As someone who works from home, I sometimes switch on the television to catch a little news during my lunch hour (which is often a lunch 15 minutes).
I typically turn on one of the cable news channels and get a dose of “reality”: which Democrats and Republicans are made at each other, how many nuts shot up a convenience store and in what manner Congress has decided to raise my taxes.
But this past Tuesday, instead of reality, I got a dose of “unreality”; ALL the cable news networks were covering the Michael Jackson funeral event at Staples Center. I call it a funeral event because it wasn’t really a funeral, or at least what I think of as a funeral, which is a sacramental event.
The Jackson event was more than a funeral in that it included musical performances and star-studded testimonials. And it was less than a funeral in that it was in no real way religious or spiritual. In the end, it was an exercise in hyperbole.
Of course, there is a certain expected degree of hyperbole at a service to honor the passing of a loved one. We wouldn’t show up at Uncle Joe’s service and give a speech about how he never got the big promotion he dreamed of, let his house get run down and drank too much. No, we would talk about him loving his family, working hard and mention how much we’ll miss him.
In Jackson’s case, participants lost all sense of proportion – and did so for several hours on every cable news network.
OK. I have to admit that I wasn’t a big fan of Michael Jackson’s music and performance style. But having said that, I did think “Thriller” was one of the most remarkable albums ever recorded (for which Quincy Jones might be as much to credit as Michael Jackson). And lots of other people would agree, seeing as how it sold more copies than another other album in history.
So, it would be reasonable at an event to mark Jackson’s passing to note that he was a gifted musician, millions of people enjoyed his work and he was super successful at selling recordings and making money. And at a time of mourning, it would be appropriate to avoid dwelling on his over-affection for little boys, body/complexion transformation and generally strange behavior.
But instead of this sort of rational commentary, the stars of the day proclaimed several amazing and outrageous things:
· That he was the greatest entertainer of all time. (Regrets to Sammy Davis Jr., Beatles, Elvis, Bach, Vivaldi – this gets pretty subjective, really.)
· That he paved the way for other Black Americans to entertain sports and entertainment. (Regrets to Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens, Paul Robeson, Larry Doby, etc.)
· That he was one of the greatest humanitarians of the past century. (Uh, right up there with Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Switzer, Mother Teresa and Maximilian Kolbe?)
· That there should be a national day of mourning to mark his passing. (OK…if this guy gets a day of mourning, I have a long list of other folks that deserve one, starting with every man or woman who has died in the military defending our nation.)
Somewhere in the coverage of all this by the various cable news networks, someone had a responsibility to bring the viewers back to reality.
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