With your Pen, you Torture Men

Joie:  So, Willa, I’ve been thinking lately about Michael’s existence and about how surreal it would be to have that kind of public scrutiny on your life 24/7. Can you imagine how crazy that would be? Or how special your quiet, private time would become to you if that were your life? I can’t imagine being a public figure on that level. Well, on any level really but, especially on that level. When I really just sit and contemplate it, it blows my mind. He really was one of those people who the world loved to watch and hear about. Whether you loved him or loved to hate him, everybody always wanted more – we couldn’t get enough of him.

Willa:  That’s true, Joie. His whole life was conducted on a global stage – not just his performances, but his off-screen life too. And as you say, it’s almost impossible to imagine what that would be like. What if every embarrassing thing you’d ever said or done ever in your life was exposed to the whole world? Or if your most painful moments were on display and debated by a global audience? Just imagine – your wife files for divorce, which is painful enough, but then millions of people around the world feel free to speculate about whether she ever really loved you to begin with. That’s just unimaginable to me.

Joie:  It is unimaginable. And impossible to wrap your head around. He often wrote about his experiences in songs like “Leave Me Alone,” “Scream” and “Privacy.” And he was often accused by critics of being paranoid because of it. And actually, if you think about it, there are many, many songs that could fall into the ‘perceived paranoia’ category. Songs like “Tabloid Junkie,” “Money,” and “Is It Scary.” Even songs like “2Bad” and “This Time Around.” And the really big one that comes to my mind is the unreleased song, “Xscape.” Those lyrics are all about that ‘perceived paranoia.’

Everywhere I turn, no matter where I look
The system’s in control, it’s all run by the book
I’ve got to get away so I can clear my mind,
Xscape is what I need,
Away from electric eyes
No matter where I am, I see my face around
They pen lies on my name, then push from town to town
Don’t have a place to run, but there’s no need to hide,
I’ve got to, find a place,
So I won’t hide away
(Xscape) Got to get away from the system loose in the world today
(Xscape) The pressure that I face from relationships that could go away
(Xscape) The man with the pen that writes the lies that hassle this man
(Xscape) I do what I wanna cause I gotta please nobody but me

I love that song so much; I really hope it finds its way onto a proper album someday so everyone can enjoy it. But for now, here’s a version you can listen to on YouTube:

Willa:  Wow, Joie, I’d never heard that song before, but it’s fascinating, isn’t it? The drums have this rat-tat-tat-tat rhythm, like machine gun fire, and there are electronic sound effects that really give a sense that he’s under surveillance, or even being hunted by those “electric eyes.” And the lyrics reflect that too – it really feels like, no matter where he travels, he’s in a confined space with the walls closing in.

Joie:  The words are really sort of sad in a way. What is that like to see your face on all the tabloids, everywhere you look, with unflattering, untrue, and even downright nasty headlines attached to it?

You know, I never really understood the whole paranoia claim. Yes, he seemed to make a point of including at least one such song on every album but, why label him paranoid for simply writing a song about his life experience? That just doesn’t seem fair to me.

Willa:  And you aren’t being paranoid if what you’re saying is true. You’re only being paranoid if you have a delusional sense that people are out to get you when they aren’t. But people really were out to get him, from paparazzi ambushing him for a shock photo, to alleged business partners suing him for a piece of his wealth, to family members trying to guilt him into concerts he didn’t want to do, to executives trying to squeeze every last drop of revenue out of him that they could. That wasn’t paranoia. That was his life.

Joie:  Exactly! That was his life! You know, I was watching the Golden Globes a few weeks ago and Jodie Foster was being given the Cecil B. DeMille Award for her lifetime achievements to her craft. And in her speech, she said something that really struck me and immediately made me think of Michael. She said,

“But seriously, if you had been a public figure from the time that you were a toddler, if you’d had to fight for a life that felt real and honest and normal against all odds, then maybe you too might value privacy above all else. Privacy.”

That part of her speech really stood out for me because, as we all know, Jodie Foster is a notoriously private actress who is almost as famous for the way she fiercely guards that privacy as she is for her amazingly impressive catalog of films. She’s also someone who can totally relate to what Michael must have gone through in his lifetime. Like Michael, she became a huge star and a household name at a very, very young age, and she has gone to great lengths over the years to “fight for a life that felt real and honest and normal.” Yet, to my knowledge, no one has ever accused her of being paranoid for trying to protect her privacy.

Willa:  That’s true, and I don’t think Jodie Foster ever experienced the level of intrusiveness Michael Jackson experienced. He really was on camera 24/7, as you said. It’s like that movie, The Truman Show, where an entertainment corporation adopts a baby and then puts his entire life on display as an extended reality show. In fact, this is interesting – Aldebaranredstar shared a quotation from Peter Weir, the director of The Truman Show, where says his ideas about the main character came from Michael Jackson:

“You watch The Truman Show and, I mean, Jim Carrey did a fantastic job, but Michael Jackson is Truman. He’s who I based him on and he is the nearest thing to Truman.”

Joie:  You know, I hadn’t heard that until after Michael passed away. And I’ve never really been a fan of Jim Carrey so, I’ve actually never watched The Truman Show, believe it or not. But since hearing that comment from Peter Weir I really want to see it. Maybe I’ll rent it this weekend.

Willa:  Oh, it’s fascinating, Joie – especially watching it with Michael Jackson in mind. I think you’ll get a lot out of it.

Joie:  I’m really interested in it now. I’ll let you know when I watch it. But I want to talk about a couple of those other songs I mentioned earlier. For instance, the lyrics to “Tabloid Junkie” have always fascinated me, and when I think about them in the context of this ‘perceived paranoia’ that so many tried to label Michael Jackson with, they become really telling.

Speculate to break the one you hate
Circulate the lie you confiscate
Assassinate and mutilate
It’s the hounding media, in hysteria

Those are very strong words, and I’m sure that from his point of view and his life experiences, those words were very true.

Willa:  Those are strong words, in sound and meaning. In fact, I’m intrigued by the sounds of those words – speculate, circulate, confiscate, assassinate, mutilate – and how they echo the word “hate,” a word he places in a very prominent position at the end of the first line. The way those sounds are located, it almost seems like there’s a reverberation of “hate, hate, hate, hate, hate” throughout this verse. And I wonder if that’s what it felt like to him, being hit with one hateful story after another.

Joie:  Wow, I never thought of it that way, Willa. It probably did feel like hate to him. But that was his life and I’m guessing that, at times, it must have seemed unbearable to him. But, looking at those words, I can also see where the critics – or the media – would take offense and want to strike back by trying to make him seem crazy and paranoid. Especially when he included words like these:

It’s slander
You say it’s not a sword
But with your pen you torture men
You’d crucify the Lord

And he goes on to say this:

It’s slander
With the words you use
You’re a parasite in black and white
Do anything for news
If you don’t go and buy it
Then they won’t glorify it
To read it sanctifies it
Then why do we keep foolin’ ourselves?

You know, it was almost like they were taunting each other. Michael would write a song about his life experience, the media would take offense to it and strike out against him, so he would lash out in the only way he could … by writing another song about the experience. A vicious cycle. It was a very precarious sort of relationship between them.

Willa:  I see what you’re saying, Joie, but it’s a complicated issue, and we see some of that complexity in the verses you just cited. For example, in the lines “You say it’s not a sword / But with your pen you torture men,” he’s referencing the old saying, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” That adage is actually lauding the power of the written word to bring about positive social change. It’s saying that the written word – whether in novels or essays or poetry or the press – is more powerful than armies at resisting oppression, exposing injustice, and righting wrongs. That’s very similar to the idea he expresses in Beat It and Bad and Jam, among others, that art is more powerful than violence, and we know that was an idea he passionately believed.

But today’s press, with its focus on the sensational and the trivial, denies the power it has – “you say it’s not a sword” – and then carelessly squanders that power to “torture men.” Instead of being a beacon for good, they have become “a parasite in black and white.”

Joie:  I just love that phrase! “A parasite in black and white. Do anything for news.” It’s so perfect for the predatory celebrity news that we see today, I think.

Willa:  It really is. So it seems to me that he’s criticizing the press not only for attacking him, but for neglecting the higher purpose they should be fulfilling. They should be doing their part to “Heal the world / Make it a better place,” and they aren’t. Instead, they attack those who try. I’ve even read snarky articles about Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa. As Michael Jackson tells the press in those lines you cited above, Joie, “You’d crucify the Lord” given the chance, instead of helping to fight injustice.

Joie:  I agree with you, Willa. The entire song is a really scathing look at the media. It’s another example of Michael Jackson holding up a mirror for us to examine ourselves but, of course, no one’s listening but the fans. Everyone else is still calling him paranoid.

Willa:  Oh, it’s a very scathing look. Not only are the attacks on him unfair and hurtful, but they also distract news organizations from the real work they should be doing. We see that idea in “Breaking News,” as well. In fact, the whole song is a play on the words “breaking news.” Usually those words refer to a news bulletin about an event that’s just happened, but he shifts the meaning so those words refer to how dysfunctional news organizations have become. Those organizations can no longer report real news because the traditional news-gathering systems are falling apart – as he says, “You’re breaking the news.”

It’s also interesting that once again he subtly refers to the idea that “the pen is mightier than the sword” when he sings, “You write the words to destroy like it’s a weapon.” So again, he’s saying that the media have this mighty sword – the power of the press – and they’re misusing it to “torture men” rather than expose corruption and injustice and fight for a better world.

Joie:  You’re right, Willa. And what you just said about the press misusing their power to “torture men” instead of using it to fight against corruption and injustice makes me think of another song that could be included in this discussion, “Why You Wanna Trip on Me.” At first listen, it’s not really a ‘paranoid’ song but, when we examine the lyrics, it just fits in so well with what you just said:

They say I’m different
They don’t understand
But there’s a bigger problem
That’s much more in demand
You got world hunger
Not enough to eat
So there’s really no time
To be trippin’ on me
You got school teachers
Who don’t wanna teach
You got grown people
Who can’t write or read
You got strange diseases
Ah but there’s no cure
You got many doctors
That aren’t so sure
So tell me
Why you wanna trip on me?

