Tags: Iran | Michael | Jackson

Media's Jackson Coverage Diverts Attention From Iran

Tuesday, 30 Jun 2009 05:45 PM

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Deepak Chopra, the Indian master of the mind-body connection, was convincing in his grief at the loss of his good friend Michael Jackson. He told CNN, among many other praiseworthy things about the life of the pop idol, that when Jackson learned that grizzly bears were dying because of the erosion of their habitat, he actually wept.

If true, it's staggering to imagine Jackson's reaction if he could have known that the news coverage of his death might cause untold numbers of Iranians to die brutally and the cause of Iranian freedom set back severely. Slippery-minded people might infer that this is criticism of Michael Jackson. It is not. Jackson had nothing to do with the news coverage of his sudden passing.

As a small boy I used to stand beside the dining room band at the O. Henry Hotel in Greensboro, N.C., bug-eyed with fascination at how certain musicians could put down a saxophones, pick up a clarinet, and play without a single symptom of interruption. As a so-called journalist today I'm even more bug-eyed at the way major media can shift from journalism to voyeurism with identical ease,

A half-century ago, when I was admitted into broadcast journalism, we would scramble for old recorded interviews when famous people died and do little obituaries in sound; tasteful, limited, and oh-so-careful never to appear to wallow or relish the opportunity to build an audience around a celebrity who had just passed away. Even so, we felt guilty; as though this wasn’t quite a "manly" way to rope in an audience. In fact, in the office, we called such shows "jumping on graves."

That noble reticence has disappeared, just like the noble hesitation to suggest sleeping together on the first date. It's going to be "Death of a Legend" all the way and there's no storm cellar in news media to curl up in once you've gotten the point and have had enough. End of point. Why try to mash the apparent and the obvious into the self-evident? I would, however, like to hear a network news executive explain the journalistic argument for playing a 911 call over the air once the story is known. I said "journalistic" justification; not "programming" justification. That one's easy.

What now does this have to do with additional fatalities in Iran and a blow to freedom there and elsewhere?

We were told as children in the south never to touch a magnolia blossom. We were warned that one little finger touch upon that magnificent botanical marvel would cause it to blacken and die. I never checked it out, but it's definitely true of what happens when cruel dictatorships are touched by the truth. Oh, not right away, of course. But mullahs, dear leaders, comandantes, fuehrers, duces, and lider-maximos begin to lose "conquerors' coinage" when their crimes against justice and freedom are emblazoned for free peoples around the world to see. They don't vanish immediately, but once there's a well-known war between them and their own people history rings a bell and it's one-way downhill from then. (You say, no: China proved that rolling tanks over young people works? There are an average of over 200 instances of public disorder in Communist China today. The Hungarian Revolution started with one. Stay tuned.) And while Jackson was smilingly preparing for his comeback tour just prior to his cardiac arrest the media was blistering the hide off the dictatorship in Iran.

And, as Genesis tells us, "It was good." Americans who haven't had a moment of sheer political awe since Tiananmen Square saw the spectacle of armed thugs beating, intimidating, humiliating, and murdering Iranians whose only crime was to defy the warnings against demonstrating and pouring into the streets. When Einstein's Theory of Relativity first entered the mainstream in the 1940s a highly unlikely story appeared in which Einstein himself sought to explain relativity to a layman. "When you're in the arms of a lover," the fabled physicist is alleged to have said, "an hour is like a minute. However, when you are sitting without pants on a hot stove, a minute is like an hour."

What that story lacks in physics it more than makes up for in political science. Every minute of coverage watched by those who don't normally follow world affairs is an eternity to the despots who wish they could throttle such images and usually can. And every minute's coverage of the uprising of the people of Iran is like a four-year college education in foreign affairs to all those who sort of never really knew the difference between Iran and Iraq and Zimbabwe and Albania and never really cared.

And with the death of Jackson the media torture of Iran's dictators ended and the torture of rational journalism began. Dictatorships give money, sex, drugs, perks, posts, and prizes to journo-whores who write, report, and speak in a manner to please the dictatorship and frustrate their helpless victims. If, indeed, an MD or other injecting enabler turns out to be guilty of Jackson's death, he may never actually have to put on a tuxedo and walk into a Teheran ballroom to accept an award, but he will nonetheless harvest the bountiful gratitude of the "Islamic Republic" and its "supreme leader." "Long Live Michael Jackson," shout the mullahs. "The heat is off."

I've only known of one football game in my life that was called because of fog. It was a high school game between my beloved Greensboro Purple Whirlwinds and the Winston-Salem whatever-they-were. It was too foggy to see the field. It was too foggy to see the scoreboard. Now the abandonment of coverage of the most important story on earth has obscured the playing field and the scoreboard yet again.

However, fog has a habit of lifting. And when it does, the world will have another chance to observe the heroic damage the crowds in Iran have inflicted upon their oppressors.

That is, provided all major celebrities remain healthy.

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