Inner Michael » Communications: Please, the Mirror

Communications: Please, the Mirror

How many more people must die- whether it’s immediately or later because the tabloid and medialoid sources will not look in their own mirror? Michael Jackson died 10 months ago and they are still trashing him. The movie made at the end of his life and about the tour he was planning, “This Is It,” revealed a much different man than we were conditioned to expect. I think that movie may have been a glimpse of the true man and off stage persona behind the Michael Jackson. He was humble, gentle, perfectionistic, an encouraging mentor and master craftsman. “This Is It” was a peek into genius. So why do they keep using “tragic” and “disturbing” to describe his life?

The more I look into this, the more I realize, as have many others who found themselves intensely curious about this man, that he was not the picture that the tabloids painted for us. In fact, what I have learned paints a starkly contrasting portrait of a man who was anything but the manipulated caricature that dominated the collective memory for more than a decade.

A few nights ago I watched Aphrodite Jones’ report on the accusation, charges and trial of Michael Jackson. Miss Jones’ account presented a much different view of the trial and aftermath than we were fed by the media that clustered to cover his trial. Apparently they all expected a guilty verdict. In fact, according to some, the media was salivating over the possibility of an imprisoned Michael Jackson. The jury foreman who seemed credible, said the jury identified something askew in the demeanor and the case brought by Tom Sneddon, the District Attorney at the time.

I knew about Michael Jackson’s trial, of course, didn’t everybody? And I knew it took a long time; and that cameras were banned from the courtroom. I also vaguely remember that there was a reenactment of the daily proceedings each night. I remember thinking at the time that the whole idea was a bit over the top so I dismissed the whole thing. I also remember “breaking news” about the verdict being in and the woman who released the doves during the reading of the verdict. I thought that too, was over the top. But the verdict, the loud not-guilty, the very innocent somehow escaped me. Yes, acquitted. But there were fourteen total charges. Fourteen! Not guilty of even one? One little one? Funny how I don’t remember that so much.

I remember the accusations and the evening shows that discussed the trial. I remember too, that they all speculated he was guilty. Where there is smoke… And I confess I remember very little about the aftermath. And nobody reinforced that Michael Jackson was innocent of all the charges. When someone is a pedophile, at least one of the charges is going to stick! Pedophiles are serial offenders. I knew of another case several years before… but that one was settled out of court. I had the fleeting thought that Michael may have paid that to go away but the second time there were no charges that held up? I thought where there was smoke there was supposed to be fire. When one child agrees to talk, usually the rest come out of hiding. The Catholic Priesthood punctuated that. Why were there no other children?

But the media didn’t focus on any of that. It was almost like everybody slinked away during the hours of darkness never to shine a light again on that trial and the verdict. I remember nothing after that until hearing that Michael Jackson was living in the Middle East. He left the country? Well, I reasoned, either he was guilty and more children were going to come forward or he was dispirited and disillusioned with his country and the justice system that failed him. Where are the children?

Much of my thinking, I realize now, was from what I was being told by the media. Of course it was the biggest story of the century, post OJ—it was Michael Jackson! But I really expected my media to be fair in reporting it to me. I knew the tabloids and tabloid TV was going to sensationalize but I expected the communications industry and especially the profession of journalism to have integrity and to tell me the relevant truth. Journalism was a career that I considered at one time. I had a scholarship opportunity and I was going to go to a good journalism school. I had grown up with Walter Cronkite and I respected the industry because I had researched it and thought my future was in that field. Those were the days before I discovered my fascination with medicine.

But I didn’t give up my love for language, for words. I began a program and worked with journalists, artists, novelists, poets and other published professionals. I went to a school of the arts in Wisconsin. I became an artist and a poet and then an essayist and storyteller. But not once did I consider that journalism, which was my first love, had changed. Never once did I consider that there would be those who laid down their ethics for a fistful of cash.

There is a code of ethics in medicine and there is a code of ethics in journalism. I liked the idea of a career guided by not only unspoken guidelines but by a code that one lives by and works within. In both those vocations, violating the code of ethics can kill. Never would I have believed that the lofty communications profession had devolved to its current medialoid status. I feel only shame and embarrassment for that. Walter Cronkite would not be proud.

