WILL THE DEGENERACY OF POPULAR CULTURE EVER BOTTOM OUT?
"No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby." These words, or some variation of them, are often attributed to H. L. Mencken, pictured on the right. I do not know whether they are his, but the wisdom they embody is indisputable.
The hoopla over Michael Jackson's death is a case in point. Here was a black man, who bleached his skin, underwent multiple facial surgeries and hair transplants in order to appear white, contracted with white people to produce his children, dangled one of his children out a balcony window, faced criminal charges for acts associated with pedophilia, was profligate in his financial dealings, and undoubtedly died of an overdose of narcotics. He was "Wacko Jacko" – a mental case, a pervert, and an almost totally self-absorbed human being.
There is no doubt that he profoundly influenced the popular music scene. But what has that been but a slippery slope into degeneracy? Are thoughtful people supposed to applaud him for being a singer and dancer? I once tried to listen to one of his songs from start to finish, although I was unable to do so. I am willing to admit, however, that he was the "King of Pop." I'm not exactly lifting my glass, but, well, three cheers.
Congressman Peter King (R-NY) recently excoriated the media for its endless coverage of Jackson's death, and labeled him "a pervert," "a child molester" and "pedophile." Mr. King also had the courage to suggest that our soldiers, firefighters, and teachers are the real heroes among us. It is refreshing to hear a politician speaking the truth.
Of course, it was predictable that many of those, like Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), would respond by calling Mr. King a "racist." The principle involved is as follows: if logic, reason, and facts don't work, then epithets like "racist" will. If Mr. King's comments were racist, then it's good to be a racist. He did nothing wrong, except to express an obvious truth.
"Oh," but you exclaim, "Michael Jackson was never convicted of child molestation; therefore, neither Mr. King nor anyone else has the right to call him a 'child molester.'" I've got news for those who make such statements. Jury verdicts, when they are outrageous on their face, deserve neither deference nor respect. O.J. Simpson is a murderer, and Michael Jackson is a pedophile. Those who say otherwise are stupid, and I think Ms. Waters fits comfortably into this category. Others are as morally dishonest as the redneck sheriff who purportedly showed up at the scene of a drowning and reported: "dead black man, bullet through head, body shackled in weights and chains, most likely a skiing accident."
Michael Jackson was a public figure. He has a family, which is now in sorrow. Their grief process should be respected. But, at the same time, the unrestrained adulation that has been given to Mr. Jackson in death amounts to a public travesty and one lie after another, the effect of which is certainly deleterious. The sorry, money-grubbing media are primarily responsible for this state of affairs. They could not give two hoots in hell about Michael Jackson. Watching people like Charles Gibson and Katie Couric carry on endlessly about the man and his legacy is nauseating.
Not to be underestimated is the black community's blind allegiance to its own. Standing up for people is a noble virtue, but doing so uncritically and out of a paranoia induced by past persecution blurs moral reality. It makes no difference what color Michael Jackson was. He was, while an acclaimed entertainer, still a loathsome person. I and countless others would have been satisfied had there been one day of coverage that stopped by underscoring his entertainment credits.
When will the media understand that most thoughtful people are not interested in Hollywood entertainers, in what they do privately, in what they think, or in their iconic status? If the Shakespearean proposal, "[L]et's kill all the lawyers . . ." is the path to societal wellbeing, perhaps two more suggestions like it should be implemented: "Stop extensive publicity of the private lives of scumbag entertainers" and "Punch media jackals in the nose just as often as possible."
May Michael Jackson rest in peace. If this means turning the page, nobody entertains the hope more fervently than I.
July 8, 2009