‘Making Michael” by Mike Smallcombe: A Review

making-michael-coverWhen it comes to books on Michael Jackson, there is certainly no shortage. It is a market that continues to grow more glutted with every passing year, but unfortunately, books focusing solely on the man’s art and music still lag far behind the voluminous outpouring of salacious “tell all” biographies and questionable memoirs from so-called “friends.” While recent years have brought about a much needed renaissance of serious critical interest in Michael Jackson’s music and the cultural importance of his musical legacy, the commercially available books that delve into this subject with any depth remain shockingly sparse. Other than the works of Joe Vogel, Armond White, Susan Fast and a few others, the market for books of serious discussion on Michael Jackson as an artist (and especially as an artist provocateur) has not overall proven as profitable as books designed to cater to the tabloid-fed demographic. For that reason alone, Mike Smallcombe deserves props for daring to tread into territory that few have dared to tread-at least with any hope of profitable return.

Smallcombe's Book Had The Misfortune Of Dropping Only A Few Months After The Disappointing Steve Knopper Book.
Smallcombe’s Book Had The Misfortune Of Dropping Only A Few Months After The Disappointing Steve Knopper Book.

Smallcombe’s book had the misfortune of dropping this past April, only a few months on the heels of Steve Knopper’s The Genius of Michael Jackson, a book that purported to be a balanced insight into Michael Jackson’s artistic vision (at least according to the title) but instead disintegrated quickly into another snide odyssey from the perspective of a white male writer (another Rolling Stone writer, at that) whose respect for his subject’s artistry remained questionable at best (and, not surprisingly, largely limited to his Thriller-era, Quincy Jones produced work). However, with that being said, I didn’t necessarily detest Knopper’s book with the same level of vehemence as some fans. For starters, although Knopper offered little in the way of original theory, the fact that he had researched many of the more serious scholarly works on Jackson’s music at least said something, and if nothing else, his book may serve as a gateway for those mainstream readers curious enough to dig deeper into the growing body of scholarly research on Michael Jackson’s work. Secondly, the fact that Knopper wasn’t totally dismissive of Jackson’s Dangerous and HIStory era work suggests an interesting paradigm shift in the critical assessment and appreciation of Michael’s more mature work. For this reason and others, I was more prone to view Knopper’s book as at least a small but important turning stone in the overall canon of Michael Jackson books-at least, one that set out with the intent of analyzing his art rather than his life, even if it fell far short of that goal.

Nevertheless, the Knopper book still managed to raise a lot of ire among fans who, for the most part, found his often condescending attitude toward his subject more than off putting. Why write a book purporting to be about an artist’s “genius” and then spend at least a goodly half of the book attempting to portray this artist, by turns, as a spoiled brat and megalomaniac who essentially burned his “genius” out early and then spent the rest of his career running all of his well meaning producers, engineers, musicians, directors and record executives insane with his over the top demands, budget excesses, and eccentricities?

Thus, when news hit that yet another book was coming down the pipe from yet another white male journalist, purporting to celebrate Michael Jackson’s musical legacy, the mood among the fandom was understandably skeptical. Putting aside the works of Vogel and a few other notable exceptions, could we really trust another white male journalist to “get it right” this time?

I will be honest. I downloaded Smallcombe’s book onto my Kindle app with small expectations, despite much of the hype around it at the time. I started reading it and thought that, at best, I would be in for a pleasant but slightly boring journey down a path of already well tread stories. After all, most fans who have put any degree of research into Michael Jackson’s music are already well familiar with the stories of how his most famous albums and songs came together. That isn’t to say that the story of Michael Jackson’s rise from Jackson 5/Jacksons front man to international global superstar isn’t a phenomenal story. Of course it is, and it’s certainly a story that deserves to be told. It is a story that harkens back to the very essence of the American hero archetype. But it is a difficult story to tackle and to give true justice; its very epic scope is its own worst limitation. In the past, the most successful projects that have attempted to trace the rise of Michael Jackson have been content to trace that rise from The Jackson 5 days to the beginning of the Off the Wall and Thriller eras, which in itself is one of the most phenomenal success stories in all of popular music. Many projects are content to leave it there, with the promise of all the greatness and magic that was to ensue-as well as, of course, the inevitable (and by now almost cliche’) hint of the tragic fall to come, without ever taking into consideration that this “downfall” would bring about the greatest artistic resurgence of his career.

Far Too Often, The Story Ends Here-With The Insinuation That It Was All Downhill From This Moment. Nothing Could Have Been Further From The Truth-And "Making Michael" Smashes That Myth To Pieces
Far Too Often, The Story Ends Here-With The Insinuation That It Was All Downhill From This Moment. Nothing Could Have Been Further From The Truth-And “Making Michael” Smashes That Myth To Pieces

I admired the courage of Smallcombe to undertake the project, and the premise certainly sounded interesting; that is, essentially, the idea of making the reader a “fly on the wall” as the great metamorphosis that became the creation of Michael Jackson, adult superstar legend, was born. But admittedly, it took me awhile into this journey before I was truly captivated. Now, having finally read it all (it is a massive book and a huge commitment) I think I can safely say in hindsight why the book was slow to grow on me-but when it did, I was truly hooked.

Much of it has to do with the fact that, unlike most of the ilk of white male music journalists who undertake the task of analyzing Jackson’s art, Smallcombe actually has a deeply ingrained appreciation for ALL eras of Michael Jackson’s work, but especially his 90’s era work. In a promotional interview given at the time of the book’s release, Smallcombe stated that his favorite Michael Jackson album is Dangerous, followed closely by HIStory.

This fact alone gives the book far more credibility than many similarly earnest but ultimately failed attempts by past music writers, who usually end up making the fatal mistake of treating later albums like Dangerous, HIStory, Blood On The Dancefloor and Invincible as mere footnotes to Jackson’s legacy. Well, given the fact that these four albums alone outnumber the two-fold magic punch of Off the Wall and Thriller (with Bad often caught somewhere in the middle as the follow-up album “almost as good as Thriller but not quite) it may be worth noting that if we persist in relegating these albums to mere footnotes, that is one very long note indeed. Perhaps far better that we begin to attempt some serious analysis of what these albums actually do mean in terms of the Michael Jackson canon.

Although the entire book is certainly engaging, I was really most hooked from the later chapters forward. Sure, there were a lot of the familiar and expected facts, some of which can be tedious to hardcore fans who already know much of this stuff (however, Smallcombe isn’t writing necessarily for the hardcore fan, but for the lay reader who may not already be familiar with some of the more routine details of how these albums came to be) but in almost every chapter there would be some interesting tidbit or story I had not heard before. The stories are often amusing, revealing to lay readers the depth of Michael’s often childlike and wickedly humorous charm; sometimes shockingly sad; sometimes infuriating (the chapter on Invincible, for example, pulls no punches about Sony’s part in its publicity sabotage) and, at all times, respectful of the fact that the complexities of genius are not something that can be easily pinned down.

Michael Really WAS Pole Dancing In Those Famous Shots By Alan Watson-He Was Dancing To "Billie Jean!"
Michael Really WAS Pole Dancing In Those Famous Shots By Alan Watson-He Was Dancing To “Billie Jean!”

Of course, as with all books of this kind of scope, there are some inherent flaws. A fully comprehensive book of Michael Jackson’s entire adult career cannot be truly possible without cutting some corners, which means that no one era or album can be covered in depth. Also, those who are looking for more detailed accounts of Michael’s personal life would be advised to look elsewhere. Smallcombe does touch upon all of the major events of Jackson’s adult life, but only so much as those events are relevant to the music (but in all honesty, this is the approach that Michael would have us take if we must dissect his life at all-in the end, as with all great artists, all that matters of how he lived his life is what transpires into the art). Nevertheless, nothing here feels short changed. The sections dealing with the Chandler and Arvizo allegations, for example, appeared well researched and certainly informative enough for the lay reader who, again, would only need enough to know how vastly these events shook the core of Jackson’s foundation and inspired the works that came out of these dark chapters.

I think that mainstream readers will also appreciate Smallcombe’s balanced and objective approach. Even though Smallcombe is obviously a fan, and his genuine admiration of Michael as a human being and artist shines through at all times, it isn’t a book that in any way attempts to deify Michael or to excuse some of his excesses and flaws. However, there is very big marked difference between Smallcombe’s approach and that of, say, the approach that Steve Knopper took in The Genius of Michael Jackson. This is a book from an author who obviously respects Jackson’s artistry and is willing to examine his art objectively from the perspective of a genius musician, songwriter, and performer whose talent-like that of all the greats-was given to enormous ebbs and flows of energy. And in this story, we get a very real sense of the dark forces that were around Michael and that ultimately played their role in diminishing (though never killing) that energy.

However, this book-like all of the best books written on Michael Jackson-is not a tragic story, but rather, the inspiring story of a fighter and a survivor whose gift of music prevailed through all of the worst storms of his life. Smallcombe reminds us that Michael’s life, at the end, can be viewed as a glass half empty or half filled. On the one hand, yes, the tragedies are there. There were passages quite hard to read or, as a fan, to be reminded of again, such as Michael courageously attempting to rise to the demands of his This Is It rehearsals while his body was being systematically poisoned by Murray’s “Frankenstein” medical experiments. But Smallcombe also reminds us that Michael Jackson nevertheless died fully in saddle, with his boots on, having lived long enough to see the unprecedented demand for his ticket sales and having miraculously overcome his medical difficulties to deliver two nights of amazing rehearsals that, of course, would be forever immortalized as his final performances (and thereby cheating all of those naysayers who had predicted for him a life of ruination and exile).

The Book's Final Chapters On "This Is It" Tastefully Blends Triumph and Tragedy For An Impactful And Moving Read
The Book’s Final Chapters On “This Is It” Tastefully Blends Triumph and Tragedy For An Impactful And Moving Read

Smallcombe’s book is much more than just a musical odyssey through the turbulent up’s and down’s of a musical icon’s adult career. It is also an important reminder that in the person of Michael Jackson, we had our closest American incarnation of a true epic hero, one whose art enabled him to achieve true “invincibility” and to survive against every odd-at least, until his great heart finally gave out and refused to take up the tiresome burden of living again. And that is where this story ultimately ends, as Smallcombe made the conscious choice not to exploit Jackson’s controversial posthumous “career.” Perhaps that is fitting, for no matter how much money Michael Jackson continues to earn from the grave, his legacy is firmly built on the songs and albums he left us, those he blessed with every ounce of his sweat, energy, and undying drive for perfection. And as Smallcombe reminds us in many passages, that obsession could at times be Jackson’s own worst enemy-it resulted, for example, in at least a fifth of Invincible’s greatest tracks being left on the cutting floor-but it was also this quality that made his greatest work, truly great.

Making Michael is a book that celebrates the greatness of Michael Jackson’s music with honesty and a refreshing lack of the usual “white privilege” cynicism that permeates the writing about Jackson from so many white male music writers. Fans will no doubt have varying opinions as to their own satisfaction with the book (I have read all of the reviews, and some of the more negative points are valid) but, overall, this book stands as an important addition to the growing list of scholarship on Jackson’s work.

Student essay on bad

bad6Last summer, I added Michael Jackson’s “Bad” video to the music analysis/research unit of my English 102 curriculum. As most of my readers know, my classes have been dissecting the “Black or White” video for years. More recently, I had added “Earth Song” to the curriculum, but had also debated the idea for some time of adding “Bad” which I felt could make an interesting companion piece to “Black or White”‘s racial themes. I had started using “Bad” in American Lit to help illustrate and enrich the theme of Langston Hughes’s essay The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain, and having had much success there, felt inspired to add it to English 102 (also, I had spent the better part of the summer writing on the “Bad” short film and the story of Edmund Perry myself for an upcoming anthology collection on Jackson’s works) so perhaps I was feeling especially inspired to discuss it in the classroom. In any event, however, I have discovered as an educator that Michael Jackson’s songs and short films-many of them replete with social conscious messages that still resonate with us today, and what’s more, remain relevant today-are important works for facilitating analytical class discussions and debates.

On that note, I wanted to share with you an exceptionally insightful essay written by Bethany Pittman, who used Elizabeth Amisu’s excellent analysis as one of her required sources:

The Superhero in Michael Jackson’s “Bad” by Bethany Pittman

Released on September 7, 1987, Michael Jackson’s pop funk song “Bad” was a number one hit within one month. Originally written to be a duet, it was included on the album Bad and was received with mixed reviews from members of the black community. Many were unsure what to think about the video; however, Jackson’s intent was to improve the relationships between the black and white communities. Jackson’s character, Daryl, is an embodiment of both these communities and the consequences he faces because of that. By comparing Jackson’s character in “Bad” to Harry Potter and Superman, Elizabeth Amisu is painting him as a superhero – one that is creating a radical, cultural movement in the black community.

It is clear that the video is making a statement in the black community even from the first scene. Jackson’s character is one attending an all white school where he is doing exceptionally well academically. Later in the video when he is surrounded by his black friends he is mocked for this; attending this school is something that is simply unacceptable for his friends since it puts blacks and whites on the same level. His friends believe that the white community is filled with snobby rich people, completely opposite of the environment in which they have been raised. During the train scene, the sole black female has her head and eyes covered while looking down. The rest of the white males and females are uncovered and looking out of the windows. Jackson’s character does the same, showing that he is used to being immersed in the white community regardless of his skin color. These two examples show to the audience that it is possible for the black and white communities to exist together without harm; this even creates a more educated black community in the case of Edmund Perry. Based on the true story experiences of Edmund Perry, “Bad” showcases a black male standing up to his friends for what he believes is the right thing to do.

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Continuing on through the beginning of the music video Jackson’s character undergoes peer pressure from his friends. When Jackson’s character says that he does not want to participate, his friend repeatedly asks him “Are you bad?” This is paired with taunting about how Jackson’s character has lost his respect with his friends by being sent to a “sissy school” within the white community. In her article, Amisu claims that Jackson’s character “is going from safety to conflict”, the “safety” being the upper class school, and “conflict” being Daryl’s home and friends (Amisu). She compares this transfer of protection and shelter to Harry Potter’s first train ride to Hogwarts. While Daryl is returning to his home where he was raised and Potter is departing to Hogwarts for the first time, they are both faced with challenges once they reach their destination. They both are moving between different communities with different societal standards and cultural norms. By drawing this conclusion, Amisu is presenting the audience with the idea that Daryl is accepted in both communities, furthering a cultural movement in the black community.

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Amisu goes on to show this bilateral personification of Daryl in her analysis of his clothing during the dancing scenes. She states that “Jackson is simultaneously Clark Kent and Superman, both a shy introvert and an inspiring showman” (Amisu). The “shy introvert” is referring to Jackson’s character at school. He is one that follows the rules and excels academically; one that pays attention in class and is eager to learn. The “inspiring showman” in Daryl is brought out when his friend continues to taunt him and ask him “Are you bad?” Daryl is frustrated and shows that he is indeed “bad” by performing inspiring and insistent dance sequences throughout the video. Much like Superman, Daryl is existent and accepted in two completely opposite communities. Rather than the civilian and superhero communities, Jackson’s character is portrayed in the white and black communities.

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Amisu also presents an interesting idea of perhaps Daryl was being taunted as not “bad” enough because he did not want to be associated with the black community anymore. Perhaps he had lost pride in his roots and his current friend group after being submersed in the culture of the white community. Daryl assures his friends that he is still “bad” even though he does not agree with their actions. He shows how being “bad” can be a good thing – a stand of confidence and individuality. This portrays Daryl as his own kind of superhero.

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He is representing both the black and white communities simultaneously, and is standing up for what he believes is right. By doing this he is showing that there is a moral obligation for society to follow regardless of skin color. Aisha Harris claims the meaning of the song “Bad” is about Daryl “making his own place” in the world (Harris). In the video, by encompassing both communities, indeed Daryl has created his own ideas, morals, and place in his world. He is fighting for individuality within the togetherness of the two different communities.

While Jackson has had many songs that have stirred viewers and formed mixed reactions, “Bad” was one that has always been targeted specifically towards the black community. Based on a true story, it emotionally appealed to viewers and brought into light the racial divide still occurring two decades after the ending of the Civil Rights Movement. Jackson’s character, Daryl, is an artistic embodiment of the combination of the black and white communities and sends a message to the audience about the importance of unity within society. This unity gives him the individuality and courage to say that he is indeed “bad” and can stand up for himself against his friends. Daryl’s character is one that can be considered a superhero for he is not afraid of merging two different ideas and cultures while still maintaining his unique independence.

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Exposing Radar Online’s Secret Shame (Part 4): Their Potential 100 Million Dollar Mistake
5 THOUGHTS ON “STUDENT ESSAY ON “BAD”: THE SUPERHERO IN MICHAEL JACKSON’S “BAD” BY BETHANY PITTMAN”
Monika
SEPTEMBER 17, 2016 AT 9:36 PM
Great!…finally the genious behind Michael’s work is being discovered ….I give dedicated every day work for it and makes me happy that it comes to light around the globe ��…hugs from me
REPLY
kerryhennigan
SEPTEMBER 18, 2016 AT 2:44 AM
Thank you for bringing Bethany’s essay to our attention, Raven. Great that you are providing the opportunity for people to learn and appreciate Michael’s art in-depth.
REPLY
Esmeralda Rokaj
SEPTEMBER 18, 2016 AT 9:26 AM
I believe that “Bad” also touched upon the stereotype that black people are supposed to be ‘dangerous’ and criminally tough.

Daryl’s friends plan to attack that old man at the subway station. When one of them asks Daryl “Are you bad?” he also means “Are you black enough to do this?”. What Daryl does later on by saving the old man and dancing, shows that being black or bad shouldn’t be related to crimes. He does want to put black and white people on the same level, that being the level of morality and duty towards society. This isn’t devided by race or anything else. It’s everyone’s duty and this is important on fighting one of the biggest racist remarks towards black people.

The friendly hand grabbing at the end means that we can and must work together to reach that level of equality, not only on rights, but on responsibilities too.
REPLY
Kimberly Cales
SEPTEMBER 18, 2016 AT 2:51 PM
Such beautiful work!!! I am proud to have been able to enjoy this piece.
Thank you!!!!
REPLY
Elizabeth Amisu
SEPTEMBER 19, 2016 AT 6:16 AM
Dear Raven,

Thank-you for publishing this beautiful piece. I am delighted to know that Michael Jackson Studies has found such success with your students, especially with regards to culture, ethnicity and social issues. Michael Jackson’s art is still so relevant and resonant. To my mind he becomes more so as the years progress. I particularly enjoyed Bethany’s points about Michael Jackson and cultural mobility, the idea that Jackson’s work really can be used to forge more transition and mutability between cultures, instead of the ‘cultural appropriation’ we see so often today. The quote, ‘Daryl, is an artistic embodiment
of the combination of the black and white communities and sends a message to the audience about the importance of unity within society’ stayed with me for some days since I read this piece. You are surely doing magnificent work with your students.

Best wishes,

Elizabeth

Exposing radar online pt 4

Michael With His Nephews-Tarryl, Taj and TJ Jackson-On The Set Of The “Why” Video Shoot
Michael With His Nephews-Tarryl, Taj and TJ Jackson-On The Set Of The “Why” Video Shoot
It turns out, Radar Online may be paying BIG time for the part they have played in the current orchestrated smear campaign against Michael Jackson! The smutty tabloid has just been hit with a $100 million dollar lawsuit by Michael’s nephews Taj, Tarryl and TJ Jackson. As most of my readers probably know, the nephews became unwitting victims of slander in all of this mess when Radar Online-so caught up in their stats victory dance after breaking the phony child porn story that they apparently lost their frickin’ minds-decided for good measure to throw in a story about the three nephews having been molested by their uncle. Not only was that story blatantly false, it also implied that the three were guilty of a felony since the story goes that the nephews were willing participants who accepted bribes and then attempted to “cover” for their uncle’s “guilt.”

Michael Can’t Defend Himself-But His Blood Still Can!
Michael Can’t Defend Himself-But His Blood Still Can!
In running this story, Radar Online apparently forgot one very important fact. Although there still exist no laws to protect the dead from libel, there are still plenty of legal repercussions that living persons can take. While including the nephews in their smear campaign was probably the stupidest blunder Radar Online could have made, Michael’s fans all over the world can heave a victorious sigh of relief that yes, they really were that stupid-and thank goodness for it! Although this massive lawsuit names Taj, Tarryl, and TJ Jackson as the plaintiffs, rest assured, it is a victory blow being delivered for Michael, as well. He is not here to defend himself, but his blood still can. And if they win, they will have succeeded in striking a tremendous blow against not only Radar Online, but the entire tabloid industry!

