Wednesday, July 01, 2009

TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: Michael Jackson Reconsidered

















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Michael Jackson was one of the world’s best known entertainers, who reached nearly unprecedented heights of influence, fame, acclaim and wealth. His success earned him many enemies, including media foes and prosecutors.

Jackson faced the courts over charges of sex
ual abuse of children, for which he was legally acquitted, but to which some members of the media and the public continued to cling, regardless of the absence of evidence against him, and the criminality of at least one of his accusers, and his accusers' motives for extortion.

Jackson was a complex figure, often mocked, but one whose struggle with his identity, especially his race, indicated the depths of his personal suffering. For decades, he paid surgeons to mutilate him. The result was a face that seemed less human than anime.

Revelations about his life suggest he’d had no peace in his life since his abusive father put him to work round-the-clock to achieve fame and riches, which he did.

Jackson’s personal life seems to have been a mixture of chaos, conflict and mystery since he was young. His death has ignited the mourning of millions, literally around the world, much to the astonishment of corporate media which for two decades has portrayed him as a criminal, a monster and a freak.

Yet Jackson's stellar accomplishmen
ts as a pop music artist, apparently, have let him triumph in life and in death over those who sought to destroy him.

Tonight on the program
me, I’ll be discussing the meanings of Michael Jackson with two writers and social critics.

Ishmael Reed is an acclaimed novelist, poet, playwright and essayist. He’s the editor of the online magazine Konch, and his own essays appear regularly on Counterpunch.com. He’s the author of novels such as Mumbo Jumbo and Japanese By Spring, and essay collections such as Airing Dirty Laundry and Mixing It Up: Taking on the Media Bullies. He’s also the recipient of numerous awards.

Best known for the cutting social commentary of his many works, Reed is also a jazz pianist, cartoonist, song writer, and founder of the Before Columbus Foundation. He’s taught at Harvard, Yale, and the University of California at Berkeley. He spoke with me from his home in Oakland, California on June 28.

Shawn Taylor is a performance poet, martial artist, spiritual seeker, and philosophy graduate student, and the author of the memoir Big Black Penis: Misadventures in Race and Masculinity, which won the 2006 DIY Book Festival Award for best self-published book. It’s since been published by Lawrence Hill Books. Shawn Taylor spoke with me from his home by telephone on June 30.