I said that two handwritten notes from Michael had made headlines this week. Now let’s have a look at the second one. Michael’s “manifesto,” written in 1979 when Michael was just 21, was revealed for the first time on CBS News’ “60 Minutes Overtime.”
By the way, you may be interested to know that the segment which aired during the regular 60 Minutes broadcast, focusing mainly on the earnings of Michael’s estate and the contents of a warehouse containing his personal belongings, topped last Sunday night’s ratings:
Personally, although I enjoyed most of the broadcast, I did have some issues with Lara Logan’s snarky commentary. The constant references, for example, to the allegations were totally unnecessary. (Though to be fair, it seemed that a lot of her commentray was heavily edited. For example, when she was commenting that some of the momentos seemed “awkward” or “creepy” to anyone who didn’t understand his relationships with children, it is clear that she was going to clarify that statement, but it was edited in such a way that it immediatly cut away and did not give her the opportunity to put it in context, so how much to blame her and how much to blame it on sloppy -or malicious-editing, I do not know). However, even before the show aired, I was cringing at the many erroneous statements being made to promote it. For example, there was never any “Billie Jean tour,” as one article had mentioned in promoting the artifacts that would be shown.
But putting all these gripes aside, the broadcast did have its moments. However, perhaps the single most important and revelatory “discovery” to come out of the warehouse, typically, was not even reported during the regular broadcast, but instead given “back seat status” on the Overtime segment. It is strange that so many profess to want to better understand Michael and to get to know who he was, yet this important document takes a backseat while, instead, most viewers who tuned in to last Sunday night’s broadcast only heard the usual pats on the back to John Branca and John McClain as the “saviors” of the estate; how much money the estate has made since his death, and how Michael Jackson as a brand is alive and thriving. And as usual, they were sure to mention Michael’s spending habits and “extravagant lifestyle” without any mention whatsoever of his humanitarian efforts or the millions he spent on charity.
He DID Love To Shop. But He Spent As Much On Others As He Did On Himself.
Don’t get me wrong, I would never deny that Michael certainly loved to spend and yes, he had an extravagant lifestyle, but no moreso than any pop star of his status. However, I also do not know of too many pop stars who have made the Guinness Book of World Records for their charitable contributions and philanthropic works.
Also, I do not dispute that the estate has done a great job. They do deserve some kudos. It’s just that we should never forget who made all of this possible in the first place. If people did not genuinely love the music that Michael created, then all of the managerial and marketing skills in the world wouldn’t have been enough to save the brand.
Well, I knew I couldn’t talk about the 60 Minutes show without getting that off my chest. But let’s get back to the manifesto.
Although this particular note was new to me, as it was to all fans who learned of it for the first time on this broadcast, it was not surprising to learn of its existence. Michael had a long history of penning such inspirational notes to himself. A favorite was to scribble notes in the corners of his bathroom mirrors with a permanent marker. Jermaine describes one such note Michael wrote in his book You Are Not Alone:
“THRILLER! 100s MILLION SALES…SELL OUT STADIUMS.”
When it came time for “Bad” to be released, Michael wrote a note inspiring himself to make it better and bigger than Thriller. “100,ooo, ooo” was the number that greeted him every morning on his bathroom mirror.
From Michael’s Carolwood Home, His Last Residence: This Note Pertains To His Last Rehearsals. It Says, “Train, Perfection March/April, Full Out May.”
His Carolwood residence, the home where he spent the last months of his life, was filled with such inspirational notes. Mirrors seemed to be favorite locations, but really, most any convenient surface would do. These notes have been found on mirrors, post-it stickies, scraps of paper, napkins, and whatever else was handy when inspiration struck.
Clearly, Michael was practicing “The Secret” long before it was a best selling book. The law of attraction. If you think it will happen, it will. If you can envision yourself as already successful-and having accomplished your goals-you will accomplish them. It is based on a very simple principle. Positivity attracts positivity.
Neither Michael’s friends, fans, or family-in fact, anyone who knew him or has invested some time studying him- would be surprised to know that he wrote such a note. Michael was as driven when it came to the goals he set for himself as he was with the goals he set for his music.
But perhaps what makes this manifesto so interesting is the precisely detailed and calculated manner in which Michael, at 21, mapped out the entire trajectory of his career-and even seemed to predict/anticipate the twists it would ultimately take.
“MJ will be my new name. No more Michael Jackson. I want a whole new character, a whole new look. I should be a tottally [sic] different person. People should never think of me as the kid who sang “ABC,” [or] “I Want You Back.” I should be a new, incredible actor/singer/dancer that will shock the world. I will do no interviews. I will be magic. I will be a perfectionist, a researcher, a trainer, a masterer [sic]. I will be better than every great actor roped into one.”-Michael Jackson, (or, excuse me-MJ!).
It might not be half so astonishing for a 21-year-old to write those words-except when we realize that this21-year-old managed to fulfill every single prophecy he set forth for himself! And I think that few who read his words-even his most ardent detractors-would deny that this is one of the most amazing self-fulfilling prophecies ever committed to paper.
So just what does this document tell us about Michael Jackson, the artist and performer? What does it tell us about Michael Jackson the human being?
“MJ will be my new name. No more Michael Jackson…I should be a totally different person. People should never think of me as the kid who sang “ABC,” [or] “I Want You Back”…
An Interesting Phenomenon Is That Michael Is Almost Universally Known As “MJ” To His Black Male Fans.
Although Michael Jackson never essentially stopped being “Michael Jackson’ (he would remain solidly and proudly identified by his full name for the duration of his career), we can certainly see him by the early 80′s meticulously creating the “brand” and the powerhouse that would become “MJ.” Long before rap artists would make it cool to be known simply by one’s initials, Michael was laying down his identify as “MJ.” To this day, the title “MJ” is one spoken with great affection, admiration and respect by other artists and those who worked with him. It was a title that commanded both respect and yet a kind of intimate familiarity as well. One interesting trend I have noticed is that Michael is almost universally known as “MJ” to his black male fans. Last summer, on the way to Gary, Indiana, for the birthday celebrations, we happened upon a rap radio station that was playing a birthday tribute to “MJ.” “We got more hot MJ mixes coming up!” the dj promised, and the implication was clear-this was not a tribute to the Michael Jackson who belonged to the world, but to “our bro MJ”-and that was part of what made it so cool. Michael would have understood. There was a time to be “Michael Jackson” and a time to be “MJ”-and, in many ways, they were two entirely distinct personas.
But “MJ” is much more than just a cultural tag. To this day, if you say the initials “MJ” to anyone in entertainment, they automatically know exactly to whom you are referring. It is very few names that can become so huge that even their initials are unique, and instantly recognized by all. Just let the moniker “MJ” be said, and everyone bows down in its mighty presence! (Yes, even the cocky ones who put up a good front and pretend that they don’t! They do; trust me).
Michael recognized the value of creating “MJ” as his own, distinct persona and brand:
The combination of the letters “M” and “J” is a powerful moniker that instantly commands kingly respect, and more than a bit of mystique:
Using just initials has long been the domain of authors, politicians, sports figures, and other famous people who wished to maintain some sense of anonymity while creating intrigue and a sense of power. Sometimes being identified by initials is a kind of affectionate nickname that begins organically and grows over time (one person starts it, and next thing you know, everyone calls them that); other times the person may deliberately plan to make an initial moniker an integral part of their identity. In Michael’s case, it seemed to be a little of both. Michael had the unique ability to be able to calculate something, and still somehow give it every appearance of having been an organic process-something his manifesto proves. (This may also raise some interesting questions about his King of Pop title, but notice that nowhere in the manifesto does he ever say he will be “The King of Pop,” even if, in essence, he is certainly mapping out a plan to beking. However, I will address that issue a bit later in the post).
Here is a list of famous persons who have been publicly known by their initials. Note that there are two “MJ”‘s-Michael Jordan and Michael Jackson! However, there has always been a distinction between the two, since Jordan is a sports legend; Jackson a music legend.
In this song from Li’l Wayne, there is no need to explain who “MJ” refers to…everyone gets it!
Michael played up his “MJ” identity humorously in movies like Men In Black II and Miss Castaway, where he became “Agent MJ.”
But the manifesto also reveals something else-again, not a terribly shocking or surprising thing for those of us who know him well, but nevertheless, it is always interesting to see the irrefutable proof of our theories laid out. One of Michael’s most calculated goals as an adult performer was to break away from his Jackson 5/Jacksons identity, and to be a star in his own right. We have always known that (heck, it was part of the motivation and drive that made him such a successful adult star, in a field where child stars almost never get a second chance) but what is interesting here is that there is an almost palpable disdain for “that kid who sang ABC.” I don’t know how much to read into that, however, or if anything should be read into it at all. It is no different than looking at a hated school picture as an adult and saying, “I never want to be known as that kid again.” Clearly, this was coming at an important juncture in Michael’s life-a crossroads, if you will-in which he was making that all important transition from the child star he had been, to the adult, global superstar he would become. He knew he could not succeed in the very competitive adult pop world with that bubblegum image attached to his shoe.
I Believe This Was The “Whole New Look” Michael Was Envisioning In 1979. He Could Not Have Foreseen The Events That Would Lead To Even More Drastic Changes.
Quincy Jones and Rod Temperton have both said that Off The Wall was a deliberate attempt to take out the bubblegum, and to present to the world the adult Michael Jackson-lean, mean (well, just mean enough, lol!) and hungry to rock.
But it would get even better. Put yourself back in 1983. Remember where you were the first time you heard Billie Jean, or saw the Beat It video on MTV? Why do you think our jaws were collectively hitting the floor? Because we were all going, “Is this little Mikey that we grew up with? Hot damn!” C’mon, you know you did! We all did.
This was Michael’s plan, already in place. We were just following blindly right along, marveling at the wonder of it all. And it was only going to get better!
“I want a whole new character, and a whole new look…”
This is where any attempt to analyze Michael’s manifesto could really get deep, and interesting-depending, I suppose, on just how “deep” one wants to get. I am sure that the would-be psychoanalysts, who are never in short supply when it comes to Michael Jackson, are already hard at work picking apart this sentence, and what it may tell us about Michael’s changing appearance over the course of the 80′s. (Michael’s “ever changing appearance” is such a cliche’ now that I almost feel tired even going here, but since his appearance remains such a hotly debated part of his legacy, there is no avoiding it).
Clearly, what the manifesto tells us is that Michael did deliberately and calculatingly plan to change his appearance-which, in turn, would dramatically alter his public image as well as his self image. What it doesn’t tell us, of course, is to what extent he meant when he said “a whole new look.” It was obvious that he was seeking a complete image make-over that would put distance between himself and the public memory of that chubby-cheeked little kid with an Afro who sang “I Want You Back.” But what was wrong with that kid? We loved him! He was cute, bubbly; always smiling his way through every performance with a joy so contagious you couldn’t help but be swept into its vortex.
Well, it wasn’t that there was anything wrong that needed to be fixed. It was just that Michael wasn’t that kid anymore, and nothing about that kid represented where he was at, now, as a 21 year old man looking ahead in 1979. He couldn’t quite smile with the same innocent naivety or joy anymore; what’s more, he had no interest in keeping up the facade.
I don’t think anyone will debate that Michael’s appearance certainly changed-and drastically during the 80′s. What remains contested is just how many procedures he had done, and why. I have been firmly convinced for some time that the amount of his surgeries was never as extensive as the tabloids claimed (although, certainly, yes, he had far more than two).
If you are new to this blog, I suggest you check out some of these comparison photos I used in this post:
However, debating how many surgeries he had-where, when, and to what extent-is another subject for another time. But aside from debating how many, the next question in line is usually: Why? And, for the most part, the “why” boils down to two very distinct arguments. Body dysmorphic disorder is the most commonly held theory (that Michael was simply so insecure about the way he looked that it drove him on a never-ending quest for perfection). But another argument is that it was all part of a very calculated, artistic statement. Which is which? Or could it be possible that there is some truth in both?
The manifesto certainly seems to give more credence to this second theory.
Vitiligo Destroyed His Pigment. But It Also Created An Avenue For Him To Reinvent Himself Yet Again-As An Almost Ethereal Being.
I am torn on what I believe, personally. When I interviewed Michael’s friend David Nordahl in 2010, one of the things he told me in the course of our conversation was just how “ugly” Michael always considered himself to be. It didn’t seem to matter if the rest of the world thought he was gorgeous, handsome, sexy, hot;whatever accolades we have hung on him. Michael himself remained convinced he was just “so ugly.” And this apparent insecurity with his appearance has been confirmed by several others who knew him, as well. So I don’t think Tarraborelli (who has been largely responsible for making body dysmorphic disorder a part of the Michael Jackson cultural myth) was entirely off-base.
But that brings us to the second theory. Was Michael simply using his face and body as a canvas, carefully and methodically sculpting from without what he was transforming himself to be within? Morphing would become a common motif’ throughout many of his short films, as I have written on quite extensively in other posts. He seemed fascinated with the idea of transformation. He was also keenly aware of the role that image and appearance play in a performer’s overall success.
I have no problem buying the idea of Michael using his face and body as a canvas-to a point. As I said, image was crucially important to Michael and, for him, his appearance was both his canvas and his calling card to the world. No doubt, there are some who will carry this theory to ridiculous extremes, and will use this manifesto now as unequivocal “evidence” that Michael calculated his entire transformation. You know where I’m going with this, right?
So the next logical question is: How far did Michael intend to take this “new look” and how much was he willing to sacrifice to be this “new character?” Michael’s first rhinoplasty was done in 1979, but I do not know if it was before or after this note was written. We have to keep in mind that even in the years between 1979 and 1982/’83, we saw a very dramatic change in Michael’s appearance and overall image (it just doesn’t seem asdrastic to us now, in hindsight of what came later). His nose became noticeably thinner; his body began to take on the lean, dancer’s physique that would become his adult trademark; the Afro was replaced with a sleek jheri curl. The bubbly persona and ever present, dazzling smile was seen less, and replaced by the soon-to-be near permanent scowl as his persona took on a darker edge. All of it seemed to pave the way for a new, grown-up Michael who was now ready to take his place as a serious (and sexy!) adult r&b artist.
The “New” And All Grown Up Michael Of The Early 80′s-Suave, Polished, And Ready For Adult Stardom
But wait…was “MJ” going to be content to be just another r&b artist, forever pigeonholed by the limitations (and stigma) of the genre? Not on your life! Why be content with being “Best Black Male Performer” when one knows they are good enough-and deserve to be-”Best Male Performer,” period.
I believe that Michael certainly envisioned a purposeful change in his look, but just how far ahead did he plan? He certainly didn’t figure on having vitiligo, the disease that would rob him of his pigmentation! Nor could he have envisioned the near fatal Pepsi set accident that would also precipitate many changes-both subtle and not-to his appearance, and would necessitate many painful surgical procedures, both medical and cosmetic. The “new look” and “new character” he was envisioning in 1979 most likely culminated with the Michael we came to know during the Thriller era. Thus, I don’t think he was calculating any long range plans for the kind of complete transformation we ultimately saw, since many factors which he could not have foreseen in 1979 contributed to that transformation. But what the manifesto does tell us is that Michael was setting forth a plan to present a new face and a new persona to the world. If my theory is correct, it was a plan that took roughly about three years to fully execute, and may have still been a work in progress when vitiligo and the accident threw two major curves he could not have anticipated. In fact, I will go one better and say it never stopped being a work in progress. Rather, it became after that more a matter of learning how to deal-artistically and creatively-with the hand he had been dealt. One of the other things David Nordahl mentioned that has continued to impress me is that Michael never indulged in self pity over his condition. He could have just said “poor me” and threw in the towel. Instead, he reinvented himself-again!-by finding new ways to make his ever lightening complexion work for him. Basically, he shifted into “Phase 2″ of his modus operandi (and it wouldn’t shock me if this “Phase 2″ exists as yet another manifesto, hidden securely away somewhere to be unearthed at another time!).
“I should be a new, incredible actor/singer/dancer that will shock the world…”
He Said He Would “Shock The World”-He Wasn’t Kidding!
It’s interesting that Michael chose to label “actor” first, and “dancer” last, though I don’t know if we should read too much into it. However, it did seem at times that his entire modus operandi was geared towards establishing himself as an actor first, and a singer/dancer second. Michael had dreams of being a huge movie star. It was a dream that was ever present, right up to the last. Almost every major contract he ever signed, and every major deal he ever made, contained some clause about movies to be made. Many do not know that he was actually Tim Burton’s first choice for Edward Scissorhands, the role that eventually went to Johnny Depp. Films were even a part of his planned This Is It comeback. It is sad that this was one part of his plan that never quite panned out, and I think it is our loss.
