Two handwritten notes from Michael have gotten a lot of publicity this week. I will address each in their own, separate posts.
While the Wade Robson revelations shook the fan community, they also inspired Michael’s nephew Taj Jackson to bravely step forward with his ownrevelation. Taj revealed on Twitter that he had been a victim of child sexual abuse-molested by his own mother’s brother! The revelation came via Twitter, within only hours of Wade Robson’s Today Show interview.
I applaud Taj for coming forth, and speaking his truth. (Hmm. Wonder if this was quite what Wade was bargaining for when he said he hoped to inspire “other victims” to come forward. Somehow, I don’t think so!).
But I am also glad on another level, because this finally clears up a decades-old mystery that has puzzled both fans and detractors alike. What exactly could have compelled Michael to write such a seemingly bizarre letter to his late sister-in-law DeeDee, advising her to protect her sons since child sexual predators can even exist within one’s own family?
The letter reads:
DeeDee, please read this article about child molestation, and please read it to Taj, TJ, and Taryll, it brings out how even your own relatives can be molesters of children, or even uncles or aunts molesting nephews or nieces, please read. Love, MJ.
For years, MJ haters and detractors-as well as those who are simply skeptics-have asked the question: Why would Michael write such a thing? Of course, we all know where they have tried to go with this for years, and it’s a very sick place indeed. I recall, in fact, having a very drawn out debate with one detractor that went on through many PM exchanges, all over this very letter.
Her line of reasoning was that Michael-in the best Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde fashion-was aware of his “darker nature” and sought to warn his sister-in-law, in the way that some serial killers, I suppose, might warn their potential victims in a moment of clarity.
While I never bought that sinister explanation, I had to confess that it still left a puzzling, nagging question. Why did he write it? I felt all along that this probably pertained to a private family matter, but with no smoking gun and no apparent motivation, it remained an intriguing and troubling mystery-until now.
I am so proud of Taj for coming forward, even though it must have been very humiliating to “out” his own uncle this way (Taj, Taryll, and TJ have always been very protective of their late mother’s memory, and anything that might potentially tarnish it. While Jackson proponents have been quick to point out, “His abuser WASN’T a Jackson!” we have to keep in mind that, for Taj, this is still family-and still just as painful, regardless of which “side”).
But I am also thankful that he has finally cleared up this mystery, hopefully for once and all. His words confirm for us the Michael Jackson that we, his fans, truly believe he was-a compassionate and caring soul who was always looking out for the welfare of others.
There is also an important parallel here. It shows that Taj, at some point, must have confided the abuse to Michael. This is not dissimilar to other stories I have heard, such as Jordan Chandler confiding in Michael regarding Evan’s physical and psychological abuse of him (and while there is no evidence that Evan sexually abused his son, there is certainly plenty of evidence that Evan was abusive to his son in other, just as fundamentally damaging ways). Michael, it seems, often found himself in the “Big Brother” role; occasionally, even, the substitute father role. He was evidently someone that youngsters felt comfortable confiding their troubles to. (I think, more often than not, this probably caused troubles for him!).
In addition to being a willing ear and shoulder to cry on, it seems he was willing to take an active stance when necessary. This letter seemed to be his way of telling his sister-in-law to open her eyes. How must DeeDee have felt to know her own brother was molesting her son? Or did she ever know? It seemed Michael may have been using this letter as a way of breaking it to her gently. Maybe he hoped that reading it would trigger enough red flags for her to take the necessary precautions. Or perhaps she did know, and was just having trouble getting her hands around it.
This isn’t something to brush off lightly. Families have been ripped apart, at the seams, over just such issues. Trust me. I know.
As I am sure most of my readers are aware, DeeDee (Delores) Jackson, Tito’s ex-wife, died in August of 1994 in what was originally ruled a swimming pool accident. But four years later, in 1998, Donald Bohana-a man she had dated for three months- was convicted of her murder.
Taj Jackson is proof that being born into fame and money does not guarantee happiness. By the time he was a young adult, he had been both a victim of incest and, along with his two brothers, had tragically lost his mother.
I’m sure Michael loved all his nieces and nephews, but I think the loss of their mother may have been one reason why Michael always had an especial soft spot for Tito’s sons.
Now we may have an even better understanding of why he was so protective of these boys, and went to such lengths to take them under his wing.
Somebody’s out Somebody’s out to get me They really wanna fix me, hit me But this time around I’m taking no s… Though you really wanna get me You really wanna get me-Michael Jackson, “This Time Around”
I’m starting to become convinced that too much public speculating on Wade Robson’s next moves may be a dangerous practice. I am sure that Robson and his attorneys are keeping a close eye on what the media is saying. I also believe they may very well be lurking on MJ blogs, forums, and social media sites in order to tailor their story and course of action. Case in point: When the repressed memory angle was so thoroughly debunked and ridiculed, the story changed. When many scoffed at the idea of filing only a creditor’s claim for sexual abuse, boom! It suddenly became a civil suit as well. When I started drafting Part One of “Wade Robson: What the Heck Is Really Going On?” I correctly guessed that his next move would be to to go to the media…but I had no idea that the announcement of his Today Show interview would break the very day I posted it!
But nevertheless, the gambler in me can’t resist the urge to make one more speculative bet. And I’ll be willing to wager I’m not too far off. Perhaps being able to second guess Wade’s next moves might not be such a bad idea, though, as doing so can effectively arm us for the counter punch.
Shortly after his Today Show interview, Robson released this statement:
“I hope to inspire other molestation victims to come forward.”-Wade Robson
That certainly seems like a very noble sentiment. Oh, but wait…
Remember this tantalizing story from a few days ago, courtesy of The Daily Star?
TWO more alleged child abuse victims of Michael Jackson are preparing to file lawsuits against the late King of Pop’s estate, it was revealed yesterday.
A legal source close to the singer’s family confirmed: “One is in the public eye, the other is not.
“They are both telling the same story of regular and repeated molestations.”
The bombshell claims come ten days after top Hollywood choreographer Wade Robson launched his claim for compensation from Jackson’s estate.
Australian Robson, 30, alleges he was “systematically” molested for seven years during his childhood at Neverland Ranch, where he was a regular guest of the Thriller singer.
Both the other victims waiting in the wings claim they too were subjected to “years of abuse,” according to the legal source, who added: “They are waiting to see what happens in the first action.”
Robson was a key defence witness in Jackson’s 2005 trial, at which the star was acquitted by a jury of seven counts of child molestation and two of administering “intoxicating agents” to a 13-year-old boy.
His U-turn was slammed by Howard Weitzman, a lawyer for the Jackson estate who described his lawsuit as “outrageous and pathetic”.
But Robson’s lawyer Henry Gradstein hit back: “Jackson was a monster and in their hearts every normal person knows it.
“My client has lived with the brainwashing of a sexual predator until the stress and burden of it crushed him.”
Let’s keep in mind that this is still only an unconfirmed tabloid story, and so far The Daily Star is the only source that has reported it. But it’s odd that long-time Michael Jackson detractor and backstabber Stacy Brown had wind of it even before the story broke:
NOW it’s all starting to come together, and it doesn’t take rocket science brain power to figure it out. I believe sincerely now that Robson is setting the stage with that statement-not so that other child abuse victims in general will come forth-but so that other Michael Jackson “victims” in particular may come forth, to help corroborate his own story (got to hand it to him, it’s a smart move to sidestep the credibility issue of his story). At first I brushed these alleged “cases in the wings” off as being solely about money, based on the comment that they were waiting “to see what happens in the first action.” Now I have a different assessment. I don’t believe they are waiting to see how the payout goes. I believe they are waiting on the cue from Robson and/or his attorneys, so that this can be set up and staged to look like those other victims now having the courage to “come forward.” Except that I’m willing to wager these “victims” were personally cherry picked by Robson or his attorneys months ago.
Who might these potential backups for Wade be? Well, none of us know for sure, but here is an excellent breakdown of the possibilities:
And if that proves to be the case, then that means this thing is a whole lot bigger than even what we’ve been led to believe so far. It will prove this to have been a very deliberate, very orchestrated, and coldly calculated plan that has been in the making for MONTHS (if not longer).
The big question that remains…who is really the evil mastermind behind it? Is Robson acting alone, out of his own greed and ulterior motives, or does he have a sponsor?
At this point, I don’t have those answers. But clearly, Michael’s lyrics to This Time Around continue to have relevance even in death.
Chief among their concerns, the estate’s lawyers claim that Robson filed his lawsuit well past the statute of limitations, or deadline, on such lawsuits. Robson, however, is claiming that he should have been served a notice of the administration of the estate when Jackson died more than four years ago. The estate’s lawyers argue that they could not have anticipated Robson’s lawsuit.
Furthermore, they explain, Michael is not here to defend himself against Robson’s claims. In sum, they ask that Robson’s petition be denied.
“Any investigation into the factual allegations of the Petition will necessarily be compromised considerably by the untimeliness of the allegations and by the unfortunate fact that Mr. Jackson is deceased and thus has noopportunity to answer these allegations,” lawyers write in the documents.
In other documents related to the case, Robson’s lawyers claim that there has been a leak of private case information to the press and that Robson only spoke out subsequently to clear his name.
Another recent update. Not sure what the justification for this would be:
Judge says he’s inclined to unseal portions of molestation claim against Michael Jackson
By Associated Press,June 06, 2013
This image released by NBC shows choreographer Wade Robson during an interview… (NBC, Peter Kramer, file/Associated…)
LOS ANGELES — A judge said Thursday he was inclined to unseal portions of a choreographer’s court filings alleging he was abused by Michael Jackson.
However, personal details and psychiatrist reports would likely not be released.
Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff said he needed to address which records should remain sealed before he can deal with whether Wade Robson, a choreographer and television personality, can pursue his claim.
Robson requested on May 1 that Beckloff allow him to file a late creditor’s claim against Jackson’s estate nearly eight years to the day after he testified in Jackson’s defense at the singer’s molestation trial.
Jackson was acquitted after Robson told jurors the entertainer never touched him inappropriately. Henry Gradstein, an attorney for Robson, said a breakdown last year prompted Robson to address the abuse.
Howard Weitzman, an attorney for Jackson’s estate and Thomas Messereau, the lawyer who successfully defended Jackson, have attacked Robson’s credibility and noted his repeated defense of the singer.
Weitzman has called the accusations “outrageous and pathetic.”
“We are confident that the court will see this for what it is” he said at the time the allegations were first made.
On Thursday, Beckloff presented attorneys with possible redactions of Robson’s sworn declaration and said it should serve as a roadmap for what information can be made public.
The judge believes some of the material could be made public, even though attorneys on both sides would like the case sealed in its entirety.
Some of Robson’s private and personal information, including a paragraph that detailed his allegations of abuse by Jackson, should be sealed, Beckloff said.
I used to talk to Michael for three hours a day. I never really worked out how he came to find so much time because he seemed so busy, but he would ring me and we would talk and talk and talk. When he got a cell phone he would call and text all the time.It was part of an amazing friendship that lasted for 20 years. I had firdt met Michael when he was kicking off his bad tour in 1987. I was five, but Michaels company were holding a dance competition in every country and i entered the one in brisbane. I remember being a kid and dancing to his video- the first iever say was “Thriller” when i was two. It was my mum’s tape and i just went nuts over it. I used to run into the kitchen scared everytime the wereworlf came on. By the time i was three i had pretty much learned its entire choreoghraphy. I ended up winning the dance competition. We went to see Michael in brisbane and at a meet and greet i was introduced to him. I remember wearing a custome made outfit from “Bad”- my mum’s belt was wrapped around me, like five times. Michael was impresssed and asked me if I had danced. I told him that I did and he said ” Do you want to perform with me in the show tomorrow night?” I couldn’t believe it. He was due to play brisbane the next night. His idea was for me to come out for the last song of the show which was “Bad”. He was bringing on some orphaned children so he figured it would be cool to bring me out in the full “Bad” outfit. At the end of the song we were all onstage- Stevie Wonder was there too and Michael came on and said “Come on”. | took it as him meaning “Get into it!”.I moved downstage and threw my hat into the crowd and started going crazy. When i turned around Michael was saying goodbye to the crowd, the other kids were gone and Stevie Wonder was being escorted off. What he meant was “Come on lets go, It’s over”. When I realised, I ran off. After my mum and I spent two hours with Michael into his hotel and we became friends. He showed us clips from the new Moonwalker he was working on and we talked and talked. We didn’t really stay in contact but i joined a dance company- literally the next day and two years later i was in America to play at Disneyland. I got in touch with Michael through his people, he remembered me. Me and my family went to Record one studio where he was mixing the dangerous album.I showed him some of my dance videos and he said to me. “Do you and your family want to come to Neverland tonight”? We all agreed and ended up staying for two weeks. Our friendship blossomed. For two weeks he’d take me into his dance studio, put some music on and we’d dance and jam for hours.We’d sit there and watch films like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.Other time we’d just leave Neverland and drive out in a car, blasting music really loud. He even taught me how to do the moonwalk.We were in his dance studip. He taught me foot by foot. I couldn’t sleep that whole night. The thrill of pushing off the bar and sliding backwards in a moonwalk with the guy that made it famous was so exciting. Later, me and my mym wanted to move to America to pursue my dreams of becoming a dancer and he helped us out. He gave me a big start by putting me in some of his videos like “Black or White”. The role he took on was one of a mentor. He told when I was seven that I’d be a film director and thats what I became, he created a thirst for knowledge in me.Once, a mini recording studio turned up on my doorstep, but what was cool was that he stopped me from becoming a spoiled brat. He would say “This is for you, but I want to see you do something with it. Dont take it for granted or I”ll take it back”. The last time I saw him was in July 2008. I was in Vegas working on a show and he was living there.Me, my wife and him and his three kids had a barbecue. It was the most normal thing in the world. Me and my wife had been to Whole foods and bought stuff to cook. But when we got there he’d provided loads of catering. I said “Dude, Why did you bring loads of catering? We’ve got regular food here”.I remember cooking outside while Michael sat there under an umbrella. We had great times because he was such a caring person. Most of all I’ll miss those phone conversations. I still have my mobile phone with his number on it. I just cant bear the thoughts of deleting his messages.
Hope you all enjoy reading as much as I did.-Wade Robson, Introduction to Michael Jackson Opus
Even with all of the AEG trial news going on last week, this was the story that rocked the fan community. It has been almost a week ago as I am typing the finishing touches on this post, and “some” of the dust has started to settle a bit. But as the initial shock has begun to wear off, the deeper and more puzzling questions remain. Why the heck is Wade Robson doing this-and the bigger question so many are asking, Why now?
While I am sure that most of my diehard readers know the full details of this story by now, I will just reiterate briefly for the sake of those casual readers who may be stumbling across this for the first time. On May 1st, 2013, an attorney representing choreographer Wade Robson-a longtime friend and supporter of Michael Jackson and one of the young men who defended him most adamantly in his 2005 molestation trial-filed a debtor’s claim against the Michael Jackson estate. While the details of the claim are sealed, Robson, via his attorney, is apparently seeking monetary compensation for childhood sexual abuse he claims to have suffered for seven years, from 1989-1996. Ordinarily, the statute of limitations for such a claim would have long expired, but Robson is relying on the still relatively new and unproven science of “repressed memory” to make a case. You see, according to his claim (if you find this believable) the whole reason he so adamantly defended MJ all those years, and paid such glowing tributes to him as his mentor and friend, was because…well, simply that he didn’t remember any such abuse happening. Until he had a breakdown and went for some therapy. Now, voila…he has a memory, and needs some cash. Get it? Good. Because that’s the story, in a nutshell.
The problem is that many might have been inclined to take his claims a lot more seriously if :1:He had come forward years ago, and sought a criminal or even civil charge when Michael was alive to defend himself, rather than waiting four years after his death to file a debtor’s claim, and 2: If he hadn’t testified under oath-not once, but twice-that nothing ever happened. The thing about Robson, in fact, is that he not only swore under oath, but actively and aggressively defended his friend.
Mr. Robson’s claim is outrageous and pathetic. This is a young man who has testified at least twice under oath over the past 20 years and said in numerous interviews that Michael Jackson never did anything inappropriate to him or with him…Now, nearly 4 years after Michael has passed, this sad and less than credible claim has been made.”-Howard Weitzman, Michael Jackson Estate Attorney, In A Statement To TMZ.
All I can say is that I’m glad my schedule prevented me from firing off any knee jerk responses to this story. Instead, I was able to take a few days to cool my heels, gather some facts, and really take a good, long, hard look at what the heck is going on with Wade Robson.
First of all, this news isn’t separate from the AEG trial at all. I think most reasonable people-including even the media-have recognized the suspicious timing of Robson’s accusations. Here is what Michael’s attorney Thomas Mesereau had to say:
And from the looks of things, Robson isn’t exactly getting a lot of sympathy. After all, it’s one thing for a child victim to accuse someone. It’s quite another when said “victim” is a thirty-year old-man who has sung the praises of his “abuser” for years, was a star witness for him in court, and now waits-hold on-not one, not two, but four years after said “abuser” is dead and cannot defend himself-to suddenly have “repressed memories” that entitle him-again, not to file a criminal complaint, or even a civil complaint, but a debtor’s claim-in hopes that he can somehow convince the Michael Jackson estate to pay him enough “yum yum” money dollars” to make him go away.
Now add to this mix the fact that all of this just “happens” to break with the start of the AEG trial, and you have The Perfect Storm…and the perfect recipe for so few are taking this story seriously. For sure, it certainly looks like a crass money grab at the very least (if one believes Robson is acting alone) or perhaps part of a much larger, and deeper conspiracy (if one believes that AEG is behind it).
I have been asking myself a lot of hard questions the last few days. Just how plausible might Wade’s story be? How reliable is the science of repressed memory? Is it just possible that he was lying in 2005, and is telling the truth now? I know there are some fans who are so adamant in their unwavering belief in Michael’s innocence that they will never entertain, for a moment, the need to question a story like Robson’s. But I think that is the wrong approach to take. In order to get to the truth, we have to ask the tough questions-and not be afraid to do so. The possibilities have to be at least examined before they can be debunked. So hear me out and follow where I am going with this.
There is very good reason why this story is so upsetting to the fan community. Wade Robson was, as stated, a key witness in Michael’s 2005 molestation trial-one who was not only adamant, but unwavering in his testimony that no abuse or inappropriate behavior had ever occurred. For years, Robson’s testimony-in addition to that of Macaulay Culkin and Brett Barnes-has been the cornerstone of fans who take comfort in being able to point out, “Look, of all these kids that Michael supposedly hung out with, only two have ever accused him of anything. All of the others have sworn up and down that nothing ever happened, and have been more than reliable witnesses.”
Robson, in fact, was more than just a reliable witness. He was, in the words of Thomas Mesereau, a “star witness” for the defense.
As has been pointed out time and again, Robson certainly has a “lot of explaining to do,” to quote Roger Friedman. If he purjured himself in 2005, he’s got to explain that. If he’s been lying all these years that he’s been singing Michael Jackson’s praises to the skies, he’s got a lot of explaining to do.
And if he’s been telling the truth all these years, he has even more explaining to do.
I can’t claim to know what is true or not. Even though I know fans take issue with those who say things like, “Only Michael and Wade know for sure” it is, nevertheless, true. I did not, for example, take offense when Lisa Marie said in her Oprah interview that she could only vouch for what she had seen, and that she had never seen any inappropriate behavior between Michael and children. Her comment that she wasn’t “in the room” with Michael and his alleged victims drew some ire from those who felt she was leaving a chink open for the doubters. (Ironically enough, according to the timeline Robson has given, at least some of the alleged abuse would have been during the time of Michael’s marriage to LMP). But really, what else could she say with good conscience? I know people wanted her to say adamantly, “Absolutely not, Michael would never have done such a thing!” But here is the truth. No matter how much we might think we know someone (even our own spouses!); no matter how much we might want to believe, “Michael wasn’t that kind of person” the unfortunate reality of child sexual abusers is that we can’t base anything on the person’s character or what kind of person we “think” they are. This is fact, and I’m not going to entertain any comments to the contrary. There is simply no way to judge whether someone is or is not a pedophile or a child molestor based on their good works, their good name, or their good character. I have mentioned here several times that I, myself, am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I won’t reveal the identity of my abuser, except to say he was a family member and a most upstanding citizen-to the outside world. Someone no one would have ever suspected of such things. But as a child sexual abuse survivor, it also gives me some clearer insight into Michael’s “alleged” victims. Of course, every victim’s case is somewhat different, and there is no one-size-fits-all gauge with which to assess a “victim’s” story. But it does, in some ways, give me the ability to better filter what is truthful and plausible vs. what is total BS.
Secondly, I consider myself a Michael Jackson fan second, and a Michael Jackson researcher/scholar first. Which, simply translated, means I am proud to say that my belief in Michael’s innocence is based on factual research and evidence, rather than knee-jerk, emotional responses based on what I “want” to believe. I’m sorry if my blunt approach offends some. I don’t mean for it to offend. I just believe that in order to truly vindicate Michael, it takes a hard stance approach and the ability to not flinch at some less-than-pleasant muck that has to be waded through.
And I’m going to say one thing right now in regards to all this “repressed memory” nonsense. It is pure bs. Yes, it may have some validity if we’re talking a five year old child. It may have some validity if we’re talking a child too young to have comprehension of what sex is, or more aptly, too young to realize that what an adult is doing is making them uncomfortable. It would be perfectly logical in that case to assume that the memory might become repressed, only to be triggered later in life.
But I don’t buy it in the case of an older child, especially a child over the age of seven. I was nine when my abuse first occurred. I was molested repeatedly from the age of nine to fourteen. Trust me, you don’t forget. You can block it out as a coping mechanism, but the images; the memories do not just go away or become “blanked out.” What actually happens has more to do with one simple fact: Some people simply have a higher tolerance for trauma than others. While some may become emotionally debilitated by such a trauma, to the point of being almost dysfunctional, some can simply accept it as something bad that happened, and move on. This is really, essentially, what the “compartmentalization” is all about that some therapists speak of. It is, however, not so much compartmentalization as simply being able to put the bad memory on a shelf-or on the backburner of one’s life-and move on.
However, that doesn’t mean the memory isn’t there. My abuser didn’t conk me on the head and force me to black out. I didn’t quite know what was happening when I was nine, but I knew it was sick and unnatural; that it was NOT something an adult and a child were supposed to be doing together. By the time I knew what sex was, I was very consciously aware of what had been done to me.
I reported him the first time; that led to years of therapy that basically went nowhere (the abuse continued, despite the best efforts of DHR to keep the family together) and finally, at fifteen, I just removed myself from the situation altogether. I lived with my grandmother until I was a legal adult.
I moved on with my life. Eventually, I forgave my abuser, but I never forgot. I simply made a conscious choice to not allow this to be something that ruled my life. I still have my “issues” but I don’t dwell on what happened to me. I think that abuse victims make a conscious choice-either to work at healing and to get on with life, or to let another person’s actions overtake their life. However, I can say that sexual abuse does f_k with a kid’s head on so many levels, it isn’t even funny. There is just something about that manipulation of trust, and abuse of power, that one never gets over.
Which is also why it is something one never forgets. There was never a time when I couldn’t recall, in exact, vivid detail, exactly what was done to me-where, when, even down to what time of day it was. I could tell you in most instances what I was wearing. I could tell you that the first time I remembered it happening, I was lying on a rug in the living room, coloring in my coloring book. I remember that exact moment when the complete innocence of childhood ended for me.
How does one just forget a thing like that? If anything, traumatic experiences are even more branded into memory than the inconsequential stuff. I certainly couldn’t tell you anything about the first time I ate a bowl of breakfast cereal (but I could tell you all about the time I got salmonella poisoning from eating a bowl of cereal when I was eleven!). I couldn’t tell you about the first day I went to school, but I could tell you all about the day in second grade when a bully slapped me so hard on the playground that it knocked me dizzy.
And, yes, I could tell you more detail about the night I was first molested by my abuser than my first, consensual sexual experience as an adult.
You simply don’t forget a thing like that, if you’re old enough to have conscious memory at all. While I do think it is certainly possible that one can consciously bury a memory, I don’t buy into the idea that one can simply blank them out. Certainly not someone claiming a long-standing abuse that went on, allegedly, for seven years!That puts the time frame of Wade’s “abuse” roughly equivalent with my own, with only a difference of one year, for in my case, it was six years.
Okay, so even if a reasonable minded person bought into the idea of one repressed memory from one incident, we are supposed to believe that Wade Robson somehow miraculously blocked out seven whole years of his life?
Gosh gee, I sure remember my six years of abuse, cause I was living in fear and revulsion every single day of it! I went to school every morning sick to my stomach; I came home from school sick to my stomach. I couldn’t concentrate in class, and my grades plummeted. How the hell does one forget such feelings?
In short, the whole idea of “repressed memory” is really a bogus science that has yet to be proven. Its reliability as grounds for a civil or criminal case in a court of law is still very much up for debate. While some cases based on “repressed memory” have gone in favor of the plaintiffs, many more have not.
This was a very good, unbiased article that I found which examines both the validity and shortcomings of repressed memory as a science-and especially as a valid, legal claim for adults seeking compensation for alleged abuses that occurred 20, 30, even 40 years ago!
The article is too long to paste here in its entirety, and not all of it is directly relevant to Wade Robson’s claims, but I did want to include this excerpt, which I found extremely interesting, on how it is possible for false memories to be implanted, which the unsuspecting patient may then take as genuine repressed memory (to be fair, the first half of this article deals with cases in which the memories are authentic, which in some cases they have proven to be. But let’s look at what is said about non-authentic memories (note that the case of Patti Barton, beneath the heading “Litigation Accounts” is an example of a so-called “repressed memory” that occurred when the victim was fifteen months old-again, a perfect example that repressed memory may be viable for abuse that occurs before the child is consciously old enough to be aware of the act, but becomes increasingly doubtful the older the child is at the time of the alleged abuse:
The Memories Are Not Authentic
To say that memory might be false does not mean that the person is deliberately lying. Although lying is always possible, even psychotherapists who question the authenticity of reports have been impressed with the honesty and intensity of the terror, rage, guilt, depression, and overall behavioral dysfunction accompanying the awareness of abuse ( Ganaway, 1989, p. 211 ).
There are are at least two ways that false memories could come about. Honestly believed, but false, memories could come about, according to Ganaway (1989), because of internal or external sources. The internal drive to manufacture an abuse memory may come about as a way to provide a screen for perhaps more prosaic but, ironically, less tolerable, painful experiences of childhood. Creating a fantasy of abuse with its relatively clear-cut distinction between good and evil may provide the needed logical explanation for confusing experiences and feelings. The core material for the false memories can be borrowed from the accounts of others who are either known personally or encountered in literature, movies, and television. 5
Sources of Details That Could Affect Memory
There are at least two important sources that could potentially feed into the construction of false memories. These include popular writings and therapists’ suggestions.
All roads on the search for popular writings inevitably lead to one, The Courage to Heal ( Bass & Davis, 1988 ), often referred to as the “bible” of the incest book industry. The Courage to Heal advertises itself as a guide for women survivors of child sexual abuse. Although the book is undoubtedly a great comfort to the sexual abuse survivors who have been living with their private and painful memories, one cannot help but wonder about its effects on those who have no such memories. Readers who are wondering whether they might be victims of child sexual abuse are provided with a list of possible activities ranging from the relatively bening (e.g., being held in a way that made them uncomfortable) to the unequivocally abusive (e.g., being raped or otherwise penetrated). Readers are then told “If you are unable to remember any specific instances like the ones mentioned above but still have a feeling that something abusive happened to you, it probably did” (p. 21). On the next page, the reader is told
You may think you don’t have memories, but often as you begin to talk about what you do remember, there emerges a constellation of feelings, reactions and recollections that add up to substantial information. To say, “I was abused,” you don’t need the kind of recall that would stand up in a court of law. Often the knowledge that you were abused starts with a tiny feeling, an intuition… Assume your feelings are valid. So far, no one we’ve talked to thought she might have been abused, and then later discovered that she hadn’t been. The progression always goes the other way, from suspicion to confirmation. If you think you were abused and your life shows the symptoms, then you were. (p. 22)
What symptoms? The authors list low self-esteem, suicidal or self-destructive thoughts, depression, and sexual dysfunction, among others. 6
Others have worried about the role played by The Courage to Heal. A recent survey of several hundred families accused by derepressed memories revealed that the book was implicated “in almost all cases” ( Wakefield & Underwager, 1992, p. 486 ). Complaints about the book range from its repeated suggestion that abuse probably happened even if one has no memories of it and that demands for corroboration are not reasonable, to its overt encouragement of “revenge, anger, fantasies of murder or castration, and deathbed confrontations” ( Wakefield & Underwager, 1992, p. 485 ). In all fairness, however, it should be mentioned that the book is long (495 pages), and sentences taken out of context may distort their intended meaning. Nonetheless, readers without any abuse memories of their own cannot escape the message that there is a strong likelihood that abuse occurred even in the absence of such memories.
The recent incest book industry has published not only stories of abuse but also suggestions to readers that they were likely abused even if there are no memories, that repressed memories of abuse undoubtedly underlie one’s troubles, or that benefits derive from uncovering repressed memories and believing them. 7 One popular book about incest is the paperback by E. Sue Blume (1990), the book jacket of which itemizes one of the author’s chief credentials as the “Creator of the Incest Survivors’ Aftereffects Checklist.” 8 Blume, a private practice therapist, tells readers that she has “found that most incest survivors have limited recall about their abuse” (p. 81). She goes on to say that “Indeed, so few incest survivors in my experience have identified themselves as abused in the beginning of therapy that I have concluded that perhaps half of all incest survivors do not remember that the abuse occurred” (p. 81).
Some of the volumes provide exercises to help readers lift the repression. Farmer (1989), for example, tells readers to try one particular exercise “whether or not you have any conscious recollection of the abuse you suffered” (p. 91). The reader is to sit down, relax, and mentally return to childhood. The next step is to choose a particular memory, whether fuzzy or clear, and “bring that memory to your full attention” (p. 91). Details about what to do with the memory are provided, along with an example from the life of “Danielle,” who thought about how verbally abusive her father had been, and “Hazel,” who remembered anger at her mother’s treating her like a rag doll. This exercise allegedly helped to “lift the lid of repression” and unbury the “Hurting Child.”
Do these examples lift the lid of repression? Perhaps. But another equally viable hypothesis is that the examples influence the creation of memories or, at the very least, direct the search through memory that the reader will ultimately take. 9
Blume’s (1990) observation that so many individuals enter therapy without memories of abuse but acquire memories during therapy naturally makes one wonder about what might be happening in therapy. According to Ganaway (1989), honestly believed but false memories could come about in another way, through unintentional suggestion from therapists. Ganaway noted a growing trend toward the facile acceptance and expressed validation of uncorroborated trauma memories, perhaps in part due to sensitization from years of accusations that the memories are purely fantasy. Herman (1992, p. 180) made a similar point: Whereas an earlier generation of therapists might have been discounting or minimizing their patients’ traumatic experiences, the recent rediscovery of psychological trauma has let to errors of the opposite kind. Some contemporary therapists have been known to tell patients, merely on the basis of a suggestive history or symptom profile, that they definitely had a traumatic experience. Even if there is no memory, but merely some vague symptoms, certain therapists will inform a patient after a single session that he or she was very likely the victim of a satanic cult. Once the “diagnosis” is made, the therapist urges the patient to pursue the recalcitrant memories. Although some therapists recommend against persistent, intrusive probing to uncover early traumatic memories (e.g., Bruhn, 1990), others enthusiastically engage in these therapeutic strategies. Evidence for this claim comes in a variety of forms: (a) therapist accounts of what is appropriate to do with clients, (b) client accounts of what happened during therapy, (c) sworn statements of clients and therapists during litigation, and (d) taped interviews of therapy sessions.
One therapist, who has treated more than 1,500 incest victims, openly discussed her method of approaching clients ( Forward & Buck, 1988 ). “You know, in my experience, a lot of people who are struggling with many of the same problems you are, have often had some kind of really painful things happen to them as kids–maybe they were beaten or molested. And I wonder if anything like that ever happened to you?” (p. 161). Other clinicians claim to know of therapists who say “Your symptoms sound like you’ve been abused when you were a child. What can you tell me about that?” ( Trott, 1991a, p. 18 ); or worse, “You sound to me like the sort of person who must have been sexually abused. Tell me what that bastard did to you” ( Davis, 1991, p. 82 ).
At least one clinician advocated “It is crucial…that clinicians ask about sexual abuse during every intake” ( Frawley, 1990 ). The rationale for this prescription is that a clinician who asks conveys to the client that the client will be believed and that the clinician will join with the client in working through the memories and emotions linked with childhood sexual abuse. Asking about sexual abuse along with a list of other past life events makes sense given the high instance of actual abuse, but the concern is how the issue is raised and what therapists do when clients initially deny an abusive past.
Evidence exists that some therapists do not take no for an answer. One therapist (who otherwise seemed sensitive to problems of memory tampering) still recommended “When the client does not remember what happened to her, the therapist’s encouragement to `guess’ or `tell a story’ will help the survivor regain access to the lost material” ( Olio, 1989, p. 6 ). She went on to provide the example of a client who suspected sexual abuse but had no memories. The client had become extremely anxious at a social gathering in the presence of a three-year-old girl. She had no idea why she was upset except that she wanted the little girl to keep her dress down. When encouraged in therapy to tell a story about what was going to happen to the little girl, the client ultimately related with tears and trembling one of the first memories of her own abuse. She used the story to “bypass her cognitive inhibitions and express the content of the memory” (p. 6). Later she “integrated the awareness that she was indeed the little girl in the story” (p. 6). One cannot help but wonder about these mental fantasy exercises in light of known research showing that the simple act of imagination makes an event subjectively more likely (e.g., Sherman, Cialdini, Schwartzman, & Reynolds, 1985).
