The Persecution of Michael Jackson

Ishmael Reed ruminates on race, the mad dog DA and the mad dog media in the death of Michael Jackson.

Michael-Jackson_childLast Thursday, while working on some writing deadlines, I was switching channels on cable. On CNN they were promoting “Black In America”, an exercise meant to boost ratings by making whites feel good by making blacks look bad, the marketing strategy of the mass media since the 1830s, according to a useful book entitled The Showman and the Slave, by Benjamin Reiss. The early penny press sold a “whiteness” upgrade to newly arriving immigrants by depicting blacks in illicit situations. By doing so they were marketing an early version of a self-esteem boosting product. One of the initial sensational stories was about the autopsy of a black woman named Joice Heth, who claimed to be George Washington’s nurse and over one hundred years old. It was the O. J. story of the time. Circus master, P. T. Barnum, charged admission to her autopsy, which attracted the perverted in droves. And so, if the people broadcasting cable news appear to be inmates of a carnival, there is a connection since the early days of the mass media to that form of show business. According to Reiss, early newspapers were not only influenced by P. T. Barnum, but actually cooperated with him on some hoaxes and stunts.

I would classify CNN’s “Black In America” as a stunt. In preparing for a sequel to the first “Black In America”, which boosted the networks ratings (the O. J. trial saved CNN!), CNN rolled out the usual stereotypes about black Americans. Unmarried black mothers were exhibited, without mentioning that births to unmarried black women have plunged since 1976 more than that of any other ethnic group. Then we got some footage that implied that blacks as a group were homophobes even though Charles Blow a statistician for the New York Times recently published a chart showing that gays have the least to fear from blacks. Recently, the media perpetrated a hoax that blacks were responsible for the passage of Proposition 8, the California proposition that banned gay marriage. An academic study refuted this claim, but that didn’t deter the New York Times from hiring Benjamin Schwarz to explain black homophobia. Schwarz is the writer who wrote in the Los Angeles Times that blacks who were victims of lynchings in the south were probably guilty.

In the last “Black in America”, Soledad O’Brien, CNN’s designated tough-love agent against the brothers and sisters, scolded a black man for not attending his daughter’s birthday party.  The aim of this scene was meant to humiliate black men as neglectful fathers. Ms. O’Brien won’t be permitted by her employees to mention that 75% of white children will live at one time or another in a single parent household and that the Gov. of South Carolina’s not showing up for Father’s Day isn’t just a lone aberration in “White America.”

How would CNN promote a “White in America?” The thousands of meth addicts who have abandoned their children? The California rural and suburban white women who do more dope than Latino and black youth? The suburban Dallas white teenagers who are overdosing on “cheese” heroin? Why not? Can’t get State Farm,  Ford and McDonald’s to sponsor such a program? All of these companies are sponsoring “Black In America”, the aim of which is to cast collective blame on blacks for the country’s social problems. For ratings.

During CNN’s carnival act disguised as news, the scene of Zimbabwe’s Prime Minster being urinated upon by a monkey, while sitting in his garden drew snickers in the newsroom. This is what passes for coverage of the African continent by CNN.

When the bulletin that Michael Jackson had died flashed across the screen, I was prepared for TV at its worst and I wasn’t disappointed. The man wasn’t cold before the familiar adjectives were rolled out. “Weird, bizarre, eccentric”, the traditional language used to disparage artists by the bourgeoisie. Dan Abrams, who made his reputation by convicting O. J. Simpson,  before the opening arguments of his criminal trial, made a snarky comment about Jackson’s weirdness. Mr. Abrams, a higher up at MSNBC, employs a Hitler-admirer named Pat Buchanan. Given Abram’s background, why isn’t that considered weird?

Former California poet laureate Al Young called to inform me that CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin, another O. J. alumni, and a man who said that blacks shouldn’t be “patted on the head” or “patronized” for believing in O. J. Simpson’s innocence, had made some ugly comments about Jackson. (A star who has had at least a dozen facelifts called into the “Larry King Show”to comment about MJ’s altering his appearance).

