Return from Neverland

Not even Michael Jackson’s death can make the world go away

The King of Pop may be gone, but you can still wear the glove.

The King of Pop may be gone, but you can still wear the glove.

Photo courtesty of

The bad news is I’m back from vacation. The really bad news is there is absolutely no good news, unless of course you’re one of those Jackophobes who doggedly insist the late, great King of Pop was a pedophile—despite all evidence to the contrary—righteously doomed by a wrathful god to spend eternity dancing barefoot on a blistering lake of fire.

Hey, wait a second.

Perhaps I’m being a bit hasty here. One person’s bad news can be another person’s good news, can’t it? So perhaps things aren’t all bad, depending on your point of view. Frankly, I would have preferred avoiding the news altogether while I was gone, but in today’s world, it’s virtually impossible not to glimpse at least some mainstream media out of the corner of your eye, even if you’re on vacation.

For instance, at a bait shop in the Sacramento Delta, the Asian clerk’s attention was raptly focused on Jacko’s funeral, which was playing on a TV set in the corner. The clerk was clearly a fan. In walked a bearded, burly fisherman in search of two-dozen bloodworms.

“I can think of a lot better ways to spend three hours,” the fisherman said.

“Can you believe it?” the clerk agreed. “The state is broke and his funeral cost $3 million!”

As far as I’m concerned, “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” is one of the greatest pop singles of all time, and Jacko, thanks to his prodigious talent and willingness to take the creepy, narcissistic freakishness inherent in all former child superstars further than anyone before him, was one of the 20th-century’s most fascinating personalities.

I’m pretty sure the Asian clerk would have sympathized with me, but I kept my sentiments to myself. You don’t mess with people who fish with live bait, especially bloodworms.

Jacko gobbled his last bottle of Xanax the night before I left on vacation; by the time I got up to my folks’ house the next afternoon, his untimely demise had eclipsed the alleged democratic revolution in Iran from the news cycle, where it had been the top story for weeks.

I, for one, was grateful. Cable news—Fox, CNN, MSNBC, et al.—has long served as the propagandistic arm of U.S. foreign policy, but rarely has it performed so shamelessly or irresponsibly than with its recent coverage of the contested election in Iran. Based on anonymous Twitter and Facebook posts from Lord knows who, Wolf Blitzer and crew proceeded to pour gasoline on a region that’s already engulfed in the flames of American exceptionalism.

The truth is, during the past two years, the CIA has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into a covert propaganda campaign designed to destabilize the Iranian regime, as reported by renowned investigative journalist Seymour Hersh last year. That effort no doubt contained an extensive “social networking” component. The spymasters at Langley are anything but behind the times.

In his response to the riots following the contested election, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, supreme leader of Iran, noted the CIA’s destabilization program in language that was not dissimilar to Hersh’s story in The New Yorker last year. Of course the United States is trying to destabilize Iran—we’ve done everything short of invading the country for the past 30 years since the Iranian Revolution.

Therefore, it was almost painful to hear President Barack Obama flatly deny any CIA involvement in the Iranian election debacle in a press conference held just before Michael Jackson died. No reporter brought the subject up. Obama simply pre-emptively denied it, smoother than Ari Fleischer’s head, and no one bothered pointing out it wasn’t true.

Fortunately, by the next day, it was all Jacko, all the time, and I didn’t have to trouble myself with such disturbing thoughts. It was his last gift to us, and in the subsequent coverage, I wondered what it would be like to create your own Neverland, isolated from the brute reality of the world, a place where everyone is innocent and no one ever lies.

Peace, Michael.