The media have gone too far The recent media feeding frenzy over Michael Jackson over the past few weeks has been both captivating and disgusting. After years of being off the pop-culture radar, Michael is back big-time, although not as a singer or performer. The long-running freak show that is allegedly his life has once again gotten the media all excited. To be sure, there"s a lot to talk about. From his childhood stardom to his Thriller triumph to his legal battles, his life is quite interesting. But the attention given Jackson lately has been quite disturbing, possibly even more disturbing than Jackson himself. Of course, Jackson started the trouble by granting an interview to British television, but the media have picked up the Jackson story and ran with it for more than it"s worth. In their rush to condemn Jackson and expose his every weakness to the public, the media are showing, once again, their appetite for destruction. It"s not enough that Jackson has been disgraced; the media feel the need to drive the sword in as deeply as they can. Of course, there was a time when Jackson was on top of the pop world. It"s hard to understand today just how big Jackson was in the early 1980s. Not only were his songs everywhere on the radio, his videos were in constant rotation on MTV and his every move was documented in the tabloids. Moreover, Jackson"s appeal cut across every possible boundary: racial, generational, economic. He was the last pop artist whose music achieved a state of total mass appeal. Grandparents and children, as well as the street, liked and respected Jackson. And he made some of the most beautiful popular music ever. In collaboration with Quincy Jones, he created brilliant, shimmering universes of pop, aglow with harmonies and innovative beats. They were full of wonder and amazement. He co-wrote "We Are The World," an admittedly awful song that nevertheless raised millions for famine relief in Africa. He tried to use his celebrity to change the world. If he failed, it"s just as much the world"s fault as it is his. Even back then, he was seen as eccentric, but in an appealing way. He lived with Bubbles, the chimp; he rented out Disneyland; he wore one shiny glove. The media spent just as much energy building him up as they are using tearing him down now. And that"s the basic problem. Why all of this attention now? It"s not like there aren"t more important issues out there than whether Michael Jackson has bad taste in home furnishings. Why not do a scathing exposÈ on Huey Lewis? Maybe there"s some scandal surrounding Haircut 100 or Duran Duran that begs to be brought to light. We"re about to go to war, the economy still sucks and we"ve been told to prepare for imminent terrorist attacks. Surely those issues deserve more attention. The people piling on Jackson are opportunists, nothing more. They have nothing better to do than attack and attempt to destroy. They are the same people who obsessed over O.J., Monica Lewinsky and Chandra Levy. They"re traveling ghouls, feeding on others" misfortune. You see the same faces on the cable networks, the same rent-a-lawyers and alleged experts, all rehashing every detail from Jackson"s interviews over and over and over. It"s as if CNN and MSNBC and Fox News all book their guests from the same Rolodex of people willing to trash whoever needs trashing at the moment. And the fact that police found no evidence to substantiate the 1993 allegations of child abuse - and that new evidence has indicated the charges may have been part of an extortion attempt - is hardly ever mentioned. There"s no mistaking that Jackson"s story is overwhelmingly sad at its heart. He went from the slums of Gary, Ind., to international superstardom to being the butt of innumerable jokes. Apparently something happened along the way - whether it was parental abuse appears to be in dispute - to lead to his downfall. But the bottomfeeders who trash Jackson at every opportunity see only a troubled man, not a musical genius who inspired millions around the world. The magic that Jackson created in the studio and onstage was very real. The joy he brought to his audience was also real. The trouble Jackson apparently experiences in his life deserves some small amount of attention but not the current media obsession. Just as nobody is purely good or wholly evil, Jackson"s story is not as clear-cut as pundits like to make it. Whatever evil he"s done has been balanced, if not exceeded, by good deeds. And if he wants to spend his billion dollars on ugly furniture and grotesque sculpture, who are we to argue? I"d just buy booze, electronic equipment and cars if I had a billion; building a Disneyland is probably a better use. Barring some new evidence of serious wrongdoing on Jackson"s part - and remember, the 1993 charges were never tested in court - I"m inclined to put the issue of Michael Jackson to rest. I"ll listen to his song with Biggie occasionally, watch the "We Are The World" video when it shows up on VH-1 and spend my life not thinking about Michael Jackson. I wish CNN and ABC and Fox would do the same.

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