Of all Michael’s “message” songs, “Man In The Mirror” remains the most commercially succesful and in many ways, most enduring. There is good reason for that. Unlike the overly saccaharine “Heal The World” or more darkly angry political songs such as “Earth Song” and “They Don’t Care About Us,” “Man In The Mirror” derives its popularity due to a very simplistic yet universal message: That change has to start within. We can’t change the world until we have changed the reflection that is looking back at us.
Michael didn’t write “Man In The Mirror,” but along with “Human Nature” and “Thriller” it’s become one of those iconic songs so indelibly identified as “his” that it’s almost hard to believe that he had no hand in its creation.
But hold on…not so fast. According to those who attended last year’s Columbia Chicago Symposium, “Man In The Mirror” songwriter Siedah Garrett revealed that Michael actually had quite a significant hand in shaping the song’s final outcome. According to Garrett, Michael initially refused the song because he felt the bridge was too weak. He then collaborated with Garrett to build the song’s bridge, making suggestions and giving creative ideas, until finally “Man In The Mirror” took shape into the powerhouse gospel arrangement that eventually made it onto the “Bad” album and the top of the charts.
But how did Michael himself really feel about the man who stared back at him from his own mirror? The answer may be best revealed by something Michael did undisputably write-a piece that made it into his book Dancing the Dream, Michael’s 1992 collection of poems and reflections.
In a piece entitled “That One In The Mirror” Michael reveals something interesting-and very honest-about his own feelings of disconnect from his public image/persona as opposed to the person he really felt himself to be. Looking at this piece, it’s easy to see how and why Michael identified so powerfully with the speaker in “Man In The Mirror.”
But first, let’s look at the familiar lyrics from the song. I’ve boldfaced those lyrics that will be especially pertinent to this discussion:
I’m Gonna Make A Change, For Once In My Life
It’s Gonna Feel Real Good, Gonna Make A Difference Gonna Make It Right. . .As I, Turn Up The Collar On My
Favourite Winter Coat
This Wind Is Blowin’ My Mind
I See The Kids In The Street,
With Not Enough To Eat
Who Am I, To Be Blind?
Pretending Not To See
A Summer’s Disregard,
A Broken Bottle Top
And A One Man’s Soul
They Follow Each Other On
The Wind Ya’ Know
‘Cause They Got Nowhere
That’s Why I Want You To
KnowI’m Starting With The Man In The Mirror I’m Asking Him To Change His Ways And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place (If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place) Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change
(Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change)
(Na Na Na, Na Na Na, Na Na,
Na Nah)I’ve Been A Victim Of A Selfish Kind Of Love
It’s Time That I Realize
That There Are Some With No
Home, Not A Nickel To Loan Could It Be Really Me, Pretending That They’re Not Alone?A Willow Deeply Scarred,
Somebody’s Broken Heart
And A Washed-Out Dream
They Follow The Pattern Of
The Wind, Ya’ See
Cause They Got No Place
That’s Why I’m Starting With
(Starting With Me!)I’m Starting With The Man In
I’m Asking Him To Change
And No Message Could Have
Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
(If You Wanna Make The
World A Better Place)
Take A Look At Yourself And
Then Make A Change
(Take A Look At Yourself And
Then Make A Change)-Man In The Mirror, Lyrics By Siedah Garrett, Performed By Michael Jackson
Now let’s look at what Michael wrote about himself and the man in his own mirror. The boldfaced passages are my own emphasis:
“I wanted to change the world, so I got up one morning and looked in the mirror. That one looking back said, ‘There is not much time left. The earth is wracked with pain. Children are starving. Nations remain divided by mistrust and hatred. Everywhere the air and water have been fouled almost beyond help. Do something!’
That one in the mirror felt very angry and desperate. Everything looked like a mess, a tragedy, a disaster. I decided he must be right. Didn’t I feel terrible about these things too, just like him? The planet was being used up and thrown away. Imagining earthly life just one generation from now made me feel panicky.
It was not hard to find the good people who wanted to solve the earth’s problems. As I listened to their solutions, I thought, ‘There is so much good will here, so much concern.’ At night before going to bed, that one in the mirror looked back at me seriously. ‘Now we’ll get somewhere,’ he declared. ‘If everybody does their part.’
But everybody didn’t do their part. Some did, but were they stopping the tide? Were pain, starvation, hatred, and pollution about to be solved? Wishing wouldn’t make it so-I knew that. When I woke up the next morning, that one in the mirror looked confused. ‘Maybe it’s hopeless,’ he whispered. Then a sly look came into his eyes, and he shrugged. ‘But you and I will survive. At least we are doing all right.’
I felt strange when he said that. There was something very wrong here. A faint suspicion came to me, one that had never dawned so clearly before. What if that one in the mirror isn’t me? He feels separate. He ‘sees’ problems out there to be solved. Maybe they will be, maybe they won’t. He’ll get along. But I don’t feel that way-those problems aren’t ‘out there,’ not really. I feel them inside me. A child crying in Ethiopia, a sea gull struggling pathetically in an oil spill, a mountain gorilla being mercilessly hunted, a teenage soldier trembling with terror when he hears the planes fly over: Aren’t these things happening in me when I see and hear about them?
The next time I looked in the mirror, that one looking back had started to fade. It was only an image after all. It showed me a solitary person enclosed in a neat package of skin and bones. ‘Did I once think you were me?’ I began to wonder. I am not so separate and afraid. The pain of life touches me, but the joy of life is so much stronger. And it alone will heal. Life is the healer of life, and the most I can do for the earth is to be its loving child.
