Image frame from the video-poem
Notes for an Elegy in the Key of Michael.
“It’s very important to keep the historical context in mind
as you contemplate the nature of love and service required
in the 21st century.” –Cornel West, from Hope on a Tightrope
To what extent might the phenomenal entertainer and humanitarian Michael Joseph Jackson have been the target of an extended guerrilla decontextualization campaign throughout the second half of his life?
Hardcore devotees to Jackson’s music and altruistic humanitarian vision would say there can be no question that he was targeted in such a manner. Hardcore doubters might say maybe he was the one doing the guerrilla decontextualizing through the evolving manipulations of his public profile as a performance artist. They point to his chameleon-like shift from a distinctly afrocentric appearance in one decade to androgynously multi-ethnic in the next, and in his final years to an almost ethereal projection––a figure solidly in the world but somehow already afloat beyond it.
The answer to the question of who was guerrilla decontextualizing whom might be answered with a simple comparison. Examine the size of the newspaper headline fonts, the amount of space allotted in magazines, and the time made available on radio and television stations to coverage of Jackson when allegations of sexual abuse were leveled against him during the 1990s and later in 2005. Then compare those same elements––headlines, etc.–– to those utilized when it came to reports that debunked, disproved, or presented confessions of outright perjury where those same allegations were concerned. The first dominated the media to a nearly overwhelming extent while the latter remains almost non-existent.
Or try this: perform an experiment by looking at some of the more sensational media footage on Jackson with the volume turned down to mute. A particularly interesting specimen for this experiment would be the infamous “OMG-he’s-dangling-the-baby-from-the-balcony” incident. The word “dangle,” as defined in various editions of Webster’s Dictionary, means “to hold loosely and swaying.” Turn the volume down when watching the news clip of Jackson with his youngest on a balcony and you do not see a man holding his child in a loose manner. While the choice to hold the infant on the balcony before the gawking crowd below probably was not the best parenting decision he ever made, it is clear that he had a very firm grip on his son. The idea that he did not comes from a mind other than one’s own. It also came from the media trend, well established at the time, of prepping reading and viewing and listening audiences to expect weirdness from Michael Jackson. In short, people saw and heard what they were told to see and hear.
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founder of Creative Thinkers International
and author of The River of Winged Dreams
Causes Aberjhani * Supports
I make contributions to a number of charities through my lenses on Squidoo but the following are a few that interest me the most: