michael jackson jimmy safechuck

OPINION: Leaving Neverland: coming to terms with Michael Jackson

The Sundance Film Festival had a number of anticipated film premieres this year – none more so than Leaving Neverland, a harrowing four hour documentary detailing the lives of Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck, which is also due to be screened on Channel 4 in the spring. Both men allege that they suffered at least five years of sexual abuse at the hands of Michael Jackson, which (as you can probably guess from the title) is the focus of the film.   

I have been a tremendous fan of the Jacksons, collectively, for my whole life. I literally can’t remember a time without Michael Jackson. He is my earliest memory – for real. I have flashes of things before, but my first fully formed memory is etched in my brain; I had not long turned three, and it was the Black or White video on Top of the Pops in November 1991. I have obsessed over various aspects of his life and career ever since.

To let you know the extent of my fascination with the whole clan, I tracked down Marlon and Randy’s deleted solo albums, and believe that LaToya is deserving of a bit more praise.  I’m not some guy who bought Thriller and a Greatest Hits CD in ASDA. I go deep. I know my stuff, which is why the years of allegations stacking up has been a hard thing to accept.

When you’re a kid, there are things you don’t fully comprehend. But as time moonwalks on, and you become more experienced in the world, any reasonably rational adult should be asking questions. As a result, I have been shaky on him for a while.

I am now in my 30s, and it may sound bizarre that it has taken so long to even consider these things. But let me explain something – Michael Jackson fandom is far more cult-like than you would ever imagine. I implore you to browse a Michael Jackson fan forum and read people’s comments. This is the reason I have written this piece under a pen name, to avoid the kind of abuse I have received for saying I quite like Jermaine’s Word To The Badd (for real). I used to engage with Michael Jackson fans quite regularly, and let me tell you, absolutely NO criticisms of him are allowed. Ever. He enjoys a Christ-like status among them, and that isn’t much of a hyperbole. They speak of him in the way that I hear Christians speak about Jesus – as a completely pure, angelic being, with no irony intended. Many artists have an over-zealous fan base, especially in the age of the internet. But with Jackson it extends to truly absurd behaviour.

At some point in the last year or two, I came to realise that a lot of this came from Jackson’s own sense of victimhood. It became part of his brand. Every album had songs like Leave Me Alone, Why You Wanna Trip on Me?, Tabloid Junkie, Privacy. Watching interviews he conducted in his adult life, every discussion goes back to how terrible his life has been, and the people who are out to get him; his family, the tabloid press, Sony, the paparazzi. He hasn’t had that much plastic surgery, it’s just the tabloids. The Invincible album didn’t do well not because it wasn’t very good and he refused to properly promote it, but because the label sabotaged it, and by the way CEO Tommy Mottola is a racist now. The negative backlash to the infamous Living With Michael Jackson film is because people have dirty, nasty thoughts, not because he refuses to accept that sleeping with other people’s children is inappropriate and crosses a line.

This has extended to his fans. So when MJ lip synced the entire HIStory Tour, it was because he had laryngitis for two whole years, despite this being medically impossible. When Diane Sawyer pushed him on questions about the 1993 accusations, she’s not doing her journalistic duty by questioning a man recently accused of child molestation, she’s just a manipulative, tabloid bitch who is out to get him. And those boys are just liars who want money. Every single one of them; Wade Robson, Jimmy Safechuck, Jordy Chandler and Gavin Arvizo. Not to mention Terry George, Jason Francia and now Michael Jacobs-Hagen.

But then the burden of proof on either side has been consistently muddied for 25 years. Going back to the original Jordy Chandler allegations in 1993, the media circus that ensued had many people gaining their 30 pieces of silver by selling salacious tales to the tabloids that, if true, would have been better served on the witness stand. Chandler’s father, Evan, was caught on tape planning extortion of Michael Jackson. Fans like to use this as ultimate proof of Jackson’s innocence, but in truth, some wishful thinking must be attached to this as it doesn’t prove that no molestation took place, just that Chandler was going to destroy him. Possibly because he genuinely suspected that something had happened. Or maybe because he was a greedy extortionist. Both can exist simultaneously.

The latter point is significant. Jackson is in the Guinness Book of Records for being the most philanthropic celebrity in history, or something (though, I have no idea how this could possibly be accurately calculated). Many will use this as “evidence” that he couldn’t have been a child molester – as if charity work renders any and all acts of misconduct. The two facts (if, indeed, they are facts) are not mutually exclusive.   

Jackson, of course, was subject to a strip search in 1993, for which both sides claimed victory. Certain marks were identified by Chandler, namely the vitiligo blemishes that covered Jackson’s entire body. But, at the same time, Chandler identified Jackson as being circumcised, whereas his autopsy confirmed he was uncircumcised – a rather significant mistake.

The Chandlers never pressed criminal charges, asking only for money. The Arvizo family did press formal charges and the criminal trial took place in 2005. However, by this time the law had changed and in cases such as these civil cases could not be tried before criminal cases. So, if the Arvizos wanted money out of Jackson, they would have had to go to criminal court first.

For what it’s worth, the Arvizo case never made much sense to me – even today, of all the accusations, it is the one that seems most unbelievable. According to the complaint, Jackson wasn’t molesting Gavin when the Bashir film aired. It was only after the film aired and the world was looking at him suspiciously that he decided to begin the assaults.   

It is true that Robson – who wasn’t paid for his interviews in Leaving Neverland, but did sue unsuccessfully for $1.5 billion – testified to Jackson’s innocence under oath at that trial in 2005. But if there’s anything we’ve learned recently, it’s that sexual abuse cases aren’t clear cut. The conspiracy theory going around the fandom is that he is doing this out of anger over not getting the choreography job with the Michael Jackson Cirque Du Soleil show.  Think about how insane this theory is; a man is so upset that he didn’t get a job that he is accusing his innocent friend who had nothing to do with that decision of molesting him for seven years to get money out of his Estate. This is as bonkers as the theory that Jackson molested Arvizo after the Bashir documentary aired. But at least one of them is likely to be true.

