There is a good reason why, as a general rule, I try to avoid the politics and in-house fighting that has been splitting the MJ global fan-mily asunder for some time. I prefer to keep this site and my energies focused on writing about Michael Jackson. And if I do happen to write about what fans are doing, it is only to promote something positive that a group or individual has undertaken. I try to avoid the negative energy that comes with smear campaigns. The only individuals you will ever see getting bad-mouthed on this website are people like Diane Dimond, Martin Bashir, Evan Chandler, Janet Arvizo, Tom Sneddon, etc., etc. In other words, I prefer to save my vitriol for the ones who truly deserve it.
But over the last few days, I have felt compelled to speak out about something that has made me very sad. I read a lot of MJ websites and blogs-in fact, there are a few I follow religiously. I have also gotten to know many very good people within the MJ global community; good people whose hearts I know are pure, and who have come into this with one intention only-to fight for Michael’s vindication and good name.
Yet it seems more and more that these people are having to divert time and energy away from their good works in order to defend their own reputations against slander. Inevitably, the subject of Michael Jackson is taking up less and less space on their websites and social network pages, as instead, they are having to devote more and more space to defending themselves against unwarranted attacks. Sometimes these slanderous attacks are coming from hater groups; but what’s even sadder is that, more often, they are not. They are coming from others within the fan community.
I’m not going to name any names here. But it does make me very sad to see so many good people-people who have worked tirelessly in Michael’s defense-now having to use all of their resources to defend themselves. Vindicating Michael has had to devote numerous posts to defending their reputation against the slanderous attacks made against the administrators of Vindicating Michael on Topix. Charles Thomson, whose articles in support of Michael’s innocence have been a beacon of light in the usually sewage-filled waters of journalism, was almost forced to give up his efforts after being viciously attacked and slandered from within the fan community. Not too long ago, Deborah Kunesh, whose website Reflections On The Dance is one of the most lovingly put together and informative websites on Michael Jackson to be found, was forced to consider taking down her ROTD Facebook page because of slanderous attacks. And most recently, I was saddened to read of attacks made against Rev. Catherine Gross, yet another person whom I know has worked tirelessly on Michael’s behalf.
Why is this happening? When it comes from the outside (i.e, haters) it’s easier to understand. I know, for example, that what is happening with Vindicating Michael is a direct result of some very nasty people who got their li’l feathers ruffled because VM exposed them for what they are-and rebutted a lot of their hater nonsense. Well, it takes a lot of courage to stand up for the truth. And sometimes, unfortunately, persecution is part of the price for standing up for truth.
But it’s far more disturbing to me when the vitriol and slander comes from within our own fan community. It’s nothing new, of course. I had no sooner joined my first online MJ fan community, back in July of 2009, when dissension rose among the ranks. It started with This Is Not It, which some fans supported; others vehemently opposed. From there, it just seemed the fights got uglier and uglier, as fingers started pointing and people determining who was or wasn’t a “real” fan, depending on their partisan views. I can only imagine this sort of thing was probably going on long before 2009, but Michael’s death, I’m sure, made it worse. As long as Michael was here, he could speak out and let the fans know how he truly felt. But without his guidance, his fans have been left to wander a dissolute and divided path. After June 25th, 2009, emotions were raw, and the tensions over who/what was responsible for his death drove a wedge between many. Those wounds have not yet healed, and a lot of what we’re seeing now still stems from those tensions.
In the old days, things weren’t so complicated. I remember being part of a lot of fan groups back in the day. But the best we could do then was exchange “pen pal” letters via snail mail. There was none of the instant gratification that comes with being able to instantaneously slander someone via cyberspace; we didn’t have blogs to air all our dirty laundry, or social network sites where we could instantly garner an army against an individual-and have an audience! And it goes without saying that we didn’t have cesspools like Topix to help carry out our dirty work.
In 99% of these cases, the slander begins with personal animosity between individuals. But what starts as a personal disagreement soon involves hundreds-then thousands-as these people publicly bicker, publicly air their dirty laundry against each other, and garner followers into their respective corners. This is how these things begin, as I said, in almost every instance.
Pretty soon it isn’t even about who is “right” or ‘wrong” anymore, but rather, who has the most followers in their corner.
But let’s look at the example of Michael Jackson himself. There were very few instances in his life where he really spoke out against anyone who had wronged him, even though we know he could have easily called out hundreds who hurt, betrayed, and backstabbed him in some way. As for those few individuals that Michael did call out publicly, we can count them on one hand-his father Joseph, Tommy Mottola, Martin Bashir, Tom Sneddon,and perhaps one or two others. But all told, over a lifespan of fifty years and a public career of forty years, that is not many. He never badmouthed his brother Jermaine publicly, even though Jermaine wrote Word To The Badd. When Latoya decided to make her own private spat with Michael into a public spectacle with her ridiculous claims in ’93, Michael never spoke out publicly against his sister, never went on TV to call her a liar (even though privately he was very, very hurt and betrayed by her words), and in the end, forgave her. Michael could have easily had his own press conference to call his sister out and publicly proclaim her a liar. I’m sure all he had to do was pick up the phone, and he could have made it happen. But he didn’t. Because that wasn’t his way.
