It was impossible to find any real news on TV yesterday afternoon. Regularly scheduled programming was preempted by live, wall-to-wall coverage of the Jackson memorial. And then, of course, we were treated to a repeat performance–just in case we suffered the inconsolable loss of having missed the live coverage.
I try my best to avoid this, but, to some extent, it’s unavoidable, so I’ll make a few comments.
1.Part of the hype is market-driven. Supposedly, this is good for business. A ratings boost. It plays to a market niche.
Up to a point that’s true. There’s a demographic that can never have enough celebrity coverage. However, there is another demographic which finds that saturation coverage a major turn-off. So the media is pandering to one market niche while alienating another market niche. What causes some viewers to turn in causes others to tune out.
2.Another function of these public tributes is for washed-up entertainers and other has-beens to briefly reclaim the limelight.
3.I’m also a bit amused by how the act of dying can suddenly rehabilitate one’s image. Before the body was cold, the media immediately began to canonize Michael Jackson.
Yet, for many years prior to his death, the same media which has suddenly sainted him was busy shredding his reputation.
4.Apropos (3), I seem to remember a time when some prominent members of the black community turned against him. For one thing, they were offended by the way in which he mutated into a white man.
But, at a later date, it seems as if the black community rallied around him.
That’s unfortunate. One the one hand, the black community rightly resents the popular stereotype of blacks as pimps and gang-bangers and dope dealers. On the other hand, some segments of the black community never miss a chance to reinforce negative stereotypes by reflexively defending the worst possible representatives of black ethnicity and culture.
5.Jackson has also been praised for his success as a crossover artist. For his mass appeal to white audiences.
I don’t see how his popularity on that score indicates evolving social acceptance. At the risk of stating the obvious, Michael Jackson was a sorry excuse for a black man. You only have to put him up against Dennis Haysbert or Laurence Fishburne to see what’s missing. If the only black man that white music consumers can go for is a self-loathing eunuch like Jackson, then I don’t think that says very much about racial progress.
6.Finally, there’s a defiant amorality about the coverage. The studied refusal to consider the disturbing evidence of pedophilia. Turning an icon of evil into a great humanitarian.