It begins, bright and early Monday morning. I don’t think any of us wanted this trial; certainly I know that MJ fans are not relishing the idea of yet another long, drawn out ordeal of media mud slinging. How many times does this make now? Sheesh, poor Michael has been “tried” more times in death than he ever was in life! At what point do we-even his family and loved ones-simply say enough is enough, and let the man rest in peace? I don’t know how you guys feel. But personally, I am more tired than fired up this time. I try to summon the anger; the outrage, the burning desire for justice/vengeance at all costs. But it just isn’t there anymore.
During the Murray trial, I wrote that justice for Michael will not come without scars:
My sentiments haven’t changed. However, Murray’s guilty verdict did provide much needed closure. That trial was dirty business, but necessary. And in hindsight, I still say it didn’t turn out so bad, as far as Michael’s legacy and reputation coming through relatively unscathed. Much of this, no doubt, was due to several factors: The prosecution’s strong, airtight case; the charisma of David Walgreen; a judge who seemed genuinely sympathetic to the fact that Michael Jackson was the victim in the case (and who showed much integrity in putting a gag order in place so that the case could not disintegrate into a media circus), and perhaps the most important factor of all-televised coverage. Televised coverage not only allowed America and the world to witness every word of the prosecution’s case, but also put a serious kink in any media attempt to spin the story how they wished. After all, it became pretty difficult-and would have been downright embarrassing-to try to spin the case in any way, when viewers could hear and see for themselves exactly what went down on the witness stand on any given day.
Add to all of this the fact that Conrad Murray himself does not come across as a very sympathetic or likeable figure, despite his best efforts to win over the world’s sympathy. (In fact, every effort Murray has made to win sympathy has, for the most part, simply blown up in his face, succeeding for the most part only to further reveal his egotism, lack of remorse, and sociopathic tendencies). Consider all of this, and you start to understand how Michael clearly emerged as the victim in the case. Although we will always have the stubborn faction who want to cling to the belief that Michael Jackson alone was responsible for his own death, I don’t think there were too many that came away from that trial-at least among those who followed it closely-who weren’t convinced that the guilty verdict was well deserved.
But now we are facing the prospect of an untelevised trial, and my biggest concern is that we may see the same kind of unethical media behavior that we had in 2005, in which pro-prosecution journalists took full advantage of the situation to manipulate, twist, and exaggerate witness testimonies. As we now know too well, Michael’s molestation trial was not televised, and therefore journalists during that trial had a field day reporting the prosecution testimony, often without bothering to report the results of cross-examination, and pretty much ignored the entire defense testimony altogether. They purposely honed in on the salacious and whatever headline was guaranteed to “sell copy,” knowing that by the time the actual verdict was reached, it wouldn’t matter one way or the other. They got their story; they sold their papers and spiked their ratings. What might happen months down the road-whatever the defense might prove or disprove-had no relevance. The media lives for the moment.
True, we will have transcripts made available, eventually. But as usual, only those truly interested in researching the case in depth-the MJ bloggers and the fans who care enough to bother-will learn whatever truth is revealed by those transcripts. The rest will simply swallow whatever CNN, HLN, TMZ, Court TV, etc, etc care to give them.
I am not so much concerned with what may come out of this trial, as the way the media will choose to spin it. And an untelevised trial will give them just that opportunity.
It also concerns me somewhat that this trial has already received double the media attention of the Murray trial. The Murray case was a criminal trial, in which a man charged with the homicide death of a beloved pop star and icon was to be determined guilty or innocent. Yet its coverage was mostly limited to HLN and Court TV, and the results of each days’ testimony given only small bites on most network newscasts. The majority of Americans weren’t even aware a trial was taking place, much less that Murray was convicted. Believe it or not, I still talk to people sometimes who have no idea. If the subject of Michael Jackson and his death comes up, they will ask, “Whatever happened to that doctor of his, did they ever charge him with anything?”
Yet the media has been practically salivating over what is, in essence, a civil case. Perhaps it is the stakes involved (to the tune of $40 billion), or the David vs. Goliath aspect of frail, elderly Katherine Jackson taking on the entertainment giant that is AEG, or (most likely) the fact that, based on what we’ve seen so far, AEG is willing to play as dirty as they have to in order to win this case, thus guaranteeing the media no shortage of dirt. In any event, I sense the stage is being set for another media feast the likes of which we haven’t seen since 2005.
