HIStory Teaser, Part 1: Triumph of the Will

Willa:  Probably the one work by Michael Jackson that perplexes me the most is the promotional video for his HIStory album, commonly referred to as the “HIStory teaser.” It’s loosely based on Helene “Leni” Riefenstahl’s 1934 Nazi propaganda film, Triumph of the Will, which is such an unlikely source of inspiration for a Michael Jackson video – in fact, I can’t imagine a less likely source! I’ve thought about this promo film for years, trying to understand it, but never arriving at a completely satisfactory answer. I’m always left with the nagging feeling that there’s something important happening with this film that I’m just not seeing.

So I was very intrigued when our friend Eleanor Bowman told me she’d been doing historical research for her three-book series, The Algorithm of Desire, and that her research had given her new insights into this unsettling film. Thank you so much for joining me, Eleanor! I’m really eager to hear what you’ve been discovering.

Eleanor:  Hi Willa. Thanks for inviting me to join this wonderful, ongoing – and much needed – conversation about Michael Jackson. It is always a pleasure, and I learn so much.

You are not the only one who has been perplexed by the HIStory teaser. In fact, I found it really troubling. Looked at superficially, it seems to provide proof positive that MJ was a megalomaniac.

Willa: Which is how many critics interpreted it. Diane Sawyer quotes one of those critics in her 1995 interview with Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley:

The critics have said that it’s “the most boldly vain-glorious self-deification a pop singer ever undertook with a straight face.”

(This part of the interview is about 21 minutes in.) She also questions him about the military imagery in a way that suggests he’s promoting Nazi ideology, which he denies. Diane Sawyer then shows the film and makes it pretty clear afterwards that she agrees with what those critics have been saying.

Eleanor: Which is no surprise. Neither the critics nor the media ever seemed to “get” MJ. For example, to believe he did it “with a straight face,” as Diane Sawyer suggests, is to miss the point of the film entirely. Such an interpretation makes no sense at all in terms of who MJ was and what he stood for.

However, the question remains, how does the HIStory teaser make sense, given what we know about MJ? Because, you can be sure it does. HIStory, like the man whose story it is, is a mystery, but a mystery with the clues laid out for us, often in plain sight. I have found that those things that seem to make no sense on the surface often point to an underlying, but hidden, logic, if you dig deep enough.

Willa: Yes, I’ve found that too. And sometimes the films that perplexed me the most, and were even kind of off-putting at first – like Smooth Criminal and You Rock My World – are really powerful once I’ve found a key for interpreting them.

Eleanor:  Right. And the HIStory teaser is no exception. Although billed as a teaser for the HIStory album, the HIStory teaser is a work of art in and of itself.  It tells Michael Jackson’s story – his story, his side of the distorted and misbegotten story that was being told about him at the time; and, as the word “HIStory” suggests, it shows how Michael Jackson’s own personal story, and his situation, fits into a larger history and is even emblematic of that history. So, the film references in HIStory, including Triumph of the Will, are there because he believed they were relevant to, and would give us an understanding of, his situation.

Just as “Dangerous is Michael Jackson’s “coming of age album,” as Susan Fast says in her book, Dangerous, HIStory – the film and the album – fleshes out who he was in context, the context of his own life as a visionary and an artist, the context of the African-American experience, and the context of imperial culture. It is a damning political critique, an astute cultural analysis, and a powerful personal declaration, revealing heretofore hidden complexities, hidden reservoirs of knowledge, hidden depths.

As you and other contributors to your site have often pointed out, Willa, Michael Jackson’s incongruities frequently make us uncomfortable. And, to me, the most incongruous incongruity of all is his appearance in the HIStory teaser surrounded by the trappings of the most vicious, the most oppressive, military dictatorships in recent history. The juxtaposition of MJ with these images questions our notions of who he is, what he’s about. (“What was he thinking?!”)  No doubt about it, HIStory is risky. But Michael Jackson was a risk taker …

Willa: Yes, I agree. It’s one of his defining characteristics as an artist, I think.

Eleanor:  But, Michael Jackson was never unconscious of what he was about, so he must have thought the HIStory teaser was worth the risk, given what he was up against. He needed a way to get through to people, and with HIStory he found it. HIStory challenges us – it gets our attention – it makes us uncomfortable enough, or mystified enough, to look beneath the surface.

Willa: And according to the Diane Sawyer interview, that was his goal. As he tells her, “I wanted to get everyone’s attention.”

Eleanor:  Well, he certainly got mine! And keeping the faith and reading between the frames as I studied this film gave me a deeper understanding of the man he was and the visionary he is, as well as a greater appreciation of the magnitude of the challenges he faced. Lastly, I see it as proof of his indomitable spirit and his enduring hope for the future.

Having been the object of a vilification campaign that would have flattened anyone else, brutalized by the police, and hounded and harassed by the prosecutor of Santa Barbara County – attacks that on the surface made no sense whatsoever given the lack of evidence against him and the mountain of evidence for him – he analyzed them in terms of the history of the culture to discover what was really behind them. HIStory gives us the results of that analysis. In HIStory, Michael Jackson turns the tables on his accusers, criminalizing the society that was seeking to criminalize him.

Using imagery associated with the evils of empire, but juxtaposing that imagery with images of a man whose deepest desire was to heal the world, HIStory contrasts Michael Jackson’s values with the values of the people acting against him and exposes the origins of those values. Presenting a new kind – a new species – of cultural hero, HIStory makes a compelling argument that the vicious attacks on Michael Jackson arose from the fear that, in his person and his art, he undermined all the assumptions that prop up an imperialist society, a society whose functioning depends on dividing, not uniting, frequently on the basis of race.

HIStory reveals the nature of the attacks on Michael Jackson as political and cultural, the take-no-prisoners approach, itself, proof of his political and cultural power and the magnitude of the threat he represented – and continues to represent – to the status quo – a power and a threat that Susan Woodward recognizes and analyzes in her very interesting book, Otherness and Power: Michael Jackson and His Media Critics.

Willa: I learned a lot from Susan’s book as well. In fact, she’ll be joining me soon in a post about it. But getting back to what you were saying about HIStory, it’s true that it was the first album to come out after the 1993 allegations broke, and the HIStory teaser kicked off the release of that album. And wow … he made it very clear he was not going to be shamed into silence by everything that was being said about him, and by what the police and press had put him through. The HIStory film is boldly defiant. That much is certain.

But it’s interesting that you also see it as directly challenging the “political and cultural” ideology behind it all – not just the allegations themselves, but the way those allegations tapped into pre-existing prejudices and unleashed the cultural fury that followed. I’m really curious to learn more about that.

Eleanor: Well, Willa, as it happens, I am happy to share my thoughts. As you mentioned, while working on my book this summer – and thinking about the relationship of empire to racism, specifically the role imperial cultural values played in the treatment of Michael Jackson – the “imperial” images from the HIStory teaser kept coming to mind.

My book deals in general with the power of myth to shape a society’s way of life, and specifically with the power of the creation myth in Genesis to shape and maintain the imperial way of life through instilling belief in a disembodied God who transcends matter. Genesis removes God, and the sacred, from nature and the material world, elevates him above it, puts him in charge, and creates humanity in his image, creating a transcendent worldview and value system based on division and hierarchy, dividing humanity from nature and mind from body.

Throughout the history of the Christian West, empire after empire has used this worldview to identify a select group or race or nation as those most perfectly “made in God’s image,” and defined them as the “fully human,” elevating them above everyone else, placing them in control, and associating them with mind rather than matter. Those who are controlled, rather than controlling, are defined in terms of body, mindless body. They are generally consigned to doing the less culturally valuable, physical work, and identified as less than fully human – if human at all. For example, in the U.S. Constitution (Article 1, section 2), the slaves were assigned only ⅗ the value of a free person.

Willa: We talked with you about the connections between this ideology of “transcendence” and how it leads to misogyny and racism in a post a while back. In that post, you discussed how “transcendence” is the central concept of Judeo-Christian culture, and suggested that Michael Jackson was literally embodying a new ideology, one of “immanence.” It was so fascinating – one of those conversations that really changed how I see the world. You also explained the dire consequences of this ideology of transcendence, both for humans and the environment.

Eleanor:  Yes, to me, Michael Jackson’s cultural significance lies in the fact that he is the avatar of immanence. Representing an alternative to the transcendent worldview, he also is the embodiment of anti-imperialistic values. So it is fascinating to me that in HIStory, he references Triumph of the Will, which was possibly the most effective piece of imperialist propaganda ever created.

I had always assumed that Triumph was filmed when the Nazi regime was at the peak of its power and that it was a straightforward documentary of an important Nazi gathering. But, actually, as you point out, it was filmed early on, in 1934, and the gathering was organized specifically for the film. So Riefenstahl was not documenting reality but constructing it, providing the visual images that would not only reflect the Nazi worldview, but create it. Riefenstahl was creating the myth that would create and sustain Nazi Germany.

Willa:  Wow, Eleanor, that is fascinating.

Eleanor: According to an article written shortly after her death in 2003, “No documentation of National Socialism today is released without pictures from this film, no other film has formed our visual impression of what National Socialism was, as much as this film.”

Willa:  This so interesting, and actually it ties in with something I’ve been very interested in for a long time – the power of art not only to reflect reality, but to create a new reality.

For example, two very important trends happened simultaneously in the 18th Century: the rise of a new social class that hadn’t existed before (the middle class) and the rise of a new art form that hadn’t existed before (the novel). In Desire and Domestic Fiction: a Political History of the Novel, Nancy Armstrong suggests that this new literary form didn’t just reflect the interests of this new social class, which is how scholars have tended to look at their intertwined history, but that the novel actually helped create the middle class. Armstrong argues that the novel created a new kind of social awareness where people were judged not by their social standing but by their “qualities of mind,” and that this new awareness created the ideological basis for social mobility, and therefore the middle class.

This is the exact same process you’re talking about with Triumph of the Will. It doesn’t document broad public acceptance of Nazi ideology so much as provide a vision of what a Nazi triumph might look like, and in that way helped to make it come true.

I see something very similar with Michael Jackson. Throughout his work, he isn’t just creating powerful art – though he is doing that – but also a new cultural awareness that makes social change possible. He shows us how our current social structures have failed, especially for those who have been excluded or rendered powerless by them, and suggests new cultural possibilities.

Eleanor:  Exactly. He is, as you say, creating “a new cultural awareness that makes social change possible.” Michael Jackson, like Riefenstahl, understood the power of art, in this case, film, to shape and influence how we see the world. Referencing Riefenstahl in his film, HIStory, he announces that he, too, is a myth maker, but he is creating a new myth to create a new reality. And, instead of celebrating and setting the stage for yet another empire and “deifying” himself, as the media and critics thought (see the Diane Sawyer quote above), his myth takes issue with the very idea that some are more equal than others and shatters the imperialistic myth altogether.

He knew that, for most people, HIStory’s Riefenstahl-like imagery – the monumental architecture, the broad expanses of boulevard and city square, rank upon rank of men marching in lockstep – calls to mind Nazi atrocities, not imperial glory, and he had faith that his fans, if not the critics and the media, knew the difference between what Michael Jackson stood for and what Adolf Hitler stood for.

Interestingly, as an African-American musician, MJ represented a group whom the Nazis despised as much as they did the Jews. Listening to “degenerate” African-American music (at that time, jazz) was prohibited by the Nazis and punishable by imprisonment or even death as part of their drive to purify the so-called Aryan race and culture. Here’s a really interesting article that deals with the Nazi’s fear and loathing of jazz, explaining that “in Nazi occupied Europe, … jazz was suppressed; … it bore the stigma of impurity, innovation, passion… all qualities totalitarians frown on (even anti-fascist theorist Theodor Adorno had a serious beef with jazz).”

Willa: This is a very important topic – something I knew nothing about until Midnight Boomer and Ultravioletrae discussed it in comments last June. I’d really like to discuss this in depth. Maybe we could all get together and do a post about it sometime …

So in the HIStory teaser, you see Michael Jackson both evoking and rewriting the narrative of empire and imperialism?

Eleanor: Yes. Costuming the soldiers in the uniforms of the Soviet Union, HIStory puts another nail in the imperial coffin, bringing back memories of the gulag and the KGB (“was doggin’ me”). Adding an American swat team, notorious in African-American neighborhoods for battering in doors and asking questions later, HIStory ups the ante, bringing the evils of empire up close and personal.

