Michael, Neda, and us.

nedaThe death of two people last week has got you talking – and some of you making comparisons between the two.

Neda Agha-Soltan was shot dead in the street in Tehran, and Michael Jackson died after a cardiac arrest at the age of 50.jacko cds

When the Iranian protests began, we spent 7 of the next 8 days discussing the issue on-air, and here on the blog.

When Michael Jackson died, it was a huge story (i realise that’s a massive understatement ) but for some of you it wasn’t worth spending any time on.

It’s worth reminding some of the newer members of the WHYS community what we’re all about :

* we reflect conversations taking place around the world, we don’t decide an agenda based on our own whims. If you’re talking about it, then so are we.

* that means we have to take a view based on a number of criteria : and by all of those, Michael Jackson’s death was the clear winner – a “no brainer” as some people would say…

Now, that doesn’t mean everyone wanted to talk about him, or even had time for the man, in which case Friday’s wasn’t the programme for you. Just as many of the Iranian programmes have been criticised for “focussing on one country to the exclusion of all others” and “distorting the news agenda”.

What i do resent is the notion that talking about someone like Michael Jackson isn’t worth anything, that it’s somehow beneath people who only fill their heads with really IMPORTANT things and have no time for anything that isn’t deadly serious and complicated.

We aren’t the programme for those people then. Our community has a broad agenda and – usually – broad minds. They accept that not every day we’ll be talking about the specific interest they have but we soon we will be, and maybe what we’re talking about will interest them after all.

Oh, and while i’m on my soapbox : ESSAYS. You’re sending us a lot of them. We like conversations, not speeches. Please think about that before you send your  tract; it won’t get posted.

That’s not “censorship” by the way.  They’re the rules which we expect everyone to abide by. If you want to threaten other posters , denigrate other people’s sincerely- held views, be my guest. But somewhere else.

Thanks as always for your blunt and constructive criticism.

34 Responses to “Michael, Neda, and us.”

  1. 1 Nelson Isibor
    June 29, 2009 at 13:05

    The truth of the matter is that you can not satisfy every one. Just do your best because you can not do all. With regards to the Micheal Jackson story, only a catastrophic event could have overtaken that story on friday. There is something called scale of preference, how this scale is arranged varies based on individual perceptions of what is newsworthy or not.

  2. 2 Jennifer
    June 29, 2009 at 13:12

    Wow, I am a little offended that WHYS compares a woman dying for her freedom in the ranks of the 50 year old dried up “king of pop”. With all respect to Michael Jackson, sir, I am sorry for your passing but it doesn’t compare to women fighting for basic rights.

    You know what gets me about MJ? Before he died, noone talked about him. And when they did, it wasn’t positive.

    How disappointing.

  3. 3 patti in cape coral
    June 29, 2009 at 13:42

    Mark, I am fine with whatever topic you choose. You guys have repeatedly explained how the topics are chosen, and I haven’t always been interested in the topic of the day, but I know the next one will be something I enjoy. Sometimes I get interested in things I would have never explored on my own. It’s silly to think that everything you put on has to be only what I like. Moreover, I would like to thank the moderators. There are times I get ticked off and don’t think about how things sound before I hit that submit button, which happened a few times this past week.

  4. June 29, 2009 at 13:47

    Salaam Mark… I do believe that you guys at the WHYS programme were absolutely right in picking up the MJ story, and if some of our friends want to compare Michael to Neda, then I’d say to them : How about comparing Neda, or even Michael to more than 250 innocent Iraqi civilians who were brutally and senselessly murdered and injured by terrorists during the past few days ?! I do believe that Neda (may Allah bless her soul) is a martyr, but can anyone of you guys answer this question for me : Who’s more precious and why, Neda or those 250 innocent Iraqi civilians who were brutally and senselessly murdered and injured by the terrorists during the past few days for no reason at all just b/c they wanted to go on with their lives ?! I mean really guys, who’s setting the standards here ?!

  5. June 29, 2009 at 13:55

    i never liked Micheal, and i wont follow the herd to start making glorious (or any) comments about him. but what i hate is when people are too critical of the BBC’s (or WHYS’s) coverage of the debate or any debate (a la Iran).it’s there job to cover stories and issues which make the news – if you don’t like the coverage, then don’t post or don’t listen, its not on every issue you must make or a comment or listen to. some find these issues ok, some don’t…stop chastising WHYS.

    by the way, WYHS allows people to suggest debates.. 😉

  6. 6 Justin from Iowa
    June 29, 2009 at 14:17

    Stay the course my friends. Stay the course. The unwashed masses will always clamour “ME ME ME ME ME!”, and you execute your duty admirably in how you choose to direct your discussions despite this.


  7. 7 anu_D
    June 29, 2009 at 14:31

    [Mark Sandell Says] “we reflect conversations taking place around the world, we don’t decide an agenda based on our own whims. If you’re talking about it, then so are we.”

    Good philosophy Mark…..

    and with that philosophy…and regardless of the relative seriousness of a dying woman on streets …the part-time, time pass song and dance artist who didn’t matter even fractionally in the bigger scheme on thigs affecting humanity on this planet….does get the due attention. AGREED

    But you contradict your own philosophy on Iran Protests….for the bigger world ( that includes Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific and Latin America was almost silent on this subject)……… wasn’t talking as much about it as disproportinately BBC was stirring it up as Headline News for two weeks……a storm in a tea-cup that duly died.



    “That’s not “censorship” by the way. They’re the rules which we expect everyone to abide by”…..those sound like Ayotullah Khameni’s words to the protestors 🙂

  8. 11 Alana Ronald
    June 29, 2009 at 14:51

    Whether or not people like it, Michael and Neda
    s deaths are both news.

    Neda gained recognition worldwide only in death, whereas Michael was one one of the most highly recognized people on the planet during his life.

    These 2 young people died, it may be argued, before their time, and though they each symbolize something quite different, their deaths have made an impact upon so many.

  9. June 29, 2009 at 15:04

    Hi Jennifer and Lubna
    Please don’t be hard on Michael Jackson, or yourselves. I deeply respect and defend women’s rights. Iraqi Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites are killed every day in a senseless war: But Jackson was one of a kind, a genius who brought joy to so many people around the world.

  10. 15 duckpocket
    June 29, 2009 at 15:35

    When MJ chose to metamorphosize from a black man into a Milky Bar Kid, although he had his personal reasons for doing so, he cannot have done so without realising the effect it would have on black people worldwide.

    If he arrogated to himself the right to annoy them, they too have the right to be annoyed.

  11. June 29, 2009 at 15:39

    Salaam again… I do believe that Mark and the entire WHYS have made themselves very clear about this issue and many other issues since the beginning : WHYS is all about what the vast majority of people around the world want to talk about and discuss, and it was pretty obvious that on Friday large numbers of people around the world wanted to talk about MJ, and so was it…. Heaven knows that I have tried so many times before inorder to introduce Iraqi debates into the agenda but in vain b/c apparantly people around the world wanted to talk about different stuff, and I do totally respect and appreciate that, after all who are we inorder to judge other people’s opinions who are at the end of the day human beings just like us…

  12. June 29, 2009 at 15:41

    Wow, it strikes me strange that anyone would protest the coverage of MJ by their favorite radio program. Truth is , you cannot be a relevant news shop this past weekend if you did not dedicate a portion of your program to MJ’s death. In the age of 24 hour news feed, his life that has been well documented for 45 years, is being picked apart. However, I get a kick out of watching the conservative news stations such as FOX being forced to dedicate their programming to this Black man. They do it because they know that even the most conservative of their viewership will turn the channel to find out what happened to him. So they do their presentations with gritted teeth and in between having to acknowledge his contribution to the world of entertainment they make sure to throw in disparaging remarks about his life. I guess that is the balance journalist strive for.

    It is normal that we view life through the prism of culture, race, ethnicity, personal history, etc. His death as well as his life was significant to the world no matter if her were black or white, a misunderstood soul or living in Iran or an oxygen tank. His contribution to the music world in the 20th century is surpassed by none and therefore his passing merits all the attention it is getting.

  13. June 29, 2009 at 15:44

    I’m not sure I understand how people can deny the incredible power of music in our culture and the world’s collective psyche. Michael Jackson was an enormous part of our lives, whether we wanted him to be or not, as his music shrunk our world to the size of a postage stamp. The Internet has somehow wiped out the memory of how Michael’s music managed to erase international borders, skin color, religion, and everything else that otherwise separated us. I was no fan (you’ll get some idea why when you read my In Memorial to Douglas Adams in THE ANTHOLOGY AT THE END OF THE UNIVERSE), but even I was affected by his death. I felt like a piece of my childhood died. Whether we loved him or hated him, his life impacted us on a global level that we don’t often see. Someone might not have liked his music or thought he was a lunatic, but I don’t understand how someone could diminish the importance of music — his or anyone else’s.

    And if they think this is bad, just imagine what’s going to happen when Madonna reaches her day…

  14. 19 Mark Sandell
    June 29, 2009 at 16:02

    Thanks- and Anu for likening me to an Ayatollah ! (and i know you were joking but everyone else in the office thought you had a point ! ).
    Looking at the first couple of comments, i probably should have made myself clearer – we got complaints and e-mails saying that Neda’s death was what we should be concentrating on, not Michael Jackson’s – they were saying that in their view, her death was far more important in global or news terms (and let’s take it as read that each of their passings are devastating blows for their loved ones).
    In other words, i wasn’t comparing them, but some people were which was why was trying to address it.
    Sorry if i wasn’t clear enough…

  15. 20 Julia in Portland, Oregon
    June 29, 2009 at 16:30

    @Mark Sandell – well said

    Now to the question….parts of society may never be able to get past the black/white/brown/yellow issue. Don’t know how we can change that.

    I’ve known quite a few people who have vitiligo (skin condition where pigment is gone). Most of those I know are Native American and it does cause some to be self conscious and insecure.

    If MJ had vitiligo, I am sure that it would’ve had a huge impact on his personal confidence and give him cause to try to balance the skin appearance.

    People jump on all sorts of things to criticize people over and this vitiligo gave them a lot of fuel for the fodder, for their claim he ‘wanted’ to be white. I have never believed he ‘wanted’ to be white.

    I think it was just a way for some racists to use it as an example of ‘white is better’ and ‘he wants to be white’. Which is just WRONG!

    Bottom line – it shouldn’t matter – but it apparently does to some people.

  16. 21 Julia in Portland, Oregon
    June 29, 2009 at 16:32

    @Mark…..please delete my last post it was toooo long. Sorry.

  17. 22 anu_D
    June 29, 2009 at 16:41

    patti in cape coral [June 29, 2009 at 15:12
    Really? Will the WHYS staff shoot people if they continue to protest the subject matter?]

    ==>It’s not the actions but the intent behind that matters…a_D

  18. 23 patti in cape coral
    June 29, 2009 at 17:30

    Yes, you are right, the intent matters, but so does the action.

  19. 24 Livia Varju
    June 29, 2009 at 17:49

    It troubles me to see Michael J’s and Neda’s name in the same sentence. They are incomparable, of course, ut BBC is right to talk about both of them. As to the question, does colour matter? – It did in the case of MJ because blacks were deeply offended that he chose to bleach his skin as if white was better. If he had a skin condition, his doctor could have made a statement to that effect. I have heard the following: America is a great country where everything is possible, where a black man can even change into a white woman. To conclude, colour mattered in the case of MJ because he looked like death not even warmed over the last years.
    Livia Varju Geneva

  20. 25 anu_D
    June 29, 2009 at 18:34

    Hello Patti in Coral,

    you are right.

    b.t.w as an aside…..are you a WHYS member using this id ?


    • 26 patti in cape coral
      June 30, 2009 at 16:02

      I’m not sure what you mean, I’m just a regular person living in Cape Coral, FL, working as a medical transcriptionist. I don’t work for the BBC or WHYS, but I would be happy if they wanted me!

      • 27 patti in cape coral
        June 30, 2009 at 16:05

        I suppose I could be working for WHYS and saying that I don’t, so maybe you should ask Mark Sandell to verify this?

  21. 28 Jim Newman
    June 29, 2009 at 18:34

    Hello again
    And hello Mark. I don’t mind you choosing the subjects at all.
    I’m an old man and I have an opinion on most things. That does not mean that I express them every time.
    What disturbs me very much is the fact that you seem to be very discriminating when certain subjects are covered.
    For example anything that concerns the zionist occupation of Palestine. The pro-zionists have free rein to say whatever they like but the right of reply is very limited. Could you explain to me why that is.
    As far as the deaths of Michael Jackson and Neda are concerned both have become icons. One because he was an artist of great talent and the other because she was at the wrong place at the wrong moment.

  22. 29 globalcomedy
    June 29, 2009 at 18:47

    Jackson’s death is a BIG news story. But this is also a matter of balance. And unfortunately the MSM isn’t showing any.

    How many days now has the Jackson story been talked about? The fact that I’d like to see other stories talked about as well makes me “elitist” in some way? I disagree.

  23. 30 Mark Sandell
    June 30, 2009 at 11:02

    Globalcomedy, it doesn’t make you “elitist” but the tone of some of the e-mails clearly suggest that people who are interested in Michael Jackson are somehow inferior to the intellectuals who are complaining – and i don’t like that at all.

    Jim, regular readers will know you have repeatedly accused us of being what you call “pro-Zionist” and of course we’re not. As you also know there are many who -having listened to exactly the same output as you- accuse of totally different biases.

    Of course, if you have a specific example when the programme has been unfair to one side or the other, let me know. I will investigate but i would be astonished if i couldn’t produce complaints from exactly the opposite view. Without this, we wouldn’t have much of a programme and i know you’re unwilling (as many are) to accept i – and my team – have no agenda at all, you’re just going to have to take my word for it.
    Anyone is welcome to come in and spend a day with the team – ask them whatever you like and come and watch the programme go out, then blog about the experience afterwards.

    • 31 Jim Newman
      June 30, 2009 at 12:20

      Hello again Mark
      First of all thank you for answering my blog but you didn’t answer my question which was: why do the pro-zionists have free rein to say whatever they want but the right to reply is very limited.
      You asked for a recent example and here it is.
      I replied to a commment by Dorit under the heading ‘Return to Gaza’ written June 25, 2009 at 22:18.
      You can check it out.
      I replied ‘ the 60 year old give me, give me’ story is more of a 60 year old zionist story because it is the zionists who have been doing all the grabbing.
      I went on to say that the Palestinians do not want money they want their homeland back.
      In answer to her poetry I answered that ‘this little flower in the Middle East’ has been fertilised with Palestinian blood.
      To finish I added that what the world does not want is the arrogant, masteracist zionism. I consider her comment as arrogant to say the least.
      This was censored twice. Read her comment and tell me why my comment was not a fair answer.

  24. 32 Mark Sandell
    June 30, 2009 at 13:00

    Dear Jim,

    as they say in the House of Commons ” i refer the honourable gentleman to the answers i have given earlier “.
    You think we have an agenda, i don’t. If we had an agenda, i’d not only lose my job but whatever respect we’ve earned among the WHYS community.
    In fact we’re the only ones who don’t have an agenda – you do, everyone else has, we don’t.
    I think everyone’s clear what you think Jim, and that’s why we have the programme we do. Feel free to keep re-stating it.



  25. 33 Jim Newman
    July 4, 2009 at 17:18

    Hello mark
    For some reason my answer was censored. I said thank you for not answering my question. Your assertion that everone knows my point of view cannot be true because I’ve been systematically censored. Does it embarass you to post a comment like this? If it does there is hope for you yet.
    Regards Jim

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