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I guess I don’t get it even though I was saddened when Elvis died. Two TAC blog items (admittedly Kara’s was somewhat scathing) attracting twenty comments on Michael Jackson the self-styled King of Pop. Is there a more bizarre figure in recent American pop culture? Dangling the baby out the window, a walking exhibit of plastic surgery what-not-to -do? Lord of Neverland? Omigod. Has no one read Alan Bloom? There might be a coup in Honduras tomorrow, Americans are dying every day in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Obama is about to adopt the Bush doctrine for holding terrorism suspects forever and ever. If Michael Jackson is important then America probably deserves the fate of Atlantis

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Michael Jackson 
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  1. Anonymous • Disclaimer says: • Website

    Is any artist important? Michael Jackson was a genuinely talented singer, dancer and showman who happened to rise to super-stardom at the same moment that videos became _the_ delivery method of popular music. My generation shares powerful visual, auditory and in some cases emotional memories of his art, which his death has encouraged us to revisit. Does his bizarreness negate his body of work? Many of us did read _The Closing of the American Mind_, five years after “Thriller” was released. Some of us believe in ourselves enough to partake of lowbrow culture and remain unscathed.

  2. In fairness, Phil, TAC covers war, world affairs, and civil liberties pretty much every day. We all need a break now and again.

    Your important column on Netanyahu is up on the main page, for readers looking for more substantial material.

  3. Dennis Dale says: • Website

    So much for my post on the Jonah Brothers.

  4. Bob says:

    Gotta agree with Daniel, with all due respect, Mr. Giraldi.

    This was a man, as aberrant as they come, who provided us mere plebs with some much appreciated diversion. Moreover, he never attempted to control, bomb, and murder any of us — just entertain us, his bizarre and sick personal life, notwithstanding.

    He was no prophet, holy man, savior, or guru, just another nutty pop icon (John Lennon and Elvis weren’t exactly healthy moral beings either). But there was lift in his craft, he never tore down. Not Bach, but not Madonna either.

    At times there is nothing wrong with telling (in a manner) our sick political functionaries and leaders (most of whom are positively wicked when compared to Jackson) to buzz off for a few days. If this means we take our eyes off of the news of two evil wars and the antics of sociopath leaders of other countries, tough luck.

    We deserve the occasional break from paying attention to our own political and economic rape. When one is daily being betrayed by those who are theoretically supposed to be looking out for you, resorting to silly pop diversions like Michale Jackson is a better choice than answering fools according to their folly, which all we’re ever allowed in this sinking nation.

  5. Bob says:

    You know, when you’re daily being politically and economically screwed by wicked men and women whose roles, theoretically, are to be looking out for us, some diversion into silly pop music is nothing to be ashamed of. Yes, Michael Jackons was a degenerate, but so what? He never tried to bomb us, control us, or kill us, his sick personal life notwithstanding.

    Yeah, he was no Bach, but he was also no Madonna, George Bush, or Barack Obama. There’s something to be said for that.

  6. joypog says:

    I’ve noticed an interesting age gap. People around my age (30) have all been taken in by this (check out facebook) but I’ve noticed younger folks who only knew of wacko jacko and older folks seems to have a harder time comprehending Jackson’s allure.

    I have to admit that growing up in a household without tv or rock music, I didn’t really get why MJ was such a big deal. After going to college, I really got into his earlier music – and with youtube I got to see his sublime dancing.

    I’d go so far to say that if nothing else, we’ve may well have lost the greatest dancer we’ll ever see. If that does at least help you understand the loss that some folks are feeling, then like Momvee said, make sure to never feel anything for passing of an artist who you appreciate.

  7. Bob says:

    Sorry for the repeat — it looked as if my first bit hadn’t posted.

  8. Angela says: • Website

    I think that celebrities are something that we all share an fairly equal knowledge about, which makes it something that we all share, and something we can make a coherent comment about.

    I read every word in AmConMag, but most of the content is educational and informative, so rarely would I feel qualified to make a web comment.

    Lately, my only comment would be something like “Oh my god. How can we stop this?”

