Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 818, 23 January 2004.
Michael Jackson, the 45-year-old black megastar dubbed King of Pop for his stellar musical career, is once again being hounded by vicious state prosecutors and unscrupulous media vultures on yet another witchhunt over alleged child molestation charges, to which he entered a not guilty plea on January 16. Last November, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Thomas Sneddon announced an arrest warrant for Michael Jackson, a day after no less than 70 police investigators invaded Jacksons 2,700-acre Neverland Ranch to conduct a privacy-busting search into his palatial estate. Set up for maximum humiliation, Michael Jackson surrendered himself to police for booking on November 20, and was released after posting an outrageous three million dollar bail, many times more than that set for high-profile murder cases. He was charged with seven counts of child molestation and two counts of administering alcohol to a child. After Jackson reported on 60 Minutes that he was mistreated during the arrest, the Santa Barbara sheriff threatened further criminal charges against Jackson for daring to even speak out about his treatment.
Since then Jacksons life has been plunged into chaos; reportedly already mired in debt, even if he wins this case, Jackson stands to lose millions of dollars in legal fees, not to mention what further impact it might have on his life and career. Should he lose, he could face the prospect of spending the rest of his life behind bars, as each charge carries three to eight years in jail.
This case is a government-sponsored anti-sex witchhunt, targeting a man who is famous for challenging both racial and sexual identities. It showcases the hellhole that is capitalist America, where the government persecutes people for real or imagined sexual adventuresespecially if they involve minorswhile extolling the virtues of democracy and freedom by bombing whole countries into submission. The capitalist media, whose main job is to indoctrinate the population with bourgeois values and prejudices such as anti-gay bigotry and racial stereotyping, advance like hungry hyenas on celebrities such as Michael Jackson whenever they dare break the one man on one woman for life (as long as theyre adults!) ideal. Deviance, as can be seen by watching most of the celebrity shows available, is punished with harassment, moral reprobation and, whenever possible, state prosecution, to set examples for the masses. And to be a target for state and media harassment, who better than a black man who sounds very feminine, wears makeup, looks whiter than many pedigreed whites and openly professes a love for sharing his bed with pubescent, mostly white, boys?
As we said a decade ago when Michael Jackson was facing similar accusations:
Witchhunts like the one against Michael Jackson are manipulated for reactionary political ends and serve to reinforce the bourgeoisies warped and indecent values through fear and intimidation.
Stop the Witchhunt Against Michael Jackson! WV No. 592, 21 January 1994
These morality campaigns are really designed to prop up and glorify the repressive institution of the family, the main source of oppression of women and children under capitalism. They serve as battering rams for social reaction, from anti-gay bigotry to anti-abortion and anti-science campaigns. The state has no business interfering in peoples private lives, much less in what goes on with peoples crotches. Government out of the bedroom!
Much has been said about Jacksons bizarre appearance and lifestyle. He seems to commune with chimps and giraffes more than with human beings, loves children to the point of obsession, changes his facial features as one would change a cellphone plate. But despite decades of criticism over his facial reconstructive surgeries which have given him an otherworldly (and decidedly non-black) appearance, Michael looks downright angelic compared to the truly ghoulish creep-meister, District Attorney Thomas Sneddon. Sneddon exhibited such unbridled glee over his chance to nab Jacksonalmost foaming at the mouth in front of the camerasthat he later had to apologize for some of his remarks. These included referring to Jackson as Jacko Wacko in an interview with Court TV (20 November 2003) and urging the throngs of reporters and cameramen in town to report on the case to stay long and spend lots of money because we need your sales tax to support our offices (Associated Press, 26 November 2003).
This is the same guy who tried to put Jackson behind bars in 1993, when an equally flimsy accusation of child molestation by a then-13-year-old boy led to an eerily similar media circus and subjected the artist to unspeakable humiliation, including having pictures of his genitals taken. Everybody now knows the outcome: after months of unbearable scrutiny and a career left in tatters, Jackson reached a settlement resulting in a reported 20 million dollar purchase of the accusers silence.
