Sunday , February 25 2024
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Michael Jackson Memorial Service Recap: To Care or Not to Care?

The memorial is over and I hope Michael Jackson has finally been laid to rest, not because I'm tired of all the coverage—I'm a grownup and know how to operate my remote control—but because it really creeps me out that he's been dead this long and hadn't been laid to rest in some fashion. Okay, so I am going to talk about the wall-to-wall coverage just for a second.

Now I know what you're thinking, and you're wrong. I don't want to hear about alleged fatigue of the saturation coverage. A super-sized America watched a four-hour super-sized memorial service. I'm also not in the business of telling my readers what to care about. I'm a blogger. I have an opinion on virtually everything. I write about what I care about with the hope somewhere out there is someone who cares about the same thing. I'm not going to give you the "Eat your vegetables" speech. I don't mind if you don't mind. I don't care that you care. We live in a world that places a heavy emphasis on celebrity. Should we? Should this memorial have been a big deal? It doesn't matter! It was a big deal. You're buying Michael Jackson records to make up for all the years it was out of style. He had to die to get his stimulus check. I guess we should have read the fine print on that one. Some of you stayed home and watched the memorial because you're still waiting on your stimulus check. Some of you stayed home and watched it for wholly different reasons. The rest watched it on replay to hear Anderson Cooper's sensitive play-by-play. Some of you did both. It was a big deal because it just was.

Personally, I sat this one out. That's not to say I've paid no attention to any of this. I certainly have. I just moved on before the rest of you. I'm not judging. In 1994, I was glued to the television for days in the aftermath of Kurt Cobain's suicide. Michael Jackson was bigger but Kurt was more important to me. Everybody's got their something.

The science, if we can call it that, of what we care about is a fascinating one, though. Why did you care about this and why did you care about it so much? Was this media manipulation? We've seen media-created circuses before, but if CNN and Twitter had their way we'd have overthrown Iran last week. It turns out middle America was too busy taking the kids to softball games and amusement parks to start a revolution. We cared about Michael Jackson, less about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Sarah Palin came within 10,000,000 popular and 192 electoral votes—which sounds like a lot until you consider it was probably 1/10 of the overall TV audience—of the vice presidency and had a nutty over the 4th of July weekend. We don't care about that, either. Can we afford to provide health care for everyone living in the United States, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, financial background, or immigration status? Can we afford not to? Should it be a matter of affordability in the first place? Is the world about to explode because of global warming? Do enough of us believe that strongly enough that we want to never be able to sell our house without shrinkwrapping it in recycled cellophane as mandated in H.R. 620?

If it sounds like I'm making a judgment about which one of these stories was more deserving of your attention, I'm actually not. Like I said, I don't mind if you don't mind. That's what separates me from a certain wretched Nickelback video. I'm not looking down on you with my moral superiority or my new found social consciousness. I'm encouraged by what I saw. America proved it has an attention span of at least a week. Look at the bright side! Thousands of Americans demonstrated a willingness to get off their asses to be a part of something. We can still be galvanized. We can still be impacted. We can still coalesce around something and there is power in that. Don't believe me? Think about this.

The economy is in the toilet. Advertising revenue is down. The cable news networks were assured the largest TV audience they're going to see this year and only one broadcast network will see numbers approaching this when the Super Bowl is aired, yet they all went four hours commercial free. That's the staggering power we, the people, wield in those rare moments when we unite. Yesterday we used it for four hours of commercial-free television. We used it to get some peace from crass commercial messages so we could focus on other crass things like Mariah Carey, Joesph Jackson trying to reform his image, and a family of celebrities giving stage directions to a traumatized 12-year-old who unexpectedly had her "coming out" party. I don't know when we'll use our clout again or what we'll buy with it. Maybe it will be noble and maybe it won't, but it will be ours. You are now free to return to wherever you are.

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