Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Here we go again. The “again” is yet another scandal mongering, cheap shot at Michael Jackson from the grave. This time the Jackson beat up comes in the guise of an independent film, “Leaving Neverland,” screened at Sundance and scheduled for later wider release. Two Jackson accusers in the film dredge up all the old familiar gossipy stuff about Jackson allegedly molesting kids and more specifically them. They offer not a scintilla of proof to corroborate or substantiate their accusations. It was textbook he said, she said, with one difference, there was no she to call them liars. Yet the two still got a standing ovation from the audience.
The film is four hours long and its packed with much about Jackson’s life and career. But as always, the filmmakers knew the selling point was scandal, scandal, and more scandal about Jackson.
This is not just another cheap shot attempt to capitalize on the Jackson mystique even if it means slamming someone from the grave who can’t fight back and defend himself. It’s about not being able to accept the fact that after legions of investigations, mountains of media speculation, and a trial in June 2005 which he was acquitted of child molestation, it has never been proven that Jackson was a child molester. In fact, prosecutors, police departments and investigators in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara spent millions of dollars, convened two grand juries and probed nearly 200 witnesses that included 30 children, who knew Jackson to try to substantiate the charges of molestation. Not a single corroborating witness was found.
Yet, the Jackson name and the issue of child molestation hangs as a damning indictment that feeds the gossip mills and gives an arsenal of ammunition to Jackson detractors. This is not a small point. The child molester myth doesn’t rest on Jackson’s trial and clean acquittal on multiple child abuse charges. The myth of Jackson as child molester never hinged on evidence or testimony to substantiate it. It hinges on the prurient fascination with a celebrity that in life and death took on preternatural stature. This fascination in turn is fertile ground for any salacious, titillating, morsel of gossip, no matter how disgusting. There’s still more to the latest Jackson beatdown
No charge stirs more disgust, revulsion, and pricks more emotional hot buttons than the charge of child molestation. The accusation stamps the Scarlet letter of doubt, suspicion, shame and guilt on the accused. The accused can never fully expunge it. There is simply no defense against it. Under the hyper intense media glare and spotlight that Jackson constantly in life remained under, the allegation no matter how bogus would have been endless fodder for the public gossip mill. This would have wreaked irreparable damage on Jackson’s ever shifting musical career and personal life. Jackson and his attorneys knew that when it came to the charge of child molestation, the presumption of innocence, or even actual innocence, is tossed out the window.
Jackson’s family is properly outraged by this slap at him. They have called the documentary a “public lynching” and “character assassination.” It is that. But then again, it’s Michael, so should we really be surprised at any charge that anyone would make against him, and be believed by many—even with him in the grave?
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author Why Black Lives Do Matter (Middle Passage Press) He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.