Causing Grief in Human Relations

Willa:  In late 2011, the Michael Jackson Academia Project posted two videos to YouTube analyzing Black or White and They Don’t Care about Us. Joie and I both thought they were interesting and well constructed – in fact, we liked them so much we published a quick post promoting them, even though we were both on Christmas vacation at the time. These videos were followed in February 2012 by two videos on the HIStory album, and again Joie and I thought they were thought provoking and well produced, and we encouraged others to watch them.

We also added the Academia Project videos to our Reading Room, providing recommendations and links, and we have kept them there ever since, even after the videos themselves were removed from YouTube for copyright infringement (something I strongly disagree with, by the way – those videos were analyzing Michael Jackson’s work, not pirating it, so I believe they should have been allowed to stay up under US copyright provisions for Fair Use). We hoped the copyright issues would be resolved and the videos would be republished.

In general, we believed the Academia Project was working to increase understanding of Michael Jackson and his art, and we wanted to support them. And I would like to continue to support them in producing positive work.

However, two days ago we received a pingback from the Academia Project website. They had just published a post accusing Joe Vogel of plagiarizing their work. I was very concerned by this because plagiarism is one of the most serious professional offenses that can be leveled against an academic – it can ruin reputations and careers – and those accusations did not square with my own experiences and observations from working with Joe. We have done several posts together over the past four years, including a post last April on the article at the center of the Academia Project accusations. I also read and provided comments on the first chapter of his dissertation, which later became that article. During the time I’ve known him, I have found him to be conscientious in recognizing the contributions of others who have gone before him, and generous in acknowledging them and expressing his gratitude for their work.

So I was deeply troubled by the allegations. I went to the Academia Project website and looked at their claims, and I found them to be without merit. Specifically, I came to the following conclusions:

First, academic writers must be scrupulous about attributing unique research data, ideas, perspectives, and turns of phrase to the people who originally collected or developed them. However, information that is considered to be common knowledge does not have to be cited. For example, if I wrote that Michael Jackson was from Gary, Indiana, I would not need to cite a source for that. And much of what the Academia Project is claiming as their unique contribution I consider to be common knowledge.

For example, the Academia Project notes that their video on Black or White includes this statement:

On 14 November 1991 the music video for Michael Jackson’s new single, ‘Black or White’, was premiered. The film was the most anticipated music video of all time and was televised simultaneously on MTV, VH1, BET, Fox and on channels around the world.

And they point out that Joe Vogel’s article includes this statement: “Michael Jackson’s 11-minute short film, Black or White, was the most watched music video premiere in television history.” This information is widely known – it has been reported numerous times, in many different sources, for more than 20 years. As such, I believe this qualifies as common knowledge.

Second, when documenting prior work, academic researchers try to cite the original source of an idea – and the Academia Project is not the original source for many of the ideas they are claiming as their own. For example, they point to this statement in their November 2011 video:

As the ‘Black or White’ video progresses, Michael sings “I ain’t scared of no sheets’ while bursting through imagery of a Ku Klux Klan cross-burning rally.

The ‘sheets’ referred to are the white hooded robes of the hate group.

They claim it is the source for this statement in Joe Vogel’s 2015 article: “The sheets Jackson refers to, of course, are the sheets of the Ku Klux Klan.” To me, this is a fairly obvious interpretation and doesn’t need to be cited. (In fact, I mentioned that the “sheets” referred to the Ku Klux Klan in M Poetica, published six months before the Academia Project videos, and I did not cite anyone.) However, Joe wrote of this connection in Man in the Music, which was published before the Academia Project videos were posted. Here’s what he says, in an image from page 159 of his book:

I aint scared of no sheets

Again, I think the reference to the Ku Klux Klan is common knowledge and that Joe doesn’t need to cite anyone. However, if he did decide to include a citation, the Academia Project would not be the original source. I would need to do some research to find out who was, but I know Eric Lott mentioned it in “The Aesthetic Ante: Pleasure, Pop Culture, and the Middle Passage” – an academic article published in the spring of 1994 – and Armond White mentioned it even earlier, in a newspaper article that I believe was published soon after the video’s premiere in 1991.

Third, while the Academia Project’s videos and Joe Vogel’s article share some similar background information, those areas of overlap are only a tiny fraction of the overall scope of Joe’s article. For example, while the Academia Project focuses primarily on the political history of race and the civil rights movement, Joe takes a more theoretical approach and looks at the constructedness of race. He also focuses on constructions of gender, as his title suggests:  “I Ain’t Scared of No Sheets: Re-screening Black Masculinity in Michael Jackson’s Black or White.” Gender isn’t addressed in the Academia Project video.

Finally, it is certainly possible and even likely for people working in similar areas, studying similar texts, to draw similar conclusions. For example, Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz both developed the branch of mathematics called calculus at approximately the same time, working independently of one another and using very different notation. In another example, Samuel Johnson and Voltaire published remarkably similar novels (Rasselas and Candide) at the same time, though they lived in separate countries and wrote in different languages. Johnson himself remarked that if their books hadn’t been published simultaneously, neither author would have been able to counter the charge of plagiarizing the other.

My point is that as Michael Jackson’s stature continues to grow, the field of Jackson studies will inevitably become more crowded, with more and more people publishing analysis and posting opinions of his work. So there is bound to be some stepping on toes and jostling of elbows. However, while we may find that we disagree on some things – even strenuously disagree – it is imperative that we treat one another with respect and generosity of spirit.

I have seen too many instances of passionate fans allowing their passion to threaten or destroy something positive. The Michael Jackson Fan Club (MJFC) was a wonderful resource for disseminating information and sharing ideas. However, it was destroyed in large part by rival factions who could not settle their differences. And I was very disheartened to read a news article last week that a memorial in Germany may be dismantled because of ongoing disagreements between fan groups. This does not honor Michael Jackson’s legacy.

I would like to end by letting Joe respond to the Academia Project claims in his own words, from a post he published yesterday:

To be clear: My article on “Black or White” is not in any way derived from this fan’s videos, blogs, or other commentary. It is, however, indebted, to the scholars and critics I mention in my piece …

Over the years, I have interacted with numerous scholars, journalists and critics doing great work on Michael Jackson. They are overwhelmingly wonderful, generous, and civil, even when there are disagreements. I have had similar experiences with most Michael Jackson fans and fan groups.

It is my continued hope that those engaged in … attacks will instead focus on more positive ways to productively engage with Michael Jackson’s life and work.

His full post is available here.

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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 August 9, 2015, in Michael Jackson and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 104 Comments.

  1. DissentingVoice

    “I went to the Academia Project website and looked at their claims, and I found them to be without merit.”

    Well the website which hosted Vogel’s essay reviewed the copyright complaint and then deleted the essay on the strength of it – something Vogel doesn’t address in his statement, which he instead uses to baselessly accuse somebody who lives over 3,000 miles away, on a different continent, of ‘stalking’ him.

  2. Thank you, Willa, for this excellent (and characteristically elegant) explanation of plagiarism and for citing come of the passages in question. I imagine that the Academia site felt they should take down Joe’s essay while the complaint was being investigated, not necessarily because they believe the claim. I’ll just add to Willa’s comment about how serious plagiarism is by saying that academic integrity, that is, honesty about the claims you make in your writing, lies right at the heart of academic work. That’s why we footnote like crazy. The whole idea is to build on the work of others and to acknowledge that work, to honour it. That’s what Joe does. But, as Willa says, this applies to ideas that are original with the author, not with information that is common knowledge.

    It is profoundly distressing to me that as a community of scholars begins to take an active interest in Michael’s rich body of work, some fans feel it necessary to disparage that work. Michael would be horrified by this, I’m sure.

