I am probably one of the least qualified people to write about the death of Michael Jackson as I know little of his music, have never watched his videos and am quite undisturbed by his passing. However, I think that his death has been noteworthy in a couple of significant ways.
Firstly, I think it is fair to say that this time the internet definitively showed what it is capable of in terms of breaking news and keeping up with a story at breath-taking speed. And interestingly, the thing about following a story like this on the web is that you can pick and choose when, where and how often you access the content; unlike MSM where the repetitiveness is mind numbing. TMZ.com broke the story of Jackson’s cardiac arrest and has continued to lead the pack with stories and insider accounts. Indeed, once you start following TMZ, MSM seems like it’s playing hopeless catch up. One feature of the site that concerned me is how ‘citizen journalism’ looks pretty insidious at times like this with every mobile phone an indiscriminate device for recording scenes and sounds. However, despite the indelicate nature of some of the reporting, there is no going back from this point or this method of news collection and dissemination. I have no doubt that we will hear so much more about the response to Jackson’s death over the next couple of days (weeks, months?) but it really was stunning to watch the crowd response to the news. And it wasn’t in one isolated area, we had pictures from all over the globe showing fans appearing to be inconsolable and publicly mourning someone they never knew and who never knew them. In the aftermath of Diana’s death, there was a significant increase in the number of people who consulted their GP for depression directly related to her death. As can be seen from the link, there was also a decrease in road traffic accidents and general trauma events for about 3 months following her death with the cautious hypothesis that people were a little more careful as a result of her accident. I don’t know what Jackson’s death wll do for demerol sales, we shall just have to wait and see. But I have no doubt that the public response to his death is only beginning and he will become larger in death than he could have been in life. His record sales have rocketed since his demise, and ironically dying may have solved his chronic financial problems.
And of course finally, the hypocrisy. As Al Sharpton said ‘”Many ridiculed him, It’s amazing to see how many people are now praising him that wouldn’t go near him in the last several years, and condemned him. Yes indeed, death has that wonderfully redeeming function and we will undoubtedly hear less and less of the peculiarities of Michael Jackson and more of his music and talent. And perhaps that is fitting, only time will tell.