I’m afraid I have no great feelings or insights on the death of Michael Jackson. Like most people, I liked his stuff in the 70’s with the Jackson Five, didn’t mind his stuff during the 80’s and lost interest after that when the whole freakshow element took over.
Obviously I gain no delight from the news, and his family, friends and fans have my sympathies, but I’m unmoved, I make no apologies for that. If I knew him personally, or was a fan of his work, then I’m sure I’d be distraught, but I’m not.
The best way of talking about this is what happened in the UK when Diana Spencer was killed. Strange days indeed. The news media whipped itself up into a frenzy of griefsploitation. For a brief moment, we had a glimpse of what it must’ve been like in a Communist or Fascist state when a leader died – the media telling people they should be upset, and with those people who were upset taking offence at those who weren’t displaying sufficient misery.
It’s that sort of you-must-be-distraught-because-the-media-tells-you-to-be element that makes me uncomfortable. It’s even more cynical and unforgivable when it comes to kids which have been neglected, gone missing or died. I can’t help feeling that this is devaluing the currency – rubbernecking and commodifying the real grief of those directly involved, the family and friends, not the people who read about it in the Mirror and felt obliged to leave some flowers, a teddy bear and a mawkish card. I don’t blame people for doing that, not for an instant, it’s the manipulative, prescriptive, emotionally-bludgeoning nature of the press I find distasteful.
And I don’t want to feel responsible for all the journalists camped outside the homes of grieving families. Not in my name.