Aphrodite Jones’ feature highlighted how the media continues to look at Michael Jackson through the same lens and that the urban legend continues. How is it that this is not corrected? Death usually shakes people from their complacency and brings to focus the unspoken words, the thanks never given, the acknowledgements overlooked, and the guilt, culpability and regrets related to the deceased. It is usually a time for examination, self examination and making amends for opportunities lost. It drives home that death is permanent and that sometimes it is too little and too late. Death reminds us that there are no do-overs.

Since Michael Jackson’s death, there have been countless acquaintances who have recounted their personal memories with him and each time they speak of a gentle man, an intelligent and masterful genius and magnanimous humanitarian. Even Oprah, who has been critical of Michael in the past, said “this changes the legacy” as she revealed astonishment at the real Michael when not ‘in the spot’ and performing for a live audience, who was showcased in “This Is It.”

It may change perception of the legacy, but it does not change the legacy. Michael has always been Michael- the gentle, loving, generous, steadfast humanitarian and global messenger. And he is also the polished stage performer when on stage. Michael is the man the fans have always known he was. I did not know him until my research began after seeing “This Is It.” And I am frankly baffled by the unusual and even bizarre circumstances of Michael, the press, his legacy and his character. And I feel cheated.

In the last few months of this journey through Michael’s life, I have visited his genius, his monumental talent, his kindness, his generosity, his moments of laughter and joy, his fatherhood and fathering, his wry and stunning sense of humor and the stark contradictions of who he was performing and not performing. He is two different personas- the stage Michael and Michael the man.

And I have been surprised by my finding myself immersed in some of the darkest places I have ever visited in my life. And that includes my close encounter with war and weapons of mass destruction. I never knew what kind of mind invented those killing instruments but I saw at times, the necessity of them in some circumstances. I was appalled that their momentum got loose on this planet and became like a runaway train. That is not a glowing testament to the ability of the human race to settle its differences or better yet, accept them and move past the argument. Genocide is vile and war is always a nasty business and it’s hard to visit those worlds.

But there is, believe it or not, a darker place. And I have spent some time there. It is the shadow of man’s inhumanity to man when projected en masse onto a singular figure. It’s unimaginable; in fact, I could not have imagined it in all its looming intensity prior to my quest to know Michael.

What triggered this journey into the life of Michael was an unsettling intuitive gnawing inside that something about the Michael Jackson story and his life on this planet was wrong. No, not just wrong but eerie and unacceptable and very, very indicative of something yet undiscovered and underbelly in human nature.

As I began to research his life I wondered who the heck “they” had been talking about all these years. I was more than befuddled, I was mortified, I was angry, I was ashamed, shocked and very, very aware of the sorry nature of the beings inhabiting this world and of the beings they were talking about. We really are a species in need of self examination.

There was a kind of static body of knowledge regarding Michael Jackson that had been imprinted into the collective consciousness that was counter to the person I met as I journeyed through the phenomenon that was Michael’s life and career. And it just doesn’t add up; it doesn’t square. It doesn’t ever square. It’s been like having perfect pitch and hearing a perpetual dissonance in the background somewhere yet the source remains hidden and unidentifiable.

I began too, to know Michael’s fans, some of them who have been loyal to him for more than 20-30 years. Oh, some of them are a bit over the top with the gushing and wailing but more than half of them are intelligent, working class professionals who are thoughtful, not easily fooled and while they admire his work, they are not so enamored as to overlook his flaws. And I can guarantee that these are people who, if he had truly done the things to children he was accused of, would have not only abandoned him but would have cut him off at the knees and buried his ability to make money performing for anyone ever again. Michael fans are resolute. And they would have skewered him if he was guilty of harming children. Music, no matter how genius, does not trump deliberately harming innocent children. These people do not abide ambiguity let alone hypocrisy and crime.