Even if the therapist does not encourage the client to guess or tell a story, stories sometimes get told in the form of client dreams. If discussions of incest go on during the day, and day residue gets into the dreams at night, it would not be surprising to see that dreams of incest might result. Poston and Lison (1990) described a woman with “repressed memories” of incest who reported a dream about watching a little girl ice skate on a frozen river. In her dream, the woman tried desperately to warn the child that monsters and snakes were making their way through the ice to devour her. Although frightened, the woman was powerless and could not warn the innocent child. A few days later, the client began remembering incest from her childhood. Knowing she had “a trusted relationship with a therapist and a survivor’s group that would understand and accept her” (p. 197), the memories began to flow.
Examples of therapists interpreting dreams as signs of memory of abuse can be found throughout the literature. One clinician described with pride how she communicated to her male patient the basis for her suspicions that he had been abused: “On many occasions, I explained that these dreams had preserved experiences and impressions of an indelible nature” ( M. Williams, 1987, p. 152 ).
Frederickson (1992), who has worked with many incest survivors, has also described in detail her methods of getting patients to remember. She recommended that the therapist guide the patient “to expand on or explore images that have broken through to the conscious mind, allowing related images of the abuse to surface. The process lets the survivor complete the picture of what happened, using a current image or flash as a jumping-off point” (p. 97). She also suggested that the therapist help the patient expand on the images and sensations evoked by dreams “to shed light on or recover our repressed memories” (p. 98). She extolled the virtues of hypnosis to “retrieve buried memories” (p. 98) and recommended that patients “jot down suspected memories of abuse you would like to explore. Include your own felt sense of how you think you were abused” (p. 102).
Even if clinicians are not the first to bring up sexual abuse, they will often reinforce what begins as a mere suspicion. One client developed the idea that she might have been sexually abused, tried hypnosis to help her recover memories, and obsessed for years. Only after her therapist stated that she believed sexual assault was “indeed possible” and cited nightmares, phobia of men, and other symptoms as evidence did the client come up with some specific memories ( Schuker, 1979, p. 569 ).
Before leaving the examples of therapist accounts of what goes on in therapy, it is important to add a word of caution. Sherrill Mulhern, a psychiatric anthropologist, has documented the alarming discrepancies that often exist between therapists’ accounts of what they have done in therapy and what is revealed in video- or audiotapes of those same sessions ( Mulhern, 1991 ).
If memories are uncovered–whether after repeated probing, after telling stories, after dreams, or seemingly spontaneously–or even if the memories remain buried, therapists often send their clients to support groups. In one study of clients who had, in the course of therapy, verbalized their victimization through ritualistic abuse, the majority reported that they had participated in these types of groups ( Shaffer & Cozolino, 1992 ). One group, Survivors of Incest Anonymous (SIA), publishes extensive reading materials intended to aid the recovery of incest survivors. (SIA merged with Sexual Abuse Anonymous in 1987.) The criteria for admission make it clear that entry is fine for those with no memories of sexual abuse: “Do you have blocks of your childhood you can’t remember? Do you have a sense that `something happened’?” ( SIA, 1985 ). These and other questions (e.g., Do you have problems with self-confidence and self esteem? Do you feel easily intimidated by authority figures?) are among the set of 20 questions that help a potential survivor decide whether SIA can be of assistance. SIA emphasizes that it is OK not to remember at first, because “Many survivors have `repressed’ actual abuse memories in order to survive.” However, the goal is to remember: “Participating in SIA helps us to remember what happened to us so we can stop being controlled by incest” ( SIA, 1990, p. 1 ).
Although support groups are undoubtedly invaluable for genuine survivors of sexual abuse, as they are for other survivors of extreme situations, such as combat and political persecution ( Herman, 1992, p. 215 ), concerns about the incest survivor groups have been expressed. Do these groups foster the development of constructed memories? An investigative journalist attending a four-day workshop watched the construction of memory at work ( Nathan, 1992 ). With members recounting graphic details of SRA abuse, how long will they listen to the person who can only say “I think I was abused, but I don’t have any memories.” Others have worried in the literature that such groups may induceproto-extension –that is, they actually encourage a troubled person to remember details from other survivor stories as having happened to them as well ( Ellis, 1992 ).
Another source for suggestions in therapy can be found in client accounts of what happened to them. Recently, clients have been reporting that a therapist has suggested that childhood abuse was the cause of their current distress. However, these clients have no memories of such abuse. One woman from Oregon entered therapy to deal with depression and anxiety, and within a few months her therapist suggested that the cause could be childhood sexual abuse. She wrote asking for help in remembering:
Since that time, he has become more and more certain of his diagnosis… I have no direct memories of this abuse…. The question I can’t get past is how something so terrible could have happened to me without me remembering anything. For the past two years I have done little else but try to remember. I’ve tried self-hypnosis and light trance work with my therapist. And I even travelled to childhood homes…in an attempt to trigger memories.
One client revealed the suggestive nature of his therapist’s questioning on ABC’s Primetime Live ( ABC News, 1992 ). Attorney Greg Zimmerman went to a psychotherapist in Boulder, Colorado, to deal with his father’s suicide. He told ABC, “I would try to talk to her about the things that were very painful in my life and she kept saying that there was something else” (p. 1). Zimmerman grew more and more depressed as the mystery of that “something else” would not unravel, and then, during a therapy session, his therapist stunned him with her diagnosis: “I don’t know how to tell you this, but you display the same kinds of characteristics as some of my patients who are victims of Satanic ritualistic abuse” (p. 1). Zimmerman had said nothing whatsoever to her to provoke this diagnosis, apparently her standard.
It is easy to find published accounts that describe the emergence of memories in therapy and the techniques that therapists have used to uncover those memories (e.g., Bass & Thornton, 1991). One account, written under the pseudonym of Jill Morgan, told of a series of positively horrifying memories of abuse by her father. He raped her when she was 4 years old, again at age 9, once again at age 13, for seven straight days and nights at age 15, and for the final time at age 18. For the next several years, all misery was withheld from conscious memory, and then, at age 29, she was helped to remember in therapy: “Through hypnosis and age regression, a skilled therapist gave me back my memory” (p. 111). The involvement of hypnosis and age regression prompts the natural inquiry into whether these techniques produce authentic memories. Unfortunately, the evidence is discouraging: There is an extensive literature seriously questioning the reliability of hypnotically enhanced memory in general ( Smith, 1983 ), and hypnotic age regression in particular ( Nash, 1987 ). Hypnotic attempts to improve memory increase the confidence in what is recalled more than the accuracy ( Bowers, 1992 ). Even more worrisome is the impossibility of reversing the process; the hypnotically induced memory becomes the person’s reality ( Orne, 1979 ). With hypnotic regression, men and women have been known to recall being abducted by aliens aboard exotic spacecraft and other forgotten events ( Gordon, 1991 ).
A more detailed client account is that of Betsy Petersen (1991), as described in an autobiographical account, Dancing With Daddy. Petersen, a Harvard graduate and accomplished writer, revealed in her first book that she repressed memory of sexual abuse by her father until she was 45 years old. She now remembers sexual abuse from the time she was 3½ until she was 18. Betsy entered therapy (with “Kris”) for problems relating to her children, and almost a year after starting therapy she started worrying, “I’m afraid my father did something to me.” She tried hard to recall, putting “together a scenario of what might have happened” (p. 65). When she told her therapist about this, she said “I don’t know if I made it up or if it’s real.” Kris replied, “It feels like a story to you, because when something like that happens, everybody acts like it didn’t.” Betsy: “You mean it might really have happened!” Kris told her there was a good chance it had happened. Kris told her, in Betsy’s words, “It was consistent with what I remembered about my father and my relationship with him, and with the dreams I had been having, and with the difficulties I had being close to my children, and also, she said, with the feelings I had during and after sex with my husband” (p. 65). Betsy worked hard to retrieve incest memories: “I had no memory of what my father had done to me, so I tried to reconstruct it. I put all my skill–as a reporter, novelist, scholar–to work making that reconstruction as accurate and vivid as possible. I used the memories I had to get to the memories I didn’t have” (p. 66). 10 If accurate, this account tells us something about one therapist’s approach. The therapist convinces the patient with no memories that abuse is likely, and the patient obligingly uses reconstructive strategies to generate memories that would support that conviction. These techniques can be found in numerous autobiographical accounts (see also Smith & Pazder, 1980.
In addition to the first-person accounts, more formal studies of incest survivors provide clues to what might be happening in therapy. One study ( Shaffer & Cozolino, 1992 ) of 20 adults who uncovered ritualistic abuse memories stemming from childhood revealed that the majority sought psychotherapy because of symptoms (e.g., depression and anxiety). The primary focus of their therapy was “the uncovering of memories” (p. 189). The majority participated in 12-step programs (e.g., Incest Survivors Anonymous) as “necessary adjuncts to their psychotherapy” (p. 190). These groups provided substitute families for the clients who had severed ties with their families of origin. Other similar studies of ritualistic abuse rememberers have revealed that most of the victims have no memory of the abuse before therapy (e.g., Driscoll & Wright, 1991) but that techniques such as hypnosis ( Driscoll & Wright, 1991 ) or dreams and artwork (e.g., Young, Sachs, Braun, & Watkins, 1991) were used by therapists to unlock those recalcitrant memories.
Information gathered during litigation is another source of knowledge about the emergence of memories in therapy. Take the case of Patti Barton against her father, John Peters, a successful businessman. 11 Depositions taken in the case of Barton v. Peters (1990) reveal that Patti Barton began therapy with a Dr. CD, a doctor of divinity, in July 1986. Dr. CD’s notes indicate that, during the 32nd session of therapy, Patti expressed “fear her father has sexually tampered with her” (Deposition of CD, April 21, 1991, Barton v. Peters, 1990, p. 39). This was the first time that anything like that had come up in any of the sessions. Shortly thereafter, Patti related a dream that a man was after her. 12 Dr. CD apparently then used the technique of visualization wherein Patti would try to visualize her past. He got her to remember eye surgery at the age of 7 months. As for the abuse, one of the earliest acts of abuse he managed to dredge up with this method occurred when Patti was 15 months old. “I visualized that my father stuck his tongue in my mouth”.
After he stuck his tongue in my mouth–Well, it seemed to last for hours and hours even though I know it didn’t. But it was awful to me and an event that seemed to last for hours. I started crying, and I crawled over to the wall. And I started banging my head on the wall. And my mother came into the room, and she picked me up. And I tried to tell her in baby talk what had happened. I said “Ma, ma, ma, ma,” and I said, “Da, Da, Da, Da” and I said, “Me-e-e-.” And that’s all that I can remember. (Deposition of PB, May 1991, Barton v. Peters, 1990, p. 193)
Later, Patti would remember that her father touched her in her crotch and put his penis in her mouth when she was three years old, and that she stroked his penis over and over at age four. Rape would come later. Patti’s father eventually agreed to give his daughter the deed to a piece of land he owned, but he continued to deny the charges. Her brother, a Baptist minister in Alaska, claimed that Satan’s wicked spirits planted untruths in Patti’s head ( Laker, 1992 ). Did it take 30-some sessions for the therapist to uncover actual memories of abuse, or 30-some sessions for false memories of abuse to begin to be visualized and constructed?