In the end, I’m sure he was probably glad that he took the high road. Engaging in a public war with his siblings would have solved nothing. It would have only depleted his energy and his focus and piled on a lot of unnecessary hurt as even more unforgiveable things might have been said in public. A war of words can only escalate once it’s ever engaged.
I wish that more would follow Michael’s example, and realize that this is not what honoring his legacy is supposed to be all about. If you have a personal disagreement with someone, why not try resolving it privately rather than turning it into a public spectacle in his name?
I also want to say that I do applaud exposing scammers and those who have deliberately and intentionally scammed MJ fans. But keep in mind that there are always two sides to every story. This is why I do not just immediatly jump on the bashing bandwagon when an individual is under attack. If someone has deliberately conned fans, then they get what they deserve. Sometimes, of course, it’s possible that a person may start out with the best of intentions to fulfill a project, but things go wrong. It doesn’t pan out, for whatever reason. It happens, even to the best of us. Sometimes we may simply get involved in a project only to realize we’ve bitten off more than we can chew (God knows it has happened to me, too many times to count).
But the answer to that is simple. JUST BE HONEST. If you start up a campaign that involves ANY type of fund raising, be up front about where the money is going, who it’s going to, and what it’s to be used for. And if you’ve taken anyone’s money and cannot fulfill what you promised FOR ANY REASON then return their money or at the very least, offer an alternative option. Keep receipts of everything, so you can account for where the money goes if ever questioned. It’s that simple.
And to fans, be wary, especially of fundraising projects and charities in Michael’s name. You’ve heard this often enough. Most charitable campaigns in Michael’s name are probably legit and well-intentioned, but a good many are not. You know the old saying about a fool and his money. This is also why I am very cautious about MJ-related projects that I choose to endorse. I get a lot of requests, every day, to help endorse this or that cause; or this or that project. I will only choose to endorse those campaigns that I truly feel in my heart are honoring Michael’s legacy in the right way. If I get a bad vibe (I’m a firm believer in trusting my gut instincts!) then I don’t do it. While I like to believe that all fans (or those who claim to be fans) live by Michael’s example, the simple truth is that some do not. Be wary, and you won’t be taken.
Thirdly, I somewhat suspect that another motive behind the mud slinging is jealousy. As much as it saddens me to even think this-let alone to write it-I think there are a very few who are jealous of the following that some manage to achieve within the fan community. It boggles my mind when I see some bloggers publicly attacking other bloggers, when we’re all fighting on the same team-or are supposed to be!
The fight to vindicate Michael Jackson, to clear his name, or even to simply get truthful, honest information about him to the public is a HUGE battle. Why on earth some people would choose to weaken the ranks by trying to undermine and tear asunder our joint efforts; by attempting to discredit those who are fighting the hardest or loudest, really has to make one wonder. What are their motives, exactly?
I am sure I can speak for the experience of every little MJ blogger out there who plugs away many tireless hours doing what we do. I get no money, no compensation for this, other than the sheer love of writing about a human being who fascinates me. I enjoy analyzing his art, his music, his cultural impact, and his life. Sometimes it might mean that we have cold cuts for dinner that night and the dishes have to sit in the sink, but it’s all for love and the satisfaction I get when I hit that “submit” button and know that my words will help someone out there understand a little better who Michael Jackson was, and what his life represented.
It really takes the joint effort of all of us, working together, to make a difference. Additionally, I LOVE the fact that almost every MJ blog has its own, unique flavor, and that every blog reflects the area of expertise of the person(s) behind it. I know, for example, where I can go when I want to read the most informative articles about the allegations, or where I can go to get the best coverage of the trial and death investigation; who has the best dirt on Sony; who has the best compilation archives; who has the best stories on Michael Jackson as humanitarian and philanthropist; who has the real lowdown on Michael’s love life, and where to go for the best heartwarming, personal stories from those who knew him best.
So you see, it takes all of us, working together, to complete the mosaic. Undermining each other achieves nothing except to weaken our strength, divide our numbers, and ultimately, defeat our purpose.
I avoid partisanship like the plague because my only goal here is to present unbiased and impartial information about an artist I love and admire. I don’t engage in conspiracy theories because I have no interest in things that I can’t prove or back up with verifiable facts. I take my journalism background seriously enough to know that I am ultimately responsible for what I put “out there” in cyberspace, good or bad. My personal motto has always been, let’s just put aside our differences here and celebrate the life and legacy of Michael Joseph Jackson! That has always been my philosophy, and one I will continue to abide by.
I just wanted to write this to remind everyone that we need to be a lot kinder to each other. And as a reminder to myself, because I’m human and sometimes allow myself to get too caught up in all the drama as well. But ultimately, I never come away feeling very good about myself when I allow that to happen. And moving forward, I am making the effort to have it happen a lot less.
Remember, Michael said, “Tell the person next to you that you love them. Tell them you care.”
I am writing this to tell you all that I love you, and I care.
I don’t like to see anyone hurt-especially not in the name of Michael Jackson!
2012 is still a new year, and it’s not too late to make a resolution. Maybe we can make a resolution to be a lot kinder to each other, to put aside our personal differences and animosities, and start concentrating on what matters here. Remember, Michael said there is nothing that can’t be done if we raise our voice as one. He didn’t say if we raise our voice as two, or three, or four divided. He said as one.