Saturday, June 08, 2024

Misinformation Microcosm

 "Michael Jackson set his hair on fire. Druggies do that." So went the answer to what I thought was an innocent enough question on this week's Saturday 9: Without looking it up, can you recall why Michael Jackson's Pepsi commercial made headlines the world over? 

No, you dark-hearted dipshit, Michael Jackson did NOT set his own hair on fire. During filming, the pyrotechnic display went horribly wrong and, as he was descending the stairs, the explosion went off too close to his head and his hair caught on fire. In front of thousands of witnesses. On videotape. I only asked the question because it was one of the major news stories of 1984 and I thought anyone not living under a rock would recall it.

Michael Jackson had second and third degree burns on his face and scalp. Can you imagine how painful that must have been? (Remember the last time you burned your finger on a hot iron? Magnify that a million times over all over your head and face.) He endured several surgeries as a result. Here's the video:

Yes, Michael Jackson went on to have serious substance abuse problems -- likely as a result of this accident. I am no Michael Jackson fan. In fact, I can think of little nice to say about this artist as a man. But neither he, nor anyone who struggles substance abuse, deserves this black-hearted dipshit's dismissive attitude. Addiction is a disease, not a character flaw. No one would say, "He set his hair on fire. Asthmatics do that." 

Well, maybe our black-hearted dipshit would. Who knows what misinformation about asthma she embraces? After all, look at all the conspiracy theories that stubbornly swirl about the covid vaccine.

And, of course, there's the FACT that he didn't set his hair on fire. Not that facts matter when you accept a stereotype and hug it tight.

Sometimes I love the internet. Right now I hate it. "Michael Jackson set his hair on fire. Druggies do that." That cruel, cavalier, thoughtless comment encapsulates everything that's wrong with the world wide web. Because someone might read it and believe it's true. "I read someplace Michael Jackson set his hair on fire. He was freebasing. He was a black kid from Gary so naturally he was on drugs and druggies will do that ..." And so it will go.

Or let's look at the case of Paul Pelosi. The 84-year-old was home alone. Asleep. He woke up to find a man half his age standing over him. With a hammer. He tried to reason with the man. He contacted police. The intruder bashed his skull in. Again, like the Michael Jackson accident, the attack was filmed. Instead of regarding this as a crime, it became the source of ugly rumors ... and unexpected hilarity. Want to see Donald Trump Jr., eldest son of the former President and officer of The Trump Organization, joke about it? Click here. Suddenly a home invasion becomes a gay tryst gone wrong, and somehow Hunter Biden is dragged into it. This ugly bullshit was retweeted more than 4,000 times. (People take tweets down all the time. Not Donald Trump Jr. He apparently stands by this. Which tells you a lot about him.)

Of course the problem is not the internet, per se, but media in general. And the willingness of some to be uninformed and hateful. It's an age-old problem. I've wandered through the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum many times and the cruel stories and cartoons printed about Abe during the 1860s would be enough to make you cry. (Unless, of course, you're a black-hearted dipshit. The proliferation of Confederate flags makes me wonder what my countrymen really believe about our greatest President.)

Before I slide my soap box away, I promise you this: I try not to spread misinformation. As with the Michael Jackson and Donald Trump Jr. references, I try to include links. I want to be what's good about the internet, and human nature. Not what's bad.