  3. DissentingVoice

    I think what Michael would be horrified by is journalists presenting themselves a fans while at the same time endorsing fake songs and promoting a company he despised, campaigned against and believed had intentionally conspired to bankrupt him.

  4. Thank you, Willa, for posting this careful discussion. Your analysis of the material that is common knowledge clearly shows that the charges of plagiarism being leveled at Joe Vogel are unfounded. And as you point out, several critics mentioned the “sheets” before the Academia Project’s reference in their November 2011 post. (Barbara Kaufmann also mentioned the sheets/Klan connection in a post about “Black or White” on her Inner Michael blog in April 2011.) I watched the Academia Project’s videos back when they were available and found them to be illuminating and useful interpretations of MJ’s work. I appreciate all the effort that went into creating them. At the same time, I also have great respect for Joe Vogel’s scholarly work on MJ. I have learned a great deal from his groundbreaking analyses and have been inspired by it to pursue my own work on Jackson.

    I am proud to say that Joe will be joining me this fall as a colleague. He is an excellent scholar, a creative and inspiring teacher, and a kind and generous person. The consistently mean-spirited and vehemently negative comments circulated by some about Joe on Twitter bear no relation to the reality of who Joe is. As you suggested, Willa, if serious study of Michael Jackson is to thrive, there needs to be room for respectful disagreement and difference, even on the issues about which people feel most passionately, given that we all share the same larger goal, which is to contribute to a fuller understanding of the work of a great artist.

  5. DissentingVoice

    Nobody whose goal is a ‘fuller understanding’ of Michael Jackson’s work as a ‘great artist’ would endorse terrible and obviously fake songs by likening them to some of his greatest masterpieces.

  6. I am sad to see these claims made against Joe, whose very book would not have been written were he not a man of integrity. What is sadder still is that I’m not at all surprised by them. Since publishing two well received articles in December 2014, the level of abuse I’ve received from a few “fans” – I use that term with an asterisk – has discouraged me to the point of reluctance to publish again.

    Not only did I receive abusive messages accusing me of working for the estate (I wish!!) but one of my articles was ripped off and reprinted in its entirety by two separate fan sites, each of which represented it as original work, and used it to drive traffic to their own sites instead of to the original. In both of these cases, my take down requests were met with hostility. Eventually, I too, was accused of plagiarism: for the crime of quoting from, with academically proper attribution, a fan magazine. And I’ve been banned/blocked from both.

    I’ve come to realize that this competitive and destructive behavior is a replica of the way some people around Michael behaved while he was alive, consequences to his well being be damned.

  7. What I see is intelligent, thoughtful comments interspersed with yawning old complaints. If established, reputable academics deem Joe’s work to be of high caliber, researched with integrity and meticulously annotated…that coincides with my own opinion.

  8. In multiple public interviews going back to 2012 I have called for greater transparency on the Cascio tracks. I was not there and never had the opportunity to talk to anyone who was there. Initially, people who worked closely with MJ told me they believed the tracks were Michael; I went with my best sources. Since that time, more information has come forward (and some of MJ’s collaborators changed their positions). I have said numerous times that the vocal on those tracks does not sound right, and that it is very strange that multiple time-stamped tracks did not exist as was the case for most of MJ’s work. I have no problem with anyone who wants to investigate further. In retrospect, I would change parts of my review of Michael, but it is what it is (for the record, I NEVER said the posthumous album was on par with MJ’s masterpieces — read the review). My guess is, regardless of what I have said since, a certain faction of fans will continue to beat that review into the ground. But the main thrust of my work — Man in the Music, Earth Song, Black or White, etc. — simply tries to explore the richness of the work MJ actually released. That’s the music that mattered to me and that’s always been my focus.

    On a different note, I just want to thank everyone — including WIlla, Susan, and Marie — for the outpouring of support. Not one scholar has questioned the integrity of my work. I have no problem with honest criticism, but I hope conscientious people will seriously consider the dangers of joining the angry mob, regardless of how right the “cause.” I am a person, not the caricature presented in MJAP’s disparaging rants. I am not part of some diabolical conspiracy. I have simply tried to do work I feel has value and support others who are doing the same.

