Sun | Mar 29, 2020

Religion & Culture | Standing up to #MeToo - The Michael Jackson case

Published:Sunday | May 12, 2019 | 12:09 AM
Michael Jackson leaves the courtroom after being acquitted on all counts in 2005.
Dr Glenville Ashby
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“We live in a very, very, very, very hypocritical, double-standard, fake society.”

– will.i.am, music producer

 

It is alarming that so-called democracies are under the thumb of a movement with little regard for the rule of law, where the proverbial cart is put before the horse and you are found guilty before your day in court.

In countries with fundamentally flawed legal systems, such as the US (just ask its underclass), this new kind of public lynching is the new normal. We have never been more vulnerable, potential victims of drop-of-a-hat-indictment in a system that strips its citizens of basic constitutional protection.

How did this come about? First, this is hardly a new phenomenon. Society has always experienced cultural shifts, sometimes at such a dizzying pace, and with such fervour to promote a new order, that all is trampled in its path. In such times, the mob is king, or, in this situation, queen.

#MeToo, in its extreme form, is one example of how the truth is inconsequential in the quest for a desired outcome. Here, the ends justify the means.

The good of #MeToo couldn’t be overemphasised, but extremism and overreach have subverted the very ideal it promotes, risking its devolution into a modern-day inquisition.

COWED INTO SUBMISSION

What is troubling is the extent to which individuals are cowed into submission, afraid to rattle the social chorus. What is troubling is that too many of us are petrified by groupthink, afraid to be harangued by the mob.

My recently published article, ‘Michael Jackson: defending a piece of our history ( Gleaner, March 17, 2019), received enormous feedback on social media, the majority of which was positive. Still, there were messages of vitriol. That’s fine. A columnist must stand by his work.

I am heartened by the Jackson case. Some have buckled under the weight of #MeToo, but institutions such as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Dance Hall of Fame and Madame Tussaud have stood their ground against a festering culture of intimidation. Jackson’s legacy is protected, for the time being.

Recently, Gardner Street Elementary School in Los Angeles voted to keep Jackson’s name on the school’s auditorium, and remarkable was an overflowing church service in Copenhagen, Denmark, on May 4 dedicated to Jackson, where his most anthemic songs such as Heal the World and Earth Song were covered as hymnals.

Jackson Musicals on London’s West End and Las Vegas are booked through December. Interestingly, rapper Joyner Lucas’ video, Devil’s Work, delivers a provocative tribute to Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X and Nipsey Hussle, and others.

Clearly #MeToo underestimated the cultural impact and global reach of Jackson. Frankly, pop music owes everything to his genius. That was made clear in my recent travels in Turkey and Africa. Moreover, #MeToo also underestimated the coordinated response of his legions of supporters, a response not based on emotions but on clearly researched facts. The inconsistencies of Jackson’s accusers will be featured in an upcoming documentary.

On March 3, American journalist John Ziegler was featured on 107.3 FM Radio in Stafford, UK. He reiterated his position almost verbatim from his podcast, Leaving Neverland: Frauds and Fakes: “Wade Robson (one of the accusers) is so obviously lying about Michael Jackson, that if his story is allowed to stand, the rules will be created so that you can never, ever, ever question a high-profile accusation of child sex abuse, no matter how discredited, no matter how nonsensical, no matter how many years later, no matter how contradicted by their own words.”

Ziegler questions the partiality of the documentary by omitting the accuser’s relationship with Jackson’s niece, the refusal the media to interview her, the accuser’s failed bid to choreograph Jackson’s Circus Soleil production and his lawsuit against the Jackson estate that was tossed out by the presiding judge.

He concluded: “[The media] is really fundamentally broken when it comes to the issues of accusations of sexual abuse, especially child sex abuse, where people’s brains just explode ... . Once someone is deemed to be sanctified as a child sex-abuse victim, especially sanctified by Oprah Winfrey, once they are deemed by the media to be sanctified a child-sex abuse victim like Wade Robson, then from this point you are not allowed to directly contradict the story of the child sex abuse victim. You are just not allowed ... . It doesn’t matter. Sorry, you are allowed to defend Michael Jackson in general, which is so mind-blowingly frustrating. So you are allowed to say he wouldn’t do it, but you are not allowed to discredit people who say that he did do this – and he is dead.”

SKEWED SENSE OF JUSTICE

Margaret Atwood, an architect of the feminist movement, warned against witch-hunt trials. Astonishingly, she was maligned by #MeToo for correctly reminding us to guard against “usual rules of evidence that are bypassed to achieve political aims”.

A skewed sense of justice should concern everyone. And the violation of due process, the very lynchpin of a democracy, must not go unanswered.

There is a steep price to pay for pedlling accusations as facts. It is only a matter of time before #MeToo is devoured by its own excess.

- Dr Glenville Ashby is the award-winning author of the audio book, ‘Anam Cara: Your Soul Friend and Bridge to Enlightenment and Creativity’. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and glenvilleashby@gmail.com, or tweet @glenvilleashby.