T. M. Moore keenly observes that the reaction to the passing of the King of Pop proves that pop culture rules our land:
Michael Jackson has died, and, yes, that is a sad and perhaps even tragic event. But what does it say about the state of things when even Fox News can’t seem to find much else to report?
Michael Jackson is being hailed as the King of Pop, and, for all I know, perhaps he was. Certainly he was a creative genius, an enormous talent, and, simply, a very strange and very sad man. We should mourn his passing, as we should mourn the death of anyone. There will be a long line of commentaries, encomia, reminiscences, eulogies, and retrospectives, that seems clear.
The news media, smelling the money in the water, is full guns devoted to telling the public everything it wants to know about Michael Jackson, and even some things I’m sure we’d rather forget (or maybe they’ll overlook those). But he was just a rock star. He was a singer, dancer, entertainer – and quite extraordinary, to be sure. Yes, he made lots of money, and many young people cried to see his flashing feet. But he was just a pop culture icon, the King of Making Us Feel Good.
How can a man who made his living for 45 years singing and dancing on the stage command so many hours of media coverage? Beats me. Except for this: Michael Jackson’s death shows us something about ourselves which, it seems to me, we ought to consider rather carefully. It’s clear that what matters to Americans is being entertained, feelin’ groovy, havin’ fun, and gettin’ it on.
Let’s face it: we have ceased to be a serious people. Bill Buckley died not long ago – a very serious man. Jack Kemp died last month – truly a serious politician. Buckley and Kemp were figures of political and cultural history, and Buckley has left an institution in his wake – National Review – which will continue to shape the face of American policy for years to come. Each was politely considered and remembered by the media, but then quickly forgotten. Coverage of their lives doesn’t command viewers and push up ratings, because Buckly and Kemp weren’t entertaining, they were serious.
America has ceased to be a serious nation, and that’s the real tragedy here, because we are presently embroiled in some pretty serious goings-on, at home and abroad, that require clear thinking, long vision, and steel nerves. But can a people whose most meaningful pastime is pop culture continue to be a nation that other nations take seriously? That remains to be seen.
The Pop King is dead. But the rule of King Pop continues unchecked in this American republic.
T. M. Moore