Just Above Sunset
May 8, 2005 - Celebrity trials are the opiate of the masses?

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There has not been much of anything in these pages regarding the Michael Jackson trial in these pages. The last real entry was this in Just Above Sunset long ago – November 23, 2003: Michael Jackson, Gay Marriage? - and has this business been going on that long?

As I said then –


I find the fellow repulsive and never much liked his music. When I saw his mug shot on a news show all I could think of was that he had been trying too hard, for too many years, to look like Nicole Kidman. Why? And how will this all come out?

… As for me, I'd rather not know how this comes out. Yes, there are issues here. Can wealth, fame and celebrity free him in spite of what he has become and what he may have done? Yeah, yeah. Perhaps so. They usually do, don't they?

But the whole business is not so much fascinating to some of us as it is... well... distasteful. Something you turn away from, or at least politely ignore. Like a guest at a formal party mistakenly making a really off-color remark, or your host inadvertently breaking wind - best to be polite and ignore it.

The law will run its course. Polite, well-mannered people won't bother much with this business. And some sort of justice will probably be done. Decent people will trust that this will matter will be settled in court.


But this week things seem to be coming to a head – and you can add your own bad jokes here regarding that metaphor.

Bob Patterson, our Just Above Sunset columnist, speculates anyway –


The prosecution has rested in the Jackson trial.

It would be a wild, bold, and dangerous move for the defense to rest without calling one single witness, but it would indicate that they thought the prosecution didn't make their case at all.

I doubt they will really do that but I keep getting a feeling that it might happen that way.


Who cares?

Andrew Sullivan puts it well here


I'd say it's pretty obvious that Michael Jackson will be found 'not guilty' at this point, which is not, of course, the same as innocent. Making a jury decision on this horrendously prosecuted case doesn't strike me as that hard. But when I ask myself what I think he may actually have done, I just don't know. I'm horrified by any sexual exploitation - even of a minimal kind - of a child. But every time I try and think of the minutiae of the Jackson case, I just feel nauseated and mentally change the subject. One thing is obvious: Jackson is psychologically damaged in ways I cannot even begin to understand.


Is there anything more to say?

Our high-powered Wall Street attorney adds this from his offices high over lower Manhattan –


Perhaps Mr. Jackson's attorneys could call Mr. Jackson to the stand where he could morph into some creature more scary than Mr. Jackson himself, moon dance, grab his crotch and then sit back down.

Other than that, there isn't much more to be said by either side.

Meanwhile, the war rages on in Iraq, the economy is not in good shape and social security may soon become a thing of the past, but nobody is listening. Seems that news coverage is not what it out to be, but at least it sells add space.


So why is the country concerned with Michael Jackson at all?

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, explains –


In my never-ending role as resident "media apologist" (aka "media whore"), let me first refer you to Karen Hughes' line, recently alluded to here, suggesting that the Republicans don't getting punished by voters for whatever the hell they do. [Editor’s Note – See The Limits of Spin from last week’s issue for a discussion of that.]

The truth is, voters would have to hide themselves in sound-proof closets for months on end not to have heard anything in the media about Tom Delay's adventures (including his fussing with the Ethics Committee), the Senate Republicans trying to slam-dunk Bush's judge choices, the economy not looking too great, the war in Iraq not being a bed of posies, not to mention rising CO2 levels and failure to secure nucular [sic – ha, ha] material in the former USSR, nor that Bush is still pushing hard with his whacky Social Security ideas (which, I theorize, is a bigger distraction for those who do care about what's really going on the world than if we were to hear that the runaway bride was actually running off in hopes of being the mother of Michael Jackson's children.)

The real reason, assuming the Republicans really DON'T end up paying a price for all these things, is not that the news media hasn't covered all these things, but rather that too many Americans are so cynical, they really don't give a flying fart about all that "Washington politics" stuff. Assuming the media was inclined to beat the public over the head with "responsible" stories -- and after all their runaway coverage of the "runaway bride," I'm pretty sure they're not -- but even if they were, they would be almost totally ignored -- except, of course, by the likes of you and me. And the Republicans, whether or not you can call them "smart," are smart enough to realize this and play with it.


Celebrity trials are the opiate of the masses?  Something like that.

Such stuff is far less distressing than the political news – news of those things that can actually be devastating to all of our lives, leave us in poverty, or in jail, or dead.

Our high-powered Wall Street attorney from his offices high over lower Manhattan suggested Jackson’s attorneys could call the guy to the stand where he could morph into some creature more scary than Jackson himself, moon dance, grab his crotch and then sit back down.

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, adds –


After you see this [click on the link shown in the middle of the page and open, or download and open] - then try to tell me honestly there IS any creature more scary than Jackson himself.  [Click here for slightly less spooky version.]


Check it out.  Disturbing.  Unsettling.  Creepy.

So no more of Michael Jackson here. He’s not important, no matter how strange he is.

And considering that whole business is not only distasteful, voyeuristic consideration of such matters borders on being irresponsible.


On the matter of civic irresponsibility, you might want to glance at these two items from the Columbia Journalism Review.

Runaway Network Exec Kidnaps News from May 2 – a discussion of CNN and their massive coverage of the “runaway bride” story. And Day Four of the Story That Wasn’t, a follow-up the next day.

Why was CNN spending so much of its time on this story?

Is this the same CNN that Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, helped found many years ago?

Is this news that matters?

Oh well. CNN is not alone in this.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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This issue updated and published on...

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