What he’s saying here is that, with all the millions of real problems in the world, why on earth is the media tripping on him all the time? Why are they breaking their necks to follow his every move and shove cameras in his face when there are so many other, much more important and distressing issues going on in the world?

Willa:  Wow, Joie, I didn’t even think about “Why You Wanna Trip on Me,” but you’re right – that really spells it all out, doesn’t it?  As he says, “There’s a bigger problem / That’s much more in demand” for attention from the press, so why are they spending so much time and energy chasing and criticizing him?

But you know, it seems to me that when critics call Michael Jackson paranoid, they aren’t just referring to his songs about the press. They’re also referring to his songs about the lying, threatening, stalking women who hurt My Baby – songs like “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Billie Jean,” “Dirty Diana,” and “Dangerous.” But as you pointed out in one of our very first posts, Joie, those threatening women can be interpreted as representing fame, celebrity, or more specifically, the media. For example, there are these lyrics from “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”:

Billie Jean is always talking
When nobody else is talking
Telling lies and rubbing shoulders
So they called her mouth a motor

Bille Jean could be a woman who’s “always talking” and whose mouth is like “a motor,” but that’s a pretty accurate description of the tabloids as well.

Joie:  Oh, wow. Good point, Willa! I never really think of those songs as being part of the whole ‘paranoia’ narrative but, you’re right; it does fit, doesn’t it? The threatening women in all those songs were sort of out to get him, weren’t they? That’s really interesting.

You know, this entire conversation still makes me think about that comment Jodie Foster made in that Golden Globes speech about fighting for a life that feels ‘real and honest and normal.’ And it’s just so sad that he never really had that because his life was constantly put on display. And as you said earlier, he wasn’t paranoid in the clinical sense because “they” really were after him. Everyday of his life. Maybe they weren’t out to get him but, they were certainly out to capture his every move.

Willa:  Yes, they were. But as he points out in many of those songs, they’re providing what the consumer wants, as you quoted above from “Tabloid Junkie”:

If you don’t go and buy it
Then they won’t glorify it
To read it sanctifies it
Then why do we keep foolin’ ourselves?

He expresses a similar idea in “Monster”:

It’s got you jumping like you should
It’s got you bouncing off the wall
It’s got you drunk enough to fall

So he’s saying that consumers have become addicted to those shock stories – “It’s got you drunk enough to fall” – and the media is feeding that addiction. But if we (the collective “we”) can somehow detox ourselves from that kind of slander and remove the market for those stories, that kind of journalism will shrivel up and die.

Joie:  And you know, the really difficult thing to understand is why? It seems that everyone complains about “that kind of journalism” but still it persists. And so often, “that kind of journalism” isn’t even true or accurate. Michael pointed that out so well in “Tabloid Junkie”:

Just because you read it in a magazine
You see it on a TV screen
Don’t make it factual

Willa:  And Joie, that’s perhaps the most important point of all. You know, I think most people realize that tabloid-style articles and television shows don’t really report the news – that they’re sensationalized or gross exaggerations or even complete fabrications – so why do they exist? What’s the point of “newspapers” and celebrity “news” shows that report false news? That doesn’t make any sense.

I think they’re actually a type of entertainment – a corrupt entertainment – not news. The tabloids turned Michael Jackson into a “monster” and an “animal,” as he sings in “Monster,” and then mocked him as a type of cruel entertainment. For some reason, we insist on turning people into monsters every so often, and the tabloids did that to him and forced him to play that cultural role. He talks about that phenomenon quite a bit in his later work – in songs like “Threatened” and “Is It Scary” and “Monster” and “Breaking News.”  And it’s cruel.

You know, my son is 14 and he’s brought home a lot of information about bullying the last few years. The schools are really working hard to prevent bullying, and help kids deal with it when it happens. And one of the things I’ve realized is that almost everything my son has told me about bullying – from name-calling to cyber-bullying to ganging up on those who are perceived as different – applies to the tabloid press as well. They are bullies, and we should be as vigilant in preventing hurtful behavior by tabloid-style media as we are in preventing hurtful behavior by bullies.

We should prevent it not only because it hurts the targets, people like Michael Jackson, but also because it hurts us as well. I think most people think the tabloids are pretty harmless – just mindless fluff about UFOs and celebrities and Nostradamus predictions – and they don’t realize how damaging that constant barrage of misinformation and mean-spirited behavior can be. I think the tabloids and shock-jock radio shows and those kinds of inflammatory entertainment have influenced how we talk to one another, making us less civil and more judgmental. And whether we realize it or not, they’ve also influenced our perceptions and world view. As Michael Jackson told Oprah back in 1993, “If you hear a lie often enough, you start to believe it.”

Joie:  Willa, I could not agree with you more. I especially like what you just said about tabloids and shock-jock radio shows being a type of inflammatory entertainment, and I think probably 90% of the so-called “reality”  TV shows can be placed in that same catagory. And shows like that have influenced the way we talk to and relate to one another – and not at all in a good way. Again, it’s one of the many lessons that Michael Jackson tried over and over to teach us but, most refuse to listen.

About Dancing with the Elephant contributors

Joie Collins is a founding member of the Michael Jackson Fan Club (MJFC). She has written extensively for MJFC, helping to create the original website back in 1999 and overseeing both the News and History sections of the website. Over the years she conducted numerous interviews on behalf of MJFC and also directed correspondence for the club. She also had the great fortune to be a guest at Neverland. She has been a Michael Jackson fan since she was three years old. Lisha McDuff is a classically trained professional musician who for 30 years made her living as a flutist, performing in orchestras and for major theatrical touring productions. Her passion for popular musicology led her to temporarily leave the orchestra pit and in June 2013 she received a Master’s degree in Popular Music Studies from the University of Liverpool. She’s continuing her studies at McMaster University, where she is working on a major research project about Michael Jackson, with Susan Fast as her director. Willa Stillwater is the author of M Poetica: Michael Jackson's Art of Connection and Defiance and "Rereading Michael Jackson," an article that summarizes some of the central ideas of M Poetica. She has a Ph.D. in English literature, and her doctoral research focused on the ways in which cultural narratives (such as racism) are made real for us by being "written" on our bodies. She sees this concept as an important element of Michael Jackson's work, part of what he called social conditioning. She has been a Michael Jackson fan since she was nine years old.

Posted on February 6, 2013, in Michael Jackson and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 74 Comments.

  1. That rat a tat tat in the context of Michael’s song Escape is Imo, ‘Michael symbolism’ ‘for character assassination. Which was systematically done to him for close to two decades. Assassinating someone’s character is as close to an actual assassination as it can get. Michael knew the differene between reputation ( what others think of you) and character, (who you really are) and he knew his own character.I’ve seen interview after interview since Michael’s passing where people who knew him exclaimed what a down to earth, easy going, polite, regular, normal guy and loving father he was. Of course there were also some who said the opposite, who Michael aptly described in the song Money as the iddle jabbers, for they’re the back stabbers. I personally never could figure out why ‘they’ wanted to trip on Mchael either. Until it dawned on me that Michael had the power to gather a multitude of followersin his fans, who had the potential to become as enlightened as he and actually change the world, for the better. He knew he could’t do it alone and flat out said so in the song Cry. What happened to Michael has happened before, we’ve all, who were alive and of an age to realize what was going on, witnessed it in 1963 when JFK was literally assassinated, and again in1965 with Malcom X’s assassination and in 1968 when MLk, and Bobby Kennedy were also. We’ve seen it again this past summer and fall in the election of our President,in the form of character assassination and it is still going on and I pray it doesn’t turn into an actual assassination. Back to Michael’s character assassination. There was a reason for it. Follow the money. It was for the ratings, and people were more than willing to believe it, they’d been conditioned to for almost two decades. It was as close to a fatal blow without actually killing Michael as it could get and it took its toll on him. They made him irrelevant,in their eyes. Not to be taken seriously. Threw him up as an example for ridicule, persecution and even prosecution and even afterwards ignored that he was acquitted, spun a conviction in the court of public opinion and wa- la, he was figuratively assassinated. Without firing a shot .Proving the pen is mightier than the sword. Michael knew that and told us in his song Tabloid Junkie how it can be used for evil as well as for good. He knew first hand and we witnessed it. It was Michael venting his anger, not paranoia, and I really believe he meant for us, his fans, to also take it to heart and have those real eyes that realize real lies. There’s just something in this world that just isn’t ready as Michael referenced in his song HIStory, to follow the prophet’s plan, to love one another and live in harmony. Let alone be the stewards of the planet, as he begged of us in Earth Song. Why? as far as I can figure because good news doesn’t sell, and scared of the boogey man people are so much easier to control. Keep ’em scared, and suspiicious of even good intentioned people. But I also figure those who slandered Michael weren’t counting on the legacy Michael left behind in his Army of Love, who will carry on his message and pass it on to future generations. We’re here now at this tiime, for a reason. Michael asked us to change the world.Why do I think it’s us, his fans he was telling this to? Because we were the ones listening, and he knew it. The time is now and It’s All For L.O.V. E.

  2. “And he was often accused by critics of being paranoid because of it.”
    “That wasn’t paranoia. That was his life.” and “Yet, to my knowledge, no one has ever accused her [Jodie Foster] of being paranoid for trying to protect her privacy.”

    This kind of reminds me of that “no, black skin doesn’t feel pain like white skin does” -thing…
    I’ve been watching the 1975 movie “Mandingo” recently which puts this weird mindset on display really. But to this day we’re still reluctant to feel with “the other” as with animals, torture them in millions every day for a ten minutes-“good taste”. So all you gotta do is turn someone into an animal and is’s ok to do so… That’s what they did with black slaves and that’s what they did with Michael:

    “The tabloids turned Michael Jackson into a “monster” and an “animal,” as he sings in “Monster,” and then mocked him as a type of cruel entertainment. For some reason, we insist on turning people into monsters every so often, and the tabloids did that to him and forced him to play that cultural role.”

    To me the very reason is the fact, that we and our western culture are the real monster and we would have to face it (and change it) unless we have other monsters to focus on.

    • “To me the very reason is the fact, that we and our western culture are the real monster and we would have to face it (and change it) unless we have other monsters to focus on.”