Associating Soviet totalitarianism and the American police state (coming soon to your neighborhood) with Nazi fascism, HIStory associates all three with imperial oppression, past and present. Adding Michael Jackson, a black artist with a remarkable vision and a great heart, and his history – both personal and racial – to the mix, HIStory offers hope for the future while reminding us of the past – including his.

Willa: And we know from his other work that this issue of empire is an important one to him. Repeatedly we see him subtly evoking our colonial past, and opposing the lingering consequences of colonialism and imperialism. For example, we’ve talked about that a bit in posts about the short films for Black or White, They Don’t Care About Us, and Liberian Girl. And this longtime concern with the ongoing effects of imperialism is a very important context for approaching the HIStory teaser, I think.

So you believe that, in HIStory, he extends that ongoing concern with empire to include fascism and other authoritarian social structures? That’s really interesting – and it helps explain why he would draw on Triumph of the Will as a model.

To be honest, I’d never watched that film before, but I found the entire thing on YouTube. (Just about everything is on YouTube!) Here’s a link:

I have to say, knowing what we know about how everything went terribly wrong with the Nazi movement, I approached this film with dread …

Eleanor: Before doing this post, I hadn’t seen it either, Willa, only snippets. And I felt the same way. In fact, I even approached HIStory with dread.

Willa: Triumph is very unsettling, as you said earlier. And that fascist imagery is another reason I was so reluctant to watch it. But it wasn’t at all what I expected. And in fact, there were some aspects of it that directly tie in with Michael Jackson in surprising ways.

For example, the film emphasizes that Hitler envisions Nazism as a youth-based movement. Hitler gives five very short speeches over the course of the film, and perhaps his best speech is addressed to what looks like a sea of 12-year-old boys. (This scene starts about 45 minutes in). Here’s what he tells them:

We want to be one people. And you, my youth, are to be this people. We want to see no more class divisions. You must not let this grow up amongst you.

So he’s directing his message to children, pre-teens, and his emphasis is that they are all “one people” – a very Michael Jackson sort of concept. Hitler goes on to say,

And I know this cannot be otherwise because you are the flesh of our flesh, and the blood of our blood. And in your young heads burns the same spirit that rules us. You cannot be other than united with us.

These words – “you are the flesh of our flesh, and the blood of our blood” – really caught my attention, for a couple of reasons. For one, while Hitler is saying that they are “one people” without “class divisions,” he did not in any way believe that all humans or even all Germans were “one people.” Just the opposite. He wanted to maintain absolute divisions between some groups of people, such as Jews and Gentiles, blacks and whites, heterosexuals and homosexuals, the able-bodied and those with disabilities, especially those with genetic disabilities.

He subtly alludes to this in his final speech in the film when he says, “the divisions of the past have been replaced by a high standard leading the nation. We carry the best blood and we know this.” So this issue of blood is a very important one for Hitler because he uses it to promote his ideas of racial purity.

Eleanor:  Yes, knowing what we know, these words make my own blood run cold. Hitler is not talking about just any blood, but “the best blood” – the blood of “our people,” who were created by God.

Nothing will come from nothing if it is not grounded on a greater order. This order was not given to us by an earthly superior. It was given to us by God who created our people.

In these words, Hitler references the first creation story in Genesis to buttress his own ambition, claiming that the social and political order imposed by the Nazis – fascism – comes from God, and that the German people (at least some of them) are made in God’s image, the image of omnipotent and omniscient and transcendent mind. Or as Riefenstahl puts it in the case of Hitler and the Nazis, in terms of “the will.”

Although born a Catholic, Hitler himself was not a believer, but the majority of the German people were. So to legitimize his own agenda, he contextualizes his own views within the framework of Christian belief.  Based on studying this film (and what I know in general about Hitler) it appears to me that he is marketing the Germans and the Nazi party and his own ambitions as representing the purest expression of divine will.

Willa: So is that where the title Triumph of the Will comes from? I’ve been wondering what that title meant …

Eleanor: Well, Willa, I am only guessing. But, will is a manifestation of mind and God’s will, as in “thy will be done,” is an important Christian concept which is pretty widely known. It is also highly probable that the term “will” is a reference to the title of Schopenhauer’s book, The World as Will and Idea. (In German, both titles use the same word for “will.”) As a great mythmaker, Riefenstahl is probably making a number of unconscious and conscious associations – getting as much mileage as possible out of a single word – just as MJ, through multiple associations, is getting tremendous mileage out of a four-minute film. Triumph is Riefenstahl’s rendering of Hitler’s version of the myth of transcendence. Hitler’s will, the will of the German people, and the German people themselves, are mythologized by Riefenstahl as the triumph of God’s will, but what we are really witnessing is the triumph of Hitler’s will.

Those who exercise their will to control others – the master race – are viewed as naturally and essentially superior to those identified with the body, providing a rationale for the systematic dehumanization, exploitation, abuse, and even eradication (in the case of the Nazis) of other peoples, especially people of other races. In Hitler’s world, only the Aryans, only those who carry the “best blood,” were viewed as fully human – all others were seen as vermin, something to be exterminated.

Willa: It’s really horrifying how this idea of pure blood or “best blood” was used to justify racism and genocide. But then looking at Michael Jackson, it’s fascinating that the image of blood is very important for him as well, for the exact opposite reason: to deny racial divisions and other artificial boundaries between us. It’s almost like a metaphor for what he’s doing throughout the HIStory film – he’s taking a cultural narrative propounded by Hitler and completely reversing it.

In Michael Jackson’s vision, blood is one element that unites us. All of us – all races, all religions, all nationalities – we all have blood in our veins. We all bleed when we’re wounded. Our human blood is one of the things that signifies us all as “one people” – truly one people. Michael Jackson beautifully expresses this in “Can You Feel It” when he sings, “We’re all the same / Yes, the blood inside of me is inside of you … Yes, the blood inside my veins is inside of you.”

Eleanor: Yes, he not only denies the validity of the concept that some are more human than others, he redefines what it means to be human in terms of connection, rather than separation, putting mind back in body and humanity in nature. His vision not only erases divisions, it is all encompassing. Expressed in “Planet Earth,” it extends the idea of blood kinship beyond the human, to all life throughout all time, when he says,

In my veins I’ve felt the mystery
Of corridors of time, books of history
Life songs of ages throbbing in my blood
Have danced the rhythm of the tide and flood

Unlike Hitler, who uses blood to symbolize a mind and spirit (and will) unique to the German people (“you are … the blood of our blood … united with us. In your young heads burns the same spirit that rules us”), Michael Jackson uses blood to symbolize the life force which is common to us all. All life, including humanity, is an expression of the sacred power within nature which pulses through our bodies and our veins.

His role in the HIStory teaser is to offer an alternative to the dominant and dominating paradigm and discredit it at the same time. By juxtaposing images of himself – a man who has demonstrated his “humanity” repeatedly – to images of empire, specifically those empires that have ghetto-ized (and worse) the oppressed peoples that he as a black man represents, HIStory exposes the imperial idea of the “fully human” as inhumane, as cruel and corrupt, promoting death instead of life.

In Michael Jackson’s world, no one is more “fully” human than anyone else.  No one is essentially more – or less – valuable based on race or sex or religion or nationality. In Michael Jackson’s world, the desire for kinship and connection and empathy replaces the drive to separate and achieve superiority. Compassion replaces control.

If one’s deepest desire is to join the select club of the fully human, as defined by imperial values, then that desire affirms those values, and the existing order. But if you reject the club and everything it stands for, and you have the power of Michael Jackson, then you could bring the whole power structure down. Which is why he was so dangerous.

Willa:  Yes, but his “power” is an interesting one because he derives his power in large part from desire – from our desire for him and for what he represents, his vision of the future. And this is going to sound really outrageous at first, so bear with me while I explain, but this is another important parallel between Hitler and Michael Jackson, between Triumph of the Will and the HIStory promo film.

I was really surprised by Triumph of the Will because it wasn’t the long speech justifying Nazi values that I was expecting. In fact, it doesn’t go into much detail at all about Nazi ideology, and Hitler’s speeches are very short – mostly 2 or 3 minutes long. The final speech is by far the longest, but even it’s only about 9 minutes. It’s a propaganda film, but swaying an audience through rhetoric doesn’t seem to be the point. Instead, the goal of the film seems to be to create desire – specifically, desire for Hitler and for a vibrant, healthy, strong Germany.

Triumph of the Will begins with 20 minutes of music and images – no dialogue. Twenty minutes is a really long time in a film, especially one that’s less than two hours long. And we see very little of Hitler himself in those first 20 minutes. Instead we see an aerial view of the beautiful architecture of Nuremberg (we as an audience are flying into Nuremberg as Hitler is) and still from the air, we also see massive numbers of troops, columns of troops – like in the HIStory film – marching to the place where Hitler will speak.

Then we see his plane land – there’s a quick glimpse of him descending the steps of the plane – and then we follow his motorcade into town. But we see much more footage of the crowd and their enthusiastic reception of him than we do of Hitler himself.

The point of all this is to build anticipation, to whet desire, and the HIStory film begins the exact same way. In the first half we see troops marching toward the center of town and steelworkers preparing for his arrival. We also see screaming fans, excited children, fainting women. But we see very little of Michael Jackson himself. We don’t even see his face until halfway through this first part, and even then it’s only brief glimpses.

So the first half of the HIStory film precisely parallels the first 20 minutes of Triumph of the Will. Both of these films are building anticipation, creating desire – and it’s a very similar kind of desire. It’s almost a type of romantic love, or even sexual ecstasy. That’s another reason that line “you are the flesh of our flesh, and the blood of our blood” really jumped out at me.

In the Bible, in Genesis, Adam tells Eve that she is “flesh of my flesh,” and this line is often repeated at wedding ceremonies. So when Hitler speaks these words, he is subtly implying that his relationship with his audience is like the bond between a man and a woman. And repeatedly in his songs and films, Michael Jackson implies the same thing – that his relationship with his audience is like a love affair. That idea is reinforced in the many crowd shots in both Triumph of the Will and the HIStory teaser, especially the shots of fainting women, swooning as if in a state of ecstasy.

Eleanor: You are right. Riefenstahl herself was in love with him, and I guess all of Germany fell in love with him – and he had admirers outside of Germany, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. I was really shocked when I ran across this article on the Express website, published in 2009, which claimed that “The former British monarch told the journalist it would be tragic for the world if the Nazi ­dictator were overthrown. Hitler was not just the right and logical leader of the German people, the Duke insisted, he was also a great man.”

Willa: Wow, that entire article is shocking. I knew he supported Hitler at one time, but I thought that was early on – before the war. I didn’t realize it continued during the war, and even included passing information to the Germans and trying to sway Roosevelt against helping Great Britain. If this is true, it’s very fortunate that he abdicated the throne. I’m going to have to learn more about this …

But I think Riefenstahl’s relationship with Hitler was complicated. I recently read an interview where Quincy Jones describes having lunch with her, and he implies she was rather critical of the Nazi leadership, including Hitler, and said they were all addicted to cocaine. (Jones goes on to say that cocaine “closes down any fear or problem with violence,” which is interesting, especially in connection with the Nazi leadership.)

But of course, Quincy Jones met Riefenstahl long after World War II had ended, and the full horror of what had happened had been exposed. Her feelings were probably very different when she made the film in 1934, before the concentration camps and other atrocities had happened – back when Hitler appeared like a kind of savior promising a new beginning for Germany.

Eleanor: I read that article, too. Isn’t it interesting that Quincy Jones met Leni Riefenstahl?

Willa:  It really is.

Eleanor: In that article, he says he was a big fan. I wonder if MJ learned about Triumph from him. I had assumed it was through his interest in Chaplin. But, maybe not …

Willa:  I had the exact same reaction. It certainly adds another dimension to Michael Jackson’s use of Triumph in the HIStory teaser, doesn’t it?

Eleanor:  As you say, that meeting took place long after the events of World War II. At the time she was making Triumph she said,

To me Hitler is the greatest man who ever lived. He is really faultless, so simple yet so filled with manly power… He is really beautiful, he is wise. Radiance streams from him. All the great men of Germany – Friedrich, Nietzsche, Bismarck – have all had faults. Hitler’s followers are not spotless. Only he is pure.

To me, these are the words of a woman in love. So if Riefenstahl’s feelings are any indication of how people felt about Hitler, desire was a component to his appeal.

But comparing Michael to Hitler in this way is still almost more than I can handle. That’s how toxic this stuff is. That’s why what Michael did in HIStory was so risky.

