I wasn’t going to say anything about this, because I’ve been quite irritated by the general level of hysteria (and news service obsession) with Michael Jackson’s death. But Tomasky has a good take on the phenomenon:
even pop icons who did not turn out to be geniuses usually had some cool about them. At least, they weren’t circuses sideshows. I look at the Jonas Brothers, and I think, well, they’re kinda cool-looking young guys, I can see how a 12-year-old girl would want to scream at that.
But the sustained Jackson adoration – and I understand that he lost some fans, but it seems he retained most – was able to overlook completely his deranged personal life. This remains a deep mystery to me.
It must have something to do with the media culture and with more profound things like the atomization of society and how people grapple with their own frustrations and inadequacy and alienation. If I’d read some Adorno more recently than I in fact have, I’m sure I’d find a zinger of a quote. Anyway I never understood it.
I can’t (and won’t knock) Michael Jackson for his music. He was indeed one of the most influential pop musicians of all time, ‘Thriller’ remains a masterpiece – both the album and the video, and his showmanship was really unlike any other in half a century. What has surprised me about the hysteria after what was to me an unsurprising death was that his bizarre personal life and the court case had no noticeable effect on his popularity. That’s quite remarkable.
From what I remember of my Adorno, I think he’d pick up on the way in which the papers, TV and radio networks have manipulated this out of all proportion to indeed distract the people. They were actually being forced to report news, in the aftermath of the Iranian presidential election, and the mainstream media simply wasn’t up to providing a genuine, unspun, unbiased account of what was going on in that country, despite being put under monumental pressure to do so. So we have this largely meaningless frenzy now (he died on Friday, yet is still ‘breaking news’), and who’s paying attention to torture in Tehran?
I’ll leave you now with the tribute performance by the inmates of the CPDRC prison in the Philippines, who so memorably performed ‘Thriller’ two years ago to worldwide fascination: