Inner Michael » No one else on Earth bears the pain of a Michael Jackson fan

No one else on Earth bears the pain of a Michael Jackson fan

This post is a combination of answers to recent letters from Michael Jackson fans. But it speaks to all the fans. In fact, this blog came about because I wrote a review of the film “This Is It,” that published, and fans began to contact me. They asked questions, they poured out their hearts; they told me tender and sensitive things I can’t repeat. It seemed at first as though their grief was disproportionate, and odd in some ways because I heard the same stories over and over about peoples’ newborn curiosity about Jackson– from people who were never fans. Many began to ask me to speak about my perceptions of the Jackson phenomenon that certainly took many forms.

There was Jackson himself, the enigma that nobody seemed to figure out, the icon that confused and bruised ingrained and culturally embedded sensibilities. His disarming seemed deliberate. His work carried a message that when decoded, revealed a man on fire– a man determined to change the world using his art, work, life and body to do it.

There was the phenomenon of the fans. They were not just grieving but they were inconsolable. They were showing signs of post trauma and of a spiritual emergency and it was not just a few individuals, it was a mass of them.

Then there was the compelling intrigue of it all and the curiosity of it. It beckoned in a way that was for more than simple curiosity or even compelling desire  to “figure this out.” What in the world was happening? How did this all come about? Why were fans so loyal, so intractably devoted and angry?

So began the study. The fans told me of their “Michaeling” which meant that they were watching his work on Youtube, reading his books, scanning the Internet for all things Michael Jackson. They were obsessed. When a well known figure dies, they become the center of focus for awhile because that’s natural but in time the intensity trails off… Not so with Michael Jackson. They were “Michaeling,” they told me– which they interpreted as compulsively seeking him out on the Internet– in videos and articles, buying his books, CDs and DVDs. They began collecting not just his work, but information. And it is still the case for many even 5 years later.

For me, the study has been an incredible journey with the discovery of all facets of an artist and from many viewpoints developed and honed over a lifetime; it’s been fascinating. “Michaeling,” though, has come to mean something else to me since I began to learn of it and through it 5 years ago. And I hope my definition goes viral like a scandal on fire because “Michaeling” has come to demonstrate to me, how fans have rallied to humanitarian causes in the name and memory of “Michael Jackson.” Schools have been funded, a children’s home been built, and a million trees planted– and that is only the beginning. That is true “Michaeling.” I hope someday the dictionary defines “Michaeling” as philanthropy in the name and honor of Michael Joe Jackson.

So many of the fans have turned their grief into action. And they have done it to honor a man who quietly did the same all his life. Something I’ve read over and over is “I am a different person. Michael Jackson changed me.”

I think the pain is so great for fans because the world is still so cruel to “Michael Jackson,” in name and in memory. It’s a bitter irony that it’s the fans who have taken the time and had the interest to research court records, studied what people said, looked into the backgrounds of those who accused and prosecuted him. They know that Michael was set up and that the first accusation of harming children came from a man who was mentally ill and wanted Michael to bankroll his career change from dentist to Hollywood screen writer. The second accusation came from a woman the jury saw as unglued, disjointed, with issues of entitlement and who had coached her children into assisting with other extortions where she received a payout. They know the scope of the corruption in this case and it takes their breath away. They have learned that Michael Jackson was seen as everybody’s benefactor and banker. The fans have studied and the fans know.

Nobody but fans have really researched this because the media saw a juicy story that could not be ignored and would not be challenged because it was so lucrative– the most famous and visible superstar in the world accused of sexual exploitation of children! It doesn’t get more juicy than that! Nothing sells like scandal! And the tabloids and tabloid journalists and tabloid TV milked it for all it was worth – bringing bags of cash and offering it to anyone who would tell them a salacious story for instant cash. Some of those offers were multiple times the target’s annual salary. So what’s more attractive– telling the truth or enough money to buy you a new house? In a sense, they are all victims too.

And the mainstream media jealous of the money the tabs were making followed in their path and did exactly the same thing. They learned that a “Michael Jackson” story sells. Any Michael Jackson story, whether true or not. When your editor realizes that a single individual can double and triple sales and circulation, reporters are going to be sent out to “get the story.” And what do they do when there is no story? Go back to their editor empty handed? No, they just take a piece of innocuous information and make something up. It’s evil. Pure and simple. No stuttering, no excuses. It was evil and the evil was rampant.

There’s even a name for it. When hysterical evil infects a society, it is like a virus that spreads to everyone involved or observing. The Indigenous people knew this phenomenon and even have a name for it– Windigo or Wetiko. It truly is a psychological madness that grips everyone downwind of it and in the case of Michael Jackson, because he was so famous and so beloved, that was the whole world because the world was downwind.

The pain that fans feel is not just the loss of “their idol” as the most guilty of those exploitive reporters has insisted and shouted and written in service to perpetuating it as a cultural meme. He’s not their idol, not in the way that slur toward the fans is meant. And not in the way most mean that or use that word.

Jackson fans do admire him for the way he retained dignity and strength in the face of an evil nobody else on earth has had to endure. And they feel the loss of a man who was tortured for no reason, who was innocent (confirmed by a jury that actually EXAMINED the evidence– or in this case lack of evidence,} and claimed by many who personally knew him, were close to him, and trusted him.) Jackson loved children but not in the way the virus of evil has captured imaginations and spread salacious and unfounded information. He championed children’s causes around the world, donated medical equipment in every city he toured, gave millions to charity (sometimes all the earnings from an entire tour,) quietly paid medical bills for parents who couldn’t afford them, found organ donors for some who would die without them, and even paid for funerals in cases where families didn’t have the money. He didn’t build Neverland for himself; he built it as a gift to the thousands of poor, sick and inner-city children who visited the ranch some attended by his staff in his absence because he was working elsewhere.

He’s not an “idol” but he is to be admired– a deeply religious and spiritual man who stood tall and faced unprecedented mocking and bullying as he found himself in the perfect storm at a time in human history where scandal was more attractive than integrity. Where humans were stuck in an evolutionary phase where it was more lucrative to behave as adolescents in a juvenile way and where scandal was raging in the body politic like hormones in puberty. The fans know that we humans are better than this and it was Michael himself who attempted to tell us all. They hurt because the world got it so wrong and has done nothing to correct it.

The pain is deep because it is all so unjust, the lies and unexamined assumptions and racism continue to this day, and they feel helpless to change it and find the whole situation sometimes just hopeless. It’s the virulent sting of powerlessness. The infection is too widespread, the wound too gaping. It is because their fellow humans (humanity) is consciously or not, caught up in it as well. And on top of that injury is the insult that Michael is gone.

It’s not that he is the fans’ “idol” or even their “angel” though some of the more sentimental individuals may feel that way (puberty and delayed puberty or addiction to drama and adrenalin will do that.) But it is more the archetype of the martyr– someone who dies for a cause. Someone who gives his life for a cause, for something noble and just and magnificent. Someone who throws down his body to serve his fellow man. It is that the martyrdom is not yet revealed nor is the cause clear. And therein lies the excruciating torment of incessant injustice heaped on grief.

In the midst of their sorrow is hidden the ghost of humanity and innocence lost for no reason that does not represent evil. The truth and reason live in the future while there are those who live now to suppress it, who insist on calling the fans “crazy” for the same reason they exploited Michael in the first place– for their own gain. Facing the truth of that is a living hell. Who would invite that? Admitting that to self is impossible because it would make clear one’s own complicity in the spread of evil upon humanity. So admitting it to the world is out of the question.

The truth of the matter is far greater than it first appears, far more vast than grasped in a glance, more archetypal than is realized. It is not just about Michael Jackson; it’s about many, many things that involve all humanity. Thus the size of the pain for fans of Michael Jackson. And no one else on this Earth bears it.

All Donations currently are being used to publish the “Words and Violence” Compendium, a project with more than 600 pages of resources about bullying with words– from the playground to the media. The Compendia will be shared with schools, childrens’ programs, educators and other supporters.

“Words and Violence” studies the impact of words when used as weapons to promote violence.

The work is dedicated to Michael Jackson and Lady Diana Spencer.



  1. Dalia said . . .

    As always Barbara, you have the most accurate words to communicate your message . It is so true and painful what you express here. We are heartbroken in a world that continues to turn its back to Michael. So great is the damage caused by media is a “hard wall to cross.” I feel isolated by being a fan.

    I had to choose to create two FB accounts because family and friends (not fans) found uncomfortable and annoying to hear my admiration for MJ. And that makes me feel like “Crazy ” or “Plagued ” somehow . And I’ve surprised family members when I overheard them talking about my “illness” and “madness” to MJ ( in my absence of course.)

    A few days ago I found a message in my FB inbox from a man who wrote me and said ” I’m intrigued to know why your admiration and love for a “degenerate p………ile.” I took it in stride and with a smile of patience, because I know that he is another “victim” of more disinformation. I pointed out that he should not judge without knowing, just basing on what you saw on TV or read in a tabloid. I explained briefly how the media works, as they lie in exchange for earnings, that we are ” sheep ” of the media. And if one does not want to be “zombie,” one should learn from good sources, investigate and give the benefit of the doubt to everything you read, hear and see on TV.

    Finally I shared the MJ video ” Man Behind the Myth” … he promised to watch the video , I hope he does… Finally, lies about Michael are very easy to find in a research of google, there are so many lies in the red and easy to find, that is why people are still ignorant. They just judge without research… Now I am a soldier of love, or at least that is what I attempt every day in his honor.

    Posted May 1, 2014 at 5:44 am | Permalink
  2. B. Kaufmann said . . .

    Hello D. It is very concerning how the media operates now and people lack critical thinking skills. They don’t develop critical thinking because it isn’t taught well. Besides that, they expect the media to be accurate and tell them the truth. Instead, what they get is information prioritized in favor of the highest bidder.

    People are waking up to this, albeit slowly. The “Occupy” movement tried to make people aware that the 1% wealthy sector of society control most of the information that is disseminated. Politicians can now buy elections by pouring money into campaigns. The Citizens United Supreme Court decision here in the U.S. sanctioned dark money (origins untraceable) in political campaigns. People here are trying to reverse the trend by asserting that “money is not free speech” and does not represent the majority (which is how a democracy is supposed to work) and that “corporations are not people” (although legally they enjoy the same civil rights.)

    Big business backed by big money continues to push a model of consumerism and profit that doesn’t work, is destroying the planet and if continued will eventually extinguish all life. It is collective insanity. It’s an infection, a psychosis, an egocentric virus that infects and feeds on everyone. It reminds me of the insanity of the cold war and the nuclear arms race. We have built enough in our arsenals to end life on the planet. Was that sane? Most are blind to this epidemic of greed, evil and big money that would like to keep them blind and stupid– uniformed or misinformed so that they “buy” whatever is being sold to them. Studies have now shown that the wealthy are the least generous people on earth. The insanity of all this is: when you are a billionaire, how much more money do you need in order for it to be “enough?” And how fair is it for the very wealthy to control the planet? How fair is it when 1 in 5 children on this earth go to bed hungry every night? How fair when women and children and people of color and minorities are viewed as “instruments” or even possessions with diminished humanness? How fair when the wealthy deny hard working people a living wage? How fair when someone becomes a “commodity” to be used and when used up, discarded?

    Michael Jackson dared to challenge social and cultural values and he did it very publicly and on a global scale. He was a popular superstar and commanded a huge audience. And he was a black man daring to step out of the trance and to try to wake people up with his art. Art is very powerful; never underestimate the power of art in pop culture.

    The fastest way to ruin someone and take their power away , shred their credibility and strip them of their humanity, is to accuse them of sexual misconduct with children. It’s one of the few things that is more powerful than art.

    It’s hard to fathom. It’s hard to hold out hope for humanity. It’s hard not to be angry. It’s hard to be generous or forgive under some circumstances especially when the offense is unforgiveable. But what you did with the gentleman you cite here is not condemn him, but ask him to open his eyes. We all forget the humanity in the blind and infected. Wasn’t it Jesus who said “Father forgive them for they know not what they do?” What you did is admirable. I have to work on this every day of my life. It’s doesn’t come easy.

    My greatest heartbreak is that if the fans had come together in solidarity to tackle the real issues of social justice that Michael Jackson stood for instead of the petty fights and jealousy among themselves, the world would already be on its way to the dream Michael (and many of us) dreamed. The fans numbered in the millions. Many turned away because of the ugliness and immaturity they witnessed. So Windigo won again. An opportunity was lost that we can never get back.

