All Holier-Than-Thou Eve

It was a big night for the self-righteous. While Europe and the United States were celebrating All Hallows Eve we were celebrating all Holier-Than-Thou eve. One after the other, the pundits from channels 2 and 10 appeared and donned various and sundry excuses for their strange decision not to broadcast the much-discussed interviews with Yigal Amir.

Both channels had real journalistic achievements in hand; both chose to deep-six them in exchange for ratings and a viewer-pleasing mess of pottage. Both wanted to "make nice" to themselves and their viewers, to be safe and not, far be it from them, to anger anyone. And to hell with pure professionalism: That would have required the airing of those interviews, hard as they would have been to stomach.

In the morning Channel 2 news, which had kept its interview under wraps for several months and revealed it only so it could say that it had one too, announced that it would not air the piece. In the afternoon Raviv Drucker and Ofer Shelah, two talented and brave presenters of Channel 10's Friday night news program "Shishi," sounded determined when they promised in a private conversation that they would indeed broadcast the segments edited down from five hours of taped conversation between researcher Sheli Tapiro and Amir. In the afternoon, this hope too was dashed. Shelah and Drucker did say on the air that they did not agree with the decision and that "the board of directors would discuss the issue further."

With the serious expression of a prime minister sending the country to war, Yair Lapid announced to the nation at the start of Channel 2's Friday evening news program "Ulpan Shishi" that "I was part of the decision and I was proud of it." For several minutes he made embarrassed, pathos-filled statements about why the interview with Amir should not be aired.

"It's important to Yigal Amir ... It's part of the campaign to legitimize him ... Violence and death are part of life, but there's a limit." As if just the previous day his channel had not promised to broadcast the interview.

What happened in the meantime? They got scared. The climax, of course, was this: "If we don't get [high viewer] ratings today, so what?" As if Lapid, that warrior, was fighting to explain a courageous decision, and to hell with ratings, while the truth is exactly the opposite.

Gadi Sukenik called Larisa Trimbombler, Amir's wife, a "nutcase" - when it comes to the Amir family, everything is permitted - but he could not compete with the hail of derogatory names Oshrat Kotler rained on Amir in her opinion segment. She, as is known, is a brave and determined journalist. Especially when it involves the secure and pleasant zone of consensus. Among Kotler's choice epithets were "vile", "lowlife" and "that disgusting man."

But most depressing of all was realizing that there is no real, professional competition between the two channels and there is no longer any difference between them. For both the professional consideration, that which determines the value of an interview according to its interest to the public, has receded in the face of extraneous standards. There is no connection between our feelings toward Amir and the obligation to uncover more and more about what led him to pull the trigger. Anywhere else in the world there would have been no debate at all over whether or not to air such important documentary material.

But never mind. Instead of the interview with Amir that should have been broadcast we got a report on a beauty pageant for divorced women and another on promoting the "Big Brother" reality show on Channel 2, and a no less bland segment about twins on Channel 10. Television at its best.