In light of this, I wanted to share with you an interesting article sent to me by a reader (thank you, shelly!) that was written in 2005 near the close of the molestation trial. It was written by an NBC news correspondent, of all people, yet sheds a lot of insight into the way the media operates and, in particular, how and why they reacted to the Jackson trial in the way that they did:
By Mike TaibbiCorrespondentNBC Newsupdated 5/31/2005 2:08:46 PM ETCOMMENTARY
SANTA MARIA, Calif. — A silver-haired attorney stood and said “The defense rests,” not calling any of the rebuttal witnesses he’d been expected to call, and the vast machine of the Jackson trial press corps poured out of the courtroom to report the news. After 13 weeks, 60 days of testimony, 140 witnesses and more than a dozen years of allegations, rumors, intermittent tabloid frenzy and Ahab-like persistence from a local District Attorney, the question of whether an entertainer of world-class stature is also a pedophile is about to be answered by a jury.
With no final defense rebuttal, the last piece of evidence presented by the prosecution to the 20 local citizens in the jury box (12 primary jurors plus eight alternates) was an hour-long videotape of the understandably sympathetic first police interview with Jackson’s young accuser. Mumbling and with seeming reluctance, the boy related the sordid details of his alleged molestation by the faded popstar over a few nights in the winter of 2003.
“Once you share this you’ll feel better,” prodded Sgt. Steve Robel. The boy, a cancer survivor, fidgeted in his chair, eyes downcast. Robel asked what sports he liked, he said “football and baseball.”
“I wanted to be a pro ballplayer,” the veteran cop said. “I was scouted by the Philadelphia Phillies, they came to talk to me and my parents. But certain things got in the way… it’s called politics.”
Soon enough the boy told his story. That Jackson trolled internet porn sites with him on the night they first met at Neverland. That he gave him wine, vodka, scotch and rum. That he talked often about sex, shared his collection of pornographic magazines and, “…maybe five times or so,” reached over as the two shared Jackson’s bed, after both had been drinking, and fondled him.
The jurors had heard those specific allegations before when the boy had testified earlier in the trial. I watched the boy on the tape: Were his hesitations and lack of eye contact evidence of the established difficulty male victims of male pedophiles have in first disclosing their molestation? Or was it a performance by a skilled and experienced liar as defense witnesses made him out to be? I looked at the jury box a couple of times: They were watching and listening, but gave no obvious hint of what they were thinking.
“You’ve been through hell,” Sgt. Robel was saying near the end of the interview. “What he has done to you, he is the bad person, not you. You, your mom, your sister, your brother… you’re the good people. You guys are doing the right thing, you’re helping a lot of people.”Robel asked the boy if he’d “be open to making a phone call to Michael”– a pretext call in hopes that the popstar would make a damaging admission.
The boy shook his head. It was going to be his word… and that of his mother, sister and brother…against Jackson’s. Period. Four months later, with virtually no further substantive investigation beyond the interviews with the accuser and his family, one of the most famous people on the planet would be arrested. The tape ended.
The courtroom lights came back on. The silver-haired lawyer, Jackson’s lead attorney Tom Mesereau, stood up, said his three words, and sat down. A defense source had told me Mesereau had studied the tape and “wasn’t worried about it,” convinced, the source said, that the jury already had an indelible picture of the boy and his family as grifters out to skin any available mark, especially celebrities, with the boy’s sickness as their currency of persuasion.
I ambled deliberately out of court while other reporters raced past me to spread the news worldwide. Jury instructions and final arguments after the holiday weekend, and then those citizens in the box will do their thing. And then, thankfully for me, home.
I have never liked this story and would never have chosen this assignment. Of course there are others among the thousands of stories I’ve reported in nearly four decades at this craft that also would not have been my choice, and an assignment, in my business, is an assignment; but few have left me feeling dispirited and soiled at the end of a day’s work, as this one has. There are others in this press corps who feel the same way, and many of my colleagues and friends and intimates back home have declined to follow this story at all.
It feels voyeuristic, and for a dozen years it has been voyeuristic. There are “journalists” who’ve maintained careers by chasing down and breathlessly reporting every Jackson rumor peddled by real or would-be “witnesses” to the singer’s every move. Many of those rumors, enhanced by each sale and re-sale to the tabloids (print and broadcast), became embedded in the public consciousness because, in the past decade and a half, mainstream journalism itself and its relationship to “tabloid” stories have changed.
I think it began on the day in 1990 when the mainstream press covering the William Kennedy Smith rape trial in Palm Beach (I was there) was restrained outside the courthouse police lines as the key witness in that case was escorted into court on the arm of a “reporter” for one of the newly-popular tabloid TV shows… because that show had “bought” that witness and locked her up exclusively.
And because mainstream news organizations do not “buy” witnesses, the only way to compete on stories the tabloids increasingly “owned” was to legitimize the tabloids themselves. Thus, in the OJ Simpson case, the vaunted New York Times held its nose and started quoting the National Enquirer, because the tabloid (through whatever means) was often out front on that story. And CBS News, on its “Evening News,” used tape and information attributed to the television show “Hard Copy” in its reporting on the 1993 Jackson scandal.
The 9/11 effect
In the meantime, over the years, the preferences of news consumers seemed also to be changing. Or maybe they were being changed. I think—and, let me stress, this is just my opinion—that 9/11 contributed to that change in a fundamental way: The event itself was so incomprehensibly awful that news consumers (consciously or unconsciously) suddenly wanted something different from the news organizations on which they’d depended for years. Less bad news, fewer investigative reporting efforts that required hard work on the part of viewers and readers. Keep it simple, make it pleasant or safely entertaining, make it diverting. The great newsmagazines on the major networks fought shrinking audience shares by changing their fare. Reality television arrived… and exploded as the genre of audience choice. In the cable universe the trial of a fertilizer salesman accused of killing his wife and unborn child became the lead story for a year… audienceswanted that story, the ratings instructed. There was live coverage of Joey Buttafuoco’s sentencing on the same day the realignment of NATO earned a 30-second reader on one network newscast.
And, since November of 2003, the question of whether Michael Jackson fondled a young boy from a family of graspers who may also be con artists has been the epicenter of a worldwide reporting effort by scores of news organizations.
I’m a reporter assigned to this story, so I’m here. Soon, though not soon enough, I’ll be home because one story– Jackson’s guilt or innocence as determined by this apparently hard-working jury—will be over.
But the other story and the bigger one in my mind– how and why we all got here in the first place– is yet to be told.
If there is any silver lining in this, it is that the media, for the most part, does have a tendency to be pro-prosecution. We have seen this play out in many high profile cases, including-no huge surprise here!-even the Murray case. So perhaps it is also possible that the very thing that worked to Michael’s disadvantage in 2005 could work to his advantage now.
Perhaps. But remember that the trade-off in 2011 was that, while Michael ceased being the villain, he became “the victim”-a figure on a gurney; a naked man on an autopsy table; his entire life reduced to his medical history and the gruesome, clinical details of his autopsy report. Not exactly a great alternative.
Ultimately, whether Katherine wins or loses the case, Michael loses. No one from AEG is going to serve prison time; there is no real justice other than that, if the Jacksons win the case, they get some money out of it. It won’t bring Michael back; it’s not going to bring real justice (no matter how it turns out). In the meantime, we-a “we” that includes Michael’s children, as well as his fans-must once again relive Michael’s death and all of the tragic circumstances that led to it. A doctor was said to have proclaimed that being forced to testify would be “medically detrimental” to Blanket. I would say it’s going to be detrimental to all of them.
At what point can we simply celebrate Michael’s life, and cease rehashing his death? At what point will we be able to celebrate his many strengths and accomplishments, without constantly having his every human flaw and weakness held up for scrutiny?
This past week, country music legend George Jones passed away. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for Mr. Jones’s artistry. But as a human being, George Jones was certainly a very flawed man. He was an alcoholic, a drug addict (whose abuse included recreational as well as prescription drugs) and a deadbeat dad. Yet all of the media write-ups, such as the obituary which appeared in The New York Times, have been quite respectful. And if you read the comments left by readers, there is no ridicule, no finger pointing, no trolling. None of the disgraceful and downright dehumanizing kind of comments that we see accompanying anything that is written about Michael. Even the recent story of Ozzy Osbourne’s fall from the wagon was treated with more respect in the press than anything we will be apt to see reported on Michael Jackson during this upcoming trial. The fact is that while so many talk, talk, talk about “personal responsibility” one really has to ask the question…why are there so many people who apparently are so invested in one man’s “responsibility” for his own death? And what part of the word “homicide” do these people fail to get?
