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Francesca Biller-Safran

Francesca Biller-Safran

Posted: July 8, 2009 05:23 PM

Allow Jackson Family to Grieve before Media Circus continues Freak Show



From the very instant we learned of Michael Jackson's death, and before he was finally allowed to rest in peace, if only for a brief moment, the leering lens of media coverage on his life has relentlessly focused on the bazaar, freak-like image that the press has assured is his legacy in life and now, in death.

Sensationalizing anything presumed weird and titillating about Jackson including the child molestation accusations and trial he was acquitted for, plastic-surgeries for which he was labeled "inhuman" by the press, and unfounded stories about everything that Jackson lived his actual life in utter dichotomy, Jackson was portrayed by the media as more monster-like than the one he portrayed himself in his masterpiece "Thriller."

To cover a story with breadth, objectivity and integrity does not include false reports and presumptions of the cause of one's death, be they a celebrity or not. It also does not include massive vitriol during a family's raw, unrealized loss and grief before they have had the chance to bury their son, their brother and father.

The mainstream and once contemplative media has now become infused and morphed as one with the Paparazzi. As a seasoned journalist, I am now thoroughly embarrassed to call myself one, hence the hatred and scorn of what my profession and what I once felt was my "calling". To admit one is a journalist now is akin to confessing an immorality of the worst kind.

The Jackson family has not been allowed quiet, somber moments and solace to grieve for Michael. For a few hours at the Memorial Service, they put on a public show for the universe that included some of the best performances and tributes witnessed in a long time.

But it was in the public eye once again, something surely Michael would have approved of for his fans. But just as in life, as he would have also approved for the glaring spotlight to wane for his family, friends and fans. Surely in death, his prayers remain for the bright lights, speculation and cameras to fade if only for moment, for the sake of his family.

The time will never come for the Jacksons for solace to grieve the man who showed the world that anything was possible. But his is to be expected as he was the object of torture, stalking and focus since he was a small boy, as no other celebrity on the planet has suffered.

At the Memorial service, Reverend Al Sharpton looked straight at the Jackson children and said, "There wasn't nothing strange about your daddy, what was strange was what your daddy had to go through."

The first 24 hours of media coverage after the King of Pop was pronounced dead focused primarily on drug use, needle marks on his skin, his frail white body, years of weird behavior and gossip at his ugliest with speculations about what drugs he might been addicted to, while famous doctors and even clergy gabbed sound bites and grabbed their 15 minutes of fame on the cable news programs.

How dare us?

If it were your brother, son or father, how would it feel to see continual images of our loved one being wheeled into an ambulance, with the taped 911 phone call and rumors about all of the things that was wrong with him, including unsubstantiated statements about drug overdose, hired and on-call traveling doctors and a misunderstood persona that escaped us all.

It is only in the past couple of days before the Memorial Service that the positive and enormous talent of the cultural icon that Michael Jackson has finally been lauded.

As the best selling recording artist of all time, listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the celebrity who has given the most money to charities all over the world, responsible for the success of 'We are the World' and inspiring like movements such as 'Live Aid', Michael was an icon far beyond his musical genius.

He was also known in his generation as the entertainer that helped break racial divides through music, dance and the classic showmanship of a Fred Astaire and grit of a James Brown. No one can doubt the enormity of his talent, sharp business mind, humanitarianism, un-fathomed star power and the ability to cross racial and cultural thresholds begun by the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali, and pass it on to a younger generation who had not understood the significance of the Civil Rights movement.

This was a different generation, and they needed Michael.

It was time when only White Rock and Roll bands appeared on MTV. It was a time I can remember when 'Disco Sucks' was the mantra and records by Black recording artists were literally broken at Rock concerts.

But Michael changed that.

Strangely enough, it seemed overnight that friends of mine were rocking out to Billie Jean alongside Van Helen and Aerosmith. And when the Thriller video hit MTV, life was never the same.

Hey, white kids thought, black kids are cool; their music isn't weird at all. Michael made it "all" cool.

When watching and reading the news over the next weeks, months and perhaps years while custody battles, battles over his fortunes and countless rumors about drug use and so-called odd behavior will assault you through television, emails, tweets and texts, just remember, Jackson was a human first, no matter what any scriptwriter or talking head tries to convince you of otherwise.

11 year-old daughter Paris proved to the world perhaps more than any single moment in Michael's entire life just how "normal" and human that he really was. Her lines were clearly not scripted, and she broke down in tears as she said she would miss her "Daddy, " calling hium the best father in the whole world.

Maybe the media had better take a closer into the mirror themselves.

Let the Jackson family grieve and allow the dead to rest in peace. One only hopes.

Follow Francesca Biller-Safran on Twitter: www.twitter.com/masao123