Today, huge crowds will gather in L.A. to memorialize Michael Jackson. More than a million-and-a-half people tried to get tickets. I do understand. Right out of the gate, I want to say how much I enjoy his music. He was an amazing artist and an exciting performer, and I sometimes find myself humming his songs while I write. "Billy Jean" is my favorite.
That said, I'm uncomfortable with this outpouring of adulation and the massive media coverage it's scheduled to receive. There's little beyond a presidential inauguration that merits live coverage on six networks. But that's what we're doing today for Jackson's service. Why? Come on, folks. Why are we doing this? Especially when we consider the circumstances of his life and his death.
I am sincerely very sorry for Michael Jackson's children, for his family. For them, this is a true tragedy. But why are we making Jackson a hero in death, when he wasn't in life? The truth is that Jackson was a very troubled man. Need proof? Look at the way he paid doctors to disfigure his own face.
Second: He was an addict. For many years, Jackson was known to be addicted to prescription meds. His family tried to stage an intervention. In his final months, friends worried about his drug use. It was so bad that just weeks before his death, Jackson begged a nurse to inject him with Propofol, a powerful anesthetic used exclusively in operating rooms. Despite the drug's dangers, it appears that he found someone to hand it over to him, since the drug was found in his home. Autopsy results aren't in yet, but will anyone be surprised to find out that Jackson's death is the result of some misuse of narcotics?
This at a time when prescription drug abuse is a growing trend among teenagers. In January 2008, around the time actor Heath Ledger died of a combination of prescription drugs, a study was released that showed today's teens abuse prescription meds more than any other type of drug, with the exception of pot. Yet here we are, again as we did with Ledger, portraying the death of a celebrity who died of such drug abuse as a national tragedy.
What message does this send to our children?
Then there's the way past child molestation charges against Jackson are being white-washed in the media. Now I haven't seen everything, so if your experience is different than mine, perhaps you're watching other channels, reading other articles? What I've noted is an ongoing tribute to Jackson the performer and a write-off of the questions surrounding his behavior with children. Whenever it's brought up, I've heard a brief mention of his 2005 trial on charges of child sexual abuse and an immediate dismissal of the case's validity.
"He was acquitted," Matt Lauer quickly said when Vanity Fair's Maureen Orth mentioned the trial on the Today Show.
Orth agreed but then went on to peg the reason for the not guilty verdict not on Jackson's innocence but his talented legal team, especially defense attorney Thomas Mesereau, who all but put the mother of Jackson's 13-year-old accuser on trial instead of Jackson. In the end, many press reports theorized that jurors voted not guilty more out of contempt for the boy's mother than support of the King of Pop. (That's Jackson showing up at court in his pajamas on the right.)
But the 2005 allegations weren't the only ones. Remember the 1993 case, dropped after Jackson settled with another young boy and his family for a reported $22 million? I do.
My point is that there are certainly a lot of questions about Michael Jackson. This man is not a role model, not someone to be idolized. Yet that's what we're doing. Through this over-the-top coverage, we're buying into the myth of Michael Jackson the tragic superstar, and we're setting him up to be remembered for decades to come, especially by our children, as a fallen hero. Is that really what we want to do?
Personally, I'm left regretting that there isn't some kind of test that could be run on autopsy to confirm or disprove allegations that the man Jackson looked at in the mirror each morning was a pedophile.
In the week following his death, Jackson was autopsied twice. First up was an L.A. County coroner. Then, due to questions about the circumstances surrounding Jackson's demise, a private autopsy commissioned by the Jackson family. Once the medical examiners made the "Y" cut through Jackson's chest, sternum to belly button, they inspected his internal organs, his heart, lungs, his kidneys and his liver. They used a saw to slice through his skull and examined his brain. Theoretically, they should have been able to diagnose all the superstar's illnesses.
Pedophilia, however, doesn't show up on autopsy. Experts could run every known test on Jackson's brain and not uncover evidence either proving or disproving the claims made against him over the past sixteen years. The result is that without some concrete evidence emerging, Michael Jackson has taken his secrets to the grave.
So I'm left wondering about the wisdom of turning Jackson's death into a national tragedy, and I'm uncomfortable about celebrating the life of a man who abused drugs and may have victimized young children. What about the rest of you?