Often, confidentiality considerations prevent access to interactions between therapists and clients. However, when cases get into litigation, special interviewing is frequently done, and occasionally it is recorded. Recordings were done in a case implicating a man named Paul Ingram from Olympia, Washington ( Watters, 1991 ). Ingram was arrested for child abuse in 1988, amid expressions of shock from his community. At the time he was chair of the county Republican committee and was chief civil deputy in the sheriff’s office. He had worked in law enforcement for more than a decade.
The Ingram case began at a time when waves of rumor and media hype over satanic ritualistic abuse were rampant. At first Ingram denied everything, and detectives told him he was in denial. With the help of a psychologist who exerted enormous pressure over endless hours of interrogation, Ingram’s memories of abusing his daughter began to appear. Then the psychologist, with the help of a detective, “interviewed” Ingram’s son. In that interview, the son reported on his dreams, and the therapist and detective convinced him that the dreams were real. 13
In another case, a father (Mr. K) hired a private investigator after his 26-year-old daughter reported a recently uncovered repressed memory and accused him of incest. The investigator, acting under cover, went to see the daughter’s therapist complaining that she had night-mares and had trouble sleeping. On the third visit, the therapist told undercover agent that she was an incest survivor. According to the investigator’s report ( Monesi, 1992 ), the therapist said this to her pseudopatient: “She then told me that she was certain I was experiencing body memory from a trauma, earlier in life, that I could not remember. I could not remember because my brain had blocked the memory that was too painful to deal with.” When the patient said she didn’t remember any trauma, the therapist told her “that is the case and many people at far later times in their lives go through this when the memory starts to surface.” The therapist told her that many people go through this experience, such as “Viet Nam Vets, Earthquake Survivors and Incest Survivors.” When the patient said that she had never been in Vietnam or in an earthquake, the therapist nodded her head and said “Yes, I know.” The therapist then said she should read Courage to Heal, a book she recommends to all abuse survivors. After that there was the Courage to Heal Work-book, which tells survivors how to cope with the fears and memories. She pulled Secret Survivors by E. S. Blume (1990) from the shelf, opened the cover, and read the list of symptoms of incest survivors. With two thirds of the symptoms, she would look at the pseudopatient and shake her head yes as if this was confirmation of her diagnosis. She recommended incest survivor groups. In the fourth session, the diagnosis of probable incest victim was confirmed on the basis of the “classic symptoms” of body memory and sleep disorders. When the patient insisted that she had no memory of such events, the therapist assured her this was often the case.
Why Would Therapists Suggest Things to Their Patients?
The core of treatment, it is widely believed, is to help clients reclaim their “traumatic past” ( Rieker & Carmen, 1986, p. 369 ). Therapists routinely dig deliberately into the ugly underbelly of mental life. They dig for memories purposefully because they believe that in order to get well, to become survivors rather than victims, their clients must overcome the protective denial that was used to tolerate the abuse during childhood ( Sgroi, 1989, p. 112 ). Memory blocks can be protective in many ways, but they come at a cost; they cut off the survivors from a significant part of their past histories and leave them without good explanations for their negative self-image, low self-esteem, and other mental problems. These memories must be brought into consciousness, not as an end in itself but only insofar as it helps the survivors acknowledge reality and overcome denial processes that are now dysfunctional (p. 115).
Another reason therapists may be unwittingly suggesting ideas to their clients is that they have fallen prey to a bias that affects all of us, known as the “confirmatory bias” ( Baron, Beattie, & Hershey, 1988 ). People in general, therapists included, have a tendency to search for evidence that confirms their hunches rather than search for evidence that disconfirms. It is not easy to discard long-held or cherished beliefs, in part because we are eager to verify those beliefs and are not inclined to seek evidence that might disprove them.
The notion that the beliefs that individuals hold can create their own social reality is the essence of the self-fulfilling prophecy ( Snyder, 1984 ). How does “reality” get constructed? One way this can happen is through interview strategies. Interviewers are known to choose questions that inquire about behaviors and experiences thought to be characteristic, rather than those thought to be uncharacteristic, of some particular classification. If therapists ask questions that tend to elicit behaviors and experiences thought to be characteristic of someone who had been a victim of childhood trauma, might they too be creating this social reality?
Whatever the good intentions of therapists, the documented examples of rampant suggestion should force us to at least ponder whether some therapists might be suggesting illusory memories to their clients rather than unlocking authentic distant memories. Or, paraphrasing Gardner (1992), what is considered to be present in the client’s unconscious mind might actually be present solely in the therapist’s conscious mind (p. 689). Ganaway (1989) worried that, once seeded by the therapist, false memories could develop that replace previously unsatisfactory internal explanations for intolerable but more prosaic childhood trauma.
Creation of False Memories
The hypothesis that false memories could be created invites an inquiry into the important question of what is known about false memories. Since the mid-1970s at least, investigations have been done into the creation of false memories through exposure to misinformation. Now, nearly two decades later, there are hundreds of studies to support a high degree of memory distortion. People have recalled nonexistent broken glass and tape recorders, a cleanshaven man as having a mustache, straight hair as curly, and even something as large and conspicuous as a barn in a bucolic scene that contained no buildings at all ( Loftus & Ketcham, 1991 ). This growing body of research shows that new, postevent information often becomes incorporated into memory, supplementing and altering a person’s recollection. The new information invades us, like a Trojan horse, precisely because we do not detect its influence. Understanding how we can become tricked by revised data about our past is central to understanding the hypothesis that suggestions from popular writings and therapy sessions can affect autobiographical recall.
One frequently heard comment about the research on memory distortion is that all changes induced by misinformation are about trivial details ( Darnton, 1991; Franklin & Wright, 1991 ). There is no evidence, the critics allege, that one can tinker with memories of real traumatic events or that one can inject into the human mind whole events that never happened.
Can Real Traumatic Memories Be Changed?
There are some who argue that traumatic events leave some sort of indelible fixation in the mind (e.g., “traumatic events create lasting visual images…burned-in visual impressions,” Terr, 1988, p. 103; “memory imprints are indelible, they do not erase–a therapy that tries to alter them will be uneconomical,” Kantor, 1980, p. 163). These assertions fail to recognize known examples and evidence that memory is malleable even for life’s most traumatic experiences. If Eileen Franklin’s memory of witnessing her father murder her eight-year-old best friend is a real memory, then it too is a memory replete with changes over different tellings. However, there are clearer examples–anecdotal reports in which definite evidence exists that the traumatic event itself was actually experienced and yet the memory radically changed.
In the category of documented anecdotes there is the example of one of the worst public and personal tragedies in the history of baseball ( Anderson, 1990; described in Loftus & Kaufman, 1992 ). Baseball aficionados may recall that Jack Hamilton, then a pitcher with the California Angels, crushed the outfielder, Tony Conigliaro, in the face with a first-pitch fastball. Although Hamilton thought he remembered this horrible event perfectly, he misremembered it as occurring during a day game, when it was actually at night, and misremembered it in other critical ways. Another example will be appreciated by history buffs, particularly those with an interest in the second world war. American Brigadier General Elliot Thorpe recalled the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor one way in a memoir and completely differently in an oral history taken on his retirement. Both accounts, in fact, were riddled with errors ( Weintraub, 1991 ).
Evidence of a less anecdotal, more experimental nature supports the imperfections of personally experienced traumatic memories. For example, one study examined people’s recollections of how they heard the news of the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger ( Harsch & Neisser, 1989; Neisser & Harsch, 1992 ). Subjects were questioned on the morning after the explosion and again nearly three years later. Most described their memories as vivid, but none of them were entirely correct, and more than one third were wildly inaccurate. One subject, for example, was on the telephone having a business discussion when her best friend interrupted the call with the news. Later she would remember that she heard the news in class and at first thought it was a joke, and that she later walked into a TV lounge and saw the news, and then reacted to the disaster.
Another study ( Abhold, 1992 ) demonstrated the malleability of memory for a serious life-and-death situation. The subjects had attended an important high school football game at which a player on the field went into cardiac arrest. Paramedics tried to resuscitate the player and apparently failed. The audience reactions ranged from complete silence, to sobbing, to screaming. (Ultimately, fortunately, the player was revived at the hospital.) Six years later, many of these people were interviewed. Errors of recollection were common. Moreover, when exposed to misleading information about this life-and-death event, many individuals absorbed the misinformation into their recollections. For example, more than one fourth of the subjects were persuaded that they had seen blood on the player’s jersey after receiving a false suggestion to this effect.
These anecdotes and experimental examples suggest that even details of genuinely experienced traumatic events are, as Christianson (1992) put it, “by no means, completely accurate” (p. 207).
Can One Inject a Complete Memory for Something That Never Happened?
It is one thing to discover that memory for an actual traumatic event is changed over time but quite another to show that one can inject a whole event into someone’s mind for something that never happened. There are numerous anecdotes and experimental studies that show it is indeed possible to lead people to construct entire events.
Whole memories can be implanted into a person’s real-life autobiography, as is best shown by Piaget’s classic childhood memory of an attempted kidnapping ( Piaget, 1962; described in Loftus & Ketcham, 1991, p. 19 ). The false memories were with him for at least a decade. The memory was of an attempted kidnapping that occurred when he was an infant. He found out it was false when his nanny confessed years later that she had made up the entire story and felt guilty about keeping the watch she had received as a reward. In explaining this false memory, Piaget assumed, “I, therefore, must have heard, as a child, the account of this story, which my parents believed, and projected into the past in the form of a visual memory.”
Loud noises at night.
Although widely disseminated and impressive at first glance, Piaget’s false memory is still but a single anecdote and subject to other interpretations. Was this really a memory, or an interesting story? Could it be that the assault actually happened and the nurse, for some inexplicable reason, lied later? For these reasons it would be nice to find stronger evidence that a false memory for a complete event was genuinely implanted.
An apparently genuine 19th-century memory implantation was reported by Laurence and Perry (1983) : Bernheim, during hypnosis, suggested to a female subject that she had awakened four times during the previous night to go to the toilet and had fallen on her nose on the fourth occasion. After hypnosis, the woman insisted that the suggested events had actually occurred, despite the hypnotist’s insistence that she had dreamed them. Impressed by Bernheim’s success, and by explorations by Orne (1979), Laurence and Perry asked 27 highly hypnotizable individuals during hypnosis to choose a night from the previous week and to describe their activities during the half hour before going to sleep. The subjects were then instructed to relive that night, and a suggestion was implanted that they had heard some loud noises and had awakened. Almost one half (13) of the 27 subjects accepted the suggestion and stated after hypnosis that the suggested event had actually taken place. Of the 13, 6 were unequivocal in their certainty. The remainder came to the conclusion on basis of reconstruction. Even when told that the hypnotist had actually suggested the noises, these subjects still maintained that the noises had occurred. One said “I’m pretty certain I heard them. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty damned certain. I’m positive I heard these noises” ( Laurence & Perry, 1983, p. 524 ).
The paradigm of inducing pseudomemories of being awakened by loud noises has now been used extensively by other researchers who readily replicate the basic findings. Moreover, the pseudomemories are not limited to hypnotic conditions. Simply inducing subjects to imagine and describe the loud noises resulted in later “memories” for noises that had never occurred ( Weekes, Lynn, Green, & Brentar, 1992 ).
Other false memories.
Other evidence shows that people can be tricked into believing that they experienced an event even in the absence of specific hypnotic suggestions. For example, numerous studies have shown that people misremember that they voted in a particular election when they actually had not ( Abelson, Loftus, & Greenwald, 1992 ). One interpretation of these findings is that people fill in the gaps in their memory with socially desirable constructions, thus creating for themselves a false memory of voting.
