Seeing as we have become judge. jury and executioner as to whether or not Michael Jackson molested children, perhaps we need to consider what happened outside the documentary to be that judge, jury and executioner…
When Michael Jackson died in 2009, Wade Robson—the former choreographer whose allegations of abuse are at the center of a controversial new documentary, Leaving Neverland—wrote in tribute to his friend:
Michael Jackson changed the world and, more personally, my life forever. He is the reason I dance, the reason I make music, and one of the main reasons I believe in the pure goodness of humankind. He has been a close friend of mine for 20 years. His music, his movement, his personal words of inspiration and encouragement and his unconditional love will live inside of me forever. I will miss him immeasurably, but I know that he is now at peace and enchanting the heavens with a melody and a moonwalk.
Robson was twenty-seven years old at the time. Four years earlier, he testified at Jackson’s 2005 trial (as an adult) that nothing sexual ever happened between them. Prior to the trial Robson hadn’t seen Jackson for years and was under no obligation to be a witness for the defense. He faced a withering cross-examination, understanding the penalty of perjury for lying under oath. But Robson adamantly, confidently, and credibly asserted that nothing sexual ever happened.
What changed between then and now? A few things:
- In 2011, Robson approached John Branca, co-executor of the Michael Jackson Estate, about directing the new Michael Jackson/Cirque du Soleil production, ONE. Robson admitted he wanted the job “badly,” but the Estate ultimately chose someone else for the position.
- In 2012, Robson had a nervous breakdown, triggered, he said, by an obsessive quest for success. His career, in his own words, began to “crumble.”
- That same year, with Robson’s career, finances, and marriage in peril, he began shopping a book that claimed he was sexually abused by Michael Jackson. No publisher picked it up.
- In 2013, Robson filed a $1.5 billion dollar civil lawsuit/creditor’s claim, along with James Safechuck, who also spent time with Jackson in the late ‘80s. Safechuck claimed he only realized he may have been abused when Robson filed his lawsuit. That lawsuit was dismissed by a probate court in 2017.
- In 2019, the Sundance Film Festival premiered a documentary based entirely on Robson and Safechuck’s allegations. While the documentary is obviously emotionally disturbing given the content, it presents no new evidence or witnesses. The film’s director, Dan Reed, acknowledged not wanting to interview other key figures because it might complicate or compromise the story he wanted to tell.
…these seem to be be pertinent points to raise about credibility and motive…
The media’s largely uncritical, de-contextualized takes out of Sundance seem to have forgotten: no allegations have been more publicly scrutinized than those against Michael Jackson. They elicited a two-year feeding frenzy in the mid-90s and then again in the mid-2000s, when Jackson faced an exhaustive criminal trial. His homes were ransacked in two unannounced raids by law enforcement. Nothing incriminating was found. Jackson was acquitted of all charges in 2005 by a conservative Santa Maria jury. The FBI, likewise, conducted a thorough investigation. Its 300-page file on the pop star, released under the Freedom of Information Act, found no evidence of wrongdoing.
…other than deeply personal testimony, what new evidence is honestly being raised here?
Meanwhile, dozens of individuals who spent time with Jackson as kids continue to assert nothing sexual ever happened. This includes hundreds of sick and terminally ill children such as Bela Farkas (for whom Jackson paid for a life-saving liver transplant) and Ryan White (whom Jackson befriended and supported in his final years battling AIDS); it includes lesser-known figures like Brett Barnes and Frank Cascio; it includes celebrities like Macaulay Culkin, Sean Lennon, Emmanuel Lewis, Alfonso Ribeiro, and Corey Feldman; it includes Jackson’s nieces and nephews; and it includes his own three children.
In the post #MeToo cultural landscape where allegation is the new evidential threshold, due process merely heteronormative patriarchal white cis male privilege and any challenge towards an accusation is victim shaming, victim blaming and supporting rape culture.
I don’t know if Michael Jackson molested children, I do know that there is much more to justice than a multi hour documentary that is popularised on social media networks that are algorithmically fuelled by subjective rage in a call out culture that thrives on public shaming.
In the puritan millennial cultural revolution, social media lynch mobs are the new morality police.