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The Top Story

By Shamus
on Wednesday Jul 8, 2009
Filed under:


Yesterday the news reached maximum saturation levels with stuff about the death of Michael Jackson. I know I said I wasn’t going to write about it, but the question is driving me crazy:

Do people really care this much?

The CNN homepage. The main story, and the first seven top stories are all essentially the same story. Is this really a picture of what people want to know?
The CNN homepage. The main story, and the first seven top stories are all essentially the same story. Is this really a picture of what people want to know?
Among all the blogs I read (and my reading covers politics, technology, anime, roleplaying, and videogames, as well as some personal sites) nobody has written about him. (Except for Steven, who brought it up explicitly to announce he wanted nothing to do with the story.) None of the people I’m following on Twitter have mentioned him, even once. None of the people I talk to during the day bring it up. When I mentioned how I wasn’t going to write about it, the only response I got was “I’m sick of hearing about him” from a couple of people. So the only reactions I’ve seen to the story were all more or less an expression of lack of interest that borders on annoyance. Yet the news (by which I mean news sites, since I don’t watch TV) is wall-to-wall with coverage. They’re even doing the news wank thing where they invent more news by simply going out and asking famous person A what they think about what happened to famous person B, and reporting that as news. A reaction to the news as news, yea, even unto the fourth generation.

I’ve seen this effect before, where the news is obsessing over something that doesn’t seem to interest people. In the past I’ve always assumed it’s because I’m part of an atypical subculture and my interactions are limited to people who are just as screwy as I am. But the delta between observable interest level (zero, or even negative) and actual news coverage (intense and sustained) is so massive that I’m starting to wonder if the “atypical subculture” is actually the people who make the news. In general, most of our mass media and news comes from New York and LA. Maybe those folks are just a lot more interested than the rest of us. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the world really is riveted by this stuff and I’m simply a member of a deviant nerd cult.

Do people really care this much? Is this the central conversation around the water cooler and the dinner table? Is this monopolizing people’s thoughts like a space shuttle disaster or the assassination of a world leader?

I apologize for bringing this up while some people seem to be grieving, and I apologize again for bringing it up if you’re sick of it, but I really am puzzled by this disconnect.

Comments (143)

1 2 3

  1. Pheonix says:

    Nope. Nobody I know cares. Pedo deserved to die.

  2. Nope. Mentioned it a few times, but it’s not a big news thing. Most of me and my mates are more concerned with UCAS applications, or China riots, or computer games, or sport, or… you get the picture.

  3. Joshua says:

    I think you’re spot-on here. I’m 32 and remember Michael Jackson from his Thriller days. I don’t remember him doing anything significant in the past 20 years or so, at least not in a good way. I read CNN.com in the morning, and see Fox News on the television at work. Both of them have done exhaustive coverage of this guy like he was in the zenith of his career. However, apart from a few casual conversations, no one I’ve talked to has really cared that much, as he was not all of that relevant in today’s world, except in a creepy way.

    Reminds me of seeing the tabloids at the supermarket and all of their stories about Liza Minelli and Elizabeth Taylor.

  4. Mike says:

    And now for something completely different…

    Why does this site and this site alone have a very slow scroll rate? I’m using FF 3.5, and I’ve noticed that with either the scroll wheel on the mouse or using the scrollbar on the right, the page moves one line at a time, very slowly. Hitting page-down works normally. Wierd.

    Not a complaint, just wondering what’s up. :)

  5. antsheaven says:

    Well, seeing that the memorial tickets are sold out, and all of those “tribute to MJ” events, I do think people (in Indonesia, at least) care.

  6. Alberto says:

    Just do a quick search on twitter on #mj. You’ll see that a lot of people apparently do care.

  7. Yamael says:

    Same thing in Spain, apparently half the news is about MJ’s death, funeral, will, or any minute detail you can think of.

    Among the people I know, be it friends, coworkers or family, the only reaction was the day it happened, and it went along these lines:
    – “Hey, have you heard? MJ is dead”
    – “Yes, I knew/Oh, I didn’t know.”
    – “Anyway, …”

    And that was all. RIP. Forgotten. Back to things we actually care about.

