Twittering celebrities to death

Monday, July 6, 2009

Did you hear that Michael Jackson died?

The talented, troubled entertainer's death is only the latest example of the world's tendency -- not to mention unprecedented ability -- to take adulation to extremes.

Some 66,500 Twitter messages sent on the evening of June 25 included the phrase "Michael Jackson," crashing the system under the load. About 30 percent of the tweets sent that evening were related to Michael Jackson's death.

Ironically, like Jimmy Stewart's character in "It's a Wonderful Life," Jackson will likely be worth more dead than he was alive, with 422,000 Michael Jackson solo albums sold the week after his death, 57 percent of them downloaded digitally.

Now comes the excess, ranging from reasonable calls for a postage stamp, to overblown sentiments about his talents and abilities.

Like Lady Di, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and even JFK, Jackson's tragic passing made him larger than life, with his humanity somehow lost in hype.

We would hope somewhere, somehow, society will learn to treat celebrities like human beings. That those closest to them would have the courage to tell them "no," loving them enough to see through the wealth and fame and warn them away from a self-destructive path.

Rest in peace, Michael -- but with a legal squabble looming over the fate of his children and property, there's little chance of that for years to come.

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