That one in the mirror winced and squirmed. He hadn’t thought so much about love. Seeing ‘problems’ was much easier, because love means complete self-honesty. Ouch!
‘Oh, friend,’ I whispered to him, ‘do you think anything can solve problems without love?’ That one in the mirror wasn’t sure. Being alone for so long, not trusting others and being trusted by others, it tended to detach itself from the reality of life. ‘Is love more real than pain?’ he asked.
‘I can’t promise that it is. But it might be. Let’s discover,’ I said. I touched the mirror with a grin. ‘Let’s not be alone again. Will you be my partner? I hear a dance starting up. Come.’ That one in the mirror smiled shyly. He was realizing that we could be best friends. We could be more peaceful, more loving, more honest with each other every day.
Would that change the world? I think it will, because Mother Earth wants us to be happy and to love her as we tend her needs. She needs fearless people on her side, whose courage comes from being part of her, like a baby who is brave enough to walk because Mother is holding out her arms to catch him. When that one in the mirror is full of love for me and for him, there is no room for fear. When we were afraid and panicky, we stopped loving this life of ours and this earth. We disconnected. Yet how can anybody rush to help the earth if they feel disconnected? Perhaps the earth is telling us what she wants, and by not listening, we fall back on our own fear and panic.
One thing I know: I never feel alone when I am earth’s child. I do not have to cling to my personal survival as long as I realize, day by day, that all of life is in me. The children and their pain; the children and their joy. The ocean swelling under the sun; the ocean weeping with black oil. The animals hunted in fear; the animals bursting with the sheer joy of being alive.
This sense of ‘the world in me’ is how I always want to feel. That one in the mirror has his doubts sometimes. So I am tender with him. Every morning I touch the mirror and whisper, ‘Oh, friend, I hear a dance. Will you be my partner? Come.'”-Michael Jackson, “That One In The Mirror.”
Something I find very interesting about this piece is how he speaks of the disconnect and separateness between himself and his mirror image. The mirror image is the outside self, the flesh and blood shell that the world sees. I think that here, he is referencing the image he sees in the mirror as his public, outward self. The “man in the mirror” is aware of the earth’s problems, and makes a great show of standing up for these causes and uniting people all over the world to fight them. But when push comes to shove, he is only giving lip service to the idea of change. Inwardly, he feels afraid and powerless.
Did Michael feel afraid and powerless, even as he strove to tell us to “make that change” and to unite and “heal the world?” Did he have his moments of doubt and selfish weakness?
In this piece, he is very candidly giving us those answers. His outer self tells him, “It doesn’t really matter what happens to the world. You and I-(here the image is pointing outward, as if to say, “You and I, Michael”)-will be all right.” What did Michael Jackson, world famous celebrity and mega rich entertainer, have to be worried about? His position in life was secure. In fact, this was someone who had wanted for very little in the way of material riches since childhood. His “outer image” tells him that no matter what happens to the world or to the people and animals in it, his own life isn’t going to be affected. How many times have we seen stories of war and destruction in the news, or the commercials of starving children in Africa, only to turn away in numb indifference? Because the petty concerns of our own lives are so much more urgent, and pressing? In this piece, as Michael honestly looks upon his own reflection, his “friend” in the mirror, he makes a disturbing discovery-he realizes he doesn’t really know this person at all! The outer man he sees has become smug, complacent; numb and unfeeling-a hypocrite, even.
But the inner man knows better. He becomes somewhat repulsed by the selfish image in the mirror. Is this the person he has allowed himself to become-selfish, indifferent; someone who gives lip service to the suffering of the world only because it’s the “fashionable” thing to do? Or who gives up too easily just because the fight seems so hopeless?
He comes to dislike the man in the mirror. But the realization only serves to intensify his sense of helplessness.
As long as there is disconnect within the self, there can be no true happiness and no true inner peace. Here Michael seems to be taking a very deep and honest look at his self-reflection and coming to the realization that this is not someone who can heal the world-not yet. Because he can’t even heal himself. And that is both a scary and disconcerting realization. “A faint suspicion came to me, one that had never dawned so clearly before. What if that one in the mirror isn’t me? He feels separate. He ‘sees’ problems out there to be solved. Maybe they will be, maybe they won’t. He’ll get along. But I don’t feel that way-those problems aren’t ‘out there,’ not really. I feel them inside me.”
In this very candid self-realization, he admits that it’s much easier to “see problems” than to actually give love, especially if one has no love to give! And what would keep one from being able to give love selflessly? “He hadn’t thought so much about love…because love means complete self-honesty. Ouch!”
The interjection of the word “ouch” here is very telling. He’s admitting that it hurts to really look at one’s self; the self-honesty of reflection is a painful process, forcing us to face not only the truths we keep hidden from the world, but even from our own selves. If most of us really took the time to look at our own reflections, we probably wouldn’t like what we see! But forcing ourselves to look is the first painful, crucial step to embracing ourselves fully. We can’t begin to love others until we can love ourselves.
The next paragraph is perhaps one of the most revealing and honest glimpses into his soul that Michael has ever allowed us. This is coming straight from the heart of that little boy who had to learn a very hard lesson far too early in life: You can’t trust anyone. “Being alone for so long, not trusting others and being trusted by others, it tended to detach itself from the reality of life. ‘Is love more real than pain?’ he asked.”