  8. SireCh says:

    well, at least while they are talking about MJ they are not scaring everybody with the latest world crisis. By the way, is it just me or is the bird flu already forgotten? How many times (SARS, flu , …) will this happen before people wise up?

  9. UtopiaV1 says:

    My girlfriend cares, so when she’s around I have to pretend he was an excellent singer/songwriter/whatever.

    Bottom line was, there wasn’t any way for MJ to top the headlines ever again after all the other publicity stunts, so he killed himself so he’ll be to top story for months now…

    Ahh, the lengths some people go to. Now THAT’S dedication…

    Quick PS: The exact same thing happened when princess Diana died, so I think it’s actually the newspapers listening to what the loudest members of the public want to see. They want to see tears, a national (nay, WORLD) funeral, and some really shit conspiracy theories.

  10. Jonathan says:

    Nobody I know cares. The dinosaur media (print news, TV) is a subculture all its own, with significant ideological/political/social biases. Now that we have the Internet, those biases are contributing to their downfall.

  11. Ian says:

    It reminds this particular UK resident of the fuss when Princess Diana died — utter madness on a national scale.

    It seems as though, given enough media coverage, certain people can start ‘grieving’ over the death of a complete stranger. Perhaps the media gets scared to not cover it (because they believe that everyone actually cares that much), and as a result of the saturation, some people become sensitised to it? Perhaps similar to how every time a suicide becomes news, the suicide figures go up.

    Anyway, I ramble: I for one don’t give a monkey’s left testicle, much like the rest of you.

    Edit: I see I was beaten to the punch by @UtopiaV1.

  12. Vladius says:

    Like, srsly, let the old pedophile die.

    I was hoping for some coverage of the cap-and-trade bill, which will probably ruin the children’s future a lot more than the death of Michael Jackson.

  13. JFargo says:

    I’m a transcriptionist working for a large telecommunications agency that I can’t name exactly. I listen to people (previously recorded) complain about their service, and I type it into a little box.

    I did almost 1000 calls yesterday. I’d say roughly 400 or so of them were people crying that their TV wasn’t working, so they couldn’t watch the MJ funeral.

    And by crying, I mean that literally.

    We were just told to expect more calls today than we’ve ever received in one day, because of the funeral and people calling in with complaints about not being able to watch it/TIVO it/whatever.

    So yes, some people care. But not me.

  14. D10 says:

    As for the pedofile thing, you can check the wikpedia for facts and decide yourself.

  15. Vegedus says:

    Yup. Guy’s songs has always been a small part of my life, even though I didn’t actually listen to it. He influenced too many parts of the pop culture I grew up in to count. I can do a decent moonwalk. I’m not grieving, as such, because I don’t grieve for people I don’t know, but I do see it as an important event.

    Likewise does a number of people in my internet circles and real life circles, though not overwhelming.

    Also, I was just at a music festival where you could occasionally hear his music being played in the tents, and a couple of the artists played tributes as well.

    The media have been over-exhaustive and tiring in ther covering of the event, but it usually is when something big happens they can milk for a lot stories.

  16. Harvey says:

    Wait until OJ dies

    “Hall of Fame football player & Hollywood actor”

    “Murderer and armed robber”

  17. Zukhramm says:

    Caring much is ok. And “Michael Jackson is dead” is certanly news that should be reported. But when the front cover headlines say “Michael Jackson to be buried without brain”, I really start to wonder what’s going on.

  18. Ben says:

    Who died?

    I think people tend to attach way more significance to the death of someone famous than is necessary. 99.9% of the people I’ve seen (on the news) hysterically grieving never met the man, never knew what he was really like behind closed doors and never had even the remotest chance to do so.

    Maybe that’s why there are all the hysterics? Shattered dreams of one day meeting the dude? The “If he ever really knew me, he’s like me and I’d be accepted by a famous person” syndrome?

  19. Annika says:

    Well, people I know (not only “nerds” although I do know a few tech people) but also my family, colleagues, friends from decidedly un-nerdy subcultures and so on are mostly indifferent. So am I. At 24, I’m probably too young to be a Jackson fan anyway… but I don’t know older people who really care, either. Reactions range from downright annoyed at the coverage to amused at the crazy things people do because of this. Personally, I do feel a bit sorry for the poor man, but I’d have to lie to say I really care that much. So your observations seem pretty much right to me.

