Music

Did Michael Jackson Liberate the Masses from Communism, or Did He Merely Replace Stalin?

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The video evidence for this important HIStorical question is distinctly ambiguous:

Though the underlying commie music therein is certainly better than Jackson's execrable "Stranger in Moscow" from that period. Furthering the confusion, Jackson in 1996 erected a 35-foot statue of himself in Prague (pictured below) in the exact same spot that once housed the world's largest statue of Stalin himself.

R.J. Eskow "won't claim that Michael Jackson overthrew Albanian Communism," but avers that pop music "didn't hurt." Radio Free Europe, in a truly weird piece of reporting, gives us these tantalizing morsels:

We'd like to send you on a mission. From God.

It has been reported that even though Russian President Dmitry Medvedev favorite rock act is Deep Purple, he's had a weak spot for Michael Jackson ever since his early student years. […]

For reasons that were never fully understood, Jackson received an unofficial blessing from communist censors, who allowed "Thriller" to be licensed and issued as a vinyl record by the Soviet recording company Melodia in 1985. […]

Jackson's popularity in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s was matched only by that of supergroup ABBA from Sweden. His stunning video clips and original dance moves inspired a generation of performers in the former communist bloc. His live concert in Moscow in 1993 sparked near-hysteria among scores of Russians hungry for a taste of Western culture.

Ilya Shapiro reminds us that:

Capitalism wins!

Michael Jackson's death allows us to remember that such phenomenal career achievements can only be possible in an economic system that rewards and harnesses talent.

The King of Pop's creativity allowed him and his family to make hundreds of millions of dollars, yes, but it also created thousands of jobs in the music and marketing industries and brought joy to fans around the world. Whatever his personal eccentricities — perhaps, in part, as a result of them — Jackson represents a capitalist success story.

No central planner could have invented him, and no government bureaucracy could have transformed pop music in the way he did.

Tell it to Karel Gott, comrade!

As a confirmed backer of the Dallas-overthrew-Communism school of interpretation, I remain unconvinced. However, for those genuinely interested in exploring the intersection of Western pop culture and non-Western liberation, I heartily recommend reading Michael Moynihan on Red Elvis, and Charles Paul Freund's classic "In Praise of Vulgarity."

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  1. Frank Farian’s pre-Milli Vanilli project, Boney M, paved the way for Michael Jackson.

  2. For reasons that were never fully understood, Jackson received an unofficial blessing from communist censors, who allowed “Thriller” to be licensed and issued as a vinyl record by the Soviet recording company Melodia in 1985.

    When I visited China in 1985, the only western pop acts available were Michael Jackson and Wham!

    Frank Farian’s pre-Milli Vanilli project, Boney M, paved the way for Michael Jackson.

    Boney M brought down communism by rehabilitating the reputation of Rasputin.

  3. Boney M brought down communism by rehabilitating the reputation of Rasputin.

    Finnish metal cover of Rasputin.

    I lived in Libya in the late ’70s (my dad was an engineer for Esso Standard Libya) and Boney M were huge over there. Their 1979 concert in Moscow was big news. They performed “Rasputin”, but had to leave out the “Oh, those Russians!” line.

  4. No central planner could have invented him

    Wasn’t Big Joe the central planner? He proved you really can beat your kids into the perfect pop combo.

  5. “No central planner could have invented him, and no government bureaucracy could have transformed pop music in the way he did.”

    I remember hearing songs from state sponsored Soviet rock bands when the USSR was trying to prove it wasn’t suppressing culture. The bands were always awful.

  6. No central planner could have invented him, and no government bureaucracy could have transformed pop music in the way he did.

    Ilya Shapiro clearly isn’t familiar with the dynamics of the Jackson family or the pop powerhouse that is Sweden.

  7. Wonderful, finally something interesting on MJ!
    I’ll read your final references, but I KNOW already that “Dallas+POP+POPE” overthrew the Commies.
    We know from 40 years that the only efficient CIA bureau (compensating for the other n-1) luckily invented the Piper and the Pop, for the joy in the East and West.
    I add the Pope John 23, ’cause he worked in sinergy at the top: in a letter to Gorbie he put him KO.

  8. “No central planner could have invented him”

    Not until Quincey Jones gets that People’s Republic

  9. “Whatever his personal eccentricities – perhaps, in part, as a result of them – Jackson represents a capitalist success story.”

    Wait, so all I have to do is a rape a few little boys and I too can be a pop star? Awesome!

  10. Funny, my co-blogger Andrew attempted a utilitarian argument for why Jackson’s sexual exploitation of children are in fact ethical accomplishments. (A a bit tongue-in-cheek, of course.) Added emphasis for this comment:

    Michael Jackson is famous for two things-composing some of the greatest pop music of all time and pedophilia. He sold hundreds of millions of records, his songs dominated Top 40 and R&B radio for a couple of decades and-if the support crowd at his child molestation trial is any indication-has enthralled hundreds of thousands of people into an ecstatic obsession with him and his music. That is to say that he has brought a little pleasure to perhaps as many as a billion people, profound pleasure to millions more at concerts and whatnot and an almost religious sublimity to hundreds of thousands-an almost superhuman joy output for one man. And how many children did he rape? Maybe a dozen or two-100 would be extraordinary. These children most likely suffered a great deal, their lives may have been ruined. But 30-50 wrecked children seem to be more than compensated by millions of millions brought happiness, some only in passing, thousands others almost as enraptured as his victims are tormented. And consider that his music is very sexual, inspired by sensual love. It may very well be that he could not have made his music, or that it would not have brought so much pleasure if he hadn’t indulged in his disastrous tastes.

    Now, one thing that gives me shivers about this post here at Reason is that, well, I suppose you could call it a success story, but Jackson was a miserable person. What happened to him was profoundly disturbing. By the end of his life he looked eerily like his own creation from the iconic Thriller video. He had visibly decayed (or evolved, depending on your point of view).

    And truthfully, this probably wouldn’t have happened had Joe Jackson not abused him, had he not been pushed from such a young age into sweatshop-like performance classes. You could say, and I think it’s quite reasonable, that his public success and private hell are interdependent, related, whatever.

    Truly a product of capitalism. We should remember that capitalism is an extraordinarily creative and revolutionary force — the most revolutionary force in human history. It certainly has been for music. There’s a reason why bands from the Soviet Union were dull and dreary affairs. But we should also remember that capitalism is very destructive — the human cost should not be brushed aside.

  11. capitalism is very destructive

    It doesn’t have to be. That’s not an absolute.

  12. Using the image of Sugarbush Squirrel (peace be upon him) without proper citation is blasphemy.

    You must now beg squirrel-mother Kelly Foxton for forgiveness, or else the coming army of commando squirrels will show you no mercy.

    http://www.sugarbushsquirrel.com/642343.html

    Sugarbush Squirrel is the only True American.

  13. I live in Moscow and well I remember the first tours Boney M in December, 1978. It was the real sensation! The American magazine TIME then has published the big article about it. Michael Jackson never was big “king” in Russia. He came to Moscow twice, however here there was no big agiotage. All it has been forged in a press. Tickets could be bought freely in day of show. Also was and with Madonna. Really big stars in Russia were Boney M, ABBA and MODERN TALKING.
    Recently Russian TV some times showed a documentary film about the first tours Boney M in the USSR. You can see it if will follow on specified LINK:

    http://boneyminrussia.narod.ru

    Boney M were the first who has made a real cultural revolution in Russia!

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