Willa: I know what you mean. Comparing Michael Jackson to Hitler just feels wrong, on so many levels. Their beliefs, perceptions, vision for the future, emotional response to suffering – everything about them seems diametrically opposed. But Michael Jackson himself drew the comparison in his conversations with Rabbi Boteach, which were published in 2009 as The Michael Jackson Tapes. When talking with Rabbi Boteach about Hitler and the Holocaust, he was clearly horrified:

When I found out the count of how many children in the Holocaust alone died… [starts to break down]. What man can do something like that? I don’t understand. It doesn’t matter what race it is. I don’t get it. I don’t understand at all. I really don’t. What kind of conditioning… I don’t understand that kind of thing. Does someone condition you to hate that much? Is it possible that they could do that to your heart?

(By the way, the parenthetical note that he “starts to break down” while speaking of the Holocaust is Rabbi Boteach’s.) So Michael Jackson is completely opposed to Nazi ideology. Of course.

Eleanor: Of course. It is beyond me how anyone could believe otherwise.  But I guess they did, which is why they were willing to believe that the lyrics “kike me,” etc. in “They Don’t Care About Us” were anti-Semitic (further proof of his “Nazi leanings,” no doubt), when he was speaking for the Jews, not against them. The critics and the media and those who have invested and succeeded in the existing system are its gatekeepers. To defuse his power, they denied it, ridiculing him as an uppity, empty-headed pop star making a fool of himself by puffing himself up and identifying himself with imperial power, when he was clearly critiquing it, as an ideology of hate.

Willa: It is “an ideology of hate.” As he told Boteach, “Does someone condition you to hate that much?” And this ideology of hate is completely antithetical to everything he stands for and believes in.

But as his conversation with Rabbi Boteach continues, he goes on to say this:

Hitler was a genius orator. He was [able] to make that many people turn and change and hate. He had to be a showman and he was. Before he could speak, he would pause, drink a bit of water, and then he would clear his throat, and look around. It was what an entertainer would do trying to work out how to play his audience.

Eleanor: OMG, Willa. I will never be able to look at MJ, standing stock still for a full minute or so and then slowly taking off his Ray-Bans, in the same way again!

Willa: Well, I don’t think Hitler invented that strategy of delaying his “performance” to build anticipation, but he certainly used it very effectively – and so did Michael Jackson. It’s very unsettling to think about, but it’s true.

So it’s completely wrong to suggest Michael Jackson was a Nazi sympathizer as some critics have done, in part because of those passages from Rabbi Boteach’s book. In fact, Rabbi Boteach himself has repeatedly defended Michael Jackson and said the people accusing him are misinterpreting those passages – for example, in a Huffington Post article in November 2009, and another article a couple years later in May 2012.

But while it’s wrong to call Michael Jackson a Nazi sympathizer – far from it, he represents just the opposite – nevertheless, he understood the power of a compelling performer to sway an audience, either for good or evil, and it’s fascinating that that’s how he sees Hitler: as “a genius orator,” “a showman,” and a performer. Rabbi Boteach asks him about this, just to clarify:

Are you the opposite of Hitler? God gave you this phenomenal charisma and while he [Hitler] brought out the beast in man, you want to bring out some of that innocence and goodness in man.

Michael Jackson agrees with Boteach’s assessment, saying “I believe that.”

Eleanor:  Yes, from an early age, he believed he had a special role to play, a destiny. And, I believe that as well.

Willa: I don’t know if it was destiny or not, but he certainly became an incredibly powerful cultural figure – one who literally changed the world.

So it’s important to separate out Hitler’s skill as a propagandist from his ideology. Michael Jackson apparently felt nothing but horror for Hitler’s message, but expressed a grudging admiration for his charisma and his ability to convey that message. Hitler used his talents to promote prejudice and hatred – and in the HIStory film, Michael Jackson is appropriating some of his techniques to promote “love,” as he told Diane Sawyer. Or rather desire. I think it’s more about desire actually, but desire is closely aligned with love.

Eleanor:  Yes, and desire is clearly linked to charisma, although charisma remains a mystery, but a mystery MJ was very interested in understanding.

Charisma is more than a matter of technique. It is tied to the power of the message – and the messenger – to tap into deep and collectively-held emotions, to satisfy deeply felt needs and longings – as you say, desires – the deepest being those associated with survival. Hitler aroused desire in the German people, appealing to their drive to survive, by convincing them that their survival depended on him, and that, under his leadership, they would not only survive but rise again out of the ashes of WWI.

Willa:  That is such an important point, Eleanor, and highlights another important parallel between Triumph of the Will and the HIStory teaser: they were both filmed at a time of deep humiliation and presumed defeat. Triumph begins with these lines written across the screen:

5 September 1934
20 years after the outbreak of the World War
16 years after the start of the German suffering
19 months after the start of Germany’s rebirth
Adolf Hitler flew once again to Nuremberg to hold a military display

(This is a translation – the actual words are written in German.) So the film places itself within the context of Germany’s defeat in World War I and the crippling economic conditions that followed, which was truly a time of great “suffering” in Germany. And Michael Jackson created the HIStory film in 1995 following the false allegations of child sexual abuse, which was a time of great suffering for him. People around the world were twisting his message and calling him a child molester.

But despite this suffering and humiliation, both films announce that they will not be defeated, they will not be shamed. Michael Jackson will not allow others to put their labels onto him – he will define himself – and so will Germany. They will both rise again, on their own terms. As the text at the beginning of Triumph says, this film is documenting and celebrating “the start of Germany’s rebirth.”

Eleanor:  However, Hitler’s vision was not just a vision of rebirth, but a vision of conquest, a vision in which a reborn Germany proved their superiority to all others, and we know where that led.

Willa: Yes, absolutely. That’s why watching that film now, knowing what happened soon after, is so chilling.

Eleanor: And Riefenstahl’s film was very important in creating the desire to see his vision fulfilled – in making the connection between Hitler’s vision and their survival, in showing Hitler as their hero, their salvation. And the desire created, as you say is “almost a type of romantic love, or even sexual ecstasy.”

Collective survival, the survival of a people or a nation, involves more than relationships to other peoples and the land. It also involves sexual relationships which ensure survival from one generation to the next. So, appealing to the drive to survive also arouses sexual desire. And, it is very possible that Hitler used a phrase like “flesh of my flesh” – and Riefenstahl highlighted it in her film – as a deliberate reference to Adam and Eve and sexual love.

So Triumph can be read as a sexual display of sorts. The imagery in Triumph is all about dominance and power and strength, in other words, macho-ness. Think of all those images at the beginning of beautiful young males, emerging half dressed into the early morning mist. Associating images of male beauty with images of political and military strength associates military prowess with sexual prowess.

Willa:  That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about that before, but it’s true that Triumph is filled with images of male power in many different forms …

Eleanor: And as you say, HIStory, like Triumph, builds anticipation and whets sexual desire. Just as we see very little of Hitler in the opening sequences of Triumph, we see very little of MJ. As a matter of fact, we don’t see much of MJ at all, but what we do see of him is really interesting. Before that great shot of his beautiful smiling face, we see his sexy boots and his skin-tight pants. We see him walking – and how he walks! That graceful swagger, the utter confidence.

And just before he salutes, a salute that conveys feelings of empathy and respect for his troops, and leaves the scene altogether, the camera focuses on … his crotch!  A very different kind of, but very effective, male display. Maleness, like humanity, embodied in Michael Jackson, has nothing to do with conquest, and desire for him has nothing to do with the desire to be conquered (à la the romance novels known as “bodice rippers”).

HIStory

To bring about radical change, to dig up the roots of empire, which he saw as threatening the survival of the planet and the human species – especially one particular member of the human species, himself – Michael Jackson had to use the power of his art to create a new paradigm of survival – a new algorithm of desire.

Willa:  Which is the title of your book series. So we’ve kind of come full circle …

Eleanor: Yes, how did that happen? The algorithm of desire defines the terms of collective survival – from day to day and from one generation to the next. Empires have based survival, both kinds, on the idea of “divide and conquer.”

To bring about radical change, Michael Jackson had to de-link the drive to survive – which drives our interactions with other lands and other peoples, as well as sexual desire – from ideas of separation and control, which meant that he had to redefine the erotic, which I believe he did. Through the power of his art to reach deeply into and touch our emotions, he created new associations. He rewired our brains. He changed what turns people on. A lot for one slim young man to take on – and accomplish.

Willa: Yes, it is. But redefining the erotic is something he successfully achieved throughout his career. I mean, he was the first black teen idol – an object of desire for millions of teenagers around the world: white, black, Asian, all races. That in itself is a powerful redefinition of the erotic.

And he was sexy in a very different way than most of his predecessors. He was incredibly hot, but not in a macho way. He redefined what it means for a man to be sexy.

Eleanor: Yes, she said yes….

Willa: Ha! That’s funny. So you believe that one thing he’s doing in the HIStory promo film is breaking the symbolic linkage between military might and sexual virility, between empire and machismo?

Eleanor: Exactly. What a great way to put it!  And what better way to discredit empire than by referencing the most notorious example of the paradigm of transcendence in recent memory, Nazi Germany. And what better way to reference Nazi Germany than by using the techniques of Triumph of the Will, which displayed both Hitler’s oratory and Riefenstahl’s art, and exploit them to forward his own agenda.

As we have discussed, HIStory was filmed at a very difficult time in Michael’s life. But, looked at more broadly. Michael Jackson appeared on the world stage at a time when people were losing faith in the old solutions and were desperately seeking something new. He knew that the tide was turning, and “the tide, when taken at the full, leads on to fortune” – so, he took it.

HIStory offers us the vision of a new kind of hero, one who is committed to compassion rather than conquest. The power of his art touches us so deeply it changes our lives – opening our hearts and our eyes, making us feel and see things differently, moving us to dance the dance of life, not death.

Willa:  And this idea of a “new kind of hero” is something we also see in Charlie Chaplin’s brilliant satirical film, The Great Dictator, which also works off of and against Triumph of the Will and served as an important influence for the HIStory teaser. That’s what we’ll focus on when we continue this discussion in a second post.

In the meantime, thank you, Eleanor, for joining me. You’ve certainly given us a lot to think about!

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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 October 30, 2014, in Michael Jackson and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 56 Comments.

  1. Thank you for such an interesting, powerful post that teaches so much. Not only are you teaching a better understanding of Michael, but I find on a personal level I learn with each post why I have always understood and related to Michael.

    • I’m glad you found it valuable, Denise. I agree with you, the posts on this blog add so much to my understanding of Michael, as well. And, in the process of contributing to this post, what I learned about Michael deepened my already deep admiration of him.

      • Yes Eleanor I totally agree. This is my absolute favourite blog for these very reasons. I also really enjoy All For Michael for the daily news of anything Michael, but this blog just adds to my education and deep admiration.

        Thank you and Willa for this particular blog which has informed me no end, because I knew almost nothing about this subject, and for a long time wondered why someone who advocated world peace should make a video like this, which seemingly glorified war!!! Now I know why, and it was of course just the opposite, which I should have figured out knowing how Michael came at subjects from a different angle to most!!

  2. I just want to thank Willa and Joie, in absentia, for again, inviting me to be part of their wonderful conversation. It means so much.

  3. Thanks for a VERY interesting post! You forgot to mention that MJ *also* had an intro text to his video – read out loud in Esperanto. (As discussed in our post about MJ and foreign languages: https://dancingwiththeelephant.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/1450/).

    HIS intro reads
    “Diversaj nacioj de la mondo” (Different nations of the world) / “konstruas ĉi tiun skulptaĵon” (build this sculpture) / “en la nomo de tutmonda patrineco kaj amo” (in the name of global motherhood and love) / “kaj la kuraca forto de muziko” (and the healing power of music).

    Compare this to Riefenstahl’s intro, and it’s even more striking (Germany vs different nations of the world; wars vs global motherhood and love; past suffering vs the [future] healing power of music).

    THIS is clearly another reason to why on earth MJ chose to use Esperanto in ”HIStory”. Hitler mentions Esperanto in ”Mein Kampf”, where he describes the language, constructed by a Jew, as a vehicle for a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world.

  4. Thanks, Bjorn.

    We get to the Esperanto stuff in the next installment, “HIStory Part 2: The Great Dictator”.
    And Esperanto plays a starring role in that discussion and you are gratefully acknowledged.