  9. TGGP says: • Website

    joypog, I myself am one of those younger people who expressed just the view you mentioned at Dusk in Autumn. My terrible taste in music also likely plays a role. I also noted that I can’t think of a musician now whose death would really affect me.

  10. MattSwartz says: • Website

    I don’t comment about Jackson necessarily because I think he’s so important (although I suspect that the forces that created and scarred him are at least as noteworthy as the information in the daily news cycle), but rather as a small sort of penance for all the cruel things I said about him as a Middle Schooler.

    I can’t think of any other public figure who we ridiculed as bitterly. We were sure that he was gay (we had other words for this), and that he was weird and stupid and weak in every other way, too.

    Looking back, it’s clear that we jumped to conclusions about him; that we spoke before walking a mile in his shoes. I’ll repeat it. I don’t believe that he was a child molester. I really do not, although I’m not firm enough in that belief to have sent children over to his house.

    He was ahead of the curve. He experienced modernity’s rough treatment of those it elevates decades before paparazzi was a household word. A saner bunch of people (can we really be called a society if we treat one another so anti-socially?) would have called the whole celebrity news thing off after seeing the damage it inflicted. We did the exact opposite.

  11. John Beeler says: • Website

    Michael Jackson came from a time when black and white tastes in pop music, came together, when there was much love and joy in black pop music (as there still is in gospel). With MJ all this came together perhaps for the last time before blacks self-segregated in the rap ghetto and white rock music became pimply angst again with grunge before being replaced with boy-bands and other teenybopper acts. And he was a phenomenal dancer, one of the all-time best.

  12. The world *is* turned upside down, and largely due to our “cult of personality”.

    If I elect someone to represent me, I don’t care *if* they are a Michael Jackson or a Mark Sanford (or a JFK or a Bill Clinton), so long as they keep their weirdness out of the spotlight, and they virgorously represent their constituency. And as the TAC folks describe the “mainstream”, with insults and searing dislike, we see that any coalition of the future will be made of very disparate factions.

    The *liberals* have an advantage, in that they united around, “Someone come and dress us in morality, and promise us you will take over our treasure, and hopefully also remember to take care of us, when the time comes”. Their many disparate factions can rally under that banner.

    But at the moment, we have it just backwards. Each politician, with an exaggerated sense of self, wants to say, “here is what I am, and what I will do, and you must choose among the different personalities, and their advertised menu of priorities”. In other words, an *illusion* of government “of the people, by the people, and for the people”.

    Each local group must ask their local congressperson:

    #1 – TARP 1, what we knew then, and what we know now. Then, we knew that we were calling you and telling you, 10 to 1, not to do it. If we ask, “are you sorry you voted for TARP 1”, you give us this pablum about “well, if we hadn’t done it, it could have been worse”. Here’s the question: “What can you offer us to *prove* that TARP 1 was effective?”

    And here are the *not acceptable* answers:
    – Well, the data is not in yet.
    – I know stuff I can’t tell you.
    – I got *sophisticated* information you wouldn’t understand.

    #2 – Did you read all of TARP 1, and the STIMULUS and the CAP and TRADE? (If you say “yes”, you are lying.) If you say “no”, then:
    – Is it moral to vote either “yes” or “no” on a bill you haven’t even read?
    – Do you think that voting on bills you haven’t read, is what we sent you to congress for?

    #3 – Will you admit that *both* sides of the political aisle *use* this obfuscation to hide their personal projects? Otherwise, *all* changes to a bill would be made to the original online copy, and would be available to the public, and to those delegated to vote upon it, constantly.

    This would be *so easy* to beat. Hand us 1,500 pages of handwritten mess, and we disseminate to half a dozen universities, and within an hour, even in the middle of the night, you would have an online and searchable copy, and it would be indexed and summarized, and the parts that didn’t fit would be highlighted.

    #4 – If you didn’t read the original draft, how can you assure us that *after* the vote, the wording was not changed, by some special interest?

    (Anybody remember that TARP 1 had a section that said if a company made wooden children’s arrows, no longer than 17″, then they were tax-exempt?)

