After his 2003 acquittal on molestation charges, it barely mattered which pundit you read - the verdict was the same: Michael Jackson was all washed up. Yes, his flamboyant lawyer may have gotten him off, those pundits conceded. But the public knew better, and they were fed up. From now on, it was asserted, Michael was a has-been - a footnote, a freak. He was tabloid entertainment, and nothing more. His career was wasted, his relevance was long gone. When he died some eventual day, would anyone even notice or care?
But now it's clear that the only ones irrelevant - the only ones out of touch - were those pundits themselves. One week after Michael Jackson's death, an L.A. police official anticipates his funeral: "We are preparing for an event of historic proportions," he says. When the news first broke, Google had to shut down access to the story, so numerous were the inquiries. I've seen everyone except the governing body doing Michael Jackson moonwalk steps on YouTube!
Those pundits had him convicted on that molestation charge, even if the courts had not. They'd presented him to the world guilty as sin, rescued only by legal spin. But it ought to be manifest by now that the public didn't buy it. That's not to say he wasn't eccentric, if not downright strange, but you don't go to jail for being strange. At least, not usually. As for me, I recalled the prosecutor's star witness was a kid who's family had brought similar charges against others in the past, and had been well paid for it. Now....when you're going into a fight, you lead off with your best punch, and if a veteran paid victim was the best punch they could muster......well, I just figured Michael was the target of overzealous prosecution.
This is not the first time we've seen pundits living on a different planet. Lee Chugg used to marvel how Awake! magazine could capture the real concerns of whatever 3rd world people they were covering, whereas Time or Newsweek could not. The latter would descend as if from a different world - overeducated and privileged beyond words compared to their subjects. So confident that their priorities - that of human, and usually government, solutions - must also be the priorities of their interviewees. So subtlety dismissive of anything smacking of tradition, superstition, or religion. The local folk knew they were dealing with a different, self-aggrandizing breed....and would tell them whatever they wanted to hear. Awake's people, on the other hand, were neighbors - cut from the same cloth - not above or beneath in rank, and they'd come away with the real picture.
Who are these pundits, anyway? From where do they come? Don't they stem from that obnoxious kid in school who was always going to "tell?" None of us could stand that kid. Even though things sometimes went down that really needed telling - still we knew, or at least suspected, that kid had ulterior motives. He just liked to get others in trouble and/or elevate his own importance. And when that kid graduated, he (or she) became a journalist. Oh, they're not all like that, I suppose, but enough of them are that even the genuine ones come under suspicion.
The same pundits who once told us Michael was washed up, now tirelessly tell us that, while his mama was a saintly Jehovah's Witness, his father was an over-controlling tyrant who beat his kids - thus accounting for the singer's woes. Well.....maybe.....but I'm certainly not buying it on their say-so. Frankly, two or three generations ago everybody beat their kids, if by beating you mean spanking and such forms of corporal punishment. It was thought to be an element of discipline. The first to give it up was the strata from which came most journalists, and after passage of time had sufficiently distanced them from the practice, they proceeded to browbeat everyone else over it. Black families were among the last to give it up, and now the practice is regarded as near (sometimes actually) criminal. It's an amazing turnaround in a relatively short time. I'm not arguing to bring it back, mind you, but it's by no means clear that its abandonment has given us a more secure, well-adjusted crop of kids. So no, I don't necessarily buy that about Joe. It's too easy for those on their high horse to cherry pick past events, ignore extenuating circumstances, and portray flaws as if they were absolutely normal routine. Can any of these pundits really identify with raising nine kids in the inner city? In an age where men walk away from large families and responsibility, Joe recognized and nurtured the charismatic talent his youngsters' possessed. Were it not for Joe's "over-controlling," none of those now-idolizing pundits would ever had heard of Michael Jackson.
And as for the "saintly JW mama".....well....of course...aren't we all? Saintly, I mean.
Back when I used to banter with Nate Dredge the Mormon, (oh oh. He's fallen off the wagon, I see - his last post almost 4 months ago) we used to compare our respective 70's child superstars. Mormons had Donny Osmond. We had Michael Jackson. Alas, our guy flew a lot higher than theirs, but as is now clear, it was at great personal cost. I used to imagine he might one day return to the faith from which he had veered. But it wasn't to be. Publications of Jehovah's Witnesses frequently caution that fame in this world is not without price - that the world stands ever-ready to devour those it glorifies. Who would ever think that the most striking example would come someone once within our own ranks?