Web Posted: 07/05/2009 12:00 CDT As Jackson is recalled, don't forget his victims
I'm not indifferent to the talent and legacy of Michael Jackson. “Thriller” was the first music video that truly mesmerized me, especially viewing it for the first time from a war zone in Central America.
Like most baby boomers, I watched as Jackson metamorphosed from a squeaky adolescent in the Jackson 5 to a freakish adult recluse who thrilled the world with his moon walking and theatrical stage extravaganzas even as he spent millions trying to escape from what he saw in the mirror. But don't expect the Express-News to send a reporter to Los Angeles, ground zero for the worldwide outpouring of grief in the wake of Jackson's sudden death at age 50. Don't look for a special section or keepsake poster in the Express-News either.
Even worse than trying to buy a different skin color and, every few years, a new face, Jackson used his fame and wealth to pursue his obsession with young boys.
That obsession led to charges that Jackson sexually abused a boy lured to his Neverland bed, the center of his private, Peter Pan fantasy world. He was never convicted, but the charges derailed his career. He reportedly paid out tens of millions in settlements with his alleged victims.
I wonder what those boys turned men are thinking today as they observe the adulation for Jackson as he takes on the same outsized celebrity in death that he enjoyed while still alive.
Sexual abuse victims live their entire lives with the scars of lost innocence, with the consequences of being cheated by adults they trusted. It doesn't matter if it's a bus driver, a baby sitter, a teacher or a priest. Or the King of Pop.
Yet too many in our society give celebrities a pass. Even when they abuse kids. Social media networks went crazy with the news of Jackson's death, which led me to post my own tweet, acknowledging Jackson's enormous contribution to pop culture while also suggesting we remember the singer's dark side in any assessment. Now is not the time
, fans fired back, reminding me of the difference between real journalism and self-absorbed bloggers who value their own opinion more than a fully reported story. Now is the time
I don't object to people playing his music and videos, or turning on a new generation to this amazing, one-of-a-kind entertainer. But let's tell the whole story.
For that, we won't need a lottery ticket.
Maybe some of the wonderful organizations that exist to assist victims of child sexual abuse should hold their own memorial. They might not be able to fill an NBA arena, but a lot of us would support their effort. California, meanwhile, is broke.
It's paying its bills with IOUs. Seems to me the state and the city of Los Angeles would have more important priorities than throwing a party for an entertainer whose talent was always shadowed by his own destructive self-loathing.
Robert Rivard is the editor of the Express-News. E-mail him at [email protected]
. Or reach him on Twitter at @editorrivard. As Jackson is recalled, don't forget his victims