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Jonah Goldberg on the media and Michael Jackson's death

Over at NRO, Jonah Goldberg offers some nice insights on the way the media have covered Michael Jackson's passing. Here is an excerpt:

[H]is relatively early death wasn’t “tragic.” He was one of the richest people in the world. He spent his money on perpetual childhood and he was perpetually with children not his own.

Meanwhile, in the last ten days, we’ve seen or heard of remarkable people who’ve given their lives for freedom in Iran. We’ve heard of innocents killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the last decade, America has lost thousands of heroes in noble causes and thousands of innocent bystanders who were denied the simple joys of life through no fault of their own. Those deaths are tragic, and we're hard pressed to think of more than a handful of names to put with the long line of the dead.

If anything, Michael Jackson’s life, not his death, was tragic....

I feel sympathy for Jackson’s family and friends who understandably mourn him. But I can't bring myself to mourn him any more than I mourn the random dead I read about in the paper everyday. Indeed, I confess to mourning him less.

Every channel says this is a sad day for America. I agree. But not for the same reasons.


You can read the whole thing here.

(Originally posted on First Thoughts at First Things)

Comments (12)

[H]is relatively early death wasn’t “tragic.” He was one of the richest people in the world.

An incredibly concise and bold insight into the reductionist mind-set.

His notable earlier accomplishments will what would have made him a legend; his deplorable later exploits are what will make his final legacy (at least, to those given to nobler principles) monstrous.

That's primarily the worst tragedy of it all.

An incredibly concise and bold insight into the reductionist mind-set.

It would be if Jonah had not then immediately written, "He spent his money on perpetual childhood and he was perpetually with children not his own." Obviously Jonah's point wasn't that Jackson's death wasn't tragic because he was rich, but because of the life he chose to live based on that wealth.

I tend to disagree with most things that get posted on this blog, but this is one thing I can't help but agree with.

Thanks for posting Francis.

From what I know of his childhood (admittedly based on TV documentaries and such), his father was an absolute fiend. I've long suspected that either Michael Jackson was opened up to some pretty extreme demonic influence or that he was not only flat out insane, but emotionally stunted at the age of 11-13 by the abuse. Just look at what he did to himself through cosmetic surgery. He looked damn near like a white woman when he died. I think we'll find out on the other side, if we ask God out of curiosity, that these things were only the tip of the iceberg with regard to how messed up he was.

Obviously Jonah's point wasn't that Jackson's death wasn't tragic because he was rich, but because of the life he chose to live based on that wealth.

Doesn't the way Jackson lived contribute to the tragedy and not lessen it? Goldberg seems to treat the man's life and death as somehow separable. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In all this commentary it is wise to remember Jackson was a human being, and not a symbol, no matter how easily his fans and detractors forget that fact. Which of course adds to the tragedy.

(1) First Thoughts at First Things is a terrific blog, which everybody should add to their favorites. Congratulations to Frank on his first posts there.

(2) "Tragic" used to be kind of a technical term - referring to a great, or potentially great, man brought low by a single "tragic flaw" - i.e., a comparatively minor imperfection of character which, in singularly unfortunate circumstances, leads him on to self-destruction.

But, in recent years, the word has been drained of all its former resonance, by being routinely applied to pretty much anybody who dies "before his time" - e.g., young children killed in house-fires.

In the past sense of the term, there was nothing "tragic" about Michael Jackson. If anything, he was the very opposite of tragic: a frightful bundle of flaws, partially redeemed by a single element of genius.

In the present sense of the term, maybe there's a case to be made. Maybe he died before his time.

But who wants to argue that his death was half as sad as the last twenty years of his life?

Michael Jackson: born a middle-class black male; died a wealthy white woman. Only in America.

; died a wealthy white woman.

Two things wrong with that conclusion:

1. Wealthy? With nearly over $500 M in debt?
2. God help the man who ever dates a 'woman' that looked like that!

It would be like a mutated Bizarro version of a Palin!

Incidentally, my other favorite neo-con, Mark Steyn, perhaps the outstanding living practioner of the fine art of the obituarist, says it all, here.

Ave atque vale.

Little boys in LA can sleep more safely; the monster has gone away.
Pray for his soul; he'll need it.

"...From what I know of his childhood (admittedly based on TV documentaries and such), his father was an absolute fiend..."

I agree. Looking at later photos of him, especially those placed beside earlier pictures for contrast, he did begin taking on a 'fiendish' appearance with that sickly, chalk-white complexion and those clown-like, painted red lips; he seemed to have morphed into, basically, a ghoul.

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