That the image who speaks to Michael from the mirror even has to ask this question is very telling. He speaks of his mirror image as being something “detached” from “the reality of life.” Yet, coming from within himself, he knows this is not the real man. He realizes there is a disconnect between what he is capable of feeling-the love he is capable of giving-and that empty, lonely man in the mirror. But how to bridge them? He seems to arrive at his own answer.
“The pain of life touches me, but the joy of life is so much stronger. And it alone will heal. Life is the healer of life, and the most I can do for the earth is to be its loving child.”
Part of becoming “that loving child” is reaching out to that pained, lonely, and fearful man in the mirror, making him realize the true power that comes from the abilility to love. This is Michael looking at himself-the scarred and abused child; the megastar who had learned craftily how to hide his true emotions; even the philanthropist who was telling us “We Are The World.” This is all of that completely stripped away, and what is left? Nothing but a naked man and frightened child, too scared to love; too indifferent to care. “When that one in the mirror is full of love for me and for him, there is no room for fear. When we were afraid and panicky, we stopped loving this life of ours and this earth. We disconnected. Yet how can anybody rush to help the earth if they feel disconnected?Perhaps the earth is telling us what she wants, and by not listening, we fall back on our own fear and panic.”
But the next paragraph is very telling. He says that the “man in the mirror” is just an image-and one that is ‘starting to fade.” Perhaps this is a double play on the word “image,” meaning in the one sense, his literal mirror reflection, and in the other sense, “image” as when we speak of a celebrity’s public persona and how we perceive them. He says it was “only an image, after all,” a solitary person ‘enclosed in a neat package of skin and bones.” The self-serving image, along with all of its fears, doubts, and shallow insecurities, fades as he learns to fully embrace and love himself. “That one in the mirror smiled shyly. He was realizing that we could be best friends.We could be more peaceful, more loving, more honest with each other every day.”
The word “honest” is key here. Michael is attempting, finally, to bridge his inner and outer self in order to achieve true peace and happiness. He is finally learning how to love himself so that he can be a good steward in the way that God and Mother Earth intends. Or at the very least, he is arriving at the self realization of this need, which is the crucial first step to healing and becoming whole. In doing so, he can even give himself permission to stumble; to be weak; to embrace his imperfections as part of the human dance.I do not have to cling to my personal survival as long as I realize, day by day, that all of life is in me…
Life is a force much bigger than ourselves; we are but a part of the dance. This was a theme that Michael’s work returns to over and over again. But as children of God and of Mother Earth, we cannot partake fully in life if we remain divided from our own self-or if we insist on loathing the man or woman in the mirror. After all, that image is only ourself as we are, encased in “a neat package of skin and bones.”
The last paragraph seems to reflect a newfound inner peace and self-acceptance,and perhaps we can take this as indicative of the place Michael finally arrived at, at least for a little while.
“This sense of ‘the world in me’ is how I always want to feel. That one in the mirror has his doubts sometimes. So I am tender with him…”
In this piece, Michael seems to be telling us that he has come to an important crossroads; an important realization. This “man in the mirror” isn’t perfect. This “man in the mirror” is no Pollyanna. He knows the world is a dark, scary and sometimes lonely place. He knows it’s a dirty, screwed up world and humanity in general sucks. He knows it because he sees it in himself.
But he also sees something else. He sees love and the eternal hope that keeps us all hanging on, in hopes of a brighter day tomorrow. He sees the light within himself. He sees the possibilities.
He’s not afraid to ask for change; to demand it even. Not from the world, and not from us, but from where it matters most. From deep within the heart of that man staring back in the mirror.
Shortly after I posted my last piece debunking the media myth of Michael Jackson as a dysfunctional adult, one of my readers, shelley, sent me the link to this November 2003 ABC News article written by Joanna Schaffhausen. This article, published on the heels of Michael’s 2003 arrest on the Arvizo charges, very much reflects the typical sort of biased news articles that were written about Michael in the wake of the Bashir interview which had aired earlier, in Februray of that year, and then the November arrest. It seemed everyone was asking the question: Is this man simply living out some sort of regressed childhood that he never had, or is there something more sinister at stake?
Of course, Michael himself had been perpetuating the quasi-image of himself as a kind of Peter Pan, an eternal man-child, since at least the early 90’s. It’s interesting that we really started to see the emergence of this side of Michael about the time that he moved out of his family home at Hayvenhurst and into Neverland. It wasn’t that anything about his personality had drastically changed. Michael had always been very much like a big kid, loving amusement park rides, Super soaker fights, and with a penchant for the sort of juvenile humor that made him so endearing to those who knew that side of him. But once Michael was on his own, it seemed that he was finally, as a man entering his 30’s, truly giving himself permission to have the childhood he’d never had. What with the combination of his own natural childlike qualities, coupled with a sort of quirky Buster Keaton-ish persona, and topped off with the ever present fedora and long-sleeved corduroy shirts (both the hats and long-sleeved shirts became a necessity for protecting his delicate skin as his vitiligo had advanced, but in typical Michael Jackson style, he managed to transform a medical necessity into a true fashion statement!) and the picture was complete: This was the real beginning of Michael’s transformation into a sort of almost ethereal, Peter Pan figure.