This isn’t exactly sour grapes, but the double standard does bother me; always has. Certainly Michael Jackson’s flaws-such as they were-were no greater or worse than many celebrities-including many of the artists I most admire. Yet the media will always relish in his flaws far moreso than any other celebrity. It is always as if Michael has twice as much to prove, and twice as much to lose, with every bit of negative publicity. And if we are honest with ourselves, it is the negative publicity that we fear most about this trial.
But is that the selfish way to look at it? While many are bashing Katherine, we should keep some things in perspective. She is the one who lost her son. And if this trial is something she feels has to proceed in order to bring closure and justice for what happened to her son, do we have the right to question it? Katherine had to have known the negative consequences of this trial, yet she has felt strongly enough about this case to proceed. I’m sure that having gone through the ordeal of being by Michael’s side every day during the molestation trial, and the toll of being there almost every day at the Murray trial, the last thing she really wants-anymore than the rest of us-is to go through the ordeal of another trial.
Is it just about the money? I know some will say so. Many have convinced themselves so. The word “greed” is used so often in conjunction with the Jackson name that I’m surprised there isn’t a Jackson family photo in the dictionary when one looks up the word “greed.” But personally, I don’t believe it’s about the money. Perhaps I am naive and idealistic, but I believe Katherine genuinely wants justice from those she feels are responsible for Michael’s death, and this civil suit is as close as she is going to get to any sense of justice. I also know the fur is going to fly these next few months; things are going to get very ugly and heated. This trial has already further polarized an already divided fan base. It’s only going to get worse.
I know there are passionate and ardent defenders on both sides of this case. I also know there are many who are so anti-Jackson family that they will automatically criticize any action the family takes, even down to demonizing Michael’s own mother. And some who are so anti-estate that they have allowed the poison of this hatred to even taint how they portray Michael’s own children.
When “fans” are even attacking Michael’s own mother and kids-the very people he loved dearer than life-what is next? For sure, I know that Michael had some private reservations about his mother. He was very careful who he confided those reservations to. But I still think he would be very unhappy to see how his mother is now being attacked in some circles. Michael’s relationship with his parents was complex, just as most of our parental relationships are, but does that give us the right to judge? Michael certainly never made it any secret that his mother was someone he held in high regard.
I can certainly understand not agreeing with this trial, but I don’t get those who are so pro-AEG that they will attack Michael’s own flesh and blood to defend an organization whose only vested interest in Michael Jackson was as a commodity. Just because I don’t approve of this trial doesn’t mean I hold them blameless.
Let’s not lose perspective on this. For me, there is no love lost for AEG. AEG was nothing to Michael except a corporate entity; Michael in turn was nothing but an entity to them. It was a business arrangement, pure and simple. Whether Michael lived or died; whether he was happy or miserable, sick or well, meant nothing to them as long as a show went on. It was in their best interest, of course, for him to be well and happy. But in the long run, as long as they got their 50 shows, it didn’t matter.
My sympathies, for sure, are with Katherine and the kids. But that doesn’t mean I don’t question the wisdom or folly of this trial. The Jackson family have been guilty of some pretty bonehead statements and actions (let’s see, there was “Grannygate” last summer, and all that nonsense regarding body doubles in This Is It, etc-I could go on but I won’t). The point I’m making is that, while I may sympathize with them on many issues, I certainly do not always agree with them-or the actions that they take. For sure, there have been times when the family has irritated me to no end. But I am a firm believer in that,when push truly comes to shove, blood is indeed thicker than water-as it should be.
And something else that bugs me about all of this…if indeed Katherine Jackson has a case, does that mean AEG sold us a lie with This Is It? It’s a question that has been on my mind for over three and a half years. I suppose it is because part of me still wants to believe that Michael was indeed that guy we saw in the film, fully in control and in charge, vibrant and ready to take on the world again; a man excited to perform again for his fans. I used to be the first to scoff at the This Is Not It faction; I put them down as just a bunch of people (haters, perhaps even)who wanted to see the film fail and Michael’s legacy destroyed. These days, given the facts that came out during the Murray trial and more recent developments that have come to light, I am not so sure anymore.
