Monday, June 13, 2005

Sign of the Apocalypse #8: Michael Jackson, "human being"

Need I say more?

Okay, fine. He got off. I was watching CNN late this afternoon, and, though I didn't really follow the case, I couldn't turn away. Such is the power of... what? Celebrity? Well, I don't much care for Jacko one bit, and his "celebrity" means very little to me. So, the media? Maybe. They build stories into must-sees, and, well, if you're not somehow taking in the story, if you're not somehow participating in the story even as a distant viewer, then you're just not living in reality as it is now understood. For "reality" -- the reality that we collectively share, that somehow seems to transcend us and guide us -- is what's out there in the media, the world as presented through the media. Indeed, that "reality" often seems more real than the "reality" of our everyday lives. The media connect us to one another, especially through stories like the Michael Jackson case. Without it -- without the fantasy of that reality -- we're left with nothing but, well, life. And we all know how hard that is. Thus the "reality" of the media provides us with an escape, and most of us are happy to take it from time to time, some of us even all the time. Is there any way out? Courage, friends, courage. Just don't pay any attention. Or do so, but realize that you're being manipulated, drawn into the web of an alternative reality, where, in this case, the trial of Michael Jackson takes on a meaning that lifts it above the humdrum ordinariness of the rest of us, that compels us to live vicariously through it, that turns us into media-consuming automatons. Surely that's what Wolf Blitzer wants, whether he knows it or not. Or is he not some similar creature of media consumption?

Let's us be media critics then, not media consumers. I was mediated this afternoon, drawn into that web, where every little movement seemed like it bore the weight of history. Surely not, though. Surely it was all just madness...

(So Michael Jackson got off. Fine. What do I care? Maybe the American justice system worked, maybe it didn't. I hope it did, but I'm not so sure. He may or may not be guilty of those crimes, but I suspect that something untoward happened behind the circus gates of Neverland, deep in the recesses of a grown-up child's living fantasy. Come on, does anyone really believe that nothing happened?

Either way, Michael Jackson, his life, his story, and his now-concluded trial is one huge Sign of the Apocalypse. And I, for one, want no more of it.)

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