This video from Michael Jackson’s Private Home Movies showcase Michael’s childlike persona at its most loveable and endearing:
But what had seemed like just another eccentricity took an unfortunately sinister twist after the first allegations were brought against him by the Chandlers in 1993. And from that point on, scarred and humiliated by the accusations, it seemed that Michael’s whole “Lost Boy” image only intensified as if it had now become a kind of rallying cry for him, a way of justifying to the world, “This is who I am.” Admittedly, the image also set him up as a convenient punching bag, especially by those who thought he was simply playing the whiny victim. By the time of “Childhood”-a song perceived even by many fans as excessively maudlin-Michael seemed to be firmly entrenched in the role of misunderstood martyr.
This rocked along a few years until the fiasco that was the Bashir interview and his association with the Arvizos blew things wide open, and once again Michael found himself, his home, and his entire lifestyle once again under intense public scrutiny-and along with it, his personality profile.
In the wake of this second round of allegations, suddenly everyone was an “expert.” Pseudo “psychologists”-people who had never even met Michael Jackson-were offering up their “expert” opinions on whether he fit the profile of a typical pedophile. What’s worse, even journalists with no psychiatric credentials whatsoever were jumping the bandwagon, firing off articles like this monstrocity that made ABC News headlines.
The danger in such poorly researched and biased articles as the Schaffhausen piece is that, once written and published on the internet, they are forever “out there,” turning up in Google searches and endlessly perpetuating a misleading and false image of who Michael Jackson was. What’s worse is that the Schafhausen article is one that haters have often latched onto as “proof” that Michael fit the steretypical profile of a pedophile, while ignoring the fact that the article actually quotes Richard Lawlor, chief of Outpatient Forensic Child Pschiatry Services at the Indiana School of Medicine, as saying Michael does not fit the stereotypical pedophile profile, and retired FBI special agent Ken Lanning who cautioned that even though Michael may fit some of the profile characteristics of an “Acquaintance Molestor” it is not sufficient evidence to draw an automatic assumption of guilt.
However, you can see how Schafhausen conveniently-and ignorantly-spins Lanning’s cautionary statement.
Let’s just look at Schaufhausen’s article in its entirety. Then, I’m going to go through, point by point, with my own rebuttals.
Is Michael Jackson Stuck in Childhood?
By Joanna Schaffhausen
For years, Michael Jackson’s eccentric behavior has fascinated the world. Now, some medical experts are wondering whether the King of Pop suffers from some “psycho-emotional” retardation that causes him to live in a kind of permanent childhood.
With an amusement park for a back yard and penchant for entertaining young friends, is Jackson just a big kid himself, or could his actions signal something more troubling?
Jackson, 45, surrendered Thursday to police in Santa Barbara County, Calif., after authorities obtained an arrest warrant accusing him of multiple counts of child molestation. Jackson has denied the allegations and says he will be vindicated in court.
The singer spends a great deal of his time associating with children, but he himself maintains many childlike qualities. He speaks in a childlike voice and pursues childish activities such as scooter riding (even when children are not present). Like Peter Pan, he even lives in a place called Neverland.
Many people love children, and there is nothing necessarily sinister about Jackson’s affinity for youngsters. None of the experts in forensic psychiatry and child development who were interviewed had any direct knowledge of the case, and none made any judgment on Jackson’s possible guilt or innocence.
It is the seemingly extreme childishness that Jackson himself exhibits that experts find unique.
Television interviews with Jackson make it appear as if he wants to “hang onto and preserve his childlike demeanor,” said Dr. Fred Berlin, a psychiatric expert in pedophilia at Johns Hopkins University. “He seems proud of it.”
“He seems stuck in childhood himself,” said forensic psychiatrist Ryan Finkenbine of West Virginia University Medical School. “It’s one of the more interesting aspects of the case.”
Michael Borack, a forensic psychiatrist at the University of Cincinnati Medical School, has evaluated many pedophiles, and says Jackson does not fit the usual profile.
“[His eccentric behavior] is not typical of most offenders,” Borack said. “Most offenders are ‘normal’ people who could be your neighbors, not freaky or weird.”
Most pedophiles will keep toys or other such appealing items around to lure children, but they do not usually play with the items much themselves.
Richard Lawlor, chief of Outpatient Forensic Child Psychiatry Services at the Indiana School of Medicine, notes that many pedophiles do display some form of arrested development in that they choose to focus their attention on young children over other adults. “They become ‘fixated’ during development,” Lawlor said. “We don’t know why.”
However, Lawlor says Jackson’s childish demeanor would be rare among pedophiles. “I don’t think that kind of behavior is very common,” he said.
Some experts feel that pedophiles display a kind of Peter Pan syndrome and use children to hang onto their youth. Berlin cautions that this explanation is perhaps too hasty. “That’s getting into a theory of cause, which I think is difficult,” he said.
Berlin maintains there is no “typical” pedophile. “That’s like saying, ‘What is the typical heterosexual?'”
However, Ken Lanning, a retired FBI special agent who specialized in child sex crimes, says Jackson may fit some of the characteristics of an “acquaintance molester.” Acquaintance molesters choose victims outside the family and seduce children with affection and attention.
But, he cautioned, “Just because you have some of the characteristics, it does not mean you are guilty.”
Not an Excuse
Jackson raised eyebrows when he told British journalist Martin Bashir in a documentary that he has allowed children to sleep in his bed at the Neverland Ranch. He said there was nothing sexual about it.
If Jackson does suffer from some form of psycho-emotional retardation, it’s possible he thought innocent snuggling in bed would be OK, experts say. However, Borack pointed out, “Jackson is an adult with an adult’s sex drive.”
Experts agree that, regardless of what may or may not have happened with Jackson, children should not be sleeping with unrelated adults of the opposite gender. “It just opens the door for misunderstandings at best,” said Borack.