      That’s a really important point, Julie, and something Michael Jackson himself suggests in “Monster.” I’m so intrigued by how he inverts the telescope, so to speak, and focuses on the people who are calling him a monster – and shows that they’re the real monsters. For example, the first time he sings the chorus, he seems to be quoting what the tabloids are saying about him:

      He’s a monster
      He’s an animal

      But the verses contradict that, revealing that the paparazzi are the true monsters, like these lines from verse two:

      Everywhere you seem to turn
      There’s a monster
      When you look up in the air
      There’s a monster
      Paparazzi got you scared
      Like a monster, monster, monster

      And then he adds ad-libs to the chorus, changing the meaning of those lines also:

      (Why you haunting me?)
      He’s a monster
      (Why you stalking me?)
      He’s an animal
      (Why’d you do it? Why’d you? Why you stalking me?)

      And in the final lines he suggests that these monsters aren’t just hurting him but us, the consumers of all this tabloid fare:

      He’s dragging you down like a monster
      he’s keeping you down like a monster

      He’s dragging you down like a monster
      He’s keeping you down like a monster

  3. Thanks so much for the connection to Xscape. I had never heard that song before either, and it is very telling. It also felt to me that the drum rat tat tat was like bullets being fired – gosh his music is just so evocative isn’t it. I too hope it will be put on a future album as it seems to be a finished song.
    It had me wondering just how many other songs I don’t know about, so am going off to Wikipedia now to look up the list of unrealsed songs to see what other gems there are – as if we don’t have the worlds Crown Jewels as it is!!

    Even without knowing what the tabloids did to Michael, I have not read newspapers, tabloids or cheap magazines for many years now because they are just so full of bad news – it is rightly said that good news doesn’t sell, and how awful is that!! As Julie so rightly says ‘our western culture are the real monster’ and we do indeed have to do something about it. I started by boycotting the press in all its forms, and will continue to do so.

    Michael certainly did want us to be aware, as he spoke out time and time again not only in his music but also in interviews, and we owe it to him now as his fans to stop the rot – because it really is rotten to the core!

    Great blog as ever and again so interesting – thank you

  4. Willa and Joie, thanks for your article, it is really very interesting and full of ideas on which to reflect.
    Especially the second part of your post, when you compared to the bullying style of a certain type of information: I totally agree.

    And I focus this vision also to very similar to television programs such as some types of talk shows and many reality.

    The worst thing is that this “genre” is now imbued in contemporary culture and as there is no indignation nor there is more mortification to assist in certain things.

    In general, in the world, it seems prevelare stupidity, aggression, rudeness, slander, lies.

    Who knows why … perhaps they are easier to “sell”?

    Willa and Joie a time I have talked you about Roberto Saviano and his theory of the “mud machine.”
    Really it is very interesting in this regard and it seems to mirror many attempts made ​​by Michael to help us understand these horrible mechanisms .
    I thank you and I salute you much, Nicoletta

  5. Oooh, one of my favorite topics!
    I believe that tabloid press is just another reflection or attribute of our consumerism-oriented society at this point. I don’t watch TV or buy print press largely because it is all about selling you something – either a product or an idea to which you should conform to be ok (usually involves buying products as well).

    We got our quickly digestable version of everything: real food has become highly processed fast food, real news turned into quick sound bites with no fact check since the race is about “breaking the news” first, wanna-be experts tell us what to think since we don’t have the time to research ourselves and form an independent opinion. Celebrities used to be people with outstanding talent, abilities amd charisma until the industry realised that they don’t need to bother with talent – the public will just as readily eat up regular nobodies in reality shows. Its even easier that since you can pair attention whores with gossip lovers.

    It is easier to sell that kind of thing to a lot of people because it plays on our darkest desires. Don’t we all like a short-cut to get what we want?

    One of many things that are so fascinating about Michael for me is that his experience of our culture is nothing like what anyone ever had except him. While we try to figure him out, we are outside his fishbowl looking in, and he is the only one inside looking out – he was always just as curious about how this “normal” world really was as the world was curious about him. So he was never “conditioned by the system” because he wasn’t in that system. Maybe that unique experience had enabled him to be our mirror, like an alien from a different world who didn’t have same “blind spots” as us.

    I just finished readling “King of Style” and it is clear that a lot of the hoopla was deliberate. Michael wanted people to notice him, to talk about him and guess why he did this or that. I remember clearly back in the nineties the fans were all guessing what CTE meant or what was the significance of the number 777 and so on. Maybe Michael really thought he could control the media and his potrayal in the media – but then the media realised that they don’t need Michael to come up with the mysteries. He unvolunteraly provided them with this larger than life character that, due to Michael’s genius, the public could not get enough of, and again due to Michael’s genius, seems capable and able to do just about anything. The rest is history.

    • “One of many things that are so fascinating about Michael for me is that his experience of our culture is nothing like what anyone ever had except him. While we try to figure him out, we are outside his fishbowl looking in, and he is the only one inside looking out – he was always just as curious about how this “normal” world really was as the world was curious about him. So he was never ‘conditioned by the system’ because he wasn’t in that system. Maybe that unique experience had enabled him to be our mirror, like an alien from a different world who didn’t have same ‘blind spots’ as us.”

      That’s really true, Gennie – often someone with an outside perspective can tell us more about ourselves than an insider can. Though Michael Jackson was in a doubly unique position as both an insider and outsider – he not only participated in American culture but helped shape it, so in that sense he was the ultimate insider. Yet because of his fame, he was an outsider nonetheless – inside the fishbowl, looking out, and you said so well. (btw, I love that image! It really captures his bizarre situation of being both completely isolated and alone, yet subject to the scrutiny of millions of eyes.)

      • I can’t take credit for the fishbowl image as Michael himself described it like that when Prince was born. “I spent my whole life in a fishbowl and I won’t let it happen to my son”. 🙂

        Interesting thought about insider/outsider paradox…:)

  6. “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you”
    Joseph Heller, Catch-22

  7. “A parasite in black and white. Do anything for news.” – I love that line too. So true!

    IMO one of the most rebellious things to do for a pop musician to do is to criticize the media. Especially for someone of Michael’s status. Maybe some would even say what Michael did with his media criticism was suicidal for his career. After all pop artists depend a lot on how the media writes about them, so you don’t see a lot of songs about criticizing the media, although how the media operates is a very real problem. Yes, a problem, because much of it is unethical, but they rarely get called out on it.

    The only other song that criticized the media I can think of was Dirty Laundry by Don Henley. I love this song. It has great lyrics. (Lisa Marie Presley covered it about 10 years ago with a cameo appearance by George Michael in her video.)

    This song was released in 1982 and since then the media only became wilder and even less ethical. But in my opinion also laws, such as American shield laws, enable and encourage unethical behavior by journalists. So the problem has deep roots.

    I think the media called Michael paranoid, because that was more convenient than to look into that mirror. When you talk about being targeted when you are that’s not paranoia, that’s telling like it is.

    “What he’s saying here is that, with all the millions of real problems in the world, why on earth is the media tripping on him all the time?”

    I thought of this when the New York times dedicated not one, but two articles to attack “crazy, rabid” MJ fans recently in defense of Randall Sullivan’s book. Then I saw similar articles British mainstream papers, such as The Telegraph and The Guardian. And I was like: “Woah, these papers really don’t have anything better, anything more important to write about than the dislike of MJ fans for some flopped book?” Lot more important news often struggle to get airtime or to get reported and this stuff was all over in major papers! Why? It seems like Sullivan is well-connected in the media… Sad that they operate this way.

    “You know, I think most people realize that tabloid-style articles and television shows don’t really report the news – that they’re sensationalized or gross exaggerations or even complete fabrications – so why do they exist? What’s the point of “newspapers” and celebrity “news” shows that report false news? That doesn’t make any sense.”

    I always wonder if people really realize that. If they do then why do they read and watch stuff they know is a lie? Do they liked to be lied to? I hate the thought to be lied to.

    “I think they’re actually a type of entertainment – a corrupt entertainment – not news. The tabloids turned Michael Jackson into a “monster” and an “animal,” as he sings in “Monster,” and then mocked him as a type of cruel entertainment.”

    Tabloids are modern day “freak shows”.

    I totally agree with what you said about bullying! Tabloid media is nothing but a bunch of nasty, mean bullies (and also their audience I have to say).

    By the way, this quote by former Sun editor, Kelvin MacKenzie is very telling about both the tabloids and the kind of people they target as their audience:

    “You just don’t understand the readers, do you, eh? He’s the bloke you see in the pub, a right old fascist, wants to send the wogs [black people] back, buy his poxy council house, he’s afraid of the unions, afraid of the Russians, hates the queers and the weirdos and drug dealers. He doesn’t want to hear about that stuff (serious news).”

    And another quote:

    “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” (Malcolm X)

    • “Because they control the minds of the masses.”

      That is what Hitler explained in “Mein Kampf” also. As he amplifies the idea:

      “Propaganda must always address itself to the broad masses of the people. […] All propaganda must be presented in a popular form and must fix its intellectual level so as not to be above the heads of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed. […] The art of propaganda consists precisely in being able to awaken the imagination of the public through an appeal to their feelings, in finding the appropriate psychological form that will arrest the attention and appeal to the hearts of the national masses. The broad masses of the people are not made up of diplomats or professors of public jurisprudence nor simply of persons who are able to form reasoned judgment in given cases, but a vacillating crowd of human children who are constantly wavering between one idea and another. […] The great majority of a nation is so feminine in its character and outlook that its thought and conduct are ruled by sentiment rather than by sober reasoning. This sentiment, however, is not complex, but simple and consistent. It is not highly differentiated, but has only the negative and positive notions of love and hatred, right and wrong, truth and falsehood.”

      I sometimes wonder if people were afraid of Michaels profound understanding of mass media techniques and his power over masses because it reminded them of Hitler and the Nazi horrors. And then Michaels HIStory Teaser… as if to say: “Yes, I’m doing exactly the same thing but using it for the better, for quite the opposite.”

    • “Tabloids are modern day ‘freak shows’.”

