On June 25, 2009, there were several news stories that could dramatically impact our lives. Riots in Iran, North Korea threatening to launch a missile in the direction of the USA, and a climate change bill in congress that could devastate this country’s economy; and what had almost non-stop news coverage for 24 hours and beyond? Michael Jackson.
His untimely passing was sad, but to forsake real news coverage in order to speculate on the cause of Jackson’s death and rehash his bizarre behavior was excessive. His lifestyle, in the minds of many, overshadows his extraordinary talent and the revolutionary affect he had on pop music. More important, does our fascination with celebrity warrant the virtual shutting down of general news reporting to concentrate on this event?
As a pre-boomer, I can recall major events that stopped the world on its axis. First it was Pearl Harbor, then the ending of the wars in both Europe and Japan. Later the country faced withdrawal from Vietnam and more recently the terrorists’ attacks on the World Trade Center. As for the deaths of individuals, there was the passing of President Roosevelt and the assignation of President Kennedy, which became a television event. On the celebrity level, the deaths of Elvis Presley, John Lennon and even Princess Diana were big but not this big.
Maybe it’s the 24/7 cable news networks that have blown the Jackson death out of proportion. Perhaps it was the non-stop chatter on the Internet and other social networks all spewing out information and opinions at almost the speed of sound. Or, it could be the times we live in that is causing us to escape into outside stories rather than deal with the internal strife brought on by today’s problems. While the controversy surrounding Jackson makes for great news, is this the news we want to hear; or is it what the TV networks chose to promote in order to garner viewers? The cable people and the blogs were all over this story and enhanced it whenever possible. The broadcast networks were forced to reciprocate along with radio and the print media. It’s the proverbial snow ball rolling down the hill increasing in mass and speed as it plummets to an ultimate end.
After several days of wall-to-wall coverage, the Jackson saga continues and raises a number of unanswered questions. What was the exact cause of death? Who will have custody of the children? Is there a valid Will? There will be many more, even if the media fabricates them in order to keep the story alive. In the meantime, we are still confronted with unrest in the middle-east, a mad man with a bomb, and more questionable bills moving through congress.
There was another celebrity who died a few hours before Jackson. Farrah Fawcett lost her several-year battle with cancer a few hours earlier. The story of her courageous fight took a backseat to the news about the “King of Pop.” Sometime in the future, when reflect back on these two deaths, we may realize that far more can be learned from the way Farrah fought to live rather than the way Jackson tried to run away from life.