Over the weekend HBO released the new documentary “Leaving Neverland.” Directed and produced by British filmmaker Dan Reed, the film focuses on two men, Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck, who allege they were sexually abused by the singer Michael Jackson as children.
- Robson is an Australian dancer and choreographer who as a five year old he was befriended by Jackson on a tour of Australia.
- Safechuck was a child actor from Simi Valley, California, who landed a role in a Pepsi commercial alongside the pop star in 1987 while he was eight.
Jackson was accused of sexual abuse back in 1993 to 1994 and again between 2002 to 2005. In 2005 he was charged and acquitted in a criminal trial. Both of these guys testified in Jackson’s favor while they were still boys in the criminal trial. So let us just remember:
- Jackson had the same advantage as OJ Simpson, which is unlimited legal resources through which he could defend himself.
- Both of these young men admitted that they thought that Jackson was a “God.”
- Jackson groomed these boys expertly, and he also groomed the entire family of both of these boys.
Oprah Winfrey taped an interview with these two men (now 36 and 41) on her Oprah network. They come across as completely credible and reasonable, and their stories are very similar. I urge you to view it, if you doubt that this happened.
Anybody who knows anything about the clinical aspects of sexual abuse knows that the story these two men are telling is completely believable. There is no controversy. The Jackson family has (of course!) threatened to sue HBO for $100 million. Good luck, Jackson family.
- Unlike criminal trials, in libel actions the burden of proof is on the complainant (in other words, the Jackson family).
- In libel actions, truth is an absolute defense to the complaint.
- In criminal trials, not only is the burden of proof on the state (standing in behalf of the victims) but the burden is proof beyond a reasonable doubt (or 90%).
- Not having been criminally convicted is no proof of innocence. It just means that the state didn’t have enough proof to meet the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard.
I hope that the family does sue HBO in libel. They’re going to get their hats handed to them if they do.
Jackson is the best possible example of a celebrity who was tortured in his own way. Everyone knows that his father, Joe Jackson, was abusive, and it seems extraordinarily likely that Jackson himself was sexually abused as a child (because almost no one becomes an abuser without being abused themselves).
Some of the consequences of that were obvious:
- Jackson’s mutilation of his own face through voluntary surgery (making him look like a weird Diana Ross).
- Jackson’s whitening of his skin (which was not the result of a skin condition).
- Jackson’s whisper quiet high voice, which sounded like the voice of a 13 year-old.
- Jackson’s surrounding himself almost exclusively with children in order to socialize.
Jackson was about a year younger than I am. I look like I’m 61 (albeit, in pretty good shape for 61). Jackson looked, at the time of his death (at age 50) like he was maybe age 24. It was not natural. Something had tortured this guy all his life, and while we can sympathize with that, it doesn’t make what he did any less monstrous.
Personally, I’m not going to stop playing Jackson’s music from time to time. (Plenty of people I know are arguing for that.) I can separate his artistry from his humanity (or perhaps his monstrosity) but the defenders of Jackson (like the defenders of Donald Trump) need to take off the blinders and see this guy for who he really was.