Perhaps the best clue as to how Michael was really feeling about his life, the shows, and most importantly, about AEG was revealed by Paris during her recent deposition (and I believe his own daughter would certainly be in the best position to know):
Paris also states that Michael told her schedule for TII was “too much” for him and “Phillips and them were out to get them”
Retweeted by MelanieLOVESMJONE!
Ivy @Ivy_4MJ 37m
Paris states Michael was happy about the ticket presales for TII tour & excited about the tour & he wanted concert footage to be 3D
Her comments seem an interesting contradiction, but not an unfeasible one. I think it is very possible that Michael was excited about the shows, but not with the undue pressure he was being put under to suddenly have to perform 50 of them. I certainly have no intention of tossing out my copy of This Is It. For what it is, I still think the film is a precious momento of Michael’s last days, and I like to think that all of the stories of how excited he was to be performing again are at least partially true. So in light of Paris’s words, I think it is possible that there is truth to that, and that what we get in the film is at least a truthful representation of those last, few days when Michael reached deep within himself and connected with that fire again. I have to believe that. But I am sure I can’t be the only fan for whom the desire to reconcile that belief with much of what we now know from the Murray trial and of AEG’s bullying/”tough love” tactics presents a bit of a conundrum.
I’m sure my comments are going to invite a barrage of heated opinions from both camps. But that’s okay. As always, I will try to respect most opinions. For myself, I have usually found it’s best to keep a somewhat neutral perspective; if nothing else, it enables me to see the facts clearly without allowing my own bias to cloud my judgement. So for now, perhaps it is safest to say that my official “position” is to have no position. Or at least, to keep an open mind until we hear all of the facts of this case.
I don’t agree with this trial. I wish with all my heart and soul that it wasn’t happening. But it is, and it’s here. And seeing as how it is here, I am not ashamed to say that my heart, my prayers and my full support will certainly be with Katherine and the children during these next few, difficult months.
AEG, I am quite certain, can fend for themselves just fine. After all, the only thing they “lost” on June 25th, 2009 was a business deal.
ETA (04/28/13): I am excited to announce that, due to the demands of keeping up with this trial over the next several months, I have decided to open up an Allforlove forum.
http://www.allforloveblog.com/vbulletin/activity.php (Link is also included in the right menu, underneath the new “Social” heading).
I know that events will be unfolding rapidly; far more rapidly than I can keep apace here. This way, you all can post updates as necessary, while leaving the comment section on the blogs only for comments relevant to that particular entry. I have created three sticky threads for the time being-a thread for discussion, one for media postings only, and one for transcripts as they are made available (or if they are made available). More threads can be added as needed; these are just a starting point. The forum at present is just for discussing the trial. I haven’t decided yet if I will want to continue the forum as a permanent feature after the trial is over, or simply lock it down and keep it as a ‘read only” archive. I really never embraced the idea of having a forum; I had operated a forum once before (not related to MJ) and had said, “Never again!” I rather like just having my little corner here where I can express my thoughts about Michael, without all of the madness and responsibility of running a forum. But after much thought (and much persuading from my better half, lol) I have decided that the demands of keeping up with this trial are going to require a much more interactive medium than what I currently have. Another advantage is that it will keep the blog open for other topics as well. (The idea of writing on nothing but this trial for four months on end is, frankly, a depressing thought to contemplate!).
You will have to register to be able to post and comment. I am the administrator, but not the moderator (just so you know). I decided it would be best to delegate that responsibility to someone else.
I will be posting daily updates on the trial on the Allforlove Facebook page and (yes!) my soon-to-be-active Twitter account (which I’ve actually had for some time, but just never got into the swing of using it; I am slow to come around to change, haha. But again, with the demands of this trial, I think it is going to be a necessity).
I will post trial-related blogs as developments warrant, but mostly those will be limited to developments that I feel require in-depth analysis or response. Otherwise, look to the forum, Facebook and Twitter for most of the daily trial bites.
And, as we move forward, let’s keep in mind these words that Michael wrote, which are going to apply these next few months more than ever:
In Our Darkest Hour
In My Deepest Despair
Will You Still Care?
Will You Be There?
In My Trials
And My Tribulations
Through Our Doubts
In My Violence
In My Turbulence
Through My Fear
And My Confessions
In My Anguish And My Pain
Through My Joy And My Sorrow
In The Promise Of Another Tomorrow
I’ll Never Let You Part
For You’re Always In My Heart.