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TV Depicts Armenians as Savages 08/07/2003
Hour-Long TV Show 'Dragnet'
Depicts Armenians as Savages

 
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
 
The USA Network re-broadcast on July 5, 2003, a one-hour police drama called
Dragnet which portrayed all Armenians as vicious criminals. While presenting
the fictionalized version of a murder allegedly committed by two Armenian
individuals, it impugned the good name of all Armenians, not just the ones
who committed the crime. It referred to Armenians in general as gangsters
and savages.
 
This episode originally aired on ABC-TV on February 16, 2003 -- which was
seen by 8 million Americans and countless millions more saw it during its
second airing in July -- so far two opportunities to view these nasty
depictions about Armenians on national TV. Some may think that Armenians are
over-reacting to negative remarks being made about an Armenian character in
a TV show. That is not the case at all. The Armenian community would not
have been so agitated had the show simply depicted a criminal with an
Armenian last name. After all, individuals from many other ethnic groups are
regularly portrayed on the screen as murderers, burglars, rapists, and
terrorists. What makes this case particularly egregious is that it defames
the entire Armenian nation, not just an individual of Armenian background.
 
The show starts with Los Angeles Police Department detectives inspecting the
corpse of a man with his throat slashed, lying in a pool of blood on
Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles. A medical examiner explains that in order
to inflict maximum pain on the victim, the killers had made a superficial
cut on his throat, so he would bleed to death slowly. They had hit him over
the head with a blunt object and had shot both of his knees.
 
While the victim is a non-Armenian, the "brutal as hell" unknown killers, on
the other hand, are immediately labeled by the detectives as "these savages,
the Armenians." The detectives then use a series of racist adjectives to
describe Armenians in general:
 
"Slit throat, bullets to the knees. That's their MO [Modus Operandi]. They
came off the boat killing. Ex-KGB, Special Forces, mercenaries.  ...Say they
want something. You don't give it to them. They don't kill you. They kill
your mother, father, son, daughter. Then you get the message and you give
them what they want. ...Armenians. Why would Holt [the victim] know those
kind of gangsters?"
 
After a second murder, the detectives immediately conclude: "Déjà vu all
over again. Slit throat. The Armenian special. Bullets in the knees."
 
When an acquaintance of the victim tells the detectives that the perpetrator
may be a man by the name of "Anatoly," detective Friday immediately says,
"who happens to be Armenian, I bet!" He then adds, "The Armenians had their
own version of the Hollywood ethic. It was not enough for them to succeed.
Everyone else had to die. One of the interesting things about police work is
that killers often don't look the part. That was not the case with Anatoly
Derian."
 
After surmising that Derian was swindled out of his money by movie producers
Jesse Ross and Peter Holt, one of the detective asks his colleague the
following rhetorical question: "You're the Armenians [sic]. You give Jesse
and Holt all kinds of money. They spend the money. They can't get it back.
What do you do?" The second detective answers matter-of-factly: "Start
cutting peoples' throats!"
 
After repeatedly referring to Derian as "a lunatic Armenian" and "an
Armenian gangster," the producers of the show, not content to have maligned
the Armenians enough, introduces Derian's uncle, Alex Karpoyan, who owns a
"high-end strip joint in Van Nuys." He is immediately identified as the
killer of Holt.
 
At the end of the show, the court verdicts are announced: "Derian entered a
plea o f murder in the first degree. He was sentenced to a life term without
parole." Karpoyan was "convicted of murder in the first degree and sentenced
to die by lethal injection. He is now on death row at the state penitentiary
at San Quentin."
 
The producers deliberately mislead the viewers into believing that the show
is based on a true story. There is an announcement at the beginning of the
show that states: "The story is inspired by actual events. The names have
been changed to protect the innocent." This statement is somewhat
contradicted by another announcement made at the end of the show: "All
characters and events in the preceding story have been fictionalized to
protect the innocent. No actual person was depicted." Despite these
confusing announcements, the episode is presented like a documentary,
leading the viewers to believe that the characters and the events are
authentic. It leaves the clear impression that Armenians are vicious people.
 
This racist show has already been braodcast twice on network television.
Immediate steps must be taken not to allow its further showing in this
country and its syndication overseas. Here are some suggestions as to the
actions that could be taken against those responsible for this horrible
show:
 
The lion's share of the blame goes to the writer of the show, Robert Port.
The Creative Artists Agency describes him as a "Deputy in the Los Angeles
County Sheriff's Department." It appears that Port and/or his agency have
misrepresented his employment. The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department
confirmed to the writer of this column that Port was simply a reserve
deputy, which means that he works there only a few hours a month. Why did
Port write such a viciously anti-Armenian script? How could a "reserve
deputy sheriff" who apparently holds such racist attitudes towards Armenians
work as a law enforcement officer in a diverse multi-ethnic society? The
Armenian community should ask L.A. County Sheriff Leroy Baca to dismiss Port
from the Sheriff's Department and issue a letter of apology. Sheriff Baca's
e-mail address is: ldbaca@lasd.org.
 
Complaints should also be directed to:
Dick Wolf, Executive Producer of Dragnet, (phone 818-777-3131; fax
818-866-1446);
Michael Eisner, Chairman & CEO, The Walt Disney Company, the parent company
of ABC (phone 818-560-6180; fax 818-560-1300);
Bob Iger, President and COO for ABC (phone 818-650-6400; fax 818-560-5960);
Michael Jackson, Chairman Universal Television Group for USA Network (phone
212-413-5658; fax 212-413-6557);
Ron Meyer, Chief Operating Officer Vivendi Universal Entertainment (phone
818-777-5000; fax 818-777-2500).
 
Unless the producers of the show and those holding the rights for this
episode agree to delete the defamatory language targeting all Armenians,
community organizations should consider filing a lawsuit seeking to ban this
episode from being aired again.
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