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Lee Malvo, William Shatner: Made for today's media

If you want the latest piece of evidence as to what a crazed, TV culture we have become, you need look no farther than "Confessions of the D.C. Sniper with William Shatner: An Aftermath Special" at 10 p.m. Thursday on cable channel A&E.

The special, which is being cleverly packaged to promote the "Aftermath with William Shatner" series that starts Monday night on the BIO Channel, a sister operation of A&E, isn't perhaps as culturally illuminating as the initial reaction to it today with media outlets reacting to claims Malvo makes in a telephone conversation he has with Shatner, which forms the basis of this special.

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Understand this is a "true-crime" reality-TV show on the channel known for "Dog The Bounty Hunter" starring a 79-year-old guy who has played a stream of increasingly eccentric characters since his glory years as Capt. Kirk on "Star Trek." And from "Good Morning America" and the Associated Press to who knows where, Malvo's latest jailhouse claims are being treated in many quarters as "news." I guess if we can get our "news" from right-wing provocateur Andrew Breitbart, why not Capt. Kirk?

I'm not saying the claims aren't news, I'm just commenting of the how hard it is to distinguish it from low-rent reality-TV "entertainment" these days.

Check out the video with Shatner being set up by ABC News as a "hard hitting interviewer."

For the record, claims made by Malvo in the A&E conversation with Shatner include the statement that he and his partner, John Allen Muhammad, tried to recruit other snipers and that Muhammad, who has since been executed, killed one of the men after he wanted out.

In his interview with Shatner, Malvo claims he and his partner were involved in 42 shootings -- 15 more than law enforcement authorities have been able to link them to. The total of 42 supports claims made by a psychiatrist, Neil Blumberg, who had previously worked with Malvo.

Malvo has been known to change stories in mid-stream, and, in fact, there is some of that in the TV interview. At first, Malvo initially contradicts the psychiatrist's assertion that Malvo had told him that he and Muhammad had co-conspirators. But later Malvo says they did have accomplices in Arizona and New York.

Before you get too excited about Malvo's claims, though, let me quote a statement from AP. I want to let this be said in AP language: "Malvo's statements have been inconsistent in the past, and authorities have cast doubt on some of his reported confessions since he was sentenced to life in prison."

That sentence doesn't appear until the 13th paragraph of the AP story, so some readers might have missed it amid all the headline talk of co-conspirators and more victims -- the bread and butter of reality-TV, true-crime, hype-the-gate programs.

A&E, which is partially owned by Disney-ABC did not send a screener copy of tonight's show out to critics. Executives wanted to bypass that filter, and take selected portions of it straight to Disney-ABC's "Good Morning America." They could make "news" faster that way in this era of instant-Internet-sensationalism-now, check-the-facts-later media.

I'm not saying it isn't "news." I'm just saying it is getting harder and harder to know -- and easier and easier to exploit the media's confusion.

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