      I agree absolutely, Jacksonaktak, and I think that’s one of the things Michael Jackson was expressing in Leave Me Alone – for example, when he dances with the Elephant Man’s bones. But then he positions us with the “freaks” rather than the spectators, so we’re forced to consider to some degree what that would feel like, to be the observed rather than the observer….

  8. @Gennie, interesting comments regarding King of Style, the book by Michael Bush. Didn’t Bush say that CTE meant “C” The Entertainer? But I have also read sources that say CTE meant “Children of the Earth”. Yes, Bush does say that Michael Jackson wanted people to guess why he did this or that. However, in my opinion, the media took this and went right off the rails with it in the early 90’s, using the inflammatory false ’93 charges to run completely amok, which had nothing at all to do with the formerly “quirky”, innocent manner in which Michael might have wanted the fans to perceive him and his actions. Didn’t Michael say if you want to know me listen to my music? Just about every song on the History album burns into the brain just what he was feeling at that time (1995): Scream, TDCAU, Stranger in Moscow, This Time Around, Money, DS, Tabloid Junkie, 2Bad all speak to Michael’s justifiable anger at the media, corporate greed and injustice which had by this time become UNjustifiably ingrained in the public consciousness. He wasn’t “paranoid”; he was “screaming” the truth at us through his music.

    To this day, the media has not let up on Michael Jackson, who is no longer here to defend himself. However, these songs from the History album can be our lasting reminder that this man always fought back in the most effective way possible, through his music, if we all take the time to listen to and learn from his lyrics.

    The History album is my favorite; thank you, Willia and Joie, for this post.

  9. Great article and glad you put some focus on the “we”. As Gennie pointed out, much of this is related to our “consumerism-oriented society”, but also what jacksonaktak is quoting too – compelling and selling the lowest of ideals to a consumer who wants and needs to believe such things.

  10. @juney07 oh yeah, he did say that, but the letters came first, Michael just wanted some letters for his shirts and the meanings came later. Michael just had this intuitive creativity with no typical boundaries of what is normal and what is possible.

    I agree that the media took this character MJ created and ran with it. I think for Michael there was showtime and his personal time – he wanted the attention when he was performing and attending public events, but he also really wanted to be left alone when he wasn’t working, so to say.

    It’s like we got the line completely blurred when it comes to celebrities and public figures. The rest of us gets to have professional and personal lives and it is perfectly normal to “let your hair down” when you are off work. Its funny and tragic at the same time as a social phonomena. If you are a performer or an actor and you are really good at it, you somehow become a target as a person as well. Can we imagine a world where Mike would create all this magic on stage and then be left alone afterwards because he is off work now?

    Tabloid media wouldn’t be profitable if people didn’t want to know all the dirty details of a celebrity’s life. Jodie Foster was right when she wrote:

    Acting is all about communicating vulnerability, allowing the truth inside yourself to shine through regardless of whether it looks foolish or shameful. To open and give yourself completely. It is an act of freedom, love, connection. Actors long to be known in the deepest way for their subtleties of character, for their imperfections, their complexities, their instincts, their willingness to fall. The more fearless you are, the more truthful the performance. How can you do that if you know you will be personally judged, skewered, betrayed?

    Full article is here: http://www.innermichael.com/2012/08/the-gift-in-the-mean-wind/

    I believe its the same for all art, especially performing. Michael was bearing his soul when he was on stage or in the studio. I don’t understand how he had the guts to do this while being attacked for doing it again and again.

    The quote that you mentioned is a bit longer and is one of those MJ quotes that get me all choked up everytime:

    “When you want to be close to me, listen to the music. The love is stored there and will not die.”

  11. What a great post!

    Well, you talked about songs that I love; “Tabloid Junkie” is one of my favorites. I just wish that Michael had made a short film for it. Whenever I hear it I close my eyes and wonder a short film, I create in my mind. And it would be something like he being stuck on television screens, in magazines covers, trying to free himself; and being observed in a microscope, being examined, scrutinized by the public as if he was some kind of rare specimen. Yes, the short film that I imagine is pretty crazy. But the life that the public’ obsession and the press imposed to Michael imposed was very crazy.

    I really enjoyed you address the unfair label of paranoid that they gave to Michael, because I’m very upset about that. How well you said he was not paranoid, because the harassment which he denounces in the songs was real.

    Critics, as well as others who venture to write about Michael without knowing him actually, create unfair labels as paranoid, megalomaniac, likes-to-play-the-victim, etc. So we can’t speak about what ails us, what bothers us, what we would like to change, or about our feelings? Michael used the music as catharsis, this is obvious, but like you, and also Joe Vogel expos very well in his book, Michael addressed the issues that bothered him, yes, but in a universal way – he was not the only one to suffer the media chase, the only one to have the life probed, and his acts unjustly judged and reported all the time by the tabloid press. This happens with many celebrities and what is worrying is the public seems to have reached an understanding that this is valid, it is just right. And their argument is that celebrity is paying the price of fame, fame that they wished, that they enjoys and love, and, therefore, they should pay for.

    Recently, a Brazilian actor that I like, Wagner Moura, published a rant about the disrespect and dehumanization that artists suffer. He was the victim of a joke in extremely bad taste for a TV show whose goal is to make fun of celebrities, play tricks on them. Wagner was leaving for an appointment, but stopped to give attention to the “reporter” because he is a gentle person. What he did not know was that this “reporter” he was just playing a prank, but soon he began to ask outrageous questions to embarrass Wagner, and before Wagner moved away, the guy smeared goo in his hair! He was leaving for an appointment and the guy smeared his hair with snot! Wagner became angry at this and said that he does not fit into what they call celebrity (it seems that people have come to understand as a celebrity who lost personhood, and became an object of consumption), he’s an actor: this is his profession. When he is not working, he is a person like any other, he is a family man, he had children and wife, he deserves and demands respect as any human being. He is not someone who does everything to be in front of cameras and whose occupation is to appear: addicted to the show.

    I do not know about America, but in Brazil there are people who do everything for fame, including leaving the audience of a program and go on stage, completely naked, interrupting the presentation and getting, by this way, be filmed and photographed. These people are addicted to the fame and have no talent. It’s different from who achieves fame through talent. Now, people like Wagner Moura not chose to be famous. Being famous is not his profession, his profession is acting, fame is a result and it does not take away from him the condition of being human, does not make him a consumer product.

    Michael Jackson suffered that dehumanization more than anyone else. The invasion of his life took proportions that, I believe, we will never see again. He was treated as a product, a fictional character. But Michael was not in search of fame, he was doing what he was born to do: sing, dance and writing songs, and entertain. It was what he could do; it was his craft, his talent. Fame was not the goal, it was the consequence.

    This post remembers me Geroge Orwell’s book, “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, in which people are watched by The Big Brother all time. In this book, Big Brother is the government, but we could construe it today, and the public hungry for knowledge of the life of artists and a media that thrives by selling lies and shocking scandals. The curious thing is that the Orwell’s book, which is a critique of the invasion of privacy, eventually inspired the kind of program called “reality shows”, many of them are called “Big Brother”. Here in Brazil The Big Brother is very successful, in that show, people expose themselves sexually, psychologically, and emotionally to thousands of strangers in search of money and fame. . And shocks me how people like to consume it.

    • Hi Daniela. I agree – I think the way celebrities are subjected to constant surveillance is very similar to Orwell’s notion of Big Brother, and Michel Foucault’s notion of the Panopticon as well.

      The Panopticon is a model prison developed by Jeremy Bentham where a guard in a central tower can see into the rooms of all the prisoners, arranged in a circle around him. The prisoners cannot see or communicate with anyone, especially each other, but are fully visible at all times. Foucault then uses this as a diagram for how power functions and, intriguingly, says that eventually you don’t even need the guard. Prisoners (meaning all of us in modern society) internalize the idea that they are constantly under surveillance and then no longer need to be watched by a guard – they (we) come to watch ourselves.

      I wonder sometimes if our fascination with celebrities is an elaborate form of watching ourselves, with celebrities simply representing an exaggerated version of each of us. We watch them because that gives us a way to watch ourselves. Hmmm … need to think about this some more …

      • Intriguing idea, Willa—thanks for mentioning Bentham’s panopticon—it’s very fitting here, I think. Or maybe this: our surveillance of celebrities (which modern media makes both necessary and fantastically easy) ensures that we, the public, (the “great unwashed”!) won’t HAVE to look at ourselves in any way. The famous take the hit for us, and we get to luxuriate in certain subjective luxuries that anonymity affords….

        I’ve been thinking about some other things people have mentioned here: the function of scapegoating generally, what made Michael seem especially easy to target, and the social function he served during that specific moment in history when he became prominent as an adult star.

        Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, of more recent vintage, have responded in different ways to these issues. Surveillance, paparazzi, scapegoating, and *monstrosity* (especially in Lady Gaga’s case) are themes that have figured in their songs. (Gaga readily admits that she’s a monster, and calls her fans her “little monsters”—with no offense intended or taken, apparently.) And recently I read something about Beyoncé’s own intervention into the totally surveilled life: she has set up her own self-surveillance system, completely documenting her comings and goings with video and audio recordings of nearly her every move (I can’t remember where I read this, but I’ll try to find it). So it seems that Beyoncé, Gaga, and maybe other more recently-minted celebrities are trying to do an end-run around some of those problems, and in particular the sense of powerlessness, that Michael and their other predecessors in fame had to endure.

        No longer do celebrities have PR officers who are dispatched to do damage control and puff pieces only. By having every moment, every nook and cranny of their lives documented, today’s celebrities can (or think they can) perhaps regain some measure of power in how they want their image to be understood, in a complete “wraparound” fashion—warts ‘n’ all. At the same time, given the sheer quantity of material (photos, audio, video, text, etc.) that all this documentation would deliver to the public, it’s possible that ALL of these messages—harmful, injurious, negative or positive, or what have you—-will be depleted of any kind of meaning and power. Just an empty structure will remain. We’ve entered a new age of mass media and what used to be called “public relations”!