Also weird was MSBC’s Savanah Guthries’ air-headed depiction of the trial. (For a list of Ms. Guthries’ false reportings see Media  She said that the evidence against Jackson in the trial was  “devastating.” So devastating that some legal experts said that Jackson should never have been brought to trial and that the aim of the trial was to seek a pound of flesh from Jackson for being uppity and for putting the name of Thomas W. Sneddon Jr., a vindictive District Attorney, into a song. In my opinion it was the prosecution of Jackson by this District Attorney, who, among other things, violated Jackson’s fourth amendment rights, and made disparaging remarks about the star, during a press conference, and the side-show pro-prosecution media coverage that killed Jackson.

In my lengthy examination of the trial printed in my book, Mixing It Up, Taking on The Media Bullies, I concluded that though millions of Jackson’s fans celebrated his acquittal, the District Attorney, who was allowed to squander the California taxpayers’ money so that he might humiliate a rich black man, whom he felt had sassed him, was the victor. At the beginning of the trial, Jackson was dancing on top of a van. During the trial he had to be hospitalized. At the end, he was a frail emaciated wreck.

michael_jacksonBecause of the malicious prosecution of Jackson by Sneddon and Sneddon’s claque in the media, Jackson will always be regarded as a pedophile. (When the trial opened, a USA Today CNN Gallup Poll found that 72% of whites and 51% of Blacks believed that the charges against Jackson were “Definitely” or “Probably” true.) Wherever “Mad Dog” Sneddon, this hateful man might be in his retirement, he can gloat over the death of the man against whom he waged a vendetta with all of the power of the state at his disposal. He even tried to introduce photos of Jackson’s genitals during the 2005 trial, which proved too much even for the pro-prosecution judge.

Of course, none of Sneddon’s abuse or the abuse of Jackson by his accusers was mentioned by an old corporate media, out of touch and on life supports. For infotainers like Katie Couric, Joe Jackson, Jackson’s father was MJ’s sole abuser. The eyes of yesterday’s media, black fathers are the principal actors in domestic violence.

Guthrie also said that the prosecution “had conducted mini trials within the trial,” which brought up “a whole history of prior bad acts of molestation.” She was referring to 1994 case in which Jackson was accused of pedophilia by a youngster who, according to writer Mary Fisher, a serious journalist,  was used by his father to wrest some cash from Jackson. In Mixing It Up…, I summarized Mary Fisher’s serious and thorough investigation that was originally published in GQ, October, 1994,  under the title “Was Michael Jackson Framed?” Jackson settled out of court because Johnnie Cochran didn’t want him to face one of those all white suburban juries that O. J. faced.

Fisher wrote: “It’s a story of greed, ambition, misconceptions of part of police and prosecutors, a lazy and sensation-seeking media and the use of a powerful, hypnotic drug. It may also be a story about how a case was simply invented.”

Fisher claimed that the first case arose from the ambitions of the thirteen-year-old accuser’s stepfather, Evan Chandler, who exploited Jackson’s friendship with his son. At one point, he asked Jackson to build him a house. Fisher said that the child denied being abused by Jackson until he was administered the drug sodium amytal, which is known to induce false memory. Chandler refused to be interviewed for the article and refused to appear on the Today Show, where Fisher repeated her charges before a nationwide audience. She said that the whole scheme was concocted by the child’s stepfather to destroy the superstar.

None of the media descriptions of Jackson’s career, including a superficial pop driven survey of the star’s career by Anderson Cooper, referred to the 2005 plaintiff’s lies and his mother’s shabby history of conning individuals and institutions including J. C. Penney’s, which she accused of sexual abuse.  She claimed that she had been “fondled inappropriately” by store personnel. Documents also hinted that “…the mom rehearsed her children to corroborate her story.”

During the 2005 trial, Jackson’s Attorney, Tom Mesereau Jr. got the teenage boy to admit that he lied under oath during the J. C. Penny case. USA Today reported on March 1, 2005, that the mother used the boy as a prop to get money from Mike Tyson, Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey, Jay Leno and others, “even though insurance was paying his bills.” Linda Deutsch, one of the last of hard-nosed shoe leather journalists, reporting for the Associated Press on March of 2005  said that Mesereau got the 15 year old to admit that he’d told Jeffrey Alpert, a school official that “nothing happened“ between Jackson and him.

The+Best+Of+Michael+JacksonConnie Keenan, editor of Mid Valley News, wrote of a hoax that the boy’s mother perpetrated on that newspaper.  She made a pitch that her son needed medical care and that she had no financial means to provide it.  During the first week of the newspaper’s appeal,  the mother received $965 in donations. It turned out that the boy was being treated at Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles with no cost to the family. Connie Keenan concluded that “My gut level, she’s a shark. She was after money. My readers were used. My staff was used. It’s sickening.”

