Friday, March 8, 2019

What we can learn from "Leaving Neverland"


Pepsi commercial - Michael Jackson and James Safechuck
Before I get into this I have no intention of having a debate with rabid Michael Jackson fans. I have read all of their arguments. In my opinion Michael Jackson was a pedophile who sexually molested young boys. I also believe that, in addition to the two men profiled in Leaving Neverland, there are numerous other victims including Gavin Arvizo (the subject of the 2005 criminal trial). Mine is a carefully considered opinion.

If you have not seen Leaving Neverland two men, James Safechuck and Wade Robson, claim that Michael Jackson abused them from the late 1980s to the mid 1990s. Safechuck met Jackson at age 10 in 1986 when he performed in a Pepsi commercial. Robson met Jackson at age five in 1987 in his native Australia.

Jackson was an experienced and skilled groomer. The abuse began as soon as Jackson was able to be alone with these kids. In one of the creepiest parts of the documentary, Safechuck describes a mock wedding with Jackson when he was 11. Jackson gave him a diamond studded ring which Safechuck displayed with his hands violently shaking while saying that he does not like to look at the jewelry that Jackson gave him.

Wade Robson described the experience of giving Jackson a blowjob when Robson was about seven. There are stories of anal sex and bloody underwear. It's enough to make me want to vomit.

Robson and Safechuck denied being abused for years. What caused both men to admit what Jackson did to them was when they had children of their own. Theirs was the realization of how vulnerable kids are and how the first obligation of a parent is to protect their children.
Homophobia worked in Jackson's favor:
One of the reasons that Michael Jackson was able to keep his victims from admitting that they were molested was the fear that they would be considered gay or unmanly. These children were all abused well before marriage equality and at a time when gay conversion therapy was in the mainstream. Their testimonies denying the abuse occurred when they were teens; when they would be most sensitive and vulnerable to being perceived as gay.

Jackson programmed the children with all the right answers and the consequences for giving the wrong answers to any questions. They were thoroughly indoctrinated. Keep in mind that they were in complete awe of Jackson. Aside from his reputation as a performer — “The King of Pop” — these kids experienced first hand the lifestyle of someone with seemingly unlimited financial resources (compared to their own families).

The children could never have imagined that anyone lived like Michael Jackson until they visited Jackson's homes including Neverland. And Jackson claimed to deeply love them while making them feel important. He made them feel that they were the center of his attention. Jackson also protected the children from the outside world and even their own parents. It is easy to understand why they would do Jackson's bidding including lying about a relationship which would come to an end if they told the truth. Even as adults, they clamored for Jackson's love.
Parental pimps:
Michael Jackson was extremely skillful at enlisting the aid of parents as procurers. Not just star-struck, these parents perceived that friendship with Jackson put an ATM on their front lawn. They lived like the rich and famous at times. In my opinion the mothers of Jordan Chandler, James Safechuck and Wade Robson were complicit in the abuse of their children. Aside from luxury hotel suites and first class airfare, Safechuck's parents received a free home.

These parents allowed their sons to sleep with Jackson, a complete stranger. Like many pedophiles Jackson pretended to be childlike. It is intended to make them seem nonthreatening. Parents bought the act because they liked the first class travel and the potential for riches.
An anti-gay trope unravels:
In conservative Christian circles many people believe that all gay people are gay because they were sexually abused. In reality there is no correlation. The boys whom Michael Jackson abused or is alleged to have abused are heterosexual adults. Wade Robson and Jim Safechuck are both married to women. So is Gavin Arvizo. Macaulay Culkin (who claims not to have been abused by Jackson) has led a strictly heterosexual life. We know very little about Brett Barnes who is believed to live in Australia. Barnes also claims not to have been molested by Jackson.  Similarly, Jordan Chandler is believed to have changed his name. Chandler is the beneficiary of a $21 million settlement.

Admittedly this is a small sample but if sexual abuse caused homosexuality you would think that at least one of these now adults would be gay. This meme seems to have developed because of ex-gays. Most (if not all) of them claim that they were sexually abused as children. This solves a couple of problems. If true then sexual orientation is not genetic and it was not their fault that they were once gay. Blame and shame are important concepts among religious conservatives.
Michael Jackson was not gay:
Leaving Neverland makes it easy to understand the difference between a gay man and a man who is a pedophile preying on young boys. We can fully appreciate that the sex of child victims does not establish the sexual orientation of the molester. Michael Jackson was not attracted to age-comparable men. He was attracted to little boys and that is not homosexuality.

For the record, pedophiles are not entitled to equal rights, an argument sometimes used to devalue LGBT rights. Their conduct is illegal. Minors cannot consent.
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I saw Michael Jackson perform at the Meadowlands in 1988 (I was a C.O.O. and one of my employees — a CPA — did some work for Jackson on the side. We were comped). It took several hours for my ears to stop ringing from the ridiculously over-amped sound system but Jackson was a first-rate performer. He was also a monster who led a tortured life. His own sister, LaToya, said that Michael was a pedophile. Jackson left a great deal of misery in his wake.

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