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Let me tell you up front: I’m not here to lay out facts or analyze documentaries. Not this time. This time I’m here to express something simple and personal: my view on the life of Michael Jackson. And on his death, and on the sexual abuse allegations that have continued to tarnish his legacy.

I’m not going to go through a huge rationale in this post. I’m going to include a bullet-point list of what I consider compelling facts, but nothing massive. This is an opinion article.

If you want to read the huge rationale, read “American Justice for Michael Jackson,” the post that aired here on June 13, 2020.

In fact, I’d suggest reading that article no matter what. Then you’ll know a bit about me and you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

June 13 marked the 15-year anniversary of Michael Jackson’s acquittal in a court of law. He had been charged with child molestation. He was acquitted on June 13, 2005.

June 25 in the life of Michael Jackson

June 25 marks a date that was, inevitably, much less important for Michael Jackson than it is for us. June 25 marks the day Michael Jackson died. In death, he’s gained the right not to care.

What has he lost? His voice. That beautiful, iconic voice.

What have we gained? Or, rather, what’s been foisted upon us? The baggage.

The baggage: the weight of one court case, five alleged victims, one documentary. In “American Justice for Michael Jackson,” I touched briefly on Leaving Neverland. You may recall I asked you to watch it.

I didn’t ask you to watch it because I think it’s a good documentary. But I do think it’s worth watching. It’s worth watching as a testament to our times, when a documentary that deals with a very serious matter handles that matter in a very haphazard, completely lollygag way. Lollygag equals idle. Lollygag equals aimless.

Well, the producer and the two men involved in the documentary are anything but aimless, whichever way you look at it. But in terms of what really matters — in terms of the pursuit of justice — the documentary has no aim to speak of.

You know that ring? That ring Safechuck holds out during the documentary in a trembling hand and says Michael Jackson bought for him? That ring that I said was virtually the only piece of physical evidence brought up in all four hours of the documentary?

It plays no part in Safechuck’s case.

Wade Robson, Dan Reed, and James Safechuck
From left to right: Wade Robson, Dan Reed (director of Leaving Neverland), and James Safechuck.

Four hours of hearsay

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.

Aldous Huxley (author of Brave New World)

When I sat down to watch Leaving Neverland, I didn’t know I was sitting down to watch four hours of hearsay. Maybe I should’ve known.

If you’re a person who’s easily moved in an emotional kind of way, you might start watching Leaving Neverland and find yourself moved in a matter of moments. You might start feeling sick to your stomach.

And you know what? I feel sick for you. I feel sick because people made the calculated decision to play with your emotions. Regardless of what you feel about the allegations, Leaving Neverland was made to incite an emotional reaction in you, in me, in each of its viewers. It wasn’t made so that we could sit there putting the pieces together and reveling in the connections, in the clear facts, in the fact of Michael Jackson’s innocence or guilt. That documentary does not hold objective facts.

It holds a purported view of the truth. An alleged view of the truth. We don’t know if it is the truth.

Why did the media hold it up as the truth?

Bread and circuses

The evil was not in the bread and circuses, per se, but in the willingness of the people to sell their rights as free men for full bellies and the excitement of the games which would serve to distract them from the other human hungers which bread and circuses can never appease.

Marcus Tullius Cicero

The media’s role in this situation is part of a much larger movement away from objectivity and towards opinion and sensationalism. There’s nothing wrong with opinion, as long as it stays in the opinion column. But when it begins to leech its way into traditional news — into simple reporting, in which the reporter is supposed to present the facts, as clearly and objectively as possible — there’s a problem.

No, it’s not just the media’s fault. Because the media relies on people to buy in.

People used to buy into objective journalism. They used to reserve some skepticism. Now, they buy in willy-nilly. In part, it’s because there’s so much information out there. We’re constantly inundated with floods of the stuff. This article, that article, red article, blue article… And we click, and we consume, and sometimes we don’t stop to think about what we’re reading or watching or listening to.

I do it all the time. I click on something that’s trending on Twitter, and I read a couple tweets. It takes me, inevitably, a couple more to realize that these people aren’t talking about anything. They’re just tweeting into oblivion.

Or I’ll open a New York Times article and realize that they’re not doing much more than spouting views. Again, fine — in an opinion piece. But not when I’m trying to get the latest on COVID-19.

We’re getting our bread and circuses, all right. But it’s because we, as a collective, asked for them.

The tragic life of Michael Jackson

This past semester, in a class about Alexander the Great, I wrote an essay titled “The Tragic Alexander.”

I could just as easily write an essay about “The Tragic Michael.”

By tragic, I don’t necessarily mean to imply our modern definition of tragedy. We’ve lost some of the meaning of tragedy, which once meant a story about the fall of a man. Now it simply means a sad story. You can look at the life of Michael Jackson either way. His life was sad, and his death marked the fall of a man from glory.

The nice thing about tragedy, in the Greek sense of the word, is that it leaves room for interpretation. Even if tomorrow Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck walked into court and came away with a verdict of “guilty” on Michael Jackson’s head, we could still call his life tragic. It would just be tragic in another sense, from another angle. He would still have fallen, but in another way.