    EDIT: YES, I rolled a critical! (Sorry, but this is my first comment here… loved your LOTR webcomic, btw!)

  20. Mari says:

    Exactly one person I know cares enough to follow the “news” coverage. I found it vaguely sad and almost shocking the day he died. I did comment on it at that time. Since then I haven’t really cared much, though.

  21. Harvey says:

    The reason it takes the MSM so long to cover this is that MJ’s memorable works last about 3 minutes each and there’s at least 10 of them that everyone has heard multiple times whether they liked him or not.

    Farrah Fawcett had a poster.

    Most movie actors have, at most, a handful of memorable lines.

    So when it comes time for the news to cover every reason “why you’ve heard of this guy”, Jackson is going to take longer.

  22. nilus says:

    Well for a lot of people MJ was very important to them when they were young. We listened to his early stuff and we liked it. Say what you will about his later life but he was a great performer, an amazing musician and a hell of a good dancer.

    To a lot of people his death is a bit of there childhood dying. So yeah just because you don’t care don’t assume the rest of the world doesn’t.

  23. JohnW says:

    I care in a roundabout way. When Thriller was all the rage, I was 10 or so. I hated MJ with a passion verging on the incandescent. So did all my friends (well, all one of them). We would sit around complaining about how he was so girly, so wierd, and all the girls loved him for some reason, and it was completely baffling, and you could not escape him anywhere – he was always on TV, or on a poster, or the cover of a magazine. My parents took my sisters and some of their friends to one of his concerts, I slept over my friend’s house in protest. We had alot of fun playing D&D and GI Joe.

    So it is definitely odd to have such a fixture from my childhood die suddenly. I even like the music from Thriller and Off the Wall quite a bit now. Nothing else he did ever was any good.

    So I care, but certainly not so much to justify even a small fraction of this wall-to-wall coverage.

  24. Chris says:

    It’s easy news (MSM Malibu Stacey says “Investigative journalism is hard!”). Gotta have something to fill the 24-hour news wallpaper channels.

    “That Jackson chappy: still dead is he? Right-oh. Carry on Sergeant-major.”

  25. Fuklaw says:


    still dead

  26. Lalaland says:

    It’s the ‘grief tourism’ industry all over again, the same industry that makes commemorative plates every so often gets to break out and sell to the masses. As has been noted Princess Diana was the last outbreak of this and at least MJ had talent unlike Diana who merely married an heir apparent. I found the wheeling out of his 11 year old daughter at the DVD moneygrab memorial ceremony particularly distasteful.

    There is another side to this though if you actually use the news (however you consume it) as a window into issues and the lives of others welcome to the minority. News has become info-tainment in the US (as far as I can tell from rebroadcasts of CNN, ABC and MSNBC) and is fast getting that way in Europe too. It makes sense for them to cover what is an celebrity driven entertainment event as if it were more important than say the growing ethnic tensions in China or complicated discussions of economic theory.

  27. Richard says:

    I also have negative interest in it. I only know enough about it to know that he took a sedative powerful enough that when it’s used under carefully controlled conditions in hospitals, with the dosage calculated precisely, there still has to be a larger team than would be normal monitoring the person to make sure that they don’t die of it.

    To be blunt, he died of incurable stupidity. This makes him a really good Darwin Award candidate, methinks.

  28. Ben says:

    @Richard – or addiction, which has nothing to do with stupidity. I’ve met enough very smart addicts to know.

    It’s a media event. Remember Shark Summer? This is Michael Jackson is Still Dead Summer.

  29. Mark says:

    The news has pretty much been an echo chamber for a while, yeah.

  30. houser2112 says:

    @28 – Assuming his kids really are his, biologically speaking, then he’s already contaminated the gene pool and made himself ineligible for a Darwin.

  31. Randy Johnson says:

    The real major story of our time is Star Wars the Old Republic.