    I know nothing I say or do will completely stop the hate, but I hope decent people will be civil. I’m happy to discuss when people are respectful.

    • Hi Joe I am not an academic but very much appreciate your work on MJ. I am sorry this has happened to you, and even more sorry that this sort of thing continues to go on. I would urge anyone who wants to write on Michaels work to continue to do so – after all, he continued himself to produce work despite all the unwarranted criticism he got. Even after that horrendous trial, he tried to make a comeback and would have succeeded. Let us use his example to “keep” and “don’t stop”

  9. Thank you for following up on Joe’s post. Those of us who are true advocates of the life of Michael Jackson can pretty much discern what is truth and what is not. Yours and Joe Vogel’s swift response to these accusations is appreciated. Hopefully those who still need to be educated will be able to see clear through all the sleight of hand tricks impostors use.

  10. DissentingVoice

    In your Michael review, Mr Vogel, you said that Breaking News could easily have been recorded as part of the Dangerous/HIStory sessions, which many fans believe to be Michael’s greatest masterpieces. You definitely did compare those songs to his greatest works.

    It is difficult for many fans to accept that you are not part of a ‘diabolical conspiracy’, as you put it, when you are consistently hired by Sony and the Michael Jackson Estate to appear in documentaries, write album liner notes, etc, and in return you seem to pull your punches on their mistakes – for instance, describing the appalling quality on the Bad DVD as being like high definition, and endorsing the clearly fake posthumous tracks.

    What other conclusion are these fans supposed to draw?

    You may have said the vocals ‘don’t sound right’, but that – as you admit above – was in later interviews. People are a lot more likely to read your Michael album review on the Huffington Post, where you state as fact that the vocalist on the Cascio tracks is Michael Jackson and you actually compare the tracks to Michael’s greatest ever works – than they are to read or listen to lengthy subsequent interviews you have given. To suggest the latter interviews compensate for the former endorsement is not sensible. It’s the journalistic equivalent of a shady company hiding the truth in the small print.

    As long as you continue to work for Sony and the estate, while also refusing to publicly and prominently acknowledge that the Cascio tracks are obviously fake, you must surely expect criticism any Michael Jackson fan who is genuinely passionate about his legacy.

    One cannot claim to be concerned with Michael Jackson’s legacy and at the same time refuse to complain about those tracks, let alone actively endorse those who released and profited from them. It’s a clear hypocrisy; like campaigning against global warming while at the same time profiting from ownership of a massive fossil fuel business, or opposing the death penalty while running a company that sells the lethal injection to prisons.

    If you were to remove your Michael review from the Huffington Post and make a public statement saying you did so because you no longer stand by it and you believe the tracks are fake, these fans might start to come around. Or if you were to write a new article in which you state clearly and prominently for the record that you now have grave doubts about the legitimacy of the songs. Or if you simply said you would no longer work for Sony or the estate because of your concerns about the Cascio tracks.

    But while your Michael review remains prominent and your later, somewhat vague revisions remain buried in long, obscure interviews far lower down the Google rankings – and you continue to work for Sony and the estate – you don’t really have a leg to stand on.

  11. Reblogged this on A Wandering Mind and commented:
    Important and thoughtful assessment from Dr. Willa Stillwater:

  12. So, by your logic, Spike Lee also has no credibility for working with the MJ Estate/Sony on his excellent documentaries, correct? And all of MJ’s collaborators who have contributed to or been interviewed for posthumous projects have no credibility? And respected journalists, scholars and historians who write liner notes for a Bob Dylan or Beatles album have no credibility?

    BTW I compared one of the Cascio tracks to an *outtake* from Dangerous/HIStory — meaning a song that was left off the album. I never said they were better than any of MJ’s official songs. And I made that connection based on Teddy Riley’s production and the lyrical content.

