As the public gathers today at LA’s Staples Center for Michael Jackson’s memorial service, his family will lay him to rest among the celebrities interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Two questions will remain:
HAS MEDIA COVERAGE OF HIS DEATH BEEN TOO EXTENSIVE?
Yes. But, modern media have returned to “Yellow Journalism,” which spurred newspaper sales when editors like Joseph Pulitizer and William Randolph Hearst opted to give the readers what they want.
Mass hysteria is defined as “a condition in which a large group of people exhibit similar physical or emotional symptoms, such as anxiety or extreme excitement." The same principle of group-think is at play in what I call “mass adulation.”
Readers of a certain age remember those days of JFK’s death when evening news lasted only 30 minutes, but all networks devoted full-time coverage. Kennedy was the sitting president of the United States, and the days of coverage included his murder, the shooting death of his alleged killer and his funeral, and they only lasted four days. .
Thinking back, we didn’t experience this with the death of former first lady Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, the most famous woman of her time.
Compare the coverage of the deaths of the couple of Camelot with that of Anna Nicole Smith. Or, the O. J. Simpson trial.
Certainly the 24/7 format of cable news is a factor – President Obama says the outpouring for Jackson is fed by a media appetite that’s “insatiable.” But, when did this mass adulation phenomenon begin?
Perhaps it began on 30 August 1997 when the world was rocked by the death of Princess Diana. There might have been the same outpouring at the deaths of Rudolph Valentino or Elvis Presley, but there was no cable news to sell it.
It certainly continued on 5 June 2004 with the week of former President Ronald Reagan’s funeral and what I call the “deification of the dead,” a boon to his party in an election year.
Michael Jackson’s worldwide celebrity probably merits such coverage if today’s media really seek to give the public what it wants. So, a cycle of growing coverage and growing adulation is set off.
The opinion of Republican Congressman Peter King of New York (LINK) addresses this phenomenon and proves a perfect segue to the second question::
"This lowlife, Michael Jackson, his name, his face, his picture is all over the newspapers, televisions, radio.
"Let's knock out the psychobabble. This guy was a pervert, a child molester, a pedophile. And to be giving this much coverage to him day in and day out, what does it say about us as a country?
"There's nothing good about this guy. He may have been a good singer, done some dancing, but the bottom line is: would you allow your child or grandchild to be in the same room with Michael Jackson? That would be horrifying."
Thus, our second question:
WAS MICHAEL JACKSON A CHILD MOLESTER?
Rep. King failed to factor in Jackson’s acquittal by a jury of his peers. In stating, “There’s nothing good about this guy,” King ignores Jackson’s great humanitarian efforts, his contributions of millions upon millions to charities aiding children.
Then, we had the very moving and emotional interview with the mother of AIDS victim Ryan White, who extolled Jackson for his kindness and close friendship with her son - for whom he wrote “Gone Too Soon.” I hope King caught the sincerity in her tears. And, I hope he’s “looking at the man in the mirror.”
As the ladies of “The View” pointed out: “Yes, Michael Jackson did strange things. Woody Allen and Roman Polanski did strange things. But, they are all great artists.”
Whoopi Goldberg on that show said she first met Jackson in the early 80s, when he was invited by Steven Spielberg to sit in at her audition for “The Color Purple,” that he had remained her close friend, and that any mother could have trusted him with her children.
As the bard wrote, “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” It’s just a matter of perception, isn’t it? But, it's also a matter of listening to those who actually knew him.
One thing’s for certain, the music and the magic that was Michael Jackson cannot be buried by criticism or a final resting place.
A South Carolina update follows.