  32. Sesoron says:

    A couple of technical friends on Facebook have posted several things about it, so there are obviously some people who give a crap. I assume it’s mostly the people who don’t have real hobbies and therefore have nothing better to think about when their brains aren’t engaged in some task.

  33. lazybratsche says:

    Apparently, CNN (and probably the other news networks as well) have seen their ratings increase dramatically, on the order of 4x as much as usual. So a lot of people care enough — more than enough to make it profitable for the media to make a huge spectacle out of this.

    But in the sample of people I know, I haven’t met anyone who cared. The sum total conversation at work was “oh, that’s why there were so many helicopters during that conference in LA.”

  34. Neil Polenske says:

    Shamus, don’t take this wrong way but…

    You have a site whose entire design theme is centered around Dungeons and Dragons. Yes, yes you are part of a atypical subculture who are going to have almost no interest in Mr. Jacko.

    I am also part of that subculture (if not to your extent…I will admit I’ve never played D’nD once in my entirety of life), but my job has me interact daily with the demographic the news now caters to. They exist, in large quantities and they generally do not peruse the internet unless it’s to buy something and obtain more viruses that they’re oblivious to.

    Point is, they exist, they exist in large numbers – large enough for mass media to indulge them – and they don’t intersect with your subculture AT ALL. In short this:

    “In the past I've always assumed it's because I'm part of an atypical subculture and my interactions are limited to people who are just as screwy as I am.”

    …right on the money.

  35. HeadHunter says:

    Farrah Fawcett died the same day – after courageously battling a terminal and incurable cancer. Her death was not in any way a result of excess or indiscretion on her part… yet there’s relatively little coverage compared to the media circus that has for years accompanied the train wreck that is MJ.

    If he truly was this newsworthy, people would have been talking about him a lot BEFORE he died. Yet, he mostly lived in obscurity, unless we were hearing reports of his alleged illicit activities, or his betrayal of Arab investors, or something equally sordid. I didn’t even know he had a comeback tour in the works until he DIED. That’s how truly obscure he REALLY was.

    Perhaps there are some people who truly care – but I’m sure a larger portion are the sort who latch onto these things to appear compassionate and sympathetic to others. You know the sort – they’ll tell you how you should feel about the victims of this tragedy or that disaster… but they can’t even NAME one victim, so how compassionate can they truly be?

  36. Anonymous says:

    You perceive a seeming disconnect because you believe that the purpose of the media is to inform people. You now have glimpsed a glimmer of the truth behind the curtain.

  37. Chris says:

    I don’t want television, so I only run into MJ news 5th hand (or more) from stuff like this post or from my wife.

    I guess I don’t really talk to too many people either. No Facebook or other online accounts. Hey, being antisocial pays off!

  38. RPharazon says:

    I’ve seen a few people get really all up in a huff about this. Yesterday a coworker literally started crying as she saw the memorial service, and I asked her why she was crying over a person she’s never met, and who’s never met her. She called me a bastard and left off in a huff.

    Later that day, when mentioning that episode of weird drama to a friend, said friend also left in a huff after insulting me a few times.

    On the other side of things, all of the remaining people I know can’t be bothered to care about Michael Jackson’s death. Some of them are in fact happy about the death.

    What I just cannot understand is the hypocrisy surrounding the situation. For the past 10 years, Michael Jackson’s just been a really weird and creepy figure who hangs babies off balconies and may or may not have molested several children. Nobody cared about him at all, except to publicly criticize or make fun of him.

    But now, when he dies, they all suddenly love him and consider him the best musician of their time? Where were these people when he was alive? If you really loved the guy, then why didn’t you do these kinds of memorial services and celebrations before he died? Surely it is a bit weird to show love and appreciation towards someone only immediately after their death.

    It seems to be a very polarizing issue, and I hate seeing people get all up in a huff about it. Unless you knew the guy, personally, as a friend, and vice versa, then you don’t really have the right to mourn for him this much. No, your childhood did not die. A childhood’s death is much, much more drastic and personal than a mere celebrity figure dying. Trust me on this.

    Last note. Billy Mays, I believe, died the day after. Right there is a figure that should be mourned.

  39. Eric(Ninjews) says:

    To the black community, MJ’s death is a big thing, my mom was telling me stories of how she went to a couple parties for the debut of thriller. Most of Europe, and practically all of Asia loved him to death.

