Media Matters: Bohemia gets an ill-deserved break

The media's silence to the Channel 10's Assi Dayan segment says it all.

assi dayan 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
assi dayan 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
If you are Shabbat observant, or merely didn't happen to be watching Channel 10's evening news (Mahadurat Shishi) last Friday night, you missed a clear-cut case of media misconduct. Had you noticed the promos that were aired in the days prior to the broadcast, however, you might have had a sneaking suspicion that something less-than-kosher was cooking. Being told to tune in to witness Assi Dayan documenting his house arrest at the 101 Inn near Eilat - after being charged with beating up his pregnant partner - was a clue. Particularly since the ink on the indictment of the actor/director, whose most recent claim to fame is his starring role in the drama B'Tipul ("In Treatment"), has barely had a chance to dry. According to the indictment, on March 27, Dayan chased his girlfriend, while wielding a knife, a day after he pinned her down and punched her - mere months after knocking her down at an Italian airport and kicking her repeatedly. For whatever legal reason - connected to Dayan's past record of drug abuse and public displays of a "borderline personality" - even the fact that he phoned his victim a number of times from his new digs at the desert resort did not result in anything harsher than his having to reappear in court, only to be returned to the bosom of his buddy, inn-keeper Cushi Rimon. Because of Dayan's mega-star status and family ties (as the son of the late Moshe Dayan and brother of former Labor MK Yael Dayan), the story, naturally, was played up in the Hebrew papers. There's almost nothing as titillating, after all, as a blue-collar crime committed by a blue-blooded citizen, regardless of the country. But Channel 10 took the story a yellow step further. "This week, we gave [Assi Dayan] our camera with which to perform a unique documentation [of his "soul searching"]," announced host Dov Gilhar compassionately, after explaining to viewers that Dayan's "emotional and physical health has been seriously deteriorating over the past few years, culminating in his recent arrest for attacking his partner." Shift to Dayan adjusting his video equipment, and then filming himself. The following are excerpts from his monologue, delivered in slurred vernacular speech. "So, my name is Assi Dayan. Assaf. I can offer you some 5-10 minutes in my company. I'll report to you on all my activities and mishaps, and you will judge, beyond the regular trail that's waiting for me. I'm innocent, by the way. Isn't that what everybody says - I'm innocent; they're spilling my blood, sucking my blood, leeching? All for a slap - something that happens 170,000 times an hour between couples in this country... "I got here through an open arrest warrant. Before that, I was at [the] Abu Kabir [detention center]. Crowded, overflowing and boring. Surrounded by bars. Which is basically the bottom line of the whole thing. It was a very trying experience - the first time I was ever arrested [sic], and the first time that I have ever behaved violently. [Flipping through a stack of weekend magazines with his picture plastered all over them]: It shows a lack of anything real to write about. All the damage I've suffered from being watched to see when I stammer, when I blink, when I shake, when I look like an alleged junkie. I'm not a drug addict; I wasn't a drug addict [sic - in the past, Dayan was convicted for possession of cocaine, and received a suspended sentence and 200 hours of community work as part of a plea bargain.] I'm not a fan of all kinds of drugs and stuff like that, other than Ritalin, which is given to 26 million hyperactive children in the world... I need that medication to calm my brain from its fertile imagination - which brought you Givat Halfon, Shlager, Agfa, Baum and another 150 movies I was in..." THAT DAYAN wanted to proclaim his innocence - and remind us all what a great genius he is - is understandable, if nauseating. That the way he went about doing so was to say that slapping a woman is no big deal gives us a glimpse into his utter, evil arrogance - and makes Channel 10's sympathetic lens an accomplice. But this all pales in comparison to the astonishing media silence that has afflicted the pundits since the broadcast. Where are all the outraged feminist op-ed writers? Why was this item not raised on Channel 1's Bikortivi, or in the Web pages of The Seventh Eye? Where was Israel Radio's Keren Neubach? The answer is sadly simple: When a member of the bohemian branja - a coke-snorting artist with the right left-wing politics - strays from the straight and narrow, he is excused by his peers for having a "unique" and "troubled" soul. Just look at the case of actor/director Hanan Goldblatt, doing prison time for raping young girls who auditioned for him. In all the coverage of their beloved colleague, the media here expressed as much pity for the sorry - sick, not evil - state to which Goldblatt had sunk. Now compare the above to the treatment of former president Moshe Katsav, whose trial for rape begins next month - and that of former defense minister Yitzhak Mordechai, convicted in 2001 for sexual assault. Talk about harassment...