    #5 – The *liberals* beat your socks off, with the CAP and TRADE. So why can’t each of you go to the state, and have a *state law* passed that mandates displaying on the gasoline pump, the federal tax per gallon as of Jan 1, 2009, and the current federal tax (and costs) per gallon currently, updated monthly?

    The state could urge food stores and utility companies (electric, natural gas, water) to prominantly display what this month’s bill is, and what that would have cost on Jan 1, 2009.

    As a public service, let’s let the public *feel* the sticker shock, and the effect of their votes.

    Also as a public service, get some conservative website to show a running tally of the deficit, the GDP, and unemployment, job loss and gain, by state and by industry. Have an easy to read spreadsheet of senators and congress persons, to include top-paid staff and immediate family that benefit from their legislation, showing initial and current net worth, and the total outstanding medical and retirement liability accrued by each.

    #6 – Obama promised transparancy. Will your local congressperson promise, if we keep them in their job, that violating the transparancy promise, should be an impeachable and jailable offense?

    Think what that would do for all you *antiwar* and *anti-torture* people. If they don’t keep their promises, we can vote them out. But if they violate the transparancy clause, we send them to jail, no “ifs, ands, or buts”. And take away that huge retirement and health benefit that we paid, for them.

    Am I on the right track? (Picture Michael Jackson’s falsetto voice, “hee hee hee”.)

  13. I told y’all there would be a coup in Honduras. I still don’t get MJ but it might be a generational thing. I was brought up on rock and roll followed by the British Invasion. When I became more sophisticated (which might be disputed) I really began to appreciate the Big Bands and most particularly Sinatra. MJ, whether he is moonwalking or singing falsetto, does absolutely zilch for me as an artist or entertainer. Throw in the grotesque persona and I am at a loss to understand the appeal. Sorry.

  14. eep says:

    Prophetic, there was a coup today. It is said to be over the removal of term limits (makes me think of Chavez). What is the legality of it?

    I agree with MattSwartz, people made fun of Michael Jackson without an ounce of compassion. Then the scapegoat dies and people realize he was human behind all the plastic surgery. I can find music I like and hate in all eras.

  15. Anonymous • Disclaimer says: • Website

    Won’t somebody please think of all the other boy-children?

    To Farah Fawcett:

    So farewell then
    Farah Fawcett,
    Charlie and men’s
    Loss – now Angels’ asset
    Well-endowed beyond rebuke,
    You were the Intelligence Community’s
    Own Daisy Duke.

  16. Don says:

    Greatest dancer of all time? No offense to the previous commenter, but either Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly would have wiped the floor sparkling clean with MJ as a broom in regards to dancing ability. Mr. Giraldi, thank you for one of the best posts on the sad creature known as MJ.

  17. MattSwartz says: • Website

    One thing’s for sure: no matter what anyone thinks about newly dead celebrities, it’s great to be able to hear about the news before it happens, which is just one of the great advantages Mr. Giraldi brings to this blog and it’s accompanying magazine.

  18. Sadly, we live in a nation where people pay more attention to what happens on American Idol than they do to what their representatives are doing on Capitol Hill. It’s why these lobbies can move in and so heavily influence those therein – and so easily pull the wool over the eyes of the ‘sheeple’.

    Apathy for politics and the state of the affairs of this nation is half the problem, Phil, as I’m sure you know.

  19. joypog says:

    @don, From what I’ve seen I’d take MJ’s dancing over the other two (though I do appreciate their work) but remember that those two were a little bit before my time and I have not seen enough of their movies to really say one way or the other. FWIW I’ve also seen Baryshnikov in person a few times, and I gotta say that MJ was a more powerful dancer as a pixelated creature on youtube than Baryshnikov live (and he had 10x the charisma of the other dancers on the stage).

    In any case, I would say that the loss of the first three and the eventual loss of the last dancer are each losses to the culture at large.

    Not saying any of them are or should be role models, just giving the proper due to some folks who have some insane talents and skills – and in the case of Michael, getting those skills exacted a horrific price on his personal life – and possibly on the lives of some young boys also (though never proven in a court of law either).

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