Borack speculates that Jackson’s tumultuous upbringing may have left lasting emotional scars that help explain his odd behavior as an adult. “From what I’ve observed in TV interviews, Jackson had a violent, dictatorial father and an isolated upbringing. He never really had a childhood.”
In any event, Jackson’s eccentricities have increased the attention surrounding the scandal.
“[Jackson] is such an unusual person,” Berlin said. “It makes the case that much more difficult.”
Oooh boy, where to begin! First of all, look at the loaded language used in this piece. In the very first paragraph, we have the phrase “psycho-emotional” retardation, a phrase she repeats in Paragraph 20. Granted, we know she’s referring to psychological/emotional retardation, rather than mental retardation (an important distinction) but the word “retardation” in and of itself carries the negative connotation of its more common usage, as a term describing those who are mentally regressed. Its a loaded word that also connotates in the mind of the average reader one who is mentally deficient.
Unfortunately, this sort of derogatory characterization of Michael as being somehow regressed (regardless of whether the writer meant emotionally or mentally) played right into the whole “Wacko Jacko” myth and the media misconception that helped lead to exactly what I wrote about a few days ago here:
She next mentions that Michael had “an amusement park for a backyard.” That’s another common misconception, since the amusement park area actually only comprised a very small area of Michael’s vast, sprawling 2700 acres of Neverland. To say the amusement park comprised his enire backyard is a bit of an exaggeration, to say the least.
It also ignores the fact that having his own amusement park “for the children of the world” had been a dream of Michael’s since as far back as his teenage years. Here is a very interesting article about Robert E. Swinson, the man who was Michael’s personal ride consultant and developer for Neverland Valley Amusement Park. (By the way, Swinson states at the end of the article that the whereabouts of the Ferris Wheel are unknown. That mystery has since been solved. Michael’s Ferris wheel was purchased by Archway Amusements of Missouri, who now rents it out to various state and county fairs. I got to take a few spins on it myself, back in October of 2010!).
While Michael did publicly exhibit many of the childlike traits that Schaffhausen attributes to him, she exaggerates many of these qualities and at the same time fails to acknowledge such troublesome contradictions as his adult business savvy, artistic genius, and (often very overt) sexual stage persona. At the time that Schaffhausen wrote this hit piece, a decade had passed since the Chandler allegations. Within that decade, Michael had married twice, divorced twice, had released an album of some of the darkest and and most political songs of his career, had single-handedly taken on the record industry, and had become a father himself, none of which exactly fits the definition of being “childlike.” Perhaps most disturbing is how she underplays Michael’s philanthrophy as nothing more than having “an affinity for kids.” Typically, journalists like Schaffhausen tended to attribute Michael’s love for children as either being indicative of fitting the pedophile profile (at worst) or, at best, as nothing more than his own selfish desire to hang onto childhood. Seldom do they truly acknowledge his genuine desire to help the terminally ill, sick, and disadvantaged children of the world. It’s not that making the philanthropic arguement in any way “proves” his innocence, as my friend sanemjfan from Vindicating Michael has pointed out in many of his own excellent rebuttal articles (in fact, here’s a very good article that I highly recommend on this very topic; it’s a 5-part series, but well worth the read):
However, I do think it’s very important that Michael’s philanthrophy is recognized as a huge factor in his motivation, and that it’s recognized that his “affinity for children” didn’t just spring from some self-serving purpose, regardless of how innocent or sinister the media may wish to portray that purpose.
As noted, the experts Schaffhausen quotes appear to be relatively unbiased. At the time, they were simply looking at the known facts of the 2003 case and Michael’s public image/persona as a means of measuring the likelihood that Michael could fit the profile of a pedophile. But again, it presents a danger when you have “experts”-with no personal or firsthand knowledge of the individual in question-offering up a public diagnosis (or even a hypothetical diagnosis) of that individual’s case. Regardless of the use of qualifying phrases such as “most” or “many” or “tends” the general reader is apt to draw their conclusions based on the general assumptions. However, it’s important to note that none of these individuals had ever known, or had any personal contact with Michael. They had never sat down with him face to face, never spoken to him on the phone, never talked to anyone who knew him, and had no access to any of his medical records or history. They were basing their assessments solely on what they knew secondhand from the media!
Well, as we all know, many so-called “experts” have presumed to “diagnose” Michael based on nothing more than what they know from the media, some even going to quite ridiculous lengths like this beauty here:
Seriously, if one were to believe everything that’s been written by so-called “experts” then one would have to believe that Michael had everything from Asperger’s Syndrome to “Erotic Identity Disorder.” (Yes, that little beauty is out there, too, and will be next on my rebuttal agenda!).
We have a plethora of internet experts diagnosing him as a pedophile, a hebophile, an autohebophile, as obsessive-compulsive, as having body dysmorphic disorder, as an anorexic, a bulimic, and, well, just about every brand of neurosis or disorder underneath the sun (curiously, for all that, they still remain mostly silent or curiously ambiguous when it comes to discussing his real ailments, such as vitiligo). We have cosmetic surgeons who never worked on Michael nevertheless offering up their own “expert analysis” of his procedures (which, again, are usually ridiculously exaggerated). It never ends.
So here we have a forensic psyhiatrist, a chief of forensic child psychiatry, and a retired FBI investigator-all experts in their field; all experts at pinpointing what “may” be the warning signs of pedophile behavior. But admittedly they can only draw conjectures based on what they knew at the time of Michael’s public behavior and media image-at least they are honest in admitting they are only drawing conjectures (all of Schaffhausen’s spinning aside).