First, let’s have a look at the actual documents that have been exchanged between attorney Bert Fields, representing Taj, Tarryl and T.J. Jackson and Radar Online (courtesy of DailyMichael.com):

Bertram1

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Bertram3

Bertram4

Bertram5

Bertram6

Bertram7

Bertram8

Bertram9

Bertram10

Tough words indeed from Bert Fields! However, this might be a good time to step back and ask: Just what are the chances for a victorious outcome in this case? This is not the first time that the nephews have taken a tabloid to task, and in the past they were less than successful. In 2015, Taj Jackson registered a complaint with IPSO against the British tabloid The Mirror. In that case, the complaint had been raised over a false report that Michael had paid off 134 million pounds in “hush money” to over 20 families (a lie that has continued to be regurgitated in the media ever since the same paper published the phony FBI files story back in 2013). One reason the complaint apparently fell through is that the Michael Jackson estate also filed a complaint with IPSO, who then usurped the authority of Taj Jackson. This might have proven successful if, in fact, the estate had followed through with the complaint, but the matter was apparently dropped at that point and left Taj with no legal recourse to pursue the action further.

A great discussion on that failed complaint (as well as the current lawsuit against Radar Online) can be heard on the 8/06/16 episode of The MJCast.

However, the complaint may have not been totally in vain. Taj did succeed, at least, in getting The Mirror to rectify some of the more damaging language of their original article. It wasn’t much, but it was something, at least.

However, Radar Online‘s reaction when confronted with the nephews’ complaint was an outright refusal to retract anything. This was the official statement released from American Media, Inc. which owns Radar Online:

“The Radar article clearly states that detectives reported that Michael Jackson may have used photos of his nephews ‘to excite young boys’. This theory was, in fact, presented by the prosecution during Michael Jackson‘s 2005 criminal trial. Radar looks forward to correcting plaintiffs’ misstatements in a court of law.”

This statement is wrong on several levels. This was not a theory ever introduced by the prosecution during Michael’s trial. As I discussed in the piece that I wrote for Huffington Post last month, the photos in question were photos taken during a professional photo shoot for a CD cover. They were listed in the police report as were many such items seized during the raid of Neverland, but even there, it was acknowledged that the photos appeared to be from a professional shoot. As such, they were never entered as “evidence” and the prosecution never tried to argue any such theory.

Even The Prosecution Acknowledged It Was A Professional Photo Shoot For A CD Cover-the “Theory” Of Michael Abusing His Nephews Was NEVER Even Introduced By The Prosecution.
Even The Prosecution Acknowledged It Was A Professional Photo Shoot For A CD Cover-the “Theory” Of Michael Abusing His Nephews Was NEVER Even Introduced By The Prosecution.
If this is the best defense that Radar Online has going into court, they are going to be ripped to shreds. What’s more, in refusing to retract their story even when presented with such a compelling argument as was presented to them by Fields, the accusation of “absolute malice” may become easier for the plaintiffs to prove, as per the case that Carol Burnett brought against The National Enquirer several years ago, and which I will discuss later.

However, this particular case still has many troubling hurdles to overcome in order for any hope of a victorious outcome for the nephews. Many of those hurdles, as per the discussion on the MJCast episode, are rooted in the immense differences between the American and British press, for example. It is true that defamation laws are much more stringent in the U.K., while media in the U.S. is largely protected under freedom of speech. (It is, by default, that same freedom of speech which enables bloggers like myself to be able to freely express how we feel about the media and certain individuals; thus, it is definitely a two-edged sword). Celebrities are well familiar with all of the legal hurdles and ramifications that go into bringing a successful lawsuit against a tabloid-which is precisely why so few ever even attempt it, and why the tabloid industry has been largely able to get away with as much as it does. Publications can always hide behind their “unnamed sources” and point the finger to them as the source of the information. Of course, this simply shifts the burden of proof from the publication to the “source.” Journalists in the U.S. are further able to hide behind The Shield Law, which protects reporters from, say, being dragged into legal hassles because of their sources or what they choose to print (at least two of Michael Jackson’s biggest media adversaries-Martin Bashir and Diane Dimond-have used The Shield Law to their fullest advantage).

“Journalists” Like Martin Bashir Have His Successfully Behind The Shield Law When It Comes To Accountability For Their Reporting On Michael Jackson-Or Anyone Else.
“Journalists” Like Martin Bashir Have His Successfully Behind The Shield Law When It Comes To Accountability For Their Reporting On Michael Jackson-Or Anyone Else.
In all of the long and sordid history of celebrities and so-called tabloid or gossip publications, there have only been a handful of successful litigations brought against the media. In order for a celebrity to succeed with a defamation lawsuit, the burden of proof really has to fall on them. They have to be able to successfully prove both that the story was false (sometimes easier said than done) and malicious intent on the part of the publication (in other words, that the paper was not merely repeating information given to them in good faith by a reliable and unpaid source). I know that one big reason why it was often so difficult in the past for a celebrity to bring a lawsuit against a media outlet was because, legally, they were bound and obligated to sue every outlet that had printed the story; they could not, for example, simply bring a lawsuit against a single publication. The legal logistics behind this made sense (“How can you claim your reputation has been ruined by The National Enquirer, and not by The Globe?”). However, it made the idea of bringing lawsuits against the tabloid industry a virtual nightmare of entanglements for celebrities, most of whom would eventually reason it was simply not worth the time and expense it would take to go after every single news outlet that ran with the story. That law, however, has been rendered pretty much obsolete by the internet and today’s trend of copy and paste journalism, whereby a story that is run by Radar Online today can instantly be copied by every online media outlet within minutes to hours. But there are still other hurdles.

In addition to the expense, time, and energy that bringing a lawsuit entails, they also must weigh the risk of bringing even more attention to the original story (which a lawsuit inevitably will) and, when all of these factors are weighed in, whether it is indeed worth it. However, many of the rules that used to apply to celebrity lawsuits against the media were put in place long before the internet, which has opened up a whole new realm of instantaneous, global copy and paste journalism on a scale that was utterly unimaginable in the days of mostly print and TV journalism. So to be honest, I am not sure to what extent the internet has changed the rules of the game. For sure, it would be next to impossible now to go after every single outlet that runs the same negative story. But in this particular case, it was very clear where the story originated, and the Jackson nephews do have a solid basis of complaint. As to the risk of bringing more unfavorable attention to the story, it certainly can’t get any worse than it already has-and, indeed, in this case, there is certainly more to lose by not taking action.

Since June, when Radar Online first began their current series of defamatory articles against Michael Jackson, I kept mentioning the analogies to the case of Christopher Jefferies, the U.K. retired school professor who was arrested in 2010 on suspicion of the murder of Joanna Yates. Jefferies was initially suspected because he had rented a flat to Joanna Yates and was the only person besides Yates to have a key to her flat. But many suspected that Jefferies’ unconventional appearance and eccentric reputation was what really led the police to treat him as a suspect.