  5. HIStory is my favorite era of Michael’s career. I was always fascinated by the HIStory Teaser, because i thought that It was so ambitious, bold and clever. After everything that he went through, he came back more daring than ever. Michael knew his cultural impact not only in the US, but globally, he was making this clear.

    I understand why some people thought that he was being megalomaniacal, because they weren’t aware of his history, so they didn’t understand his message. When Diane Sawyer questioned him about the supposed “symbols”, he said that It wasn’t no symbols, that It was only love and art.

    The desire discussion is something very interesting, because to me Michael was absolutely handsome and masculine in this piece. I didn’t thought about the “crotch shot” before, but it’s make perfect sense that It was a affirmation of his masculinity.

    • Yes, Glaucia, I agree that “Michael knew his cultural impact not only in the US, but globally, [and] he was making this clear.” And I love the HIStory music. Some of his greatest.

      I love the crotch shot. It may have meant what I suggested.

      He was also on his honeymoon, can’t forget that!

      And, it also may have meant something else entirely, as another commenter suggests.

      It’s my guess, given his complexity, that it meant both… and other things as well.

  6. Interesting but not sure I can agree wholeheartedly with everything discussed, however, thoughtfully it’s been presented. It just goes against what Michael said about the trailer in his interview with Sawyer.

    Willa states “It’s loosely based on Helene “Leni” Riefenstahl’s 1934 Nazi propaganda film, Triumph of the Will, which is such an unlikely source of inspiration for a Michael Jackson video”

    I had always thought Michael had vehemently denied this HIStory trailer was reflective of Triumph of the Will and it was Sawyer and others like her trying to put that spin on it. So I went and relistened to the interview and transcripted that section. Also observed Michael’s face and mannerisms during the exchange and find that he became quite offended when she insisted that she was correct. She attempted to speak on the symbols and he shut her down completely and empathically-

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHS_qmZdrSM Discussion of trailer begins at 20:56

    Notice the words Sawyer uses to put Michael right away ill at ease with this aspect of the interview and please watch how his attitude shifts, his body language and hand gestures during this exchange.

    Sawyer: We are going to show you a film now created by Michael Jackson and it is causing a furor in some movie theatres around this country. They say among other things, that is clearly modeled after Triumph of the Will, by Leni Riefenstahl a Nazi film filled with Nazi, ….

    MJ: Not true,

    Sawyer: …filled with Nazi imagery.

    MJ: None of those things are true.

    Sawyer: Did you watch that film before you did it?

    MJ; I watch everything, I love movies, I love documentaries. It had nothing to do with it at all

    Sawyer: But there are people say, who look at it this and say ….

    MJ: Absolutely not .. It has nothing to do with politics or communism or fascism, at all –

    Sawyer: The critics have said “Boldly, vain glorious, self deification that a pop singer ever undertook with a straight face ..

    M: Good ! ! that’s what I wanted.

    Sawyer: for the controversy?

    MJ. Yeah! And they fell into my trap … I wanted everybody’s attention.

    Sawyer: What about the people who say those symbols matter…

    MJ: No, No, (shakes head) No, The symbols have nothing to do with that.. its not political, it;s not fascism it’s not dogma, it’s not ideology and all this stuff.

    (with this sentence he emphasizes each “it’s not” with hand movements and it looks almost angry/upset)

    MJ:Its pure simple love- You don’t see any tanks, you don’t see any cannons.

    It’s about love. It’s people coming together… happy – (he looks offended when not allowed to continue)

    Sawyer: Let’s let everybody watch it.

    MJ: Yes but it’s ART –it’s ART the way a director uses a medium to create art. (He looks dejected at this point)

    Sawyer: here it comes.. ( shows trailer)

    Sawyer: Well clearly we’re going to agree to disagree maybe on what this means to some people watching it.

    Then she begins the dialogue about his lyrics being anti-Semetic in They Don’t Really Care About Us.

    ~~~~~~~~end of this portion of transcript ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Now a good interviewer who didn’t already have a set agenda for presenting Michael in a negative way would have delved more into what he meant by “It’s all about Love” – Perhaps if she’d let him speak he could have expounded on what he meant by it but as you see she cuts him off repeatedly. She claimed it was causing “furor” in some theatres .. but in reality was this accurate? Diane was trying to support the idea that Michael was anti-Semetic – But alas, this is the kind of sabotage Michael experienced in most of his interview sessions.

    He flat out denies that it was modeled after Triumph of the Will and repeats TWICE that it’s not any way political, about communism nor expressing any kind of ideology or dogma-

    He said ” it’s all about love, people coming together….. Happy. ”

    Michael’s interest in military regalia started way before HIStory- It’s my opinion he was in constant battle with evil .. and he knew it .. therefore he dressed the part.

    Even prior to HIStory, Michael habitually filmed himself with troops when visiting foregin countries. It was as if he was a visiting General surveyng the troops but his connection to that force was different. He wanted to transfer the negative sense of killing, control and aggression that comes along with military prowess into a different sort of POWER.

    Here’s a video of Michael throughout his career with various police forces, and army troops from all over the world – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUoFWIEqS4o

    His seemed fascinated with the commitment of these men, their precision, their unity and solidarity to a cause because he was embattled and needed an army an emotional army- He had to continually fight against the misrepresentation of a media that cared less about finding out who he was or the source of his motivations and creativity but more about writing scandalous stories. Therefore, he constructed his art with precision and commitment and wanted to unify the world with love while incorporting the military theme, that he’d always admired, within the HIStory trailer.

    Amalia Amaki, a visual artist speaks of him twice in her preseantation as a “warrior”

    “He’s a warrior, and he knew how to fight, and I think one of the things that really intrigued me about “Mike the Warrior” is that he went to war without accusation. He didn’t say, “this is wrong”, he would just say, “this is right”, he always took the positive road, he didn’t name call, he just took pronounced the positive names and it’s a very different approach, he just wasn’t someone playing soldier when he wore those military clothes, he was making it clear he was at war and he understood war tactics.”

    “Getting back to him as a warrior, because I think of him not just as a warrior but a fierce one and all you have to do is really — one of the great advantage of video footage of concerts, of tours is that you can see the facial expressions, you know he talks to himself, and it’s a vindication of not just his determination to be victorious but to the extent of which he is ready for that battle and he has a spirit like a lion. I just love that, the gaze of his eyes. Often those pauses on stage, in my opinion, they’re not to rest, he’s not catching his breath, he’s giving the opportunity to decipher what he is doing. It’s like “Okay, I did that, now you’re thinking about it, now watch what I’m going to do next.” So the very powerful use of not just the use of a pause, but his silence. I just thought he was just brilliant, just brilliant on stage. The timing was immaculate he knew better than any performer I have ever seen, how to use timing as a kind of strategic part of that performance and the whole warrior ship around that performance.
    Perhaps he felt his cause of Change in this world which he believed could be lead with LOVE could co-exist with military images and authoritative might that is displayed in HIStory . . . ”

    During his 45th birthday party he gave probably the longest speech ever and in it he thanked his fans for always being there-

    “It was you who were always there, it was you who put your heart on the line, on a worldwide basis to support me as my army, my soldiers of love” then he goes off script and says

    “People used to ask me like ‘You always talk about heal the world and all that then why do you need so many soldiers on the stage?’

    “I say- ‘They’re soldeirs of love, I don’t believe in warfare”

    that HIStory trailer is all about love, people coming together .. Happy ..

    Michael Jackson’s Army of Love …

    • Hi MJJJusticeProject —

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read this long post and joining the conversation with your reply.

      First, I want to say that this post is only the first of a series of three, and I think some of your issues are addressed in these later posts.

      I do not think that the “HIStory” teaser is” about” communism or fascism. But, the imagery is there. In HIStory, Michael Jackson alludes to these oppressive systems to describe the types of social attitudes that had come into play in the attacks on him — attitudes that sadly still exist today, 20 years later, as a very powerful and destructive force in our society..

      I agree with you that “He wanted to transfer the negative sense of killing, control and aggression that comes along with military prowess into a different sort of POWER.” And, I agree with you when you say that “It’s my opinion he was in constant battle with evil .. and he knew it ..” I hope that this post makes that clear. And I love your insight that ” he dressed the part” of a soldier because he was in that battle. That is very helpful.

      But, if you are in a battle with evil, how is that evil expressed? Who or what is the enemy? Individual people — or a system that people are trapped in? And, if a system, what is driving that system? And, how do you combat it?

      I think his interest in the military was about unity, as you say, but I interpret it a little differently. In the HIStory teaser, he integrates himself into a military setting to show that he does not stand divided from the people who serve in police or military forces. He sees them as caught in and dehumanized (“roboticized”) by the same system that seeks to dehumanize him. To me, this is the real key to Michael Jackson’s greatness, his all encompassing compassion, his LOVE. A love that is expressed by us all working together for the common good.

      That being said, the desire to “transfer the negative sense of killing” into a different sort of POWER and the “battle with evil” that you mention, although expressed in his art, can have profound political consequences. Michael Jackson wanted to heal the world, change the world. He was an agent of change. And he paid the price for that. And the most powerful art and artists often expose the evils of society. Think of Picasso’s Guernica. And Garcia Lorca, the Spanish poet, who was executed for his views. Michael Jackson was no less an artist, and his art is powerful enough to change people’s hearts, and that kind of power is political.

    • Just wanted to add a quick note. One way to look at this is that HIStory isn’t referencing Triumph of the Will directly – rather, it’s referencing The Great Dictator, which is a satire of Triumph of the Will. But as Eleanor said, we’ll be talking about that a lot more in our next post.

    • Hi, MJJJusticeProject, and thanks for your insightful comments on this very interesting and important discussion of MJ’s HIStory teaser–many kudos to Willa and Eleanor and I am looking forward to the further analysis and discussion to come.

      I am glad you transcribed the shameful comments made by DS (good one, Eleanor) and the way she sought to silence and humiliate MJ (and I think it’s important to note this was LMP’s first TV interview and she had to sit there and watch her new husband eviscerated by an unbelievably hostile and ignorant interviewer and that must have been horrible for her as well as of course for MJ). Thanks also for the interesting comments from Amaki, the great vid of MJ surrounded by various militia, and MJ’s highly significant remarks about “my army, my soldiers of love.”

      “It’s about love. It’s people coming together… happy – “–I think this is a very important comment and I find it significant that MJ’s fabulous cover of the Beatles’ “Come Together” is in the exact center of HIStory Disc 2. In fact. I would like to suggest that when he calls the album a “Book”–and places Come Together in the center–he is making the song the binding, so to speak, of his book/album, and a pivot from the first 7 songs, which are predominantly songs of rage and frustration and even despair (like Scream, Earth Song, and Money) to songs with softer emotions expressing sorrow and pain (as in Little Susie, Childhood, and Smile).

      You are right IMO that the teaser is a big FU to TS et al, including the media, and at the same time a celebration of love and people coming together and being happy. I see the statue in this connection as a kind of “Strip Tease THIS!” (a la Maccaulay’s ‘Eat this!” in BOW). In his own charming, sexy, in your face way (as you say he shied away from nothing), MJ is IMO kicking ass in the teaser–and I say, way to go MJ!

      “One thing I can tell you is you got to be free
      Come together right now over me”

      I think when MJ surrounded himself with troops he was using the military in a radically difficult way from its usual purpose–we are used to seeing lone individuals as heroes fighting an evil empire’s troops as tools of power and repression, but MJ showed us that troops can also support values of life, happiness, and love. In fact, in the vid you linked to, it’s interesting to see how happy the troop members look when they are with MJ–smiling and relaxed. Someone who can redefine the military as he did is the true hero. When he had the soldier jump out of the tank on stage and lower his weapon and drop to his knees sobbing–this is part of this revision, as well as in Earth Song vid when the soldiers throw down their weapons when they see the children offering them flowers.

      • Edit: meant to say “Strip Search THIS!” re the statue 🙂

      • Also interesting in view of the HIStory teaser/trailer is the name Michael–meaning, ‘who is like God’–and the role of Michael the Archangel in scripture and legends as the leader of God’s army of angels. That MJ was well aware of this is apparent in TII when Michael Bearden talks about how MJ discussed this with him–as well as from MJ’s deep knowledge of the Bible as a JW.

        Wikipedia has a lot of info on Michael’s role in art, history, religion, etc.I took some brief notes (see below), but here is the link:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_(archangel)

        Michael—who is like God—an archangel in Christian, Jewish, and Islamic teaching—leader of God’s army—defender of the faithful—”prince who stands up for the children of your people” (Book of Daniel).