In other studies, people have been led to believe that they witnessed assaultive behavior when in fact they did not (e.g., Haugaard, Reppucci, Laurd, & Nauful, 1991). In this study, children aged four to seven years were led to believe that they saw a man hit a girl, when he had not, after hearing the girl lie about the assault. Not only did they misrecall the nonexistent hitting, but they added their own details: Of 41 false claims, 39 children said it happened near a pond, 1 said it was at the girl’s house, and 1 could not specify exactly where the girl was when the man hit her.
Violent false memories
People can hold completely false memories for something far more traumatic than awakening at night, voting in a particular election, or a simulation involving a man and a girl. Pynoos and Nader (1989) studied children’s recollections of a sniper attack at an elementary school playground. Some of the children who were interviewed were not at the school during the shooting, including some who were already on the way home or were on vacation. Yet, even the nonwitnesses had memories:
One girl initially said that she was at the school gate nearest the sniper when the shooting began. In truth she was not only out of the line of fire, she was half a block away. A boy who had been away on vacation said that he had been on his way to the school, had seen someone lying on the ground, had heard the shots, and then turned back. In actuality, a police barricade prevented anyone from approaching the block around the school. (p. 238)
The memories apparently were created by exposure to the stories of those who truly experienced the trauma.
Memories of being lost.
A question arises as to whether one could experimentally implant memories for nonexistent events that, if they had occurred, would have been traumatic. Given the need to protect human subjects, devising a means of accomplishing this was not an easy task. Loftus and Coan (in press), however, developed a paradigm for instilling a specific childhood memory for being lost on a particular occasion at the age of five. They chose getting lost because it is clearly a great fear of both parents and children. Their initial observations show how subjects can be readily induced to believe this kind of false memory. The technique involved a subject and a trusted family member who played a variation of “Remember the time that….?” To appreciate the methodology, consider the implanted memory of 14-year-old Chris. Chris was convinced by his older brother, Jim, that he had been lost in a shopping mall when he was 5 years old. Jim told Chris this story as if it were the truth: “It was 1981 or 1982. I remember that Chris was 5. We had gone shopping at the University City shopping mall in Spokane. After some panic, we found Chris being led down the mall by a tall, oldish man (I think he was wearing a flannel shirt). Chris was crying and holding the man’s hand. The man explained that he had found Chris walking around crying his eyes out just a few mements before and was trying to help him find his parents.”
Just two days later, Chris recalled his feelings about being lost: “That day I was so scared that I would never see my family again. I knew that I was in trouble.” On the third day, he recalled a conversation with his mother: “I remember mom telling me never to do that again.” On the fourth day: “I also remember that old man’s flannel shirt.” On the fifth day, he started remembering the mall itself: “I sort of remember the stores.” In his last recollection, he could even remember a conversation with the man who found him: “I remember the man asking me if I was lost.”
It would be natural to wonder whether perhaps Chris had really gotten lost that day. Maybe it happened, but his brother forgot. But Chris’s mother was subjected to the same procedure and was never able to remember the false event. After five days of trying, she said “I feel very badly about it, but I just cannot remember anything like this ever happening.”
A couple of weeks later, Chris described his false memory and he greatly expanded on it.
I was with you guys for a second and I think I went over to look at the toy store, the Kay-bee toy and uh, we got lost and I was looking around and I thought, “Uh-oh. I’m in trouble now.” You know. And then I…I thought I was never going to see my family again. I was really scared you know. And then this old man, I think he was wearing a blue flannel, came up to me…he was kind of old. He was kind of bald on top…he had like a ring of gray hair…and he had glasses.
Thus, in two short weeks, Chris now could even remember the balding head and the glasses worn by the man who rescued him. He characterized his memory as reasonably clear and vivid.
Finally, Chris was debriefed. He was told that one of the memories presented to him earlier had been false. When asked to guess, he guessed one of the genuine memories. When told that it was the getting-lost memory, he said, “Really? I thought I remembered being lost…and looking around for you guys. I do remember that. And then crying. And mom coming up and saying ‘Where were you. Don’t you…Don’t you ever do that again.'”
A false memory of abuse.
The lost-in-a-shopping-mall example shows that memory of an entire mildly traumatic event can be created. It is still natural to wonder whether one could go even further and implant a memory of abuse. Ethically, of course, it would not be possible, but anecdotally, as it happens, it was done. It is one of the most dramatic cases of false memory of abuse ever to be documented–the case of Paul Ingram from Olympia, Washington ( Ofshe, 1992; Watters, 1991 ). As described above, Ingram, was arrested for child abuse in 1988 at the time he was chair of the county Republican committee. At first Ingram denied everything, and detectives told him he was in denial. After five months of interrogation, suggestions from a psychologist, and continuing pressure from detectives and advisors, Ingram began to confess to rapes, assaults, child sexual abuse, and participation in a Satan-worshiping cult alleged to have murdered 25 babies ( Ofshe, 1992 ). To elicit specific memories, the psychologist or detectives would suggest some act of abuse (e.g., that on one occasion, Ingram and several other men raped his daughter). Ingram would at first not remember these fragments, but after a concerted effort on his part, he would later come up with a detailed memory.
Richard Ofshe, a social psychologist hired by the prosecution to interview Ingram and his family members, decided to test Ingram’s credibility. Ofshe had made up a completely fabricated scenario. He told Ingram that two of his children (a daughter and a son) had reported that Ingram had forced them to have sex in front of him. As with the earlier suggestions, Ingram at first could not remember this. But Ofshe urged Ingram to try to think about the scene and try to see it happening, just as the interrogators had done to him earlier. Ingram began to get some visual images. Ingram then followed Ofshe’s instructions to “pray on” the scene and try to remember more over the next few hours. Several hours later, Ingram had developed detailed memories and wrote a three-page statement confessing in graphic detail to the scene that Ofshe had invented ( Ofshe, 1992 ;Watters, 1991 ). Ofshe (1989, 1992) noted that this was not the first time that a vulnerable individual had been made to believe that he had committed a crime for which he originally had no memory and which evidence proved he could not have committed. What is crucial about the Ingram case is that some of the same methods that are used in repressed memory cases were used with Ingram. These include the use of protracted imagining of events and authority figures establishing the authenticity of these events.
These examples provide further insights into the malleable nature of memory. They suggest that memories for personally experience traumatic events can be altered by new experiences. Moreover, they reveal that entire events that never happened can be injected into memory. The false memories range from the relatively trivial (e.g., remembering voting) to the bizarre (e.g., remembering forcing one’s daughter and son to have sex). These false memories, with more or less detail, of course do not prove that repressed memories of abuse that return are false. They do demonstrate a mechanism by which false memories can be created by a small suggestion from a trusted family member, by hearing someone lie, by suggestion from a psychologist, or by incorporation of the experiences of others into one’s own autobiography. Of course, the fact that false memories can be planted tells nothing about whether a given memory of child sexual abuse is false or not; nor does it tell how one might distinguish the real cases from the false ones. These findings on the malleability of memory do, however, raise questions about the wisdom of certain recommendations being promoted in self-help workbooks, in handbooks for therapists, and by some therapists themselves. The false memories created in the examples above were accomplished with techniques that are not all that different from what some therapists regularly do–suggesting that the client was probably abused because of some vague symptoms, labeling a client’s ambiguous recollections as evidence of abuse, and encouraging mental exercises that involve fantasy merging with reality.
What does this mean in relation to Wade Robson? For the moment, we’ll just give him benefit of the doubt and assume that maybe he, at least, genuinely believes he is having repressed memories of abuse. We know from reports that he supposedly suffered his breakdown-or the beginning of it-in 2010. It’s certainly conceivable that an aggressive therapist, already familiar with Wade’s history as a friend of Michael Jackson’s-could have planted the idea of repressed memories and could have worked to extract those “memories.” If Robson was in a vulnerable state, he certainly could have been susceptible to the planting of false memories-except in that case, it wouldn’t explain why he then went on to pay glowing tribute to his mentor in July of 2011, when the breakdown and resultant therapy supposedly occurred in March of 2011! (It’s hard to keep track of the dates, however, as they keep changing conveniently to suit the story!). Note, however, that at the time Robson is speaking here, praising his mentor and his “essence” that he had supposedly already started the therapy that had unleashed his repressed memories of abuse! At the very least, he was supposedly already suffering his breakdown here. Hmm. All I can say is, he looks pretty cool and collected here to me!
It gets better. This interview was from 2012. Watch how utterly at ease he is talking about Michael and their friendship here, supposedly five months after beginning therapy and the resurfacing of his repressed memories!
This might be an interesting time to look at a recent statement made by body language expert Craig Baxter, whose book on Michael’s body language, “Behind The Mask: What Michael Jackson’s Body Language Had To Tell The World” has become an Amazon best seller. Granted, body language is no more an exact science than repressed memory, and I am in no way endorsing or suggesting this as infallible proof. But I do think it’s very interesting what Baxter had to say in regards to the above videos from Wade Robson:
I have been inundated with messages to cover Wade Robson’s body language in relation to his recent claims that Michael Jackson sexually abused him for 7 years.
I have watched many videos of Wade talking positively about Michael and I see no hidden or concealed emotions. I see NO flashes of disgust, anger, fear, contempt or any other negative emotion linked with the abuse he now claims. Furthermore, I see no other body language behaviour correlated with anxiety or stress. In… my opinion, if Wade had been sexual assaulted by Michael, there would be an abundance of behavioural leakage. There is N-O-N-E.
“I hope the evidence I have presented in my book will prove Michael’s doubters to be wrong, as there is an overwhelming body of evidence that shows Michael to be innocent in every sense of the word.” < This is final sentence I wrote in my book about Michael Jackson. The sooner the world realises this the better.
For the moment, I want to return to Robson’s 2011 vid discussing the Cirque du Soleil show. Let’s ask the logical question: If you had suddenly remembered that this person abused you-not once or twice, but repeatedly over a seven year period, would you want to be involved with a multi-million dollar production that is glorifying your abuser?
Well, maybe. If you were getting to be said director of such production. Except that never happened, either. That gig went to Jamie King (also directing the current Michael Jackson One Cirque show, and who also replaced Robson on the Britney Spears Circus tours).
“But here’s the rub. A spokesperson for the Michael Jackson Estate — which produced the Cirque du Soleil show — tells TMZ … Robson was “on the list of choreographers but his son got sick and he wasn’t used.” The spokesperson said there was never a contract between Wade and the show.”
And it has not escaped the notice of some that Robson (or his attorney, more aptly) filed the claim on the same day as the opening of the One show. Hmm. Kind of begs the question: Could this have possibly been the motivation behind the suspicious timing of the claim, and not the AEG trial, as so many have suspected? Or is there still a connection? While it seems plausible, it doesn’t explain the motivation for the two, other alleged claims that has been hinted by at least one tabloid source. So what exactly is going on? Obviously, some force is behind this latest rash of “claims.” I do not buy for an instant that three perfectly grown men have suddenly had a rash of repressed memories, all bubbling forth simultaneously.
That being said, the possibility had always been in my mind that, at some point, someone might try something like this. It’s a crying shame, considering that a dead man should be allowed to rest in peace. In my estimation, this is lower than anything the Chandlers or Arvizos ever did. At least, they brought their allegations when Michael was alive to defend himself-and when some type of real justice (provided the accusations had been true) could have been carried out. Although as pointed out in the article I quoted above, civil litigation is sometimes encouraged by therapists as a way for victims to reclaim ownership of what happened to them, the unique circumstances in this case just makes the whole thing very, very suspect. The person being accused is deceased; there is no chance for criminal justice, and no chance of a defense. Michael isn’t here to deny the charges. His estate, meanwhile, is generating money hands over fist. And Michael Jackson is an easy target, since there is still a lot of public doubt and speculation regarding past allegations.