Christopher Jeffries As He Appeared At The Time Of Joanna Yates’s Murder: “My Face Must Have Fit The Crime”-Christopher Jeffries
Christopher Jeffries As He Appeared At The Time Of Joanna Yates’s Murder: “My Face Must Have Fit The Crime”-Christopher Jeffries
Jefferies was later cleared when the real murderer of Joanna Yates was arrested and confessed (turns out, he was a resident of the same complex and was also a tenant of Jefferies’). But although Jefferies was never charged with the murder of Joanna Yates, the British tabloids nevertheless went into an orgiastic feeding frenzy with stories about the “perverted” ex school professor turned “murderer.”

A Small Taste Of Just How Bad It Got For Christopher Jeffries
A Small Taste Of Just How Bad It Got For Christopher Jeffries
It is now widely accepted that Christopher Jefferies’ eccentric reputation, appearance, and mannerisms all contributed to the mass assumption of guilt and the media’s haste to convict an innocent man in the court of public opinion (sound familiar?). At first, Jefferies’ strategy was to ignore the tabloid stories. After being released from jail and later cleared completely, he just wanted to get back to his quiet life. But it was quickly made apparent to him that he was never again going to have that quiet life. All but those who knew him best still suspected him of the murder. People treated him differently. He could no longer freely show his face anywhere. Eventually, with the encouragement of friends, he realized the only way he would ever truly get his life and his honor back was to go after the British tabloids who had ruined his life. His campaign against the tabloids eventually culminated in a triumphant testimony at the Leveson Inquiry for press regulations. To say his campaign was successful would be an understatement. Jefferies succeeded in winning against all of the tabloids who had smeared him, receiving not only handsome compensation but something much more valuable-full retractions and public apologies on behalf of all of them. And best of all, he got his life back.

lost honourFor those who are unfamiliar with Christopher Jefferies’ story, I highly recommend the film The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies. I believe it is still currently streaming on Netflix. I highly recommend this film to anyone who is interested in issues of truth, justice, and standards of accountability for the media, but for Michael Jackson fans in particular, it is a MUST SEE!

One reason I recommend Jeffries’ story so highly to MJ fans is not only because it is inspirational, but it also reveals much about how the media operates in order to frame a presumption of guilt on a selected individual. Although Jefferies was fully exonerated, that exoneration came with a heavy price. Unlike Michael Jackson, he was not a celebrity prior to the accusations made against him. But when pressed to give a reason why the media and public were so quick to condemn him, he gave an apt answer that could also certainly be argued in Michael’s case: “My face must have fit the crime.” For Jefferies, even with his legal victory against the system that had condemned him, it is a scar and a cross he continues to bear. In order to redeem himself in the court of public opinion-and to make his case against the tabloids more viable-he was forced to give up a lot of his individuality (his famously eccentric hairstyle, for example) and to make conscious efforts to somehow appear more “normal.”

Christopher Jefferies Testifying At The Famous Leveson Inquiry, Which Resulted In Revamped Regulations For The British Media:

Overview of The Media’s Handling Of The Christopher Jefferies Case:

The message, then, is still clear: If you are different, you are a target for the beast. Conform, and the beast may leave you alone. The case of Christopher Jefferies may seem like an odd anomaly in a discussion of celebrity and tabloid media relations, and in some ways it is. This was an unusual case in which a private citizen overnight became a tabloid scapegoat, although such cases are not totally unheard of. Many private citizens, as a result of crimes or other extraordinary events that turned their formerly private lives upside down, have found themselves in similar positions-look what happened to Patricia Ann and John Ramsey, for example. They, too, were lynched by the tabloid media (resulting in multiple defamation lawsuits including one against American Media Inc-the same publisher that Michael’s nephews will be going up against). The defamation against the Ramseys continued unabated even after DNA evidence tested in 2003 pointed towards an unidentified male suspect, and no doubt played a role in hastening the death of Patricia Ramsey in 2006. The official cause of her death was ovarian cancer, but certainly the toll of emotional distress that the family was put through by the media may well have triggered and exacerbated her illness. Certainly when one’s life becomes a never ceasing end of defamation lawsuits, the stress has to be staggering.

Patricia Ramsey Was Finally Cleared Of All Suspicion Of Her Daughter’s Death In 2008-Unfortunately, Two Years Too Late For Patricia, Who Died In 2006 After A Decade Of Battling The Tabloids.
Patricia Ramsey Was Finally Cleared Of All Suspicion Of Her Daughter’s Death In 2008-Unfortunately, Two Years Too Late For Patricia, Who Died In 2006 After A Decade Of Battling The Tabloids.
The insurmountable obstacles that celebrities often face when considering even the possibility of a lawsuit against the tabloid press is what deters many from trying, and why so many such stories often go unchallenged-not necessarily because they are true, but because celebrities must learn to choose their battles carefully. There have been a few successful cases, although I can mostly count the ones I am aware of on one hand. However, a token few do stand out as cases that set important precedents in the never ending celebrity battle against the tabloids. One of these was the defamation lawsuit waged by comedian Carol Burnett against The National Enquirer over a story published in March of 1976 claiming that the comedian was publicly drunk at a Washington, D.C. restaurant, had boisterously insisted on sharing her dessert with other people at the restaurant, and had argued with Henry Kissinger.

Carol Burnett Testifying In Court Against The National Enquirer-A Case That Made Headlines And Set A Precedent For Celebrity Cases Against The Tabloids
Carol Burnett Testifying In Court Against The National Enquirer-A Case That Made Headlines And Set A Precedent For Celebrity Cases Against The Tabloids
In this particular case, “actual malice” (something which plaintiffs in such cases must be able to prove) was proven due to the fact that The National Enquirer had proceeded to run the story despite having been unable to verify all of the information that had come to them via a “paid source.” Some of the story’s details were true. For example, Burnett did dine at the restaurant on the night in question; she did speak to Henry Kissinger; she apparently did share portions of her souffle with other diners who had said they would like to try some after having been asked. And this, again, is where these kinds of cases can get very sticky. However, Burnett insisted she was not intoxicated and certainly did not argue with Henry Kissinger (there is a huge difference between speaking to someone and having an open brawl!). At the time, her variety show was one of the most popular shows on prime time television, so Burnett had much to lose by allowing the accusation to go unchallenged. She proceeded with the lawsuit even though The National Enquirer had published a retraction of the story. However, even though she did emerge victorious, the case dragged on for nearly seven years due to The National Enquirer’s appeals, and in the end, she only received $150,000 in punitive damages out of the original 1.3 million she had originally been awarded after it was apparently decided that, yes, The National Enquirer deserved to be punished but that Burnett hadn’t suffered enough defamation to warrant bankrupting the tabloid. The case was eventually settled in 1984.

More recently was the case of Bollea vs. Gawker, in which Terry Gene Bollea (“Hulk Hogan”) managed to successfully bankrupt Gawker with a 100 million dollar lawsuit over a sex tape.