    @RPharazon: If you haven’t realized by now that the fact that death changes everyone’s perspective on the deceased, to me that’s pretty weird. Alot of people like to look at the good said deceased have done in their lives. Even though I believe him to be a pedo, he still did a lot of charity work for the world, and to the people who still love him(God knows why) he delivered a message of peace, and unity.

  40. WWWebb says:

    Anyone with a BILLION fans is always newsworthy. But is it newsworthy when other celebs talk about the uber-celeb? Well lets think about other people with a billion fans. There’s Jesus, Mohamed, and… well that’s about it. And yes, the news spends a lot of time covering fans of those two, so we shouldn’t really be surprised about the coverage MJ is getting.

    But what’s not to like? The man made good music and layered brilliant production on top of it. Based on the archives some outlets are reporting, we’ll have more post-mortem music out of MJ than Biggie Smalls, but without his touch on the production and presentation, it won’t be the same.

    PS – I would have thought that the internet grinding to a halt during the webcast of the memorial service would have been bigger news. It was like during Obama’s inauguration but longer.

  41. Penn says:

    I was impacted in three ways.
    First, the radio said that about a billion people watched the memorial. That’s a big number. I doubt it includes anyone I know.
    Secondly, one of the bloggers I read posted this message, and I decided to tell this story. :)
    Thirdly, according to my Tivo it was recording Better Off Ted, but when I went to watch it, it was the memorial. Darn you, networks, you preempted a great show for something I deleted out of hand!
    That’s about it.

  42. chabuhi says:

    The most eyes were going to be on the MJ memorial. More eyes means more ad dollars. More ad dollars means media focus. Follow the dollars.

    A lot of people do care. The question is should they? Or, perhaps, should they care quite so much?

    Certainly friends, family, and close acquaintances. Even fans can be forgiven their feelings of loss at the death of someone they didn’t even begin to know personally.

    But, you’re right, the fever pitch is a bit much.

  43. RPharazon says:

    I am merely taking the Diogenes version of death to heart when it comes to people I don’t know. Yes, Michael Jackson did a lot of good in his life, but how many people truly thanked him for being good whilst he was alive?

    If they gave him one of these celebrations for all the good things he did while he was alive and well enough to hear and see it, then it would be fine. But what use is it to hold these celebrations after he’s dead and decomposing? Maybe it’ll make his (gold-digging) family get through these tough times, but the effect is lost on the one man who should have heard and seen it.

    (If you didn’t know, Diogenes was probably the first cynic. When asked what they should do to his corpse after he died, he responded with something to the effect of ‘Throw it over the wall because I’d be dead and wouldn’t care about my corpse anyways’)

  44. Krellen says:

    The level of coverage is excessive, but so is the blow-back I’m hearing from the segment that doesn’t care about Michael Jackson.

    For one, the man was acquitted. Twice. Stop calling him a paedophile. So far as the law – and the rest of us – is concerned, he was innocent. Accusation is not proof.

    Secondly, the man’s influence on popular culture literally cannot be measured. It is too pervasive, too complete, to ever truly be understood. Most people alive do not remember a world before Michael Jackson, and no one alive can truly conceptualise one without him.

    Yesterday’s news coverage I can almost forgive, since it was more or less the global day of mourning for a man that changed the world. The excessive coverage of his life and legacy before that was a little over the top, but given the fact that he was a discredited and ridiculed figure for at least the past fifteen years, I can also see how it would be necessary; for those that remembered him for his legacy, not his lunacy, it was a cathartic period proclaiming that, yes, this man did matter.

    There is other news in the world, and news organisations really should devote a little more time to it, but the backlash from especially my peer community of nerds (as represented here) equally disgusts me. Whether you liked his music or not, whether you enjoyed his dances or not, it is undeniable that Michael Jackson mattered.

    Moments like this remind me why our subculture is so often ridiculed; we get what we give, and we give what we get.

  45. Ell Jay says:

    Have a news-orgasm when someone noteworthy dies, sure, but I don’t remember anything remotely like this when George Harrison (you know, one of the Beatles) died. Money says you won’t for Paul McCartney either.

