Michael Jackson and web traffic.

Tragic figure, or train wreck?
Tragic figure, or train wreck?

I gotta say I’m floored.

I write two blogs – one on marketing (blog.grokmedia.com) and this one on politics, pop culture, and whatever else interests me. The other day, I wrote a post on the phenomenon surrounding the death of Michael Jackson. Let me just say that I’ve NEVER seen anything like the kinds of numbers I’m getting on my visitor logs like I’ve seen since Jackson’s death. I’ve seen – and I’m NOT exaggerating – an uptick of approximately 1,000 times more hits.

That’s insane.

And I’m not alone – Google originally thought that the search hits they were getting on “Michael Jackson” was a coordinated denial of service (DoS) attack. Nope. Just millions of people, searching for anything and everything they could find on the subject of Michael Jackson. My question is, “why”? I mean, sure, Jackson was a pop superstar (emphasis on the word “was”), but are you seriously telling me that he’s THAT popular now? Here are the possible reasons I can fathom for the current fascination with Jackson:

  • He was a beloved figure in pop music, who had significant influence over music, fashion, dance, and pop culture.
  • He was a mysterious icon, who increased interest in his story by his reclusiveness and odd behavior.
  • He was a tragic, broken figure, obsessed with plastic surgery, who’s bizarre lifestyle was the equivalent of a flame to the public’s moth-like behavior.
  • His tabloid-fodder, sensationalistic, run-ins with the law (the two accusations of child molestation, the baby-dangling over the balcony, the marriage to Elvis’ daughter, the surrogate mom(s), et cetera) kept him in the public consciousness, long after his pop star had faded.
  • The sum of all of the above represented a train wreck, from which the public had a morbid fascination with – it was impossible to look away.

I vote for “all of the above.” Jackson was obviously a tragic figure. I’m convinced that the combination of the pressure-cooker of fame, his father’s (claimed) abuse, nobody around willing to tell him “no,” his obsessions with privacy, plastic surgery, et all, his medical problems – all of these factors created the sad, freakshow that was the public persona of Michael Jackson.

The real pity here is that the public, in a very real way, helped to create the person Jackson became. Yet, nobody’s pointing the finger at the public, their insatiable need for details, their tolerance of weird – and in some cases deviant – behavior, and their constant pressure that kept Jackson heading down the road to self-destruction.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that, in the final analysis, everybody is responsible for their own actions. For every Michael Jackson, I can point to a dozen superstars that have survived – and thrived – in the public spotlight. Jackson is a tragic figure, and largely a creation of the public. But there are thousands of times he could have put a stop to it, and simply walked away.

What’s the public’s excuse?

12 thoughts on “Michael Jackson and web traffic.”

  1. I guess the thing is that so many of us truly loved Michael Jackson and not for just his music but for his gentleness innocence and his refusal to be shaped to what the world wanted. But mostly we did not ever expect him to die and I will agree that is weird. We all know we are going to die but why did we not expect Michael to, maybe simply because he would nit fit in with anything.


  3. I think that unlike frankenstein or any other character created, MJ was his own person. He demonstrated a personality like no other. I think that despite the “publics” role he was able to withstand the animosty against him and for that he is remembered. His love and kindness was able to shine through the hate towards him. For that he will be remembered. His effort to try and make a difference, is what people will remember. People will now since his death look to the good and what MJ has done. He was very giving and even though being famous he still maintained grounded. He will be missed. Regardless of his “tragic” life it was his own strength that made him what he is…not the public. I feel that with all his good qualities and the publics ability to tear people down it is not fair to give credit to anyone than MJ and his unique and deep loving spirit for becoming the great star that he is. He has set a new standard and has changed the world, with that said his status is well deserved!

  4. Um…first of all, stop “yelling.” Second, did you actually READ my blog post? I state – emphatically, I might add – that I believe that EVERYONE is ultimately responsible for their own actions. Unfortunately, when you have someone who is raised to need applause and attention, fame becomes a drug. Any entertainer can tell you that fame is addictive – and that the more you get, the harder it is to quit. The death of Jackson is not the public's fault, but they played a part. Had they ignored him, he might have had some semblance of a normal life.

  5. You wrote 'accusations'- they were 'false accusations.' It is so disturbing that an innocent man was persecuted.

  6. Um…maybe…maybe not. Remember, at least one of those cases ended with Jackson paying off the parties that brought up the charges. If I was accused of something that serious, I don't think I'd EVER agree to a payoff. I'd fight the charges with every cent I had.

    By Jackson's own admission, he thought it was “normal” and “okay” to sleep with young kids and teens in his bed. I think that's waaaaaaay over the line of common sense and moral behavior.

    Just because one case gets thrown out of court or the charges dismissed does not mean you did nothing wrong. It simply means the court did not meet it's burden of proof. (That's why no defendant is ever found “innocent” – they can be found “not guilty” – a subtle legal point, but an important one, nonetheless.)

