So, the Lame Duck of Pop has been exonerated in court. He's free to go. His rabid fans can go home and pretend to have lives again. The press can crawl back under their collective rocks. Doo dah, doo dah.
My only and final question would have to be: Has Mr. Jackson finally learned enough from this incident to be able to avoid even the appearance of evil?
Contrary to what the local media would have us believe, the Michael Jackson trial is not the biggest news item on our radars. I base this on my scientific survey of my immediate circle of friends and co-workers, none of whom ever even talk about the trial, other than to snort derisively and say, "Ol' Mr. Bad himself? Heh."
The MJ Trial™ has, of course, garnered its share of national media. After all, this is the self-styled "King of Pop" we're talking about. But the locals act as if there is no other news story worthy of our limited attentions. Every morning for the past several weeks I have heard no fewer than three reports connected with the trial, and on those mornings when they can get on-air interviews from someone connected - however remotely - with the trial, they have literal swooning fits in the studio. On days when other news simply won't be ignored, they grudgingly give it some air time ("Um, about 1,000 people were evacuated because of some landslide or other. No deaths."), then return to the trial as soon as they can politically swing it ("But, in other news, Michael Jackson was seen in court to actually nod off during his lawyer's summation! We'll talk with Legal Anal-ist S. O. Terrik to get his perspective on how this may affect the jury!").
This morning was, I must say, the best of breed in my opinion. Comedian/Activist/Nutritionist-to-the-Stars Dick Gregory was scheduled to be interviewed on the early-morning commute show on our local CBS affiliate. They got him on the phone, then waited for commercials to finish. When they were back on the air they tried to ask some questions, but Gregory wouldn't respond. They could hear breathing on the line, so they knew they were connected. Finally they sent the hotel manager up to knock on his door, only to learn that Gregory had been up late with MJ and had fallen fast asleep while waiting for the interview to start. No amount of coaxing could rouse him, so that interview will have to wait for another day (and, one hopes, a more caring audience).
Meanwhile, MJ's life continues to unfold as a spectacle worthy of the scandal rags that are making millions on the story. Poor stressed-out Jackson is in and out of medical care, being worried over by zealous parents and (gasp!) The High and Holy Almighty Right Reverend More Powerful Than God Jesse Jackson, who holds nightly prayer vigils with MJ. I presume he prays to himself as he seems to ignore the Lord's counsel in just about everything else.
So why worry? This trial has nothing (repeat: n-o-t-h-i-n-g) to do with me, my family, or even my casual acquaintances. MJ could spend the rest of his natural (natural??) life in jail and it wouldn't make one iota of difference in my life. He could be acquitted and spend the rest of his days being lampooned by the press and over-adored by his fans. What's different about that? Assuming he survives the trial, would he be forced into exile on some wasteland of a beach owned by dead movie stars? Good. Hasta la Bye-bye.
Oh, wait. There will be one difference for me: Like OJ before him, MJ will finally drop from the local media radar, and I won't have to listen to this stuff anymore.
I was not quite 14 when Watergate hit the news. Barely old enough to know or care much about our government, but old enough to be paranoid about many things. Watergate fueled my new paranoia of the government in general, and Nixon in particular.
"All the President's Men" was turned into a movie in my senior year. In fact, I went to see it shortly after my graduation. By then I was 17, and beginning to understand the idea that too much power vested in any one individual can be a dangerous thing. It didn't just apply to the government anymore, either. By this time in my life, it extended to all public sectors, including the press. It wasn't long after Nixon gave his infamous victory wave from Marine One that I began to realize that the press had an "agenda," and were just as capable of crushing dissent as any dictator.
I must confess to having read the book after seeing the movie. "All the President's Men" was the first "grown-up" movie I was able to see all by myself, and it presented me with some fascinating experiences. None the least of which was Hal Holbrook's incredible portrayal of the man later labelled "Deep Throat." The very idea of an informer who was intimately connected with the underpinnings of an increasingly corrupt (or, at the very least, morally bankrupt) presidency was a notion I just had to explore further.
So, I read the book. I tried to understand this man's motivations for revealing what he did to a hack reporter with such an obvious chip on his shoulder. I was equally amazed at Woodward's insistence on protecting the man's identity. Once Nixon and his cronies were deposed, what could harm the man? Naive, I know, but a teenager's understanding is by definition limited.
As I grew older, I became comfortable with the idea of a Deep Throat source. I was able to see this man more as a means to an end that ultimately helped this country by forcing it to examine its leadership with ever-larger microscopes. No longer can a sitting president work in a vacuum and assume that no one will ever be the wiser. One never knows just how loyal his minions really are.
So, to have Deep Throat identified after all these years has actually burst my bubble. Along with the comfort of his anonymity, there was the idea that Deep Throat stands for accountability at all levels of public service. Now, with Deep Throat revealed, the accountability might seem to rest solely on the shoulders of a media who not only have an axe to grind, they've brought the sharpener to the press conferences. Every word uttered by public officials today cannot be taken as intended by the speakers. No, they must be dissected and translated by media scribes so that we simple-minded citizens can understand what was really meant, as opposed to what was said. And Deep Throat will find it harder to operate in secrecy.
With an ever increasing population of bloggists, pundits, and "trained professionals" keeping a collective eye on things, one might think the era of Deep Throat sources is long dead. Still, day after day and year after year, our public "servants" continue to show us the reasons why those sources are still important. It only takes one person who wants truth to come out to point the rest of us in the right direction.
Thank you, Deep Throat, and may you find peace in your sunset. To this new generation of reporters I say: put your training to work. Verify before you publish. Your credibility - and our peace of mind - depend on it.
Every election, Uncle Woody likes to summarize the California Voter's Pamphlet. Unfortunately, searches on the web for "conservative voter guide" always bring up my older efforts. This space, then, is meant to be a pointer to the latest: