Last night John Stewart began his show by saying "anybody who ever meant anything to anybody died over the weekend." It sure seems like the seventies are dead and over now. But our obsession with celebrity is a cancer (one that I suffer from as well as the rest of you). It makes us think people we've never met before are somehow family. It makes us mourn people we've never met. It raises in some persons feelings of affection or even rejection toward stars they obsess over, and this can lead to the Mark David Chapmans of the world. What makes thousands of people stand outside the courthouse of Michael Jackson's trial and voice their support? Guilty or not (not, officially) what do they know about this guy other than how his music makes them feel?
That is, of course, the issue: he makes them feel something special. Hell, he made them feel something at all. He was the brightest musical genius of his (my) generation, give him his due, and that means something in this world (and why couldn't I have had Pete Townsend instead? Pete was singing about my father's generation, and that always bothered me).
I'd say the worst part of it is how people are complaining that he upstaged Farah Fawcet. And what about Billy Mays and Ed McMahon? Don't they deserve their moment of mass mourning?
And look at how it distracts us from real news: no, not the South Carolina thing. That's just as bad. Michael Jackson knocked Iran right off the front page. Did anybody notice there was a coup in Honduras over the weekend? Or that we pulled out of Baghdad? (the Iraquis noticed: they declared a national holiday)
I know: it's useless trying to tell people what they should care about. What makes your (our) tastes in news or in anything else so superior?