If you think MJ is a great and shining star, full of love and good works, this post is not for you.
If you think he was a misunderstood soul, again, this post is not for you.
I have dispensed the warnings, so if you are still reading, you either defend Michael Jackson, or you think that the circus surrounding his death is a macabre tribute to the spectacle that surrounded his life. Hopefully the latter.
I wish Dennis Miller were here with me, or had something to say about the pop star, who, in death, mirrored his tabloid life…he would pound MJ with a verbal beating that would befit the “Man in the Mirror;” today will probably become a frigging holiday…Moonwalk Day…to remind us how far we’ve fallen from the fabric known as reality and into the abyss.
I don’t even know where to start.
First, I cry for his children who have lost a father, his siblings that lost a brother, his parents that lost a son, and for his friends that loved him. I do not begrudge him the great things he accomplished and I do not question his motives or his faith.
The things I do question are his actions and our values.
Right now, at the Staple’s Center in Los Angeles, the MJ faithful are gearing up to say goodbye to a pop legend at an event that is stopping news worldwide and being broadcast across various media: TV, radio, print, mobile phones, and the internet. Yes, we have the capability. Why we are wasting it on Michael Jackson is beyond rational thought as is the fact that there commentators at his memorial. I guess we start there:
THE “NEWS” MEDIA
The News Media often giveth to those that are un-wanting or undeserving. In one breath, reporters solemnly dispense a story of loss and heartbreak surrounding a child murder. The camera angle changes, the newscaster’s face morphs, and the next breath supports the buzz surrounding the King of Pop’s memorial. The News Media, once champions of truth and seekers of justice, is now a machine built off of ratings. The ratings determine the prices stations can set for commercials. They also determine the quality of advertisers drawn to a show. Thus, the News Media has become entertainment, forced to carry Jerry Springer-like swill to remain on the air. It’s not the newscasters, although they better be attractive or have a definitive on-air presence; it’s the program directors, the owners, the conglomerates of media corporations. The News Media is big business…just ask Rupert Murdoch of News Corp, owner of Dow Jones & Company, The New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Fox News.
Television news is in a vicious cycle, and without having detrimental economic effects, there is no real way to stop it. In a very general sense, ratings are simply percentages of people viewing certain channels or broadcasts rather than others. This is a problematic model when it comes to the news; to gain ratings, News Media has had to become Entertainment. The news has transformed to a “friendlier” format, often taking the look and feel of a talk show rather than a conventional news broadcast. Chairs and couches have replaced the prototypical news desk; in Chicago, the local NBC morning news (from 5a.m. to 7 a.m.) has taken a non-news “flavor,” incorporating items such as Dance Friday, a ridiculous segment during a time-period that is reserved to reach working adults.
The News Media is a mere shadow of what it once embodied, and as it moves toward Entertainment, stations move toward four-hour “news” shows that report crap and generate higher ratings. The best source for truth in media is Public Broadcasting; yet, the problem with Public Broadcasting is lack of resources. These stations do not accept advertising dollars and thus are not able to fund reporting teams, news vans, helicopters, and foreign correspondents.
My television is on in the background, and I have become part of the problem, listening to the hoopla surrounding MJ’s Memorial. In the larger sense, it doesn’t truly matter: The number of viewers is estimated to be in the billions and the celebration/memorial isn’t due to begin for another twelve hours.
Have our current losses in security (job, economic, moral) fallen so far that we need something so blatantly depraved to celebrate? These are, without doubt, troubling times. Our trust has been compromised, our faith has been eroded, and we are in fear of what the future may bring. Yet, stop a moment and think about Michael Jackson, the man: A father of three that held his child out a hotel window; a questionable icon that’s best friend was a chimpanzee; an accused (but not convicted) child molester who beat a criminal rap and paid his way out of a civil suit (for an undisclosed amount of money); a person of questionable appetites and admitted psychological malfunctions; a grandiose dreamer who named his son Prince Michael Jackson; and an addict, living in seclusion, with things unknown taking place behind those castle walls.
The actions of the people once closest to Jackson…do they portray the attitude that should be taken toward the icon’s death? The mother his children Debbie Rowe, his ex-wife, Lisa Marie Presley, and his “second-best” friend Liz Taylor have all stated that they will not attend the memorial. Bubbles, Jackson’s closest and “best-friend” is not attending either, although one of Jackson’s fans offered to fly him to the funeral, all expenses paid.
If only Bubbles could speak.
If this is a picture of what we’ve become, we need to re-evaluate our priorities. Not since the arrival of the Pope has an event gathered this much media attention…or so said the news. The City of Los Angeles, already over $500 million in debt, is expecting to incur a cost around $3,000,000, which is more than the $1.8 million spent last month to celebrate the Los Angeles Lakers’ Championship festivities. Who is going to pay for all of this? Right now, it seems to be LA, although they have asked for the Jackson Family and the event company (yes, there’s an event company) to help defray the cost. Not to miss an opportunity, they have also asked for fans to contribute via Pay Pal.
While the News Media covers the event, they question their own coverage in the face of public scrutiny; yet, as the ratings-game plays out, they have no choice but to be there with top talent. After all, this is one of the largest cultural events that will be seen in the lifetimes of many… drawing more sympathetic well-wishers than the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the death of Princess Diana, and the murder of Martin Luther King. Our youth will bear this stain, forever remembering where they were when Michael Jackson died.
Such is our fate.
WE’VE LOST OUR WAY
If there were a singular event that I could pin “We Have Lost Our Way” upon, it would be this one. Over the bankruptcy, theft, and corporate espionage exhibited by some of our once-famous manufacturers, banks, and insurance companies. Greater than the political scandals committed by our elected officials, our states, and Uncle Sam. More damaging than the harm created by our laws, or lack thereof. As America turns toward the death of Michael Jackson, the King, America turns away from all that made us individual, great, and sovereign.
We’ve removed our values from the priceless and placed them on the useless.
Ironically, I am reminded of a story where a great nation that had lost their way also went whoring after worthless idols.