However, on another scale, Michael’s cinematic ambitions did pan out-in short films, that is. No one will argue that his videos (or short films, as he preferred to call them) would revolutionize the music industry. He would also get some very good opportunities to flex his acting chops, since the short films almost always contained extended sequences with dialog and storylines. In 1979, Michael’s career as a music video innovator was still in the wings, but what we can see here is that he is already laying the seeds; planning the strategies that will lead in a few years hence to Billie Jean, Beat It, Thriller…and on and on.
What was this “new, incredible actor/singer/dancer” creature, anyway? Clearly, Michael was already foreseeing the type of multi-dimensional entertainer that has since become so common in the industry. In one fell swoop, he was envisioning the creation of “the video star” (you know, the one that killed the radio star!) and the magnetic cross-over artist who could comfortably dominate all genres. Soon, many others-from Madonna and Prince, to Whitney Houston and Justin Timberlake, all the way up to today’s Justin Bieber-would follow down that path.
But Michael Jackson blazed it first, because he had the vision to make it happen.
“…that will shock the world.”
No one can argue with this! Michael Jackson would go on to do just that. Not only would he shock the world, but he would dazzle us! For those too young to remember, let me put this in context for you. A huge part of Michael Jackson’s appeal in the early 80′s was that he seemed so magicalit didn’t seem he could possibly be of this planet. Michael took “shock and awe” to a whole new level. Later, those words would become sadly prophetic in another way as well. Michael “shocked” the world in ways both good and bad-in later years, it became as much about the controversy as about the art. But either way, he continued to shock, delight, amaze, and keep us talking-in one form or another-right up until his dying day.
Oh yeah, and it didn’t stop there, either. We’re here and you are reading this, right?
“I will do no interviews…”
This is interesting. We know that it would be in the 1980′s that Michael would start to acquire his reputation as a “recluse” and as someone who did very little press. But most have attributed it to his onrush of mass, global fame after Thriller. The logic seemed reasonable enough. He didn’t need to do interviews anymore; he was the biggest star in the world. In fact, many would have said that by then, he didn’t need the press at all-they needed him! And, eventually, his disgust with being constantly misquoted and misunderstood would also be used, invariably, as an excuse for not granting interviews.
But Michael’s manifesto is evidence that this was actually part of a carefully laid strategy that he was already putting into place long before the mega stardom and long before there was any real need to have such a jaded, cynical attitude toward the press (though I will warrant, not without some justification, for he had learned since childhood of the ways of the press and how the media operates). However, what Michael was doing here was sketching out the persona he wanted, and putting a very concrete plan in place for the type of megastar he would be. And a huge part of his plan was to court mystique; the kind of mystique that can only come from keeping a distance, by keeping the public guessing his next move, and holding back just enough to make them want more.
This is why I have always wondered how Michael would have fared in this modern social media age. Facebook and Twitter have completely changed the artist/fan dynamic; it has become an era in which celebrities are even expected to be instantly accessible to their fans. It is certainly a far cry from the old school world that Michael was so much a part of; even defined. That world in which a celebrity was cloaked with mystique and where the barriers between fantasy and reality were very much in place. It’s hard to say, because on the other hand, Michael did enjoy contact with his fans, and there is ample evidence that, before his death, he was coming into the social media age. (He enjoyed texting, I have gathered). I think Michael would have liked the idea that social media can allow the “middle man”-i.e., the journalists-to be cut out of the equation altogether.
This video shows Michael coming into the social media age. But even this was a very carefully staged event. Would he have ever been comfortable just tweeting to the fans? Guess we’ll never know, but it sure would have been fun!
But part of him was still coming into this new age of instantaneous accessibility with a bit of resistance. One of the interesting tidbits in Frank Cascio’s book involved a proposed plan for a TV talent show, similar to American Idol or The X Factor, in which Michael would have been a weekly judge. Supposedly, he entertained the idea briefly, but then ultimately got cold feet and lost interest. And perhaps it is fitting that he did. By then, Michael had spent almost a quarter of a century developing his special brand of mystique-and God knows, we have little enough magic left in our lives. He had allowed us a few peeks and glimpses through the years, sometimes with astounding success (his Oprah interview; his Private Home Movies special); sometimes with disastrous results (Martin Bashir), but mostly he stuck to the plan he laid out in 1979-to let his music do the talking, and to always leave us wanting more.
I am still so very thankful, to this day, that he never cheapened his image with a weekly TV show!
“…I will be magic. I will be a perfectionist, a researcher, a trainer, a masterer [sic]. I will be better than every great actor roped into one…”
This is an interesting phrase: “I will be magic.” Exactly how does one plan to be magic? We think of magic as some indefinable, intangible quality, certainly not as something that can be obtained through wishful thinking, or even via The Law of Attraction. One either is magic or they are not, right? One can either create magic, or they cannot.
“I Will Be Magic!”
Well, right and wrong. Michael’s manifesto teaches us that being magical-that is, inspiring awe and wonder-isn’t just some inherent quality that one is born with. Like everything else, it has to be worked at, and perfected. At 21, Michael was laying down his plan for how to create the illusion of magic. Any magician can tell you, you can’t just pull a rabbit out of a hat. It takes years of hard work and dedication to the craft to make an illusion appear so effortless, so…magical. Michael’s life would become a never-ceasing experiment in the creation of magic, learning and observing what tricks worked, and how to make them work.
Over the years, many critics would start to dismiss Michael as a megalomaniac. I suppose, for them, there is probably little here to dissuade that opinion. Michael thought in huge, broad strokes, and yes, his canvas was a large one. He used words like “biggest” and “best” because he had been taught, from a young age, that second best was never good enough. Here, in Michael’s manifesto, we see him laying a prescribed plan for how to achieve perfection. How to be the best.
However, as I had pointed out earlier, it is somewhat interesting that, while we see Michael laying down a very deliberate plan to be The King of Pop (in essence, at least) he never once uses that term. He says he will be “MJ,” but not The King of Pop. In fact, long before Elizabeth Taylor (often credited with coining the phrase) called him “The King of Pop, Rock, and Soul” at a 1989 awards show, it seemed the press had already crowned him The King of Pop-as early as 1984!
New York Post, Feb 1984
He is also referred to as “The Reigning King of Pop” in this Decemeber 7, 1984 “Chicago Sun-Times” Article:
Of course, just because Michael didn’t “self proclaim” himself The King of Pop doesn’t mean he didn’t love the title! His public embarrassment over it to the contrary, I think he loved it! You know he did.
That Little Shy, Embarrassed Act Don’t Fool Me None! Michael LOVED Being The King of Pop!
I have never apologized for Michael’s ego. Ego is what defines genius, and is the quality that separates genius from the ordinary. What sense does it make to strive to be the best, if you don’t feel you have what it takes to be the best, or the greatest? Michael knew, innately, that he possessed greatness. But without a plan to execute it, he might have been doomed for mediocrity.
Part of the paradoxical quality of Michael’s very complex make-up is that he did possess this very unconquerable ego-on the one extreme-and yet an equally sincere humbleness that always thanked God for his gifts; who understood innately that he was not completely responsible for his own greatness, and was always considerate and thankful with those who helped bring his vision to fruition.
But keeping it real, he always had astounding faith in his own ability.
What can we learn about Michael from this manifesto? Much of it does not surprise, but only confirms what we have known all along. What it shows is a very driven young man with a vision, and a set sense of purpose; a man whose work ethic and perfectionism would soon enough become synonymous with his very name. And it should prove, to anyone who doubts, that Michael Jackson was always a man very much at the helm of his own ship. He may have had a lot of co-captains along the way, but ultimately, he was always the captain.
As far as what else this manifesto teaches us, one of its biggest lessons is that nothing happens by accident or chance. We do have the ability to make our own destiny. And we can also take from it that nothing is ever as easy, or as effortless, as it looks. Magic doesn’t “just happen”-nor does being the best. Everything takes hard work-and a master plan. Michael Jackson’s manifesto is proof that “The Secret” may not be New Age mumbo-jumbo, after all. There really is something to this Law of Attraction.
I don’t know of too many 21-year-olds who can map out a master plan for their life. Perhaps there are a few; after all, it doesn’t take much commitment to jot down a few dreams and glowing ideas for the future on piece of paper.
But how many could go back to that piece of paper, twenty or thirty years later, and say they achieved every single goal? Not many, I will wager.
But that is precisely why Michael Jackson still represents magic to us. His example taught us that anything is possible-if you dare to dream big enough, and are willing to work hard enough for it.
“You Think This is Easy? Let’s See YOU Try It!”
That is, at least three times as hard as anybody else.
Two handwritten notes from Michael have gotten a lot of publicity this week. I will address each in their own, separate posts.
This Letter, Written By Michael And Addressed To His Sister-In-Law DeeDee, Has Long Been A Source of Mystery To Fans And Detractors Alike
While the Wade Robson revelations shook the fan community, they also inspired Michael’s nephew Taj Jackson to bravely step forward with his ownrevelation. Taj revealed on Twitter that he had been a victim of child sexual abuse-molested by his own mother’s brother! The revelation came via Twitter, within only hours of Wade Robson’s Today Show interview.
I applaud Taj for coming forth, and speaking his truth. (Hmm. Wonder if this was quite what Wade was bargaining for when he said he hoped to inspire “other victims” to come forward. Somehow, I don’t think so!).
Taj Jackson-Child Sexual Abuse Survivor
But I am also glad on another level, because this finally clears up a decades-old mystery that has puzzled both fans and detractors alike. What exactly could have compelled Michael to write such a seemingly bizarre letter to his late sister-in-law DeeDee, advising her to protect her sons since child sexual predators can even exist within one’s own family?
The letter reads:
DeeDee, please read this article about child molestation, and please read it to Taj, TJ, and Taryll, it brings out how even your own relatives can be molesters of children, or even uncles or aunts molesting nephews or nieces, please read. Love, MJ.
For years, MJ haters and detractors-as well as those who are simply skeptics-have asked the question: Why would Michael write such a thing? Of course, we all know where they have tried to go with this for years, and it’s a very sick place indeed. I recall, in fact, having a very drawn out debate with one detractor that went on through many PM exchanges, all over this very letter.
Tito and Delores (DeeDee) With Baby Taryll.
Her line of reasoning was that Michael-in the best Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde fashion-was aware of his “darker nature” and sought to warn his sister-in-law, in the way that some serial killers, I suppose, might warn their potential victims in a moment of clarity.
While I never bought that sinister explanation, I had to confess that it still left a puzzling, nagging question. Why did he write it? I felt all along that this probably pertained to a private family matter, but with no smoking gun and no apparent motivation, it remained an intriguing and troubling mystery-until now.
I am so proud of Taj for coming forward, even though it must have been very humiliating to “out” his own uncle this way (Taj, Taryll, and TJ have always been very protective of their late mother’s memory, and anything that might potentially tarnish it. While Jackson proponents have been quick to point out, “His abuser WASN’T a Jackson!” we have to keep in mind that, for Taj, this is still family-and still just as painful, regardless of which “side”).
But I am also thankful that he has finally cleared up this mystery, hopefully for once and all. His words confirm for us the Michael Jackson that we, his fans, truly believe he was-a compassionate and caring soul who was always looking out for the welfare of others.
There is also an important parallel here. It shows that Taj, at some point, must have confided the abuse to Michael. This is not dissimilar to other stories I have heard, such as Jordan Chandler confiding in Michael regarding Evan’s physical and psychological abuse of him (and while there is no evidence that Evan sexually abused his son, there is certainly plenty of evidence that Evan was abusive to his son in other, just as fundamentally damaging ways). Michael, it seems, often found himself in the “Big Brother” role; occasionally, even, the substitute father role. He was evidently someone that youngsters felt comfortable confiding their troubles to. (I think, more often than not, this probably caused troubles for him!).
In addition to being a willing ear and shoulder to cry on, it seems he was willing to take an active stance when necessary. This letter seemed to be his way of telling his sister-in-law to open her eyes. How must DeeDee have felt to know her own brother was molesting her son? Or did she ever know? It seemed Michael may have been using this letter as a way of breaking it to her gently. Maybe he hoped that reading it would trigger enough red flags for her to take the necessary precautions. Or perhaps she did know, and was just having trouble getting her hands around it.
This isn’t something to brush off lightly. Families have been ripped apart, at the seams, over just such issues. Trust me. I know.
Taj Lost His Mother In What Was At First Believed To Be A Tragic Drowning Accident. Years Later, Her Boyfriend Don Brohana Was Convicted Of Second Degree Murder
As I am sure most of my readers are aware, DeeDee (Delores) Jackson, Tito’s ex-wife, died in August of 1994 in what was originally ruled a swimming pool accident. But four years later, in 1998, Donald Bohana-a man she had dated for three months- was convicted of her murder.
Taj Jackson is proof that being born into fame and money does not guarantee happiness. By the time he was a young adult, he had been both a victim of incest and, along with his two brothers, had tragically lost his mother.
Michael Always Had A Soft Spot For His Brother Tito’s Sons
I’m sure Michael loved all his nieces and nephews, but I think the loss of their mother may have been one reason why Michael always had an especial soft spot for Tito’s sons.
Now we may have an even better understanding of why he was so protective of these boys, and went to such lengths to take them under his wing.
This Screencap Says It All! Michael Jackson Is The Ghost Over Wade Robson’s Right Shoulder. But Is It A Ghost Of Pain…Or Of Guilt?
Somebody’s out Somebody’s out to get me They really wanna fix me, hit me But this time around I’m taking no s… Though you really wanna get me You really wanna get me-Michael Jackson, “This Time Around”
I’m starting to become convinced that too much public speculating on Wade Robson’s next moves may be a dangerous practice. I am sure that Robson and his attorneys are keeping a close eye on what the media is saying. I also believe they may very well be lurking on MJ blogs, forums, and social media sites in order to tailor their story and course of action. Case in point: When the repressed memory angle was so thoroughly debunked and ridiculed, the story changed. When many scoffed at the idea of filing only a creditor’s claim for sexual abuse, boom! It suddenly became a civil suit as well. When I started drafting Part One of “Wade Robson: What the Heck Is Really Going On?” I correctly guessed that his next move would be to to go to the media…but I had no idea that the announcement of his Today Show interview would break the very day I posted it!
But nevertheless, the gambler in me can’t resist the urge to make one more speculative bet. And I’ll be willing to wager I’m not too far off. Perhaps being able to second guess Wade’s next moves might not be such a bad idea, though, as doing so can effectively arm us for the counter punch.
Shortly after his Today Show interview, Robson released this statement:
“I hope to inspire other molestation victims to come forward.”-Wade Robson
That certainly seems like a very noble sentiment. Oh, but wait…
Remember this tantalizing story from a few days ago, courtesy of The Daily Star?
TWO more alleged child abuse victims of Michael Jackson are preparing to file lawsuits against the late King of Pop’s estate, it was revealed yesterday.
A legal source close to the singer’s family confirmed: “One is in the public eye, the other is not.
“They are both telling the same story of regular and repeated molestations.”
The bombshell claims come ten days after top Hollywood choreographer Wade Robson launched his claim for compensation from Jackson’s estate.
Australian Robson, 30, alleges he was “systematically” molested for seven years during his childhood at Neverland Ranch, where he was a regular guest of the Thriller singer.
Both the other victims waiting in the wings claim they too were subjected to “years of abuse,” according to the legal source, who added: “They are waiting to see what happens in the first action.”
Robson was a key defence witness in Jackson’s 2005 trial, at which the star was acquitted by a jury of seven counts of child molestation and two of administering “intoxicating agents” to a 13-year-old boy.
His U-turn was slammed by Howard Weitzman, a lawyer for the Jackson estate who described his lawsuit as “outrageous and pathetic”.
But Robson’s lawyer Henry Gradstein hit back: “Jackson was a monster and in their hearts every normal person knows it.
“My client has lived with the brainwashing of a sexual predator until the stress and burden of it crushed him.”