If you want to truly know someone in the public eye, look to their fans. If you want blow-by-blow information, ask fans. Fans know every little detail of the lives of those they admire. They also know without question, the character of their chosen star. These people would not look past a crime against a vulnerable person no matter who was the perpetrator. And certainly they would not have overlooked criminal acts on the part of Michael Jackson. They were loyal to him through the charges and trial not in spite of the man, but because they know the man. They stood by him because they knew his character, his mind and they knew he was innocent. They are also more savvy than I regarding the media. I naively thought journalism was an institution. The fans knew what the journalists were doing and they knew the truth. And living with that and the powerlessness of truth could not have been easy.

The relationship and loyalty between Michael Jackson fans and their object of admiration is a very unusual one. He was kind to fans; he was thoughtful. He knew their hearts and he met the love that came at him with his own aimed full force back at them. He consistently sent comfort measures to fans camping out at hotels and outside his home: sending his security personnel with blankets, pillows, pizza, Michael mementos and letters. He went out of his way to be as accessible as he could at the times it was safe to do that. Some fans are safe; the hysterical ones caught up in the frenzy are not. Michael, while on stage, would have his security team pick a female fan from the crowd to meet him and dance with him on stage. Each time, without fail, he cradled the fan by spanning the back of her head with his huge hands. This is a tender and genuine embrace of respect and endearment that every woman in the world knows and understands.

For many fans, Michael was a mentor, a hero. For some he, his lyrics and their messages held their only hope for a better future, a better world. The world that they inherited did not look so attractive to them. In fact, it seemed broken. But Michael counseled them for decades “you can change the world.” His message was an empowering and spiritual one. He lifted and revered the human spirit at least in its potential. Their loss and their grief are because their messenger is gone. He was their healer killed by a healer. Imagine that grief. And imagine it compounded by the false legacy that still hangs out there in the collective mind, in those who do not know Michael and do not understand there are two versions—the tabloid and the real.

A member of the jury in his court case rife with accusations about impropriety with children said that Michael was a children’s advocate and his interest in children was to better their futures. In fact, even a cursory look at Michael’s interactions with children in films of him visiting or performing where children are included reveals a touch that holds reverence, almost to the point of worship. His smile at children and in their presence is brighter than at any other time. One only has to watch to see the reverence in his eyes, hands and face around children. This is not a man who would harm a child.

The tabloids directed some of the most laser-focused and vitriolic unkindness this world has ever witnessed at Michael Jackson. And the same thing was said over and over. Each time Michael Jackson’s name came up the word predator or Pedophile came up. Even after he was found innocent of 14 total charges they continued to use those words, those descriptors. Repetition creates the illusion of truth. The frenzied gallop to assassinate his character was, it turns out, to sell magazines. That is why an innocent man was sacrificed on the cross of public humiliation? For profit? Oh that is a new low.

So since his passing, there is a push by fans, by those who knew Michael, and those involved in his life and affairs to finally demand the truth be told. To oversee the restoration of the character and legacy of this man who gave entertainment to hundreds of millions.

So in that regard Aphrodite Jones’ special was aired on Investigative Discovery. And the finger of blame that was pointed at the media as responsible for the man’s demise? Perhaps that is warranted. This is certainly where millions of fans believe the responsibility lies—in the lap of the media who printed headline after headline and page after page of innuendo, distortions, lies and paid-for tell-all articles for which the tabloids shelled out hundreds of thousands.

The tabloids have admitted as much in articles published and in documentaries. And the mainstream media was complicit in the destruction of one of the most talented geniuses in entertainment history. Stories were made up and paid for. This is an old story. You can read the prequel in the New Testament. Look for a story with the words: “Thirty Pieces of Silver.”

So now Michael is dead. Snatched from those who loved him in this world. And still his legacy is kicked while he is already down. What price do we pay as a society when we engage in this kind of behavior? Maybe selling one’s soul to the devil has outlived its relevance? Is obsolete? What do we exchange for those thirty pieces of silver? We sell nothing less than the collective soul of humanity. We preempt good people moving forward or moving onto any stage to share with us the genius God gave to them. We sabotage the future where the celebrities and leaders might offer stellar performances and where we, their audience, might learn valuable lessons from the fare they share with us.

How many humanitarian projects will go undone because Michael Jackson is gone? He was a global humanitarian, our planetary cheerleader and one of humanity’s best friends. He never gave up on the human condition even though the inhumanity of it cost him his career, his future, his work, his sleep and eventually his life.

