Michael Distraction

We live in a busy, chaotic, and sometimes tragic world. In the past week alone, the Lebanese government resigned, 125 people were killed in the deadliest suicide bombing yet in Iraq, over 150,000 people died of hunger, and Russia secured a controversial nuclear fuel agreement with the disreputable Iranian government. Yet, if you ask the average person what big news story has been recently aired, they are likely to bring up the relatively trivial trial of Michael Jackson. It is no coincidence that a person might mention this bit of news because this petty headline has occupied far more than its share of the front-page coverage. In case you have been living under a rock, or perhaps have been trapped in the “PA bubble,” the trial is finally underway. The King of Pop is accused of molesting a 13-year-old male cancer-patient at his “Neverland Ranch” estate. It is yet another anticipated episode of “Celebrity Sex Scandal – Live!” and America is tuning in excitedly. Americans’ love of the ideal hero is only topped by our love of the ideal hero who screws up badly. We love to watch our stars in trouble and observe them suffer, especially when the trouble involves sex. We salivated over O.J. Simpson and Clinton and cracks are still made about falafel after the recent O’Reilly case. But just because we naturally love gossip and controversy does not mean that it is important in the broader scheme or that the media should feed off of these lusts. The attention that the media is giving to the Michael Jackson trial is a microcosm of the larger problem with the media. They give us the fluff and the candy we love to eat up, overshadowing the issues that really matter. This does not detract from the responsibility of each person as a global citizen to keep themselves informed. It makes it our responsibility more difficult, however, when the providers of our information treat their responsibility with laxity at best. Not only are the headlines of the Fox News and MSNBC websites saturated with Jackson junk, but also the pop-music radio stations that give the occasional news headline are talking about it. E! is going as far as reenacting court scenes on their advertised new show, “The Michael Jackson Trial,” at 7:30 and 9:00 p.m. on weeknights. Clearly, our society is inundated with this dangerous and enticing distraction. The charges brought against Michael Jackson are serious and warrant further investigation. But the trial simply does not merit tha amount of coverage it has garnered. The citizens of our country deserve better when they turn on a news channel or open a newspaper. It is ridiculous to consider the Michael Jackson trial equally or more important than shifts in the nuclear balance of the world or diseases and other tragic phenomena that threaten and take the lives of thousands. Yet, this is far from the message we are presented with. The media has tremendous power over us. It is downright immoral to improperly use this power and disregard such a vital responsibility by exploiting the public and feeding them rubbish. It makes our job unfairly difficult as citizens and dilutes the standards and the values of our society. It leaves citizens dangerously blind to the critical events that rock our world daily. Yes, it is possible that America’s favorite appearance-changing pop singer engaged in immoral activity, but as the media overstresses it to the point of putting it in front of American lives, we should ask: is the media’s treatment of the case actually more immoral than the charges brought against Jackson himself?