“The Hulk” Brought Down Gawker Media After Successfully Winning An Award In Excess Of 125 Million!
“The Hulk” Brought Down Gawker Media After Successfully Winning An Award In Excess Of 125 Million!
But the history of successful defamation lawsuits against the tabloid industry lags far behind the number who fail-or who never even attempt retribution. For the celebrity who takes on a tabloid-no matter how famous-it often becomes a nearly insurmountable case of David vs. Goliath. And in all cases, it is only the living who have been able to take action. Even then, to win such a case may involve years of litigation and more expense than the case is worth (which is generally why only the most extreme cases ever get heard). In the United States, at least, they must be able to prove “absolute malice,” which essentially means that if the publication can convince a jury that they acted with reasonable faith based on information from a third party source, they are absolved of all guilt. In most cases, the celebrity is put on the defensive regarding the alleged action or basis for the story, which essentially means putting themselves “on trial” and can mean bringing even more negative attention to the story than the original article in question. For this reason, many adhere to the “just ignore it and let it sink” mantra. For many of the famous, especially those like the Jackson family who have habitually been the target of negative press for decades, ignoring what is said in the papers becomes more than just a defense tactic. It becomes a necessary code for survival and of keeping one’s sanity intact. But because the Jacksons have taken this stance for so long, many tabloids have assumed an irresponsible sense of carte blanche entitlement with printing most anything they desire either about the Jacksons and their most famous family member. This summer, we witnessed what may have proven to be the ultimate Gotterdammerung of that entitlement. Clearly, something had to give. For too long, the tabloids have been allowed to run with an unleashed reign. Even Michael himself, who for decades suffered much emotional distress at the hands of the tabloid industry and tabloid journalists (from being labeled a “40-year-old midget” as a child to the years of “Wacko Jacko” to even his last ride in the back of an ambulance being splashed all over newsstands) was only able to bring two successful lawsuits in his lifetime. One was against the U.K. publication The Daily Mirror in 1992 for a story tltled “Scarface” which claimed that Michael’s face had deteriorated due to plastic surgery.

Michael Took The Daily Mirrorl To Task And Won-But It Didn’t Really Change Anything, Only Ushering In Two Decades’ Worth Of Tabloid Speculation About His Face.
Michael Took The Daily Mirrorl To Task And Won-But It Didn’t Really Change Anything, Only Ushering In Two Decades’ Worth Of Tabloid Speculation About His Face.
This UPI article from June of 1992 highlights one reason why he (as well as many other celebrities) are often so reluctant to take these kinds of actions. Just look at all of the ridiculous hoops that The Daily Mirror was demanding that Michael subject himself to in order to prove their story false! Is it any wonder why he would not be so keen to undergo this kind of degrading humiliation every time a paper ran a story about his appearance? However, this was clearly a case in which the story went above and beyond to portray him as a disfigured freak.

LONDON — Britain’s Daily Mirror newspaper, undaunted by a libel lawsuit prompted by its ‘Scarface’ photograph of singer Michael Jackson, Thursday followed up with a full-page photograph of Jackson in its bid to highlight the singer’s alleged history of plastic surgery.

Running under the headline ‘Does this lighting suit you then, Mr. Jackson?’, the Mirror’s picture campaign was joined by rival tabloid The Sun, which ran a profile shot of Jackson taken as he arrived at a London hospital Wednesday, labeled ‘Here is the nose.’Jackson, whose physical appearance has changed dramatically since he began singing with the pop group The Jackson Five in the early seventies, filed a libel suit Monday against the Daily Mirror, his Los Angeles attorney, Bert Fields, said.

Fields said the Daily Mirror ‘went too far’ in its July 24 story about the megastar, which called Jackson a ‘hideously disfigured phantom’ whose face was covered with scar tissue.

The paper also claimed that Jackson had a hole in his nose and that one of his cheeks was higher than the other.

Jackson, who arrived in London Wednesday for the start of his European tour, filed a second suit Monday against the Mirror claiming the paper had broken its contract with him by selling and publishing his photograph, Fields said.

The day after the suit was filed, the tabloid challenged Jackson to submit to photographs by their cameramen ‘in natural light,’ and to take the photos to an expert to prove they had not been doctored.

Their photos, they said, would show their claims of facial damage were true. It also challenged him to submit to an examination by a plastic surgeon ‘to determine the exact effect of your operations.’

The Mirror also re-ran the offending photograph, a close-up shot of Jackson’s face, the day after the singer filed suit, calling his claims ‘ludicrious’ and promising to defend itself ‘vigorously’ in court.

A High Court judge Tuesday granted Jackson a 15-day order to stop The Mirror from publishing the ‘Scarface’ photo again.

Jackson fans, meanwhile, took up Jackson’s case Wednesday, hurling garden compost at Mirror photographer, Ken Lennox, as he attempted to get more shots of Jackson’s face.

Another article of the time speaks of Michael’s willingness to subject his face to the gawking curiosity of a jury in order to prove his case. Those of us who know anything about Michael Jackson at all know how sensitive he was about such issues. I can only imagine this as an experience only slightly less degrading and humiliating than the strip search that would come just over a year later!

Interestingly, it was the same Bert Fields who helped Michael to win this case who is now presiding over 3T’s lawsuit against Radar Online. Lets hope history can repeat itself. However, even though Michael eventually proved his point, it was, again, a litigation that dragged out for six years before an amicable settlement was reached in 1998 and a public apology given.

This case set an interesting precedent for the relationship between Michael and the tabloid press over the issue of his appearance. Up to this point, the media had taken a lot of potshots at Michael over his perceived “changing” appearance but this was the first time a tabloid had actually gone so far as to call him “disfigured” and to claim his face was actually disintegrating as a result of cosmetic surgery. This is where we really get the roots of all the ridiculous “Michael Jackson has no nose” nonsense that would dominate tabloid headlines for the next two decades. So as we see, neither the lawsuit nor the eventual settlement would prove a deterrent to those kinds of stories-if anything, it only served to intensify them!

2005 Wasn’t The First Time Michael Emerged Victorious From Court-But His Victory In 1995 Proved Hollow, As Both Diane Dimond And Victor Gutierrez Found Shady Ways To Evade Paying Up.
2005 Wasn’t The First Time Michael Emerged Victorious From Court-But His Victory In 1995 Proved Hollow, As Both Diane Dimond And Victor Gutierrez Found Shady Ways To Evade Paying Up.
The other case for which Michael brought litigation and won was against the TV show Hard Copy, reporter Diane Dimond, the host of KABC-AM radio and Victor Guiterrez. In 1995, Diane Dimond, acting on a tip from her friend Victor Guiterrez, falsely reported the existence of a Jackson sex tape during a January 1995 edition of Hard Copy. The lawsuit was initially filed on January 13, 1995 (only two days after the broadcast) and the amount of damages sought was 50 million. As most Jackson fans know, however, Diane Dimond was able to get her friend Tom Sneddon to extricate her from the proceedings. In the end, Michael only succeeded in a favorable judgement against Guiterrez for 2.7 million (far short of the 50 million initially sought) and for which he never received a penny since Gutierrez elected to flee the country rather than pay up.