The ardent Michael Jackson fan constantly calls out the biased tabloid media without considering their own obvious bias, even when they admit that nothing will ever change their mind on the issue. Their evidence is often no more credible than the evidence that failed to convict him, with their own interpretation attached to the dry facts. They claim it is 100% proof of his innocence, but it isn’t. Most of their evidence is hearsay and conjecture – as incidentally is much of the actual evidence against him (if we separate “evidence” from “allegation”, as we absolutely should), which is why a decade long FBI investigation was inconclusive.

Yet for even asking difficult questions and not just accepting that Jackson was a victimised angel who was not at fault for any of the bad things that happened to him, I have been accused of not being a fan of Michael Jackson at all (yeah, I own everything he ever did, but I’m not a fan apparently) and of being brainwashed by the tabloid media – as if only a Michael Jackson fan who believes in his utter and true innocence can reach an informed conclusion. This in no way helps their cause and, in a sense, aids the other argument. If you are not open to any other interpretation, how can you accuse anyone else of being brainwashed?     

This shouldn’t be surprising as Jackson was a master manipulator. Those stories about him buying the Elephant Man’s bones and sleeping in an oxygen tent? They came from him. That has been proven. Then he went on Oprah whingeing about he is picked on and people made these specific stories up. In his 1988 autobiography Moonwalk he confirmed that he did have a cleft put in his chin. In his interview with Martin Bashir 15 years later he claimed he had never had his chin done. Naturally, none of these things means he was a paedophile, but they do point to a pattern of manipulation and mistruths on a worldwide scale. Make no mistake, those tabloid stories he created were worldwide news stories. He presented himself as a naïve guy caught up in a whirlwind – but it’s hard to accept that a man who cut some of the biggest deals in the history of the music industry could possibly be that naïve  

Where did that come from? Well, right off the bat, when the Jackson 5 signed to Motown in the late 60s, they were each made to knock two years off their age, so he was lying in his first public appearance. He was taught that it was OK to lie if it was for publicity. This is something that grows over the years, and it seems to be what a lot of his more ardent fan base are wrapped up in. How many times can everything be blamed on other parties? How many supposed extortion attempts can there be before you start to ask yourself some hard questions? Michael Jackson never took responsibility for his own actions – and he didn’t have to. Why should he when there’s millions of people who will just believe every word he says simply because he is Michael Jackson?

Whether you believe he was a child molester or not, any fan who believes that his relationship with children was healthy cannot have the audacity to accuse other people of being “brainwashed by the tabloids”. It can be innocent, and I really hope it was, but that doesn’t mean it was healthy. “I’d slit my wrists first”, he said when discussing the allegations that he harmed children. But, if the allegations are true, perhaps he didn’t think he was harming them. Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed has explained that both Jackson and the alleged victims viewed this as a normal, loving relationship. Of course, it couldn’t have been when a 7-10 year old boy couldn’t have been in any position to consent.

To torture a metaphor, I was on the fence for a long time, and when there were no new allegations in the wake of #MeToo I had more faith. Reports of Leaving Neverland have me questioning more than ever. I’m no longer on the fence, but I haven’t run off into the field either. If anything, I’m at the edge of the field, leaning on the fence.  

The question for me is how to conflate the growing queasiness I have with the fact that both I and the world at large have such a connection to him and his music. I am today more interested in Michael Jackson as a figure than as a musician. But even from that perspective, it is impossible to airbrush him from history like Jimmy Saville or Stuart Hall. They presented TV shows in the 70s. So what?

Michael Jackson made his way into people’s lives in a way that is still felt a decade after his death. In America, the Jackson 5 were the first black teen idols – someone for black girls to scream at in the way that white girls could scream at The Beatles.  This means that Michael Jackson was the first black face on lunch boxes,  on teen magazines, the first black cartoon character, star of the first variety show with an all-black cast. He reached a level in the music industry that no black man had reached before. We can’t pretend this didn’t happen.   

This is before we even talk about his music, so embedded in our collective culture that even through his trials and tribulations, you can hear it being played everywhere. Every wedding, every birthday party, every night out on the town. Hell, they were playing it at the Sundance Festival after parties. Can I really go through life no longer listening to the music that has provided the soundtrack to my entire existence?

Maybe there is a way to separate art from artist. It’s easier for some artists than others. The current allegations levied against R Kelly shouldn’t pose that much of a problem on that level. I can’t separate his hyper sexual material from his alleged misdeeds, and will forever shiver at the thought of who he might be singing Bump and Grind to.    

In Jackson’s case, we followed him closely for all but the first ten years of his life. If he was guilty of these allegations, we were listening to him before, during and after his alleged crimes were committed. Is it OK to listen to the Jackson 5? There have so far been no allegations that pre-date the Bad album, so maybe we’re OK up until Thriller? Could he really be stripped of his achievements the way that Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey have? I doubt it. His impact was too universal, too culturally significant.

There isn’t a definitive answer. Those who say we should separate art from artists are welcome to do so, but they shouldn’t say it with superiority. We all have a different level of acceptability. But whatever the outcome, Michael Jackson continues to be the most exhausting and tragic fall from grace in the history of popular culture.

It is worth pointing out that both Robson and Safechuck’s lawsuits against Jackson’s Estate were thrown out of court – but only due to the statute of limitations. The idea that these men would go through the indignity of described their experiences in the detail that the film is reported to if it wasn’t true feels unlikely to me. I don’t think I will watch Leaving Neverland when it is broadcast – I’m still coming to terms with my own conflicting thoughts and figuring out how I feel. But at some point I feel I ought to. Maybe we all should as there could be questions that we need to ask ourselves. Whether true or not – the world either turned a blind eye to his crimes or enabled an unhealthy and dangerous obsession.     

 

  1. As an MJ fan, I agree with everything you stated in this article. I, myself, am conflicted, especially with this documentary coming up now. I tend to believe MJ is innocent, but I also have my doubts. The fan community is indeed very toxic, and as soon ad you share that, as a fan, you have doubts and can never be a 100% sure about Michael’s innocence, you will get called a ‘fake fan’. Happened to me too.. People need to take their rose colored glasses off, and start to look at their idol with a critical eye! We are only as blind as we want to be..