        Interesting section on JW’s belief that Christ and Michael are the same being—Michael is another name for Christ.

        Michael is the patron of warriors and the sick and suffering. Patron saint of various cities and countries—for ex., Ukraine, Germany and in 955 was named patron saint of the Holy Roman Empire—revered by military knights during Middle Ages.

        Michael is depicted as a warrior (with weapons, armor) but is a spiritual warrior fighting against the forces evil–seems to fit. He (altho angels really have no gender) is God’s messenger. Frequent depiction in art shows him standing on a dragon. He is also shown with a small scale, as if weighing or judging the morality of others–he guides the souls of the dead to heaven (a la Hermes/Mercury).

        Got to add, I love the silver and black military costume MJ wears in the HIStory trailer!

        • Hi Stephenson —

          Thanks for your comments. HIStory certainly gives us lots to think about.

          Although I am aware of Michael’s interest in the significance of his name, I am much more comfortable thinking about Michael as leading an army of love, than an army of angels. Although, I have to say even associating the word army (a group of people bearing arms) with MJ bothers me.

          The combination of religion + military might has all too often equalled disaster. Today we have what used to be identified as the Christian West sending death from drones on people in Pakistan — and arming everyone, no matter which side, to the teeth; various Islamic sects lining women and children up to be shot in Iraq or Syria; and Israel bombing the Palestinians — and I could go on. All in the name of God. Each warring group believes that God is on their side. Even football teams believe it, dropping to their knees to pray before the game.

          Every emperor in the West from Constantine forward has used a belief in God to forward his own agenda. Every colonial power has sent missionaries in ahead of the colonial governments to soften up the populace and make them bow down to the master “race,” usually white, to make them understand that they were essentially inferior.

          I think Michael Jackson had moved away from an identification with any particular religion — I think he was working for the well being of all, regardless of religious belief.

          I also think that Michael Jackson had great compassion for those who volunteer or are conscripted to serve in armies. So often, at least in the US, the army is the only ticket out of poverty, but it comes at a very high price — terrible wounds, PTSD, etc. And, so often, once no longer of value as cannon fodder, these young people are pretty much abandoned to their fate. And, I think it was his compassion, not a warrior mentality, that drew Michael to them.

          • It would be interesting to identify exactly when MJ started wearing the military jackets–it’s clear from the Michael Bush book King of Style that it was a major part of his signature look. I was thinking it might have begun with Captain EO–a costume that was not designed by Bush/Tompkins, but had a certain military cut. His epaulettes, heraldic insignia, elaborate braided detail work (soutache), etc on his jackets. sent the 2 designers on an adventure for sure. MJ also wore such features from knightly armor as greaves (coverings from the above the knee to the ankle) and wore them–gold plated– to the DS interview. He even wore armored shoes, made with painstakingly cut and assembled pieces of metal, to the Reagan White House. Of course, his interest and pleasure in such military outfits does not mean he was a person who was in favor of war, as we well know. But he certainly appropriated the regal military look and wore it to great effect, especially IMO in the HIStory trailer.

            Btw–In ‘the drill’ section of TII, I see an echo of the HIStory trailer–the illusion of large numbers of troops and behind them a replica of a victory arch that looks like the letter M.

            I understand the long history of warfare is disturbing–but I don’t think that’s what MJ was referencing in his military style in his dress, performances, videos. Obviously, he did not want to associate himself with literal war and bloodshed/death/ etc. However, having said that, WW2 (i.e. the war with Hitler’s Germany) is a battle that many saw as an example of a necessary war. I was born in the UK during an air raid and saw the buildings still in ruins as a child. My mother was in the WAC’s and watched radar screens for incoming planes, my dad ran motorcycle dispatch (he was not eligible to fight as he had lost a kidney). I once asked him what would have happened if Hitler had attempted a land invasion and his answer shocked me. I expected him to say, we would have been overrrun and destroyed, but he said, “I think they would have been cut to ribbons, quite frankly.” Wow–that kind of determination was astounding. He said the average citizens in the UK would have attacked the landing parties or airdropped troops with whatever they had. War is not a good thing, but it happened–Hitler invaded– and I am glad he was defeated. As Churchill said,–“we will never surrender!”There is something admirable in that.

            As far as not liking the words ‘armed’ or having an ‘army’–well–we all have “arms,” if not actual weapons. And as far as an army of angels–MJ had an angel come on stage and enfold him in Will You Be There, and in another vid he himself wore wings. He commissioned a painting of himself surrounded by winged cherubs (angels) so I don’t think he was opposed to angels.

            From Bush The King of Style:

            “Touring with Michael in European cities, the fact that he’d rush off to find the nearest castle or museum with military and British royal heredity instantly answered a gazillion questions about what he wanted to put on.”

            “Each item had to have a British influence. Our starting point was always knights in shining armor. But the key to keeping a fresh look is to know a performer’s backup. If it’s not a knight or a monarch, what’s your next preference? For Michael it was pirates. Michael loved things that sparkled, and in his imagination, nothing shone more vibrantly than a chest of buried treasure, dug up. For this very reason, his favorite character was Tinker Bell, who, with a wave of her wand, would send a trail of magic dust to dangle in midair” (40). MJ liked “dust” –sparkles–on his performance clothes. Well, of course, these were performance clothes and not all of them were so elaborate.

            BTW, the military jacket that MJ wore at the end of Leave Me Alone is on auction at Julien’s in November with an estimate of $10-15k. It is supposedly an original British military jacket.

          • “In ‘the drill’ section of TII, I see an echo of the HIStory trailer–the illusion of large numbers of troops and behind them a replica of a victory arch that looks like the letter M.”

            Hi Stephenson. I agree – when I saw that segment of This Is It, I immediately thought of the HIStory teaser, and that he was quoting it.

            It’s interesting that this seems to have been the very first thing he worked on with his new This Is It dancers. Before he arrives, Stacy Walker says it’s a special day because “Michael’s coming!” And then when he appears, he greets the dancers as if he’s meeting them for the first time.

            I wonder if this was the first dance they worked on together because it is so highly regimented, so gets them all on the same page, so to speak, and then they can move to more individualized moves? Or was it because they needed to capture that footage early so the special effects guys would have time to turn the handful of dancers on stage into a multitude of dancers on screen? Or was it because it was really important to him?

          • Aren’t there some examples of “The Jacksons” wearing military garb? Janet was in on it as well.

          • Hi, Lisha–yes, of course, Janet also wore military garb–she asked MJ for permission (according to him) b/c she knew it was his particular style–she also adopted the precision dancing of her backup dancers a la MJ in Rhythm Nation.

            Hey–just read that Tom Sneddon passed away on Saturday–after fighting cancer. He was 73.

          • Yes, I read a couple of articles about Sneddon – it looks as if he is being remembered as the prosecutor who tried and failed to convict Michael Jackson. I’m disappointed Sneddon seems to have gotten away with what many of us feel was a modern day lynching.

      • This YT vid shows many depictions of Michael the Archangel in Christian art. On his shield are the words Quis Ut Deus–who is like God. (music is not so great so I recommend muting it).

        Ok–that’s it! 🙂

    • Thanx for posting the video of Michael with all the various armies and police forces. I had not seen this before and it is great, especially watching it after this post and understanding more where Michael is coming from in doing this seemingly contradictory thing. As you say everyone looks very happy for him to be among them, as does he.

      I especially loved to hear Stranger in Moscow as an instrumental piece. I absolutely love to hear Michael sing it, but have often thought what a fantastic ‘classical’ piece of music it is, and how it would not be out of place to call it a symphony in that sense – an opus piece if you will, and I was right. It is wonderful.

  7. Fascinating discussion ladies! Thank you so much for a wonderful post – I can hardly wait for part 2. Many thanks for the great comments as well.

    I don’t know if anyone had a chance to see the MJ exhibit a few years back in Las Vegas during the run of “Immortal” at Mandalay Bay, but there were a number of books on display from MJ’s library at Neverland. I jotted down a few of the titles, surprised to see two books by Leni Riefenstahl: “Five Lives” and “People of Kau.”

    This made me curious about Riefenstahl as an artist, and I discovered her story is much more complicated than what I had thought. Here’s a fascinating documentary if anyone is interested, “The Wonderful Terrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl.” https://vimeo.com/67186242

    I’ll let you reach your own conclusions, but I thought film critic Roger Ebert identified some important questions the documentary raises: “At its heart is the question of the soul and purpose of art. Can art be detached from its context? The pyramids were constructed at the cost of the lives of uncounted thousands of slaves. Do we remember them today? Do their deaths diminish the monuments they built?” http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-wonderful-horrible-life-of-leni-riefenstahl-1994

    Ebert’s review of “Triumph of the Will” is rather thought provoking as well: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-triumph-of-the-will-1935

    • Hi Lisha —

      Thanks for the Riefanstahl links. Haven’t watched the films, but read the Ebert review of The Wonderful, Horrible Life. And, I think the question, “Can art be detached from its context?” is really significant to this discussion — and significant to all the films discussed. Including HIStory.

      • A note on Ebert’s review of Triumph —

        Ebert says –“Try to imagine another film where hundreds of thousands gathered. Where all focus was on one or a few figures on a distant stage. Where those figures were the object of adulation. The film, of course, is the rock documentary “Woodstock.”

        Interesting that he would draw a parallel between the two films — which suggests a parallel between the two types of situations — political rallies and rock concerts, a similarity that could not have escaped MJ’s notice.

        And, as to his comments on the seemingly endless scenes of massed troops, marching by, MJ clearly understood the value of brevity.

        • “Interesting that he would draw a parallel between the two films — which suggests a parallel between the two types of situations — political rallies and rock concerts, a similarity that could not have escaped MJ’s notice.”

          So agree. The adulation of Hitler and the adulation of the rock star on the surface look an awful lot alike, though we don’t usually think of it that way. Hitler won the hearts of minds of the German people and many feel Riefenstahl’s artistry was key to his success. MJ understood how her film demonstrated the power of art, which, as you said so brilliantly – could be used instead to “[offer] us the vision of a new kind of hero, one who is committed to compassion rather than conquest.”

          Reminds me of the James Brown biopic that was in theatres last summer – that repeatedly depicted Brown as saying “Let’s flip that!”

          Thanks again for an amazing post!

    • Hi Lisha. Thanks so much for sharing the Riefenstahl documentary. I’m watching it right now – about 20 minutes in – but had to pause it a moment and write a comment. It’s so fascinating. The documentary makers aren’t just filming her, they’re also filming themselves as they try to make this documentary, and she keeps wanting to direct. She has a strong personality and an incredible visual sense, and it’s so interesting to see her in action – 89 years old and still full of life and so sure of herself, and so committed to capturing images on film in a way that evokes powerful feelings. You can really see why she was so successful as a director.

      As I’m watching, I keep thinking of the questions from Roger Ebert’s article, especially this one: “At its heart is the question of the soul and purpose of art. Can art be detached from its context?” But I keep wanting to expand the notion of “context.” It’s true that Riefenstahl made a film that helped consolidate and affirm Hitler’s power, and gave a huge boost to the Nazi movement. But does that mean she’s responsible for everything that happened later – for all the decisions Hitler and the Nazi leadership made once they were in power? for the atrocities that happened later? for the Holocaust?

      I guess what I keep trying to figure out is, What exactly did the National Socialist (Nazi) Party stand for in 1934 when she made her film? Did it stand for the same things it came to stand for later in the 1930s and 40s? It kind of gets back to the old Watergate question: What did she know, and when did she know it? I’m hoping this documentary will help me figure that out.

      • “I guess what I keep trying to figure out is, What exactly did the National Socialist (Nazi) Party stand for in 1934 when she made her film? Did it stand for the same things it came to stand for later in the 1930s and 40s? It kind of gets back to the old Watergate question: What did she know, and when did she know it? I’m hoping this documentary will help me figure that out.”

        Well, I haven’t watched the documentary yet and I am looking forward to do so this evening. But coincidentally I have seen a German talk show with Leni Riefenstahl that originally took place in 1976 aired in reruns on TV recently and I was fascinated by it for quite the same reasons that you’ve just mentioned.