While referring to Jackson as “bizarre” none of the cable-reporting about Jackson’s death cited the bizarre courtroom testimony of the plaintiff’s mother, Janet Arvizo. At one point during her testimony, she said that feared her children would disappear from Neverland, Jackson’s ranch, in a hot air balloon.

On Apr 18, 2005, Agence France-Presse reported “The mother of Michael Jackson’s young molestation accuser claimed that she feared her children would be spirited away from the star’s Neverland Ranch in a hot air balloon. In some of the most bizarre testimony of Jackson’s frequently surreal trial, the woman revealed that she told police she feared her three kids would vanish from Neverland into California’s blue skies.

“Did you tell the sheriff that you thought your children might disappear in a hot air balloon from Neverland?”, Jackson’s lead lawyer Thomas Mesereau asked the woman under cross-examination.

“I made them aware,” she said.

Finally, in November of 2006, according to TMZ,  Janet Arvizo pleaded no contest to a welfare fraud charge in Los Angeles. She was ordered to 150 hours of community service and to pay $8, 600 in restitution. During Jackson’s trial, Arvizo invoked the Fifth regarding welfare fraud.  Seems that she applied for welfare even though she’d received a $150, 000 settlement from J. C. Penny’s.  Even with the mother’s behavior and the boys lies, Nancy Grace, commenting on the death of Jackson, said that she was surprised by the not guilty verdict in the Jackson trial. No wonder Ms. Grace has been called “a cheerleader for the prosecution.”

Yet, these journalists insist that their news product is superior to that of bloggers. (Journalistic bottom feeder, Diane Dimond, a Sneddon fan and Jackson stalker was invited by MSNBC to weigh in during which she was allowed to engage in doofus speculation much of it ugly about Jackson’s life and death)

G. Q.’s Mary Fisher accused her colleagues of lazy journalism of the sort that defamed Jackson in life and in death. Maureen Orth from Vanity Fair didn’t read Mary Fisher’s findings.  She was on the Chris Matthews Show accusing Jackson of “serious felonies” involving pedophilia.  Another reporter who seemed to nullify the 2005 Jackson Jury’s decision was “Morning Joe’s” adjunct bimbo, Courtney Hazlett.  She said that there would be no pilgrimage to Neverland and as there was to Graceland,  because “bad things happened at Never Land.” We are led to believe that Presley and his entourage spent their days at Graceland drinking milk and reading each other passages from the scriptures.

All of these opinions seem to indicate that Cable’s talking heads have taken it upon themselves to nullify the judgment of juries whenever they please. This all-white electronic jury has placed itself above the law.

But at least Jackson didn’t suffer from the kind of hi-tech lynching accorded the tragic Patsy Ramsey. For years cable,  which now not only calls elections but acts as judge and jury,  accused her of murdering her child. Only after her death was it found that she was innocent.

If the reporting on Jackson’s death by the media wasn’t salacious and ignorant enough, it didn’t get any better the next day, June 26.

Ignoring Jackson’s philanthropic pursuits and contributions to forty charities,  on the “Today Show”, it was all about what happened to all of the nigger’s money and whether he died from too many drugs and what’s to become of his children,  questions meant to attract the prurient. Again, Diane Dimod was invited on to spread scurrilous unconfirmed rumors about the dead star.  Some of the modern day carnival-barkers like Chris Matthews expressed surprise that Jackson’s death resulted in such an outpouring of worldwide mourning. This is what happens to people like Matthews who dwell in an insulated white supremacist bubble (that includes the Anglo wannabe and Churchill admiring Irish among them) which holds that a narrow cultural strip between New York and Washington represents the world.

I would like to have seen more independent African-American journalists comment on the passing of Michael Jackson, but,  according to Richard Prince, who runs a media blog for the Maynard journalism Institute, hundreds have lost their jobs over the last two years, including Pulitzer Prize winners like Les Payne.

With the absence of black and Latinos from journalism, the media have become a spare all white jury always ready to take down a black celebrity for the entertainment of the types who used to attend those acts created by P. T. Barnum.

Mixing it Up by Ishmael Reed

Ishmael Reed is the publisher of Konch. His new book, Mixing It Up, Taking On The Media Bullies was published by De Capo.