        Philosophers of “postmodernity” (like Jean Baudrillard) have already been playing around with ideas like this for some time. So I’m intrigued by just how it is that Michael, probably more than his contemporaries (like Madonna, as some people here have mentioned) seemed singularly vulnerable in these ways, and how certain themes—like the fabled “paranoia” we’re talking about here, or being hurt, or disgusted—become, in his songs, an angry indictment and a cri de coeur about the Powers That Be, rather than just another occasion for camp excess or preening indifference.

        Thanks so much for another stimulating discussion, W. & J.!

        • Hi Nina. Your ideas about “the totally surveilled life” and how some celebrities have actually taken charge of that reminds me of a scene in Truth or Dare, Madonna’s self-documentary (auto-documentary? what do you call a documentary of oneself?) where she’s talking to her doctor and he suggests she turn off the cameras. (At least, I think that’s the situation – I saw it years ago and my middle-aged brain doesn’t remember things so clearly sometimes….)

          Anyway, her then boyfriend, Warren Beatty, is clearly getting tired of the constant cameras but Madonna clearly isn’t, and he says, “She doesn’t want to live off-camera, much less talk. There’s nothing to say off-camera. Why would you say something if it’s off-camera? What point is there existing?” (Just looked up the quote on IMDB.)

          So the implication is that, for Madonna, anyway, the constant media attention doesn’t feel like an unwanted intrusion. Just the opposite – it’s like oxygen. It’s what Madonna, the public persona (as opposed to the real person, whom we don’t know and can’t know), needs to survive.

          To me, what’s so interesting about Michael Jackson is that he’s so very aware of the double-sided nature of celebrity. He’s fully aware that the constant media attention increases his star power, and he’s very skilled at attracting attention, yet he’s also deeply troubled by the hypocrisy in the media and the down-right falsehoods that are published about him. So I think he subverted the celebrity-paparazzi-tabloid model in very interesting ways, though I’m still investigating this and thinking it through.

          • I think both MJ and Madonna have created these alter-ego public persons in order to manage the attention.

            The difference is though that Madonna actively worked to created that hype about herself. She got the fame much later on life and had to work much harder for it, so she welcomed the attention. A “finally!” moment. Like she said in her speech, she had the time to stumble and fall and get up again, to make mistakes without being watched.

            Michael didn’t have that. He had to go through it all while being watched by everybody. That is the main difference between them. It’s not that she is stronger, it is that he never had a chance to develop those skills, he had to learn on the job. And it was Madonna who pointed it out in her perfectly brutal way!

            Willa, you are right, he was so good at attracting attention to his work and keeping it. But he had the illusion that once he’s done, they should go home too. He said that to Barbara Walters that once you close that door, they should leave you alone. Remember her reaction? She didn’t know what he was talking about. He was never off work…

          • Also, I think this is key:

            “…. the room in which you are sitting is rigged with a camera and microphone that is capturing not just her every utterance but yours as well. These are the ground rules: Before you get to see Beyoncé, you must first agree to live forever in her archive, too.”

            So it’s clear that the surveyor him- or herself stands, at any moment, to become the surveilled.

            We know that Michael created his own documentation of the Bashir program, which later became the basis of the “rebuttal” tape: “The Footage You Weren’t Allowed to See,” I think it’s called. But it seems that the potential import and power of this move eluded him somehow. By the time the Bashir program aired, Michael had already long since lost control of the discourse surrounding him.

            I often think about why and how this came to pass, but it seems likely that Beyoncé’s exhaustive “auto-archivism” (if we can call it that) is a deliberate move, informed by Michael’s and other of her predecessor’s experiences, to *make sure* that nothing of the kind will happen to her. She’s the one who’s going to be in charge of her own representation at every level— in a way that Michael, for whatever reason, couldn’t entirely manage.

          • @Nina says:
            “She’s the one who’s going to be in charge of her own representation at every level— in a way that Michael, for whatever reason, couldn’t entirely manage.”

            My thoughts exactly. Maybe she learned from Michael and those who came before. And in some ways I’m not conflicted about it. Yet, I do want the viewer/audience to understand that what they are taking part in (not just the art, but the branding of the star) is all a part of the show, Nothing is real.

        • Here is an interesting review from the NY Times on Beyonce and her documentary/infomercial to air this weekend.


          I think this, as with Madonna, is a way to try to control their message/brand. I think Michael was some what more bold by offering himself up to Oprah (and intended with Bashir too) to reporters with no conditions. Still, it’s all part of branding, IMHO.

          • Thanks, Destiny, for this link. The New York Times article is also linked to the GQ cover story that I’d read (Feb. 2013 issue):

            Miss Millennium: Beyoncé
            This is the hottest woman of the past thirteen years
            BY AMY WALLACE


            “…. Beyoncé’s inner sanctum also contains thousands of hours of private footage, compiled by a “visual director” Beyoncé employs who has shot practically her every waking moment, up to sixteen hours a day, since 2005. In this footage, Beyoncé wears her hair up, down, with bangs, and without. In full makeup and makeup-free, she can be found shaking her famous ass onstage, lounging in her dressing room, singing Coldplay’s “Yellow” to Jay-Z over an intimate dinner, and rolling over sleepy-eyed in bed. This digital database, modeled loosely on NBC’s library, is a work in progress—the labeling, date-stamping, and cross-referencing has been under way for two years, and it’ll be several months before that process is complete. But already, blinking lights signal that the product that is Beyoncé is safe and sound and ready to be summoned— and monetized—at the push of a button.

            “And this room—she calls it her “crazy archive”—is a key part of that, she will explain, so, “you know, I can always say, ‘I want that interview I did for GQ,’ and we can find it.” And indeed, she will be able to find it, because the room in which you are sitting is rigged with a camera and microphone that is capturing not just her every utterance but yours as well. These are the ground rules: Before you get to see Beyoncé, you must first agree to live forever in her archive, too.”

            My initial feeling is that this level of self-surveillance, or documentation (sixteen hours a day? if we’re to believe this account) is qualitatively different from the way that Michael took charge (incompletely) of his image…. but I have to think about this further. Also, I like what you say here, Gennie, about Madonna being allowed to make mistakes early in her career…. a liberty Michael never had.

            Also, about Michael’s awareness of the double-sided nature of media attention, Willa; I think that’s very true.

          • Hi Nina and Destiny. This idea of celebrities taking charge of their own representation, as you put it, Nina, is so interesting, especially comparing how different celebrities (Beyoncé, Madonna, Michael Jackson) have handled it. (And maybe Nixon as well? Remember the White House tapes that were running continuously, and ironically helped lead to his downfall? He installed them to provide a complete record of his presidency for his archives, but they also provided a record of his wrongdoings. I notice no other presidents have tried that since Watergate. …)

            Anyway, Beyoncé is really interesting in relation to Michael Jackson because, as I understand it, she’s created a public persona, Sasha Fierce, distinct from herself, that represents her public self – and I think Michael Jackson created a public persona also, a persona very different from his private self. It would be really interesting to learn more about Sasha, and how Beyoncé created and maintains her. Here’s a link to an MTV article that talks a little bit about Beyoncé and Sasha.

      • This prison idea got me thinking about behavioral studies and observations and some of related biases. I can’t recall the technical term right now but the idea is that if you study human behavior you must be aware of the fact that you watching somebody might modify the behavior you want to study. People act differently when they are being watched 🙂

      • Good reminder, Willa. You know, I think Focault boring, but I was forced to read his books in law school. But yes, the ideia that we exert surveillance on celebrities fit the idea of ​​the panopticon. As the prisioners in the Panopticon don’t even need guards watching them really, because they already feel watched, so must be the life of a celebrity – even if there’s no paparazzi around, even though there isn’t an hysterical audience outside to grab them, they should feel that way: constantly harassed. And why? Because we create this feeling, this atmosphere: they live in constant surveillance, harassment; under scrutiny, though not actually, not literally, because we (and the media) imprisoned them in this “panopticon of curiosity”, where they do not need being watched to feel invaded. I think that was how Michael felt. This called paranoia he felt about being persecuted is entirely consistent with the feeling that inmates in prison envisioned by Bentham were experiencing. And what a terrible prison! Imagine what the life would be if every gesture, every move every step, every stumble, every sneeze was being observed? It’s the worst prisons. It is a prison whose grides are maintained by our own mind.

        • Celebrities “live in constant surveillance, harassment; under scrutiny … because we (and the media) imprisoned them in this “panopticon of curiosity” … I think that was how Michael felt. This called paranoia he felt about being persecuted is entirely consistent with the feeling that inmates in prison envisioned by Bentham were experiencing. And what a terrible prison!”

          I agree, Daniela, and it’s not just confined to celebrities, though they bear the brunt of it. But teenagers today are constantly reminded to be careful because their words and actions can be recorded and spread to a global audience. (Think of those poor teenagers who end up in Girls Gone Wild. Here’s a link to a short article in Slate.) I really worry about what that feeling of constant surveillance does to teenagers coming of age in a time of cell cameras, where anything they do can be captured and shown to their parents, their classmates, their teachers, and beyond.

          We are all becoming prisoners of the panopticon, and as you say “what a terrible prison” it is! The cruelty shown to celebrities just serves as a cautionary tale about what can happen to any of us if we don’t watch our step and act “normal” – and that’s precisely what Foucault predicted. He believed that as surveillance became more widespread and diffuse, we would no longer need external observers (like prison guards) because we would internalize the feeling of being watched and become self-normalizing.

          And I think he’s right. How can anyone watch Michael Jackson being savaged as “Wacko Jacko” and not feel a shiver of fear that it could happen to them? The message is clear – eccentricity or difference of any kind will not be tolerated – and it has a chilling effect on us all.

          • Hi Willa — Something strange going on. I had never heard of Bentham’s Panopticon, yet now within the space of a few days, I read about it here and then in a NYT article on drone surveillance.

            “This total surveillance state (in the play “We”) is reminiscent of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon, a prison designed so that inmates could be watched at all times — without their being able to tell whether they were, at any moment, actually being watched. I suspect domestic drone use will eventually have a similar effect: allowing the state to dominate the public through pervasive eyes in the sky.”

            Something in the zeitgeist. Soon, MJ’s experience will be our experience.

          • Thanks for the link, Willa. And you and Eleanor are right, how she said, “Soon, MJ’s experience will be our experience.” It really gets me chills.

