Media death circus reveals ourselves
Every time there’s a Big Death, people start to obsess over death. Don’t worry. It’s perfectly natural.
You may have noticed more celebrity obituaries than usual lately, in the wake of the deaths of Glenn Frey, David Bowie, Lemmy, Natalie Cole, etc. It’s been a sad few weeks for big deaths, to be sure, and so there has been a huge surge in media death coverage. Famous people die all the time, and many of them go unnoticed – except during the grieving period following a Big Death. Our focus turns morbid.
Be prepared for the toll to rise. You may also have noticed that Baby Boomer rockers are aging at an alarming rate. Did you get a gander at Sting and Peter Gabriel? By the time these guys get to Edmonton next year, both of them will be eligible for old age pensions (Sting turns 65 in October, close enough for rock ‘n’ roll). Rock itself is 65 this year (if you count Ike Turner’s 1951 recording Rocket 88 as the birth), and more legends will leave this world in due course. Yes, even Keith Richards.
This, too, is perfectly natural. So are the fans pouring their hearts out online, genuinely mourning a musical artist that meant so much to them, as if they’d lost a loved one. Or at least a distant aunt.
This is not news. What’s interesting is the vast amount of morbid bullshit floating around. It’s mainly on social media, which is becoming the real media when you see CNN reporting tweets and newspapers disintegrating. There’s more fake death than real death. Don’t we have enough death without having to invent more of it? There are death reports of people very much alive; real deaths falsely reported as hoaxes; fresh obituaries for people already dead; and many sobering personal essays on the deep philosophical implications of how our place in the universe has been altered forever by the passing of David Bowie. A guy recently tweeted, “Bowie leaves us, and then a ninth planet appears. I don’t need to read your science article.”
Humour helps us cope with loss. Among the hoaxes are jokes. “Ted Nugent Tragically Found Alive” is an old one. The satirical newspaper The Onion came out with this recently: “Congress Allocates $90 Million To Protect Remaining Eagles Members.” Some joker even wrote an obit for Cole Porter, who died in 1964.
Now take a look at the top photo of Bowie and Lemmy together. Pretty cool, eh? It’s fake. Some clever photo-shopper plopped in images from two different 1960s parties to create a scene that didn’t happen in real life: Bowie and Lemmy, together again for the first time. No luck was had trying to find the author of the prank, but a lot of people – including news organizations and music blogs – reposted it without checking the source. Too late to call it back now. Many people now believe, at least in the back of their minds, that Bowie and Lemmy were at some swinging party together. Some people believe they’re in the afterlife right now, jamming. The rock stars of today are the saints of yesterday. Or maybe it’s the other way around.
The human desire to imagine the unimaginable, to have faith without evidence – don’t you just hate it when that happens? Now with everyone having a voice in the media, this is a golden opportunity to explore how human beings deal with their own mortality. In short, we’re ready to believe anything.
Think about this: There are now better bands in heaven than there are on Earth.