    Another opportunity is forming as we speak. The right people are paying attention. They are not driven by ego, petty jealousy or malignant competition. They have left their egos at the door and are rolling up their sleeves to “Heal the World” because they already know and practice “We are The World.” Michael would be proud.

    Posted May 1, 2014 at 2:11 pm | Permalink
  3. gertrude said . . .

    great piece, well worthy of going “viral”.

    Posted May 1, 2014 at 7:44 pm | Permalink
  4. B. Kaufmann said . . .

    Hi G. I’d settle for the new definition of “Michaeling” going viral.

    Posted May 1, 2014 at 9:12 pm | Permalink
  5. Nina Hamilton said . . .

    Dear Barbara. I am so glad you wrote this wonderful piece and that I read it! Very uplifting. I am one of those fans who is still Michaeling five years on. I have just sent $20 to pay for colouring book, crayons and games to be sent to a hospital in Bristol, England for sick children. This is part of the Michael Jackson Dream Foundation project to raise money to build a Michael Jackson Children’s Hospital some day. Tomorrow I plan to leave a card with one of his messages at a public house/restaurant. All these things help with that pain. What can we do to make the new Michaeling go viral?

    Posted May 2, 2014 at 10:37 pm | Permalink
  6. B. Kaufmann said . . .

    Bless you for your generous heart. Keep using the term “Michaeling” to describe what you’re doing and explain how it came about and what it means. I have been wanting to feature some things fans are doing and want to do that soon when some other projects are farther advanced. (There are several underway.)
    Another thing you can do is, when you can, help with the “Words and Violence” publishing costs (see bottom of page.) Words and Violence, as you know, was founded in 2009 when I invited fans to help me begin the project with case studies about bullying. That is where The Caricature ; White as New Fallen Snow (Vitiligo case) ; and Street Bum, Angel, or… came from. We asked Joe Vogel to write something for “Words and Violence” and he wrote: Am I the Beast You VIsualized? The Cultural Abuse of Michael Jackson And Charles Thomson loaned us copyright and use of: One of the Most Shameful Episodes in Journalistic History

    There are many stellar contributors including Academy Award Winning Composer Rachel Portman (the first female composer to win an Oscar- for “Lake House” starring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves) who wrote me personally to say how honored she was to be asked to include her music in the “Words and Violence” video.

    The list of contributors grows every year with more and more artists- because art can change the world! Writers, Designers, Contributors:

    The project has grown to more than 600 pages of resources about bullying in all its incarnations– from the playground to the tabloids to the mortuary. Voices Education is now in 140 countries.

    The 3rd edition showcased the performing arts as communicator and catalyst for change and the new 4th edition we are working on will examine ways in which we bully the planet. See One Wordsmith Invitation

    We’d like to get this compendium (a 40 page booklet with all the entries of Words and Violence with a paragraph that explains each entry) into the hands of teachers, schools, educators, civic leaders.

    Posted May 2, 2014 at 11:42 pm | Permalink
  7. Cristina said . . .

    I feel as if you had read my mind … You’ve expressed exactly what Michael’s fans feel. Thanks for giving voice to my thoughts. It´s so exciting… Hugs from Spain.

    Posted May 3, 2014 at 7:41 pm | Permalink
  8. Greet Belgium said . . .

    Thank you Barbara ! That is exactly how it feels, I can assure you. It is in my opinion, a miracle– what has been happening since “that” June 25. And yes, I am still Michaeling (in both senses), and I am sure I will as long as I am able to. It is good to hear/read that I (we) are not alone. In the last years I realize how “different” I became after getting to “know” Michael. I am happy for that, I would never want to go back, but like you said, there comes a burden with becoming a MJ “fan”, a pain. But then : there is so much more good about it….

    Posted May 4, 2014 at 5:56 pm | Permalink
  9. Christine said . . .

    Thank you, B. Kaufmann, for articulating my exact feelings. The grief truly has felt like it was a lot more weighty than anyone would have expected to have to deal with, including the length of time that it will continue (forever, on our Earth). Now I understand my pain much better. I see the ugliness of humanity and I can only fight it by being kind and loving, which is what Michael knew to do. God give us all the strength.
    When I look at Michael, I can see the Light. His light shines on forever.

    Posted February 1, 2015 at 7:49 am | Permalink

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