  2. OK! Well, I guess you didn’t dig very deep in your research! You can have an opinion on Michael Jackson! Everyone in this world has! Love him or hate him! That’s cool! But you should maybe read the 5 months court papers, the interviews in those court papers or what about the 10 years FBI investigation documents? or what about the latest court paper involving Wade and showing he changed his story so many times? Not to mention 100s of witnesses! all to conclude: NOTHING EVER HAPPENED!
    So why not next time you base your opinion on FACTS! That would help your narrow minded opinion! Ta!

  3. Aisha – thank you for your response. It’s means a lot, especially when compared to Sebastian’s rambling.

    Sebastian – this is exactly what we’re talking about from toxic MJ fans. The whole piece is about how the waters are muddied on BOTH sides and how the whole thing is difficult to come to terms with as a fan and how I’m not 100% either way. This means the piece is balanced, as my thoughts are and I took care to make it so. Did you even read it?! I even MENTIONED some of the things you’re ranting at me about, I just don’t attach wishful thinking to all of those things. Doesn’t mean I didn’t read them. Ya’ll say you want to hear the truth, but all you want is Michael Jackson propaganda pieces. I’m not coming out either way, I’m asking tough questions that any rational adult should be asking.

  4. I just read this and all of this is just an opinion. Leaving Neverland is a movie that is basically the 2005 sex allegation trial replayed all over again. How on God’s green earth do you have such heinous details of sex abuse done to you in horrible form, the opening of the anus, horrible thing of the like done to a child by an adult. HOW DO YOU FORGET THAT?? HAVE A MEMORY LAPSE, TESTIFY UNDER OATH THAT NOTHING OF THE LIKE EVER HAD HAPPENED, DEFEND THE PERSON THAT’S BEING ACCUSED, SUPPORT HIS LEGACY BY TRYING TO DANCE AND WORK UNDER HIS NAME WITHIN HIS ESTATE, GET PASSED BY TWICE TRYING TO GET WORK FROM HIS ESTATE, AND ALL OF A SUDDEN……..Out of the clear blue sky, remember every little horrible detail of what happened to you and decide to talk to a producer of a pedophile movie and expose the so called truth……ARE YOU SERIOUS??? Also, you do know that both Robeson and Safechuck can NEVER bring suit of allegations of abuse to Michael’s estate because Michael OWNED and was in complete control of all of his businesses when these allegations so called happened. So no money from the courts means what other way will they seek money for their LIES??? A MOVIE!!!! It’s always been about money with these fools. Now they both just signed their warrants to kill whatever careers they may have had because this will never become what they want to be truth. And Aish, your comments don’t mean you’re not a fan because you have doubts now……IT’S TIME FOR YOU TO FESS UP TO NEVER BEING A FAN OF WHO THIS MAN IS TO THIS VERY DAY…..It’s okay to say you love his music. Your doubts tell you that you have no history on who Michael was, what he’s done and what he left to his fans to do. IT WAS ALWAYS BIGGER THAN HIM!!! Now all we have to go on is a 10 year FBI investigation that he was found innocent of, a court trial where he was acquitted of all 13 counts levied against him. LIES TOLD IN COURT OF CHILD SEX ABUSE by people out for money…..A MAN WHOM KILLED HIMSELF BECAUSE HE DIDN’T GET A DIME FROM MICHAEL……HE DIED FROM THE GUILT OF LYING!!! Plus all the other SUBSTANTIAL evidence proving this man to be absolutely innocent. And if that doesn’t work for you here’s something I can share with you here. Michael Jackson had a infirmary in his home designated for sick children who made their last living requests through The Make A Wish Foundation to visit there before they left this life. Michael worked with the foundation to make their last wish come true by having medications, blood storage for transfusions, oxygen to make their stay as fun as possible for them. You see, these are the things that the FAKE NEWS media will never report about him. But it easy to believe what two liars say in a movie. Lastly, during the premiere at Sundance Film Festival for Leaving Neverland, the director had grief counselors on hand to help people who saw the movie deal with what they say on the screen. I have a question……..How did they know there will be a response that would need counselors?? The majority of people who saw the movie were journalists. Can you answer that?? Don’t worry I’ll wait!!!

  5. Stephen – well, firstly I don’t think you did read it all because, like with Sebastian, I mentioned a lot of things you’re demanding I consider. It’s not all opinion. There’s plenty of facts in there to support the opinion. And the opinion is balanced. I haven’t come out either way. Once again, a toxic Michael Jackson fan is accusing someone with doubts about his innocence of not being a fan, and looking like an absolute nutcase as a result. I have everything – the Steeltown recordings, everything he did both solo and with J5 on Motown, every VHS/DVD (including that awful 40 minute The One puff piece), every Jacksons album, every solo album, with multiple copies of both, and several bootlegs. I have held on to the old merch from the 80s that has been handed down to me. All of it. I even produced a 5-part radio series on the Jackson family’s music to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Steeltown sessions. Each episode was 2 hours in length and extended versions were posted online. Why would I if I wasn’t a fan? Fan doesn’t equal sycophant, and loving someone’s music doesn’t mean you are required to have no doubts or criticisms about them as people. As for the counselers at Sundance, that was definitely a publicity stunt (the kind that Michael was so adept at pulling off in his prime). I keep saying this – I am not 100% either way, so I don’t know why you’re trying to catch me out on things. This whole piece has me saying, “well this…but then there’s that…this doesn’t make sense…but that does”. And as I said above, a lot of what you are saying is conjecture – just like the arguments against him. But kudos on PUTTING occasional words in CAPITALS and RANTING LIKE A CRAZY PERSON. That’s definitely a way to look sane and proves that you are right. Great tactic.