    Look, my main point is I’m happy to talk about these issues if people are civil, but why waste time and energy if people are already entrenched in their positions and mean-spirited? We’re talking about a small faction of the MJ fan base that seems trapped in this echo chamber. What good does it accomplish for MJ’s legacy?

  13. themooniswalking

    Just wanted to express my own gratitude for this informed and thoughtful post. As a graduate student and lifelong Michael Jackson fan, I have always admired the way Joe’s work engages fan communities, for example, while advancing the scholarly merits of Michael Jackson–by means of scholarly rigorous work. This would require, I imagine (having not written about MJ myself), an important balance between one’s engagement as a fan, and one’s responsibilities as a scholar. In the most basic of writing courses we instruct students to distinguish between plagiarism and the generative production of documented and considered ideas–citational practice that acknowledges and contributes to an existing conversation. As you point out, any accusation of plagiarism directed at Joe seems to distort the very concept of plagiarism–in skewing what constitutes common knowledge, but also in failing to acknowledge the nuance in Joe’s own ideas, as well as his extensive citations. Joe is among the most professional, respectful,and generous graduate students I have had the pleasure of knowing. The nature of the resistance to his and similar work is troubling. But it is at the same time heartening to see so many people write so intelligently, professionally, and compassionately in his defense, and in more general support of work that promotes the inimitable artistry and reach of Michael Jackson. Thank you!

  14. Thank you, Willa, for providing this clear-sighted explanation of plagiarism, why it is such a serious charge, and—above all—why it does not apply in the case of Joe’s Vogel’s essay. You’ve made it clear what constitutes “common knowledge, and how two different writers may reach similar conclusions based on the same resources.

    The accusations leveled against Joe Vogel are completely baseless as far as I’m concerned. They reflect a tendency among *some* fans that’s all too familiar, based on a few sites I’ve participated in. In their zeal to “defend” Michael Jackson from his detractors in the media, these fans have claimed that academics who write about Michael are, by and large, “marching in lockstep” with those tabloid writers who assiduously (and unthinkingly) wrote distorted and harmful stories about him from the 1980s on (as tabloidists are wont to do, about MJ and many others).

    Of course, this is merely my subjective impression of fans’ thinking, drawn from several years of participating in online discussions forums; so I suppose it falls under the heading of “difference of opinion.” But some of the opinions that fans have expressed seem to have been formed by a reading practice that consists of merely skimming a text *in search of* particular words or phrases (or sometimes whole sentences) that, in their view, reflects a “negative” or disparaging bias against Michael Jackson. They then play “gotcha,” and disparage the article (or book) as a whole. The surrounding context, the writers’ intention and argument, has been largely disregarded; so those who are committed to a narrow agenda vis-à-vis MJ’s “vindication” have missed worlds of thought. In their need to view these writings in exclusively “black or white” terms (either you’re *with* us or you’re *against* us), they show very little curiosity about what it is that academic writers *do*, what may inspire their research and writing, and—above all—their often complex relationship to the kinds of *truths* that are so eagerly sought by many MJ fans. (The reference in one comment, above, to Joe Vogel as a “journalist”—-while perhaps not entirely false—shows us part of this mindset.)

    Although I personally have yet to publish anything on Michael Jackson, I’ll admit that I have gotten embroiled (sometimes ignobly, always quixotically) in many quarrels with fans online, often on behalf of the whole enterprise of academic research and the ideas that have been generated through it: about popular culture, popular music, Michael Jackson, and his relationship to so many rich cultural histories. I also point out that this research doesn’t necessarily *have* to take place within an academic institution. I often to try to explicate some scholars’ writings on MJ; but my attempts have mostly fallen upon deaf ears, since these fans seemed more interested in condemning than understanding. I think this arises partly from the deep misapprehension and distrust that many people—-not only in the MJ world—-bring to those who are crazy enough to devote their lives to intellectual pursuits. Of course this is a regrettable tendency within the larger culture, and it’s very much out of keeping with the spirit of inquiry, curiosity, and generosity that often animated Michael’s own thinking about the world, and that continues to inspire us as fans, writers, artists, and thinkers.

