Monday, June 29, 2009

Triumph of the Punditocracy

Lots of comparisons are being made in the news between Michael Jackson’s untimely demise and the loss experienced by previous generations when first Elvis Presley, and then John Lennon died unexpectedly.

There is no comparison.

First, the obvious: Artists of previous generations dominated their medium is ways that nobody ever will dominate again.

But here’s the biggest difference: When Lennon and Elvis died, fans immediately went to their radios. There was the usual silliness (I remember my local DJ interviewing via phone George Harrison’s cousin about Lennon and she hadn’t seen the man in years.

DJ: How was John the last time you saw him?

C: Well, he was seventeen years old …)

Yeah, it was like that.

And it’s like that again.

But where is the music?

Stations with a formats even tangentially related to pop music went into overdrive, playing anything and everything by the late-great.

Michael Jackson died (as I write this) three and a half days ago.

I have yet to hear a single Michael Jackson or Jackson Five song on the radio. I have yet to see a single Michael Jackson video on the teevee machine.

Bits and pieces, sure. Usually interrupted for commentary by Donna Summer or Smokey Robinson or Corey Feldman (!) or somebody else whose opinion is … well, you decide. But the news media has a single narrative:

what is said about the man … or the event … is more important than the event itself.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Everybody Knows Trial Lawyers are Out of Control, Right?

We are a litigious society.

We all know that. It barely gets noticed when someone says it anymore because, y’know … sky blue, water wet. Some lady got $3 million for spilling coffee for crisakes.

Yeah, we get it. So much of our national productivity is sucked away by lawyers trying to score a big judgment and a hefty one-third lawyer’s share that if we only could rein this in we’d all have briefcase helicopters.

Or something.

The poster case mentioned above, as dubbed by ABC News several years ago, is the McDonald’s coffee case. A woman who ordered hot coffee from a McDonald’s drive-through and instead got REALLY HOT coffee that, when spilled, resulted in third degree burns.

As Bugs would say: What a maroon.

It’s coffee after all. It’s HOT. A jury awarded the victim plaintiff almost $3 millon.

Let me say that again: THREE MILLION DOLLARS!

How long would you sit in hot coffee for that kind of money?

But think before you answer. Few remember that the judgment subsequently was reduced to less than a quarter of that amount based on proportional liability, comparable cases … lawyer stuff. They also tend to omit phrases like “skin graft” and “labial separation.” Few reports mention that anymore.

But $$THREEMILLIONDOLLARS!!! is a great headline and that’s where the narrative went.

That narrative is what remains. It’s what we call a … wait for it …

Dominant Narrative

The litigious society remains a problem for the American economy. That’s why you’ve probably already agreed to give up your right to sue your credit card companies, insurers, parking lot attendants, maybe even your employer. You did sign a lot of stuff on that first day, didn’t you?

Before you sleep too well,you should listen to this.