  6. Hi there, Alan. First of all, I did read your article. Thank you, it is a well-written piece (unlike most of the sensationalist stuff out there in the tabloids). I would like to start by saying that I love Michael’s art – in all its forms. I love his music – I grew up with his music (which was a very defiant, not to mention forbidden thing to do back then, in my communist home land), and it was also the ‘soundtrack to my whole existence’, the background to my life. Of course, I listened to other singers as well, I had many other hobbies, but Michael’s impact on my life (including identifying with him on some level) had the most profound impact on me as an individual. In the mid- to late 1990s however, I read about the Chandler’s case and I started doubting MJ. Indeed, the way he was portrayed in the media was that he was a child molester – there was only one perspective presented and it sounded as if he had already been investigated and found ‘guilty’. Disappointed, I decided that I could no longer listen to his music. However, a few years ago – I was just in the process of completing my degree in Clinical psychology – I came across a research paper on Michael Jackson’s ‘narcissistic/borderline traits’. I became interested and decided to look more into it. Above all, I was curious on a personal level to know whether my first reaction to him – I accepted him, his dance and music instantly and unconditionally as something powerful, refreshing, different and unique – has been ‘right’ on a visceral level. After all, in my profession, being a good judge of character is really important. A lot of time has passed since my childhood and adolescence. Now being a mother myself and coming from a family where three generations love Michael’s music, I wanted to know whether it is OK, whether I can feel comfortable and secure enough to play it to my child. First of all, what occurred to me was that (unsurprisingly of course), Michael had been subjected to chronic abuse – physical, emotional and God knows what else, which had really affected his way of being in the world, along with his self-esteem. But worse than that, he had never been loved unconditionally, seen as more of an object / product, rather than a son to his father. This made me think for the first time, even if something happened, who is to blame? But it was not enough for me, I needed to know more.
    So I decided to do as much research as possible. I read numerous articles, J. Randall Anthony Taraborrelli’s ‘The magic, the madness, the whole story’, Joe Vogel’s ‘Man in the Music’ and ‘Michael Jackson: the art of compassion’, Frank Cascio’s detailed account (both he and his brother knew Michael since they were 5-years old and had visited Neverland many times and even went on tour with him often along with his parents), and even his bodyguards’ book ‘Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in His Final Days’ by Bill Whitfield, Javon Beard, and Tanner Colby. Using as much as possible my own tools as a clinician (of course, considering the fact that I would never be able to sit one-on-one with any of these people), I looked at body language during interviews, I listened to the way certain language and phrases were used/repeated… What I found out was that, 1) Michael was much more traumatised than I had thought and indeed rarely looked into his own issues / how he might be contributing to the whole dynamic or maybe get in a certain mess he may have inadvertently helped create. All in all, he reminded me of Jung’s Puer aeternus (you can check his article on ‘The child archetype’). 2) Amazingly, I realised that I knew nothing of the full scope of his talent. His mind, creativity and imagination went beyond everything I had previously considered. He could not only write music – he was literally ‘hearing’ whole songs / symphonies in his head (reminiscent of Mozart) and he could recreate them with only his voice; he was of course an incredible dancer (a well-known fact) but what really struck me was his ability to draw / combine colours and go into very minute details. The visual was a very vivid component of all his videos – I had no idea he had been using specific paintings / artwork (for example such as ‘Daybreak’ by Maxfield Parrish in ‘You are not alone’) – to cut a long story short, his mind was a lot more complex and multi-layered than I had previously thought. I learned that he was extremely well-read, knew a lot about art history, medicine, sociology, psychology and liked to read books about power such as “The 48 Laws of Power” – which explains how to earn respect and power. His business acumen, his visual mind, his intuition and almost psychic ability to predict what the audience wants – I have to say that on a very selfish level, it fascinated me in ways which might puzzle some, but I chose psychology for a reason. I am very intrigued by the mystery and complexity of the human mind and Michael’s turned out to be a lot more complex than I had thought. He was indeed a genius and that is that – 100% without a doubt. 3) My research confirmed that there was a certain duality to MJ’s personality – not just the yin and yang / anima-animus interplay so characteristic of him, but the left vs right brain – rational businessman vs intuitive creativity. He had a very spicy, dry sense of humour which I thoroughly enjoyed but at this moment I had already admitted that yes, there was a certain Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde quality to Michael – evident in ‘Thriller’ especially, when he, the hero/boyfriend, becomes ‘one of the zombies’. This Mephistophelian ‘something’ made me wonder whether he could indeed use others and manipulate them (even unconsciously) to do his bidding. I had to say that yes, that was very probable. He seemed to enjoy his power – genuinely. 4) But was this enough to make him a ‘child molester’? My honest answer at this point was, I wasn’t sure. I needed more facts/observations. So… 5) I went and tried to watch as many videos as possible in which Michael interacts with children. He seemed very at ease, very natural around them; it didn’t seem to me like he was tense or uncomfortable at any point (forgive me for being blunt, but it might be difficult for someone to be so at ease if they are finding such closeness arousing). OK, but oh, well, he is a good actor, So… 6) I looked at and read numerous papers examining the allegations and many videos featuring his accusers. And – nothing. Finally, I felt I was getting somewhere. While Michael seemed like a very capable, sophisticated and smart genius who knew how to get the reaction he wanted and how to present himself, his accusers all seemed – at best – mediocre, desperate, uncomfortable and greedy for money. In particular, Robson’s videos seemed to me unconvincing. Full of inconsistencies, changing his story a couple of times, body language (particularly micro-mimics, blinking, etc) which made me think even a while ago, ‘this man is lying; it is really obvious’. When I learned that he had lied under oath and when I read his version about the repressed memory, I was convinced that his credibility was very much compromised. These things don’t happen like that. What happens is that an adult who is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, remembers clearly that boundaries have been crossed – he or she often feels shame and guilt to disclose it however. In more extreme cases which we might call dissociative episodes, the person may be unable to ‘locate’ clearly and confidently the flashbacks from the abuse in a coherent, chronological timeline. However, there is never any doubt that a boundary has been crossed. It seemed very, very unlikely to me that Robson would deny any wrongdoings (in 2005 trial, hand on the Bible), when he was already an adult man, and would abruptly change the story with the excuse of the repressed memory… No. It just… doesn’t add up. So I finally felt I was really getting somewhere, at least in this case. All the ludicrous stories out there in the tabloids only made me think of ‘character assassination’ more and more. Had Michael crossed certain social boundaries with kids? Yeah, I would say so. Was he a child molester?… Once again, I watched the video in which he is being questioned. His quiet fury, his smile – I thought, either he is so mad at being unjustly accused, or he is a damn good actor, but this man sure as hell knows what he is doing. Then, I thought, someone with such a sharp, brilliant mind who is guilty, would never interact with kids this openly – he would know how to ensure no one finds out, how to conceal it. Why would he show so openly to the world his love for children? Why would he ask as a first witness at his defence a child he has allegedly abused for seven years (!) – it just didn’t make sense. So my conclusion was that indeed MJ wanted to be around kids and liked them a lot, was may be a bit envious and obsessed with these interactions and the whole idea of the ‘perfect childhood’ / refusing to grow up, making up for some unmet developmental needs… you might even say that on some level he may have experienced arrested emotional development, but it seemed more unlikely than ever that he was molester. And 7) finally (apologies for the very long comment!) I thought of his religious upbringing. Frank Cascio mentions that MJ had a powerful sexuality and everyone who has seen him dance would see that, but he was ‘very inhibited’. I can imagine the internal conflict – having this strong erotic charge being the engine of your art, the motor of your creativity (Freud calls it ‘sublimation’), and then at the same time this restrictive, almost fanatic religious upbringing to shape you as a person and instil in you ideas such as ‘premarital sex is a sin’. Well… I simply don’t see how MJ would overcome some of his inhibitions in that regard, and abuse a kid… but it would make perfect sense if he was trying to stay away from temptation by surrounding himself with children and thus complying with the whole idea of innocence and purity. I wonder why no one takes his religion into account…? Have we become so cynical? He left the Jehovah’s witnesses in his later life but remained very religious until his death in 2009. So… the only way I see it, the only way he could have abused someone, would be if he had been suffering from undiagnosed DID (Dissociate Identity Disorder) where he completely dissociates from the abuse as if it was not him who had done it… I think this is highly unlikely though. He was evaluated by psychologists at the trial and DID is difficult to hide. So, I will continue to listen to MJ’s music – ALL of it :). But if a serious piece of evidence comes along, a more robust one, and more than lies and speculations… I will keep an open mind.