Of course, in cases of genuine defamation it is not really about how much money one gets. It is the principle that counts, and certainly any victory against the tabloid press has to count for something.

But if history is any indication, such victories are only small battles in a very big and interminable war. Nothing-be it enormous lawsuits or public shaming-has ever really succeeded in stopping the beast in its tracks. If one rag is forced into bankruptcy over a massive lawsuit, another clone just like it merely rises from the ashes to take its place. Scandal and disgrace can rock the empire of Rupert Murdoch or Dylan Howard, but that empire goes on relatively unscathed, doing what it has always done.

In both of Michael’s victorious cases, he went against the British press (even the 1995 case had its roots in the British press) whose rules regarding libel in the press are much more stringent than in the United States. And, of course, he took these actions while alive. It will be interesting to see how his nephews fare against an American publication. I suspect that the 100 million figure is not really the ends to the means, and even if they “win” this case, they will probably have to end up settling for substantially less (personally I hope not as I would love to see Radar Online forced OFFLINE, the sooner the better). But the figure is meant to send an implacable message: We are not just going to take this, and we aren’t going to back down.

It’s high time that such a stand was made. My biggest concern since Michael Jackson fans began really pushing the Adllaw Initiative is that, yes, it will be great if we can push this law into being to protect the deceased against defamation; that will be a wonderful and triumphant step. But what then? The law can only be effective provided there are heirs willing to take the initiative and to enact those rights by bringing legal action in the first place. Such laws can only work if the deceased person’s living relatives and estate are willing to take the necessary actions to enforce them, and as we have seen, that is not an easy, cheap, or painless undertaking.

jackson-nephewsFor this reason, the actions taken by Taj, Tarryl and TJ Jackson in filing this lawsuit marks an important and reaffirming milestone. Rest assured, many prayers are with these courageous young men who have already endured so much-the loss of their mother, the loss of their beloved uncle, the betrayal of so-called “family friends” and an utterly disgusting and unwarranted impugnation of their own reputations that they certainly didn’t deserve.

Radar Online may have gloated over their June 2016 stats, but now it’s time to pay up. Let’s hope they will be paying dearly for those stats for a long time to come.