  46. Kizer says:

    I come from Los Angeles. Even though I’m a part of the “atypical subculture and my interactions are limited to people who are just as screwy as I am,” for the most part, In LA the entertainment business dominates everything. The death of an actor or performer will permeate every level of society. On June 25, over 100 of my friends on facebook had posts about Jackson’s death. A few didn’t care, and posted such. The majority were shocked, stunned, hurt, and extremely saddened. I have only ever really listened to two of his songs, which I really liked, and I am a bit sad to see him go. But in the LA area at least, his death has hit harder than it might elsewhere.

    Also, his memorial service was held in LA, so many people cared solely to find out what the traffic was going to be like that day. People even drove onto the freeway going the opposite direction of the memorial motorcade to see it. Braving LA traffic for a glimpse of some Rolls Royces and Land Rovers . . . that’s a strong emotion shaping your actions.

  47. Lazlo says:

    So wait, you’re wondering if you’re part of a nerd subculture that’s disconnected from the mainstream interests of America… and you’re asking US?

    Personally I find it mildly interesting, at least insofar as it appears to be one in a clump of celebrity deaths. Apparently people do care about MJ more than I would have thought. Google trends is fascinating to use on this. Try finding something with more of an index spike than MJ in June 09. So far, Swine Flu in April 09 comes close, and Obama in November 08 edges him out if you restrict to the United States…

  48. Factoid says:

    I watch the news coverage with at least a tiny bit of interest. I used to be a big michael jackson fan, but then his whole creepy child-molester years happened.

    I’m not especially well versed in the topic, so I won’t pass judgement on either side. Thus I choose to remember him for the good years.

    He hasn’t done anything that was that great for about 10-12 years, but I was looking forward to maybe seeing him in concert one day.

    When I heard the news I hit up youtube and watched a bunch of his videos. I’ve read a story here and there. Watched a VH1 special, but I didn’t have a whole lot of interest in live coverage of peoples’ reactions to the funeral.

  49. Groundhog says:

    To me Jackson’s death was probably more of a relief than anything else. I’ve never had anything aginst the man, but for fuck’s sake; the man had problems, serious problems. At least now he’s finally getting some peace.
    This is a guy who went so far to distance himself from his own self as to horribly disfigure himself, trying to become someone else. He should have been in therapy, possibly medicated, but he wasn’t, and most of the weirdness he did can likely be contributed to his own misery.
    So, yes, I suppose I am kinda sad for him, not for his death, but for his life.

    That said, the media’s reaction to the “news” is still utterly vulgar and dispicable. They’re milking the tragedy for all it’s worth, and it disgusts me. As it should everyone, especially his fans.
    Not to mention the fucking hypocrites who were probably laughing at Jackson jokes two weeks ago, and are now getting up on stage and telling the world what a great performer he was(kinda true), and how the news of his death struck them. Utter bullshit. Those are the real scumbags, the media whores, using Jackson’s death to get in a few minutes of screen time for themselves.

    I suppose that’s enough ranting for now. Feel free to tell me why I’m wrong.

  50. Maddy says:

    It wasn’t like this when John Lennon died either, but then we had more serious journalists (covering real events, not chasing down celebrities for quotes) and no 24-hour nooz networks desperate for easy ways to kill time. We also had fewer pundits, and those pundits had more control over what they yapped about during the brief time/printspace they were given. They didn’t have to weigh in on and pretend to care about things that likely didn’t interest them.

    But the Lennon coverage was still excessive and brainless. I remember reading stories about alleged fan suicides, but there was no investigation as to whether the suicide rate had actually risen, or if the people had really killed themselves over his death. Perhaps they had chronic depression problems already and Lennon’s death was just an additional reason why they were sad.

    There was more hysteria when Elvis died, though, and that was even before Lennon. The press can always make time if a story is juicy enough. Presley and Jackson both had a sideshow element to them, and that’s what really brings in the advertising revenue. Still, even with Elvis, most of the attention was in the form of network specials and special newspaper/magazine editions, not crowding out the “real” news.

