As editor of Just Above Sunset I have really, really tried to avoid commenting on the Michael Jackson trial.
Oh there have been lapses:
May 8, 2005 - Celebrity trials are the opiate of the masses? - This is stupid stuff!
May 29, 2005 - Michael Jackson and Postmodernism - Maybe we can use the trial to talk about something else?
June 5, 2005 - "Maybe a little less of the pervert of the day..." - The news media are fools to cover this.
Monday, June 13, late in the afternoon, Jackson was acquitted on all counts. Can we stop dealing with this now?
But the problem is my ace local columnist,
Bob Patterson, is pressing really, really, really hard for my two sites to devote as much space as possible, as often as possible,
to this Michael Jackson business. I think the idea is we're missing the biggest
story of our times. We may have an inarticulate, dim-witted and causally sadistic
leader who has lied to us and put us in an endless war. As one fellow puts it - "We are losing the war in Iraq. We are an isolated and reviled nation. We are pitiless to others weaker than ourselves.
We have lost sight of our democratic ideals." Yep, we now are the torturers,
the economy is being stripped to make the ultra-rich richer at the expense of the average Joe, we are fast heading toward
something like an angry evangelical theocracy, and all the environmental laws are being dismantled by this crew that just
doesn't like science – and there's Social Security issues and this and that about who we really are. But I'm being told the biggest story is Michael Jackson.
Bob has told me several times that had
Jackson been found guilty there would be race riots across America. Well, he
floated that one at a press function recently, and was met with silence, and then wry smiles.
Perhaps he thinks covering Michael Jackson will help our
circulation. It seems Just Above Sunset has leveled out at just under
12,000 unique logons each month, and that seems to be a plateau right now. Will
doing less on political matters, particularly French politics, and on where the country is headed, and more covering stories
like this Michael Jackson trial, move us up a notch or two? Perhaps. More readers all always welcome.
Bob urges that Just Above Sunset
and As Seen from Just Above Sunset (the daily web log) decide on its audience, and dump what doesn't appeal to that target audience, and grow because
of a really intense focus on what is hot for those readers. I think he is really
discouraged that we haven't grown as much as we could.
I don't get the marketing stuff. I publish what interests me. Thus, it seems, I am doomed to
a small readership and logons from servers like these in the last ten days –
unwgsgs4.customs.treas.gov - The
Treasury Department (four hits in one day)
wdcsun25.usdoj.gov - The Department of Justice
p124-72.senate.gov - The
wcgwcc.ocio.usda.gov - The Food and Drug Administration
gk-west-24.srvs.usps.gov - The US Postal Service
ws244-042.f04.nsf.gov - The National Science Foundation
si.edu - The Smithsonian Institute
- Microsoft's photography folks
ptohidea.uspto.gov - The United States Patent and Trademark Office
gov.ab.ca - The
website of the Government of Alberta
gov.bc.ca - The website of the Government of British Columbia
tacom.army.mil - US Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command
uscourts.gov - the site maintained by the Administrative
Office of the US Courts on behalf of the US Courts - a clearinghouse for information from and about the Judicial Branch
and all the universities are getting us nowhere. Yep, we hit a wall.
I still don't want to deal with Michael Jackson.
Monday morning Bob tried to get me going with this –
THE JACKSON TRIAL'S IRONIC
The USA (and the world?) seems deadlocked for and against. Some folks approach the topic from the "you know
he's guilty" point of view and are not very concerned with the specifics of the evidence. Others tend to stick to the "nothing
has been proved" line of defense.
When the verdict is announced, the results will be debatable (to put it mildly.)
No matter what the jury says the public will stay with their pre-verdict assessment and not be open to any new "evidence."
The verdict will not settle the question in the least bit. Do folks still defend Bruno Hauptman?
about it all is that the folks who think Michael Jackson is guilty, and are not concerned with the specifics of his trial,
are quite likely to be staunch Bush defenders, while Jackson's supporters would be open to impeaching the president for lying
Maybe the most fascinating aspect of the Michael Jackson trial is that it could be interpreted as a trail
by proxy of the guy who invaded Iraq to find Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Hasn't the Bart Simpson quote "No one saw
me do it; you can't prove a thing" become the nations new motto?
And I wrote back –
You do the Jackson trial.
I will have nothing to do with it. Period. And it has not one thing to do with Bush. Your speculation is far beyond "a stretch"
? it seems to me to be a crazed attempt to find meaning where there is none. Why push it? You are trying to make something
out of nothing. He is no longer a "star" - that was over a decade ago. He is no longer black - that was over three decades
ago. He's just a minor freak.
The only story here is, perhaps, about the press. Why are they flogging this story?
