To kick things off with my analysis of the trial, I decided to go back and reprint an article that I wrote on Sept 25th, a few days before the trial commenced. Since this blog was originally posted as a note to my personal Facebook page, I don’t think too many saw it at the time. When I wrote this, I had just come away from reading a CNN headline that had proclaimed this as “The Michael Jackson Trial.” I was very incensed by this, but it did not come as a shocker. Since then, I have noticed the media has been much more sensitive in rightfully calling this either “The Michael Jackson Death Trial” or, more appropriately, “The Conrad Murray Trial.” As morbid as it sounds, I rather like “The Michael Jackson Death Trial” because what that name does is to remind people in a very graphic way that this is homicide trial. But of course we knew from Day One that this trial would be about Michael Jackson-or that at least the defense would try to make it so. In the days leading up to the trial, I had a lot of concerns about how this would be played out in the media. I’ve decided to call this Part One because I’m going to be adding a Part Two and possibly even a Part Three once the verdict comes down.
This week marks the end and yet beginning of what has been a long road for Michael Jackson’s family and fans. It is the start of what we hope will be justice, as the man accused of being directly responsible for his death faces his music at long last-and I don’t mean MJ’s music (okay, haha, not so funny but…)
Anyway, what occurred to me this morning, as I scoured many headlines devoted to this topic, is how the media insists on calling this “The Michael Jackson Trial” rather than “The Conrad Murray Trial.” Rest asured, that is no accident. It certainly makes one want to shout, “Hello people, Michael Jackson had HIS trial back in 2005…this trial is for his accused killer! Last time I checked, Michael Jackson was the victim in this case.” Did they call “The Casey Anthony Trial” the “Caylee Anthony Trial?” Or the OJ Simpson Trial “The Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman Trial? Of course not! So why all this insistence on labeling this case “the Michael Jackson Trial?”
Well, two simple reasons which should be obvious. First of all-and this is how the media would defend it-the name Michael Jackson is the one that grabs headlines, is immediatly recognizable, and that guarantees both ratings and hits. If someone says the Conrad Murray trial, people might scratch their heads and go, “Who?” But call it “the Michael Jackson Trial” and everyone is immediatly on the right page! Now THAT gets attention. Now people will go, “Okay, yeah, I’m with you.”
But it also means something much more subliminal, and insidious. It is also a not-so-subtle reminder that as far as the media is concerned, this IS Michael Jackson’s trial, all over again. What better golden opportunity could they have to recreate the mass ratings of 2005? Let’s face it, justice for Michael Jackson is the least of the media’s concerns. For them, it is just another excuse to present “the freak show” and garner massive ratings as they tear into “analyzing” every aspect of Michael Jackson’s character. We’ve all known this for months, that the price of justice for Michael would be another mass character assasination in the media-the fans have known it; his family knows it. After all, the only defense Murray and his team have is to present MJ in the worst possible light, the same way that the only defense a person accused of rape has is to tear into their victim’s character. We have been gearing ourselves for this for a long time.
Yet, now that the trial date looms just around the corner-this week-the bricks are really starting to sweat. I think a lot of people who have reason to be concerned are nervous. We don’t really know what curves and dodgeballs the defense is going to throw-worse yet, how the media will respond to those throws (second thought, we do know; that’s the scary part). The bottom line is that it’s tough to hear someone you love being assasinated in media headlines. You would think society would be on the victim’s side but these days, in our super hyped up cynicism towards celebrity, it seems to be just the opposite. Ever since the OJ trial, when many were convinced Simpson “got away with it” because of his celebrity status, the public appetite to see some celebrity-ANY celebrity-lynched has been at an all time fever high. These days, it seems almost any celebrity accused is somehow supposed to pay penitence for OJ’s crime, or else they unfairly become the scapegoats. I have always held a deeply seated belief that this was the root cause of the public’s condemantion of Michael Jackson following his acquittal on all counts in 2005. And with all the idiot talking heads spewing their “we let a child molestor off” spiel, is it any wonder the public outcry was at fever pitch?
Now, to add further fuel to that fire, we had the much publicized Casey Anthony trial earlier this year, in which once again, a highly suspect accuser was let off the hook. Casey Anthony wasn’t a celebrity, but the trial certainly made her one, if albeit an infamous one!
From the media’s perspective, it doesn’t seem to matter that now the shoe has been reversed. A celebrity is not on trial for committing a crime-rather, we now have a celebrity who has been the VICTIM of a crime. It is an altogether different dynamic, yet the media seems to be playing by the same rules. It’s a no brainer. Putting the celebrity and the celebrity’s lifestyle on trial is what will guarantee ratings, and no celebrity’s personal life ever made greater copy than Michael Jackson’s! Rest assured, the would-be, yellow journalists and legal analysts have been salivating over this one for-as Led Zeppelin said-“a long, long, lonely long time.”
But as the heat fires up, maybe it is a good idea to take a deep breath and really look at the bigger picture here. We as fans have known from Day One what this process is going to entail. Now it is time to bite the bullet and be strong. Remember that at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the yammering twits have to say-or shouldn’t. What should ultimately matters is what those twelve men and women on the jury decide. It really comes down to one simple question. Or maybe two. Did Conrad Murray or did he not administer the lethal dose of propofol that killed Michael Jackson, and if so, did he behave negligently in the aftermath, when precious minutes meant the difference between life and death? I think for most reasonable people, the answer to the second question is obvious. What is murkier-and will be the real issue for the jury-is Question #1. The defense, as we know, will try to argue that Michael self administered the propofol and/or demanded it to the point that Murray had no choice. But any reasonable thinking person also knows that Murray DID have a choice. He is a physician who knows his patients’ lives depend on the actions he takes. As to the arguement that Michael self-adminsistered, I think it is a ludicrous defense as the coroner has already pointed out but in the end, it all comes down to how well the defense presents their case-and how well the prosecution can tear it down.
Michael sang about keeping the faith. We have to keep the faith now that justice will prevail. In her own recent and wonderful blog, Deborah Kunesh of Refelections On The Dance reminded us that justice prevailed for Michael in 2005. http://www.facebook.com/#!/note.php?…13875445343716 We can’t really blame the legal system for the fact that the media turned the event into a public lynching. But nevertheless, it did happen, and as a result, left a permanently bitter taste.
So what happens now? I don’t know how the verdict will go, of course. But I have a very strong feeling-and a very strong faith-that justice will be on Michael’s side again. While Murray’s defense will be to bring up every possible mitigating circumstance and every mitigating bit of evidence to cloud the jurors’ minds, the bottomline is that the facts of this case speak loud and clear.
However, it is those very mitigating circumstances and evidence that we know the media will run with. We already know they will be looking to pounce on anything relating to Michael’s character, his alleged drug use, and even the allegations, which will undoubtedly be brought into the mix even though they have no bearing whatsoever on the current case. Ultimatelly, we know it is not the media who decides Murray’s fate or the person Michael Jackson was, for better or worse. But the media DOES have the power to influence and sway public opinion. That’s what they do. Regardless of the eventual verdict, they are going to have a field day with this. It is the last, golden opportunity for them to suck the last drop of blood they can from the name Michael Jackson. Don’t forget, these are the people who hurt him, bullied him, and ran him ragged while he lived. After he died, they felt bad for all of five minutes, paid a few “tributes” and then went right back to their old tricks. It was the same with Princess Diana. The public outrage over the media’s role in her death evaporated quickly to apathy; we were right back to where we started, as if nothing had happened. If the world had heeded the public’s outcry THEN to curb the media’s bloodlust, it’s possible that Michael Jackson might still be alive. Why? Simply because the very things that drove him to depression and chronic insomnia might never have been a factor.
Michael Jackson “won” in 2005, but at what cost? By the end of that trial, his health was wracked, his spirit broken, and his reputation as a beloved superstar forever tarnished. Although he still had fame and money, his life became a sort of vagabond existence. He no longer had a permanent home; he wandered with his children from country to country. Part of that, of course, was a search for respite. He was looking for a safe haven where he could regain his health and replensih his spirit. But what had been done to him in his homeland still haunted him, wherever he went.
Likewise now, in 2011, any form of justice for Michael will only come at a very heavy price. By the end of October or early November, when the verdict comes down, Murray may or may not be facing prison time. But even if he is sentenced, I have a feeling that we will be left feeling much as Michael did in June of 2005. The sweet sensation of victory will be tainted by a heavy burden.
I think this trial will probably vindicate Michael on several levels. There will be things that will come out of it that will be in Michael’s favor. On the other hand, I fully suspect a good many things may come out of it that fans really don’t want to hear. That is going to be the nature of the beast. And of course, how the media chooses to present/analyze those things will be crucial. Even though the actual trial will be televised (and hopefully this will eliminate some of the rampant twisting of facts such as what we saw in 2005) the public’s opinion of this trial will, as stated, largely depend on the media’s influence. After all, only the most diehard Jackson fans are going to sit and watch the full trial, minute by minute. I don’t think this is going to carry the same weight as the Casey Anthony trial (where an innocent child was involved, thus inviting a kind of national outrage and vested interest in the case). Of course, Michael Jackson fans will be following it closely. But I think it is safe to say that most Americans, if they watch at all, will be doing so mostly out of a sense of morbid curiosity; they will be tuning in and only casually watching, perhaps, while at work or while multi-tasking their daily household duties; most will probably not watch at all (after all, most of us have to work for a living, and having access to TV and even internet is not an option for everyone)-these are the people who will rely, instead, on evening news broadcasts and legal pundit shows to “fill them in” on what transpired in court that day. And therein lies the danger, because it is those people who will be most apt to fall prey to the media’s manipulation of this case. After all, a testimony that might be viewed one way to a viewer when watching for themselves can be perceived quite differently once that same testimony is filtered and cross examined by the likes of a Nancy Grace or a-God forbid!-Diane Dimond.
To cut to the chase here, we as Michael Jackson fans know that a lot of stones are going to be thrown over the next few weeks. Those stones can’t hurt Michael anymore, but we know how they can still hurt US. We feel their bruises, as surely as Michael did. And because he is no longer here, we have, in essence, taken those stones upon ourselves. I think we have to ask ourselves many crucial questions. How are we going to deal with the insanity of these next few weeks? How are we going to react when trial testimony may reveal things that aren’t exactly pleasant to us? And can we control our gloating when things do go in our favor? The world, after all, is going to be watching us. This is not only a test of faith, but a test of courage and grace under fire as well.
As I said, I do feel strongly that justice will prevail. But yes, it will come at a price, and it will not come without scars. It was that way for Michael. It will be that way for us.
In Part Two, which I hope to have up by mid-week, I will look at how the reality of the media’s treatment of Michael during this trial has stacked up against my initial fears, expectations, and predictions. Has it been as bad as I thought it would be? Or have we seen a subtle shift in the pendulum as more and more damning evidence against Murray has surfaced? Or, at the end of the day, is “Michael Jackson-The Victim” just another cheap tactic for ratings? Also, I will be posting my reactions to and thoughts on those post-mortem photos, the audio tape, the “j” word and many other concerns that have been brought to light since this drama began last September.