New Republic's John McWhorter:
Michelangelo said that when he sculpted the David statue, David was already inside the block of marble and his job was just to take away what was not David. Jackson worked against nature’s endowment just as diligently, but surely the pale wraith he became was not something that had been waiting to see the light of day. Rather, what Jackson seemed to find was a negation, a mangling of personhood – what else can we say of someone attending a court date for child molestation in his pajamas? The irony is that despite this man’s towering stature as a keystone of American popular music’s history, there is surely a part of all of us that sees the man as more fortunate resting in peace.
I'll add more when/if I see something.
Oh, but can I say something? I cringe whenever I hear anyone say that Michael Jackson broke the color barrier. What is that — some kind of joke, given is changing skin color? Sure, before Michael came on, MTV didn't play black artists, and yes, MJ changed that. But it's not like there were a lot of black artists making videos and hits (this was in the post-disco, pre-rap days). And MTV was only a couple of years old anyway. And certainly, MJ didn't break the color barriers in music. Plenty of black artists had crossed over before him… for decades.
The Corner's Jonah Goldberg:
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.
I say: Who cares who his famous friends were? Who cares what a “fascinating” person he was? If you want to talk about his death as an end of an era, have at it. But that’s not what the Barbara Walters set is doing.
I know that Michael Jackson wasn’t convicted of the despicable crimes he was accused of. And that’s why he never went to jail. Three cheers for the majesty of the American legal system. But in my own personal view, he wasn’t exonerated either. Nor was he absolved of his crimes because he could sing, moonwalk, or sell 10 million records. (Though many of us suspect the money and fame he made from those things is precisely what kept him out of jail).
And, while I merely think he was a pedophile, I know he was not someone responsible parents should applaud, healthy children emulate, nor society celebrate.
Take a gander at the current Amazon's Music Bestseller List. 19 of the top 25 are MJ.
TPM's Josh Marshall:
While I liked Jackson's music and had great respect for his talent, I just didn't have a strong emotional connection to him.
So, not sadder or more upset, but more shocked. And I was thinking last night, what feels different about this?
I think it's because so much of Michael Jackson's life seemed like make believe. Sometimes farcical. But always like play acting, somehow. So much theatrics. So many costumes. And on various levels the desire — often frighteningly realized — to deny or defy his physical self, his age and much more. Even the things that seemed terribly serious, perhaps especially those — the trials for child molestation which could have landed him in jail for years or decades — never seemed to stick. Whether he was truly guilty of these accusations or not, it always blew over. All together it conditioned me to think of Jackson as someone whose drama was always just drama — whether it was the threat of prison or vast debts or bizarre physical tribulations — all of it would pass or blow over, perhaps not even have been real, leaving him more or less in place, as weird or surreal as ever, but basically unchanged.
In the span of time between when news first broke that Jackson had been rushed to the hospital and when it was reported that he'd died, I actually saw some people speculating on the web that the whole thing might be a stunt to get out of his tour dates or perhaps some health emergency that was not quite as serious as it was being described. And even though these speculations turned out to be tragically, embarrassingly off base, I wasn't sure if they might not turn out to be accurate since it seemed somehow more in character, at least more in keeping with the never ending drama.
In the end death just seemed more out of character for Michael Jackson than for most people. Because through most of his life he and reality seemed at best on parallel but seldom overlapping courses. And death is reality, full stop.
Here's an especially stupid tribute, from the Cato Institute's Ilya Shapiro:
While the big news of the day wouldn’t seem to have a public policy angle, Michael Jackson’s death allows us to remember that such phenomenal career achievements can only be possible in an economic system that rewards and harnesses talent.
The King of Pop’s creativity allowed him and his family to make hundreds of millions of dollars, yes, but it also created thousands of jobs in the music and marketing industries and brought joy to fans around the world. Whatever his personal eccentricities — perhaps, in part, as a result of them — Jackson represents a capitalist success story.
No central planner could have invented him, and no government bureaucracy could have transformed pop music in the way he did.
So take that Obamasocialists!!!
Seriously, I don't think the death of Michael Jackson really adds much to the capitalism vs socialism debate. Sure, socialism didn't produce much to the pop music world, but so what?
Maybe I should note that Michael Jackson's early death at age 50 only proves that America has shitty health care. That would be a stupid point, too.
And by the way, some damn good movies come from socialist countries and totalitarian countries (the Iranian cinema is especially good; go rent The White Balloon if you can find it). Just saying…