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Pop Goes the Weasel
by Jonathan David Morris
1 December 2003Thriller

News isn't news, nowadays, until it's packaged like a neat little fairy tale. That's the crowning achievement of the so-called Information Age.


So the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, is charged with molesting a child.

Let me put on my surprised face -- which, strangely enough, looks just like the face I usually wear.

The allegation, in case you missed it, is as follows: Jackson manhandled a 12-year-old boy. Not just any 12-year-old boy -- though that'd be bad enough -- but a 12-year-old boy with cancer. Catch that last part? Cancer.

Oh, and get this: Jackson allegedly seduced the poor kid with wine.

If it proves true, this story screams "creepy" at world-record decibels. We're talking stuff on the order of NAMBLA here, but worse. In fact, from where I stand, this is the creepiest thing since Gary Coleman watched dirty cartoons in the back of Gordon Jump's bike shop on that one very special episode of Diff'rent Strokes. Except instead of harassing a fictional kid, Jackson harassed a real one with hopes and dreams and cancer.

I mean, if these charges prove true.

Jackson was able to work his way around similar allegations back in 1993 by settling with a teenaged accuser to the tune of several million dollars. This time, it seems, he'll be singing a different tune. After all, it was just this year that he bragged about all the young boys that sleep in his bed. Are we to believe this guy's so abnormal that he doesn't do anything with them once they're there?

He may have survived the first round of child molestation charges, but that was then and this is now. We live in a post-O.J. era. Stories like these don't blow over anymore. So stock up on Starkist, if you know what's good for you. Duct tape your windows. Park your car indoors. This media whirlwind's going to tear up big cities and smash entire trailer parks as it scars a generation and with any luck cancels Election Day. All signs point towards disaster.

Fox News and CNN are obsessed with this story -- there's your key indicator. Before long, Greta Van Susteren will be changing her name to "Mrs. M. Jackson" so as to score a few in-depth interviews. Leno will have his jokes about noses; Letterman, tall tales of white girls who used to be black boys. That's just the beginning. Most digital cable companies carry hundreds of channels. Expect nothing but Michael Jackson from each and every one of them.

Behind the Music on VH1.

Biography on A&E.

The Elephant Man on Sci-Fi.

And as for Playboy, God only knows.

Michael Jackson's more than a pop star now. He's more than an icon. He's Jim Carrey's character in The Truman Show.

Indeed, like Truman Burbank, the Gloved One grew up on TV. First, he sang his way into millions of hearts as frontman for the Jackson 5. Then he set those hearts afire when he and his music matured. His talents are undeniable. Yet they're secondary now. They take a back seat to Bubbles the chimp, Lisa Marie Presley, and the time he said "my penis" on TV. Far removed from reality though the Neverland Ranch may be, this guy's story is the ultimate example of the "reality" programming craze.

In the aforementioned movie, Jim Carrey's inspired by a pin that asks, "How's it going to end?" As for Michael Jackson, the decades-long soap opera is headed for a courtroom -- and oh, what a made-for-TV climax it'll be.

Jermaine Jackson's already on record calling it a "modern day lynching." Lynchings were nasty for the sake of being nasty, though. This isn't vindictive. This is entertainment. It's like an old fashioned execution at town square. It's the sort of thing that brings people together, even while tearing them apart.

Eerily, though, the court of public opinion's already convicted the accused and accuser alike.

Jackson's guilty, we say. He's got to be. He's a goddam weirdo! The man dangles his baby over a hotel railing with a blanket draped over its head. Hell, he calls the kid Blanket. Blanket's its nickname. The guy's a bona fide loon.

He sleeps side-by-side with preteens. He said so himself. But even as we condemn him for it, we condemn the complainant, too. "Are his parents scratching for cash?" we ask. "What kind of mom lets a 45-year-old freak show near her 12-year-old son?" Surely they're in it for money, we say. Isn't that the American way?

But it's not money that defines what passes for pop culture these days. It's getting rich quick. It's the thrill of the chase in a culture of high-speed schemes. Just look at all the recycled trash on music store shelves this Christmas. Look at all the game shows, and lottos, and frivolous lawsuits. Look at the guy in the Riddler get-up selling books on late night cable. Like they said in the theme song to Fame, "I want to live forever," but fifteen minutes -- even if it takes crawling beneath the desk of a sitting president -- will do.

"Who's bad?" Michael Jackson once asked. There aren't winners and losers in fiction. It's how the game is played. So it goes: We hold him in contempt no more or less than the young man it's said he molested. We're ashamed to be watching this terrible peep show and so project guilt on all parties involved. Presumed innocence, meanwhile, makes for bad TV.

News isn't news, nowadays, until it's packaged like a neat little fairy tale. That's the crowning achievement of the so-called Information Age.

In America, career politicians bide time between elections making criminals out of common folk. If there isn't already an ordinance against breathing fresh air in your hometown, rest assured, it's coming. Is it any wonder we stay inside all day, obsessing over those chosen -- by God or by Hollywood -- to live right there on TV? If it's not Michael Jackson, it's Gary Coleman, JFK Jr., or some other person whose reality's only slightly more manufactured than our own. It's always somebody, though.

Of course, in a free country, we reserve the right to watch what we damn well choose. We can turn the TV off, sure. We're not going to. It's not our fault nothing but crap's on.

Jonathan David Morris is a political satirist based in New Jersey. His website is Read JDM
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