The death of Michael Jackson almost brought the web to its knees last week, signifying that it was truly a Big Event. Hell, the last time I can recall the interwebs taking such a beating was the morning of 9/11. For me it showed how the mdeia landscape has changed. I was on Twitter when I noticed a trending topic entitled "Michael Jackson". After muttering "What has he done now?", I clikced and saw the literally hundreds of tweets indicating that he was taken to the hospitalm after collapsing. The only source cited was TMZ.com. A quick check of the standard news sites showed no mention. TMZ then mentioned that a source said "it doesn't look good". No mainstream media reports. Hmm, over to Fark.com, as news spread within one of the forums. Skepticism abounded, since the only source was a celeb gossip website. I immediately thought, who better would be on top of this as it breaks? They live for this shit, right? Sure enough, TMZ.com was the first to report his death, while the other sites were just posting items that "reports" indicate MJ was rushed to the hospital. As we saw 15 years ago with all things O.J., the tabloid media got there first, and had it right all along.
As for Jackson, it's weird, this was the kind of thing that should not have surprised anyone, yet did. Here was a man who lived a bizarre, reclusive life, always appeared to be frail and sickly when not performing, and was known for generally strange behavior. Reactions varied, not surprsingly, in light of the more recent events surrounding the man. It was a bit surprising to see several "I'm glad the pedo kicked" type of responses. I mean, he was found not guilty, right? (I know, so was the aforementioned O.J.).
Undeniable is the impact the man had on music and pop culture. You youngsters might be amazed to learn that before Jackson, the only black face one would see on MTV was that of J.J. Jackson the VeeJay. A threat from the record company (back when they had real clout) forced MTV's hand, and the rest was history. Before the freak show set in, the guy was about as big a star as one could be. As he literally grew up before our eyes, from the amazingly energetic child frontman of the Jackson Five to the megastar solo act, he never failed to amaze and entertain.
Rest in peace, MJ.