What is interesting here is that all three experts seem to reach the same unanimous conclusion, which is that if Michael is/was indeed actually regressed and “stuck in childhood” then this would actually serve to exonerate him. It would mean that at the very least, there would have been no consciousness of guilt on his part. (Of course, Schaffhausen then proceeds to totally ignore their conclusions. “NO EXCUSE” she screams in all caps, proceeding from there to put her own spin on their conclusions).
The notion of Michael as simply a regressed, innocent child himself came back time and again throughout the trial. Even Thomas Mesereau played that card somewhat, in interviews always stressing Michael’s very innocent and childlike nature. Many fans, also, often fall back on it as the ultimate defense of his innocence. But the problem is that it’s a weak defense (after all, nice guys can still be pedophiles; sweet, humble, and meek guys can still be pedophiles!). Falling back on the “Michael was just a big kid and pure as the driven snow” arguement actually does more harm than good; in the long run, it does an injustice to his legacy because the downside of that arguement is that it creates a lasting impression that is just as damaging: That of a naive simpleton.
Too often, this has come down on the side of both haters and fans as one of those either/or, black or white questions. It’s as if there can only be two choices: Either Michael Jackson was a fool and an innocent, naive simpleton who had no idea how his actions-and specifically his interactions with children- appeared to the outside world, or an Evil Genius and manipulator who knew exactly and intuitively how the world worked-and how to get around it. I think the truth is much closer to meeting in the middle. Michael was neither an evil manipulator nor an innocent simpleton. I think he realized perfectly well how the world operates, but his heart was answering to a higher calling. Unfortunately, Michael wasn’t the most articulate person in the world when it came to explaining his actions. Just as many of his well-intentioned defenders sadly miss the mark when attemptiing to answer the tough questions, Michael himself seemed at times to be his own worst PR enemy. The Martin Bashir interview, of course, is the classic example, and Schaffhausen doesn’t hesitate to fall back on it.
It’s true that Bashir manipulated the interview and engaged in a lot of devious, underhanded tactics to get the results he wanted, including sneaky editing and by purposely baiting Michael with many of the questions. All the same, what we have is Michael at least appearing to confess that he has allowed children to share his bed. He denies that it’s sexual, but at this point in the interview, the damage has been done. He says he would “slit his wrists” before he would hurt a child, but the savvy will say, “Well, there’s more than one way to hurt a child, and besides, pedophiles never believe they are harming a child, anyway.” Do I personally believe Michael was sincere in that statement? Yes, I absolutely do. It’s just that there is a problematic disconnect between what he said, what he meant, and how it was perceived by the majority of viewers, especially when that is put up against Bashir’s sinister voice-overs and Michael’s own “admission” of sharing his bed with children.
Then, of course, when Michael insists that it’s all very sweet and innocent…”I give them cookies, sing them songs…” it only serves to take on an even more sinister quality-not his intent, but at this point he’s fallen into a trap that he can’t escape from unscathed. Then, in a response even more ineffectual than “I’d slit my wrists” he asks defensively, “Who’s Jack the Ripper in the room?”
Again, Michael is mistakenly equating the idea of hurting a child with that of physical violence, as if that could be the only possible means of hurting a child. I am only pointing this out because this is the sort of thing that intuitive viewers picked up on, myself included. I remember thinking at the time, “But Michael, no one is asking if you would kill a child!” Needless to say, none of these responses did much in helping viewers either to understand why he had children in his bed to start with, or if he was actually guilty of any wrongdoing. If anything, it only added to the confusion and made the waters murkier than ever-and, of course, eventually led to a criminal investigation. The sad irony is that Michael had hoped that doing the documentary would clear up the confusion and misunderstanding about his life!
But perhaps what’s more interesting than what Michael said during the interview is what he did not say. Let’s have a refresher look at that portion of the interview:
There has arisen a general misconception that Michael Jackson routinely called up random kids (specifically boys) to come over to Neverland for “sleepovers.” What isn’t understood-and isn’t explained here-is the fact that these were cases in which entire families, families Michael knew well, were staying over. It was not unusual for many of these families to travel great distances. And although most of these families were put up in guest houses, Michael’s two-storey bedroom suite became a sort of informal gathering point, a place where kids and their parents would hang out, watch TV, talk and play games until often exhaustion overtook everyone. Both Macaulay Culkin and Frank Cascio have discussed what those “sleepovers” were like and it was nothing like the sinister picture the media tried to portray. In his book, Frank Cascio describes his favorite spot during those sleepovers-on the floor, beside the fireplace! (Not in Michael’s bed!). This space was shared by all his siblings, including his sister. You can also catch that Michael never at any time claims to have allowed Gavin to share his bed (and this seems to be true as evidenced by Frank Cascio’s claims in his new book, as well). In fact, Michael had been extremely cautious ever since the Chandler allegations, usually only allowing children into his bedroom if their parents were present. What he’s actually describing here to Bashir is a time that was already long past at the time the interview aired, going all the way back to the time when Macauley Culkin and his sister were little and staying over.