It would be very difficult for the media to admit their part in the demise of Michael Jackson. How would they apologize for the death of this global humanitarian? How would they apologize to his children? To our future where the work of Michael Jackson will never appear? He intended to do films next and based on his music videos they would have been epics.

What would it mean to actually come face to face with the fact the media was wrong? That how they do things is less than human? What would they do to change—for they would have to by necessity. What lessons could we all learn from knowing the truth about Michael Jackson? Could an admission of guilt make us better people? Could a vow to do it differently in the future make this world a better place?

It is not likely to happen soon that the media says “We understand our guilt, our complicity in the deaths of Michael Jackson and others like Vince Foster and Lady Diana. We are sorry. We are ashamed. We were wrong. And people’s lives were destroyed because of our cavalier gleefulness in taking them down. We realize now we made them; then we destroyed them. We never, ever, want to do that again. We promise we will make it up to you, our public, our constituency. We will immediately change our policies and our tactics. We promise to give you only the truth from now on. Pinkie swear.”

I don’t need to hear that confession. I just need to see change. I need it to start now, today. I am intelligent enough to recognize when an effort is made. Go ahead, save face. Confession not required. Change essential. Please prove me wrong: Diana and Michael both gave their lives because of who they were. They were targeted by tabloid and medialoid journalism devoid of humanity. We crucified them and they died for us. Seems to me we haven’t learned much in those last two thousand years.

** To send feedback to Discovery ID about Aphrodite Jones’ program and/or let them know what else you’d like to see: Viewer Relations


  1. Sue Springer said . . .

    Rev. B, this is exactly what needs to be said. Did you know that Aphrodite had to publish her book Michael Jackson: Conspiracy herself because NO publisher would touch a postive, honest portrayal of Michael, or the trial? She is an award winning true crime author, with an established and respected list of books, yet not one publisher would consider her proposal. Aphrodite admitted her initial ride on the “band wagon” of the media distortion about Michael, why is so difficult for other journalists to do the same. What does this say not only about mainstream media, but about the buying public?

    The lines are completely blurred between yellow journalism and what we used to consider honest journalism. And no one person’s life was more distorted and shredded than Michael’s. You are so right, the emergence of excellence in all of us suffers when we are complacent enough to accept the lowest common denominator in life. When we as a society stop striving for excellence and the beauty inside ourselves, we begin to stop believing it exists, and the next step is to lose the ability to heal ourselves and the planet completely. Michael knew this and kept reminding us. It gets harder and harder but I try to see the “glass half full.” Love and Peace, Sue.

    Posted May 1, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Permalink
  2. Charlene said . . .

    Oh Barbara, how I wish we could get some of today’s media leaders to read this!! So well said!

    I agree that an apology or admission of guilt should not be required and would not even be helpful if changes aren’t made. Making that change is the most important step in the right direction. And if the leaders in the industry were to be bold enough to step up, take the plunge, and lead the way to restored ethics and integrity in journalism, others would follow suit, I feel certain of that. Oh, the true tabloids would probably remain in their darkness, continuing to seek out the “dirt” on the day’s most sought after celebrity, but they would be much lonelier at the bottom of the heap, and would wield less power & influence over public opinion. Even more so if the leaders were to challenge them and publicly call them on the carpet for their tactics instead of joining them in the gutter. Can you imagine that?

    I know it’s difficult to turn things around when habits have been formed and when justification for lack of integrity seems to be the norm. Some may not even be totally aware that they are among those that have compromised the ethics of good journalism. Their denial allows them to sleep at night. And some may be under the ruling thumb of the bureaucracy, the executives that dictate from their plush offices and private jets, so that their salaries and lifestyles can be maintained. But all it takes is one…one person willing to take that leap of faith, willing to stand up, even if it means losing their job. One person whom the public holds in high regard. One person to rally the troups for change. One person to make a bold statement to the world!

    If that one person knew they would have the support of millions, do you think they would take the risk and make that change? And, if so, who would that one person be?

    Posted May 2, 2010 at 12:14 am | Permalink
  3. Kim said . . .