        Of course her work was severely criticized by the talk show host and other guests who condemned Riefenstahl for introducing her talent into service for propaganda purposes and therefor abusing art for the wrong intentions. A young singer and song writer among the other talk show guests for example claims in a very judgmental way that as an artist he could have never ever done such a thing at all. Riefenstahl tries to explain to him that back then it wasn’t a wrong thing to do because the whole world had been different back then. Nobody criticized Hitler at all neither nationally nor internationally and she had just been a young woman with the great opportunity to do what she loved to do. She also explains how terrible and hurtful it felt when she finally experienced that everything she had believed in, her whole world so to speak, suddenly fell apart after Nazi Germany had lost the war and she came to realize that “the evil one is you” – and how painful it felt that nobody believed people like her that it could have been possible that they really wouldn’t know.

        But hey, compared to the story of Michael I can see how people really didn’t get a chance to see what they did to him (and a lot of fans still have to deal with their aching heart and a unsettling feeling of guilt because of that!) I also have to admit that most people wouldn’t lay down the chance to work in Hollywood today even though you would always have to depict specific enemies in a for example James Bond movie: Communists or Muslims. Because after all in this world right now this isn’t “a wrong thing to do” as Riefenstahl puts it. It’s nothing to worry about. Everybody does it, everybody watches it. Right?

        • “Riefenstahl tries to explain to him that back then it wasn’t a wrong thing to do because the whole world had been different back then. Nobody criticized Hitler at all neither nationally nor internationally and she had just been a young woman with the great opportunity to do what she loved to do. She also explains how terrible and hurtful it felt when she finally experienced that everything she had believed in, her whole world so to speak, suddenly fell apart after Nazi Germany had lost the war and she came to realize that ‘the evil one is you'”

          Hi Julie. I keep thinking about these issues, circling back to them again and again. The Holocaust was unspeakable – evil and horror beyond belief – and of course people now, looking back, are fiercely determined to understand what happened and how it happened to try to make sure it never happens again. And Triumph of the Will played a significant role in Hitler’s rise to power. But to what extent is Riefenstahl responsible for the decisions and actions he made once he was in power? And to what extent is she being made a scapegoat?

          In Triumph of the Will, Hitler says he wants peace, and Riefenstahl says she believed him. Looking back, that may seem naive, especially when he is surrounded by hundreds of thousands of well-trained and well-armed soldiers. But a lot of people believed him back then – saw him as the man who would bring stability to Europe – and Riefenstahl was lauded as a brilliant filmmaker. France awarded Triumph of the Will best picture of the year. (Ironically, two years later Hitler invaded France.) Walt Disney met Riefenstahl when she came to California and gave her a private showing of his new film, Fantasia. Except for the subtle line in Triumph about “best blood” – a line that really jumps out at us now, knowing what happened – there is no sign that Riefenstahl supported the anti-Semitic policies Hitler would later adopt.

          So was Riefenstahl guilty? And of what, exactly? (as she herself asks at the end of the documentary) And why is there such insistence that she must be guilty of something?

          This impulse to portray her as a monster, to make her a pariah and publicly shame her, reminds me of what happened to Michael Jackson (and Charlie Chaplin as well). Childhood sexual abuse is a devastating crime against a very vulnerable victim. In response to that – to crimes like child abuse that appall and repel us – there seems to be a strong impulse to make someone (an Other, someone different than us, someone like Michael Jackson) a public embodiment of that crime and punish them for it. I feel very wary of that impulse, even when I too am repelled by the crime, and see it happening again and again.

          • Sorry in advance for a long post.
            I watched the documentary and Indeed LR was a fascinating character , feminist in her own way ,multitalented pioneer, innovative perfectionist ,brave and heroic, explosive personality , not surprising that Hitler admired or was in love with her .
            It is not my cup of tea, but there is no denying that Riefenstahl work is impressive and captivating .

            However she also had another side. In the documentary she tries hard to convince us that she wasnt close to the nazi party, was not politically involved and just an artist, but she cannot absolve herself from being at least a little screw in Hitlers machinery. You cannot make work to promote an entity whose purpose is( and executed) to destroy a whole race and then say you have nothing to do with it. More than 6 mllion people were killed ,a human disaster that affected a whole continent and generations who were not even born yet. I know holocaust survivors who till today have their ID number tatood on their wrist . That is how well executed and methodical Hitlers machinery was( kind of like LRs art). These survivors kept the tattoo to show to the world what humans are capable of

            People will interpret an artists free work how they see fit, for which you cannot blame the artist. But imo artists to a certain extend are accountable for the effect of their art , the same as a craftsman who makes a bad chair is reponsible when the chair breaks or a death metal band that promotes violence and suicide to their followers who may be vulnerable youngsters who can easily be influenced.
            But especially with comissioned work , an artist as smart as LR knew perfectly well what it was aimed at. She MADE it artfull and used all the skills she had, the film was made to have maximum effect to support the message which was a destructive one. And it worked . How can we seperate THIS art from THIS context.?

            Willa said : “This impulse to portray her as a monster, to make her a pariah and publicly shame her, reminds me of what happened to Michael Jackson (and Charlie Chaplin as well)”
            I have to disagree as I think there is no comparing Leni Riefenstahl to Michael Jackson, except maybe their artistic taste . LR was not responsible for what Hitler did, but she helped effectively promote his ideology, which is a huge responsibility. Michael was accused but never proven to be a childmolester . He was found not guilty after a humiliating trial. LR was never charged of anything, lived to become 101 years old and had a career after the controversy, Michael never recovered , never got a chance for doing nothing wrong and died trying.

            That said , Imo Michael could have been more sensitive to the feelings of holocaust survivors when he shaped history teaser after TOTW. The resemblance is too striking to be a coincidence. Michael loved monumental art based on historical events. He depicted himself sitting on the last supper with other icons like Elvis and Einstein and as Napoleon ( !). He studied and incorporated in his art from the greats and LR was the greatest at what she did . The History teaser turned out as captivating and effective as TOTW.
            Michael denied the resemblance , not to make matters worse . But the fact that he said that it was art, suggests that it was an artistic choice he made on purpose. Maybe tongue in cheek, a parody , or as Willa said based on Chaplins. But the lyricks : kick me kike me , jew me sue me didnt help much.
            At the same time , reading how differently the History teaser is interpreted by commenters, I realize how tricky it is to hold the artist responsible for what people make of his art. E.g. some say it is a parody, others say its Michaels way of showing his victory over his enemies and others that it is Michaels army of love. The last interpretation to me is the most unfavorable. I feel uncomfortable about the idea of an army , of love or any army ,rallying around an individual as a messiah. Riefenstahl says the Germans are a nation who need a fuhrer to tell them what to do. That alone is a reason to be sceptical of mass movements led by one individual. It means trading our individuality to fit in a community that we may not agree with 100%. What we need is good leadership, not solitary leaders who we give so much power that it can only be corrupted. Michael himself was an individualist. He learned from others but followed his own unique path.
            I agree with Eleanor , especially the last sentence : “Although I am aware of Michael’s interest in the significance of his name, I am much more comfortable thinking about Michael as leading an army of love, than an army of angels. Although, I have to say even associating the word army (a group of people bearing arms) with MJ bothers me. “

            Thank you very much for this great insightfull article and Lisha for refering to the Riefenstahl documentary and Michaels books about LR. There are many interesting aspects to this subject. Looking forward to part 2.

          • Hi Sina. Thank you so much for your thoughtful and detailed comments. I understand what you’re saying about “You cannot make work to promote an entity whose purpose is (and executed) to destroy a whole race and then say you have nothing to do with it,” and agree that artists have a responsibility about the content of their work. However, I don’t believe that in 1934, when Riefenstahl made her film, that the Nazi party stood for that. Looking back after the Holocaust, knowing what we know now, we see them that way, but that is not how they were perceived at the time. I don’t think Hitler or the Nazi party ever would have risen to power if Germans had seen them that way.

            However, I’ve been doing a little more research about this, and Hitler’s manifesto Mein Kampf (which I haven’t read) was published in 1925 and became tremendously popular. And apparently it’s explicitly anti-Semitic. In fact, according to Wikipedia, “the main thesis” of Mein Kampf is “‘the Jewish peril,’ which posits a Jewish conspiracy to gain world leadership.” So how much did Riefenstahl know in 1934? And how much should she have known? This is a complicated question.

            I also wanted to clarify what I meant when I compared Michael Jackson to Riefenstahl because I didn’t explain that very well. In the 1980s and 90s, the US was in the midst of hysteria over childhood sexual abuse and Satanic abuse. This hysteria focused on childcare centers, and it’s been suggested that it arose from anxiety over the large number of middle-class women entering the workforce. (If women were at work, then who was watching the children? What were they being exposed to? That was the fear.)

            As a result of that anxiety, the public latched onto a scapegoat: Michael Jackson. He became the “monster,” the Other, the embodiment of all those subliminal fears. And I think he became the scapegoat in large part because he was different and crossed so many boundaries, and because he was an artist who forced us to really look at ourselves. And so he became a pariah – someone to be ridiculed and feared.

            I think this is similar to Riefenstahl’s position after World War II. Looking back, Germans were horrified by what had happened, and there was a deep fear and determination never to allow something like that to happen again. And Riefenstahl became the embodiment of those subliminal fears. Her film Triumph of the Will shows the seductive pull of the Nazi party before the war – a thought so frightening her film was banned and still is not shown in Germany – and she herself became taboo.

            Like Michael Jackson, Riefenstahl was an artist who forced her audience to face something uncomfortable in themselves – the specter of what attracted Germans to Hitler and the Nazis – and like Michael Jackson she became a pariah, a scapegoat, an uncomfortable reminder of something they didn’t want to think about or remember. And so she too was ridiculed and feared.

    • Ok, about 35 minutes into the Riefenstahl documentary, and had to pause and write another comment …

      It’s so interesting that her first film as a director was The Blue Light, which she also helped write and starred in. As she describes it in the documentary, it’s about an innocent, uncivilized, and “asexual” (she emphasizes that) child of nature, who is seen as a witch by the local townspeople who don’t understand her. The scene where they’re chasing her with clubs and pitchforks reminds me so much of Frankenstein (which came out in 1931, the year before The Blue Light) and Michael Jackson’s Ghosts.

      Later, at 43 minutes in, Riefenstahl says, “I played this girl Junta, who is a kind of witch. It’s as if it were a premonition of my own life.” She goes on to say,

      Junta was loved and hated. It’s been the same for me – I’ve been loved and hated. Just as Junta lost her ideals through the shattering of the crystal, in the same way I lost my ideals at the end of that terrible war. To that extent, the film was indeed a premonition of my own destiny.

      The documentary then cuts to a full-screen image of Hitler’s face.

      • Isn’t her self awareness fascinating? But at the same time, notice how violence is something “they” do, not “me,” even in the face of strong evidence to the contrary. This seems to be a common phenomena of war. “I” defend myself, “I” was doing my job. “They” committed atrocities “I” couldn’t have known about.

      • Willa wrote
        “However, I don’t believe that in 1934, when Riefenstahl made her film, that the Nazi party stood for that.”

        I seriously doubt that. Nazi rethoric from the start was aimed at creating fear of a common enemy (‘ the jewish conspiracy’) aryan superiority and inferiority of other races, all described in Mein Kampf which was published in 1925 . Their aim at peace was not through peaceful coexistence but through dominance. When Hitler gained power in the beginning of 1933 ( after attempting a putch ) nazism became the official state ideology , a major part of it being anti semitism. It resulted in the Neurenberg laws in 1935, which institutionalized many of the racial theories of the Nazi ideology, stripping Jews from citizenship and basic civil rights.
        Many people claimed ignorance after the war .There is a phrase that is linked to the collective denial of the Germans after the war “Wir haben es nicht gewußt “ .
        But how can you not notice that whole neighbourhoods are “cleaned up’ many people disappear , or that only certain people are not allowed to work anymore , banned from many places and flee the country by thousands.
        To me the ultimate scapegoats were the ones who were blamed for everything that was wrong in Germany in the interbellum, their only crime being that they were jew,gypsy, gay, artist or leftwing. The sentiments against Liefenstahl are based on her support of a fascist regime, those against Michael are rooted in racism and fear.

        It is on a different level than the holocaust, but didnt we all know or could have known of the persecution of Michael Jackson? Don’t you think that in a way we are also collectively guilty of what happened to him? Not because we did anything bad to him, but because we did nothing when it mattered , we kept silent.

        On a different note : Leni Riefenstahl keeps inspiring
        “ Nicki The Nazi? Nicki Minaj channels Hitler in her new video, ‘Only.’

        http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music/nicki-nazi-minaj-channels-hitler-video-article-1.2005983?utm_source=Daily+News+2014&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=DailyNews_2014_612325&utm_content=246007632&utm_term=_612325_612363

        • Hi Sina. As I’ve learned more about this, I’ve come to see racial purity as central to Hitler’s beliefs and the ideology of the Nazi party from the very beginning, as you say – at least since the publication of Mein Kampf in 1925, and possibly earlier. I do not see this idea reflected in Triumph of the Will, except for that one allusion to “the best blood,” but if Riefenstal had read Mein Kampf or heard anything about it – and it’s hard to believe she would have heard nothing about it – she should have known that. (I also learned that the Nazis targeted Jehovah’s Witnesses – I didn’t know that.)

          So it’s complicated. Riefenstahl is clearly not an innocent, but I don’t believe she should be made to carry the burden of guilt for everything that happened after her film was made. As I said before, I am deeply disturbed by the tendency to scapegoat anyone. I agree with you that “the ultimate scapegoats were the ones who were blamed for everything that was wrong in Germany in the interbellum, their only crime being that they were jew, gypsy, gay, artist or leftwing.” This shows just how dangerous scapegoating can be.

          But while I’m reluctant to lay excessive blame on Riefenstahl and feel it was wrong that she was turned into a public pariah, at the same time she does carry some responsibility for promoting Hitler and his beliefs – and she should have known what those beliefs were.

        • “didn’t we all know or could have known of the persecution of Michael Jackson? Don’t you think that in a way we are also collectively guilty of what happened to him? Not because we did anything bad to him, but because we did nothing when it mattered, we kept silent.”

          Yes, Sina, I agree completely, and this is perhaps the main reason I am opposed to the process of scapegoating – it allows us to escape responsibilities for our biases and beliefs, our own actions (or inaction). If we can blame Evan Chandler or Tom Sneddon or Diane Dimond for everything that happened and make them the scapegoat, then we don’t have to look too hard at ourselves. That does not in any way mean that Evan Chandler, etc, did nothing wrong. Not by any means. But why did his false allegations set off the hysteria the way they did? Why did those accusations resonate so deeply in the collective psyche? To what extent are we all complicit?

          Evan Chandler has a lot to answer for, but if we make him the scapegoat and say it was all his fault, we miss some of the deeper answers to the question of why Michael Jackson was persecuted the way he was.

    • I had to stop watching the Riefenstahl documentary the other day – I rarely get headaches but for some reason developed a terrible one while watching it, and had to take a break. But just watched the rest of it, and it is fascinating! And it raises so many questions. Here are some things I jotted down:

      53:00 – It’s pretty obvious she did know about Hitler’s “racial theories” but says “we all thought it was just electioneering” – something to say to get elected – not something that would be carried out. As she says, she and her friends thought it was “a temporary thing that would die down. We didn’t foresee the danger.”

      1:07:20 – She goes on to say that “Now that we know all the terrible things he did and got others to do, then clearly it was a pact with the Devil. But we didn’t know then. Hitler was probably a schizophrenic, but a devil and its opposite, but we could only see one side of him. Not that terrible, dangerous side.”

      1:15:00 – She points out there’s no narrator or “commentator” in Triumph of the Will, and later says that’s one reason it’s not a propaganda film. As she says, “If it were propaganda, as many say, there’d be a commentator to explain the significance and value of the occasion.” I hadn’t noticed that before – that there isn’t a narrator – but thinking back I realized she’s right, and more than that, that in general the meaning of the film doesn’t come from words. There are the speeches, but they make up a small percentage of the overall film. Instead, the meaning of the film comes from the images, the editing, and the music, not narration – just like Michael Jackson’s videos. This is very difficult to do and do well, but she – and Michael Jackson – were both very skilled at it.

      The close-up images of Hitler in Triumph of the Will were the first time many Germans had ever seen him – they helped form their first impression of him?

      1:30:45 – She says if Triumph were seen as a threat, the French wouldn’t have given it the Gold Medal for best film of the year, two years before the war. That’s a good point. She also says, “Politically speaking, the significance of this film was that it was in tune with the times. That’s to say, 90% of Germans, and a majority of foreigners, believed in the peace that was being proclaimed.”

      1:44:00 – She’s criticized for her Olympia movie about the 1936 Olympics – that her fascination with “the body beautiful,” with speed and strength was fascist. I can see that argument, in a way, but she also presents many different types of bodies as fast and strong and beautiful. This was the Jesse Owens Olympics, and it’s hard to tell from clips whether he holds a prominent place in the film or not, but he is included – is shown winning races and talking graciously to a reporter afterwards. And she shows many other strong, fast, beautiful non-Germans – so while her aesthetic may be ideological (and even that’s debatable) it isn’t nationalistic.

      1:57:29 – She says she used techniques of feature film to create Olympia. For example, she says to add human interest, she tried to capture the exhaustion and emotion on the marathon runners’ faces (very different from Triumph, where she seems to avoid showing the humanity of Hitler and other senior officers, presenting them more as god-like figures). She is still very interested in this idea of “will” – she says that willpower can’t be shown on film but it can be suggested through the choice of music. There’s an example of this at 1:57:55.

      2:10:00 – She says she loves modern art and French Impressionists, but the National Socialists (the Nazis) hated it. What they admired she saw as “kitsch.” (At around 2:11:00 there’s a sign about “degenerate art.”) Ironically, it was this that first led her to question Hitler – “Hitler made a speech about art and it was so wrong that I thought: “If he can be so wrong and yet sound so convincing about art – so convincing many believed him – maybe he’s making political mistakes too. That’s when I began to have real doubts. I became much more critical when I listened to his speeches. But I must admit, I was never an opponent.”

      2:12:24 – She was sent to the Polish front as a war reporter and was horrified by what she saw, by the brutal treatment of Polish civilians. She “made an official complaint to the Nazi general in charge and left Poland immediately.” So she did not glorify the war effort, as she was sent to do.

      2:13:00 – But then she sent a “euphoric” telegram to Hitler after France fell, congratulating him on his/Germany’s success. So it appears she did support the war effort.

      2:16 – Gypsies from concentration camps were brought in as extras for her film, Tiefland? The documentary presents this as an undisputed fact – even shows a list of names, from children to young adults – though later in the documentary she denies it.

      2:27:49 – She talks about the Holocaust, and learning about what had happened in the concentration camps. She says, “All our ideals were shattered. One just could not comprehend it all. It was a terrible fall into the abyss. … I couldn’t believe human beings could do such things. And these things had been done on Hitler’s orders. It was quite a time before I could believe it. And, when I did, my life fell apart because I’d believed in Hitler. It was shattering that one’s own life seemed utterly unimportant. There were only two possibilities: to live with this appalling burden of guilt weighing us down or to die. It was a constant dilemma, to live or to die.”

      2:30:25 – Asked if she looked at her work differently after she learned about the Holocaust, she says no, she just felt “appalled and confused.” But then she goes on to say that she did begin to “put myself into the minds of the victims” – to imagine seeing the swastikas and SA and SS the way they did. Again, she said that was a shock, because she never saw them as criminals – she believed in Hitler, yet these things were done on his orders – She says “it was a breakdown that’s actually been permanent – I’ve never recovered from the horror.”

      2:32:15 – At her trial, it was determined that she was not a Nazi but was a Nazi sympathizer.

      2:46:45 – “The Nuba consider their bodies the highest form of art” – then goes into Susan Sontag, the idea of a fascist aesthetic, whether the cult of the Body Beautiful plays into that aesthetic.

      2:50:28 – She’s asked, “Have you ever thought how one might define a fascist aesthetic?” and replies, “I don’t understand the question. I’ve no conception of fascism.”

      2:55:23 – She became a member of Greenpeace, and apparently felt deep concern about marine life and the environment. She spent the last years of her life filming underwater.

      3:07:01 – “What am I guilty of? I can and do regret making the film of the 1934 Party Congress, Triumph of the Will … But no words of anti-Semitism ever passed my lips. Nor did I write any. I was never anti-Semitic, and I never joined the Nazi Party. So what am I guilty of? Tell me that. I didn’t drop any atom bombs. I didn’t denounce anyone. So where does my guilt lie?”

      So many contradictions, and so much to think about …

      • I’m so impressed by your astute note-taking Willa! Sorry you experienced a headache while watching this film, but honestly I’m not surprised, the kinds of knotty issues the film raises are perplexing enough to cause a headache.

        I think your key questions get to the heart of the matter: “What exactly did the National Socialist (Nazi) Party stand for in 1934 when she made her film? Did it stand for the same things it came to stand for later in the 1930s and 40s?”

        When I first watched “Triumph of the Will,” trying to understand why MJ would reference a film like this, I was shocked by how much the Nazis relied on the rhetoric of peace, unity and equality – not at all what I was expecting. It made it easier for me to understand why the German people were so seduced by him. I realized that if I had no prior knowledge of what the party actually stood for, I would interpret the speeches, symbols and images completely differently than I do now. In fact, in India, where the ancient symbol of the swastika originated, the swastika is a symbol of peace and well-being: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/bangalore-times/What-the-Swastika-means/articleshow/994390.cms

        I personally think “Triumph” is an extraordinarily beautiful film, if we can somehow divorce ourselves from all knowledge of what it actually represents. I believe Riefenstahl when she claims she was just making a film to the best of her ability and that her talent was exploited by the Nazis. It seems to me that the power of art is on full display in this film – it’s the power to win the hearts and minds of the people – which it did to an unbelievable extent.

        At the same time, I don’t think Riefenstahl ever fully came to terms with what her role in the holocaust was, not even to her own self in her most private moments. Perhaps it was unbearable, as you noted, she didn’t know if she wanted “to live or die.” It doesn’t surprise me that her mind played tricks on her, not allowing her to grasp the idea the film she made could very well have caused millions of deaths.

        But there was another theme running throughout this film, starting at about 30′ in (wish I had taken good notes like you did!), that deals with authority and obedience. It explained a lot to me about Riefenstahl and how the Nazis came to power in the first place. German society at the time seemed to be organized around the idea of discipline and obedience to authority. There’s an audio tape of Marlene Dietrich saying the German people were quite comfortable with and actually liked having “someone to tell us what to do.” Riefenstahl agreed that this characterized German psychology at the time – obedience to authority was taught in school and at home to such a degree, that it was something Germans grew to want and need: “they’re happy to let themselves be led, that’s for sure.”

        In Ebert’s review of “Triumph,” he notes that there is no interaction among the people, no backstage glimpse of the hard work that went into all the military pageantry, no sense of individual expression or personal value. The film only depicts massive crowds of people who are 100% focused on power and obedience to authority. The only relationship in the film is the relationship between Hitler and huge crowds of people. Nothing else matters. Riefenstahl’s film captures this psychology precisely whether she intended to or not. I’m guessing she had no earthly idea she was illustrating this so well.

        • “When I first watched ‘Triumph of the Will,’ trying to understand why MJ would reference a film like this, I was shocked by how much the Nazis relied on the rhetoric of peace, unity and equality – not at all what I was expecting. It made it easier for me to understand why the German people were so seduced by him.”

          I agree, Lisha. I had the same reaction, and it actually helped me understand why Germans are so fearful of her film to this day – because it is so seductive. And I agree that “I don’t think Riefenstahl ever fully came to terms with what her role in the holocaust was, not even to her own self in her most private moments.” How could she? How could any artist “grasp the idea the film she made could very well have caused millions of deaths”?

  8. Eleanor thank you for your timely and thoughtful response to my comment- You didn’t refer to Michael totally dismissing Sawyer, and his posture, facial expressions, body language when she attempted to make the claim that Triumph of the Will was in any way referenced. if that is the part that will be addressed later then I look forward to Part 2 and 3. Willa, since Michael loved Chaplin and pathos, The Great Dictator discussion will be greatly anticipated.

    At the risk of blathering on a bit I’d like to address a few of your thoughts.

    There is, of course, absolutely no denying that Michael paid a heavy price because he was an “agent of change” and I agree that he stood up against the “attitudes that sadly still exist today, 20 years later” and ARE ” very powerful and destructive force in our society..”

    I personally believe the attempted take down of Michael Jackson was because he was an influential black leader. .. yes .. and we all know what happens to black leaders with a message of change.

    And he spoke openly against the system but I believe he’s quoted he didnt need to be political… he felt his art had the message, he was an ambassador for love , brotherhood and peace and that was enough- or he thought so

    Sometimes I think he gave us too much credit for figuring out just exactly what he was trying to do.

    “as jacked as it sounds, .. the whole system sucks” –
    “tired of being a victim of shame” “throwing me in a class with a bad name” ” i cant believe this is the land from which I came” ..yes indeed .. embattled, falsely accused.

