Jackson trial already a real thriller

Published February 24, 2005 4:50PM (EST)

And the award for Vaguely Unsettling Headline of the Day goes to... the Washington Post, with its A-1 coverage of jury selection:

The Jackson 12 Makes Its Debut

A slightly queasy (cheap?) reminder of just how incredibly far the world's most famous pop star has come from honey-voiced, soul-stirring youth sensation to self-mutilating, helium-voiced princely pariah. His guilt or innocence aside, Jackson's more recent fate seems at least some evidence of American superstardom's elemental brutality. But from the prime-time TV specials (including ABC's use of paid "documentary" interviews) to surgical dissections of Jackson's courtroom wardrobe, the verdict is already in on the mainstream media's attention and sympathies: "Salacious" is our middle name! Let the full feeding frenzy begin!

It's nice to know that at least a few members of the jury pool were able to recall Jackson's better moves from long, long ago. "Throughout jury selection," reports the Post, "many potential jurors called Jackson a 'great entertainer' but said they had no further opinions about the well-known and eccentric pop star. Others said they knew people who knew him, and a handful had been to his Neverland Ranch. Some said they'd once learned to do his famous moonwalk; one offered that he still remembered how."

But why the big play in the Post with this? Perhaps one thing to consider here -- with the media sure to focus plenty more front-page attention on the circus in Santa Maria, Calif., in the weeks and months ahead -- is what didn't get covered during the last trial of the century. Long before 9/11 happened, in the fall of 1995, an Islamic terrorist ringleader known as Blind Sheik Rahman was tried and convicted in New York City for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. But few Americans ever heard about him, let alone that the conspiracy had involved at least five different militant Islamic groups from around the globe. At the time, thanks to all the major TV networks, everyone was tuned into O.J., twenty-four-seven.

By Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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