    As to whether people care – I don’t know. I care slightly, because he was part of my childhood, but I only care about the facts. Some of those facts (like the tox report) will take a while. That’s fine. I don’t need an all-you-can-eat Jackson news extravaganza while I’m waiting. It will take about thirty seconds to report the results.

    Meanwhile, I’d rather hear about important things that are actually happening. All the other stuff – weeping fans, celebrity reactions, innuendo from insiders – can and should be covered on the entertainment shows/sections/mags where they belong, watched/read by people who crave this “information” and ignored by the rest of us.

  51. The S Ninja says:

    I cared more about the death of Billy Mays then MJ to be honest. I didn’t care a whole lot, but I cared more nonetheless.

  52. TehShrike says:

    I unfollowed @cnnbrk because of the incessant MJ tweeting.

    I don’t care, none of my friends care – but we could just all be of above-average intelligence.

    Was in a restaurant and caught some CNN last week – was completely disgusted by all the MJ coverage, and reminded of why I never watch TV.

  53. Eric(Ninjews) says:

    @Krellen: I agree with you that through the law he is not a pederast, but like O.J., I think he’s guilty, and at the very least if I had kids and he was still alive, I wouldn’t let them near him.

  54. Bryce says:

    Well, he mattered enough that there is a post devoted to him on a gaming blog…

    In all honesty though, the reason that this is so big is because it was so out of he blue, and so tragic. Although George Harrison’s coverage wasn’t as large, but he had been battling lung cancer, and people were preparing themselves for when it was going to happen. Remember when John Lennon died. The shock and the unanswered questions? The NEED for answers?

    I grew up in the 80s, and I really didn’t pay much attention to him when he was big then. I made fun of him in the nineties. Laughed at him like a cool kid in the early 2000s, but now that he is gone and will never come back, I am remembering about his performances and I have to concede that he was a one of kind performer. World changing…I forgot how big Thriller was in 1983.

    Michael Jackson’s music was a big part of my adolescence, I didn’t realize it at the time, and now I am starting to appreciate it only when he is gone. Plus, after sniggering at him like a edgy ironic hipster kid, I feel bad after being reminded that he was a real person. I don’t understand why he would change his appearance so much that he looked like a gray alien near when he died. Then again, I didn’t have access to that much money. I’ve done plenty of stupid things and I shudder to think about the heights of stupid I could reach with 50 million dollars.

    However, I do understand that he was a father that was leaving behind three grieving children that he did everything for. He was someone’s “daddy” and they loved him dearly. That resonates with me, and it resonates deeply.

    So, call me hypocritical, but I am looking at his music and his life a whole lot differently than I did in the last 10 years. He didn’t matter much to me last week, but now he does. I do miss him and I feel bad that I didn’t appreciate him or his work when he was around.

  55. pnf says:

    Part of it, I think, is that setting aside Thriller and the period of his career immediately surrounding it, he was an extremely popular child performer, and I think people tend to become strongly attached to those. Besides, the kid could sing.

    I own a few of his albums, but felt no need to follow the news or watch the memorial. What he had been as a performer had been lost for a long time, and if I take anything from his death, it’s it reinforce the idea that if I were ever to have a child, and some agent-type came up to me and said, “That kid has a real talent, I can make him famous,” my response would be, “Over my dead body.”

  56. Annikai says:

    On my facebook I’d say about 50% of my friends cared when he died (this is an estimate based on status updated) and it’s just gone down from there. Yesterday during the memorial I had two friends even mention it and one was just making fun of Al Sharpten. So I think there are some people out there who still care but they are few and far between.

  57. Deoxy says:


    As far as the law was concerned, he was NOT GUILTY, not “innocent”. So was OJ, and no sane person believes he didn’t do it. There actually is a way to be declared legally innocent, and it’s actually harder than being proven guilty. If you look at the facts of the case, it’s quite reasonable to say that he’s a pedophile, even though the level of proof didn’t reach the VERY VERY high level we have in this country for the courts to find him so. In fact, it would be unreasonable to say that you think he ISN’T. It is reasonable to say that “we aren’t SURE he is”, but it is the only reasonable explanation for some of his actions (including those documented in court records).

    Otherwise, your post was very good, by the way.