    I don't know if if Jackson was simply an odd individual who was “persecuted” because of his wealth and fame, or if he was a pedophile. Frankly, I don't really care – as long as no kids are being hurt, it's now a moot point. And I think that any parent – ANY parent – that would entrust their kids to someone, no matter how rich or famous – for overnight stays – should be brought up on child endangerment charges themselves. That whole thing fails my “sniff test” and fails it big time.

    To assume Jackson was an innocent man makes me think that his fans are allowing his fame and talent to color their judgement, cutting him slack that nobody else on the planet would get.

  7. Many, many , many people come from disfunctional families and don't become what MJ became or come to such a tragic end. He has 8 siblings coming from that same family who did not reach that end — and Marlon was only year older than Michael, and Randy was YOUNGER than Michael. He had resources to get help that most people don't have, but decided that he was entitled to do whatever he wanted — consequences be damned. I feel sorry for him. I feel sorry for his children who very likely have spent their entire lives with a barely funtioning parent (their only parent) who was spaced out on drugs almost all the time. Yes, he may have “loved” them, but love is not a feeling, it is an action. And Michael Jackson did nothing to help his children have a functioning parent. That makes him a bad father. So enough about Joe Jackson being the bad father. He got his kids out of poverty and gave them their futures, fortune and fame. Michael needed to get clean for his kids and even though friends and family tried to get him to do it, he simply refused to even discuss it.

  8. Well put. At some point each of us must take responsibility for our actions and our lives. Think about the many talented people that self-destructed – Elvis, Belushi, Morrison, Joplin, Cobain, et all. I believe that most of them (if not all) never had anybody willing to tell them “No.” Certainly Elvis surrounded himself with a bunch of people all too willing to let him get away with any behavior (including drug use) no matter how self-destructive. Yet, Elvis had nobody to blame but himself, in the end. My point is that everybody is a product of their upbringing – some are able to overcome childhood problems/abuse/neglect, others not so much.

    Oh, and your point about love and parenting were right on target, as well. Thanks for your comments!

  9. Many of us fans do point the finger at ourselves but I for one am sorry that I did abandone Michael Jackson during those years he needed to be believed. I was not fanatical and did not follow the story of his life until now. The reason I am so fascinated by him is because I had not realised that he was actually innocent of those child molestation charges until now. I had not really looked into it or read anything or even watched anything. I only heard about it on the news or in passing the newspaper stands etc. I didn't even believe it at first but I began to wonder why these things were happening to him, not realising the actual facts of the events. When he did it effected me in a way that really surprised me. I did not know that I cared so much. That is when I began to dig up articles and read the transcripts of the court cases and watch the interviews and that is when I realised he was innocent and was a victim of tabloid vilification. I felt deeply sad for him. The only tragic thing about his life was that that was all the media wanted us to see. There was a lot of good things in his life too and I believe he was a strong willed individual who naievely trusted too many people he should have not trusted. He should have listened to those who really loved him but how was he to really know the difference. Look at his life – he never was given a proper chance to grow up. Anyway, all of that is too late now but the saga continues. People continue to lie and people still see dollar signs connected to the name of Michael Jackson and always will. I know he is finally at rest and hope that his children will not face the same problems he had to face. RIP Michael.

  10. Michael Jackson was not a paedophile and anyone who followed his case closely, fan or no fan, even the experts came to that conclusion. You may think his behaviour was bizaar or weird but that does not make him a child molestor. The first child refused to testify against Michael and didn't even make the claims himself at first it was his 'wannabe' producer father. If it was your son who was molested you would not accept any amount of money but would want the accuser to go to jail. There were many circumstances surrounding the decision to pay the money, Michael wanted to fight it but he was ill advised by his then wife, lawyers and insurance company. He learned that lesson and was not about to let that happen to him again the second time when he did decide to fight it in court. There was not one shred of evidence found by a very determined police prosecutor and had they found any evidence, they would not have required permission from anyone to charge Michael. That is an offence that would have to be punished regardless. So get your facts right before you pass judgement. This is exactly why Michael was pushed to the edge in the first place.

  11. I think that you must of misunderstood what I was saying because your reply is something I agree with. My statement about him being his “own” person stems from the idea that he should take responsibility for himself and that since so many people want to blame the public I think they should give him more credit for his life- both the good and the bad! I don't think you can say how amazing he is without pointing out his downfalls, without one you could not have the other. More personally I was making no reference to his personal life more so about his role as a performer, entertainer and a charitable figure.

  12. I think that you must of misunderstood what I was saying because your reply is something I agree with. My statement about him being his “own” person stems from the idea that he should take responsibility for himself and that since so many people want to blame the public I think they should give him more credit for his life- both the good and the bad! I don't think you can say how amazing he is without pointing out his downfalls, without one you could not have the other. More personally I was making no reference to his personal life more so about his role as a performer, entertainer and a charitable figure.

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