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18 THOUGHTS ON “EXPOSING RADAR ONLINE’S SECRET SHAME (PART 4): THEIR POTENTIAL 100 MILLION DOLLAR MISTAKE”
Dalia Burgos García
AUGUST 21, 2016 AT 3:33 PM
Excellent post. Fans will not lower our guard. We will be to support them.
REPLY
Raven
AUGUST 28, 2016 AT 9:27 AM
Sending out to Dalia, Jolanta, Esemerelda, and Jadz collectively-thank you so much and you are very welcome! Your kind words are much appreciated.
REPLY
Jolanta Czajerek
AUGUST 21, 2016 AT 3:49 PM
Thank you Raven <3 REPLY Esmeralda Rokaj AUGUST 21, 2016 AT 4:43 PM My prayers go out to MJ’s nephews that they win the case and also to this blog for doing the wonderful job that it does. Thank you. REPLY jadz AUGUST 22, 2016 AT 1:43 AM Thank you! Your posts are always great to read. REPLY Silverlight AUGUST 22, 2016 AT 12:06 PM Thanks dear Raven,thanks for all you do to help Michael.- I hope Taj, Taryll and TJ o succeed in this struggle, they deserve to succeed over Radar, and Michael too deserves to succeed over Radar.- Here we will always be, supporting you Raven in this task and of course supporting Michael.- REPLY Raven AUGUST 28, 2016 AT 9:24 AM Thank you! We must keep lots of positive energy flowing their way in this endeavor. REPLY Des AUGUST 23, 2016 AT 3:27 AM I once again I want to thank you for all that you do. You and many of you have i life to live,you have jobs and commitments but you still find the time and the energy for Michael. I spent hours and hours reading and watching anything that I can find about Michael but am not helping in any way like you people, but it hurts me knowing that This man he endured so much all his life,from a very young age he carried the responsibility and the weight of the world on his shoulders and the same time being a very religious man. To me only that Michael was so open about his love for children it was enough to see Michael’s soul.Every one wanted something from him.Children were an escape for him and he was becoming one of them around them.I know that so well now.When I was younger I liked older people I liked listening to them and the stories but now that am older I like to have children around me they are brighten my day,you love them you play with them but your not responsible for them for their future you know what amen.To me Michael becoming a father,and having to go through the trial and the lies and the vissues attack from the media in every aspect of his life and with all his fame and all the money he couldn’t not protect his children that he loved more than his life,killed him and if he survived as long as he did its because of his children,and now the media continue with the next generation of Jacksons. How can someone leave a normal life with this constant pressure?He was a human been he made mistakes like all of us but there’s no money in our stories or mistakes or plastic surgeries or throwing our children up in the air or parents killing their children accidentally on their own drive ways or people loosing their hair or parents leave children in their cars with 40 temperature outside its just no justice for this man.But anyone With a little bit of brain can see what’s happening here.LOVE&PEACE. REPLY Raven AUGUST 28, 2016 AT 9:23 AM That is true although as we have seen, many private citizens have indeed had their lives turned upside down by the media and tabloids when the right circumstances convene and the spotlight is thrust upon them as a result. That is why we have to cease thinking of this as just a celebrity problem, but as one that can affect all of us-anyone at any time. But I have thought a lot about Michael’s life and how that kind of intensive, obtrusive, non stop scrutiny must have impacted him on every level of his life. And for him, it would have started at age ten or eleven. Most celebrities at least have a normal childhood. Michael spent his entire life under that kind of intense scrutiny. Imagine how it must be to have to go back to your first ten years to remember any sense of normalcy (and even then it would not have been completely “normal” by most standards-how many seven year old kids are performing gigs in strip clubs?). Even though his press coverage as a child was mostly positive, there was still enormous pressure to always act a certain way; talk a certain way because the press was always watching. And it wasn’t ALL positive, even then. He was already being put on the defense about his talent (how could an 11-year-old possibly do this?); as he grew into his teens they were already taking jabs at his sexuality. And all of the scandals, trials and tribulations of his adulthood were still to come. To some extent, this became his “normal” and he learned to live and cope with it-but at what price? I doubt any of us could hold up six months under what he lived with his entire life. REPLY Simba AUGUST 24, 2016 AT 1:55 AM Wish 3T had Melania Trump’s lawyer – he already has media outlets walking back their salacious stories about her, and she just threatened to sue a couple of days ago. Bert Fields is eighty-five. They need a young pit bull, not an elder statesman. (And didn’t he screw up the Chandler case and put Michael at a disadvantage?) REPLY Raven AUGUST 28, 2016 AT 9:05 AM Johnnie Cochran was the one who pushed for the settlement, though. I thought his letter to Radar made a strong case, although it does not seem to have scared them off in the least *they ran another negative MJ story just this week). If I were in their shoes, I would be backing off at this point. They are only making the argument for “malicious intent” look even stronger for them. Fields’s age could be a disadvantage, though, especially if this thing drags on for several years as some of these cases have. REPLY stephenson AUGUST 25, 2016 AT 1:34 AM Another person, among many destroyed by the media, was Senator Gary Condit, whom they accused of murdering his lover– his career and reputation shredded. Even now, the whole media whipping of the Olympic swimmers in Rio has been debunked in USA Today, but not before Locte’s sponsors dropped him (a la MJ) and his reputation obliterated. Interestingly, it was 2 Australian journalists who encountered Locte’s mom on a bus and ‘broke’ the story–their story picked up on Twitter and away it went into all kinds of moralizing judgmentalism, i.e., privileged USA swimmers trash bathroom, etc. he is a LIAR etc. The swimmers never even went into the bathroom–see the USA report for an example of investigative journalism that actually tries to get it right. REPLY Raven AUGUST 28, 2016 AT 8:53 AM Both of those are great examples. I haven’t kept up much with the news out of Rio regarding the Olympics or any of the participants, but it does not surprise me insofar as knowing how the media operates. This also made me think of Budd Dwyer, the Pennsylvania politician who shot himself on TV after having been accused of criminal activity (his act was later immortalized in Filter’s song “Hey, Man, Nice Shot”). Dwyer always maintained his innocence and it came out decades later that an over zealous prosecutor had lied under oath to secure his indictment. REPLY stephenson AUGUST 25, 2016 AT 1:41 AM Here is a link to the USA TODAY piece, and there’s a podcast that’s pretty interesting. (Gary Condit was a US Representative, not Senator). http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/rio-2016/2016/08/21/investigation-ryan-lochte-rio-olympics-authorities/89082232/ REPLY sanemjfan SEPTEMBER 13, 2016 AT 6:47 PM Raven, a few nights ago the Reelz channel (a channel dedicated solely to tabloid entertainment and celebrity gossip shows and documentaries) debuted a new series called “Rich And Acquitted”, which highlights celebrity trials. MJ was the subject of the first episode, and it was just as bad as I expected it to be! My review and rebuttal is included in this Twitter thread, as well as the video of the episode (I recorded it and uploaded it) https://twitter.com/sanemjfan/status/771886896980963328 REPLY Raven SEPTEMBER 13, 2016 AT 8:41 PM Yes, I am just now catching up on this unfortunate piece of trash. Thanks for the review! I have unfortunately been a bit overwhelmed lately, trying to get settled in with my new job, so I haven’t had a chance to view it yet but it sounds positively horrid. REPLY Dialdancer SEPTEMBER 15, 2016 AT 6:18 PM Raven, These are questions I will ask on several Advocacy Sites such as yours. They are meant for people to ponder. Recently there was an article published in the NY Daily News concerning the so called porn books. One in particular was used. The article was so copy and paste lacking any information about the official determination of the books it could only be called a “pay to lie.” 1. Have you ever seen inside the book called “Boys will be boys”? Once again this work has been returned to the status of porn,, despite the fact it sits in the Library of Congress and several City Public Libraries. and is categorized as Children’s Adventure. 2. In reference to Chandler’s book. It talks about MJ spooning JC while unconscious giving it a sexual implication. Where are the photos of this? It would have been easy enough since Chandler claimed to have drugged Michael. Where are the photos or recordings by anyone who claims suspicion or knowledge of improper acts? Chandler had a Detective why did he not set up hidden equipment to prove his accusations? It is what they do and these devices were known and used so why are there none, not one photo, audio or video from anyone. The Maid who claims MJ was so involved in an immoral act in the shower that she was able to observe him without his knowledge could have easily taken a photo. The Police and Prosecutors would have overlooked any violations if it proved conclusively that Michael had abused any child. REPLY Raven SEPTEMBER 18, 2016 AT 9:43 AM Recently, someone asked me on Twitter if any of those books Michael owned, while not classified as child pornography then, could be considered so now? My answer was no because none of those books have ever been titles that are illegal to own, and what’s more, none of them depict children in a sexualized manner. People tend to forget or overlook that nude photos of children in and of themselves-even frontal nudity-is not child porn. Parents still take nude photos of their babies, for example. It is still permissible to photograph your two year old daughter topless, and no one is going to send you to jail for that. Additionally, books like “Boys Will Be Boys” harken back to a much earlier era when our society was not nearly so uptight about child nudity (and granted, when sexual child abuse was not nearly so prevalent in our headlines). This is because in the old days, a child was automatically equated to innocence and it wasn’t really taken into consideration that there might be sick adults who would possibly find a nude image of a child stimulating or arousing. I think that today we have, of course, become much more sensitized to this fact. Thus, a book like “Boys Will Be Boys” which was considered perfectly innocent fodder in the 1960’s had, by 1993 and again by 2003, become something to be viewed with suspicion by a prosecution desperate to make a case. As you know, of course, their main argument was not that the books were pornographic (they never even tried to argue this) but that they “could” fit the definition of books that some pedophiles “might” use as part of a grooming process. However, it is extremely hard to build a solid case on this kind of “could be; might be” speculation, especially when we take into consideration Michael’s entire collection of art books as a whole. Unfortunately, many of these titles do straddle a very gray line which is why MJ’s haters and detractors love to argue the point about these books. The books ARE legal, and are no more child porn than books which may feature nude photos of children in war torn countries or third world countries. However, as we know, prosecutors can (and will) try to argue a case for most anything if they think they can make it stick. But as per the point I raised in my Huffington Post piece, any such speculations as these are doomed to fall back into the realm of reasonable doubt. If a book isn’t pornographic (i.e, none of these books featured photos of children in sexualized situations) then a jury can’t really be expected to second guess what an individual’s purpose might be for owning the book, which in Michael’s case could be a myriad of reasons-he often received books as gifts; he often bought many hundreds of titles in bulk; he often sent bodyguards and others out to purchase books for him; he was curious and inquisitive about many subjects, especially in the realm of art and photography, and so on). This is also precisely why it is so disturbing now that the media is continuing to run away with these headlines. It is extremely frustrating and infuriating for those who know the books and items in question that are actually being referred to. As for Evan Chandler, if he purposely invited Michael to his house that weekend to try to set him up for a confession or an incriminating incident (which I believe 100%) then it makes NO sense whatsoever that he didn’t get photos. The story goes that he drugged Michael, then tried to get him-in a drugged and vulnerable state-to confess to being gay (Jordan even described it as if his dad was making an advance at Michael-whether genuine or to see how he would respond is unclear). When Michael finally passed out cold, Evan put him to bed IN his son’s room. How else could anyone construe this other than as an intended set-up? If he was already suspicious of the relationship, then why on earth would he do that other than with the intent of catching a possible incriminating act? (And really, what kind of father would intentionally put his son in such a compromising position if he genuinely believed something improper was going on?). Nothing about that scenario really makes sense from a logical perspective. REPLY

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