    Why MJ matters:

    Michael Jackson makes Elvis Presley look like some unknown yokel who never left his small hometown. He was the single greatest entertainer (as measured by number of fans, percentage of the world that were fans, and any other measure I know of that isn’t personal-preference specific) who has ever existed to date.

    He’s also a great case study in what immense fame and money can do to a child (horrendous things, obviously).

    Off-stage, he was very creepy (go find a yearly picture chart of him, and the physical changes alone are just nauseating), but on stage, he was without equal. I personally don’t care all that much either way (not a big fan, but don’t mind his music, either), but an amazing amount of other people do.

    Yes, I find this coverage really over the top. I would find this level of coverage really over the top for ANYONE, even the greatest musical super-star in the history of the world.

    So, to answer your question, yes it matters to an awful lot of people, but yes, the coverage is still obscene.

    Edit: Groundhog’s post is really good.

  58. Zel says:

    If nobody cares about Michael Jackson’s death, nobody would have watched his memorial service on TV. Nobody would have wanted to attend said memorial service. But wait, how many asked for a ticket ? More than a million… Didn’t somebody offer $100.000 for one of these tickets on a famous auction site ? I’m eager to see yesterday’s TV ratings, if people are really fed up with this they should be disastrous for the two major channels it was on last night (in France). But I wouldn’t bet on it.

    I don’t really know or care about MJ’s music or life, and neither do the people I usually talk to, but the topic eventually turned up and we discussed a bit about it. We didn’t mourn or anything, we talked about what was going to happen next, and how his death was a strong sign that the disc industry he helped grow so much was on its dying bed too. Then we went back to the rantings about DRMs, prices and the usual…

  59. Yar Kramer says:

    Most I’ve heard is “He’s dead!” followed by vague disinterest and Thriller jokes (“It’s just a publicity stunt so he can do a remake of …”)

    I should probably pay more attention to the news, but I recommend the BBC (and I’m an American). Apart from anything else, it doesn’t mention MJ anywhere on the front page.

  60. krellen says:

    Deoxy: “Innocent until proven guilty”. Your belief otherwise does not change the facts.

    Michael Jackson was weird. He was an unusual man with morals outside the norm. He engaged in inappropriate behaviour between an adult and a child. Whether that behaviour was sexual in nature or not is something we’ll never know, but I highly doubt it was.

    He was a child robbed of his childhood, and then blessed with great wealth that afforded him opportunity to reclaim what he lost. He was a strange, broken man, but I still think it is entirely unfair to assume and proclaim that he was sexually aroused by and/or sexually abused children. The burden of proof is to prove that he did, not that he didn’t.

    Michael Jackson never published a book called “If I did it”; he merely made statements expressing his confusion over why people thought what he did was so wrong. A guilty man does not do that.

    Parents share their beds with their children all the time. Michael Jackson had no biological children, but by every account loved his adopted children as much as if they were his own. Why then is it such a stretch to believe that he may in fact have extended that love to the children of his friends?

    He had ideals and interests outside of the mainstream, and was thus ridiculed and condemned for them. Something most of us here should be able to relate to.

  61. Ol'Timer says:

    I think the reply rate on this post tells you what you need to know – media is driven by site traffic and nielsen. This is on a site frequented by nerds (such as myself) who (probably) have disproportionately high disinterest in Jackson’s moonwalk off the mortal coil, and yet its per hour reply rate is clubbing your other recent posts like defenseless kobold hatchlings.

  62. Julian says:

    Indeed, Michael who?

    Anyway, it seems all of his fans were afraid of him, and now he’s dead they all feel confident enough to crawl out of their caves. His Facebook Fan count went from about 1 million to 4 million in about a week, for instance. Suddenly every singer seems to have gone “Oh! Oh! OH! Now I remember him! Yeah, let’s do some sort of tribute, even though I’ve never covered any of his songs, never featured him in any albums, and not even bought a single one of his albums.”

    You know what’s the best part about his death? Plants vs Zombies (WHICH YOU MUST BUY) has a Michael Jackson zombie that dances the thriller dance and summons backup dancers. It’s a lot funnier now that he’s dead for there to be a zombie version of him.

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