Thursday, August 20, 2009

Should we feel sorry for Dudu Topaz?

Dudu Topaz.JPG

One of Israel's best-loved television stars, Dudu Topaz, has committed suicide in jail. He was imprisoned after confessing to orchestrating a series of violent attacks on television executives who no longer wanted to produce his shows. After decades at the top of the Israeli entertainment industry, he just couldn't live without the attention and the glory.

As someone who grew up in Israel in the 1980s - when Topaz was "King of the Ratings" - I have to say that I am truly shocked by his suicide, in the same way many people were shocked by Michael Jackson's death. Topaz was part of my childhood and it is hard to believe that this is how it all ended. It is a very modern tragedy, when life becomes meaningless without celebrity.

But should we feel sorry for him?

Already, there are voices blaming the media for his death, saying he was 'hounded', that 'words kill' and that the media 'lynched' him. The implication is that the coverage of his case was somehow unjust and should have been restrained in order to spare Topaz, who was in a fragile mental state.

This, of course, is rubbish.

I wouldn't go so far as Israel Channel 10's Raviv Drucker, who wrote this morning that he was glad that Topaz killed himself because the trial would have been "too painful and too annoying" - for us, the public! Obviously, Topaz did not deserve to die, he was a severely distressed man, and the public's feelings in all of this are just irrelevant.

But Drucker is right that Topaz confessed to some terrible acts of violence, in which people were nearly killed, and that they were all planned in advance and deliberate. Topaz knew exactly what he was doing - he was depressed, not insane - and he even hid in order to witness every one of the attacks he ordered being carried out.

The media, both national and international, did exactly the right thing by covering one of the biggest television scandals of the decade. How could they not?

And if Dudu Topaz could not take the mental pressure, he shouldn't have sent thugs to beat up women in front of their children.

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