The only time that I can remember feeling sadness about the death of an entertainer was the death of Frank Sinatra. Sinatra's career spanned nearly six decades. It included an Oscar along with all sorts of musical accolades. I don't remember the media going into quite this sort of a saturated obsession when Sinatra died. It's true that Sinatra died mostly of old age. Yet, Sinatra was exponentially the better singer, actor, and entertainer than Michael Jackson.
Yet, it appears the rest of the world stopped when news broke of Michael Jackson's death. It took all other news off the front pages. The massacre in Iran was no longer all that important. Even passage of the monumental cap and trade in the House took a backseat to the coverage of Michael Jackson's death.
For about a day, cable news couldn't talk about anything else. There was endless speculation about his death, and endless recaps of his life. The whole thing was entirely surreal. Jackson ceased being any sort of a rock icon more than a decade ago. For the better part of the last two decades, Jackson was something akin to a circus freak and even likely something much more sinister.
The most obscene part of the whole thing is this. The story of Jackson's death could be summed up in about ten minutes. The rest of the time the media engaged in endless speculation. It was the sort of repetitive speculation that ultimately didn't advance the story though in any meaningful way. It did, however, I assume advance the ratings of everyone that engaged in it.
So, what is it that makes people watch? Why do people care so much? This story is the perfect confluence of the sort of voyeurism we get in a trainwreck, the attraction of celebrity, along with scandal and mystery. So, a tragic but ultimately frivilous story winds up taking all the oxygen of the media. It's frankly unclear when any other story will find any oxygen left for itself.