I apologize that my promised follow-up post has been so long coming, but I wanted to let you all know the reasons for this. I have actually been working very diligently and quietly (and sometimes not so quietly!) behind the scenes to get the truth about Leaving Neverland out to a bigger platform. I spent several weeks on a piece that was eventually published on Medium.com. Here is a small excerpt:
The current hype that has been built around Leaving Neverland, a film directed by Dan Reed and funded and distributed by HBO in the U.S. and Channel 4 in the U.K., may appear deceptively at first as an important film for the #MeToo era, highlighting the alleged sexual abuse that Michael Jackson inflicted on two young boys who idolized him and fell-by grand and parental design-into his circle. At least, that is according to the hype that has been drummed up around it. But a closer look reveals many disturbing reasons to argue that this agenda-driven film has little to do with either journalistic integrity or concern for sexual abuse victims. Instead, there are many justifiable reasons to argue why this film is simply a new twist on the age-old concept of lynching a black man based on white lies. The fact that it is a black man who also just happened to be one of the most beloved and powerful figures in entertainment is, of course, the very matter at the heart of the film’s controversy, along with the fact that we are into the tenth anniversary of his passing. At a time when Michael Jackson’s life should be the subject of fond remembrances and reflections on his artistic legacy, we instead get this, the equivalent of a posthumous, 21st century lynching based on nothing but the uncorroborated testimonies of two men whose civil case against his estate has already been dismissed, not once but twice.
Why is the “woke” crowd so determinedly asleep at the wheel on this? And an even more troubling question: Why are so many of the most influential journalists in the U.S. and U.K. enabling it? Dan Reed’s controversial film has indeed accomplished one positive goal even before its scheduled broadcast, although it may not be the goal he intended.
For sure, the film has helped shed much needed light on the underbelly of #MeToo, revealing some startlingly dark truths about who the movement is designed to protect-and who it is willing to sacrifice.
But first, let’s back up and look at the key players in this drama. We have Michael Jackson, whose story has already passed into the realm of an American mythical figure, a poor black kid who worked his way up from nothing to become one of the most legendary musical figures of all time. This was a man who worked non-stop from the age of five to build his legacy. In the 45 years of his life that he gave to the public, he managed to break records, to achieve what few black artists before him had done (including owning, at one time, half the Sony-ATV catalogue), and to build a legacy that is intricately woven into the fabric of U.S. pop culture. But beyond that, he became a world icon in a way that only a very few American artists have achieved.
This is all a long way of saying Michael Jackson worked hard — damn hard — — to build what he achieved. And before we start trying to dismantle that legacy based on nothing but the words of two white men who joined his long list of hangers-on, we’d better be looking long and hard at the facts. That is, if we want to be able to live with ourselves in the aftermath.
Read more here.
Obviously, there has been a lot to talk about since then. In the week or so since HBO and Channel 4 proceeded on their hellbent course to shove this doc down the throats of the USA and UK (despite pending lawsuits filed by both the Michael Jackson estate and Brett Barnes), we have seen the fall-out take many predicted twists, as well as a few surprise ones. Perhaps the biggest “surprise” was that, despite all the hype, ratings in both countries were shockingly soft. The film drew only 1.23 million viewers on its initial HBO broadcast Sunday night March 03, and only 0.26 for Part Two on Monday night March 04. To quote Roger Friedman, “A million more viewers– 2.3 million– tuned into a Hallmark Hall of Fame cable romcom show called “When Calls the Heart,” just to give you an idea. And that was like watching warm milk cool.”
Ratings in the UK and Australia did not fare much better. On March 05 and 06 the ratings for Channel 4’s broadcast amounted to 2.1 million, and that is being generous with both nights combined. (In spite of this dismal performance, both the U.S. and U.K. media have been working hard to desperately spin these numbers as a success, which is patently laughable).
Leaving Neverland did not fare any better in Australia, where it finished second to last in the ratings (just slightly ahead of a gardening show) nor in the Netherlands, where it ranked a mere #16 with just 609,000 viewers.
Additionally, Oprah’s much hyped “After Neverland” follow-up came in with a soft pillow landing of just over 900,000, not even cracking 1 million.
And although the film did trend-briefly (in the USA only for the first night of airing)-the feedback on social media was more scalding than a cup of British tea, with many questioning the credibility of the two accusers and their mothers (James Safechuck’s mom was especially criticized for a scene where she laughed while recalling her own son’s alleged abuse).
It would seem, then, that the public has spoken loud and clear and the verdict of Leaving Neverland has certainly not been the slam dunk that Dan Reed, HBO and Channel 4 were anticipating. Yet, as we enter into the fallout stage, there seems an apparent disconnect between the public’s view of this film, on the one hand, and the “Cancel MJ” brigade on the other that is being led largely by certain celebrities, journalists, #MeToo leaders and a media drunk with the smell of blood. This is obviously where the real damage of this “mockumentary” is being instigated, and again it is begging the same question that I raised as the central thesis of “The New Lynching of Michael Jackson,” which is the utter absurdity of a man’s legacy being torn down based on nothing but the uncorroborated testimony of two men in a one-sided documentary film.
My next two posts will be a more in-depth analysis of that disconnect. I will also be following up with a complete review of Leaving Neverland, as I will be viewing it this week. I doubt my fundamental opinions will change (and it certainly won’t change what I already know are the many inconsistent issues with Wade’s and James’s stories) but at least it will put an end to hearing, “You should watch the film before you judge.” More updates to come next week.