But details that came out after investigation by GQ reporter Mary Fisher unveiled a very transparent frame-up by the accusers parents and lawyers, including evidence that money had been asked for by the boys father before the boy actually alleged any sexual abuse. Most damning was the fact that the child had been administered Sodium Amytal, a drug that puts people in a hypnotic state, before the first accusations of sexual abuse were made. As far back as 1952, studies have shown that false memories can be easily implanted in those under its influence. Fisher quotes Cleveland psychiatrist Phillip Resnick: It is quite possible to implant an idea through the mere asking of a question.... The idea can become their memory, and studies have shown that even when you tell them the truth, they will swear on a stack of Bibles that it happened (Was Michael Jackson Framed? The Untold Story, GQ, October 1994). And this is what Sneddon wanted to use as evidence, until the settlement denied him any witnesses to prosecute the case.
A Case Made in...a Hollywood Basement?
This time around, the prosecutions basis for a case, even using the current draconian, anti-sex laws being invoked, is running thinner than a Hollywood diet soup. In fact, new California laws on child molestation were passed specifically in response to the 1993 witchhunt of Michael Jackson. These include tougher sentencing and relaxed requirements for admitting evidence, including allowing hearsay. Even if the child retracts his charges of sexual abuse, the prosecution of the defendant can still continue. Strangest of all, any prior allegations against the accused can be admitted into evidence, even if the charges had been retracted or were shown to be outright lies, because they supposedly show a propensity to commit an offensesounds more like a propensity to be framed up by vindictive prosecutors.
The current case itself is one of flimsy argumentation, unreliable characters and zero evidence. It turns out that between 14 and 27 February 2003 the accusing boy, his mother and his siblings were interviewed by Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services in an investigation following a British TV documentary aired on ABC last February which shows the boy saying he had slept over at the Neverland Ranch with Michael Jackson. The mother told the investigators that her children are never left alone with Michael, and when her son slept in Michaels bedroom, they never actually shared a bed. The boy and his brother explicitly denied any sexual contact with the pop star. His sister, who accompanied her brothers on sleepovers at Neverland, corroborated this, saying that she had never seen anything sexually inappropriate between her brothers and the entertainer. The department and the police concluded the allegations were unfounded (www.thesmokinggun.com, 9 December 2003).
Sometime later, the boys mother decided something improper indeed had happened. But as the Observer (30 November 2003) notes, the boy only revealed the supposed improprieties after seeing a therapistand he was taken to the therapist after his family had already contacted a lawyer linked to the 1993 allegations of child molestation against Jackson. And despite the D.A.s assertion that the sexual contact happened after the first investigation by the Los Angeles authorities, theres a curious overlap, since the charges state the lewd acts happened starting on February 7, that is, a week before the first investigation. As former L.A. prosecutor Chris Darden, of O.J. Simpson fame, said: Apparently the D.A....expects us to believe that Michael Jackson not only molested this kid prior to the childrens services investigation, but while the investigation was going on. And then continued to molest this child even after that investigation (CNN Legal Roundup, 19 December 2003).
According to Harvey Levin, producer of Celebrity Justice, This boy told a therapist that Michael Jackson fondled him in his private parts, but hes a very reluctant witness. He did not come out and spill his guts about what allegedly happened between him and Michael Jackson. Were told it literally had to be pulled out of him, first by attorney Larry Feldman and then by a therapist, who ultimately got the story from the boy (Yahoo! India News, 29 November 2003). This all sounds like its another of those cases of fake recovered memories. What is clear is that whatever happened (if anything happened) between the two was entirely consensual.
Within the boys family, accusations have been flying back and forth about the character of those involved. The boys father, who lost custody of the children after he pleaded no contest to charges of spousal abuse and child cruelty, claims the mother made their kids lie about those charges and is now fighting to overturn them. He says he believes Michael Jacksons side of the story and is trying to get a separate lawyer for the kid in the case (Celebrity Justice, 1 December 2003).
A Modern-Day Lynching, Indeed
This case has garnered worldwide attention, as befits a record-breaking entertainer. Fans from Tokyo to Budapest have held vigils and demonstrations in support of Michael Jackson. Even spunky Canadian Web site www.injusticebusters .com took time off from frigid Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for a moment to comment on this most evident of injustices, comparing it to the McMartin day-care case of 20 years ago in Los Angeles. Then, wildly fantasized tales of satanic rituals and sexual abuse of children led to a widespread anti-sex witchhunt and the destruction of dozens of lives, including those of the kids who were brainwashed into believing in their own victimization.
