Living in Santa Maria, Calif., I have unavoidably followed the Michael Jackson trial and its circus atmosphere. As Santa Maria is a small town, Michael Jackson's "odd" behavior is something one gets used to hearing about.
I watched the trial as most people did, in front of the television -- and an occasional drive past the courthouse on the way to our one shopping mall.
I was disappointed at the jury's decision only because it became very clear during their hour-long press conference that the jury did not look at the guilt or innocence of Michael Jackson, but the guilt of the mother. I found it so awful that their obvious hatred for this woman colored their whole outlook. They obviously felt that he was guilty of doing weird things with children, but could not forgive the mother for actually leaving her children alone with him.
Some pundits have been making this out to be somewhat of a race issue. I disagree. To me it is simply a class issue, rich vs. poor. When faced with the choice, these jurors chose to disassociate themselves from the tragedy of the very poor and their desperate need to be "in the money" and sided themselves with the wealthy. As one juror stated, "He's just a normal guy."
If Michael Jackson is normal, there really were WMD in Iraq.
-- Patricia Pietrocarli
For such an in-depth assessment of the psychology around celebrity trials, I was quite surprised to not read at least a passing reference to the ultimate weirdness of being a celebrity: acquired situational narcissism. I heard this discussed on NPR recently and it certainly deserves mention in any article about some aspect of celebrityhood. Maybe the reason celebrities can be so weird is because the press treats every detail of their existence as some kind of world-class event. If every time I had a bad-hair day or went out to eat I was surrounded by attacking tabloid reporters and photographers, or if every tabloid magazine had my picture in it constantly, I'd be pretty weird too. This doesn't excuse the whole Jackson trial and associated media frenzy, but it sure informs the discussion of it and celebrity in general.
It is a measure of just how celebrity-obsessed our culture has become when every supermarket checkout aisle now has nothing but tabloids to buy; remember when it used to be Newsweek and Time in those display racks so you could peruse some news while your items were totaled and bagged? That is the real issue: Our obsession with celebrity is now more important and of more interest to citizens than politics, and our democracy is suffering because of it.
-- Kit Cohan
Thanks for taking three stories to let readers know how much you hate the phenomenon of celebrity trials. You're right -- they're a cultural disgrace in many ways and a dangerous distraction to anyone with even a hint of what's going on in the world outside his or her TV set. So if you think it stinks, why give it three stories' worth of space when verdicts are reached, not to mention the daily mentions during the actual trial?
-- John Grooms
To me, the most interesting part of this Jackson trial freak show was watching Nancy Grace work herself into a lather every night. Last night when she couldn't faze the jury foreman, man, was she livid! Her Southern accent was truly outta control! (Hey, I have a Southern accent myself, and it is hard to control when I'm worked up.)
We need a new reality show where we put the media figures mentioned in John Gorenfeld's story together on an island, give them an extreme makeover, then make them date Paris Hilton while on a race around the world!
-- Mary Hiers
Your best and worst highlights of the Jackson trial indirectly -- as I don't think you purposely meant for this -- shows what was wrong with this trial in and out of the courtroom and what is driving this: race and money.
First, it does boil down to race. Name one pundit you quoted saying negative things about Jackson who was black. Jackson's skin may be of a lighter tone, but what would make him "white" is not skin tone but rather the acceptance of whites at large.
Secondly, it shows that at the expense of Michael Jackson people will use this situation from all angles to make money. Whether it is late-night comics making jokes to drive ratings, or cable news covering it and advocating his guilt to drive ratings, or people within the case using whatever they know or don't know to sell books, people are cashing in at Jackson's expense.
-- Kevin Criss
Regarding Michael Jackson's acquittal, I am happy, not because I like Michael but because I feel sorry for him and I want to upset the likes of Nancy Grace. Moreover, the media coverage, with its garish perspective, its tasteless preoccupation with the sordid, its sanctimony and harping blood thirst, has disgusted me so much that I wanted to see the man acquitted even if he was guilty.
The American press has proven itself a sham ... a tabloid posing as authentic news. In such an atmosphere how can anyone receive a fair trial? Actually, this jury seems to have done a good job. There was simply too much doubt about the accusers to convict the accused, all this in spite of tremendous media bias screaming for his blood. Our system worked and it worked in spite of the sorry press.
-- Sally Sanders