  7. To the author, (Alan?) Thank you for writing this. It’s very balanced and thought provoking. The people in the comments prove your points so well. They are just blindly rigid obsessed fans of a flawed man they treat as a god. It is so sad that they can’t use their own minds to reason and question things at all. They all use the same scripted arguments which don’t tell the full story and they all think no one else has read all the evidence and transcripts and FBI reports. WeS have and because we have, we have formed our own opinions. I personally feel he was guilty because a man-child who owns tons of adult porn (found by the police at neverland) isn’t this asexual angel they claim him to be. A man of 40 sleeping alone in a bed with 7 to 13 year old boys that are not related to him, is suspicious and abnormal.

    1. Please read Frank Cascio’s book and others listed here and this reply to the article.

      Hi there, Alan. First of all, I did read your article. Thank you, it is a well-written piece (unlike most of the sensationalist stuff out there in the tabloids). I would like to start by saying that I love Michael’s art – in all its forms. I love his music – I grew up with his music (which was a very defiant, not to mention forbidden thing to do back then, in my communist home land), and it was also the ‘soundtrack to my whole existence’, the background to my life. Of course, I listened to other singers as well, I had many other hobbies, but Michael’s impact on my life (including identifying with him on some level) had the most profound impact on me as an individual. In the mid- to late 1990s however, I read about the Chandler’s case and I started doubting MJ. Indeed, the way he was portrayed in the media was that he was a child molester – there was only one perspective presented and it sounded as if he had already been investigated and found ‘guilty’. Disappointed, I decided that I could no longer listen to his music. However, a few years ago – I was just in the process of completing my degree in Clinical psychology – I came across a research paper on Michael Jackson’s ‘narcissistic/borderline traits’. I became interested and decided to look more into it. Above all, I was curious on a personal level to know whether my first reaction to him – I accepted him, his dance and music instantly and unconditionally as something powerful, refreshing, different and unique – has been ‘right’ on a visceral level. After all, in my profession, being a good judge of character is really important. A lot of time has passed since my childhood and adolescence. Now being a mother myself and coming from a family where three generations love Michael’s music, I wanted to know whether it is OK, whether I can feel comfortable and secure enough to play it to my child. First of all, what occurred to me was that (unsurprisingly of course), Michael had been subjected to chronic abuse – physical, emotional and God knows what else, which had really affected his way of being in the world, along with his self-esteem. But worse than that, he had never been loved unconditionally, seen as more of an object / product, rather than a son to his father. This made me think for the first time, even if something happened, who is to blame? But it was not enough for me, I needed to know more.
      So I decided to do as much research as possible. I read numerous articles, J. Randall Anthony Taraborrelli’s ‘The magic, the madness, the whole story’, Joe Vogel’s ‘Man in the Music’ and ‘Michael Jackson: the art of compassion’, Frank Cascio’s detailed account (both he and his brother knew Michael since they were 5-years old and had visited Neverland many times and even went on tour with him often along with his parents), and even his bodyguards’ book ‘Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in His Final Days’ by Bill Whitfield, Javon Beard, and Tanner Colby. Using as much as possible my own tools as a clinician (of course, considering the fact that I would never be able to sit one-on-one with any of these people), I looked at body language during interviews, I listened to the way certain language and phrases were used/repeated… What I found out was that, 1) Michael was much more traumatised than I had thought and indeed rarely looked into his own issues / how he might be contributing to the whole dynamic or maybe get in a certain mess he may have inadvertently helped create. All in all, he reminded me of Jung’s Puer aeternus (you can check his article on ‘The child archetype’). 2) Amazingly, I realised that I knew nothing of the full scope of his talent. His mind, creativity and imagination went beyond everything I had previously considered. He could not only write music – he was literally ‘hearing’ whole songs / symphonies in his head (reminiscent of Mozart) and he could recreate them with only his voice; he was of course an incredible dancer (a well-known fact) but what really struck me was his ability to draw / combine colours and go into very minute details. The visual was a very vivid component of all his videos – I had no idea he had been using specific paintings / artwork (for example such as ‘Daybreak’ by Maxfield Parrish in ‘You are not alone’) – to cut a long story short, his mind was a lot more complex and multi-layered than I had previously thought. I learned that he was extremely well-read, knew a lot about art history, medicine, sociology, psychology and liked to read books about power such as “The 48 Laws of Power” – which explains how to earn respect and power. His business acumen, his visual mind, his intuition and almost psychic ability to predict what the audience wants – I have to say that on a very selfish level, it fascinated me in ways which might puzzle some, but I chose psychology for a reason. I am very intrigued by the mystery and complexity of the human mind and Michael’s turned out to be a lot more complex than I had thought. He was indeed a genius and that is that – 100% without a doubt. 