    I hope that the MJ Academic Project (and other self-appointed *guardians* of MJ’s memory) will refrain from pursuing these misguided attacks. With a star as popular as Michael Jackson—who had and still has MILLIONS of fans the world over, from all walks of life—there’s bound to be a huge diversity of attitude, temperament, opinion, and priorities among his fans. There’s also bound to be quite a bit of overlap of interpretative reading.

    It would be a great boon to develop more productive engagements between the “academic” and the “fan” worlds (though many of us may be hard pressed to define where one leaves off and the other begins!). Yet I also believe that some of this rancor may serve to remind us of the “dangerous” (and very necessary) work that Joe Vogel, Susan Fast, Willa Stillwater, D.B. Anderson, Marie Plasse, Toni Bowers, and so many others are doing, and will continue to do.

  15. Thank you Nina. I guess it *is* Dangerous!

    I’m finding the change of subject to Joe’s review of the Cascio tracks to be a red herring.
    Many of the people making claims against the Cascio tracks have shown a personal animosity for Frank Cascio dating back to the trial. I am not sure how attacking writers is much different than attacking the tracks. And reasonable people can disagree about the tracks.

    The message seems to be, “ally with us against the estate or we will attack you.” That’s not acceptable.

    Nor is it going to happen because I was bullied into it.
    Ever.

  16. Firstly, thank you Joe for having the courage to take this public! I’m sure this has been very difficult for you.

    Secondly, I’m sorry, Ms Anderson, that you were subjected to such disgraceful and vicious attacks because of your articles. These people are not fans. They are predators. They’ve done the same to Zack Greenburg, leaders in the fan community and others. Please do not stop writing about Michael because of it. Those of us who love Michael and cherish his legacy NEED writers like you and Joe & Zack, Willa, Joie, Marie, Raven, Armond and others who have come forward to celebrate and teach us about Michael. We’ve been starving for it for a long, long time.

    It is obvious to me that the dissenters here are the same as they are on Twitter and probably also on FB though I don’t engage in FB for this level of discussion. It’s the same inflammatory language; the same abusive castigation; the same anti-Estate ranting that’s been going on for years. I have watched MJAP and his pack preen and scream on Twitter for some time now. One thing is obvious. This is NOT about the love of Michael Jackson. It is about the arrogant damning of anyone who does not share their political agenda and if it means ruining or casting aspersions on someone’s character or career all the better. Such rage filled rhetoric quickly degrades credibility but then credibility is not what this is about. As with most people who engage in such scorched earth tactics, it’s about power and destruction for one’s own self-aggrandizement. This same scenario plays out in our country and around the world every day on a myriad of issues.

    People who truly love Michael are with you, Mr Vogel, and there are millions of us out here. Keep the faith….

  17. I, too, was once very impressed with the work of MJAP but their strident attacks on anyone who does not agree with them has ruined their credibility for me a long time ago. They return over and over to the Cascio track issue and have a automatic and Pavlovian anti-Estate, anti-Branca reaction to everything without exception, not even taking the time to examine each case. DissentingVoice’s quote here: “baselessly accuse somebody who lives over 3,000 miles away, on a different continent, of ‘stalking’ him” could describe his own behavior with many other MJ writers and supporters. I would submit that MJAP should examine their own work for claiming ideas that are really common knowledge.

    I second Corlista1’s statement that we “need writers like you (DB Anderson) and Joe & Zack, Willa, Joie, Marie, Raven, Armond and others who have come forward to celebrate and teach us about Michael. We’ve been starving for it for a long, long time.”

    Please keep up the good work.

  18. Thank you Willa for this and this post in support of Joe Vogel and his high minded integrity will be reblogged on MJJJusticeproject wordpress as well-

    The inordinate amount of vitrol that comes from these FEW in the anti-Estate group is beyond the pale and has been for some time. To state that they speak for “many fans” is erroneous and this is proven by the vast majority of support for MJEstate projects across the worldwide MJ fanbase. Millions have supported the projects because their love for Michael and desire to see his legacy remain immortal proves uppermost in the hearts and minds.

    This vile behavior of stalking and instigating “hate”, a word MJAP, Sam Habib often uses on his twitter, can not be condoned by any right minded Michael Jackson fan base member – Differences of opinion in regards to Michael’s designation of executors of his Estate and support of MJEstate projects, has become an excuse to call names, mischaraterize individuals, cyberstalk and harass individuals who come online to discuss, enjoy and participate in civil discourse regarding Michael’s ART and Genius. It is totally unacceptable behavior. DBAnderson describes how much vitrolic tweets were received and we have also been attacked and maligned ruthlessly by this same group. I, with a blog that went so far as to post a picture of my infant grandson, and they posted where my children worked and lived. They fabricated stories about my ethnically blended marraige and threw aspersion upon my husband of 40 years. Police departments in three different California cities had to be notified because they feared the release of their private information in this blog would bring on physical attacks.

    It has happened to many who simply left online discussion of Michael, because they didn’t want to deal with such hate fuelled attacks on their character. None of us should be cyberstalked including Joe Vogel.

    This is aberrant behavior and thankfully only a few people are so base as to utilize the Intellus and other search engines online to dig into family names to harass other fans in this manner. It is based on the fact that their particular agenda has no footing or following – therefore they must INVENT malfeasance of the individuals who have differing opinion.

    Michael Jackson wrote in his own autobiography that he didn’t understand the concept of revenge. Revenge is fueled by hate and we all know Michael message was LOVE, always love and forgivemess. Would Michael condone the hateful words and want any representive of his to call female fans “whores” and such? It is not possible. Michael was God fearing and read scripture daily. He could quote chapter and verse on any topic in the Bible and lived humbly as a servant of the Supreme Power of the Universe. He always acknowledge God used him as “an instrument” and took acclaim, accolades and awards as not trophies of his work but of the message God wished him to preach.

    I thank Joe Vogel for making this issue public because unlike me, and others who’ve been harassed lo these many years, he has prominence in the MJGlobal community – These unsubtantiated allegation against Joe and others, are tabloidesque in nature and most will see them for what they represent. By highlighting this false allegations and bringing them to the forefront and into discourse, Joe Vogel, has done us all a very great serivice.

    As it has been said – Now that the academic scholarly discussion is growing and Michael’s true influence and impact is being researched we all must support the promotion of such so that he will be better understood – his message better received and his mission on this earth, which was to HEAL it can better emulated.

    M.Abbas aka Buds

  19. I agree with D.B. Anderson. I also found the change of topic to Cascio songs as a red herring. Cascio songs and Vogel’s articles about those songs aren’t relevant to the plagiarism claim that is being discussed here. It makes me question if the issue here is actually intolerance towards different opinions and plagiarism claim is just an excuse to get back at Vogel for having a different opinion than Academia Project .

    Like D.B Anderson said, it feels like “you must all think like me and if you don’t I’ll attack you”. That is dictatorship and very alarming in regards to freedom of speech and freedom of opinion. People should be allowed to have an opinion different than ours and they shouldn’t be under threat of retaliation just because they dared to express a different opinion.

  20. Reblogged this on mjjjusticeproject and commented:
    There’s a time when you’re right and you know you must fight” Thank you- Willa from Dancing with the Elephant

  21. I truly hope scholars and academics are not threatened by Academia’s actions into limiting the wealth of information they so generously provide to the MJ Community through hard work and exhaustive research. Plaigerism is a serious charge, however it loses much credibility when the source of the charge is considered, in this case having been leveled by someone whose agenda vs. the Estate executors is and for years has been so blatantly clear, against an author (Joe Vogel) who consistently reveals to a new generation of Michael Jackson fans information which has too long been diminished and hidden by tabloid media and others who consider themselves “journalists”. Please Joe Vogel and others, keep up the great work.