    Well said Barbara. You make many valid points and some that I can certainly relate to. As I read your post, I reflected on all that you said. All I can say is that I pray that whomever is responsible for contributing to Michael’s leaving this Earth; they will be held accountable and justice will be served. I pray that many people as you say, are coming to a realization who Michael was as a man and not focus on what was said in the media. Those who fight for Michael’s legacy, will need to continue to do so; however, we need to be respectful in our fight. Michael led by example on how he handled everything. We can follow his lead. It’s all for love, L.O.V.E. Thank you.

    Posted May 2, 2010 at 2:43 am | Permalink
  4. Dalia said . . .

    Michael, for the sensationalist media, is still present and fresh in the collective memory, which means they can still take advantage for juicy profits. Never mind Michael’s or Diana’s warmth or humanity or anyone, because the numbers are cold.

    Posted May 2, 2010 at 8:04 am | Permalink
  5. Susan T said . . .

    Your words ring true. I watched Aphrodite Jones True Crime Special and literally broke down and sobbed as I listened to Tom Mesereau speak about how Michael would call him in the early morning hours, crying with fear about what would happen to his children. Despite living a nightmare, Michael would go home every day to his children and interact with them as best he could, compartmentalizing his agony and focusing only on making sure they knew he loved them. Could any of us be as brave?

    My heart aches for his anguish. None of us can imagine his agony and torment during that hellish trial. Sadly, the “not guilty” verdict would not be enough. We are a society stricken with the inability to think and question. We fight and resist our deep feelings of compassion and empathy and don’t like that pain and sorrow invade our lives. We’re much more interested in “feeling good” than to allow ourselves to identify deeply with another’s pain. Far too many in the media lack real humanity humility. The truth needs to be reverenced and taught to young children. Honesty and truthfulness must start with parents and be demanded in our educators. A person of principle and honesty will not betray his teachings in exchange for money and fame. Life is more than material acquisitions–it is the being you are in the world. You can only deceive yourself so long. Eventually you will have to look in that “mirror” and the mirror doesn’t lie!

    How does that deceitful Martin Bashir conduct his life with such an unfettered conscience, knowing he viciously betrayed Michael Jackson and deceived little Prince Michael and Paris during that interview. How does he live with himself, knowing that he played a key role in destroying the psyche of their beloved father leaving his adoring children grieving orphans? That he is still a strong player on Nightline speaks volumes about the broadcasting system. Sometimes people don’t recognize the face of evil even when it stares them in the face! A very strong piece, Barbara! Thank you for your eloquence. Susan

    Posted May 2, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Permalink
  6. Elizabeth said . . .

    Rev B. Once again you have put into words what we all are feeling and know: Michael was fodder for the tabloids and medialoid. Journalism needs to go back to its’ ethics. The fodder they are delivering is not what we as people choose to eat. Stop killing with your words of mass destruction and yes if you do not have the courage to admit wrong and ask for forgiveness, at least change what you are printing. Can’t you see that when you harm the best of us you harm all of us? We will ever miss the force of Michael Joseph Jackson’s presence here with us. He gave us hope, courage and a message to be better and that we could make that change. And Michael did it all for love L.O.V.E.

    Posted May 3, 2010 at 12:39 am | Permalink
  7. Julis said . . .

    I appreciate your efforts getting to know Michael and your article speaks volumes about the type of person he truly was and the intense effort of the media to destroy him. We all need to make a concerted effort to ‘starve the tabloid press;’ we must not buy their magazines or visit their websites. Unfortunately not many people are aware that the tabloid websites make money from advertising and they are paid everytime we click on to visit. They make millions of dollars off the suffering of people and it must stop. I am also concerned about Michael’s ‘frenemies,’ those who have verbal diarrhea or are desperate for cash, or those Michael trusted selling stories for cash to tabloids. I am disgusted by all of them. And how does his family respond yet not dignify the lies? Michael deserves better.

    Posted May 3, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Permalink
  8. jeanne said . . .