          • “Soon, MJ’s experience will be our experience.”

            I agree. We’ll never have to endure the intense, white-hot spotlight he endured for 40 years, but that sense of surveillance is ever increasing, and it is chilling.

            Speaking of chilling, I just did a quick search and found this website that gives a brief overview of Foucault’s use of the Panopticon as a trope for describing the increasing intrusiveness of modern culture, and how it leads each of us to increasingly internalize social prohibitions. It also has some images of Bentham’s original concept of the Panopticon.

            It’s pretty interesting to think about this in terms of Michael Jackson, and that sense that millions of electric eyes were following his every footstep. …

  12. Willa and Joie, I wanted to ask you and all of you about the conduct of the media, what in your opinion is depended also on the behavior and the control of the same Michael Jackson?

    How much of this arose from his will (at least at first), to surprise and be surprised?

    You know, I can think of some nonsense that I read seems to put around himself as the hyperbaric chamber …. sometimes I think that things are a bit escaped from the control, and that despite his willingness to confidentiality, if something is sought.

    I can think of Madonna, another example of a global mega star …. How come she can not be violated so deeply?
    That sometimes I think Michael has opened a door to the media which was then turned against him.

    • Madonna is not that different compared to Michael although she also got her share of hatred. A lot of people feel the need belittle her and her achievements. But she is easier to put in a box, people felt that they have figured her out. Nobody had managed to figure out Mike.

      I think it was amusing to him at first that people would literally believe anything about him. Stories like the chamber, elephant man bones and others were really harmless compared to stuff about bleaching his skin because he hated his race and so on. But i guess “harmless” stories set the scene for the big lie and prepared people to believe anything about MJ.

    • My theory about why Madonna is treated better by the media than Michael is that it’s because she is stronger as a person – or at least doesn’t show her feelings as much as Michael did. And this goes back to the parallel drawn between tabloids and bullies.

      When I was in school bullies usually targeted those kids who showed they were most affected by their bullying, who showed most feelings. If you just shrugged off their attempts to bully you they moved on to the next target, until they found a kid who showed pain about their bullying. The fun of bullying apparently is to see the other suffer, upset, in pain.

      And I think in that respect Michael attracked these tabloid bullies more than Madonna did, who (at least on the surface) did not show feelings about it.

      Of course, there are other factors as well. I think Madonna doesn’t have tenth of the talent that Michael had (something even she readily admitted in her speech about Michael after Michael’s death), but despite of that she’s always been more of the darling of the music media than Michael was. Just look at how many times she was on the cover of Rolling Stone and how many times Michael was… IMO there are also racial reasons there.

      • Gennie and Jacksonaktak,
        your points of view are very good and certainly captures much of the problem.
        Perhaps much depends on the fact that the whole family of Michael has been in the spotlight for every little move and that he – innocent as a child – has been the subject of morbid and reckless attention.

        Willa spoke about The Truman Show: Michael is in effect just like Truman, lived in a reality as a prerogative for the public.

        But listen, do you think he could have chosen otherwise, or as Truman, his world was covered by plaster walls? Truman eventually breaking its banks fictitious and discovers the reality, however imperfect.
        I ask myself often this way, especially in the last years and the choice of returning to the scene.

      • Good point about bullies, jacksonaktak!
        Madonna actually used the shock factor to her benefit. But they never called her a freak, talentless attention whore – yes, but it was understood that she does shocking things on purpose and its working for her. And she was better at talking to the press too – so many times Michael tried to explain himself only to make it worse.

        I remember reading back in the 90’s that she was prostituting herself to her fans and I’ve seen people believe it!

        But can we imagine Michael jackson without the media hoopla around him? The media played their role in this “Greatest show on earth”, every story needs a bad guy.

  13. Thanks for another great post and great comments. I really enjoy reading what everyone has to say.

    Apparently Michael was subjected to “guerrilla decontextualization” … what a horrible term…. Very simply put : using various media tactics to present a distorted and ambiguous view of a person to diminish their influence..[ or to enhance their influence ].. so the publication “humiliates” their “victim” in some way , the readers believe without question.. the victim’s influence goes down, and the publication’s influence goes up. This was done over such a long and sustained period of time in Michael’s case, that what we were left with was a distorted lampoon / caricature of who he really was..and of course so many believed it.

    I love all the so-called ” paranoia” songs .. . Their lyrics are so strong and emotional . .I sometimes sing along , and then it hits me “He’s a monster , he’s an animal ”
    (for example). It never ceases to amaze me that he could write such great songs that you can sing along with,, dance to even, and enjoy the music, yet the lyrics are at such odds with those things!

    The words below were in part of an e.mail I received recently

    ” I believe his (Michael’s) life and his death holds a message and a difficult lesson for us all , and I hope we “get it” soon.:”

    He had so many messages for the world, and apart from the “getting it off his chest ” element of these songs, I also think he was warning us to be on our guard, and of course he wanted us to enjoy the music too.

    • “Apparently Michael was subjected to ‘guerrilla decontextualization’ … what a horrible term…. Very simply put : using various media tactics to present a distorted and ambiguous view of a person to diminish their influence..[ or to enhance their influence ].. so the publication ‘humiliates’ their ‘victim’ in some way, the readers believe without question.. the victim’s influence goes down, and the publication’s influence goes up.”

      Hi MagUK. That’s really interesting, and it reinforces some of the things I’ve been hearing and reading recently about bullying. We tend to think that bullies are anti-social types who don’t fit in, so they form a crowd of thugs and pick on those weaker than themselves. But there’s actually been quite a bit of research lately that suggests just the opposite – that when you look closely at who’s really engaging in bullying behavior, it tends to be some of the most popular kids – kids who are popular with other students as well as teachers. And often those kids engage in bullying behavior to advertise and reinforce their power and their popularity. These are the kids who set the standards – who determine who’s cool and who isn’t, what’s acceptable and what isn’t – and they enforce those standards by ridiculing those who don’t conform.

      This sounds very close to what you’re saying about how the tabloids treated Michael Jackson. As you said, “the publication [popular kid] ‘humiliates’ their ‘victim’ in some way, … the victim’s influence goes down, and the publication’s [popular kid’s] influence goes up.”

  14. Well, there is this allegation that Michael himself invented the story of the hyperbaric chamber, but, you know, I do not think so. He said he didn’t. But even if he did, before the hyperbaric chamber’s story, the media already lived behind Michael, watching his every step and questioning about his behavior. The press could not be invented ridiculous story – as we would see later, written by Maureen Orth, for example –, but were already invading his privacy with speculation about his sexuality. In other words, the invasion, speculations and false stories would come anyway.

    If Michael invented the hyperbaric chamber’ story, he was trying to take the control. Maybe he thought that providing stories to sensationalist media himself, he could control it, but he could not. The media is a bogeyman, and, of course, never would be satisfied.
    The absurdity that the media came to while reporting Michael’s life has to do not only with his global superstar status, but much more to do with the disrespect that they developed about him over the years. And that disrespect was motivated by prejudice – he was a black man who dared to become the biggest star in the world, a smart businessman, a powerful and influent man. Not only that, the 1993 accusations sparked hatred against Michael and gave the media what it wanted so badly: the black mega star to destroy, a black idol to overthrow.

  15. We have do remember, that MJ’s publicist back then was Bob Jones, and after 05 its very clear, that he didn’t understand him. I think, its very possible, that BJ leaked to the media storys about hyperbaric chamber, while MJ didn’t even know about it.

  16. Really, what was so shocking or outrageous about the hyperbaric chamber story? People routinely inject a poisonous serum into their faces in order to relax a few wrinkles (Botox), have their stomachs sliced and diced to lose weight, and undergo plastic surgery on their feet to make wearing spike heels more comfy, but the media would have you believe that Michael Jackson lying down in a hyperbaric chamber for a few minutes, which has legitimate medical use, is some horrible public relations crime, punishable by tabloid death. All the faux outrage over every aspect of MJ’s life is so transparent – anything and everything to bring down this black man with so much power.

    • I agree. So what if Michael invented rumors about himself like the hyperbaric chamber or the elephant man’s bones? A lot of celebrities invent rumors about them and the media knows this game, so why is it only Michael who needs to be punished for it?

      No one deserves the totally biased and unfair treatment they gave to Michael. And innocent PR stories like the hyperbaric chamber do not excuse the media’s behavior of paying off people to lie about Michael being a child molester and do not excuse the media’s biased reporting of the allegations. There’s a line that was clearly crossed there and nothing that Michael might have done before in his PR justifies that.

    • Yes, its the Michael Jackson factor.
      I think after Thriller he became on one hand so extremely huge that people couldn’t see him as human (remember Michael mentioned in Moonwalk that a fan once asked him if goes to the bathroom or Bush wrote that fans would ask him if he actually get to touch Michael) and on the other hand he became unavailable – no interviews, no talk shows, no nothing. Few public appearances showed very quiet shy MJ, hiding behind his sunglasses, barely speaking at all.

      So you have a huge appetite for Michael, while he refuses to satisfy it. Michael was right about limiting his exposure though, he wouldn’t be as huge if you constantly saw him on TV babbling about his life. The oprah interview was huge because it was the first time in 14 years he had a tv interview. The downside was of course that since they couldn’t get real MJ, the media invented him basically.

      I think they were punishing him for not playing by the rules more than anything else.

      • Gennie, I agree with you that “since they couldn’t get real MJ, the media invented him basically.” Also, to the media, the real MJ was possibly boring — a young man who kept out of trouble, no drinking, no drugs, no cigarettes, no womanizing, a young man who was a regular church-goer, who had crushes on and dated beautiful girls and women — but who kept his romantic life private, who also respected and loved his mother. Just a good kid who also happened to be extraordinarily talented and a genius and who possessed amazing charisma. MJ pursued the life of an artist whose number one interest was creating his art — and they just didn’t get it.

