Michael Jackson v. the World

[Side note: WordPress is being difficult and won’t let me embed video. Don’t know what’s going on there. So follow the links. Sorry about that.]

In the last couple of weeks and hours two strikingly different videos have gone viral on the internet. The first was this tragic video of a young woman shot and killed in the streets of Iran by a sniper for no particular reason. (Disclaimer: this video is extremely graphic, and you might want to think twice before you watch it. It is certainly not to be watched hastily and without some thought.)

The other video, which only hit the web yesterday afternoon, is this one: Paris Jackson saying a tearful goodbye to her father at the Michael Jackson Memorial.

There are, without a doubt, similarities between the two videos. One can see a sort of cross -over appeal. Both are about death. Both give us a startlingly intimate portrait of the lives of two young women dealing with tragedy. Both offer the general public a short look into something we aren’t normally able to see.

But there are also remarkable differences. And before I go any further, I’d like to sort of broaden the focus of this conversation. I don’t want people to think I am picking on either Paris Jackson or Neda Soltan. I’m not. The two videos and their two stories were simply a tipping point in my mind.

So we’re left with Michael Jackson and Iran. Two topics about as different as one can get. The only reason that we would even consider discussing them in the same breath is because of recent events: the election and his death.

What has amazed me, as of late, is how much focus the whole Jackson ordeal is getting, as compared to the rest of the world. Yesterday, despite revolution in Iran and rioting in China, BBC, CNN, NYT, Times, NPR, CBC and the Washington Post–among numerous other publications–led with a Jackson related story on the front page of their website for much of the day.You had to scroll for something on the riots in China, and it is getting to the point that you have to really search for a good piece on Iran.

And it’s not because stuff has simply stopped happening in the rest of the world.

To add to the irony of it all, many of those news sources also had pieces [albeit not on the front page, and usually in the op-ed section] that focused on just why we were so obsessed. This one is thought provoking and hilarious to boot. Read it.

The whole thing is particularly odd considering that 4 years ago no one had anything nice to say about Michael Jackson, and now we are all tripping over ourselves to declare our love.

Humanity is oh so fickle.

For myself, I have been trying to figure out why we are like this. Why are we so obsessed with personal tragedy, and so immune to instances of massive human rights abuse. Why do we care when it’s simply Paris crying on a stage, and not 200 Uighur women facing off with police, demanding the return of those arrested and news of those dead?

A couple of decades, or even years, ago, you might have been able to argue that it was because we saw Paris on TV, and maybe the Uighur’s weren’t there. But they have flooded the internet as well. Search YouTube and and you can watch multiple videos of the protests. The same is true for Iran.

And yet we are still captivated by the Jacksons and our interest for Iran and China are already waning.

I wish I had some brilliant point here. But I don’t. The thing that keeps coming to mind over and over is that quote, misatributed to Stalin:

“The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic”

Is Michael Jackson a tragedy, but Iran and China just sort of there? Is that why those videos went viral–because they showed us personal tragedy–and yet we’ve all but stopped paying attention to what Neda died for?

Not being able to come to a conclusion on this, or even to understand it, simply leaves me with an overwhelming sense of frustration. How are we ever supposed to sove anything, if we don’t even have the attention span to stay informed?

Why are we such fickle, fickle creatures?

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Genevieve is mildly opposed to writing in the third person about herself, as it sounds rather pretentious and forced. But she will prevail. She likes books and curry and opera and that feeling you get when a professor compliments your writing/thinking etc. She is double majoring in English Honours and International Relations, which sometimes feels like the fast track to a nervous breakdown, but she loves it. She was raised internationally, and has no idea where she is 'from', but currently divides her time between Shanghai, Vancouver and the ever exotic Bellingham, Washington. She is somewhat intimidated by her fellow writers on Terry*, but she tries. If you like her, or hate her, or just want to read more, she also keeps a personal rant--er, blog at http://blogs.ubc.ca/genevieve/.