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Michael Jackson 'Alive' Video Hoax The Worst Kind of Journalism

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Dave Griffith
Dave Griffith
Michael Jackson

A commercial TV stations sole purpose is to make money for its shareholders by attracting as bigger an audience as possible through smart programming and raking in the advertising revenue that comes with it.

There is nothing wrong with that, but it is wrong when under the thin disguise of an 'experiment' a channel like Germanys RTL messes with the emotions of millions of vulnerable Michael Jackson fans around the world. 

RTL has long had a reputation for edgy productions and programming but the production and posting of a 'hoax' video supposedly showing Michael Jackson getting out of a coroners van very much alive is a step too far, even for tabloid journalists.  RTL spokesperson Heike Schultz claims that they were conducting an experiment to "show how easily users can be manipulated on the Internet with hoax videos" is a weak attempt to claim some sort of moral justification by making it out to be some sort of legitimate research. It is not legitimate research it is purely a promotional vehicle for RTL that exploits a recently deceased superstar. 

In acknowledging that some Michael Jackson fans have been upset by the hoax, Schultz states that "we didn't want to dishonour Michael Jackson, but we needed a strong name to get this experiment going. Had we used Britney Spears, then the fans of Britney would have complained". There is a problem here Ms. Schultz. Britney is alive and Michael is not. That is a big difference. A grainy film showing Britney getting out of a van is in the 'so what?' category. A recently dead star getting out of one is sensational.

Schultz seems almost surprised in saying "we created this video of Michael Jackson being alive, even though everybody knows by now that he is dead — and the response was breathtaking". Breathtaking it might be for RTLs self publicity and ratings, but sick by any other scale.

RTL says they "tried to create the video in a way that every normal user can see right away that it is a fake". Unfortunately, many people believed it was true". Duh of course they believe it. People see what they want to see. Millions of fans would rather Michael was alive, and any hope however farfetched preys on their grieving emotions.

The fact that he died in such mysterious circumstances only adds to the potential plausibility of the footage. Clairvoyants use the same technique of small scraps of information that grieving relative seize upon and add further detail where there isn't any. The use of a 'Coroners' van replicates one of the strongest symbols of the media coverage of Michaels death. Seeing him supposedly getting out of it alive was always going to fill many fans with hope, even though logic suggests otherwise. Well in a grieving process, logic plays little part. 

RTL are too street smart to not have foreseen exactly what kind of reaction their hoax video would generate. Even though they 'anonymously' posted it on You Tube for only a day, it was obvious that something like this would go viral.

It would have been better if they had just come out and said it was a publicity stunt. But to claim it is part of an abstract social experiment is the worst kind of journalism. Michaels family and fans did not deserve this.

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