3) My research confirmed that there was a certain duality to MJ’s personality – not just the yin and yang / anima-animus interplay so characteristic of him, but the left vs right brain – rational businessman vs intuitive creativity. He had a very spicy, dry sense of humour which I thoroughly enjoyed but at this moment I had already admitted that yes, there was a certain Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde quality to Michael – evident in ‘Thriller’ especially, when he, the hero/boyfriend, becomes ‘one of the zombies’. This Mephistophelian ‘something’ made me wonder whether he could indeed use others and manipulate them (even unconsciously) to do his bidding. I had to say that yes, that was very probable. He seemed to enjoy his power – genuinely. 4) But was this enough to make him a ‘child molester’? My honest answer at this point was, I wasn’t sure. I needed more facts/observations. So… 5) I went and tried to watch as many videos as possible in which Michael interacts with children. He seemed very at ease, very natural around them; it didn’t seem to me like he was tense or uncomfortable at any point (forgive me for being blunt, but it might be difficult for someone to be so at ease if they are finding such closeness arousing). OK, but oh, well, he is a good actor, So… 6) I looked at and read numerous papers examining the allegations and many videos featuring his accusers. And – nothing. Finally, I felt I was getting somewhere. While Michael seemed like a very capable, sophisticated and smart genius who knew how to get the reaction he wanted and how to present himself, his accusers all seemed – at best – mediocre, desperate, uncomfortable and greedy for money. In particular, Robson’s videos seemed to me unconvincing. Full of inconsistencies, changing his story a couple of times, body language (particularly micro-mimics, blinking, etc) which made me think even a while ago, ‘this man is lying; it is really obvious’. When I learned that he had lied under oath and when I read his version about the repressed memory, I was convinced that his credibility was very much compromised. These things don’t happen like that. What happens is that an adult who is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, remembers clearly that boundaries have been crossed – he or she often feels shame and guilt to disclose it however. In more extreme cases which we might call dissociative episodes, the person may be unable to ‘locate’ clearly and confidently the flashbacks from the abuse in a coherent, chronological timeline. However, there is never any doubt that a boundary has been crossed. It seemed very, very unlikely to me that Robson would deny any wrongdoings (in 2005 trial, hand on the Bible), when he was already an adult man, and would abruptly change the story with the excuse of the repressed memory… No. It just… doesn’t add up. So I finally felt I was really getting somewhere, at least in this case. All the ludicrous stories out there in the tabloids only made me think of ‘character assassination’ more and more. Had Michael crossed certain social boundaries with kids? Yeah, I would say so. Was he a child molester?… Once again, I watched the video in which he is being questioned. His quiet fury, his smile – I thought, either he is so mad at being unjustly accused, or he is a damn good actor, but this man sure as hell knows what he is doing. Then, I thought, someone with such a sharp, brilliant mind who is guilty, would never interact with kids this openly – he would know how to ensure no one finds out, how to conceal it. Why would he show so openly to the world his love for children? Why would he ask as a first witness at his defence a child he has allegedly abused for seven years (!) – it just didn’t make sense. So my conclusion was that indeed MJ wanted to be around kids and liked them a lot, was may be a bit envious and obsessed with these interactions and the whole idea of the ‘perfect childhood’ / refusing to grow up, making up for some unmet developmental needs… you might even say that on some level he may have experienced arrested emotional development, but it seemed more unlikely than ever that he was molester. And 7) finally (apologies for the very long comment!) I thought of his religious upbringing. Frank Cascio mentions that MJ had a powerful sexuality and everyone who has seen him dance would see that, but he was ‘very inhibited’. I can imagine the internal conflict – having this strong erotic charge being the engine of your art, the motor of your creativity (Freud calls it ‘sublimation’), and then at the same time this restrictive, almost fanatic religious upbringing to shape you as a person and instil in you ideas such as ‘premarital sex is a sin’. Well… I simply don’t see how MJ would overcome some of his inhibitions in that regard, and abuse a kid… but it would make perfect sense if he was trying to stay away from temptation by surrounding himself with children and thus complying with the whole idea of innocence and purity. I wonder why no one takes his religion into account…? Have we become so cynical? He left the Jehovah’s witnesses in his later life but remained very religious until his death in 2009. So… the only way I see it, the only way he could have abused someone, would be if he had been suffering from undiagnosed DID (Dissociate Identity Disorder) where he completely dissociates from the abuse as if it was not him who had done it… I think this is highly unlikely though. He was evaluated by psychologists at the trial and DID is difficult to hide. So, I will continue to listen to MJ’s music – ALL of it :). But if a serious piece of evidence comes along, a more robust one, and more than lies and speculations… I will keep an open mind.

