The week started like any other, but as it progressed, my blood pressure threatened to blow sky-high! As a fan of Michael Jackson, I had become used to seeing accusatory headlines from various sources crop up on my internet news feed. I’d even become used to avoiding the news, at the risk of missing something important that I should really know about – like the end of civilisation as we know it because of a killer asteroid heading our way, or something else equally catastrophic!

But this week the Michael Jackson online fan community was running hot and angry on social media because of new stories surfacing that seemed to support the faux documentary Leaving Neverland. Said “documentary” was being positioned for salvation from its debunked narrative by virtue of an Emmy award or two. An Emmy does not guarantee that a winner, much less a nominee, has integrity. But the public probably thinks it does, no doubt believing some kind of fair assessment of the content is involved in the selection of nominees. Think again, dear public; think again.

Within short succession and in no particular order, we had Jackson’s ex-wife signing a big book deal which the headlines screamed would be a tell-all tome on their marriage (despite no official statement on the subject being forthcoming); a disgraced former employee cropping up with new outrageous tales about Jackson’s sex life, and being accepted (again) as a credible source by media that obviously don’t do research or don’t give a f*ck. (I suspect the latter.)

Then we had a former backing singer commenting negatively on the time she toured with the King of Pop – despite having gone on record with positive comments about him in the past. So much flip-flopping – it makes me want to SCREAM! Oh, wait she has some new music to promote – and what better way to guarantee broad coverage than invoke Michael Jackson’s name in the context of the faux scenarios of Leaving Neverland in order to be relevant. (As I said, it makes me want to SCREAM!)

Even things that seem to be positive tend to cast some doubt on Jackson’s character. A celebratory post on the 40th anniversary of the “Off the Wall” album had to get in a barb about the terrible things fame can do to an artist. What terrible things was the writer talking about, I wanted to know? There’s one very terrible thing I would agree on, though, and that’s the way someone who became so famous and so successful (and NOT overnight, by any stretch of the imagination) subsequently became a target for the tall poppy syndrome so beloved by the media.

Their scenario goes like this: “We built you up, we published your pictures, we reviewed your albums, we raved about your music videos and your live performances, but now that you’ve reached the apex of the pyramid in the entertainment industry, we can -and will – bring you down. Your name will still make headlines, but not ones you will like to read. We will make sure that people who still like you will feel they have to apologize and make excuses for your ‘weird’ behaviours. We will make them feel ashamed and embarrassed to be your fans.”

I’m just so utterly sick and tired of the media’s transparent use of Michael Jackson to grab the public’s attention in an increasingly competitive industry. It’s not sales but web-clicks they’re after these days. A clip from a gossip segment on a TV program or radio show gets posted on the show’s social media accounts and gets comments and shares and much broader coverage through the medium of the internet than if it had been on air just once. Michael Jackson’s name, especially if used for sensational claims, guarantees LOTS OF ONGOING TRAFFIC.

Of course, he’s not here to respond, and even when he was alive, it had become obvious to him that responding to the media was a waste of time. They did not believe him. Now they don’t even believe his autopsy report. They question his vitiligo despite it being on the medical records; they question his sexuality, despite the statements of his personal staff and two ex-wives; they question his behaviour with children, despite the majority of those who visited Neverland (boys AND girls) having nothing negative to say about him, and only wonderful memories of their time at the ranch as Michael’s guests or visitors.

However, people who do not have anything negative to say do not get spoken to, or if they do, do not get the same level of coverage. Their stories are NOT the ones that get copied and pasted across international boundaries and various type of news media. The less salacious view, and the TRUTH, is not as newsworthy as lies and ill-informed speculation.

The media loves to celebrate people who dare to be different and stand out from the crowd and be themselves. At least, they tell us that they do. They love the underdogs who succeed by “doing it their way.” But such glowing commendations do not last. The story of Michael Jackson and the media is a cautionary tale for anyone who is in the public eye, whether artist, sportsperson, politician, activist or whatever. First, they love you; then they love to tear you down, while looking for the next big thing to replace you.

What they are desperately trying to do is forestall their own replacement – either by some new form of media technology, or by someone who can use it better. Fear is the motivator. Greed is the driver. “Anything for money” sang Michael Jackson. Music was his comeback to all the lies and hypocrisy – tracks like “Money”, “Why You Wanna Trip On Me”, “D.S.”, “Leave Me Alone” and others, including his duet with sister Janet, “Scream”. Anyone who wants to know what Michael had to say about what was said about him, only needs to listen to these songs, which I put together in a playlist called after another relevant track, “Tabloid Junkie”.

We are all collateral damage in this current climate of the media’s total disregard for the truth. Yes, Michael, it makes me want to scream, too.

Kerry Hennigan
12 August 2019

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