Dead or Alive?
Heard Mentality: the best of the music blog for the week of June 22-June 28
Michael Jackson’s death on June 25 provided an opportunity to observe a couple of fascinating things: how really, really big news travels, and the world’s massive, collective cognitive dissonance over how to react to the event.
Never before have traditional news outlets seemed so ridiculously outdated. Infamous gossip site TMZ reported Jackson as dead roughly half an hour before the Los Angeles Times‘ website did so and nearly an hour before CNN.com. The reluctance of “legit” news sources confirming the information led to many refusing to believe the story, although it seems highly unlikely that a site as popular as TMZ would go forward with that info if it were bogus, despite their less-than-stellar reputation (one of their headlines earlier that day was “Nas—Kelis Should Put a Cork in It”). It was an awkward period of time, when many people weren’t sure whether or not Jackson was dead or alive. Schrödinger’s King of Pop.
Tending to believe TMZ in this instance (perhaps I should emulate the “wait at LAX until a minor celebrity shows up and bug them with goofy questions” approach in my own reporting), I went forward with a blog titled, “TMZ Reports Michael Jackson Dead at 50,” hedging my bets but sure it was more than likely true. Apparently, I was one of the first bloggers to take TMZ at their word, and the highly Googleable “Michael Jackson Dead” got that post three times more comments than we’ve had for a single post in our music blog’s history—within an hour. It would be nice if it were for something more than links to national news and my accompanying sarcastic comments, but one takes what page views one can get.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
After being sure he was, in fact, dead, the next challenge was what type of mourning was appropriate. It’s essentially a battle between the type of super-fans who mobbed UCLA Medical Center that day, who refuse to believe MJ ever did anything wrong, and the “Michael Jackson was an inhuman child molester, thank God he’s gone!” camp. Despite his being acquitted of all charges, Jackson has, in death, sparked a debate on blogs, message boards, Facebook statuses and Twitter posts (and, possibly, face-to-face communication) around the globe: Does the fact that he made all these awesome songs negate the lingering child-molestation allegations?
The weirdest part about that line of discussion is how sure most folks seem: either that he definitely did molest kids, or there was no possible way he could do such a thing. Ultimately, none of us was hanging at the Neverland Ranch during the time of allegations (uh, thankfully?); people just don’t want to deal with uncomfortable, “complicated” feelings. Sure, he had tons of great tunes—Thriller alone had the title track, “Beat It” and “Billie Jean.” And, if the old allegations are true, he did some truly terrible things. Do the two really have anything to do with each other?
Me, I dealt with the death in my own way: by coming up with some really awful, tasteless jokes. (Why didn’t the paramedics do CPR on Michael Jackson? Because that kid’s penis kept getting in the way.)