The simple fact is, these days it doesn’t really matter whether Michael is/was guilty or innocent. The accusation alone is sufficient, for it is the accusation that will guarantee Robson the attention and the results he wants. Those who want to believe Michael was a pedophile and child molestor, and already have their minds made up regardless, will believe it, anyway. It will guarantee maximum negative publicity, which is something we know the estate doesn’t want. Therefore, if we are thinking the way any logical extortionist would think, we might conclude: Paydirt. Either the estate is going to give me what I want, to make this go away, or I will make such a stink that they wish they had.
We don’t know how this will turn out until it goes before the probate judge, who of course may still toss the whole thing out unless he/she buys into the repressed memory excuse. Otherwise, the statute of limitations has long expired on Robson. At any rate, the absolute worst thing the estate could do would be to pay this guy a dime. If they do, they are only setting a precedent for many more bogus such claims to come out of the woodwork (as the Daily Star reported, those other two so-called allegations waiting in the wings are doing just that…that is, waiting to see how the Robson case pans out. Let’s translate: They are waiting to see if, ultimately, there is any pay out!).
And speaking of setting a precedent, that is definitely something that needs to be discussed in more detail, and which will be in upcoming installments. If I’ve heard the phrase “Where there is smoke, there must be fire” one time, I’ve heard it a million since this story broke. But what the average layperson fails to take into account is the unique history of how the first set of allegations made against Michael Jackson paved the way for a trail of “phantom” cases and bogus, “phantom victims.” The reputation that unfortunately dogged Michael after (and even before) the Chandler case made such accusations all too easy to pull off. It didn’t even particularly matter if the claims could be disproven; for many, simply making the accusations could mean a huge payoff in terms of media attention and lucrative offers from tabloids. If you’re not familiar with the long trail of phantom victims and bogus claims from those who have unsuccessfully tried to set Michael Jackson up through the years, then just wait until we get to Part 5…it will boggle your mind! The simple truth is that, at this point, Wade Robson doesn’t even have to have his own memories or his own story to make a semi-credible case for himself. With so much detail of the Chandler and Arvizo cases being public record, all he has to do is parrot the details of those cases; maybe twist a few details around here and there, and he will have a perfectly believable story to sell. And those prone to believing Michael was guilty will simply see it as evidence of a repeated pattern, rather than questioning the source of his information.
Regardless of what happens with this debtor’s claim, Robson may well end up with a substantial payoff, just in terms of the offers he will get to speak to the tabloids. It’s an established fact that the tabloid magazines and news shows will pay big bucks for anyone willing to make up dirt on Michael Jackson. Whether the story is true or not has never been a matter for concern. Michael’s former maid Blanca Francia was offered $20,000 to lie outright for Hard Copy. When I interviewed Michael’s artist friend David Nordahl in 2010, he spoke of having been offered as much as $25,000 by the tabloids and media.
Nordahl says he was constantly bombarded by tabloid and media requests, some even offering up to as much as “$25,000″ to “dish dirt” on Michael. True or not, it didn’t matter. “They would want to know who the kids in the paintings were, what their names were,” he said. “Well, we couldn’t give them any names, because none of the kids really existed. They were all made up.”
(That interview in its entirety is still on the OldAllforloveblog website, but the link may be currently down; however you can also read it here:
Wade’s own mother, Joy Robson, was reportedly offered a six-figure sum from The National Enquirer to change her story and claim that Michael Jackson had molested her son. She was also approached and bribed by Victor Guiterrez, according to Jermaine Jackson’s book You Are Not Alone. The following is an excerpt from sanemjfan’s latest post on Michael Jackson Vindication 2.0 (and who, btw, is also posting the entire transcript of Robson’s 2005 testimony, as well as that of his mother and sister Chantal):
The below commentary is from sanemjfan:
Before we get to her testimony, I want to share an interesting tidbit of information from Jermaine Jackson’s book “You Are Not Alone”; on page 155 , he briefly describes how Joy was approached by a “journalist” name Victor Gutierrez in 1992. He was conducting an “investigation” to prove his suspicions that Jackson was a pedophile, and after meeting with Gutierrez, Joy immediately phoned Jackson’s office:
Gutierrez published the trash book “Michael Jackson Was My Lover” overseas, but was unable to get a US publisher to distribute it after he lost a multi-million dollar slander lawsuit against Jackson in 1997. Throughout the book, Gutierrez wrote about his interactions with Joy Robson and other associates of Jackson (including the Chandlers), but fortunately his book was fact checked by using Joy’s testimony in this aptly post titled “Joy Robson vs. Victor Gutierrez: The Truth against Lies”. There are almost two dozen posts that have been written to refute the lies of Victor Gutierrez (that number of posts is indicative of how instrumental he was in Jackson’s downfall), and you can see them all here.
Not only did Joy reject any money that Victor Gutierrez offered her, but she also turned down a six figure bounty from the National Enquirer! Here is an exceprt from page 159 of Jermaine’s book:
It’s really unbelievable that Joy would turn down money from the tabloids and reject Victor Gutierrez’s assertions during Jackson’s darkest hour, yet all of a sudden do a complete 180 degree turnaround and support her son (in my opinion, he silence so far is a sign of support for her son).
Just to add my own two cents to what sanemjfan wrote above, it really doesn’t bother me what Chantal or Joy have to say about this-or not, as the case may be. They are Wade’s family, so I would expect that they would support him. I bear them no particular enmity. They weren’t the ones who made this claim; that was solely Wade’s own doing. This time-unlike the Chandler and Arvizo cases, where the “accusers” were minors and their parents the ones who were largely orchestrating things-we have an adult who is acting solely of his own accord. I am sure that Wade’s family may be going through their own shock at this bomb Wade has dropped, and may not be quite sure how to deal with it. So for now, at least, I am not concerning myself too much with them. I will, however, keep an eye on their future words and actions. I am sure they are once again getting offers from tabloids, so we’ll see if Joy Robson maintains the same integrity she has displayed in the past. In upcoming installments, I will be looking at some of both her and Chantal’s court testimony, as well as Wade’s (remember, Robson has sworn under oath-twice!-that nothing inappropriate ever happened!).
The big question that remains is…will the real Wade Robson ever stand up? Which one do we believe, the old, reliable 1989-2011 version that we all grew to believe and know so well, or this new (and not so improved) 2013 version who has suddenly become a stranger to us-someone we thought we knew, but apparently did not? (Perhaps we never did).
In upcoming installments, I am going to be addressing several issues. Of course, this is still a developing story, so as with all SIP’s (that’s stories in progress!) I have to allow some flexibility to accomodate those developments. But among the things I will be looking at in more depth in upcoming installments will be: 1. The psychological (and misunderstood)nature of Michael’s relationships with children, which is really where this all begins; 2. Michael’s relationship with the Robson family, and how it compares to other families he befriended; 3. Wade’s staunch, adamant, and nearly 20-year-defense of Michael (so what the heck was that all about if he really believes what he’s saying now?); 4. How the pattern of this case follows the ones that have gone before-and why that may actually vindicate Michael; 5. The peculiar and unique history of the allegations made against Michael (why he’s been targeted so often, and why so many bogus/phantom cases), and 6: What the future and implications of this latest claim may mean-regardless of what a judge decides.
Given how closely entwined these topics are, I expect there will be lots of overlapping, but that’s okay. None of these can exist in isolation, as they all form an essential role in understanding what is happening-and more importantly, in arriving at some sense of just what the heck is really going on here.
UPDATE: 5/15/13: We may just have the answer to the question, What the heck is really going on? Answer: Wade Robson has lost his frickin’ mind! Now he has apparently decided that his debtor’s claim isn’t enough. In what has to be one of the most weirdly bizarre and unprecedented cases in recent history, Robson has decided to sue a dead man-or at the very least, it seems, every profitable entity connected with him! TMZ broke the story today. As a rule, I don’t link to TMZ or any of the trashier tabloids, but since TMZ seem to be the ones breaking these stories and updates exclusively, there isn’t much of a way to avoid them, unfortunately.
Here was the story TMZ reported:
Wade Robson WILL have his day in court in his attempt to prove he was molested by Michael Jackson … even if he’s shut down by the Michael Jackson Estate.
TMZ has learned … Robson has filed a civil lawsuit in L.A. County Superior Court … and it has nothing to do with his creditor’s claim against the Estate. We broke the story … Robson belatedly filed his creditor’s claim, alleging MJ molested him between the ages of 7 and 14.
Robson may get shut down by the probate judge because he waited too long to file his claim. But the civil lawsuit we found will NOT go away that easily.
The allegations in the civil lawsuit are sealed, but TMZ has obtained the face page of the complaint, which shows Robson is suing DOE 1, an individual, DOE 2, a California corporation, and DOE 3, a California corporation. As for who these anonymous DOES are … TMZ has done some digging, and it’s clear. Robson is targeting MJJ Productions — Michael’s record label (owned by Sony) which hired Wade when he was 11 — and MJJ Ventures … which produced Michael’s music videos.
The two corporations may have been involved in bringing Wade to the U.S. from his home in Australia, and it’s clear Wade will argue they had some responsibility for protecting him — kind of like the relationship between priests who molest and the Catholic Church.
As for the individual DOES (Wade names 50 DOES) … it’s very clear from our research that Robson is targeting the two executors of the MJ Estate — John Branca and John McClain.
Short story — even if Wade loses in probate court, he can probably have his day in civil court and put Michael Jackson and allegations of molestation before a jury.
And-just as I predicted here yesterday-Wade is apparently planning to do the media circuit, kicking off with an interview on The Today Show scheduled for 5/16. TMZ posted this video of him arriving at JFK airport, ostensibly for his Today Show interview. In the comment section, we were discussing Wade’s body language here as compared to many of the earlier videos posted here, where he was still adamantly defending Michael as his friend. I am going to say that after watching this vid twice, I have somewhat reassessed my earlier opinion. I don’t think he has the same, calm and easy demeanor as in those earlier videos-and certainly none of the sincerity. He seems curt, angry, and evasive. Yes, dealing with paparazzi is annoying, but all the same, something just seems very off about Wade now. To me, his very demeanor now comes across as someone with something to hide, and as someone with malicious, ulterior motives. Dare I say it? He just looks like a snake in the grass here!
This seems a really good time to call attention back to this, and redouble our efforts to get this passed!
UPDATE: 5/16/13: Wade’s TODAY SHOW interview and my analysis of it: (Note: I am no Craig Baxter, but I’m going to give a good stab at it, anyway! Hopefully, Baxter -the REAL body language expert-will be weighing in shortly).
However, let’s note already that Robson has dropped a huge bombshell, in having publicly recanted his “repressed memory” defense. Well, good for you, Wade! We knew it was baloney, so at least you came to your senses on that one. But…where does this leave his credibility now?
Since the show’s airing and the posting of the vid this morning, I’ve been reading various amateur attempts at analysis (and admittedly, mine is one more amateur attempt to add to the growing list). But I want to caution against placing too much emphasis on things like eye contact and breaking gaze. These things can mean someone is lying. But they can also be signs of intense concentration or a kind of defense mechanism when speaking on a subject that is emotionally distressing.