You can also hear how slyly Bashir manipulates Michael into a “confession” that he paid off the Chandlers to avoid a jail sentence. At least, haters and doubters often latch onto this brief segment as if it serves as irrefutable proof that Michael felt he had something to fear from the Chandler accusations. They also like to use it as evidence that Michael willingly settled the case, therefore refuting the arguement fans often use that it was Michael’s insurance company that actually settled the case. In fairness, this is again a situation where Michael unfortunately does a poor job in his own defense. It didn’t help that Michael was under a legal gag order and could not discuss the details of the case-but Bashir was aware of this when he brought it up! Without the benefit of being able to explain the specific details of the case, it left Michael in the awkward position of being able only to discuss his reactions to the case-minus the justifications for those reactions. But rather than answering that he just wanted it to “go away”-even if that was the truth-he should have used that platform to let the world know that he actually wanted to fight the case, and was advised otherwise. (Now whether Bashir would have allowed his answer to stand, or cleverly edited and/or manipulated it, we can’t say. But I do wish Michael would have made a better case for himself than what he did).
He should have said what he told John Branca, when Branca reportedly told Michael that people thought he was trying to delay the criminal trial by six years and Michael’s reply was: “Six years, what are talking about, Branca? I don’t want to delay the trial not even a day!”
The following is excerpted from the article HIStory vs. EVANstory:
Michael agreed to be deposed for the civil case on January 18, 1994 The Los Angeles Times wrote on December 4, 1993:
Michael Jackson has agreed to be deposed January 18 about allegations that he sexually molested a 13-year-old boy, lawyers on both sides of the case said Friday.
Jackson’s attorneys have said he is eager to tell his side of the story under oath, but they also have warned that they may oppose efforts to take Jackson’s deposition [in a civil suit] if criminal charges are filed against the entertainer or are still under consideration when the date for his deposition arrives.
In a hearing last month, Superior Court Judge David Rothman ordered Jackson’s deposition [in a civil suit] scheduled before the end of January. But Rothman also noted that he might reconsider that order if Jackson is indicted on criminal charges.
Bertram Fields, one of Jackson’s lawyers, said Friday that the entertainer might request a change in the deposition date if there are significant changes in the status of the criminal investigation before the end of January [indictment]. “If things change in the criminal case, we would reconsider the whole question of the civil case. We want the criminal case to go first.” http://vindicatemj.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/history-vs-evanstory-the-1993-allegations-part-2/
Since the settlement is seen by many doubters as an admission of guilt, it’s vitally important that people understand that Michael did want to fight this case. But in the Bashir interview, I think Michael found himself with his back to the wall. He was obviously aware by this point in the interview that he was being manipulated; his “fight or flee” instincts had kicked into high gear; his limbic system would have been working rapidly to process his defense. At such times, we’re often not at our sharpest; we’ve been caught off guard. It’s a tactic that defense attorneys know well. The problem that often arises in this situation, however, is that even if the person is 100% honest and sincere, their brain is not working at full capacity to be able to adequately filter the kind of precise responses the situation calls for. In such cases, where the person may be feeling cornered and manipulated, their responses often become defensive and emotion-based, rather than reasoned out in a rational manner (because what the person is thinking/feeling deep down is, Why are you asking me this? Where are you trying to drive me with this information?). The brain and limbic system kicks into survival mode-not the most conducive for rational thinking, and certainly not the most conducive for articulating “the right answers.”
So I don’t entirely fault Michael for being his own worst PR enemy in this interview. The manipulation and line of questioning by Bashir left him with little defense. The unfortunate consequence is that what’s been done cannot be undone. Michael’s own words in this crockumentary-albeit even if taken somewhat out of context and twisted by Bashir to look more sinister than they actually were-have come back to haunt him ever since. They continue to haunt him, even from the grave. They also provide many yellow journlaists like Schaffhausen a convenient excuse to avoid delving any further into the issue. After all, with such catchy soundbytes from Michael’s own mouth to fall back on-“What’s wrong with sharing your bed?”- why bother researching any further?
But one doesn’t have to look too closely between the lines of this article to see that Schaffhausen is simply drawing on the conjectures of a handful of randomly selected “experts” to justify her own bias.
In fact, it’s a bias that becomes very clear immediatly after having used the Bashir interview example. Note what she says:
Experts agree that, regardless of what may or may not have happened with Jackson, children should not be sleeping with unrelated adults of the opposite gender.
Okay, but…I thought the whole issue here was supposed to be that Michael was sleeping with kids of the same gender-boys! So is she trying to sell us on the idea that it’s only a problem if the children in question are of the opposite gender? Or did she even realize the slip she made here!
It’s probably not even a point worth quibbling, except what we do know is that throughout the years, many children of both sexes often ended up sleeping overnight in Michael’s bedroom suite. They included among them Dakota Culkin (Macauley’s sister), Marie Nicole Cascio, Chantal Robson (sister of Wade Robson), and Karlee Barnes (sister of Brett Barnes) among many others.
This is an excerpt from the direct testimony of Joy Robson (mother of both Wade and Chantel) from the 2005 trial. In this excerpt, she claims that it wasn’t just her son who had slept in Michael’s bedroom, but her daughter Chantel (then 10) as well:
A. Well, the first — the first night they had
9 been out doing the usual thing at Neverland,
10 playing. And later that night, they all came back
11 to the suite where my husband and I were staying,
And here is a summary of both Chantal Robson’s and Karlee’s Barnes’s testimonies, taken from a website that was tracking the trial on a daily basis in 2005 (but please try to not be confused, as the writer seems to have erroneously confused the names of the two girls):
Marie Lisbeth Barnes stayed in a Neverland guest unitfor three weeks in 1992 while her son and daughter both slept in Jackson’s bedroom. (my emphasis).Jackson took them to Disneyland and Las Vegas. “I still trust him,” she said of Jackson, “He’s a very nice person. You can feel when you trust someone.”