    Michael’s mom said to the world in her own interview: what person would just except the money and go away if the crime was true? No mom. No mom would . A mom would persue untill the perpetrator was behind bars because no amount of money would be enough. That right there should have turned the sceptics around and set this man free. But most did not hear the evidence of the innocence. As Michael said: they want the bad news, good news doesnt sell. True and sad. We keep speaking of his innocence. Keep Michael in the good light. Back in the days of all the accusations what sealed it for me was the words of a mom and how what she said made so much sense to me, being a mom myself. Sometimes the answer is simple. Case closed. Michael’s was innocent but the media sold its soul. Those who love Michael never did.

    Posted May 3, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Permalink
  9. Suvie from India said . . .

    With more lynching by the tabloid news coming in about Michael Jackson: now his doctor reveals Michaels medical history on national TV. Will this ever stop?

    Right now, if I were Katherine Jackson in 1958 on Aug 29… Michael is my new born son and what do I do? I clutch Michael in my arms close to my heart and RUN and RUN… RUN till the end of world and save my baby from this wicked world…

    Posted May 4, 2010 at 10:15 am | Permalink
  10. Dalia said . . .

    When love is big it hurts a lot. Many people took advantage of the nobility of Michael during his lifetime, but also there were angels in his path: Liz Taylor, Brooke Shields, Elton John who helped Michael in the hardest moments of his life. Media was cruel creating a distorted image to the world. People around me still feel hatred towards Michael, a hatred produced by the tabloids. I feel helpless and because I have tried to change that, I’ve been called fanatic.

    Posted May 4, 2010 at 9:11 pm | Permalink
  11. Janet Matthews said . . .

    As always a brilliant article. Just read Dahlia’s comments, and would like to say that in the past I have been accused of having an unhealthy obsession with MJ, well if its unhealthy to want to live by his rules then we all must be the unhealthiest people on the planet. There is nothing wrong in what he stood for or what he wanted for the world and no one should feel ashamed. Its not always easy if you feel you are out on a limb, but there is growing support for the truth. We live in an electronic age and there are ways of making comments public without relying on the mass media. This is what this website is all about, and there are others out there too doing the same thing. Keep on going Rev. Barbara, I know we will get there in the end.

    Posted May 5, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Permalink
  12. Linh Ngo said . . .

    Suvie, then we wouldn’t have Michael Jackson and he wouldn’t be loved by millions. We have him because he was sent to us.

    Posted May 6, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Permalink
  13. Linh Ngo said . . .

    The messenger may be gone, but the message he brought the world lives on.

    Posted May 6, 2010 at 9:12 pm | Permalink
  14. Michelle said . . .

    Thank you. Just thank you.

    Posted May 7, 2010 at 4:37 am | Permalink
  15. Anne Mette Jepsen said . . .

    Thank you Rev. Kaufmann… LOVE and GRATITUDE 🙂

    Posted May 15, 2010 at 8:34 pm | Permalink
  16. Michelle said . . .

    Nicely written, may I say I enjoy your articles very much. One thing I would like to stress here:

    While we may blame media for Michael and Diana’s deaths, we should also realize that the media is NOT the only ones at fault. Society is at fault too; if people would stop buying all the newspapers and tabloids, they would not be lucrativeand their runaway train would come to an abrupt hault. The media is the smoking gun, but society supplies the ammunition. I was never an avid reader of this type of literature (or shall I just say “Litter!”) but after I saw what happened with Princess Diana, I have not bought a single newspaper or tabloid magazine since. I refuse to fund murderers, and the sooner the public realizes that the power is in our hands by the choices we make, the sooner the madness will stop. If it could happen to Diana and Michael, it could happen to anyone. We need to make conscious choices, think about how our choices effect the world, and ask ourself if this is the world WE want to live in. Stop the insanity before another innocent life is taken!

    Posted May 18, 2010 at 1:32 am | Permalink
  17. Steve said . . .

    When love is big it hurts a lot. Many people took advantage of the nobility of Michael during his lifetime, but also there were angels in his path: Liz Taylor, Brooke Shields, Elton John who helped Michael in the hardest moments of his life. Media was cruel creating a distorted image to the world. People around me still feel hatred towards Michael, a hatred produced by the tabloids. I feel helpless… and I have tried to change that…

    Posted May 29, 2010 at 5:11 am | Permalink

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