That it is covered at all has to do with selling advertising spots - and the whole thing is a commercial venture by the collective
herd of television news marketing departments who don't care about embarrassing the journalists who work in their corporations.
And I sent him this:
Jacko: American Nightmare
Andrew Sullivan - June 10, 2005, Sunday Times of London (UK)
A bit of that?
A very strange thing
happened during what had been breathlessly billed as the "trial of the century." Americans turned off. Yes, the Michael Jackson
trial has spawned its "media circus," its occasional tabloid splashes, and its cable news shows. But compared to the trials
of, say, Martha Stewart, Scott Peterson (the man who murdered his wife and dumped her in a lake), or, of course, O.J. Simpson,
the whole affair has been a bit of a dud.
... The key fact about Michael Jackson is that he is the first true black
celebrity in America who has literally turned himself into a Caucasian. African-American culture has long been obsessed with
varying degrees of blackness. Light-colored men and women have historically enjoyed social status in African-American society
and we have learned from the exhaustive biographies of Jackson that his father ridiculed him in his youth for having a flat
nose and stereotypical black features. Jackson's response? To take the valuation of lighter skin to its logical conclusion.
That has brought its costs to Jackson's p.r. For all his nightly chats with Jesse Jackson, the Gloved One can hardly
play the race card. With O.J. Simpson, black America still saw the former football player as one of them, even though he had
largely left black society, had married a white woman and done next to nothing for black causes. But Michael Jackson has more
support among Japanese teenagers than American blacks - and for understandable reasons. He looks more like a character from
a Japanese anime cartoon than anything resembling a black American male. He is not Tiger Woods, declaring himself post-racial.
He is far more retrograde and repulsive figure: a person who has become a reverse minstrel, a black man finally reincarnated
through surgery as a white androgynous waif. He is therefore a racist in the most profound sense - and one that neither blacks
nor whites want to claim.
His alleged crimes, moreover, are repellent, but not on a scale that can shock Americans
into paying attention. If you read the papers, you will know that hundreds of Catholic priests have raped young boys and teens
with impunity over the past few decades; the visuals of sex abuse at Abu Ghraib, soon to be amplified by a new release of
photographs, are still seared into the American consciousness. Jackson, in contrast, is merely accused of creepy fondling,
getting kids drunk, exposing himself and other sordid habits, but the pattern never quite rises to the level of real horror.
The fascination comes less from the crime itself than from the lurid details of its environment - the insane luxury of Neverland,
the locked doors and hidden alarms and stashes of pornography that give you a glimpse of derangement on credit. So we're left
with a trial between a highly unpleasant mother with a history of scams and what can only be described as a walking hologram
of self-love. No wonder few want to stay for the credits.
... No one cares much about Jackson's music any more. No
one cares about his soul or those of his alleged victims. What the culture of celebrity builds it also destroys - casually.
In this case, the wreckage is a husk of a human, the detritus of a culture that feeds on exposure and then, bored, moves on
to the next victim. It is because we do not want to look at this too long that we finally look away. The world that created
Michael Jackson is also the world that will happily forget him.
Well, I would have liked
to happily forget Michael Jackson, but sometime after noon on Monday the phone rang - Bob telling me to turn on my television,
quick! The jury in the Jackson trial had reached a verdict! This was followed by instructions on how to take screen shots of the coverage - shutter speed and exposure
and all that. I had to cover this!
Well, Bob spent much of his
career as a newspaperman - he used to work for Associated Press. I don't have
that background, or that nose for news. He does.
But what the heck -
it was a chance to learn more about what the Nikon can do, and what more can be done in Adobe Photoshop. Why not? I watched a bit.
Michael Jackson was acquitted
on all counts. Like I care?
Bob sent this a bit later –
Now Tom Sneddon knows how Dubya felt when there were no WMD's in Iraq. It was only taxpayer money to stage the big nothing.
Well, if he says the two
things are connected, who am I to argue?
But I don't see it.
Below are the screen shots - and perhaps there
will be a big spike in readers today because of this item. If so, Bob wins.
perhaps then I will continue with these sites - commentary and analysis of politics and the culture - and Bob can start his
own site that covers the real "news" as it is defined today in this country. I'll
stick with my modest audience - and he can really get famous with hundreds of thousands of hits each day. We'll both be happy then.
The screen shots -
You can sort of make out the French flag.
What's THAT about?
The accused entering court
to learn his fate –
Leaving the court - a free
man - and that's his sister Janet with no wardrobe malfunction at all –
Playing with Adobe Photoshop
- the two of them leaving (free at last!) with the umbrella to protect his pale skin from the harsh Californian afternoon