Jonah Goldberg expresses beautifully everything that’s wrong with the media’s coverage about Michael Jackson’s death:
Generally speaking, I’m a believer in the rule that we should not speak ill of the dead. Or at least we should wait a decent interval before doing so (if we never spoke ill of the dead, history would be meaningless). But, I must say I find the media’s instinctive rush to sanctify Michael Jackson disgusting.
Everyone likes to invoke Lord Acton’s axiom that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But nearly everyone forgets that he coined this phrase not to indict powerful men, but to instruct the historians who write about them. Historians tend to forgive the powerful their transgressions. Likewise, journalists (for want of a better word) tend to forgive the famous.
Calling Michael Jackson an icon doesn’t let him off the hook for anything. But to listen to the news anchors you’d think it absolves him of everything.
The only thing that could have made Goldberg’s point more strongly would have been if he had quoted from an LA Times writer who announced that “Michael Jackson is perhaps the most fatally flawed historical icon since Napoleon.”
Michael Jackson’s life made me feel icky. The media’s post-death coverage makes me feel positively slimed.
UPDATE: The Anchoress, inspired by Goldberg, took it to the next level, explaining the difference between idols and icons.