the crap out of people who don't know any better. You go down the line a bit and tragedy-chasers like ol' Thompson create such a stigma about gamers that reporters then use that stupidity to attack me, because I dare to play video games and run an anti-pedophile organization.

From my own experiences doing cable news interviews, guys like Thompson are what they die for. I've had a producer in my ear during one show excoriating me to tear into another guest because they needed "more passion, more fire!" for the interview. I've had times when producers I've done interviews with in the past would contact me about related stories and ask me questions, gauging to see if I'll say something fiery. If you don't, you don't get booked to do the interview. That's how little crazy people like Thompson get interviews... by being unreasonable, crazy and frothing, he (justifiably) in the minds of producers will keep a viewer watching. Producers are right about that, there's nothing that the public in general hates more than a reasoned discussion.

But is that it? Are toadies like that goof the entire reason why people who wish to attack me feel that they have a free hand with the "gamer" slur? Sadly, after much deliberation over it the last couple of years, no.

Gamers are also to blame, themselves.
As much as I'd like to, you can't just blame goofs like Thompson for the word "gamer" being demonized in many people's minds. You also have to blame... well, gamers. With the internet, gamers have banded together and created a "gaming culture." Over the last couple years of reading Joystiq, Kotaku and other blogs, I've come to know it all too well. There's a myriad of aspects to it that make it condemnable.

Anime and Japanese culture - Loads of gamers are into anime along with anything and everything in Japanese culture. Unfortunately, many gamers are into all the dark sides of Japanese culture. Tentacle rape, drawn child pornography they call "lolicon", and all sorts of other crap. The gamer blog Kotaku is the worst of this, as they have a contributor that lives in Japan and feeds the garbage by covering everything and anything under the sun regarding the worst of Japanese culture. From Japanese games such as rape simulators to peripherals designed to be vibrators, the Japanese have "classy" scrawled out of their dictionaries when it comes to gaming.

Rape - Even innocuous posts on Kotaku, such as one post where they showed a picture of a sleeping Japanese "booth babe", elicit a disturbing reaction. The commentors immediately started in talking about how she made a good target for rape. Yeah, literally. Morons. A large subsection of gamers think rape is great. Sounds like hyperbole, I know, but the amount of positive rape comments disguised as "jokes" really illustrate why date rape is at epidemic levels. So glad I'm male... as I feel so bad for females trying to find someone suitable to date in this modern age.

Racism - I've been on XBox Live since it launched. It is, without a doubt, the scummiest cesspool you can imagine. I've been called the N word more times on there than I can count. Not "nigga", but with the "er." I'd just type the whole thing out but I'm sure some dipshit would then probably state that I throw around that word on my blog in an attempt to smear me. It's a common insult on XBox Live, you're bound to hear it in any game you play from other players. You'd probably think that it's stupid moron teens that throw it around, and you'd be right... but you'd be wrong to think it's exclusively them. Players who are obviously in their twenties, thirties, etc, toss it around liberally. But it's not just racism against black people, it's every kind of hickery you can imagine. Hatred towards Mexicans, the French, the British, the Germans... hell, you name a nationality and I've heard someone on XBox Live use a racial slur regarding it. Oh, yeah, anti-semitism is rampant as well, don't let me forget.

Hatred of females in general - There's nothing more embarrassing than trying to play a game on XBox Live with your significant other. Playing Rainbox Six: Vegas with my wife, for example, was pretty excruciating. I was trying to get her into playing more first person shooters as playing them online is quite fun... except for the fact that 80-90% of other gamers basically hate females. Their conversations about their "love lives" usually pour contempt towards women. Whenever we play now, I just play in private voice chat with her. That way we don't have to hear the idiots with their idiotic conversations but we also don't have to deal with morons on XBox Live hating my wife because she's a female.

Drug use - Every other gamertag I've played against online are pot references. The amount of conversations I've had to endure listening to two morons who don't know each other "bond" over the fact that they both ~gasp!~ people who smoke pot. I'm not morally against people smoking pot and I think all drugs should be legalized, but as a non-druggie, there's nothing more boring than hearing two druggies get all friendly because OMG POTASAURUS! Fucking boring people.

Webcomics - One of the more noxious aspects of "gamer culture" are webcomics. Webcomics are quite much like the "Sunday Comics" you're used to in the newspaper. With the success of gaming webcomic "Penny Arcade", every other gamer in America decided to go make a shitty website with a shitty webcomic detailing "gamer culture." Of course, the vast majority of them are sexist, racist, anti-homosexual, dumb and most sinful of all, unfunny. Oh, and did I mention a lot of them tread into pedophilia? There's a great blog called "Your webcomic is bad and you should feel bad that breaks down these crappy examples of gamer culture intellectually, something most gamers don't have any ability to do. Hell, reading it was the entire reason I wrote this blog and the reason I've come to understand how "gamer" is an insult to begin with.

Gamer Kids - I'm 28 years old. I don't like children. I don't like being around them. I don't like hearing them. As much as I don't like kids, I really, really, really don't like gaming kids. It's another negative of XBox Live. As good as Microsoft is about parental controls and building a great online interface, they suck ass when it comes to identifying exactly who you don't want to be around. For me, I don't want to be around kids. They have the online service denote who are kids, teens and adults in order to set up various permissions and try to keep kids on XBox Live safe. I appreciate that. What I would appreciate even more is an option for me to select so I can then only play with other adults. Segregating the kids from the adults is what I advocate and not to "save the kids" from adults (Microsoft does a good job in general of doing all they can) but rather to save me from having to hear them scream and yell. I've heard kids curse at their parents, siblings, friends, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. They're dumb, they absorb the worst of gaming culture like a giant garbage disposal.

Hatred of gays - If they're not calling you the big 'N' word out of racism, they're calling you a gay, a "queer", a "faggot", etc. Think of it as one giant male locker room, say football. Just worse, because there's no coach around to kick someone in the ass for being a giant douchebag. While the racism bothered me more as I had naively believed it mostly a dead issue in this country (At least, in the Northern United States), the amount of gay-bashing was slightly more than I expected. If that sounds like a compliment towards gamers, it's not... I expected a fucking lot of it to begin with.

At the end of the day, gamers are to blame. Even moreso than guys like Jack Thompson, gamers themselves have illustrated exactly why people like me have to deal with nutty reporters calling me names because I'm an "open" gamer. I simply wished I had taken a clearer look at the gaming community before I dared to expose the fact that I play game series such as Civilization, Halo, NBA2K, and uh... everything else I can get Gamefly to ship me.

So my advice to anyone reading is pretty simple. If you're going to embark on a career that involves anything relating to the public eye, avoid noting that you play video games because more than likely, you as well will end up described hilariously as someone who gets a murder lust on from playing world building simulations... and worse, associated by the public as being like the vast majority of gamers people encounter.

The problem isn't the stereotyping of gamers by non-gamers. It's the gamers themselves.