  8. Wow.

    I have been a life long fan . If I’m being honest with myself , it may border on an unhealthy obsession. I own everything that there is to own from the man. My son’s middle name is Michael (he was born in 2009 right after Jackson passed away) My younger daughters initials are MJ and we call her MJ (no coincidence) . I have told people that on my deathbed sometime in the hopefully distant future , my one regret would be never having had the opportunity to witness Jackson perform live. I am a Crimes Against Children Detective . I joined this difficult unit having been inspired in part by Jackson’s call to the world to protect children .

    Work all they being said , what a blessing to come across an article like yours. To know that there are others out there who feel like I do . To know this has impacted others like it has myself . Every single word resonated with me and it was as if the article was pulling every unspoken word and emotion out of me . Thank you, really . You have another heartbroken fan on the field with you (but still leaning on that fence , hoping against all hope)

  9. Hi Alan,

    A good, balanced and thoughtful article. Although I don’t entirely agree with everything (and I’ll touch upon a few those) it’s a refreshing change to read a piece like this rather than the sensationalist drivel the media has churned out over the past couple of months.

    I’ve had my run-ins with MJ fans over a variety of issues and some of the fanbase can be toxic – just like any other entity which is devoted to a person, cause or belief. That said, there are plenty of rationale, sensible and articulate MJ fans out there.

    He wasn’t a saint – who is? – and he was hopelessly naive, reckless and stupid in his personal relationships with children and adults – which is aside from his business acumen. Even as someone who think he was *probably* innocent I think it was unhealthy for him to nurture relationships with children even if said relationships were harmless fun – it’s just not a good look for anybody let alone arguably the biggest star in the world.

    I used to believe the allegations (1993) but no longer do so. The Evan Chandler tape isn’t *proof* of Jackson’s innocence (bear in mind, the burden of proof never lay with Jackson) but it is certainly evidence of a plot that was hatched to extort him. As you know there are other examples which indicate that financial gain rather than justice or the care of the alleged victim were at the forefront of those allegations. And together they form a pattern of falsehoods and of an allegation story which was flawed – arguably fatally so – the fact two Grand Juries dismissed the charges is testament to that.

    You perfectly summed up the Arvizo allegations so I won’t bother going into that.

    The Robson/Safechuck stuff… since you published your article a month ago it has emerged that Robson’s story has evolved and there are problematic inconsistencies between the documents he filed in his lawsuit and the picture he paints in the documentary. I think there are several reasons why Robson *might* have brought up these allegations.

    Firstly, let’s flip this on its head – would we know about any of this if he HAD been given the choreography job by the Estate? I’m inclined to say probably not. Whilst his failure to get the job may not have been the driver behind these allegations it may have been the catalyst in an accumulation of other issues – some of which have been documented in the Estate’s letter to HBO. Yes, this doesn’t mean Jackson was innocent – Robson could have taken the job AND continued to remain silent about any abuse he may have suffered. I don’t think the fanbase theory for Robson’s motivations are as far-fetched as the Arvizo allegation timeline theory.

    Btw, it is worth pointing out that Robson and Safechuck’s lawsuits against Jackson’s Estate were dismissed because the judge declared no rational person would believe their sworn statements they’d made to avoid the statutes. And I think that’s an important point to make. Jackson may have been a criminal deviant but there’s a constant lack of credibility on display by the accusers which serves only to undermine them and their allegations.

    I have question marks about the way in which Dan Reed has been presenting the alleged relationships between Robson, Safechuck and Jackson – is it me or does he appear to be trying to normalise them? Maybe he’s been desensitised to it all – I just find his casual nature and graphic language in the face of serious and disturbing allegations to be somewhat jarring. I also have queries regarding #MeToo and the way in which accusations brought by white men are given a greater hearing, voice and weight in the media than those brought up by non-white, non-male victims (see R. Kelly for example) but that’s a discussion for another topic.

    Anyway, a good read and a *great* shame you felt the need to write under a pen name. Thanks!

  10. Hi Michael

    Again, in regards to to Chandler tape, I wasn’t coming out on either side. Yes, it proves a plot against him, but the reason for that plot could reasonably because Evan genuinely believed Jackson was molesting Jordan. Its not necessarily the action that you’d expect someone to take but, tbh, neither is a fully grown man sharing their bed with other people’s children, so as I keep saying, everything is muddied on both sides.

    As for Robson’s changing stories – agree that for the purposes of serious allegations it’s a bit odd, but then I also don’t think that’s too bizarre for events that happened 25 years ago. I mean ask me what happened yesterday and I won’t be a 100% correct on small details, especially if it’s for something I was in denial about.

    I think most of the fan theories are just as bizarre as the Arvizo time line. When I’ve explained that to people who consider themselves bona fide fans, they’ve shot funny looks at both. No, he probably wouldn’t have come out if he was working for the Jackson Estate, but then his job would be on the line.

    I’ve heard the “Reed is normalising it” argument before. But He’s establishing how abuse happens. This isn’t uncommon in the grooming process. Why did they remain so loyal to him? Because he groomed them into, for all intents and purposes, loving him. This is a common trait in paedophilia, not just in the Michael Jackson case. It’s something that needs to be understood from a psychological standpoint in a way that goes beyond Jackson. It’s not a case of understanding it to normalise it, it’s a case of understanding it so it can be combated. He’s most definitely a bit desensitised after two years. I’ve seen detectives describe horrific murder scenes with nonchalance.

  11. Wow. The brilliant point this article makes is ironically wasted on those who would benefit from it most, ie those who are so deluded by their love of Jackson’s music that they’re not prepared to accept the (alleged) truth. They seem to think it’s impossible to be a real fan of the music without pledging undying faith to his reputation as a person. And I’ll say this with no anonymity. Protecting an abuser because you liked their music is wrong.

  12. Thanks alot for calling us deluded, Ben P Scott!! Exactly how old are you?? I am 72 years old – MJ had been, and will forever be, a part of my life since he started performing at the age of 8 – he had been an inspiration in my life – I’ve even seen them performing as The Jackson 5 at the Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park, N. London sometime in 1975 or thereabouts – I was also in Romania for his HIStory Concert; there were 3 generations of people loving him so much – he gave alot of money to the Romanian orphanage – he genuinely cared!! Someone described us as “forensic scientists” as far as MJ is concerned i.e. every move, every NUANCE he makes we know about!! If we didn’t believe it then in the 2005 trial, we certainly don’t believe it now or ever no matter how “graphic” these liars described it. MJ is media fodder – this won’t be the last documentary we’ll hear about either – NO NEW MATERIAL – all REGURGITATED STUFF and REHASHED.