A few facts

The Sixth Accuser
  • There is actually a little-known sixth accuser, a Jane Doe who joined Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck’s case in 2016. Her allegations were thrown out along with theirs (though presumably if they win another case, she’ll be on it too). I presume her allegations were thrown out because of statute of limitations restrictions (among other things).
The Chandler Case
  • Michael Jackson settled the civil suit with the Chandlers to avoid giving away his defense for a pending criminal investigation. Shortly after, California changed its law in this regard. Second, when it came time for a criminal case, Jordan Chandler refused to testify against Michael. See “American Justice for Michael Jackson” for more detail on this front.
The Francia Allegations
  • Jason Francia was the son of Blanca Francia, one of the maids at Neverland. Prior to making the allegations, Blanca spilled her story on the tabloid show “Hard Copy.” Here’s an article from the Associated Press regarding her appearance on the show. The article states that the producer declined to say whether Blanca had been paid. Blanca also contradicted herself in statements she made on the show and in court. Here’s an article from the LA Times. It’s a fairly objective article, as in it presents argument from both sides. It does mention the payment Blanca received (thousands of dollars). Also note that Blanca Francia’s claim that she saw photographs of children has turned into a claim that there “were” photographs of children.
  • The allegations brought forward by Blanca Francia on her son’s behalf weren’t strong enough to generate a criminal trial. (There was not enough evidence.) The Francia claims would have stood as corroborating evidence for the Chandler allegations, but when Jordan Chandler refused to testify all criminal charges were dropped.
The Arvizo Allegations and the Criminal Court Case
  • The jury came away with a “not guilty” verdict on all counts. Read about it in this article from CNN. Recently, four jurors appeared on the TV show The Jury Speaks to discuss how they reached their verdict — and whether they’d reach the same verdict today. This article from Ew.com sums up the segment on the show. The jurors stated that they’d reached the conclusion that the prosecution had not had enough evidence to prove Jackson guilty with certainty, so they were legally obliged to return a “not guilty” verdict.
  • During the course of the Arvizo trial, the prosecution mishandled some pieces of evidence, including the porn magazines that were seized from Jackson’s bedroom and beside table. The prosecutor handed a magazine to Gavin Arvizo (no gloves, no plastic covering the magazine). Later, Star, Gavin’s brother, claimed he’d looked at a magazine he couldn’t possibly have looked at — it was an issue that had come out long after the time the Arvizos spent at Neverland. It also seems likely that the Arvizo brothers looked at the magazines without Jackson present, which could in part explain why their fingerprints were found on them. The magazines, depicting heterosexual porn, also led jurors to believe that Jackson was attracted to adult women.
  • Keep in mind that the Arvizo allegations were the ones that were deemed strong enough to proceed to criminal court, yet the jury returned a verdict of “not guilty.”
Safechuck, Robson, and Leaving Neverland
  • James Safechuck and Wade Robson have both testified on Jackson’s behalf in previous trials.
  • Wade Robson, prior to filing in civil court, shopped around a tell-all book about the abuse he alleged he’d suffered at the hands of Michael Jackson. There are also a number of pieces of background information that Leaving Neverland leaves out, specifically about Robson. Read this article from Forbes.
Macauley Culkin and Brett Barnes
  • In Leaving Neverland, Wade Robson claims to have been replaced by Macaulay Culkin because Jackson favored prepubescent boys. But Macaulay Culkin is actually two years older than Robson.
  • Both Brett Barnes and Macaulay Culkin have vehemently defended Michael Jackson.

The information I’ve presented here is a small subsection of all the evidence that exists on either side of the issue. It’s not meant to stand as the be-all end-all of evidence. I picked most of these pieces of information because they are the most compelling, in my eyes.

The true tragedy

After parsing the evidence, I believe in Michael Jackson’s innocence. That might sound easy to believe, but it’s not. Because in order to believe that, I have to believe that the alleged victims either lied, were led to lie by others, or are deluded.

I don’t want to believe those things. But if I’m going to believe in Michael Jackson’s innocence, I have to believe them. I have to believe that, at heart, he was a good person and that, at heart, misguided or greedy or scheming people chose to take advantage of him. It’s not as simple as saying, “Six people lied, human nature is bad, people lie,” because in the same moment I have to believe in Michael Jackson’s innocence — that one person told the truth, that human nature can be good, that people don’t always lie.

From an emotional standpoint, it feels easier to believe the alleged victims. Because there are six of them, and one of Michael, and if we want to believe in human goodness, then I’m sure we’d rather believe that the one is lying.

Human nature is complex. The case study of Michael Jackson, his life, and his legacy proves that. Either way, someone’s lying. Which means that some people lie, and nothing is as simple as we wish it were.

Wherever you stand, I urge you to question spoon-fed simplicity. Things are rarely as simple as they’re made out to be, especially in the times we live in. Ask questions. Delver deeper. Draw your own conclusions from the facts you can find.

Pablo Picasso painting "The Tragedy"
“The Tragedy,” a painting by Pablo Picasso.

Dig into the facts.

Read “American Justice for Michael Jackson,” my objective look at the sexual abuse allegations surrounding Michael Jackson and his legacy.

It contains links to several documentaries I watched, as well as other sources on Michael Jackson and the allegations. You can use these documentaries and sources to jump-start your own investigation, if you so choose.

If you enjoyed “The Tragic Life of Michael Jackson,” read more on Voyage of the Mind.

I write opinions on current events, writing and publishing news, and other questions in a weekly Q&A column. You can check out some of its installments:

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