Michael Jackson died last night.
Whilst I do offer my respects to his family, I’m not here to write about that. I’m writing to reflect on how the online population has responded to this event. As one would suspect it brings out the good in some and the bad in others.
I would never label myself as a fan. I don’t own a single album and neither have I scoured for live tickets. Of course, like most, I’ve heard most of his songs. Like most old enough, I remember seeing the MTV changing Thriller video and being utterly terrified and amazed. He was an icon. He was someone that almost everyone was aware of. His music influenced generations. His videos helped launch MTV and the music video concept. His work and name was constantly drip fed into the public consciousness. A star of unparalleled wattage.
It’s a shame, then, that he transcended fame and became infamous. Rabid media curiosity exposed his eccentricities as ‘wacko’, his beaten and broken mentality as ‘sicko’ and his obsession with his image and surgery filled more tabloid inches than any other single subject. The last few decades were overshadowed by child abuse accusations with people quick to point the finger and label him as a pedophile. This damning judgement from the public and not the gavel of a judge.
It’s a shame, then, that many remember him for his oxygen tents, surgical masks and baby dangling and quickly forget what a talented artist and performer he was. How can any of us know what its like to have lived under the media microscope for so many years? What would that do to any of us?
News channels and websites have this story on repeat and many are using the internet to grieve or to leave tributes and that’s a wonderful thing. In our digital age we have the power to add our own social commentary. Sadly this is not always so positive. It hasn’t taken long for the first batch of ‘jokes’ to start circulating. Apparently some individuals find his death so incredibly hilarious that they can’t resist sharing a pun; to distill his life and work into a sick punchline; to feast on the remains of his career with venom and spite; to sign off his life with a “lol”. How anyone can be so viciously derisive of someone they have never met escapes me completely.
I don’t expect you to shed a tear for his passing but I would appreciate some respect. If not for him, for his family.
Rest in Peace.