  13. Sooo…Ellen has no self awareness. What has age got to do with anything here? “I’m 72, so it’s impossible to be deluded, and anyone who gives money to charity can’t be a paedophile”

  14. “Protecting an abuser because you liked their music is wrong.’

    Agreed Ben. But what evidence is there that Jackson was an abuser? The words of these men have proven more tenuous than first thought, I’d say MJ fans were right to pour scorn on these allegations. John Ziegler has done a great job of unravelling the claims made in the documentary.

    “It is worth pointing out that both Robson and Safechuck’s lawsuits against Jackson’s Estate were thrown out of court – but only due to the statute of limitations. The idea that these men would go through the indignity of described their experiences in the detail that the film is reported to if it wasn’t true feels unlikely to me.”

    That doesn’t entirely cover it – the case was thrown due to statute of limitations and Robson’s entire sworn testimony was thrown out of court as he was proven to have purged himself in trying to get round the statute. Given what we now know, the idea that these men would go through the indignity of describing their experiences in the detail they did for this film is pretty likely.

  15. a child abused has to be under psychological treatment to brake the cycle because most childern will become chid molestation predators its a vicious cycle thats the sad thing that makes me cry nobody understands except psychological people i’m not hearing about any psychological people comming forth with basic psychological statements ? like michael jacksons hatred for his father ??? wanting to become a woman wanting to become white and most of the time you hear about him feeling the need to be with childern that means he didn’t like to have adult lovers that made him feel abused all over again with childern he felt in control he loved them he liked to be naked with them ? i’m not making judgements against michael just repeating i’ve heard or read in the past are there signs? or are we just being vicious? it make me want to cry because most of theses predators are damaged childern who don’t remember it happening to them or can’t brake it they feel sick about them selfs and hate them selfs and some just feel this is normal they don’t think there doing wrong because they blacked out there situation i’m not a psychological professional i don’t have the education or the assisments psychological professional may have had from having michael as a patent

  16. WOW the crazies are out in force on this thread, huh!? Well, here’s another one! 😀

    This may be a somewhat unpopular way of seeing things but id like to be the first one to say that i couldn’t actually give a flying sh*t sandwich about the allegations/charges/rumours etc.

    Now, I’m definitely not a nonce-supporter in general, i just find that mentally dissociating the individual and his music is a far more harmonious mindset, ESPECIALLY if you have never even met the guy or any of the other people involved! It’s THAT simple.

    Personally, It’s much easier on my mind to completely ignore the matter altogether, rather than have my lifelong love of his music tarnished forever with worries about other people’s opinions on whether I’m a “real or fake fan”…!

    This whole argument is OLD now, and is banal in the extreme, nobody has anything new to add to the table, so why waste time even thinking about it? Let alone typing looong illogical comments on a well written, objective and fair article (which actually only demonstrate that you omitted to read said article in the first place…sigh)

    One way to begin this beautiful journey on the art of not giving a toss is to think of it this way…its probably safe to say that none of us knew him personally, therefore, this is NONE OF OUR BUSINESS and i promise you, the second you stop letting other people’s ‘alleged business’ peck at your heads, the happier you will be!

    Shamoooone!!

  17. It’s true that his fans are crazy just as any crazy fan of a big celebrity,but mj’s influence and fame was astronomically large so it makes sense why they are so prevalant.

    Now about the new accusations: A lot of the stuff in the new documentary has been shown to be untrue and totally biased to once again feed us the old narrative that Michael Jackson was “a monster who preyed upon prepubescent white cute boys”. Wade Robson isn’t likely suing for revenge or simple anger that fans suggest but if you do a background search on him(all the emails and lawsuit depositions) you’ll find that he had enough time to make a perfect story for this movie. As for them not getting paid,that’s just Dan Reed’s word it’s not an investigated info. Anyone who thinks that a movie/documentary isn’t about making money(mj in this case specially) at all,is being a fool. They might not be getting paid to act but they surely can get paid over 6 figures for the interviews. They are also under limelight for some time(i don’t need to explain it when it comes to mj).

  18. If Wade Robson is telling the truth then why did he brazenly lie under oath in his 1st lawsuit? His testimony was disregarded as credible by the judge but his lawsuit was obviously tossed out on the statue of limitations. Why has he been changing his story of abuse continuously you should ask yourself. He tells one type of story for the media but different ones for his lawsuit. He says “he never forgot all those abuse” in the media but says “his memory regarding the abuse has been evolving where details get added to”. Even his mother is contradicting her sworn statement from both 1993 and 2016 in this movie.

    Look at the facts regarding all the previous accusations. Janet Arvizo went to civil lawyers first before she went to the police. Look into Jordy chandler. He was interviewed by MJ’s investigator and denied any improper behavior but only changed his story under his dad Evan Chandler’s custody. How convenient is it that Jordy would tell the truth right when his dad is planning to extort MJ? He didn’t say anything under his mother’s custody and his mother didn’t believe it at all at first. How come his mother didn’t decide to press criminal charges once she figured out her son was abused? You should seriously think for yourself. There are people(as witnesses for 2005 trial) to whom Jordan chandler confessed that his dad made him say all those stuff in 93. Jacobshagen was exposed in his own country as a fraud for selling fake mj memorabilia and Terry George sells bogus stories to tabloids. These 2 are nowhere believable at all.

    The more you look into MJ’s cases the more it seems to vindicate him. People like Jimmy Saville have plethora of credible accusers throughout his life who filed police report first. Michael Jackson on the other hand have more and more of guys(who hanged around as a child with MJ) who come out in defense of him and deny any sort of abuse than there is any credible accuser against him till this day.

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.