It is noteworthy that among American blacks, Jacksons support runs particularly strong. In the entertainment business, several high-profile black artists, from King of Comedy Steve Harvey to R&B diva Alicia Keys to rappers LL Cool J and Missy Elliott, have rallied in support of Jackson. Black Democrats Jesse Jackson Sr. and Al Sharpton have taken short breaks from their perennial gigs as fringe liberals selling illusions in the Democratic Party to address the clear sense of injustice around this case. Even the virulently anti-gay, anti-anything-sexual Nation of Islam of Louis Farrakhan has taken up his defense with a front-page article in their paper, where they summarize black activist Dick Gregorys reaction to Michaels arrest: If they can do this to a Michael Jacksonwith his money and staturethen they can do it to anyone in the Black community (Michael Jackson: Innocent Until Proven Guilty, Final Call, 4 December 2003). As his brother Jermaine Jackson so aptly put it, this persecution is a modern-day lynching (CNN, 20 November 2003).
Down With Puritanical Anti-Sex Laws!
There is a justifiable felt anger over seeing that, in racist America, having money does not exempt you from being a target for state persecution and frame-ups when youre born black. But many of those who are defending Jackson this time around would quite like the idea of incarcerating proven pedophiles. People who normally embrace the most backward, anti-gay, anti-pedophile religious consciousness are embracing Jackson, and that is in fact a good thing for him. But unlike the myriad ministers and rap stars around who claim Michael could never be guilty of such a heinous crime as having sex with 12-year-old boys, we defend him against state persecution particularly because we fight for peoples right to have consensual sex with whomever they choose. The only guideline that ought to exist in sexual relations is the rule of effective consent, regardless of age, gender or race. Michael Jacksons defense is also a defense of everyones privacy and sexual freedom.
While it is possible that Michael Jackson has been thoroughly asexual in his relationships with boys, as he steadfastly maintains, to us that is irrelevant. Jackson has been charged under part of the California penal code involving a lewd act upon a child. It prohibits acts with the intention of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions or sexual desires of the person or the child. The state clearly and willfully does not distinguish between coerced and consensual sexual acts.
The capitalist state is intent on banning all sex for young people to prepare them for a life of unfulfilled desires and urges by imposing abstinence, guilt and fear about wanting to have sex. These laws have nothing to do with protecting children; all they do is enforce puritanical values pushed by religion, and provide a moral justification for government interference in all other aspects of life. As Marxists, we reject all laws that criminalize consensual sex for youth, with or without adult partners. Down with all reactionary age of consent laws!
The Jackson case represents an intersection of blatant anti-gay bigotry, the reactionary state-enforced stigma against intergenerational sex, and racial prejudice. And just as we defend Michael Jackson against this vicious vendetta, we have always defended the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA)which advocates the right of men and boys to consensual sexual relationsagainst state repression. We oppose the governments Internet snooping and anti-child-porn dragnets, which criminalize not only sexual encounters but even the use of visual aids for masturbation.
In the horribly repressive, anti-sex United States of the 21st century, people like Jackson who dare to openly interact physically with children, whether or not there is sex involved, are stigmatized and persecuted. When Oscar Wilde was sent to prison in 1895, by the standards of the narrow-minded, petty and intolerant morals of Victorian England he was guilty not only of gross indecency (homosexuality) but also of corrupting the morals of youth. Today nearly everyone agrees that Wilde was brutally victimized by his puritan prosecutors. Yet his two-year hard-labor sentence would be considered far too lenient by modern American standards; many a convicted pedophile has been sent to jail for decades for charges similar to those against Jackson or Wilde. How far weve progressed in the last century!
Michael Jackson is also facing attempts to yank his three children from his custody, since anyone charged with child molestation ends up being considered an unfit parent by the courts. Publicity hound Gloria Allred, an attorney on a personal vendetta against Jackson ever since she briefly represented his 1993 accuser, has again asked child welfare officials to take his kids, claiming a substantial risk that a child will be sexually abused by his or her parent (AP, 21 November 2003). Allred, notorious for trying to take away O.J. Simpsons kids after his trial, has been gunning for Jackson ever since the odd (but hardly infanticidal) incident where he held his baby son over the balcony of a German hotel for the benefit of his fans. Anyone who has any knowledge about the horrors of state custody of children should see this as another example of the states complete disregard for kids welfareand how these moral crusaders family values have nothing to do with protecting kids, or anyone else for that matter. Hands off Michael Jackson! Leave him alone!