This just in: Michael Jackson still dead
Gawker recaps some of the sillier articles various news outlets have run in a desperate attempt to keep Michael Jackson’s recent death the top story, including a gripping expose on what kind of books he liked to read (psychology and history) and speculation on whether or not “better CPR” could have saved his life (probably, just as it could have saved anybody else who died of a heart attack). Traffic at news and gossip websites has skyrocketed in the days following Jackson’s death, it’s not surprising that they’ll keep trying to draw back those millions of visitors with new and salacious details about it, not to mention the life that preceded it.
However, with his will just barely into probate and the specific cause of his death unknown for weeks, it seems that the biggest scoops available right now are not terribly interesting. A recent “shocking development” was that Jackson apparently didn’t provide for ex-wife Debbie Rowe in his will. Since I’m fairly certain it’s not standard practice for people to will money to their exes, even if they’re worth millions of dollars, I’m not sure why that’s surprising to anyone, particularly since Rowe herself admitted that, married or not, she was little more to Jackson than the vessel that carried his children and that the two had maintained little contact in recent years. As an alternative to the “here’s more evidence of what a weirdo he was” stories, there are the “here’s more evidence of what a saint he was” stories, which seem to consist of interviews with or quotes from every celebrity who ever encountered Jackson, even once, from both the relevant to Emmanuel Lewis of Webster. Even celebrities who are remaining mum on his passing, such as Macaulay Culkin, are worth a mention. Then, of course, there are the endless “man on the street” interviews with people dropping off teddy bears at Jackson’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame or holding up signs reading ‘R.I.P. MICHEAL #1,’ asking what his music meant to them. Rarely do the interviews elicit anything more profound than “It meant a lot to me” or “It was part of my childhood,” but as long as heartbroken fans with a lot of free time on their hands keep camping out at the gates of Neverland Ranch, there will still be news cameras pointing at them, sometimes as proof of the huge impact Michael Jackson had on people, sometimes in derision of what a celebrity obsessed culture we live in today.
When reaching to make something not very interesting seem newsworthy doesn’t work, some news outlets are relying on outright bullshit to draw traffic to their websites. Major organizations repeated the rumor that Jackson was going to be buried at Neverland, with a public viewing beforehand, as fact without bothering to check with the people most likely to know for certain–his family. There have been numerous stories about the inevitable custody battle between Debbie Rowe and Jackson’s mother over his two oldest children, though there has been no evidence that Rowe is interested in such a thing. Now a new “developing story” claims that Jordan Chandler has recanted the child molestation charges that won him a $25 million settlement, saying that he was forced into it by his father. It’s a story that may be slightly more plausible if not for the fact that it originated on a website that’s accompanied by a popup ad featuring a topless woman saying “hi hot stuff! I like to screw for hours and I’m right here in Brooklyn let’s fuck!” Well, it read Brooklyn for me, it’ll probably read something different for you, depending on where you live. Websites that associate themselves with porn sites are probably not reliable sources for news, but you can bet that it won’t be long till the story makes its way to places like TMZ and Perez Hilton, before moving on to actual news organizations. In the era of the internet, where libel laws don’t seem to apply in quite the same way they do in print, it’s not about getting your stories accurate, it’s about getting them first.
I hate to tell everyone who is tired of reading and hearing the words “Michael Jackson” this, but it ain’t over, not by a long shot. Soon, I give it a month or so, the books will come out. A guy who might have once sold Jackson a painting will get his five minutes of fame by association, so we can get an “insider’s look” at Jackson’s demeanor, to see if he really looked that bad in person, if he walked around with a bottle of painkillers in one hand and a stack of kiddie porn in the other, as has been the popular perception in recent years. Any story about Jackson is going to be weird by default, because he was just a weird fucking guy–even kind, vaguely charming anecdotes from longtime friend Quincy Jones have him being so shy about practicing a song in front of him that he insisted on hiding behind a couch and making Jones turn off the lights before he’d do it. Because Jackson was incredibly weird and lived much of his adult life shrouded in secrecy, even allegedly planting stories about his inherent weirdness in gossip magazines himself, presumably just for shits and giggles, we’ll have an endless wellspring of new information about him, probably mostly false or at least embellished, but what does it matter? All bets are off. We’re still hearing supposedly “never before revealed” stories about Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and John Lennon, and they weren’t half the controversial figure Michael Jackson was. With Michael Jackson, we’ve only just begun.