Marie Barnes, who phoned Neverland from her home in Melbourne and volunteered to testify, said letting her son Brett go on two world tours with Jackson that each lasted half a year was a learning experience for her son. He visited so many cities and countries she couldn’t remember them all.
Prosecutor Ron Zonen pressed hard, saying “Jackson took care of your travel, food and housing, gave you gifts, and by the fourth night he was sleeping with your son.” She said that Jackson told them he thought of them as family and that she is “proud of loving Michael Jackson.”
Barnes began to explain how she knew Jackson had not molested her son. She said that she’d told her boy to look her in the eyes and tell her whether Michael Jackson… Her story was stopped cold by Zonen, who’d started her down that path.
Guilt, shame and denial loomed
large in the prosecution’s questions
Prosecutors intimated all these family members may be in denial — pointing out that a family might be ridden with guilt and shame if a child had been molested.
Karlee Robson, Wade’s sister, replied “It would be a disgrace that it would happen — if it had happened.” But she said it hadn’t — her brother would have told her, adding that she loves Michael Jackson with all her heart. “He’s just a human being. Same organs, same blood…”
Karlee also provided the defense with a possible answer to why so many of the sisters of Jackson’s boy buddies left Jackson’s bed to the pop star and their brothers. “I was developing as a girl,” she said. “I wanted a little bit of privacy.” She said that her sleeping arrangements were her call.
What does she think of the child molestation charges against Jackson? “I think they’re liars,” she said.
Chantal Barnes said she’s been a Jackson friend since she was 10 years old in 1989 and considers Jackson a family member. She’d fallen asleep on Jackson’s bed with her brother Brett at least four times and was in and out of the room a lot. (my emphasis). Does she feel guilty? “I do not,” she insisted. “It’s a normal friendship.”
The prosecution asked whether she trusted Michael Jackson not to have figurines of nude women in bondage attire on display in view of children (such figurines were shown as evidence earlier in this trial). Chantal said she did.
“Would you trust Michael Jackson to not show erotic materials to a child he’d given alcohol to?” Chantal said she thought so, but added that she was only a guest in Jackson’s home and that sometimes people have such magazines in their houses.
At this point, I know what some of you may be thinking: Was it not just as improper (in fact, perhaps even moreso) for these parents to be allowing their female children to sleep in Michael’s bedroom? How does this exonerate him? Well, considering that both sets of accusations brought against him were by boys, it matters a great deal. For one thing, it effectively busts the myth that only boys slept in Michael’s bedroom. Most of those who believe Michael was a pedophile believe that he was a gay pedophile whose only interest was in boys (actually, the word “pedophile” in itself is probably a misnomer since in the case of both accusations, the boys were already adolescents; thus, even if Michael had been guilty as charged and/or accused, the correct term would be “hebophile.”). That children of both sexes routinely slept in his bedroom-regardless of whatever the arrangement might have been-certainly muddies the waters considerably. One has to ask: If he was a gay pedophile intent on molesting boys, wouldn’t he have wanted to keep the girls out? And conversely, if he had been a straight pedophile whose only interest was in the girls, why allow their brothers to stay? Unless one wants to argue that he was a bisexual pedophile (not that I have any doubts that someone is probably out there peddling that theory out there even as I write!) the facts simply don’t support that he was favoring boys over girls, or vice versa.
This brings us full circle back to Schaffhausen’s article and the potential hazards of profiling. While profiling does serve a useful function in enabling law enforcement and social workers to perhaps pinpoint potential problem cases (specifically dealing with pedophiles, and cases of persons with mental/anti-social instability who could prove a threat to society) it can also be dangerous in that it often impinges on a person’s civil rights, especially in those cases where the person may be innocent or poses no actual threat. It also becomes a dangerous practice when those who are not qualified to pass such judgements do so anyway, thereby damaging an individual’s reputation in the process. I know this from first-hand experience in the mental health field, where many who seem to fit the classic profiles of say, sociopathic disorder are often found to not be sociopaths at all once they have undergone full psychiatric evaluation. Diagnosis of any serious disorder-whether psychotic, personality, or sexual-is often difficult and tricky at best even for the most trained of professionals-people who are actually familiar with their subjects and have had first-hand dealings with them.
So you can imagine how it becomes even more of a slippery slope when we’re talking about yellow journalists attempting to profile a celebrity they’ve never even met! Yet unconscionable journalists and pseudo “experts”have been doing just that to Michael Jackson for decades.
Sadly, all it takes is a quick Google search to realize not much has changed since 2003. Dissecting Michael Jackson remains a media obsession.
Oh wow, I was so excited to see this I couldn’t wait to post it! The brand new video for “All In Your Name” features rare and exclusive footage of Michael in the recording studio, as he and Barry Gibb laid down the vocals for this track. Ever wondered what it might have been like to be in that sound booth with Michael as he recorded a track? Well, this vid gives you that experience! I just love it. I was smiling and sometimes laughing (but in a good way!) throughout this whole vid, especially at Michael playing ‘conductor” from the sidelines as Barry was singing! But most of all, it makes one come away with an even greater appreciation of this man’s amazing artistry. Michael knew instinctively how to build a song-and how to deliver a great vocal!
I loved the opportunity to see these two amazing vocalists work together. Thank you, Barry, for this wonderful Christmas gift!