Brian Bates, the self-styled Video Vigilante of Oklahoma City, sneaks up and surprises men consorting with prostitutes, and then posts cleaned-up versions of the footage on the Internet to disgrace them.
Because of Bates’ sexual subject matter and his shameless penchant for self promotion, he may be the most notorious of the video activists. Tens of thousands of people watch his clips on the Internet every year, eager to be amused by the sight of a man being shamed — and when they do, Bates profits.
What started out as the modern equivalent of a tarring and feathering in a town square has become a paycheck for Bates, a former marketing manager for a hospital. Bates still has a regular job cobbling together lists of people jailed the night before that he sells to ambulance-chasing attorneys every morning. But he’s hoping to leave that behind for a full-time career as a public humiliation professional.
He licenses his footage to talk shows for $250 a clip, gets paid to appear as an exclusive guest on Maury Povich’s tabloid TV show for an amount he would not disclose, and recently agreed to upload his videos to YouTube for a cut of the ad revenue they generate. If he gets as many hits in 2008 as he claims he got in 2007, Bates said he’ll earn $70,000 this year from his Web traffic alone.