There's three reasons why it's of interest to me. The first of which is that while death tends to be a very emotional topic for people, it's rare you see the sort of outpouring which happened when Jackson died. Secondly, I'm very interested in public perceptions of people -- especially people like Jackson who essentially never had a life that wasn't in the public eye.
Thirdly, of course, I was a fan of his music. A very long while ago, I had the pleasure of meeting him at the Sherman Oaks Galleria -- the very same Galleria which Frank Zappa made famous.
I used to hang out with a musician who used to play gigs in Lancaster every so often -- he lived across the street from us. Inevitably, as we were packing everything up, we'd start bullshitting with the other musicians and the regulars who were still hanging out at the bar. One of them once said to me that "C'mon now. Everyone loves Michael." -- I wasn't so sure. This was during his second trial and there wasn't a whole lot of positive sentiment towards him.
Ultimately, the response that people had to his death proved it. It's magical when people feel the need to gather for an event like that. They gathered outside the hospital where his body was -- not because they'd see anything, but because they felt that they had to be around other people.
To be honest, I'd forgotten about all the things that his music had accomplished until then. It seems almost quaint now, but he was the first black artist on MTV.
Anyway, as one might expect, there have been a lot of jokes about the child molestation charges. Our criminal justice system is by no means perfect, but it's better than most of the alternatives. Jackson was definitely a weird character -- spending that sort of time in the public eye puts me in mind of a certain South Park episode to say nothing of his upbringing.
Still -- if a man is subject to two criminal trials and acquitted in both, shouldn't we pronounce him innocent?
There's exceptions to be fair -- O.J. Simpson, for example, spent at least $4 million for his defense in the criminal and civil charges of the murder of his wife. That behavior smacks of wealthy patrons buying indulgences from the Catholic Church. We preserve the right of anyone to be defended in a trial, but could anyone demand the defense team that O.J. had? It's partially that reason which makes it seem like a miscarriage of justice -- that and the DNA evidence against him.
But there really was no such evidence against Jackson. Do we believe it because he was weird? Certainly anyone who looked through the auction catalogue of effects from his ranch would think he was a bit off kilter.
Is that why we've indicted him in spite of what the justice system says?
To be honest, I don't know. But I am glad that -- in whatever capacity it exists -- he's at peace.
Postscript: I found out about his death when I came home from work that day. A friend of mine had commented on Rachel Maddow and I was persuaded to see one of her shows and judge her brand of journalism for myself. As it happens, it was pre-empted by the coverage of Jackson's body being taken to the morgue. One clip they kept showing was the transfer of his body from the helicopter to the coroner's van -- something that Keith Olbermann commented on: This otherwise larger-than-life celebrity had the same end that we're all fated to have at some point.