Lyrics by Michael Jackson

They wanna get my a**,  dead or alive.
You know he really tried to take me down by surprise.
I bet he missioned with the CIA.
He don’t do half what he say.

Dom Sheldon is a cold man
Dom Sheldon is a cold man
Dom Sheldon is a cold man
Dom Sheldon is a cold man

He out shock in every single way.
He stop at nothing just to get his political say.
He think he hot cause he’s BSDA.

I bet he never had a social life anyway.
You think he bother with the KKK?
I bet his mother never taught him right anyway.
He want your vote just to remain TA.
He don’t do half what he say.

Dom Sheldon is a cold man
Dom Sheldon is a cold man
Dom Sheldon is a cold man
Dom Sheldon is a cold man

Dom S.  Sheldon is a cold man
Dom Sheldon is a cold man
Dom Sheldon is a cold man Dom Sheldon is a cold man

Author: Idrees Ahmad

I am a Lecturer in Digital Journalism at the University of Stirling and a former research fellow at the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies. I am the author of The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War (Edinburgh University Press, 2014). I write for The Observer, The Nation, The Daily Beast, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Al Jazeera, Dissent, The National, VICE News, Huffington Post, In These Times, Le Monde Diplomatique, Die Tageszeitung (TAZ), Adbusters, Guernica, London Review of Books (Blog), The New Arab, Bella Caledonia, Asia Times, IPS News, Medium, Political Insight, The Drouth, Canadian Dimension, Tanqeed, Variant, etc. I have appeared as an on-air analyst on Al Jazeera, the BBC, TRT World, RAI TV, Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon, Alternative Radio with David Barsamian and several Pacifica Radio channels.

12 thoughts on “The Persecution of Michael Jackson”

  1. He was a beautiful and talented and fucked-up kid, who had gender identity and racial identity and age identity issues so intense that he mutilated himself trying to deal with them. And those are just the obvious ones. You come from a fucked-up family and rise to superstardom in a fucked-up culture and become the property of every crass asshole on earth, right along with all the adoring fans, and it’s a damn wonder you make it to fifty.

    It’s a goddam snore to see another thousand insults heaped upon the reprehensible enough media wags, too. Racism has bubkes to do with it. It was at least this crappy when Elvis died and I guess now it was a blessing we didn’t have to endure getting bashed for racism on that one on top of the rest of the circus held on that pathetic occasion.

    This is a stupid excuse to bash the shit out of racists. Jackson suffered less from them than any entertainer before him, and less than he did from his own father, and way less than he did from his own twisted impulses.

    And, guess what? After he came of age it was HIS responsibility not to turn into a pervy freak behind it. Not his father’s, not America’s, not the world’s, and not even the racists’.

    1. you must be a racist your self, so if you dont have any thing better to say about this lovely aticle just shut the fuck up.

  2. Even after Nancy Grace of CNN has been proven to be incorrect on all her assertions against Michael Jackson, even now after his death, Nancy makes her argument that she is still not wrong about her unfounded assertions against MJ, and she says Michael now has to take the issue on with his creator, which is also incorrect. Michael, apparently unknown to Nancy Grace by her false allegations, was found not guilty of all charges against him. At least Michael has a clean record, and Nancy does not. She still has pending lawsuits filed against her in both state and federal courts right now, with many more expected soon according to the defense attorneys of some of the victims Nancy has committed crimes against who are representing some of the victims. Just how many people has Nancy helped to end the life of? Michael Jackson has zero on his list. Nancy, well, possible hundreds if one only uses the facts. How many more victim’s lives should be lost as a direct result of Nancy Grace’s unprofessionalism?

  3. 99, granted Reed is also quite defensive and I think cynical statements such as the one in the opening paragraph “meant to boost ratings by making whites feel good by making blacks look bad” are quite unfair and inaccurate.

  4. You know, I went to high school with a girl who had been sexually molested by her father, Liz. Her mother didn’t protect her, just checked into the local mental health crisis center all the time instead. As we grew into our twenties it became clear that Liz could not bear to have sexual relations with men unless she was on vacation half way around the world. The rest of the time it was an anguish for guys to have relationships with her. She spent more time making herself sexy than anyone I ever knew and left them all nearly dead of sexual frustration. In the summers we would go to a family resort, and she would put on the skimpiest bikinis and spend all day playing with little boys by the side of the lake… to the point where their mothers became alarmed. She was obsessed by little kids, little boys especially. I don’t believe she EVER would have gone further than the bikini’d rough-housing by the lake, but that doesn’t mean her relations with them were innocent either. Jackson was never convicted, so we don’t know if he did or he didn’t, but we do know there was a lot of age-inappropriate relations. He wasn’t being fatherly. He was trying to be one of them… like Liz was.