    “who or what is the enemy?”

    HIStory was intensely personal.

    We have to admit HIStory was in direct response to the false allegations and the people involved in them.

    Later, In his 20/20 Ed Bradley interview -“I went through the process, they wanted to humilate me ” The whole world witnessed this attempted take down. DA sent 70 squad cars to Neverland, ransacked and tore up his home, his files, his childen’s rooms too – Put an arrest warrant out for him as if he was a serial killer, handcuffed him for the press, physically roughed him up and made him sit a filthy toilet for 45 minutes …to “dehumanize” demean him and put him in his place.. to make him feel that he wasn’t so special after all.. way over the top and revenge based.

    All of that happened because of his HIStory trailer and album — he thumbed his nose at Sneddon. In that trailer he was surrounded by love and support, a military might of LOVE.

    (i’m working backwards .. so bear with me)..

    In 1993, they had also disturbed the sanctity of Neverland, raided his life – the extortion of Michael by Evan Chandler was ignored by the police invesitigators, they had telephone conversations of him saying if Michael didn’t play ball he’d take “them all down” but no one cared to think Michael was innocent. Instead they went about trying to find other youn boy “victims” to substantiate Jordan’s statement. Found none. Forced to submit to embarrassing photos of his private parts, they did their damnedest to “dehumanized” oh yes.

    But no matter how they connived, he prevailed- Two grand juries could not find ways to bring a criminal case against him.

    I see this trailer as him saying to the people who tried to destroy him …YOU lost.. I WON…You represent evil and I represent good, You are hate, I am love.

    I am coming out of this unscathed, victorious and a hero .. I am still LOVED all over the world. That shot of his crotch .. was in direct response to those pics of his private parts where they tried to make him feel like a naked slave on a auction block ….. He shied away from nothing.

    When he was 17 yrs old , his favorite book was “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen. and he applied all of James principles to his life. You are what thoughts you allow in your head. Think big, Dream big, Be pure, self actualize.. DO IT. Nothing can stop you but your own limitations. You make you own circumstances and consequences.

    Just like the olden days when soldiers returned home on a train and the whole town was there with a band and parade to welcome the hero because he survived his trial, his battles, his war. That is HIStory.

    He was coming home victorious, walking in with his ARMY of Love.
    He floated a statue down the Thames for goodness sake.. then he unveils the statue.. its HIM, bigger than life.. in a stance of defiance with his fist clenched.

    HERE I AM, still standing after all you put me through. I withstood it.

    “You knockin me down, I got to get up”

    “I’m here to remind you”

    He said to Sawyer, “Good, I wanted to get their attention”

    The crowds screams excitedly staring at this larger than life effigy of their great hero. woman faints, liittle boy says “I love you Michael” and that little boy is the important reference here, just like the shot of the crotch, because they had attempted to use his love for children, especially for little boys against him. .. tried to make it sexual when it wasn’t ..

    so there stands this little blonde boy saying sweetly “I love you Michael” again he doesn’t shy away from the obvious.. then the signs .. “Michael, Forever”

    he got there attention alright and he says -I’m here and I ain’t going nowhere.

    This was a Big, Fat, In your face Sneddon- “You didn’t take me down” celebration with his family… his Global family surrounding him, pulsating with love and adoration.

    A champion for certain.. what he didn’t realize was that Sneddon’s burning hot desire for revenge would not cool … and 10 yrs later he’d try again with renewed vigor to take Michael down.

    • MJJJusticeProject —

      You are right, I did not “refer to Michael totally dismissing Sawyer, and his posture, facial expressions, body language when she attempted to make the claim that “Triumph” was in any way referenced.” But, after thinking about it, I would like to take that opportunity now. Because I think a lot of people have trouble reconciling what he said with what their eyes see, and more importantly, what they feel, when they watch “HIStory.”

      I think the answer is in the tone of the interview itself. DS (an agent of TS?) was very aggressive and very skeptical of everything they said. The questions were disrespectful and snide. The whole interview was accusatory. When she says to him that the film was causing a furor, it almost sounds like she is saying fuhrer. And Michael knew from experience that everything he said would be taken apart and put back together in a form so different from his original meaning that it was hopeless to try to explain something as complicated as “HIStory” to DS, who seemed already convinced by “the critics” that MJ had fascist leanings, was anti-semitic, a skin head in disguise, whatever, you name it. After what he had just been through and given who he was, how could anyone in their right mind think any of that about him? But, that’s the point, where Michael Jackson was concerned, many people were not in their right minds. So how do you deal with someone who is already convinced that nothing you say is true.

      How could he admit to using “Triumph” on the one hand and then have to explain why he did it when the media had already made up their mind about why he had done it. Can you imagine how the interview might have gone if he had said, “Yes, but….” Can you imagine the headline: MICHAEL JACKSON ADMITS TO BEING A NAZI

      And anything he said would have been dismissed because no one thought he had a brain in his head. The media dealt with him like he was some kind of musical idiot savant. How could he, in a sound bite, overcome all those prejudices and seriously explain “HIStory”? And, he always let his art speak for itself. And “HIStory” speaks volumes.

      So, I interpret his denial as being as truthful a response, given the situation, as he could give. “HIStory” did not promote fascism or communism or any ideology. And that is exactly right. Because he was only using that imagery for its emotional content, to point to and explain something else. And that is what an artist does, and, as he says, just before she rolls the film, “It’s art.” which it is. But, back then, no one thought of Michael Jackson as “an artist.” They even thought that claim was inflated.

      That being said, I hope my response does not deter you from reading and commenting on the remaining HIStory posts.

  9. Totally agree with the use of “furor” and Sawyer’s snide and snippy style of interviewing throughout the session- of course, she had an agenda. Thank you for your courteous responses as it is an indication to me that you are a person who can disagree without being disagreeable and that to me is a great personality indicator, I look forward to the high quality exploration and discussion that is yet to come. I am only encouraged to read more, as I remain open minded and am eager to hear and consider differing interpretations even if they do not coincide with my own.

  10. Hey Ladies, a great, intriguing and – given our global situation at the time – absolutely important discussion here! Thank you so very much for picking up this topic again!

    The HIStory Teaser always had been one of Mj’s most interesting artworks for turning things or narratives emotionally upside down like he did with the panther dance sequence compared to “Singing in the Rain” as well: ‘Cause the mirror reveals the truth… It’s such a pity that the original MJ Academia Videos disappeared on YouTube especially the ones dealing with the HIStory Teaser suggesting that MJ wanted to emphasize that the modern mass media today is working exactly like the Nazi propaganda machine did back then.

    Jochen Ebmeier’s book goes further into the question why MJ as (just) an pop artist had been handled by the media as if he was a political leader, a power holder and draws a similar conclusion as Willa does in M.Poetica: because he really WAS powerful. A powerful artist. Powerful AS an artist. The first artist of a new time. So to me the really interesting idea in this context seems to be that MJ had received a treatment that’s normally reserved for Empires fighting each others.

    On the one hand this proves his extraordinary power and cultural influence (often referred to as “larger than life”) but on the other hand we are able to realize something very important we should badly learn more about: The way the media scrutinized, portrayed and lied about Michael Jackson in order to make his relentless pursuit publicly acceptable and therefor possible in the first place is daily business in their depiction of other Empires or ideologies as well and we have to deal with that because this is making war happen. It’s not only Michael Jackson suffering but whole peoples. It’s not just an old Nazi problem or something maybe some savage dictators or some crazy jihadist groups are still up to but our very own problem in Western Empires that only a critical public can solve.

    Swiss historian Dr. Daniele Ganser is one of the very few people worldwide doing academic research in these fields in order to bring about a more peaceful world. Here’s an interesting relevant and quite recently conducted interview with Ganser:

    • Hi Julie —

      Thanks for your informative comments. I agree that it is too bad youtube took down the academia project videos. But, there are a couple of interesting posts which deal with the same topics on mjjjusticeproject — go to this link and then you can link backward and forward to related posts.

      http://mjjjusticeproject.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/themjap-as-jacked-as-it-sounds-the-whole-system-sucks/

      I watched the video and have already forwarded the link to friends. Really helps put things into perspective.

      • Oh great, Eleanor! Thank you so much for posting the link! I know the mjjusticeproject but I somehow missed out on that post with the transcripted videos and added sources that were mentioned in the video.

    • Hi Julie, just wanted to say thanks for all your great comments and for the video – I just passed it on to a student who is researching popular music and the Viet Nam war. I thought this was an excellent resource and I appreciate your sharing it here.

  11. Thank you, Willa and Eleanor, for this enlightening discussion of the “HIStory” teaser. In regards to much of what has been said, I think we have to keep in mind that Michael did have a certain fascination for Hitler’s skills as a “showman” – i.e., as a charismatic leader. That kind of moribund fascination – or even admiration, if you will – is not the same thing as condoning the actions, which Michael clearly and emphatically did not. In the same vein, we can be “fascinated” by reading about famous criminals like Jack the Ripper, but it doesn’t mean we condone what he did. Michael had a fascination with great leaders – both good and bad. His ever curious brain was fascinated with what made people tick; what motivated and moved people. As a performer, he had a keen sense of historical perspective. His motto was always “study the greats.” He not only studied past performers, he also studied past leaders – both good and bad – to unlock the secrets of what made them tick; to understand how they were able to motivate, inspire, and move large masses of people. In Hitler’s case, it became a study in what NOT to do, but the undeniable historical fact is that, however atrocious and repelling Hitler’s actions are to us today, for Germany at the time he was the epitome of a great leader.

    Awhile back, I touched on this subject in my own series on “They Don’t Care About Us” and the anti-semitic controversy of that song. My theory is that Michael was appropriating what happened to the Jews and projecting it onto his own experience as an African-American artist who has suffered at the hands of racism. In that sense, he was calling attention to racism and oppression as a kind of universal brotherhood, and in the same vein, a kind of universal calling to arms for all nations and colors to rise against imperialism. The entire “HIStory” album is really a fascinating concept, where Michael is meshing both actual history and his own, personal narrative (thus the title pun). In so doing, he takes us – the listener – through the highest peaks and plunges us into some of the deepest valleys of that history, before culminating in the title track, the finale where the message is ultimately that we each have a responsibility to create our history. We all have the power within us to change the tide of events, for better or worse.

    • “My theory is that Michael was appropriating what happened to the Jews and projecting it onto his own experience as an African-American artist who has suffered at the hands of racism. In that sense, he was calling attention to racism and oppression as a kind of universal brotherhood, and in the same vein, a kind of universal calling to arms for all nations and colors to rise against imperialism.”

      Hi Raven. I agree, and thanks for the reminder about your in-depth posts on “The Truth about Michael, Nazism, and Anti-Semitism.” (Here are links to Part 1 and Part 2.)

      Part 2 is especially insightful, providing a close reading of “They Don’t Care about Us.” As you point out, Raven, Michael Jackson adopts multiple subject positions and points of view in this song (something he often did). And importantly, when singing the words “Jew me, sue me” and “kick me, kike me,” he is adopting a Jewish perspective. (After all, he’s singing “Jew ME, sue ME,” implying the protagonist of these lines is Jewish.) And then he links that to racism against blacks, as you say:

      Beat me, hate me
      You can never break me
      Will me, thrill me
      You can never kill me
      Jew me, sue me
      Everybody do me
      Kick me, kike me
      Don’t you black or white me

      I agree that he seems to be using a similar process in the HIStory teaser.

    • Hi Raven —

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. In the middle of these discussions of dark times — both historical and personal, it is really good to keep in mind that MJ’s message is one of hope and empowerment; it is, as you say, a message that “is ultimately that we each have a responsibility to create our history. We all have the power within us to change the tide of events, for better or worse.” We do not have to let past events or actions dictate our future actions. We can break the cycle. And I believe that Michael Jackson, with his considerable talents and skill and artistry was devoted to exactly that.

  12. Thank you guys for linking to my piece. I will look forward to reading Part 2 this weekend.

  13. Thank you so much, Eleanor and Willa. This short film is difficult ti understand, and you’ve moved the discussion forward by miles.

  14. yes, but what about Susan Sountag’s critic: FASCINATING FASCISM? An amazing point of view!!

  1. Pingback: Michael Jacksons Andersartigkeit und Macht | all4michael

  2. Pingback: Analyse des Diane Sawyer Interviews von 1995: Was wir daraus lernen können | all4michael

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