Let’s keep in mind that this is still only an unconfirmed tabloid story, and so far The Daily Star is the only source that has reported it. But it’s odd that long-time Michael Jackson detractor and backstabber Stacy Brown had wind of it even before the story broke:
NOW it’s all starting to come together, and it doesn’t take rocket science brain power to figure it out. I believe sincerely now that Robson is setting the stage with that statement-not so that other child abuse victims in general will come forth-but so that other Michael Jackson “victims” in particular may come forth, to help corroborate his own story (got to hand it to him, it’s a smart move to sidestep the credibility issue of his story). At first I brushed these alleged “cases in the wings” off as being solely about money, based on the comment that they were waiting “to see what happens in the first action.” Now I have a different assessment. I don’t believe they are waiting to see how the payout goes. I believe they are waiting on the cue from Robson and/or his attorneys, so that this can be set up and staged to look like those other victims now having the courage to “come forward.” Except that I’m willing to wager these “victims” were personally cherry picked by Robson or his attorneys months ago.
Who might these potential backups for Wade be? Well, none of us know for sure, but here is an excellent breakdown of the possibilities:
And if that proves to be the case, then that means this thing is a whole lot bigger than even what we’ve been led to believe so far. It will prove this to have been a very deliberate, very orchestrated, and coldly calculated plan that has been in the making for MONTHS (if not longer).
Good Thing I’m No Illuminati Conspiracy Theorist, LOL! Cause This Would Look Kinda Scary Otherwise!
The big question that remains…who is really the evil mastermind behind it? Is Robson acting alone, out of his own greed and ulterior motives, or does he have a sponsor?
At this point, I don’t have those answers. But clearly, Michael’s lyrics to This Time Around continue to have relevance even in death.
Michael Once Said He Could Count His True Friends On One Hand. That Number Continues To Shrink.
How the heck did we go from this:
I used to talk to Michael for three hours a day. I never really worked out how he came to find so much time because he seemed so busy, but he would ring me and we would talk and talk and talk. When he got a cell phone he would call and text all the time.It was part of an amazing friendship that lasted for 20 years. I had firdt met Michael when he was kicking off his bad tour in 1987. I was five, but Michaels company were holding a dance competition in every country and i entered the one in brisbane. I remember being a kid and dancing to his video- the first iever say was “Thriller” when i was two. It was my mum’s tape and i just went nuts over it. I used to run into the kitchen scared everytime the wereworlf came on. By the time i was three i had pretty much learned its entire choreoghraphy. I ended up winning the dance competition. We went to see Michael in brisbane and at a meet and greet i was introduced to him. I remember wearing a custome made outfit from “Bad”- my mum’s belt was wrapped around me, like five times. Michael was impresssed and asked me if I had danced. I told him that I did and he said ” Do you want to perform with me in the show tomorrow night?” I couldn’t believe it. He was due to play brisbane the next night. His idea was for me to come out for the last song of the show which was “Bad”. He was bringing on some orphaned children so he figured it would be cool to bring me out in the full “Bad” outfit. At the end of the song we were all onstage- Stevie Wonder was there too and Michael came on and said “Come on”. | took it as him meaning “Get into it!”.I moved downstage and threw my hat into the crowd and started going crazy. When i turned around Michael was saying goodbye to the crowd, the other kids were gone and Stevie Wonder was being escorted off. What he meant was “Come on lets go, It’s over”. When I realised, I ran off. After my mum and I spent two hours with Michael into his hotel and we became friends. He showed us clips from the new Moonwalker he was working on and we talked and talked. We didn’t really stay in contact but i joined a dance company- literally the next day and two years later i was in America to play at Disneyland. I got in touch with Michael through his people, he remembered me. Me and my family went to Record one studio where he was mixing the dangerous album.I showed him some of my dance videos and he said to me. “Do you and your family want to come to Neverland tonight”? We all agreed and ended up staying for two weeks. Our friendship blossomed. For two weeks he’d take me into his dance studio, put some music on and we’d dance and jam for hours.We’d sit there and watch films like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.Other time we’d just leave Neverland and drive out in a car, blasting music really loud. He even taught me how to do the moonwalk.We were in his dance studip. He taught me foot by foot. I couldn’t sleep that whole night. The thrill of pushing off the bar and sliding backwards in a moonwalk with the guy that made it famous was so exciting. Later, me and my mym wanted to move to America to pursue my dreams of becoming a dancer and he helped us out. He gave me a big start by putting me in some of his videos like “Black or White”. The role he took on was one of a mentor. He told when I was seven that I’d be a film director and thats what I became, he created a thirst for knowledge in me.Once, a mini recording studio turned up on my doorstep, but what was cool was that he stopped me from becoming a spoiled brat. He would say “This is for you, but I want to see you do something with it. Dont take it for granted or I”ll take it back”. The last time I saw him was in July 2008. I was in Vegas working on a show and he was living there.Me, my wife and him and his three kids had a barbecue. It was the most normal thing in the world. Me and my wife had been to Whole foods and bought stuff to cook. But when we got there he’d provided loads of catering. I said “Dude, Why did you bring loads of catering? We’ve got regular food here”.I remember cooking outside while Michael sat there under an umbrella. We had great times because he was such a caring person. Most of all I’ll miss those phone conversations. I still have my mobile phone with his number on it. I just cant bear the thoughts of deleting his messages.
Hope you all enjoy reading as much as I did.-Wade Robson, Introduction to Michael Jackson Opus
Even with all of the AEG trial news going on last week, this was the story that rocked the fan community. It has been almost a week ago as I am typing the finishing touches on this post, and “some” of the dust has started to settle a bit. But as the initial shock has begun to wear off, the deeper and more puzzling questions remain. Why the heck is Wade Robson doing this-and the bigger question so many are asking, Why now?
While I am sure that most of my diehard readers know the full details of this story by now, I will just reiterate briefly for the sake of those casual readers who may be stumbling across this for the first time. On May 1st, 2013, an attorney representing choreographer Wade Robson-a longtime friend and supporter of Michael Jackson and one of the young men who defended him most adamantly in his 2005 molestation trial-filed a debtor’s claim against the Michael Jackson estate. While the details of the claim are sealed, Robson, via his attorney, is apparently seeking monetary compensation for childhood sexual abuse he claims to have suffered for seven years, from 1989-1996. Ordinarily, the statute of limitations for such a claim would have long expired, but Robson is relying on the still relatively new and unproven science of “repressed memory” to make a case. You see, according to his claim (if you find this believable) the whole reason he so adamantly defended MJ all those years, and paid such glowing tributes to him as his mentor and friend, was because…well, simply that he didn’t remember any such abuse happening. Until he had a breakdown and went for some therapy. Now, voila…he has a memory, and needs some cash. Get it? Good. Because that’s the story, in a nutshell.
The problem is that many might have been inclined to take his claims a lot more seriously if :1:He had come forward years ago, and sought a criminal or even civil charge when Michael was alive to defend himself, rather than waiting four years after his death to file a debtor’s claim, and 2: If he hadn’t testified under oath-not once, but twice-that nothing ever happened. The thing about Robson, in fact, is that he not only swore under oath, but actively and aggressively defended his friend.
Mr. Robson’s claim is outrageous and pathetic. This is a young man who has testified at least twice under oath over the past 20 years and said in numerous interviews that Michael Jackson never did anything inappropriate to him or with him…Now, nearly 4 years after Michael has passed, this sad and less than credible claim has been made.”-Howard Weitzman, Michael Jackson Estate Attorney, In A Statement To TMZ.
All I can say is that I’m glad my schedule prevented me from firing off any knee jerk responses to this story. Instead, I was able to take a few days to cool my heels, gather some facts, and really take a good, long, hard look at what the heck is going on with Wade Robson.
First of all, this news isn’t separate from the AEG trial at all. I think most reasonable people-including even the media-have recognized the suspicious timing of Robson’s accusations. Here is what Michael’s attorney Thomas Mesereau had to say:
And from the looks of things, Robson isn’t exactly getting a lot of sympathy. After all, it’s one thing for a child victim to accuse someone. It’s quite another when said “victim” is a thirty-year old-man who has sung the praises of his “abuser” for years, was a star witness for him in court, and now waits-hold on-not one, not two, but four years after said “abuser” is dead and cannot defend himself-to suddenly have “repressed memories” that entitle him-again, not to file a criminal complaint, or even a civil complaint, but a debtor’s claim-in hopes that he can somehow convince the Michael Jackson estate to pay him enough “yum yum” money dollars” to make him go away.
Sharon Osbourne rips Wade Robson a good one on The Talk!
Omarion rips him another one!
TMZ Poll: Readers Speak!
Do You Believe Robson?
Total Votes: 59,119
Now add to this mix the fact that all of this just “happens” to break with the start of the AEG trial, and you have The Perfect Storm…and the perfect recipe for so few are taking this story seriously. For sure, it certainly looks like a crass money grab at the very least (if one believes Robson is acting alone) or perhaps part of a much larger, and deeper conspiracy (if one believes that AEG is behind it).
I have been asking myself a lot of hard questions the last few days. Just how plausible might Wade’s story be? How reliable is the science of repressed memory? Is it just possible that he was lying in 2005, and is telling the truth now? I know there are some fans who are so adamant in their unwavering belief in Michael’s innocence that they will never entertain, for a moment, the need to question a story like Robson’s. But I think that is the wrong approach to take. In order to get to the truth, we have to ask the tough questions-and not be afraid to do so. The possibilities have to be at least examined before they can be debunked. So hear me out and follow where I am going with this.
There is very good reason why this story is so upsetting to the fan community. Wade Robson was, as stated, a key witness in Michael’s 2005 molestation trial-one who was not only adamant, but unwavering in his testimony that no abuse or inappropriate behavior had ever occurred. For years, Robson’s testimony-in addition to that of Macaulay Culkin and Brett Barnes-has been the cornerstone of fans who take comfort in being able to point out, “Look, of all these kids that Michael supposedly hung out with, only two have ever accused him of anything. All of the others have sworn up and down that nothing ever happened, and have been more than reliable witnesses.”
Wade Robson Arriving To Testify In Michael’s 2005 Trial
Robson, in fact, was more than just a reliable witness. He was, in the words of Thomas Mesereau, a “star witness” for the defense.
As has been pointed out time and again, Robson certainly has a “lot of explaining to do,” to quote Roger Friedman. If he purjured himself in 2005, he’s got to explain that. If he’s been lying all these years that he’s been singing Michael Jackson’s praises to the skies, he’s got a lot of explaining to do.
And if he’s been telling the truth all these years, he has even more explaining to do.
I can’t claim to know what is true or not. Even though I know fans take issue with those who say things like, “Only Michael and Wade know for sure” it is, nevertheless, true. I did not, for example, take offense when Lisa Marie said in her Oprah interview that she could only vouch for what she had seen, and that she had never seen any inappropriate behavior between Michael and children. Her comment that she wasn’t “in the room” with Michael and his alleged victims drew some ire from those who felt she was leaving a chink open for the doubters. (Ironically enough, according to the timeline Robson has given, at least some of the alleged abuse would have been during the time of Michael’s marriage to LMP). But really, what else could she say with good conscience? I know people wanted her to say adamantly, “Absolutely not, Michael would never have done such a thing!” But here is the truth. No matter how much we might think we know someone (even our own spouses!); no matter how much we might want to believe, “Michael wasn’t that kind of person” the unfortunate reality of child sexual abusers is that we can’t base anything on the person’s character or what kind of person we “think” they are. This is fact, and I’m not going to entertain any comments to the contrary. There is simply no way to judge whether someone is or is not a pedophile or a child molestor based on their good works, their good name, or their good character. I have mentioned here several times that I, myself, am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I won’t reveal the identity of my abuser, except to say he was a family member and a most upstanding citizen-to the outside world. Someone no one would have ever suspected of such things. But as a child sexual abuse survivor, it also gives me some clearer insight into Michael’s “alleged” victims. Of course, every victim’s case is somewhat different, and there is no one-size-fits-all gauge with which to assess a “victim’s” story. But it does, in some ways, give me the ability to better filter what is truthful and plausible vs. what is total BS.
Secondly, I consider myself a Michael Jackson fan second, and a Michael Jackson researcher/scholar first. Which, simply translated, means I am proud to say that my belief in Michael’s innocence is based on factual research and evidence, rather than knee-jerk, emotional responses based on what I “want” to believe. I’m sorry if my blunt approach offends some. I don’t mean for it to offend. I just believe that in order to truly vindicate Michael, it takes a hard stance approach and the ability to not flinch at some less-than-pleasant muck that has to be waded through.
I Do Believe 100% In Michael’s Innocence. But I Don’t Believe The Truth Can Be Obtained By Avoiding The Tough Questions, Or Going For The Easy, Obvious Defenses.
And I’m going to say one thing right now in regards to all this “repressed memory” nonsense. It is pure bs. Yes, it may have some validity if we’re talking a five year old child. It may have some validity if we’re talking a child too young to have comprehension of what sex is, or more aptly, too young to realize that what an adult is doing is making them uncomfortable. It would be perfectly logical in that case to assume that the memory might become repressed, only to be triggered later in life.
But I don’t buy it in the case of an older child, especially a child over the age of seven. I was nine when my abuse first occurred. I was molested repeatedly from the age of nine to fourteen. Trust me, you don’t forget. You can block it out as a coping mechanism, but the images; the memories do not just go away or become “blanked out.” What actually happens has more to do with one simple fact: Some people simply have a higher tolerance for trauma than others. While some may become emotionally debilitated by such a trauma, to the point of being almost dysfunctional, some can simply accept it as something bad that happened, and move on. This is really, essentially, what the “compartmentalization” is all about that some therapists speak of. It is, however, not so much compartmentalization as simply being able to put the bad memory on a shelf-or on the backburner of one’s life-and move on.
However, that doesn’t mean the memory isn’t there. My abuser didn’t conk me on the head and force me to black out. I didn’t quite know what was happening when I was nine, but I knew it was sick and unnatural; that it was NOT something an adult and a child were supposed to be doing together. By the time I knew what sex was, I was very consciously aware of what had been done to me.
I reported him the first time; that led to years of therapy that basically went nowhere (the abuse continued, despite the best efforts of DHR to keep the family together) and finally, at fifteen, I just removed myself from the situation altogether. I lived with my grandmother until I was a legal adult.
I moved on with my life. Eventually, I forgave my abuser, but I never forgot. I simply made a conscious choice to not allow this to be something that ruled my life. I still have my “issues” but I don’t dwell on what happened to me. I think that abuse victims make a conscious choice-either to work at healing and to get on with life, or to let another person’s actions overtake their life. However, I can say that sexual abuse does f_k with a kid’s head on so many levels, it isn’t even funny. There is just something about that manipulation of trust, and abuse of power, that one never gets over.
Which is also why it is something one never forgets. There was never a time when I couldn’t recall, in exact, vivid detail, exactly what was done to me-where, when, even down to what time of day it was. I could tell you in most instances what I was wearing. I could tell you that the first time I remembered it happening, I was lying on a rug in the living room, coloring in my coloring book. I remember that exact moment when the complete innocence of childhood ended for me.
How does one just forget a thing like that? If anything, traumatic experiences are even more branded into memory than the inconsequential stuff. I certainly couldn’t tell you anything about the first time I ate a bowl of breakfast cereal (but I could tell you all about the time I got salmonella poisoning from eating a bowl of cereal when I was eleven!). I couldn’t tell you about the first day I went to school, but I could tell you all about the day in second grade when a bully slapped me so hard on the playground that it knocked me dizzy.
And, yes, I could tell you more detail about the night I was first molested by my abuser than my first, consensual sexual experience as an adult.
You simply don’t forget a thing like that, if you’re old enough to have conscious memory at all. While I do think it is certainly possible that one can consciously bury a memory, I don’t buy into the idea that one can simply blank them out. Certainly not someone claiming a long-standing abuse that went on, allegedly, for seven years!That puts the time frame of Wade’s “abuse” roughly equivalent with my own, with only a difference of one year, for in my case, it was six years.
Okay, so even if a reasonable minded person bought into the idea of one repressed memory from one incident, we are supposed to believe that Wade Robson somehow miraculously blocked out seven whole years of his life?
Gosh gee, I sure remember my six years of abuse, cause I was living in fear and revulsion every single day of it! I went to school every morning sick to my stomach; I came home from school sick to my stomach. I couldn’t concentrate in class, and my grades plummeted. How the hell does one forget such feelings?
Robson Expects A Gullible Public To Buy That He Somehow Mnagaed To Block Out Seven YEARS Of His Life!
In short, the whole idea of “repressed memory” is really a bogus science that has yet to be proven. Its reliability as grounds for a civil or criminal case in a court of law is still very much up for debate. While some cases based on “repressed memory” have gone in favor of the plaintiffs, many more have not.
This was a very good, unbiased article that I found which examines both the validity and shortcomings of repressed memory as a science-and especially as a valid, legal claim for adults seeking compensation for alleged abuses that occurred 20, 30, even 40 years ago!
The article is too long to paste here in its entirety, and not all of it is directly relevant to Wade Robson’s claims, but I did want to include this excerpt, which I found extremely interesting, on how it is possible for false memories to be implanted, which the unsuspecting patient may then take as genuine repressed memory (to be fair, the first half of this article deals with cases in which the memories are authentic, which in some cases they have proven to be. But let’s look at what is said about non-authentic memories (note that the case of Patti Barton, beneath the heading “Litigation Accounts” is an example of a so-called “repressed memory” that occurred when the victim was fifteen months old-again, a perfect example that repressed memory may be viable for abuse that occurs before the child is consciously old enough to be aware of the act, but becomes increasingly doubtful the older the child is at the time of the alleged abuse:
The Memories Are Not Authentic
To say that memory might be false does not mean that the person is deliberately lying. Although lying is always possible, even psychotherapists who question the authenticity of reports have been impressed with the honesty and intensity of the terror, rage, guilt, depression, and overall behavioral dysfunction accompanying the awareness of abuse ( Ganaway, 1989, p. 211 ).
There are are at least two ways that false memories could come about. Honestly believed, but false, memories could come about, according to Ganaway (1989), because of internal or external sources. The internal drive to manufacture an abuse memory may come about as a way to provide a screen for perhaps more prosaic but, ironically, less tolerable, painful experiences of childhood. Creating a fantasy of abuse with its relatively clear-cut distinction between good and evil may provide the needed logical explanation for confusing experiences and feelings. The core material for the false memories can be borrowed from the accounts of others who are either known personally or encountered in literature, movies, and television. 5
Sources of Details That Could Affect Memory
There are at least two important sources that could potentially feed into the construction of false memories. These include popular writings and therapists’ suggestions.
All roads on the search for popular writings inevitably lead to one, The Courage to Heal ( Bass & Davis, 1988 ), often referred to as the “bible” of the incest book industry. The Courage to Heal advertises itself as a guide for women survivors of child sexual abuse. Although the book is undoubtedly a great comfort to the sexual abuse survivors who have been living with their private and painful memories, one cannot help but wonder about its effects on those who have no such memories. Readers who are wondering whether they might be victims of child sexual abuse are provided with a list of possible activities ranging from the relatively bening (e.g., being held in a way that made them uncomfortable) to the unequivocally abusive (e.g., being raped or otherwise penetrated). Readers are then told “If you are unable to remember any specific instances like the ones mentioned above but still have a feeling that something abusive happened to you, it probably did” (p. 21). On the next page, the reader is told
You may think you don’t have memories, but often as you begin to talk about what you do remember, there emerges a constellation of feelings, reactions and recollections that add up to substantial information. To say, “I was abused,” you don’t need the kind of recall that would stand up in a court of law. Often the knowledge that you were abused starts with a tiny feeling, an intuition… Assume your feelings are valid. So far, no one we’ve talked to thought she might have been abused, and then later discovered that she hadn’t been. The progression always goes the other way, from suspicion to confirmation. If you think you were abused and your life shows the symptoms, then you were. (p. 22)
What symptoms? The authors list low self-esteem, suicidal or self-destructive thoughts, depression, and sexual dysfunction, among others. 6
Others have worried about the role played by The Courage to Heal. A recent survey of several hundred families accused by derepressed memories revealed that the book was implicated “in almost all cases” ( Wakefield & Underwager, 1992, p. 486 ). Complaints about the book range from its repeated suggestion that abuse probably happened even if one has no memories of it and that demands for corroboration are not reasonable, to its overt encouragement of “revenge, anger, fantasies of murder or castration, and deathbed confrontations” ( Wakefield & Underwager, 1992, p. 485 ). In all fairness, however, it should be mentioned that the book is long (495 pages), and sentences taken out of context may distort their intended meaning. Nonetheless, readers without any abuse memories of their own cannot escape the message that there is a strong likelihood that abuse occurred even in the absence of such memories.
The recent incest book industry has published not only stories of abuse but also suggestions to readers that they were likely abused even if there are no memories, that repressed memories of abuse undoubtedly underlie one’s troubles, or that benefits derive from uncovering repressed memories and believing them. 7 One popular book about incest is the paperback by E. Sue Blume (1990), the book jacket of which itemizes one of the author’s chief credentials as the “Creator of the Incest Survivors’ Aftereffects Checklist.” 8 Blume, a private practice therapist, tells readers that she has “found that most incest survivors have limited recall about their abuse” (p. 81). She goes on to say that “Indeed, so few incest survivors in my experience have identified themselves as abused in the beginning of therapy that I have concluded that perhaps half of all incest survivors do not remember that the abuse occurred” (p. 81).
Some of the volumes provide exercises to help readers lift the repression. Farmer (1989), for example, tells readers to try one particular exercise “whether or not you have any conscious recollection of the abuse you suffered” (p. 91). The reader is to sit down, relax, and mentally return to childhood. The next step is to choose a particular memory, whether fuzzy or clear, and “bring that memory to your full attention” (p. 91). Details about what to do with the memory are provided, along with an example from the life of “Danielle,” who thought about how verbally abusive her father had been, and “Hazel,” who remembered anger at her mother’s treating her like a rag doll. This exercise allegedly helped to “lift the lid of repression” and unbury the “Hurting Child.”
Do these examples lift the lid of repression? Perhaps. But another equally viable hypothesis is that the examples influence the creation of memories or, at the very least, direct the search through memory that the reader will ultimately take. 9
Blume’s (1990) observation that so many individuals enter therapy without memories of abuse but acquire memories during therapy naturally makes one wonder about what might be happening in therapy. According to Ganaway (1989), honestly believed but false memories could come about in another way, through unintentional suggestion from therapists. Ganaway noted a growing trend toward the facile acceptance and expressed validation of uncorroborated trauma memories, perhaps in part due to sensitization from years of accusations that the memories are purely fantasy. Herman (1992, p. 180) made a similar point: Whereas an earlier generation of therapists might have been discounting or minimizing their patients’ traumatic experiences, the recent rediscovery of psychological trauma has let to errors of the opposite kind. Some contemporary therapists have been known to tell patients, merely on the basis of a suggestive history or symptom profile, that they definitely had a traumatic experience. Even if there is no memory, but merely some vague symptoms, certain therapists will inform a patient after a single session that he or she was very likely the victim of a satanic cult. Once the “diagnosis” is made, the therapist urges the patient to pursue the recalcitrant memories. Although some therapists recommend against persistent, intrusive probing to uncover early traumatic memories (e.g., Bruhn, 1990), others enthusiastically engage in these therapeutic strategies. Evidence for this claim comes in a variety of forms: (a) therapist accounts of what is appropriate to do with clients, (b) client accounts of what happened during therapy, (c) sworn statements of clients and therapists during litigation, and (d) taped interviews of therapy sessions.
One therapist, who has treated more than 1,500 incest victims, openly discussed her method of approaching clients ( Forward & Buck, 1988 ). “You know, in my experience, a lot of people who are struggling with many of the same problems you are, have often had some kind of really painful things happen to them as kids–maybe they were beaten or molested. And I wonder if anything like that ever happened to you?” (p. 161). Other clinicians claim to know of therapists who say “Your symptoms sound like you’ve been abused when you were a child. What can you tell me about that?” ( Trott, 1991a, p. 18 ); or worse, “You sound to me like the sort of person who must have been sexually abused. Tell me what that bastard did to you” ( Davis, 1991, p. 82 ).
At least one clinician advocated “It is crucial…that clinicians ask about sexual abuse during every intake” ( Frawley, 1990 ). The rationale for this prescription is that a clinician who asks conveys to the client that the client will be believed and that the clinician will join with the client in working through the memories and emotions linked with childhood sexual abuse. Asking about sexual abuse along with a list of other past life events makes sense given the high instance of actual abuse, but the concern is how the issue is raised and what therapists do when clients initially deny an abusive past.
Evidence exists that some therapists do not take no for an answer. One therapist (who otherwise seemed sensitive to problems of memory tampering) still recommended “When the client does not remember what happened to her, the therapist’s encouragement to `guess’ or `tell a story’ will help the survivor regain access to the lost material” ( Olio, 1989, p. 6 ). She went on to provide the example of a client who suspected sexual abuse but had no memories. The client had become extremely anxious at a social gathering in the presence of a three-year-old girl. She had no idea why she was upset except that she wanted the little girl to keep her dress down. When encouraged in therapy to tell a story about what was going to happen to the little girl, the client ultimately related with tears and trembling one of the first memories of her own abuse. She used the story to “bypass her cognitive inhibitions and express the content of the memory” (p. 6). Later she “integrated the awareness that she was indeed the little girl in the story” (p. 6). One cannot help but wonder about these mental fantasy exercises in light of known research showing that the simple act of imagination makes an event subjectively more likely (e.g., Sherman, Cialdini, Schwartzman, & Reynolds, 1985).
Even if the therapist does not encourage the client to guess or tell a story, stories sometimes get told in the form of client dreams. If discussions of incest go on during the day, and day residue gets into the dreams at night, it would not be surprising to see that dreams of incest might result. Poston and Lison (1990) described a woman with “repressed memories” of incest who reported a dream about watching a little girl ice skate on a frozen river. In her dream, the woman tried desperately to warn the child that monsters and snakes were making their way through the ice to devour her. Although frightened, the woman was powerless and could not warn the innocent child. A few days later, the client began remembering incest from her childhood. Knowing she had “a trusted relationship with a therapist and a survivor’s group that would understand and accept her” (p. 197), the memories began to flow.
Examples of therapists interpreting dreams as signs of memory of abuse can be found throughout the literature. One clinician described with pride how she communicated to her male patient the basis for her suspicions that he had been abused: “On many occasions, I explained that these dreams had preserved experiences and impressions of an indelible nature” ( M. Williams, 1987, p. 152 ).
Frederickson (1992), who has worked with many incest survivors, has also described in detail her methods of getting patients to remember. She recommended that the therapist guide the patient “to expand on or explore images that have broken through to the conscious mind, allowing related images of the abuse to surface. The process lets the survivor complete the picture of what happened, using a current image or flash as a jumping-off point” (p. 97). She also suggested that the therapist help the patient expand on the images and sensations evoked by dreams “to shed light on or recover our repressed memories” (p. 98). She extolled the virtues of hypnosis to “retrieve buried memories” (p. 98) and recommended that patients “jot down suspected memories of abuse you would like to explore. Include your own felt sense of how you think you were abused” (p. 102).
Even if clinicians are not the first to bring up sexual abuse, they will often reinforce what begins as a mere suspicion. One client developed the idea that she might have been sexually abused, tried hypnosis to help her recover memories, and obsessed for years. Only after her therapist stated that she believed sexual assault was “indeed possible” and cited nightmares, phobia of men, and other symptoms as evidence did the client come up with some specific memories ( Schuker, 1979, p. 569 ).
Before leaving the examples of therapist accounts of what goes on in therapy, it is important to add a word of caution. Sherrill Mulhern, a psychiatric anthropologist, has documented the alarming discrepancies that often exist between therapists’ accounts of what they have done in therapy and what is revealed in video- or audiotapes of those same sessions ( Mulhern, 1991 ).
If memories are uncovered–whether after repeated probing, after telling stories, after dreams, or seemingly spontaneously–or even if the memories remain buried, therapists often send their clients to support groups. In one study of clients who had, in the course of therapy, verbalized their victimization through ritualistic abuse, the majority reported that they had participated in these types of groups ( Shaffer & Cozolino, 1992 ). One group, Survivors of Incest Anonymous (SIA), publishes extensive reading materials intended to aid the recovery of incest survivors. (SIA merged with Sexual Abuse Anonymous in 1987.) The criteria for admission make it clear that entry is fine for those with no memories of sexual abuse: “Do you have blocks of your childhood you can’t remember? Do you have a sense that `something happened’?” ( SIA, 1985 ). These and other questions (e.g., Do you have problems with self-confidence and self esteem? Do you feel easily intimidated by authority figures?) are among the set of 20 questions that help a potential survivor decide whether SIA can be of assistance. SIA emphasizes that it is OK not to remember at first, because “Many survivors have `repressed’ actual abuse memories in order to survive.” However, the goal is to remember: “Participating in SIA helps us to remember what happened to us so we can stop being controlled by incest” ( SIA, 1990, p. 1 ).
Although support groups are undoubtedly invaluable for genuine survivors of sexual abuse, as they are for other survivors of extreme situations, such as combat and political persecution ( Herman, 1992, p. 215 ), concerns about the incest survivor groups have been expressed. Do these groups foster the development of constructed memories? An investigative journalist attending a four-day workshop watched the construction of memory at work ( Nathan, 1992 ). With members recounting graphic details of SRA abuse, how long will they listen to the person who can only say “I think I was abused, but I don’t have any memories.” Others have worried in the literature that such groups may induceproto-extension –that is, they actually encourage a troubled person to remember details from other survivor stories as having happened to them as well ( Ellis, 1992 ).
Another source for suggestions in therapy can be found in client accounts of what happened to them. Recently, clients have been reporting that a therapist has suggested that childhood abuse was the cause of their current distress. However, these clients have no memories of such abuse. One woman from Oregon entered therapy to deal with depression and anxiety, and within a few months her therapist suggested that the cause could be childhood sexual abuse. She wrote asking for help in remembering:
Since that time, he has become more and more certain of his diagnosis… I have no direct memories of this abuse…. The question I can’t get past is how something so terrible could have happened to me without me remembering anything. For the past two years I have done little else but try to remember. I’ve tried self-hypnosis and light trance work with my therapist. And I even travelled to childhood homes…in an attempt to trigger memories.
One client revealed the suggestive nature of his therapist’s questioning on ABC’s Primetime Live ( ABC News, 1992 ). Attorney Greg Zimmerman went to a psychotherapist in Boulder, Colorado, to deal with his father’s suicide. He told ABC, “I would try to talk to her about the things that were very painful in my life and she kept saying that there was something else” (p. 1). Zimmerman grew more and more depressed as the mystery of that “something else” would not unravel, and then, during a therapy session, his therapist stunned him with her diagnosis: “I don’t know how to tell you this, but you display the same kinds of characteristics as some of my patients who are victims of Satanic ritualistic abuse” (p. 1). Zimmerman had said nothing whatsoever to her to provoke this diagnosis, apparently her standard.
It is easy to find published accounts that describe the emergence of memories in therapy and the techniques that therapists have used to uncover those memories (e.g., Bass & Thornton, 1991). One account, written under the pseudonym of Jill Morgan, told of a series of positively horrifying memories of abuse by her father. He raped her when she was 4 years old, again at age 9, once again at age 13, for seven straight days and nights at age 15, and for the final time at age 18. For the next several years, all misery was withheld from conscious memory, and then, at age 29, she was helped to remember in therapy: “Through hypnosis and age regression, a skilled therapist gave me back my memory” (p. 111). The involvement of hypnosis and age regression prompts the natural inquiry into whether these techniques produce authentic memories. Unfortunately, the evidence is discouraging: There is an extensive literature seriously questioning the reliability of hypnotically enhanced memory in general ( Smith, 1983 ), and hypnotic age regression in particular ( Nash, 1987 ). Hypnotic attempts to improve memory increase the confidence in what is recalled more than the accuracy ( Bowers, 1992 ). Even more worrisome is the impossibility of reversing the process; the hypnotically induced memory becomes the person’s reality ( Orne, 1979 ). With hypnotic regression, men and women have been known to recall being abducted by aliens aboard exotic spacecraft and other forgotten events ( Gordon, 1991 ).
A more detailed client account is that of Betsy Petersen (1991), as described in an autobiographical account, Dancing With Daddy. Petersen, a Harvard graduate and accomplished writer, revealed in her first book that she repressed memory of sexual abuse by her father until she was 45 years old. She now remembers sexual abuse from the time she was 3½ until she was 18. Betsy entered therapy (with “Kris”) for problems relating to her children, and almost a year after starting therapy she started worrying, “I’m afraid my father did something to me.” She tried hard to recall, putting “together a scenario of what might have happened” (p. 65). When she told her therapist about this, she said “I don’t know if I made it up or if it’s real.” Kris replied, “It feels like a story to you, because when something like that happens, everybody acts like it didn’t.” Betsy: “You mean it might really have happened!” Kris told her there was a good chance it had happened. Kris told her, in Betsy’s words, “It was consistent with what I remembered about my father and my relationship with him, and with the dreams I had been having, and with the difficulties I had being close to my children, and also, she said, with the feelings I had during and after sex with my husband” (p. 65). Betsy worked hard to retrieve incest memories: “I had no memory of what my father had done to me, so I tried to reconstruct it. I put all my skill–as a reporter, novelist, scholar–to work making that reconstruction as accurate and vivid as possible. I used the memories I had to get to the memories I didn’t have” (p. 66). 10 If accurate, this account tells us something about one therapist’s approach. The therapist convinces the patient with no memories that abuse is likely, and the patient obligingly uses reconstructive strategies to generate memories that would support that conviction. These techniques can be found in numerous autobiographical accounts (see also Smith & Pazder, 1980.
In addition to the first-person accounts, more formal studies of incest survivors provide clues to what might be happening in therapy. One study ( Shaffer & Cozolino, 1992 ) of 20 adults who uncovered ritualistic abuse memories stemming from childhood revealed that the majority sought psychotherapy because of symptoms (e.g., depression and anxiety). The primary focus of their therapy was “the uncovering of memories” (p. 189). The majority participated in 12-step programs (e.g., Incest Survivors Anonymous) as “necessary adjuncts to their psychotherapy” (p. 190). These groups provided substitute families for the clients who had severed ties with their families of origin. Other similar studies of ritualistic abuse rememberers have revealed that most of the victims have no memory of the abuse before therapy (e.g., Driscoll & Wright, 1991) but that techniques such as hypnosis ( Driscoll & Wright, 1991 ) or dreams and artwork (e.g., Young, Sachs, Braun, & Watkins, 1991) were used by therapists to unlock those recalcitrant memories.
Information gathered during litigation is another source of knowledge about the emergence of memories in therapy. Take the case of Patti Barton against her father, John Peters, a successful businessman. 11 Depositions taken in the case of Barton v. Peters (1990) reveal that Patti Barton began therapy with a Dr. CD, a doctor of divinity, in July 1986. Dr. CD’s notes indicate that, during the 32nd session of therapy, Patti expressed “fear her father has sexually tampered with her” (Deposition of CD, April 21, 1991, Barton v. Peters, 1990, p. 39). This was the first time that anything like that had come up in any of the sessions. Shortly thereafter, Patti related a dream that a man was after her. 12 Dr. CD apparently then used the technique of visualization wherein Patti would try to visualize her past. He got her to remember eye surgery at the age of 7 months. As for the abuse, one of the earliest acts of abuse he managed to dredge up with this method occurred when Patti was 15 months old. “I visualized that my father stuck his tongue in my mouth”.
After he stuck his tongue in my mouth–Well, it seemed to last for hours and hours even though I know it didn’t. But it was awful to me and an event that seemed to last for hours. I started crying, and I crawled over to the wall. And I started banging my head on the wall. And my mother came into the room, and she picked me up. And I tried to tell her in baby talk what had happened. I said “Ma, ma, ma, ma,” and I said, “Da, Da, Da, Da” and I said, “Me-e-e-.” And that’s all that I can remember. (Deposition of PB, May 1991, Barton v. Peters, 1990, p. 193)
Later, Patti would remember that her father touched her in her crotch and put his penis in her mouth when she was three years old, and that she stroked his penis over and over at age four. Rape would come later. Patti’s father eventually agreed to give his daughter the deed to a piece of land he owned, but he continued to deny the charges. Her brother, a Baptist minister in Alaska, claimed that Satan’s wicked spirits planted untruths in Patti’s head ( Laker, 1992 ). Did it take 30-some sessions for the therapist to uncover actual memories of abuse, or 30-some sessions for false memories of abuse to begin to be visualized and constructed?
Often, confidentiality considerations prevent access to interactions between therapists and clients. However, when cases get into litigation, special interviewing is frequently done, and occasionally it is recorded. Recordings were done in a case implicating a man named Paul Ingram from Olympia, Washington ( Watters, 1991 ). Ingram was arrested for child abuse in 1988, amid expressions of shock from his community. At the time he was chair of the county Republican committee and was chief civil deputy in the sheriff’s office. He had worked in law enforcement for more than a decade.
The Ingram case began at a time when waves of rumor and media hype over satanic ritualistic abuse were rampant. At first Ingram denied everything, and detectives told him he was in denial. With the help of a psychologist who exerted enormous pressure over endless hours of interrogation, Ingram’s memories of abusing his daughter began to appear. Then the psychologist, with the help of a detective, “interviewed” Ingram’s son. In that interview, the son reported on his dreams, and the therapist and detective convinced him that the dreams were real. 13
In another case, a father (Mr. K) hired a private investigator after his 26-year-old daughter reported a recently uncovered repressed memory and accused him of incest. The investigator, acting under cover, went to see the daughter’s therapist complaining that she had night-mares and had trouble sleeping. On the third visit, the therapist told undercover agent that she was an incest survivor. According to the investigator’s report ( Monesi, 1992 ), the therapist said this to her pseudopatient: “She then told me that she was certain I was experiencing body memory from a trauma, earlier in life, that I could not remember. I could not remember because my brain had blocked the memory that was too painful to deal with.” When the patient said she didn’t remember any trauma, the therapist told her “that is the case and many people at far later times in their lives go through this when the memory starts to surface.” The therapist told her that many people go through this experience, such as “Viet Nam Vets, Earthquake Survivors and Incest Survivors.” When the patient said that she had never been in Vietnam or in an earthquake, the therapist nodded her head and said “Yes, I know.” The therapist then said she should read Courage to Heal, a book she recommends to all abuse survivors. After that there was the Courage to Heal Work-book, which tells survivors how to cope with the fears and memories. She pulled Secret Survivors by E. S. Blume (1990) from the shelf, opened the cover, and read the list of symptoms of incest survivors. With two thirds of the symptoms, she would look at the pseudopatient and shake her head yes as if this was confirmation of her diagnosis. She recommended incest survivor groups. In the fourth session, the diagnosis of probable incest victim was confirmed on the basis of the “classic symptoms” of body memory and sleep disorders. When the patient insisted that she had no memory of such events, the therapist assured her this was often the case.
Why Would Therapists Suggest Things to Their Patients?
The core of treatment, it is widely believed, is to help clients reclaim their “traumatic past” ( Rieker & Carmen, 1986, p. 369 ). Therapists routinely dig deliberately into the ugly underbelly of mental life. They dig for memories purposefully because they believe that in order to get well, to become survivors rather than victims, their clients must overcome the protective denial that was used to tolerate the abuse during childhood ( Sgroi, 1989, p. 112 ). Memory blocks can be protective in many ways, but they come at a cost; they cut off the survivors from a significant part of their past histories and leave them without good explanations for their negative self-image, low self-esteem, and other mental problems. These memories must be brought into consciousness, not as an end in itself but only insofar as it helps the survivors acknowledge reality and overcome denial processes that are now dysfunctional (p. 115).
Another reason therapists may be unwittingly suggesting ideas to their clients is that they have fallen prey to a bias that affects all of us, known as the “confirmatory bias” ( Baron, Beattie, & Hershey, 1988 ). People in general, therapists included, have a tendency to search for evidence that confirms their hunches rather than search for evidence that disconfirms. It is not easy to discard long-held or cherished beliefs, in part because we are eager to verify those beliefs and are not inclined to seek evidence that might disprove them.
The notion that the beliefs that individuals hold can create their own social reality is the essence of the self-fulfilling prophecy ( Snyder, 1984 ). How does “reality” get constructed? One way this can happen is through interview strategies. Interviewers are known to choose questions that inquire about behaviors and experiences thought to be characteristic, rather than those thought to be uncharacteristic, of some particular classification. If therapists ask questions that tend to elicit behaviors and experiences thought to be characteristic of someone who had been a victim of childhood trauma, might they too be creating this social reality?
Whatever the good intentions of therapists, the documented examples of rampant suggestion should force us to at least ponder whether some therapists might be suggesting illusory memories to their clients rather than unlocking authentic distant memories. Or, paraphrasing Gardner (1992), what is considered to be present in the client’s unconscious mind might actually be present solely in the therapist’s conscious mind (p. 689). Ganaway (1989) worried that, once seeded by the therapist, false memories could develop that replace previously unsatisfactory internal explanations for intolerable but more prosaic childhood trauma.
Creation of False Memories
The hypothesis that false memories could be created invites an inquiry into the important question of what is known about false memories. Since the mid-1970s at least, investigations have been done into the creation of false memories through exposure to misinformation. Now, nearly two decades later, there are hundreds of studies to support a high degree of memory distortion. People have recalled nonexistent broken glass and tape recorders, a cleanshaven man as having a mustache, straight hair as curly, and even something as large and conspicuous as a barn in a bucolic scene that contained no buildings at all ( Loftus & Ketcham, 1991 ). This growing body of research shows that new, postevent information often becomes incorporated into memory, supplementing and altering a person’s recollection. The new information invades us, like a Trojan horse, precisely because we do not detect its influence. Understanding how we can become tricked by revised data about our past is central to understanding the hypothesis that suggestions from popular writings and therapy sessions can affect autobiographical recall.
One frequently heard comment about the research on memory distortion is that all changes induced by misinformation are about trivial details ( Darnton, 1991; Franklin & Wright, 1991 ). There is no evidence, the critics allege, that one can tinker with memories of real traumatic events or that one can inject into the human mind whole events that never happened.
Can Real Traumatic Memories Be Changed?
There are some who argue that traumatic events leave some sort of indelible fixation in the mind (e.g., “traumatic events create lasting visual images…burned-in visual impressions,” Terr, 1988, p. 103; “memory imprints are indelible, they do not erase–a therapy that tries to alter them will be uneconomical,” Kantor, 1980, p. 163). These assertions fail to recognize known examples and evidence that memory is malleable even for life’s most traumatic experiences. If Eileen Franklin’s memory of witnessing her father murder her eight-year-old best friend is a real memory, then it too is a memory replete with changes over different tellings. However, there are clearer examples–anecdotal reports in which definite evidence exists that the traumatic event itself was actually experienced and yet the memory radically changed.
In the category of documented anecdotes there is the example of one of the worst public and personal tragedies in the history of baseball ( Anderson, 1990; described in Loftus & Kaufman, 1992 ). Baseball aficionados may recall that Jack Hamilton, then a pitcher with the California Angels, crushed the outfielder, Tony Conigliaro, in the face with a first-pitch fastball. Although Hamilton thought he remembered this horrible event perfectly, he misremembered it as occurring during a day game, when it was actually at night, and misremembered it in other critical ways. Another example will be appreciated by history buffs, particularly those with an interest in the second world war. American Brigadier General Elliot Thorpe recalled the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor one way in a memoir and completely differently in an oral history taken on his retirement. Both accounts, in fact, were riddled with errors ( Weintraub, 1991 ).
Evidence of a less anecdotal, more experimental nature supports the imperfections of personally experienced traumatic memories. For example, one study examined people’s recollections of how they heard the news of the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger ( Harsch & Neisser, 1989; Neisser & Harsch, 1992 ). Subjects were questioned on the morning after the explosion and again nearly three years later. Most described their memories as vivid, but none of them were entirely correct, and more than one third were wildly inaccurate. One subject, for example, was on the telephone having a business discussion when her best friend interrupted the call with the news. Later she would remember that she heard the news in class and at first thought it was a joke, and that she later walked into a TV lounge and saw the news, and then reacted to the disaster.
Another study ( Abhold, 1992 ) demonstrated the malleability of memory for a serious life-and-death situation. The subjects had attended an important high school football game at which a player on the field went into cardiac arrest. Paramedics tried to resuscitate the player and apparently failed. The audience reactions ranged from complete silence, to sobbing, to screaming. (Ultimately, fortunately, the player was revived at the hospital.) Six years later, many of these people were interviewed. Errors of recollection were common. Moreover, when exposed to misleading information about this life-and-death event, many individuals absorbed the misinformation into their recollections. For example, more than one fourth of the subjects were persuaded that they had seen blood on the player’s jersey after receiving a false suggestion to this effect.
These anecdotes and experimental examples suggest that even details of genuinely experienced traumatic events are, as Christianson (1992) put it, “by no means, completely accurate” (p. 207).
Can One Inject a Complete Memory for Something That Never Happened?
It is one thing to discover that memory for an actual traumatic event is changed over time but quite another to show that one can inject a whole event into someone’s mind for something that never happened. There are numerous anecdotes and experimental studies that show it is indeed possible to lead people to construct entire events.
Whole memories can be implanted into a person’s real-life autobiography, as is best shown by Piaget’s classic childhood memory of an attempted kidnapping ( Piaget, 1962; described in Loftus & Ketcham, 1991, p. 19 ). The false memories were with him for at least a decade. The memory was of an attempted kidnapping that occurred when he was an infant. He found out it was false when his nanny confessed years later that she had made up the entire story and felt guilty about keeping the watch she had received as a reward. In explaining this false memory, Piaget assumed, “I, therefore, must have heard, as a child, the account of this story, which my parents believed, and projected into the past in the form of a visual memory.”
Loud noises at night.
Although widely disseminated and impressive at first glance, Piaget’s false memory is still but a single anecdote and subject to other interpretations. Was this really a memory, or an interesting story? Could it be that the assault actually happened and the nurse, for some inexplicable reason, lied later? For these reasons it would be nice to find stronger evidence that a false memory for a complete event was genuinely implanted.
An apparently genuine 19th-century memory implantation was reported by Laurence and Perry (1983) : Bernheim, during hypnosis, suggested to a female subject that she had awakened four times during the previous night to go to the toilet and had fallen on her nose on the fourth occasion. After hypnosis, the woman insisted that the suggested events had actually occurred, despite the hypnotist’s insistence that she had dreamed them. Impressed by Bernheim’s success, and by explorations by Orne (1979), Laurence and Perry asked 27 highly hypnotizable individuals during hypnosis to choose a night from the previous week and to describe their activities during the half hour before going to sleep. The subjects were then instructed to relive that night, and a suggestion was implanted that they had heard some loud noises and had awakened. Almost one half (13) of the 27 subjects accepted the suggestion and stated after hypnosis that the suggested event had actually taken place. Of the 13, 6 were unequivocal in their certainty. The remainder came to the conclusion on basis of reconstruction. Even when told that the hypnotist had actually suggested the noises, these subjects still maintained that the noises had occurred. One said “I’m pretty certain I heard them. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty damned certain. I’m positive I heard these noises” ( Laurence & Perry, 1983, p. 524 ).
The paradigm of inducing pseudomemories of being awakened by loud noises has now been used extensively by other researchers who readily replicate the basic findings. Moreover, the pseudomemories are not limited to hypnotic conditions. Simply inducing subjects to imagine and describe the loud noises resulted in later “memories” for noises that had never occurred ( Weekes, Lynn, Green, & Brentar, 1992 ).
Other false memories.
Other evidence shows that people can be tricked into believing that they experienced an event even in the absence of specific hypnotic suggestions. For example, numerous studies have shown that people misremember that they voted in a particular election when they actually had not ( Abelson, Loftus, & Greenwald, 1992 ). One interpretation of these findings is that people fill in the gaps in their memory with socially desirable constructions, thus creating for themselves a false memory of voting.
In other studies, people have been led to believe that they witnessed assaultive behavior when in fact they did not (e.g., Haugaard, Reppucci, Laurd, & Nauful, 1991). In this study, children aged four to seven years were led to believe that they saw a man hit a girl, when he had not, after hearing the girl lie about the assault. Not only did they misrecall the nonexistent hitting, but they added their own details: Of 41 false claims, 39 children said it happened near a pond, 1 said it was at the girl’s house, and 1 could not specify exactly where the girl was when the man hit her.
Violent false memories
People can hold completely false memories for something far more traumatic than awakening at night, voting in a particular election, or a simulation involving a man and a girl. Pynoos and Nader (1989) studied children’s recollections of a sniper attack at an elementary school playground. Some of the children who were interviewed were not at the school during the shooting, including some who were already on the way home or were on vacation. Yet, even the nonwitnesses had memories:
One girl initially said that she was at the school gate nearest the sniper when the shooting began. In truth she was not only out of the line of fire, she was half a block away. A boy who had been away on vacation said that he had been on his way to the school, had seen someone lying on the ground, had heard the shots, and then turned back. In actuality, a police barricade prevented anyone from approaching the block around the school. (p. 238)
The memories apparently were created by exposure to the stories of those who truly experienced the trauma.
Memories of being lost.
A question arises as to whether one could experimentally implant memories for nonexistent events that, if they had occurred, would have been traumatic. Given the need to protect human subjects, devising a means of accomplishing this was not an easy task. Loftus and Coan (in press), however, developed a paradigm for instilling a specific childhood memory for being lost on a particular occasion at the age of five. They chose getting lost because it is clearly a great fear of both parents and children. Their initial observations show how subjects can be readily induced to believe this kind of false memory. The technique involved a subject and a trusted family member who played a variation of “Remember the time that….?” To appreciate the methodology, consider the implanted memory of 14-year-old Chris. Chris was convinced by his older brother, Jim, that he had been lost in a shopping mall when he was 5 years old. Jim told Chris this story as if it were the truth: “It was 1981 or 1982. I remember that Chris was 5. We had gone shopping at the University City shopping mall in Spokane. After some panic, we found Chris being led down the mall by a tall, oldish man (I think he was wearing a flannel shirt). Chris was crying and holding the man’s hand. The man explained that he had found Chris walking around crying his eyes out just a few mements before and was trying to help him find his parents.”
Just two days later, Chris recalled his feelings about being lost: “That day I was so scared that I would never see my family again. I knew that I was in trouble.” On the third day, he recalled a conversation with his mother: “I remember mom telling me never to do that again.” On the fourth day: “I also remember that old man’s flannel shirt.” On the fifth day, he started remembering the mall itself: “I sort of remember the stores.” In his last recollection, he could even remember a conversation with the man who found him: “I remember the man asking me if I was lost.”
It would be natural to wonder whether perhaps Chris had really gotten lost that day. Maybe it happened, but his brother forgot. But Chris’s mother was subjected to the same procedure and was never able to remember the false event. After five days of trying, she said “I feel very badly about it, but I just cannot remember anything like this ever happening.”
A couple of weeks later, Chris described his false memory and he greatly expanded on it.
I was with you guys for a second and I think I went over to look at the toy store, the Kay-bee toy and uh, we got lost and I was looking around and I thought, “Uh-oh. I’m in trouble now.” You know. And then I…I thought I was never going to see my family again. I was really scared you know. And then this old man, I think he was wearing a blue flannel, came up to me…he was kind of old. He was kind of bald on top…he had like a ring of gray hair…and he had glasses.
Thus, in two short weeks, Chris now could even remember the balding head and the glasses worn by the man who rescued him. He characterized his memory as reasonably clear and vivid.
Finally, Chris was debriefed. He was told that one of the memories presented to him earlier had been false. When asked to guess, he guessed one of the genuine memories. When told that it was the getting-lost memory, he said, “Really? I thought I remembered being lost…and looking around for you guys. I do remember that. And then crying. And mom coming up and saying ‘Where were you. Don’t you…Don’t you ever do that again.’”
A false memory of abuse.
The lost-in-a-shopping-mall example shows that memory of an entire mildly traumatic event can be created. It is still natural to wonder whether one could go even further and implant a memory of abuse. Ethically, of course, it would not be possible, but anecdotally, as it happens, it was done. It is one of the most dramatic cases of false memory of abuse ever to be documented–the case of Paul Ingram from Olympia, Washington ( Ofshe, 1992; Watters, 1991 ). As described above, Ingram, was arrested for child abuse in 1988 at the time he was chair of the county Republican committee. At first Ingram denied everything, and detectives told him he was in denial. After five months of interrogation, suggestions from a psychologist, and continuing pressure from detectives and advisors, Ingram began to confess to rapes, assaults, child sexual abuse, and participation in a Satan-worshiping cult alleged to have murdered 25 babies ( Ofshe, 1992 ). To elicit specific memories, the psychologist or detectives would suggest some act of abuse (e.g., that on one occasion, Ingram and several other men raped his daughter). Ingram would at first not remember these fragments, but after a concerted effort on his part, he would later come up with a detailed memory.
Richard Ofshe, a social psychologist hired by the prosecution to interview Ingram and his family members, decided to test Ingram’s credibility. Ofshe had made up a completely fabricated scenario. He told Ingram that two of his children (a daughter and a son) had reported that Ingram had forced them to have sex in front of him. As with the earlier suggestions, Ingram at first could not remember this. But Ofshe urged Ingram to try to think about the scene and try to see it happening, just as the interrogators had done to him earlier. Ingram began to get some visual images. Ingram then followed Ofshe’s instructions to “pray on” the scene and try to remember more over the next few hours. Several hours later, Ingram had developed detailed memories and wrote a three-page statement confessing in graphic detail to the scene that Ofshe had invented ( Ofshe, 1992 ;Watters, 1991 ). Ofshe (1989, 1992) noted that this was not the first time that a vulnerable individual had been made to believe that he had committed a crime for which he originally had no memory and which evidence proved he could not have committed. What is crucial about the Ingram case is that some of the same methods that are used in repressed memory cases were used with Ingram. These include the use of protracted imagining of events and authority figures establishing the authenticity of these events.
These examples provide further insights into the malleable nature of memory. They suggest that memories for personally experience traumatic events can be altered by new experiences. Moreover, they reveal that entire events that never happened can be injected into memory. The false memories range from the relatively trivial (e.g., remembering voting) to the bizarre (e.g., remembering forcing one’s daughter and son to have sex). These false memories, with more or less detail, of course do not prove that repressed memories of abuse that return are false. They do demonstrate a mechanism by which false memories can be created by a small suggestion from a trusted family member, by hearing someone lie, by suggestion from a psychologist, or by incorporation of the experiences of others into one’s own autobiography. Of course, the fact that false memories can be planted tells nothing about whether a given memory of child sexual abuse is false or not; nor does it tell how one might distinguish the real cases from the false ones. These findings on the malleability of memory do, however, raise questions about the wisdom of certain recommendations being promoted in self-help workbooks, in handbooks for therapists, and by some therapists themselves. The false memories created in the examples above were accomplished with techniques that are not all that different from what some therapists regularly do–suggesting that the client was probably abused because of some vague symptoms, labeling a client’s ambiguous recollections as evidence of abuse, and encouraging mental exercises that involve fantasy merging with reality.
What does this mean in relation to Wade Robson? For the moment, we’ll just give him benefit of the doubt and assume that maybe he, at least, genuinely believes he is having repressed memories of abuse. We know from reports that he supposedly suffered his breakdown-or the beginning of it-in 2010. It’s certainly conceivable that an aggressive therapist, already familiar with Wade’s history as a friend of Michael Jackson’s-could have planted the idea of repressed memories and could have worked to extract those “memories.” If Robson was in a vulnerable state, he certainly could have been susceptible to the planting of false memories-except in that case, it wouldn’t explain why he then went on to pay glowing tribute to his mentor in July of 2011, when the breakdown and resultant therapy supposedly occurred in March of 2011! (It’s hard to keep track of the dates, however, as they keep changing conveniently to suit the story!). Note, however, that at the time Robson is speaking here, praising his mentor and his “essence” that he had supposedly already started the therapy that had unleashed his repressed memories of abuse! At the very least, he was supposedly already suffering his breakdown here. Hmm. All I can say is, he looks pretty cool and collected here to me!
It gets better. This interview was from 2012. Watch how utterly at ease he is talking about Michael and their friendship here, supposedly five months after beginning therapy and the resurfacing of his repressed memories!
And watch how coolly he shoots down d**kwad Jimmy Kimmel back in 2003!
This might be an interesting time to look at a recent statement made by body language expert Craig Baxter, whose book on Michael’s body language, “Behind The Mask: What Michael Jackson’s Body Language Had To Tell The World” has become an Amazon best seller. Granted, body language is no more an exact science than repressed memory, and I am in no way endorsing or suggesting this as infallible proof. But I do think it’s very interesting what Baxter had to say in regards to the above videos from Wade Robson:
I have been inundated with messages to cover Wade Robson’s body language in relation to his recent claims that Michael Jackson sexually abused him for 7 years.
I have watched many videos of Wade talking positively about Michael and I see no hidden or concealed emotions. I see NO flashes of disgust, anger, fear, contempt or any other negative emotion linked with the abuse he now claims. Furthermore, I see no other body language behaviour correlated with anxiety or stress. In… my opinion, if Wade had been sexual assaulted by Michael, there would be an abundance of behavioural leakage. There is N-O-N-E.
“I hope the evidence I have presented in my book will prove Michael’s doubters to be wrong, as there is an overwhelming body of evidence that shows Michael to be innocent in every sense of the word.” < This is final sentence I wrote in my book about Michael Jackson. The sooner the world realises this the better.
It Was The Highest Grossing North American Tour Of 2012…And Wade Robson Was Out!
For the moment, I want to return to Robson’s 2011 vid discussing the Cirque du Soleil show. Let’s ask the logical question: If you had suddenly remembered that this person abused you-not once or twice, but repeatedly over a seven year period, would you want to be involved with a multi-million dollar production that is glorifying your abuser?
Well, maybe. If you were getting to be said director of such production. Except that never happened, either. That gig went to Jamie King (also directing the current Michael Jackson One Cirque show, and who also replaced Robson on the Britney Spears Circus tours).
“But here’s the rub. A spokesperson for the Michael Jackson Estate — which produced the Cirque du Soleil show — tells TMZ … Robson was “on the list of choreographers but his son got sick and he wasn’t used.” The spokesperson said there was never a contract between Wade and the show.”
And it has not escaped the notice of some that Robson (or his attorney, more aptly) filed the claim on the same day as the opening of the One show. Hmm. Kind of begs the question: Could this have possibly been the motivation behind the suspicious timing of the claim, and not the AEG trial, as so many have suspected? Or is there still a connection? While it seems plausible, it doesn’t explain the motivation for the two, other alleged claims that has been hinted by at least one tabloid source. So what exactly is going on? Obviously, some force is behind this latest rash of “claims.” I do not buy for an instant that three perfectly grown men have suddenly had a rash of repressed memories, all bubbling forth simultaneously.
That being said, the possibility had always been in my mind that, at some point, someone might try something like this. It’s a crying shame, considering that a dead man should be allowed to rest in peace. In my estimation, this is lower than anything the Chandlers or Arvizos ever did. At least, they brought their allegations when Michael was alive to defend himself-and when some type of real justice (provided the accusations had been true) could have been carried out. Although as pointed out in the article I quoted above, civil litigation is sometimes encouraged by therapists as a way for victims to reclaim ownership of what happened to them, the unique circumstances in this case just makes the whole thing very, very suspect. The person being accused is deceased; there is no chance for criminal justice, and no chance of a defense. Michael isn’t here to deny the charges. His estate, meanwhile, is generating money hands over fist. And Michael Jackson is an easy target, since there is still a lot of public doubt and speculation regarding past allegations.
The simple fact is, these days it doesn’t really matter whether Michael is/was guilty or innocent. The accusation alone is sufficient, for it is the accusation that will guarantee Robson the attention and the results he wants. Those who want to believe Michael was a pedophile and child molestor, and already have their minds made up regardless, will believe it, anyway. It will guarantee maximum negative publicity, which is something we know the estate doesn’t want. Therefore, if we are thinking the way any logical extortionist would think, we might conclude: Paydirt. Either the estate is going to give me what I want, to make this go away, or I will make such a stink that they wish they had.
We don’t know how this will turn out until it goes before the probate judge, who of course may still toss the whole thing out unless he/she buys into the repressed memory excuse. Otherwise, the statute of limitations has long expired on Robson. At any rate, the absolute worst thing the estate could do would be to pay this guy a dime. If they do, they are only setting a precedent for many more bogus such claims to come out of the woodwork (as the Daily Star reported, those other two so-called allegations waiting in the wings are doing just that…that is, waiting to see how the Robson case pans out. Let’s translate: They are waiting to see if, ultimately, there is any pay out!).
And speaking of setting a precedent, that is definitely something that needs to be discussed in more detail, and which will be in upcoming installments. If I’ve heard the phrase “Where there is smoke, there must be fire” one time, I’ve heard it a million since this story broke. But what the average layperson fails to take into account is the unique history of how the first set of allegations made against Michael Jackson paved the way for a trail of “phantom” cases and bogus, “phantom victims.” The reputation that unfortunately dogged Michael after (and even before) the Chandler case made such accusations all too easy to pull off. It didn’t even particularly matter if the claims could be disproven; for many, simply making the accusations could mean a huge payoff in terms of media attention and lucrative offers from tabloids. If you’re not familiar with the long trail of phantom victims and bogus claims from those who have unsuccessfully tried to set Michael Jackson up through the years, then just wait until we get to Part 5…it will boggle your mind! The simple truth is that, at this point, Wade Robson doesn’t even have to have his own memories or his own story to make a semi-credible case for himself. With so much detail of the Chandler and Arvizo cases being public record, all he has to do is parrot the details of those cases; maybe twist a few details around here and there, and he will have a perfectly believable story to sell. And those prone to believing Michael was guilty will simply see it as evidence of a repeated pattern, rather than questioning the source of his information.
Regardless of what happens with this debtor’s claim, Robson may well end up with a substantial payoff, just in terms of the offers he will get to speak to the tabloids. It’s an established fact that the tabloid magazines and news shows will pay big bucks for anyone willing to make up dirt on Michael Jackson. Whether the story is true or not has never been a matter for concern. Michael’s former maid Blanca Francia was offered $20,000 to lie outright for Hard Copy. When I interviewed Michael’s artist friend David Nordahl in 2010, he spoke of having been offered as much as $25,000 by the tabloids and media.
Nordahl says he was constantly bombarded by tabloid and media requests, some even offering up to as much as “$25,000″ to “dish dirt” on Michael. True or not, it didn’t matter. “They would want to know who the kids in the paintings were, what their names were,” he said. “Well, we couldn’t give them any names, because none of the kids really existed. They were all made up.”
(That interview in its entirety is still on the OldAllforloveblog website, but the link may be currently down; however you can also read it here:
Wade’s own mother, Joy Robson, was reportedly offered a six-figure sum from The National Enquirer to change her story and claim that Michael Jackson had molested her son. She was also approached and bribed by Victor Guiterrez, according to Jermaine Jackson’s book You Are Not Alone. The following is an excerpt from sanemjfan’s latest post on Michael Jackson Vindication 2.0 (and who, btw, is also posting the entire transcript of Robson’s 2005 testimony, as well as that of his mother and sister Chantal):
The below commentary is from sanemjfan:
Before we get to her testimony, I want to share an interesting tidbit of information from Jermaine Jackson’s book “You Are Not Alone”; on page 155 , he briefly describes how Joy was approached by a “journalist” name Victor Gutierrez in 1992. He was conducting an “investigation” to prove his suspicions that Jackson was a pedophile, and after meeting with Gutierrez, Joy immediately phoned Jackson’s office:
Gutierrez published the trash book “Michael Jackson Was My Lover” overseas, but was unable to get a US publisher to distribute it after he lost a multi-million dollar slander lawsuit against Jackson in 1997. Throughout the book, Gutierrez wrote about his interactions with Joy Robson and other associates of Jackson (including the Chandlers), but fortunately his book was fact checked by using Joy’s testimony in this aptly post titled “Joy Robson vs. Victor Gutierrez: The Truth against Lies”. There are almost two dozen posts that have been written to refute the lies of Victor Gutierrez (that number of posts is indicative of how instrumental he was in Jackson’s downfall), and you can see them all here.
Not only did Joy reject any money that Victor Gutierrez offered her, but she also turned down a six figure bounty from the National Enquirer! Here is an exceprt from page 159 of Jermaine’s book:
It’s really unbelievable that Joy would turn down money from the tabloids and reject Victor Gutierrez’s assertions during Jackson’s darkest hour, yet all of a sudden do a complete 180 degree turnaround and support her son (in my opinion, he silence so far is a sign of support for her son).
Joy Robson and the rest of her family defending Michael in 1993:
Just to add my own two cents to what sanemjfan wrote above, it really doesn’t bother me what Chantal or Joy have to say about this-or not, as the case may be. They are Wade’s family, so I would expect that they would support him. I bear them no particular enmity. They weren’t the ones who made this claim; that was solely Wade’s own doing. This time-unlike the Chandler and Arvizo cases, where the “accusers” were minors and their parents the ones who were largely orchestrating things-we have an adult who is acting solely of his own accord. I am sure that Wade’s family may be going through their own shock at this bomb Wade has dropped, and may not be quite sure how to deal with it. So for now, at least, I am not concerning myself too much with them. I will, however, keep an eye on their future words and actions. I am sure they are once again getting offers from tabloids, so we’ll see if Joy Robson maintains the same integrity she has displayed in the past. In upcoming installments, I will be looking at some of both her and Chantal’s court testimony, as well as Wade’s (remember, Robson has sworn under oath-twice!-that nothing inappropriate ever happened!).
Will The REAL Wade Robson Please Stand Up?
The big question that remains is…will the real Wade Robson ever stand up? Which one do we believe, the old, reliable 1989-2011 version that we all grew to believe and know so well, or this new (and not so improved) 2013 version who has suddenly become a stranger to us-someone we thought we knew, but apparently did not? (Perhaps we never did).
In upcoming installments, I am going to be addressing several issues. Of course, this is still a developing story, so as with all SIP’s (that’s stories in progress!) I have to allow some flexibility to accomodate those developments. But among the things I will be looking at in more depth in upcoming installments will be: 1. The psychological (and misunderstood)nature of Michael’s relationships with children, which is really where this all begins; 2. Michael’s relationship with the Robson family, and how it compares to other families he befriended; 3. Wade’s staunch, adamant, and nearly 20-year-defense of Michael (so what the heck was that all about if he really believes what he’s saying now?); 4. How the pattern of this case follows the ones that have gone before-and why that may actually vindicate Michael; 5. The peculiar and unique history of the allegations made against Michael (why he’s been targeted so often, and why so many bogus/phantom cases), and 6: What the future and implications of this latest claim may mean-regardless of what a judge decides.
Given how closely entwined these topics are, I expect there will be lots of overlapping, but that’s okay. None of these can exist in isolation, as they all form an essential role in understanding what is happening-and more importantly, in arriving at some sense of just what the heck is really going on here.
UPDATE: 5/15/13: We may just have the answer to the question, What the heck is really going on? Answer: Wade Robson has lost his frickin’ mind! Now he has apparently decided that his debtor’s claim isn’t enough. In what has to be one of the most weirdly bizarre and unprecedented cases in recent history, Robson has decided to sue a dead man-or at the very least, it seems, every profitable entity connected with him! TMZ broke the story today. As a rule, I don’t link to TMZ or any of the trashier tabloids, but since TMZ seem to be the ones breaking these stories and updates exclusively, there isn’t much of a way to avoid them, unfortunately.
Here was the story TMZ reported:
Wade Robson WILL have his day in court in his attempt to prove he was molested by Michael Jackson … even if he’s shut down by the Michael Jackson Estate.
TMZ has learned … Robson has filed a civil lawsuit in L.A. County Superior Court … and it has nothing to do with his creditor’s claim against the Estate. We broke the story … Robson belatedly filed his creditor’s claim, alleging MJ molested him between the ages of 7 and 14.
Robson may get shut down by the probate judge because he waited too long to file his claim. But the civil lawsuit we found will NOT go away that easily.
The allegations in the civil lawsuit are sealed, but TMZ has obtained the face page of the complaint, which shows Robson is suing DOE 1, an individual, DOE 2, a California corporation, and DOE 3, a California corporation. As for who these anonymous DOES are … TMZ has done some digging, and it’s clear. Robson is targeting MJJ Productions – Michael’s record label (owned by Sony) which hired Wade when he was 11 — and MJJ Ventures … which produced Michael’s music videos.
The two corporations may have been involved in bringing Wade to the U.S. from his home in Australia, and it’s clear Wade will argue they had some responsibility for protecting him — kind of like the relationship between priests who molest and the Catholic Church.
As for the individual DOES (Wade names 50 DOES) … it’s very clear from our research that Robson is targeting the two executors of the MJ Estate – John Branca and John McClain.
Short story — even if Wade loses in probate court, he can probably have his day in civil court and put Michael Jackson and allegations of molestation before a jury.
And-just as I predicted here yesterday-Wade is apparently planning to do the media circuit, kicking off with an interview on The Today Show scheduled for 5/16. TMZ posted this video of him arriving at JFK airport, ostensibly for his Today Show interview. In the comment section, we were discussing Wade’s body language here as compared to many of the earlier videos posted here, where he was still adamantly defending Michael as his friend. I am going to say that after watching this vid twice, I have somewhat reassessed my earlier opinion. I don’t think he has the same, calm and easy demeanor as in those earlier videos-and certainly none of the sincerity. He seems curt, angry, and evasive. Yes, dealing with paparazzi is annoying, but all the same, something just seems very off about Wade now. To me, his very demeanor now comes across as someone with something to hide, and as someone with malicious, ulterior motives. Dare I say it? He just looks like a snake in the grass here!
This seems a really good time to call attention back to this, and redouble our efforts to get this passed!
UPDATE: 5/16/13: Wade’s TODAY SHOW interview and my analysis of it: (Note: I am no Craig Baxter, but I’m going to give a good stab at it, anyway! Hopefully, Baxter -the REAL body language expert-will be weighing in shortly).
However, let’s note already that Robson has dropped a huge bombshell, in having publicly recanted his “repressed memory” defense. Well, good for you, Wade! We knew it was baloney, so at least you came to your senses on that one. But…where does this leave his credibility now?
Since the show’s airing and the posting of the vid this morning, I’ve been reading various amateur attempts at analysis (and admittedly, mine is one more amateur attempt to add to the growing list). But I want to caution against placing too much emphasis on things like eye contact and breaking gaze. These things can mean someone is lying. But they can also be signs of intense concentration or a kind of defense mechanism when speaking on a subject that is emotionally distressing.
However, Wade’s entire demeanor here seems to me incredibly calculated and rehearsed-far more than he ever appeared in all of his videos praising Michael, which seemed to derive from a naturally bubbly personality and the easy, spontaneity of truth.
That is gone now. THIS Wade appears calculated and restrained, and under duress. (The duress of his lie? Fear of its repercussions? Guilt? Fear of not living up to his coaches/sponsors? Or the strain of bearing the burden of truth? It could well be all of these; I’ll explain more in due order).
I do sense a lot of anger in Wade. I believe the stories of the breakdown are true. But just who is he angry at, and why? Well, if we could get to the heart of that, we could certainly get to the heart of this whole mystery.
There are a couple of very obvious stress triggers for Wade in this interview: Any mention of money, his coaching story, and when pressed directly about his feelings for Michael-then and now. I think it would be fair to say that his interview represents a mixed bag of lies and truth. But how to separate which is which?
At 1:54 Robson is asked how he feels. His statement, “I feel strong” is a huge contradiction between words and body language, and to me is at the core of everything that is wrong and “off” about him in this interview. He is not feeling strong or confident at all; quite the contrary, his body language and entire demeanor is that of someone feeling very vulnerable and unsure of himself. Ever hear the phrase squirming? I believe wholeheartedly this is a man squirming inside. He keeps a very defensive pose throughout the interview, with legs crossed and body posture very rigid. This is a sign of extreme discomfort. Since Wade is already a public figure, and has been for much of his life, we can’t attribute this to nerves, so obviously it is the discomfort with the subject at hand.Now, possibly, there are two ways to read into this. One could be that he is under duress because he is lying, and knows it. Another “possible” explanation could be that coming out the other end of a traumatic ordeal, such as a complete emotional breakdown, can leave one feeling drained and devoid of animation. It’s too close to call which it might be, but I would reason to guess that Wade HAS been through some sort of trauma in the past year, and it has either left him shell shocked OR has just completely transformed him into a bitter, lying jackass. Take your pick.
What does he mean by “MY truth?” His sister Chantal used that same choice of words on her FB page.
Here is something Wade would have learned from his idol MJ: When Michael released his album “HIStory” there was a reason that the emphasis was placed on “HIS,” giving the title an instant double meaning-or additional layer of meaning. History, in essence, is written by the conquerors. History is a narrative written by others, of past events that have shaped us into who we are. But in emphasizing “HIS” Michael was personalizing the story to say, “This is MY history and MY story.” It remains to this day one of the most clever album titles in all the “history” of pop music.
But it can also be a very neat way to circumvent truth. After all, no one can invalidate one’s personal truth because truth is always in the eye of the beholder. A child, for example, may recall an event completely differently from the way the adults around him remember it. Does that, then, make the child’s version invalid? Or the adults’? No. It is simply two versions of the same truth, or the same reality-but viewed differently because the perceptions of an adult are vastly different from those of a child. A house that looks incredibly small to an adult may, for example, appear incredibly large to a small child. You get the idea.
If Wade Robson says, “This is my truth,” who is going to argue that? I think his words are coming from a complete knowledge and understanding that, from this moment going forward, there are going to be two distinct versions of this “truth”-the one he puts out vs. what the fans of Michael and his proponents will continue to put out to deflect him, not to mention the attorneys down the road who will rip him under cross examination. By phrasing it as “my truth” he is getting an early edge on the uphill battle against his credibility that he knows is coming.
It can also be read as a defiant statement against what the rest of the world thinks. Either way, he is making his phrasing very deliberate in order to circumvent the tough questions to his credibility that are surely coming.
It’s like trying to argue with a class of freshmen in English 102 that everyone’s interpretation of a piece of literature has validity…to a point. But then, at some point, you have to be able to back your claim. If you don’t have the evidence to back it up, your entire thesis/hypothesis will fall through. Same thing here.
Wade is asked about his 2005 testimony. Here is where he drops the ball completely and admits this was never an issue of repressed memory. But here is a huge problem for Wade. His own attorney has already made the statement to the press that this was a case of repressed memory! He has doctors who have already sworn to repressed memory as the entire basis of his claim! And basically, by admitting now that it was not repressed memory and that he was always aware of what was happening to him (alleging anything “did” happen), he is confessing that-as a fully competent adult in 2005-he knowingly committed perjury on the witness stand!
Either way, his credibility is shot because the way any judge is going to look at this case is: This guy either lied big time-twice!-under oath, and once as a fully competent adult, OR he is lying now. In either event, it puts his credibility into dire question.
I wanted to share with you a kick-ass comment I read from GlitterySocks on the Positively Michael forum (the underlined emphasis is mine):
I hope that people are not conflating the issues you mentioned with the facts at hand. Here, the facts at hand are that 1) his lawyer said that it is a repressed memory, and 2) that is what the case is built on. This is the entire psychological phenomenon that they used as a basis to be eligible for this late filing, and to explain the discrepancies in his 2005 testimony. Surely Wade was complicit with this assessment prior to filing– I would imagine that extensive tests and analysis occurred before deciding to go forward with this lawsuit. Doctors are involved in this case based on the repressed memory theory and lawyer statements have been made to the public (ie-potential judge and jurors). Now this incredibly critical point is suddenly dismissed and it is a case built on something else entirely (and which may not be eligible for a late filing).
I do not see how any judge or jury will ever be able to ascertain if this man is ever telling the truth about anything.
The problem is that, regardless of whether this is being treated as a civil matter of a debtor’s claim, the statute of limitations isn’t that easily circumvented. And Wade has just effectively shot down whatever slim chance he had on the repressed memory angle-not to mention having called his entire history of credibility into serious questioning!
Wade’s next uncomfortable trigger is when pressed about his 2005 testimony. He waivers visibly under any direct questions regarding money or this alleged “coaching” from Michael Jackson. Here is why I have a very hard time buying his coaching story: He states very specifically that after the Chandler allegations broke, Michael would call him every day and they would role play, rehearsing what Wade was to say.
For starters, Michael would have been way too smart to be having such phone conversations with ANY kid at ANY time, but especially after 1993! Michael was all too aware that anything said in a phone conversation could be taped at any time, by anybody, and used against him. As a celebrity, he was always aware of the threat of extortion; and over the years, as his mistrust increased, he would have been extra careful to not put himself in such a vulnerable and incriminating position.
Of course, given the nature of what he was being accused of, and its dire seriousness-and knowing full well that his young friends would be questioned and even grilled, it might have been understandable that Michael may have coached him in some regard about what to say; after all, even a true statement from a child can be misconstrued by an over zealous attorney or investigator. So perhaps it might be plausible Michael did coach him, but I don’t buy that these sessions occurred over the phone, and certainly not every day.
Wade breaks his gaze and shifts when asked directly about what Michael did to him. Of course, that again could be read two ways: Shame and embarrassment with discussing such a private issue, or lying. It seemed to me that he was almost fishing for a plausible response that would sound honest enough without making him sound as if he was totally throwing Michael under the bus (even though, of course, he was doing just that!). It is interesting that the information he did share sounded suspiciously like Jordan Chandler’s interview with Dr. Gardner. Again, this “could” be proof of a pattern, but just as likely, could also mean nothing more than that Wade is familiar with these sources. Take it for what it’s worth.
And just to reiterate a very powerful comment I saw on TMZ, “Michael wasn’t role playing with him for the last three years!”
And let’s go back to this point, which can’t be stressed enough: Wade Robson was a 22-year-old ADULT when he testified in 2005. If he was being manipulated, he was freely and willingly allowing himself to be manipulated!
No, here is the straight and skinny on that. He was either being completely truthful in 2005, OR:
He is a stinking, lying piece of offal who thoroughly enjoyed having sex with MJ, loved it, loved Michael, and loved what Michael was doing for him, and loved him even into adulthood, so much that he was perfectly willing to throw Gavin Arvizo and the others under the bus…and is just as willing now to throw Michael under that bus with him. (And isn’t it strange that he would use the term “an expression of our love?” Yes, I know he was supposedly quoting Michael, but I detected more than a hint of mutual sincerity in that statement. As they always say, it’s a very thin line between love and hate, and what I believe is that something-whatever-has pushed Wade over that edge from love to hate).
Sorry to be so blunt, but those are the only two choices. Wade doesn’t get to have it both ways. And given his adult status at the time, he can’t just admit he lied in 2005 and brush it all off that easily. “Oh, I was brainwashed.”
Like I said before, this is a young man with a LOT of answering to do, either way. It boils down to one simple truth: He is a liar. Whether he lied in 2005 or now, either way he is a liar. And I can’t wait for the cross examinations to begin!
Is there any sincerity in his interview? I believe there is still some genuine. mixed emotion when he is asked how he feels about Michael. There is a hint of the old animation here. All of his praise of Michael’s talent and as an inspiration to him through the years has been sincere, and that still comes through here. But there is also a lot of obvious discomfort with once again being put in a position to describe Michael in even these mixed terms. Again, this can be read one of two ways: Discomfort because it is a distressing and painful subject, or guilt because it forcing him to confront and acknowledge what he is doing to this man’s legacy and to his children. Since it can be read either way, I don’t know how much weight to give it, but clearly it is a sore point for him.
Whatever the case may be, it was a done deal when he uttered the “p” word and Michael’s name in the same breath, on national TV. There is no turning back from this point. Fans are never going to forgive Wade Robson. Michael Jackson’s family and children are never going to forgive him.
Okay, so maybe he doesn’t need the fans, or the Jackson family.
But he does need a judge to take him seriously, and at the rate he’s going, he is effectively shooting himself in the foot.
And besides, there’s something to be said about burned bridges. You never know when you might want to turn back, or wish you’d never been so quick to light that match.
Wade has burned his bridges along with his credibility.
Of all the things I take from this interview, there are only two things for which I believe Wade is truly sincere: Something has happened to him in the last year or so. Perhaps he was abused (but who’s to say that Michael was the abuser? As Corey Feldman has said, pedophilia is rampant in Hollywood). Could it be possible that he is simply transferring his anger and pain at another onto Michael, simply because Michael is an easier target and/or AEG is sponsoring him to lie?
Well, that is getting into the realm of pure speculation, but here is one thing that is not speculation: Wade Robson, currently, is a very angry and troubled man. My personal belief is that he is making Michael a scapegoat for his own issues-and not for the reasons he is raising here. His current demeanor also reveals a strong, sociopathic streak that was not evident before. He seems to be out for #1 now, and will stop at no means to do that.
I will apologize again if some of my words seem uncharacteristically blunt, but either way the scales are tipped (whether you believed Wade in 2005, or now) he has openly revealed himself as a liar who places his own needs and his own motives ahead of the welfare of others. He did not care about other abused children in 2005 (and let me remind you again, he was a fully capable adult at that time) and he does not care about them now.
What he does care about, very much, is Michael Jackson’s money.
But I have a feeling all the money in the world can’t fix Wade Robson’s problems.
Whatever they are.
UPDATE: 5/17/13: Craig Baxter has posted his analysis of the interview. Here are Parts I and II:
ETA: And…while it may not seem like much, this latest video from TMZ Live does set something of a historical precedent. For perhaps the first time ever, we see a gossip outlet seriously questioning the story of an MJ accuser. While I’m not ready to give TMZ any cookies just yet-trust me, they are relishing this story just as they have always relished any dirt on Michael-I think this does represent an important and progressive step forward. (Harry Levin is still a douche, however; just maybe a slightly less douche than before!):
True Believers Know There Is A Difference Between Talking To God And Hearing Voices!
While I am busy working on my upcoming posts on Wade Robson and Karen Faye (both of which admittedly may take several days each) I wanted to address something that I can put up quickly, TODAY.
On Wednesday, there was very sad testimony in the Katherine Jackson vs. AEG trial from Alif Sankey, associate producer of the This Is It shows. This story was mostly buried in the (conveniently) distracting avalanche of the Wade Robson story, which (again, most conveniently) broke on the very same day. But I wanted to address this story because, as so often happens with any media reporting on Michael Jackson, I can see already that this story (and Michael’s quote) is being misinterpreted, mocked, and ridiculed all over the internet.
Even CNN’s Alan Duke, who seems overall to be one of the most fair and balanced journalists reporting on the trial, couldn’t resist the urge to paraphrase Michael’s quote so that its context takes on a meaning much different from the one I know Michael intended. (And how do I know? I know from the context and the circumstances under which the words were spoken, as stated under oath by Sankey herself. And I “know” because of what I know in general in regards to Michael’s spiritual beliefs, which were not only very similar to my own, but also are not that fundamentally different from what most Americans believe-that is, if you believe the hype that most Americans are Christians, or claim to be). Yet it’s amazing how the very views we pretend to espouse are so often twisted, mocked and ridiculed.
Before I ramble further, let’s just look at the first article I saw that broke the story, on CNN.com:
Michael Jackson days before death: ‘God keeps talking to me’
By Alan Duke, CNN
updated 10:23 AM EDT, Thu May 9, 2013
Los Angeles (CNN) – Michael Jackson told his tour director days before he died he was hearing God’s voice, a producer testified Wednesday.
“God keeps talking to me,”Jackson said.
Those words spoken to Kenny Ortega and Jackson’s frail appearance were so disturbing that it caused Ortega and associate producer Alif Sankey to burst into tears at a rehearsal, Sankey said Wednesday in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Jackson’s mother and three children.
Jackson, who was being fitted for his costumes, appeared “extremely thin” and “was not speaking normally” at the June 19, 2009, rehearsal, Sankey told jurors in a trial to determine if concert promoter AEG Live should be held liable in the pop icon’s death.
Jurors saw a photo of Jackson at the costume fitting that showed an obviously thin and gaunt man.
Jackson wrongful death trial under way
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Sankey testified that she and Ortega cried together after Jackson left. On her way home, Sankey stopped her car to call Ortega “because I had a very strong feeling that Michael was dying.”
“I was screaming into the phone at that point,” Sankey testified. “I said he needs to be put in the hospital now.”
Sankey became emotional as she testified about the call.
“I kept saying that ‘Michael is dying, he’s dying, he’s leaving us, he needs to be put in a hospital,’” Sankey said. “‘Please do something. Please, please.’ I kept saying that. I asked him why no one had seen what I had seen. He said he didn’t know.”
Ortega sent a series of e-mails early the next morning that resulted in a meeting at Jackson’s house between Jackson, Dr. Conrad Murray, AEG Live President Randy Phillips and Ortega.
An e-mail from Phillips after that meeting said he had confidence in Murray, “who I am gaining immense respect for as I get to deal with him more.”
“This doctor is extremely successful (we check everyone out) and does not need this gig, so he (is) totally unbiased and ethical,” Phillips’ e-mail said.
The lawsuit contends that Phillips and AEG never checked Murray out. Otherwise, they would have known he was deeply in debt and vulnerable to breaking the rules in treating Jackson to keep his job, it argues.
Jackson lawyers contend that AEG Live is liable for Jackson’s death because the company negligently hired, retained or supervised Murray — who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s death.
Jackson’s last rehearsal was at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles on June 24, 2009. Security camera video shown to the jury Wednesday showed him walking with a blanket wrapped around him as he passed Sankey.
“He didn’t look good,” she testified. “I asked him if he was cold, and he said ‘Yes.’”
Jackson sang two songs that last night on stage: “Thriller” and “Earth Song,” she said.
“He did it,” Sankey said. “He went through it. He wasn’t in full performance mode.”
Sankey said she was standing next to Ortega at a rehearsal the next afternoon when Randy Phillips called to tell him Jackson was dead.
“Kenny collapsed in our arms,” she said.
The lawsuit contends that AEG Live executives missed a series of red flags warning them that Jackson’s life was at risk because of Murray, who was giving him nightly infusions of the surgical anesthetic propofol to treat his insomnia.
The coroner ruled Jackson had died from an overdose of propofol in combination with several sedatives on June 25, 2009.
Murray told investigators he used the drugs to help Jackson sleep so he could be rested for rehearsals.
AEG lawyers argue Jackson, not their company, chose and supervised Murray, and that their executives had no way of knowing what the doctor was doing to Jackson in the privacy of his bedroom.
In contrast to six days of testimony mostly about Jackson’s death, jurors did hear about the pop icon’s creativity during Sankey’s testimony
“Michael’s imagination was endless,” Sankey said. “He would visualize it, and it happened. It was amazing.”
Katherine Jackson dabbed tears from her eyes as her son’s “Smooth Criminal” video was played in court.
Sankey first met Michael Jackson when she was a dancer in the 1987 video production.
“We got to see Michael’s imagination come to life,” Sankey said. “That was my first time as a dancer, as an artist, that I was completely inspired by his craft and inspired by his attention to every detail. He was so detailed and he never missed a thing.”
Working with Jackson was “magical,” she said.
“I dream still to this day that I will be able to create on that level of magic that Michael created,” Sankey said. “It was like living a dream of working with an artist like that, and I will treasure it and have it in my memory forever.”
Sankey’s work as an associate producer and dancer for Jackson’s “This Is It” tour put her on the witness list in this trial.
“He shared with me that he was excited to do the show,” she said. “He was excited to show his kids, finally to show them who he was, what he was all about; he was very excited about that.”
Jurors heard about Jackson’s relationship with his three children and their love of their father. Sankey described how they would come with their father to the set each day in early June when he was filming video elements for the show.
“Paris had a purse, and inside her purse, she had all this candy in her purse she didn’t want her daddy to know about,” Sankey said. “She had these little pictures of her father in her purse that were in frames. She had, like, a lot of them. Her purse was full of candy and pictures of her daddy.”
“They loved their daddy,” she said.
The “This Is It” concert would have been “a pretty big show,” Sankey told jurors.
“It was going to be huge and it was going to be innovative, different,” she testified. “From working with Michael in my past, I knew it had to be something that no one’s ever seen. It all had to be new and pioneering.”
The next witness when court resumes Thursday morning will be Michael Jackson’s longtime hair and make up artist, Karen Faye. She was quoted in interviews after Jackson’s death saying that the pop star was in ill health weeks before he died.
Spectators in the small Los Angeles courtroom Wednesday morning included Judge Lance Ito, famous for presiding over the O.J. Simpson murder trial in 1995. Ito was there to watch his friend, Judge Yvette Palazuelos, preside over this trial and then go to lunch with her.
The paraphrase from what Michael actually said-via Sankey’s testimony-to the opening paragraph of the article is telling, and a perfect case of media slanting for an intended effect. But there is a substantial difference between a person claiming to hear God’s physical voice, and a person who is simply stating, “God keeps talking to me.” These distinctions may seem minor, but they are of the utmost importance when making the distinction between a person suffering from genuine mental illness and delusion on the one hand, and on the other, one who is simply speaking from a deep-rooted faith that relies on an instinctive and intuitive sense of when God is “speaking” to them-which, as any deeply religious person can tell you, is not a matter of physically hearing God’s voice at all. Rather, it is simply a deep-seated, intuitive feeling of being “called”-not unlike any preacher or reverend who simply states that his occupation is a result of having answered “God’s calling.”
It Was Often Clear In His Performances That Michael Was Channeling From A Higher Source of Power. He Claimed His Songs Came From God. Why, Then, Should Some Find It So Odd That He Should Know When He Was Being Called?
Why does it sound so perfectly natural and acceptable coming from those folks, but not from Michael Jackson? Just because he was an entertainer? Or because we have been so brainwashed by a cynical and (mostly) atheistic media and entertainment industry that talking to God is only for the mentally insane?
The difference between the paraphrase and Michael’s actual, quoted words-via Sankey’s testimony-makes all the difference.
Michael was never saying at any point that he was hearing the voice of God. What he said was: “God keeps talking to me.”
Sankey and Ortega, evidently, understood exactly what he meant-and which, in turn, was precisely why they were so alarmed, as well they should have been.
As per usual, the story has generated the usual media spins of Michael as someone suffering at the very least from mental delusions, and has invited the usual ignorant and trolling comments. Perhaps that would not bother me half so much, except that all of the comments, whether from haters or well-intentioned fans, seems to entertain no possibility other than the fact that Michael was “not himself” in his last days. And that is putting it kindly. “Face it, it’s a sign of mental illness,” went one of the-let’s just say-more compassionate comments.
When A Man Insists That God Keeps Talking To Him-And Days Later Is Dead!-Can We Simply Chalk It Up To Mental Delusion? I Think Not!
Well, has anyone considered that just maybe God was talking to him? Is it any coincidence that, within days of making this statement, he was dead? Think on that for a moment. While that thought is simmering, let’s consider some other things.
Michael had certainly maintained a close relationship with God throughout his life. Let’s not forget, he was raised as a devout Jehovah’s Witness. Even after breaking away from the church and the JW faith, he maintained a deep spirituality that was always a bit out of kilter with the entertainment industry (for as I said, most of the entertainment industry is comprised of atheists and those who practice alternative religions).
However, I have also heard some arguments from fans that Michael’s comment was simply part of his lifelong creative partnership with God. He always said, for example, that his creative gifts came from God, and that writing a song for him was more about channeling than creativity. Someone even (half jokingly, I believe) brought up the alleged conversation between Michael and Kenny Ortega in which Ortega told him to turn off God’s voice, and Michael quipped, “I can’t-God might give all of my ideas to Prince.”
Now that was the Michael we all know and love; he was certainly well known for his outrageous sense of humor.
But this was no laughing matter, and hence the grave concerns of Sankey and Ortega. They knew that Michael was being serious this time.
But deluded? Possibly; I am certainly no medic and certainly not qualified to make a diagnosis. I wasn’t there, and I did not witness what these people saw and heard. But my gut instinct tells me that both Sankey and Ortega knew exactly what Michael’s words portended. Why do you think that, according to Sankey, her immediate reaction was to get on the phone to Ortega and scream, “Michael is dying. He’s leaving us.” Why? Because in her heart she knew exactly what those words meant.
The Dying Often Seem To Simply “Know.” And While There Is No Exact Science To Verify It, This Seems To Hold As True For Those Who Die Unnaturally As Naturally.
It has always been said that the dying seem to know when their time is near. Certainly we see evidence of this all the time, especially among the elderly and those with lingering illnesses. But even those doomed to untimely, accidental deaths may often have a sad feeling of foreboding in the days and weeks leading up to their death. Often this takes the form of an inexplicable sadness or melancholy that they just can’t shake off. Many times, their loved ones may see the signs, but may not realize until looking back in hindsight that this is what was happening to them. For example, I had a beloved college instructor who died in a tragic car accident while I was away at graduate school. I didn’t know of her death until I came home for summer vacation. But after I learned of her death, I also learned from many of her colleagues that her behavior in the months leading up to her death had been rather strange. She had complained about teaching a course on Chaucer (an author whom she adored, and a course she normally loved to teach) and had often expressed thoughts that seemed foreign to those who knew her best. While there has been much study done on the psychology of the dying, the studies mostly apply to the terminally ill-those who know they are dying. There is, as yet, no absolute science on those whose deaths are simply imminent, whether by accident or natural causes. Yet history has taught us that, often, those who are nearing death simply know.
Being of Native American descent (and one who has actively participated in Native religions, as well as having been raised in the Christian faith) none of what Michael was saying seems at all unusual or deluded to me. Many cultures and, specifically, many religions teach that those who are dying receive warning from God. In Michael’s case, it seemed that he was being called-urgently-and had been for days, perhaps even weeks or months. That isn’t to say I believe he had a death wish, or was suicidal. I don’t believe that at all. But I think, as so many often seem to, he may have had a sense that his time was imminent.
My grandmother, who was 86 when she died of diabetes complications, went through the same process. For months on end, I sat in her hospital room while her “delusions” and conversations with relatives on “the other side” became increasingly more lucid-and chillingly real. She would call out the names of relatives whom I knew had been dead for years, often carrying on the most natural conversations with them.
How much of this was delusion, perhaps brought on by her illness and the many medications she was taking, is hard to say. I am sure at least some of it was probably brought on by the very real physical effects of a body and a brain that was shutting down. But there has also been an amazingly consistent pattern in the reports of all those who, like me, have watched someone die. The pattern never varies. Hearing “God” or the voices of loved ones who have gone before is almost universal. In general, there seems to be a consistent pattern of behavior in all of those who are not yet quite gone, but seem to already have “one foot on the other side.”
For sure, there was a good reason why Sankey felt that Michael’s words were cause for alarm. But I also can’t ignore the fact that I believe, during this time, Michael’s body was being literally “poisoned” from the treatment he was receiving from Murray. So it is very possible that he was having delusions.
To Me, Michael’s “Gauntness” In This Is It Was Much More Accentuated In Some Segments Than Others.
It is still hard for me to know exactly where to stand on this issue. I watched This Is It again the night before last (mostly because we had lucked out and found a Blu-Ray copy incredibly cheap!). I’ve seen the movie a million times (probably no exaggeration, lol!) but this time I watched with an especially keen eye those shots of his last rehearsal, both the Thriller and Earth Song segments. Despite all the reports to the contrary, Michael looked fine to me in those segments. In fact, he looked BETTER-as in healthier and more like his old self-than in many of the segments filmed from earlier rehearsals. Perhaps it was simply the Ed Hardy clothes (which masked the gaunt thinness so apparent in other scenes) or the fact that his dancing in the Thriller segment was so flawlessly “spot on” but it was, as always, hard for me to envision that this was a man who would be dead within twenty-four hours. He did look very thin in some scenes (for example, the scenes where he is wearing the shoulder pad jacket-a horrible wardrobe choice that certainly accentuated his gauntness) but not unusually thin for Michael. He was, in fact, actually the same weight as in his Thriller video. But it’s 2009, over a quarter of a century later, and at 50 Michael simply no longer had the frame of a 25-year-old dancer’s body. The autopsy lists his weight at 136 pounds-thin, yes. But gaunt, no.
Michael Rehearsing Thriller On June 24th, 2009 (Segment From 2:42 Forward). He Had Less Than 24 Hrs To Live:
Yes, he looked as healthy and able the night before as any time ever in his career. And yet…we know how the story ends.
Perhaps, as some are testifying, he was at least in part deluded-the result of a body being slowly poisoned by toxins he was being administered at this point on a nightly basis. But then again, it’s also very possible that, just maybe, he was really being called home. Hence my rather sarcastic title, simply because I am tired of reading all the mockery. Like I said, one fact for sure is one we can’t ignore-within days, he was indeed home with God.
It’s Not Inconceivable To Me That God Was Saying, Enough Is Enough.
Coincidence? Save it for the cynics and the atheists. I prefer to believe that God, who sees all and knows all, said this child of mine has endured enough. It’s time to call him home.
Was Michael hearing voices in his head-or truly heeding the call of God? We can’t know, for whatever the truth is, it is between Michael and God.
But perhaps all the more reason to cease mocking what we can’t, or don’t, or refuse to understand.
There are simply too many unexplained things in this world for us to feel so smugly-with our technology and our innovations and our psychology and our science- that we have all the answers.