        So, the media had to position these “normal” things as weird. They didn’t fit with the pre-conceived ideas of a pop star or a black man. The white media really didn’t get that many church-going black families are very conservative or that it is not really that odd for a grown up black man to still have a great deal of respect and love for his mother. (My white daughter-in-law is a public defender in New Orleans and she says she is always amazed at the love and loyalty her black clients have for their mothers.) They had to make the wholesome unwholesome. No one could be this good and also be a pop star. Didn’t make sense. Clearly, something sinister — even evil — going on here.

        To give the media something to talk about, MJ revealed a few eccentricities — like his menagerie: he had a snake called Muscles and a chimp called Bubbles. He also donned flamboyant costumes for public occasions. But it didn’t work.

        Ultimately, the media used the tactic of defining MJ as weird, so that anything and everything he did was weird. Once that happened, he didn’t have a chance. But why the witch hunt? If we can come to understand the secret of his global appeal, we will have the answer. Who was he, what did he have, what did he know, what was he telling us that was so subversive?

        • Eleanor I think you have hit the nail squarely on the head here with your first paragraph, plus –

          “Just a good kid who also happened to be extraordinarily talented and a genius and who possessed amazing charisma. MJ pursued the life of an artist whose number one interest was creating his art — and they just didn’t get it”.

          Obviously there were other more complex reasons like his fame and influence which I still don’t understand. I remember Michael saying in an interview that if he said he ate live chickens and came from Mars no-one would believe him, but if it was written in the press everyone would believe it.

          I have a hard time listening to some of these particular songs, so I have just gone through all my cds and made a playlist of all the “privacy” and “protest” type songs, and there are 26 of them much to my surprise.

          Was reminded about Ghosts and now enjoying the dvd of it that I have just purchased, and remember Willa’s very telling comments in M Poetica (which are brilliant and a must for anyone watching this short film who really wants to understand it). Then watched The Making of Ghosts and could see the real delight that Michael felt when being made up and disguised, when he spoke about being able to dirve in a car with his mother still wearing the Mayor disguise, and loved the ending where he takes off on the back of a motorbike with Debbie Rowe

          Being reminded about all the songs he wrote on the subject of invasion of his privacy, my favorite is Price of Fame and the following words I think say it all –

          Cause in it I don’t care
          I want a face no one can recognize, in disguise
          Someone called out my name
          They thought of taking pictures, autographs, then they grab
          My joy has turned to pain

  17. There is no real basis for my own theory about the hyperbaric chamber..However bearing in mind that they..( he bought more than one) were to be used in burns units, it occurred to me that it might have been Michael’s way of showing the children to be treated in one , that they had nothing to fear from it .Michael didn’t always spell things out literally ….. just a thought …

    • Well, he lay in the chamber, no matter the reason – whether out of curiosity or to encourage children (as you think), and the question is that the photo taken (along with the story that he slept in it to stay young) was delivered to the tabloids. If by the will of Michael himself or not, I think we’ll never know. But the bottom line is: the media spreaded lies about Michael before that; it already disrespected his intimacy. And the reasons why they started to attack him, at every oprtunidade, involve diveros factors and, as I said before, racial prejudice is one of them. There is no denying that.

      And if I’m not mistaken, an editor of one tabloide said was Frank DiLeo who gave the picture, and the story, to them. But, who believes in tabloid’s editor?
      And Taraborrelli said in his book it was Mike’s ideia, but, again, who believes in Taraborrelli?

    • I wonder why we all go on and on about that hyperbaric chamber, as if the fact that Michael might have wanted to use it to combat aging is somehow perverse. So we try to work our way around it by saying he just got in it once for a photo op, or someone else took an unsanctioned photo and fed it to the press. But basically, if he HAD bought himself such a chamber and WAS sleeping in it every night in order to supply more ogygen to his tissues, or for whatever reason, why should it upset anyone? Isn’t yoga deep-breathing the same kind of thing? He might have started a trend, and now they’d be calling him the pioneer of anti-aging medicine. And–think of it!–if he’d been sleeping in such a chamber every night, it wouldn’t have mattered how many boys slept on his regular bed.

      • lol Exactly! If this thing really made you live longer or look younger, all of Hollywood would get one and when celebs are doing it, everyone who could afford it would do it!

      • Hi krisheywood.. yes, I agree with what you say too,( and I had never really considered it to much until the subject came up in this blog ) .. but I just made a connection to the real reason the chambers were bought in the first place.

        I think to some degree we all speculate about his decisions and why he made them, (whatever the subject) far too much. … but at least our speculation is done from a basis of love and respect.

        On blogs like this we learn from each other, hopefully, and this helps us be prepared if we find our-self in a situation where we have to explain Michael to someone who doesn’t see him as we do.

  18. Thank you for the very interesting conversation. And about journalism, even if they are telling the truth, do we, meaning general public, need a story about MJ every day ? One newspaper wanted a story, if possible a front page story, every day, at one time. How crazy is that ? Michael himself said that he was working all the time and having a normal and simple life, meaning there was really nothing much going on to be talked about. Imagine, like he said, going into the toilet and an automatic camera starts to take pictures… Is that “news” or rather “intrusion”. It’s things like that what cause the downward spiral we are in nowadays : to be “cool” has become synonym for to be “cruel”. And our children see and hear this, and that’s what results in bullying. It kills in the end. What a sad story. But : we, Michael’s fans, at least “get it” more and more. It’s a start….

  19. Thanks for another interesting and insightful post.

    It made me wonder when the media coverage of MJ began to change from benevolent (when he was a child star) to malevolent? I often focus on the 92 allegations, but I have to remind myself that it started long before that. There is a 1980 interview in which he is so wary of the media that he uses Janet as a go-between — the interviewer asks a question, then janet repeats it, then MJ answers it. I guess he thought that using a child as a filter would keep the interviewer from asking unseemly and embarrassing questions.

    In later years, I think he used his own personal experience with the media as a means of commenting on the state of the media in general — especially in Why You Wanna Trip On Me. The media would “trip on” anything or anyone that would divert public attention from real problems. So, he was using his own personal experience to raise social awareness about the fact that the media was no longer doing what it was supposed to do — it was, as he says in Breaking News, breaking the news. He is breaking the news to us that the news media is broken.

    • “It made me wonder when the media coverage of MJ began to change from benevolent (when he was a child star) to malevolent?”

      I think very early. I think he was not even 20 when the media started to write stories about him planning a sex change and marrying Clifton Davis. So basically as soon as he became adult it was open season on him, I think.

      And this was pre-plastic surgery, pre-“eccentrities”. I guess the only “weird” thing in him at the time was that he had a high voice and that he was very shy (unusual for a pop star). So what did the media do with that? They talked about a sex change…

    • Thanks for this link Gennie – very interesting for those of us not living in America, but having said that I am sure it applies to almost every country in the world, though I have to say that US does seem to have perfected it to an art form.

      I found this comment from the article very telling – “Celebs have everything that we think we want so badly,” Thompson extrapolates. “I think there is a real sense that we resent some of that because we’re envious of it.

      I am quite bothered with all these ‘reality’ programmes and people thinking of them in terms of getting that “15 minutes of fame”. We get Dr Oz here (albeit a year or so old) and he did a programme on teenage girls getting pregnant because of a reality programme about it which seems to glamorise it instead of being a warning!!

      To get back to Michael, of course we all want our ‘piece of him’. Personally I can’t get enough of him and read avidly and watch Youtube videos (anyone seen that lovely one called Michael Jackson Eyes with stunning photos of him, most of which i hadn’t seen before), and this and the All For Love Blog, and Inner Michael – yes I do also have a life ha ha!! But it rather proves that if this 60+ year old can become obsessed at the age of 60, how must he affect younger people without my wisdom and insight (hopefully!!) to sift the wheat from the chaff??

      • Hi Caro Attwell.. sounds like I’m your twin (lol)!!!

      • Hey Caro,

        I don’t live in the US either and I believe this thing is a global phenomena, especially due to the fact information spreads instantly and so do these attitudes.

        I think we are getting at something very basic to human nature like envy and the desire to tear someone who is successful down. The media is enabling it and feeding to that desire but they didn’t invent it. I think when are faced with the success of others they can either get inspired and motivated to become successful or accomplished themselves OR they get envious and try somehow to bring that other person back down instead.

        Michael had experienced both, I mean the level of love and admiration that was thrown at him can only compare to the level of vicious attacks.

        • Hi Gennie,
          You said:
          “Michael had experienced both, I mean the level of love and admiration that was thrown at him can only compare to the level of vicious attacks”.

          This was something I was really dwelling on for months after Michael passed. I kept coming back to that, psychologically Michael experienced something no one else had prior…he reached the absolute pinnacle of success in the form of positive feedback in so many forms (fan adoration, creative reinforcement via material awards, other artists clamoring to work beside him, enormous contracts reflective of the confidence in his earning potential and “brand”, etc). I can’t think of another individual who received that level of admiration/adoration/celebration. However, as we have already examined and Michael told us many times that his “fall from grace” happened so “swiftly”. How does one human being deal with going from one extreme to another, since he became ridiculed, vilified, humiliated and hated with as much enthusiasm? There seems to be some positive correlation here; as the amount of love for the person increases, there will inevitably be the same degree of hatred bestowed upon that person. (“The bigger the star…” you know the rest).

          This still bothers me (as everyone else here too). It bothers me because I can not imagine what this in particular did to Michael’s mind. I know that he was mischaracterized from a young age (stupid, silly rumors), but he seemed to be able, for the most part shut out a lot of the “noise”. Also, I must mention that I am not even referring to the false allegations (although, they play into the hatred bestowed on him…something of an effect); I just try to isolate this specific aspect of his unique experience and imagine what it was like for him. This is where his lyrics help us out. Oh boy, it’s like the snake eating its own tail. It makes me shake my head. I don’t even know if what I am trying to say makes sense, but thank you for mentioning this Gennie.

          • Hi Monica,
            I know what you mean, it really bothers me as well. Every time I read books about MJ (I don’t mean tabloidish ones) I was left feeling drained and with and heavy heart. Even before he died, as early as the first edition of Taraborrelli’s book, it was like some dark cloud was always hovering over him. (I was showing some pictures of Michael to my grandmother and at one point she looked at me and asked “His eyes.. why is there such endless sorrow in his eyes?)