  5. Let me ask you this peoplesgeography, do you believe that ceratin media-heads contributed to his ultimate death?

  6. Michelle, thanks for the question. I’m not an expert on this, but I would consider that not just those media-heads but also the other prosecutors Reed mentions all contributed to Michael Jackson’s death. I can’t begin to imagine what an awful toll that takes on you to go through the wringer like that.

    Yet again I think this is a both-and scenario: I think one of 99’s points suggests that many people deal with adversity and we each do so in our own ways: child stars have their own deprivations and many don’t survive (and thrive) into adulthood. Yet others do. It depends upon a range of factors including identity, race, personal ability to cope, and media scrutiny and pressure to perform, and its far more complicated than wholly attributing to either being a victim or being wholly responsible oneself for one’s own demise. Its both internal and external factors.

  7. Looks loke Micheal was a victim all alone. I just believe that the people that was a part of killing him should be held accountable, since that is the Law, isn’t it?

  8. Did I miss something? Was he murdered?

    I had a friend die of taking too many pain pills for her back the night before the scheduled surgery for it. She was in so much pain she couldn’t sleep. Finally she took enough pain pills to get to sleep… just not to wake back up again. It happens a lot. So I think it will turn out that he simply over-medicated himself. He was a grown man. He was a public person. He could have bowed out of the limelight at will at any time over the last 32 years. He chose not to.

    He was a man. Fifty years old. Not ten. Everything that happened to him came about as a result of his own decisions. He liked to cut a tragic figure in the midst of his incredible good fortune, made it part of his persona, his superstar persona, and the people being mean to him was necessary to keep that going. He wanted that to keep going.

    Unless, I’ve missed something, that there’s evidence that he was murdered, or killed himself, it was a goddam accidental death from taking too many downers. The only one accountable for that has accounted for it.

  9. THANK YOU. I did a loving post on Michael in my mainly political blog with an emphasis on the MK Ultra aspect from Joe. I was amazed at the comments I got were like. Most of which I removed. I have gone to other sites that were racist in some ways and the things they said were awful. “He killed himself wanting to be white” prompted videos and images of his vitiligo.

    This was a lovely article and I hope you do not mind if I post it right now before I go out for the afternoon.

  10. I am a fan of honest journalism and the truth. The real travesty of justice is that vile and bottom feeder like Diane Dimond get to publish a salicious, fiction book about a person she has never even met! Does she recall how CourtTV ripped the magic carpet right out under her? I mean, she have to be pretty awful to not reach Court TV’s standards.
    I am very disappointed with ET and the Insider for giving a shameless, opportunistic, hypocritical, self-righteous shrew like she a forum to call herself a Michael Jackson’s Investigator. I just want to hurl.
    It never ceases to amaze me the way pseudo journalist like she “starving for a story” will take an incident in the life of a famous person and exploit it for their own personal gain. During the Michael Jackson molestation trial she was all over the place: Larry King, Court TV, Nancy Grace, just everywhere. Everywhere with the same slant: Jackson is guilty. All she was interested in was sensationalism, yet she consistently said all she wanted was the truth. She deliberately left the courtroom every time the state finished up and the defense came up which made her reporting biased according to courtroom attendees. Remember Michael Jackson sued her and Hard copy for speculative stories she could never proved which would make she less than credible to report on him.
    During the trial she never did not report “one” not “one” good fact or happenings in the courtroom that were in Michael’s favor; the facts that ultimately exonerated him. And there were many days of testimony that went in Michael’s favor, testimony that tore the whole accusation apart, but none of it was reported by the opportunist she are. Now that he is dead, she want to reap another round of financial gain like the other vultures. She are now calling herself an investigative journalist. Does she even know what the word mean? If anybody wants the TRUTH about the Michael Jackson trial, go directly to the primary sources. Court transcripts are available online . This Tom Sneddon wannabe ought to be ashamed of herself. Get a life Dianne!!!!!!

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