Michael Jackson – the Reckoning

Posted on March 6th, 2019 @ 18:37 in Uncategorized

Well, this is the hardest blog post I’ve had to write in a long time. Why am I writing it? I think I am trying to make sense of my own thoughts and feelings. And I feel I owe it to… myself, and the MJ fan I was/am.

After many years and decades of defending Michael Jackson against allegations, I have finally come round to the view that he was, in all likelihood, a paedophile. Yes, it’s the Leaving Neverland documentary that did it, or rather, the media coverage around it. I haven’t seen the film and don’t think I could stomach it. (I’ve just heard an extract on a podcast and already felt mildly sick.)

I will say that in recent years I had already slipped from “he definitely didn’t!” to “well, he did questionable things and should’ve known better” and finally towards “hmmm, I am not so sure if he didn’t maybe do seriously problematic things”. The MJ fan/defender narrative of “well, his accusers are all greedy bastards!” had irked me for a while, and especially with the #MeToo movement and our general propensity to believe victims, it felt like I was only too happy to abandon that principle when the accused was my childhood hero. I’d also experienced other people I liked being revealed as assholes (Johnny Depp and, to a lesser extent, Aziz Ansari) and had seen friends grapple with, and overcome, the urge to defend people they admired. So, this is hard, I know, but not doing it is deeply hypocritical.

When Wade Robson first came out with his accusations in 2013, and fans jumped on him with “ah ah, you defended him in 2005, you fucking liar, who’s gonna believe you NOW”, I thought, but this is exactly what victims of child abuse do. This is why statutes of limitation are extended or abolished, because many victims do not come forward until decades later. We know that, and we’d accept it for any other case, but here we use it to discredit and slander him (by “we” I mean MJ fans. I know many, many people also disbelieve and discredit other child abuse victims when it suits them).

I’d slowly come to accept that it is entirely possible for the Chandlers, Arvizos and Robsons to be greedy assholes, and for Michael Jackson to still have molested their kids. The fact they didn’t live up to the ideal of a pure, innocent victim does not in fact exonerate the perpetrator. Indeed, it is also well known that abusers seek out marginalised victims with low credibility (often kids in the foster system, or with mental health issues, or behaviours that society can classify as “low morals”), because it’ll make it easier to dismiss their claims – or they don’t even know how to access help in the first place.

What finally tipped me over was this episode of What Next, a news podcast from Slate. I didn’t wanna listen to it – just as I’d deleted most other recent podcasts in my feed that dealt with it – and I made myself, because I realised I couldn’t just pretend this thing didn’t exist. The interviewee, Seth Stevenson, covered the 2005 trial and gave a nuanced, unhysterical view of it all (incl. the important role Robson played as star witness of the defense!). And it just all slotted into place.

Yeah, these families “used” Michael Jackson to get access to fame and wealth and fancy things. They loved the glamour, the attention and the opportunities MJ offered them. And for this they sacrificed their children to him. I am pretty sure these parents knew what he was doing with their sons, and they were okay with it. It was the price to pay for getting all that fancy stuff! So of course they were peeved and swore revenge if/when he eventually withdrew his money and attention, as exemplified in the infamous “extortion recording” between Evan Chandler and Dave Schwartz.

So yeah, these were bad, sleazy people. I’m sure MJ knew this. And he was buying their kids off them (and then paid them off to make them go away). This is what grooming is, after all. And, you see, this interpretation also leaves little wiggle room to think of MJ as a poor, broken kid in an adult body who’d never learnt appropriate boundaries. It makes him a calculating monster. This realisation is something I haven’t yet dealt with, emotionally. I know this now, intellectually, but I’ve not let myself feel it.

I’ve not listened to his music since “switching sides”, and though I know I will have to eventually, I am not ready. This was a guy I followed slavishly, would do anything to get close to and touch, loved, defended and daydreamed about. That MJ is still intact in my heart; I have not yet merged him with this new MJ. I know I can’t put it off forever though, as it is hypocritical and dishonest to do so. We must reckon with our heroes, too, if we want to make the world a better place (oh God, I went there. I swear it wasn’t planned!).

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