            I wonder actually how other fans deal with trying to imagine what it was like for him, because for me being immersed into “all this injustice” is really hard emotionally and psychologically. Especially back when I was doing research about what really happened with different situations. It’s like being forced to look at the worst sides of human being and what they can do. yeah…

          • Gennie,
            Just wanted to comment on one more aspect of this “slightly off topic” topic. After I commented to you today I was off busy doing something else (driving) and it donned on me that I remembered seeing Michael in a photo getting out of one of his cars (maybe ’06 or ’07) and he had a dvd in his hand. Well, I just had to see what Michael was watching so I zoomed in a bit. It was this movie/documentary about the Dixie Chicks entitled, “Shut Up and Sing”. I watched and found it enlightening since Michael was apparently interested in it enough to carry it around and perhaps watch it while being driven. I like to learn things like this about Michael.
            Also, isn’t it funny about Grandmothers’ wisdom and intuitiveness? Yours seemed to sense so much.

  20. I think Michael’s relationship with the media is at the very least, multi-fold. First, I totally agree with LMP when she said she believed that Michael’s purposeful strange persona was part protection mechanism. What stories and images Michael put out there that are true will probably never be fully known. Yet unlike the days of the Golden Age of Hollywood, this was not a studio or record company controlling the image. Instead of studio heads paying off tabloids, or giving up a not as successful star to protect their investment in another higher profile star (Does Rock Hudson come to mind?), we now have Michael controlling his own image and public persona. So since the tabloids were not getting paid to lay off of Michael, they decided they would get paid in another way – by exploiting Michael to their fullest ($$$$) benefit. I also think the studio/record/mutlinational company heads were resentful of Michael’s business acumen, or better yet their lack of control in it.

    Also, we’ve always had the media using the power of their pen to destroy people. I’m currently reading The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks by Jeanne Theoharis (great book BTW and Ms. Parks was so much more than just a tired seamstress who refused to give up her seat) and the media used vile descriptions to discredit Ms Parks, even going as far as to she was was really a Mexican and not even black. These types of things have always gone on in the press. Thomas Jefferson also comes to mind. But the difference is that Michael was probably the first truly global superstar coupled with the fact that the speed of information has gone from fast to instance in the last 25 years. Once the story was broadcast to billions of people, there was no time to do damage control.

  21. Have you guys seen the movie “Paparazzi”? I just watched it yesterday and shows pretty well what it could feel for the celebrities. Although the movie kinda takes hollywood approach to creating an action drama and a happy ending, the way it portrays paparazzi is pretty accurate. Also, the psychological damage of being hunted and having such intrusion in your personal space is shown well.

  22. Love all the comments above.

    Madonna may be recording her every move now, but isn’t that what Michael did from way back also? he had a videographer follow him everywhere,and often recorded his performances just for his own use, and there were lots of home movies that he often took as a child himself, and later like his first Christmas. Thinking of his own videographer when Bashir did his doccie – and thank goodness he did cos then we got a truer reflection of what actually went on!!!

    I have been listening to these songs around privacy etc., and although I have noticed it before, there is something that is more evident in these songs. We all know that Michael had a large vocal range in terms of octaves, but I have noticed how the timbre and tone of his voice changes in different songs. When he sang Someone in the Dark or Heal the World for instance, his voice was gentle and lyrical, but when he sings Privacy there is hard edged anger and almost a growling tone. When he sings “Dom Sneddon you’re a cold man” his voice is cold and hard, like it is sad and almost toneless (like his look) in Stranger in Moscow when he is “cold and alone inside” but again angry and shouting when “I’m talking danger baby”. .And how about “He’s taking morphine” or “You’re going down baby” – many many inflections of his voice. All of which is just brilliant, and adds to his epithet of ‘genius’ for me.

    • I thought the same thing, Caro, Michael did have personal videographers who were almost always with him. He understood the importance of preserving all these moments, not just on stage and practice footage, but just of him. Remember that memory room Michael made in hayvenhurst 🙂

      • Ja I do remember the memory room and thought at the time what a great idea if you have a house large enough, which of course Michael did. Would be nice to see that transferred to a museum some day, or perhaps (the thought has just occurred to me) Hayvenhurst might become a museum, as that can never happen at Neverland unfortunately – now that’s an idea!!

        • From what I remember (I grew up in the LA area), Hayvenhurst is in a residential neighborhood and would need rezoning approval to be a business or museum. Although maybe in the future the family and the estate will work out their issue so that all items (Michael’s and what was/is at Hayvenhurst which probably belongs to Katharine) could be put in a museum of sorts.

        • Regarding Neverland – never say never 🙂

    • Hi Caro — I also have been thinking about his voice — or rather the many voices of Michael Jackson, and how he changed it — even within a single song. And I agree that it is all “just brilliant, and adds to his epithet of ‘genius’ for me.” I love it when he goes from rough to smooth, from growly to lyrical. I also have been thinking about how the media focused on his soft, breathy speaking voice and how the high range of his singing voice and his speaking voice were used as the basis for all sorts of weird theories — he had had himself chemically castrated, he was freakishly undeveloped, he was incapable of having children, and on an on.

      Anyone who has listened to MJ knows that he could sing the low notes or the high notes. Anyone who has listened to his interviews knows that as he aged, his voice got deeper — although I think he deliberately used his high voice occasionally — sort of putting it on. Anyone who has listened to his brothers speak — when they were young — would note that the soft breathy voice is a family characteristic. Anyone familiar with soul or r & b or pop would also note that MJ was not the only singer to hit the high notes.

      Here is a link to Chanticleer singing Cells Planets. Lots of guys hitting the high notes.

      MJ’s voice coach Seth Rogers says that he had a range of over 3 octaves and that it was all his normal voice.

      I have been really puzzled as to why anyone would immediately assume his children are not his biological children. What a bizarre conclusion to leap to. Where does that come from? (Their skin is lighter, but then their mother is white and Joe has light skin and blue/green eyes.) Did they really think that his ability to hit the high notes really meant that he was incapable of producing sperm?

      As a young man, before the pepsi accident, before the vitiligo, before the nose surgery complicated by lupus, before he had to resort to makeup to hide these various problems and then used it to express himself artistically, he was a very conventionally male looking and also beautiful young man — no doubting his masculinity. Diid the media think that makeup and surgery actually affected his ability to father children?

      • The fullest explanation about Michael’s speaking voice is in “Honoring Child’s Spirit” where he explains that he spoke with that very high whispery voice partially because he did not want to grow up and partial to keep his high singing voice. And when he eventually switched to his normal speaking voice, he couldn’t hit the same notes anymore. People always come up with crazy theories when things are so simple!

        As for paternity – people are ignorant and think that genetics work like mixing paint: black + white = light brown. Plus he is MJ = controversy everywhere.

  23. We talk so much about meddling in the life of a famous person, about bulling in this post, and although we have to discuss another post, I found it important to come back here to share with you my concerns with someone who became the target of persecution, bullying, prejudice and precipitates judgments, so her father was. I’m talking about Paris. I do not know about American fans or other nationalities, but here in Brazil have a lot of people expressing hatred for Paris in an irrational way. They are saying she embarrass Michael (just because she cut her hair and painted, and endowed rock and roll style of dress), they are saying that she had to be pop, because he was pop singer. They’re saying she’s crazy, she’s stupid, she’s bizarre, she’s lost, disoriented and she’s about a step of de addict to drugs. They also say she cannot be regarded as Michael’s daughter, because she has nothing to do with him. Yes, guys, they say that she can’t be CONSIDERED Michael’s daughter, as if we were here to decide who is or isn’t Michael Jackson’s child, as if Paris had the obligation to be exactly like him, as if she must to be a clone of Michael and just likes the style he liked, and just enjoy his music. You can’t imagine the amount of offensive jokes they did about her since she posted the last picture on twitter. It’s unbelievable. In their mind, Paris must have blond, long and curly hair and dress as a Barbie Doll. A read things like “she is running away from her personality”. What?! This person imagined a personality for Paris and wants she fit it.

    • Daniela, I’m of the belief that children are off limits. That goes for children of celebrities or children of politicians. And even more so children that are of minor age (under 18). I understand that children may not have the capacity to understand why that is, but surely adults do and they need to set the example. How sad for adults to pick on an orphan child? These adults really must have something missing or wrong in their life. But also, I place some of this blame on the guardians of Paris. I think she needs proper guidance and supervision in her online activities – if not totally banned. This is for her own emotional AND physical protection. But, these are just my thoughts!!!

      • I disagree in part. While I think the guardians should take care of them better (allow interview with Oprah I consider unforgivable), I think that certain things are inherent to the age. What is wrong about what Paris does on twitter? She posts pictures and talking about homework, about artists she likes, etc., as any teenager. Since Kate has allowed them to have contact with the world (going to a regular school) things have changed. There was no way to avoid that. How to prohibit Paris to have twitter if all her friends have? It would make the girl feel different, strange; she will feel she cannot do what other girls do, that she can’t have a normal life. I do not think it would be good for her. In certain moment, she maybe will get sick of it and leave twitter by herself. But the people I mentioned in my comment are criticizing Paris for her clothes and her hair style. For God’s sake! The all drama made me think she had cut her ears off, not the hair. She is required to be blonde and have long hair and dress like a little doll? There is nothing wrong with changing the look, as a teenager I dyed and cut my hair several times in different ways and adopted different styles, so my teenager nieces do. The problem with Paris is that people want to take charge of her life, as they did with Michael. I like to see she’s tough and she does what she wants to do. People with strong personalities are hardly manipulated. At the beginning, she was very offended by those who hate Michael. This didn’t hit her. This didn’t retreat her. She was also offended by fans who say she is not his daughter and another who likes the Jackson brothers more than likes Michael Jackson, or not offend his daughter when she faced her uncles. She overcame it all. It showed that she isn’t a crying girl, she is strong and she is determined. She doesn’t lower her head when someone screams, she screams louder. My affection for her increased so much, because I admire a person who is not intimidated, who fight.
        And I think the critics to Paris style are just prejudice. Now, tell me, can a Michael Jackson fan be so prejudiced? A MJ’s fan judging his child due to her look is, at least, hypocrisy.

Tell us what you think...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: