Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mirror or Window

At the risk of sounding like I'm piling on, even though I'm not, how much of the coverage of the memorial service/Viking funeral for Michael Jackson did you follow? At what point, if any, did you find it garish that you and I, as members of the gawking public, were participants, witnesses if you will, to such a sad, personal and family tragedy? And yet, let's be honest with one another, we don't feel unclean at all-it was just another day watching the tube and double-clicking the mouse. And when the services ended and the last tweeter twitted and the final mini-cam was capped, we looked to what (ever) was next. That the Jackson Family lost a son, a brother, and his children lost their father is more or less obscured by the churn of events--and when one among us suffers the loss of her/his humanity, we all lose.

There was at least one live blog of the memorial service from inside the arena. I have no idea how many more there were and I won't even hazard a guess at the number of broadcast and cable news channels who provided wall to wall reports. Perhaps the last time such coverage was attempted, on a smaller scale (of course) because we didn't have the technology, was when Elvis Presley died and I'm not going to waste anyone's time rewarming all the parallels to that passing I've read in the last days.

We've become a culture, nearly world-wide, who, because we have all these channels and means of communication, feel compelled to fill them with something. There was a time, when our kids were very young, when the idea of 24/7 news operation was novel. Many of us wondered what would go on a channel like that at all hours of the day and night. At some point as convergence began to close the distances between one form and another, news devolved into noise, not that we really noticed. Now, there's not a lot of nutrition in any of what we watch-just empty calories. When the President of the United States speaks and it takes longer than one commercial break (three and half minutes) we start to twitch. We surf until we find something somewhere, even if we've seen it already, rather than attempt to stretch our attention span and focus. We have so much freedom of choice for information we yearn for freedom from choice.

Later this month, we'll mark the 40th anniversary of the First Man to Walk on the Moon. However, by the time we reach that milestone, it will be competing for our attention with the upcoming (in August) 40th anniversary of Woodstock (even National Lampoon whacked that one. And how!). Which one was history? Which one wasn't? How do you decide what is history? And what can a poor boy do, except to sing for a rock'n'roll band-'cos in this sleepy London Town there's just no place for a street fighting man.

Sorry-I was channeling Mick Jagger, whose initials just happen to be-OMG-how creepy is that? And speaking of the Strolling Bones, how amazed that he's still among us must Keith Richards be, in light of the number of musicians who've passed? But I digress. More frequently, and faster, private moments of public people, not just our national leaders, celebrities, become public spectacle. I wondered years ago if the news coverage of OJ and AC's speeding Ford Bronco was the end of an error (or era). Now I fear it was the lead car in the circus caravan."And the perverted fear of violence chokes the smile on every face. And common sense is ringing out the bell. This ain't no technological breakdown, Oh no, this is the road to hell."
-bill kenny

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