However, Wade’s entire demeanor here seems to me incredibly calculated and rehearsed-far more than he ever appeared in all of his videos praising Michael, which seemed to derive from a naturally bubbly personality and the easy, spontaneity of truth.
That is gone now. THIS Wade appears calculated and restrained, and under duress. (The duress of his lie? Fear of its repercussions? Guilt? Fear of not living up to his coaches/sponsors? Or the strain of bearing the burden of truth? It could well be all of these; I’ll explain more in due order).
I do sense a lot of anger in Wade. I believe the stories of the breakdown are true. But just who is he angry at, and why? Well, if we could get to the heart of that, we could certainly get to the heart of this whole mystery.
There are a couple of very obvious stress triggers for Wade in this interview: Any mention of money, his coaching story, and when pressed directly about his feelings for Michael-then and now. I think it would be fair to say that his interview represents a mixed bag of lies and truth. But how to separate which is which?
At 1:54 Robson is asked how he feels. His statement, “I feel strong” is a huge contradiction between words and body language, and to me is at the core of everything that is wrong and “off” about him in this interview. He is not feeling strong or confident at all; quite the contrary, his body language and entire demeanor is that of someone feeling very vulnerable and unsure of himself. Ever hear the phrase squirming? I believe wholeheartedly this is a man squirming inside. He keeps a very defensive pose throughout the interview, with legs crossed and body posture very rigid. This is a sign of extreme discomfort. Since Wade is already a public figure, and has been for much of his life, we can’t attribute this to nerves, so obviously it is the discomfort with the subject at hand.Now, possibly, there are two ways to read into this. One could be that he is under duress because he is lying, and knows it. Another “possible” explanation could be that coming out the other end of a traumatic ordeal, such as a complete emotional breakdown, can leave one feeling drained and devoid of animation. It’s too close to call which it might be, but I would reason to guess that Wade HAS been through some sort of trauma in the past year, and it has either left him shell shocked OR has just completely transformed him into a bitter, lying jackass. Take your pick.
What does he mean by “MY truth?” His sister Chantal used that same choice of words on her FB page.
Here is something Wade would have learned from his idol MJ: When Michael released his album “HIStory” there was a reason that the emphasis was placed on “HIS,” giving the title an instant double meaning-or additional layer of meaning. History, in essence, is written by the conquerors. History is a narrative written by others, of past events that have shaped us into who we are. But in emphasizing “HIS” Michael was personalizing the story to say, “This is MY history and MY story.” It remains to this day one of the most clever album titles in all the “history” of pop music.
But it can also be a very neat way to circumvent truth. After all, no one can invalidate one’s personal truth because truth is always in the eye of the beholder. A child, for example, may recall an event completely differently from the way the adults around him remember it. Does that, then, make the child’s version invalid? Or the adults’? No. It is simply two versions of the same truth, or the same reality-but viewed differently because the perceptions of an adult are vastly different from those of a child. A house that looks incredibly small to an adult may, for example, appear incredibly large to a small child. You get the idea.
If Wade Robson says, “This is my truth,” who is going to argue that? I think his words are coming from a complete knowledge and understanding that, from this moment going forward, there are going to be two distinct versions of this “truth”-the one he puts out vs. what the fans of Michael and his proponents will continue to put out to deflect him, not to mention the attorneys down the road who will rip him under cross examination. By phrasing it as “my truth” he is getting an early edge on the uphill battle against his credibility that he knows is coming.
It can also be read as a defiant statement against what the rest of the world thinks. Either way, he is making his phrasing very deliberate in order to circumvent the tough questions to his credibility that are surely coming.
It’s like trying to argue with a class of freshmen in English 102 that everyone’s interpretation of a piece of literature has validity…to a point. But then, at some point, you have to be able to back your claim. If you don’t have the evidence to back it up, your entire thesis/hypothesis will fall through. Same thing here.
Wade is asked about his 2005 testimony. Here is where he drops the ball completely and admits this was never an issue of repressed memory. But here is a huge problem for Wade. His own attorney has already made the statement to the press that this was a case of repressed memory! He has doctors who have already sworn to repressed memory as the entire basis of his claim! And basically, by admitting now that it was not repressed memory and that he was always aware of what was happening to him (alleging anything “did” happen), he is confessing that-as a fully competent adult in 2005-he knowingly committed perjury on the witness stand!
Either way, his credibility is shot because the way any judge is going to look at this case is: This guy either lied big time-twice!-under oath, and once as a fully competent adult, OR he is lying now. In either event, it puts his credibility into dire question.
I wanted to share with you a kick-ass comment I read from GlitterySocks on the Positively Michael forum (the underlined emphasis is mine):
I hope that people are not conflating the issues you mentioned with the facts at hand. Here, the facts at hand are that 1) his lawyer said that it is a repressed memory, and 2) that is what the case is built on. This is the entire psychological phenomenon that they used as a basis to be eligible for this late filing, and to explain the discrepancies in his 2005 testimony. Surely Wade was complicit with this assessment prior to filing– I would imagine that extensive tests and analysis occurred before deciding to go forward with this lawsuit. Doctors are involved in this case based on the repressed memory theory and lawyer statements have been made to the public (ie-potential judge and jurors). Now this incredibly critical point is suddenly dismissed and it is a case built on something else entirely (and which may not be eligible for a late filing).
I do not see how any judge or jury will ever be able to ascertain if this man is ever telling the truth about anything.
The problem is that, regardless of whether this is being treated as a civil matter of a debtor’s claim, the statute of limitations isn’t that easily circumvented. And Wade has just effectively shot down whatever slim chance he had on the repressed memory angle-not to mention having called his entire history of credibility into serious questioning!
Wade’s next uncomfortable trigger is when pressed about his 2005 testimony. He waivers visibly under any direct questions regarding money or this alleged “coaching” from Michael Jackson. Here is why I have a very hard time buying his coaching story: He states very specifically that after the Chandler allegations broke, Michael would call him every day and they would role play, rehearsing what Wade was to say.
For starters, Michael would have been way too smart to be having such phone conversations with ANY kid at ANY time, but especially after 1993! Michael was all too aware that anything said in a phone conversation could be taped at any time, by anybody, and used against him. As a celebrity, he was always aware of the threat of extortion; and over the years, as his mistrust increased, he would have been extra careful to not put himself in such a vulnerable and incriminating position.
Of course, given the nature of what he was being accused of, and its dire seriousness-and knowing full well that his young friends would be questioned and even grilled, it might have been understandable that Michael may have coached him in some regard about what to say; after all, even a true statement from a child can be misconstrued by an over zealous attorney or investigator. So perhaps it might be plausible Michael did coach him, but I don’t buy that these sessions occurred over the phone, and certainly not every day.
Wade breaks his gaze and shifts when asked directly about what Michael did to him. Of course, that again could be read two ways: Shame and embarrassment with discussing such a private issue, or lying. It seemed to me that he was almost fishing for a plausible response that would sound honest enough without making him sound as if he was totally throwing Michael under the bus (even though, of course, he was doing just that!). It is interesting that the information he did share sounded suspiciously like Jordan Chandler’s interview with Dr. Gardner. Again, this “could” be proof of a pattern, but just as likely, could also mean nothing more than that Wade is familiar with these sources. Take it for what it’s worth.
And just to reiterate a very powerful comment I saw on TMZ, “Michael wasn’t role playing with him for the last three years!”
And let’s go back to this point, which can’t be stressed enough: Wade Robson was a 22-year-old ADULT when he testified in 2005. If he was being manipulated, he was freely and willingly allowing himself to be manipulated!
No, here is the straight and skinny on that. He was either being completely truthful in 2005, OR:
He is a stinking, lying piece of offal who thoroughly enjoyed having sex with MJ, loved it, loved Michael, and loved what Michael was doing for him, and loved him even into adulthood, so much that he was perfectly willing to throw Gavin Arvizo and the others under the bus…and is just as willing now to throw Michael under that bus with him. (And isn’t it strange that he would use the term “an expression of our love?” Yes, I know he was supposedly quoting Michael, but I detected more than a hint of mutual sincerity in that statement. As they always say, it’s a very thin line between love and hate, and what I believe is that something-whatever-has pushed Wade over that edge from love to hate).
Sorry to be so blunt, but those are the only two choices. Wade doesn’t get to have it both ways. And given his adult status at the time, he can’t just admit he lied in 2005 and brush it all off that easily. “Oh, I was brainwashed.”
Like I said before, this is a young man with a LOT of answering to do, either way. It boils down to one simple truth: He is a liar. Whether he lied in 2005 or now, either way he is a liar. And I can’t wait for the cross examinations to begin!
Is there any sincerity in his interview? I believe there is still some genuine. mixed emotion when he is asked how he feels about Michael. There is a hint of the old animation here. All of his praise of Michael’s talent and as an inspiration to him through the years has been sincere, and that still comes through here. But there is also a lot of obvious discomfort with once again being put in a position to describe Michael in even these mixed terms. Again, this can be read one of two ways: Discomfort because it is a distressing and painful subject, or guilt because it forcing him to confront and acknowledge what he is doing to this man’s legacy and to his children. Since it can be read either way, I don’t know how much weight to give it, but clearly it is a sore point for him.
Whatever the case may be, it was a done deal when he uttered the “p” word and Michael’s name in the same breath, on national TV. There is no turning back from this point. Fans are never going to forgive Wade Robson. Michael Jackson’s family and children are never going to forgive him.
Okay, so maybe he doesn’t need the fans, or the Jackson family.
But he does need a judge to take him seriously, and at the rate he’s going, he is effectively shooting himself in the foot.
And besides, there’s something to be said about burned bridges. You never know when you might want to turn back, or wish you’d never been so quick to light that match.
Wade has burned his bridges along with his credibility.
Of all the things I take from this interview, there are only two things for which I believe Wade is truly sincere: Something has happened to him in the last year or so. Perhaps he was abused (but who’s to say that Michael was the abuser? As Corey Feldman has said, pedophilia is rampant in Hollywood). Could it be possible that he is simply transferring his anger and pain at another onto Michael, simply because Michael is an easier target and/or AEG is sponsoring him to lie?
Well, that is getting into the realm of pure speculation, but here is one thing that is not speculation: Wade Robson, currently, is a very angry and troubled man. My personal belief is that he is making Michael a scapegoat for his own issues-and not for the reasons he is raising here. His current demeanor also reveals a strong, sociopathic streak that was not evident before. He seems to be out for #1 now, and will stop at no means to do that.
I will apologize again if some of my words seem uncharacteristically blunt, but either way the scales are tipped (whether you believed Wade in 2005, or now) he has openly revealed himself as a liar who places his own needs and his own motives ahead of the welfare of others. He did not care about other abused children in 2005 (and let me remind you again, he was a fully capable adult at that time) and he does not care about them now.
What he does care about, very much, is Michael Jackson’s money.
But I have a feeling all the money in the world can’t fix Wade Robson’s problems.
Whatever they are.
UPDATE: 5/17/13: Craig Baxter has posted his analysis of the interview. Here are Parts I and II:
ETA: And…while it may not seem like much, this latest video from TMZ Live does set something of a historical precedent. For perhaps the first time ever, we see a gossip outlet seriously questioning the story of an MJ accuser. While I’m not ready to give TMZ any cookies just yet-trust me, they are relishing this story just as they have always relished any dirt on Michael-I think this does represent an important and progressive step forward. (Harry Levin is still a douche, however; just maybe a slightly less douche than before!):