  22. Dear Joe and D.B. Anderson: Joe, I have purchased all of your publications that I know about and also given several as gifts to others. I am very pleased to own your publications and the contents therein. D.B. Anderson: I have read your articles that I know of and printed copies of same for my collections and read your interactions with Willa on her blog with you.
    Please, don’t either one of you feel discouraged by these uninformed and misleading comments directed toward you. Your good works speak for themselves.

  23. ast:” It is profoundly distressing to me that as a community of scholars begins to take an active interest in Michael’s rich body of work, some fans feel it necessary to disparage that work. Michael would be horrified by this, I’m sure.”

    Marie: “if serious study of Michael Jackson is to thrive, there needs to be room for respectful disagreement and difference, even on the issues about which people feel most passionately, given that we all share the same larger goal, which is to contribute to a fuller understanding of the work of a great artist”.

    Joe Vogel, Susan Fast, Willa Stillwater, D.B. Anderson, Marie Plasse, Toni Bowers, and so many others are doing, and will continue to do.

    corlista1: “People who truly love Michael are with you, Mr Vogel, and there are millions of us out here. Keep the faith….”

    Theresa Ann: “I second Corlista1’s statement that we “need writers like you (DB Anderson) and Joe & Zack, Willa, Joie, Marie, Raven, Armond and others who have come forward to celebrate and teach us about Michael. We’ve been starving for it for a long, long time. Please keep up the good work”.

    Adding my support to you all: Joe Vogel, Susan Fast, Willa Stillwater, D.B. Anderson, MJJJusticeProject, Marie Plasse, Raven, Toni Bowers, Zack Greenberg–I have read (and purchased) everything you have written about Michael Jackson. I am profoundly grateful to all of you for your dedication to furthering an understanding of Michael the person, his art, and his legacy.

    I respect diverse views and opinions, but have no respect for (or interest in) hatred.

    Please, keep faith that your contributions are appreciated, and are invaluabe to ensure that future generations will appreciate the genius of Michael Jackson.

  24. I want to add my gratitude to everyone who has been so eloquent here, and has been writing with such insight into Michael and his work. Please keep writing, because you are discovering and revealing such beauty, power, meaning and complexity it takes my breath away.

    While I understand knee-jerk defensiveness of Michael, and I acknowledge there may be some class bias in how we communicate, I too look to see how Michael handled attacks. As far as I can tell, he never lashed out at people and saved most of his commentary for his art. But even then, he played the Mayor as well as the Maesto, acknowledging in his own way that what we abhor outside of us is also inside of us.

    And I can’t forget that Michael was attacked for his work. Instead of people seriously considering it and coming back with questions and critiques, they slammed him. It seems like the same thing is happening here.

    The attacks, ironically, helped Michael understand the world more deeply, and they heightened his commitment to communicating what he saw in ways that people could understand. I hope we can all do the same.

  25. An assumption of some defending Joe Vogel and other ‘academic’ writers (those in academia ) here seems to be that academic writers are somehow more qualified than fans and fansites to write accurately and profoundly about Michael Jackson and his work. Having learned a great deal from various fansites, such as Helena’s ‘vindicating Michael Jackson,’ David’s ‘vindicating MJ2,’ Raven’s blog, and the excellent fan site mjjc, I have to question that assumption. I’m disturbed by the tendency of academic writers to belittle or refuse to acknowledge the contributions of the fans of Michael Jackson. I think academics have their own language, interests, and desire to publish for professional advancement, and a need to have their work conform to the prevailing academic pov. I know of one situation where ideas presented in a published work by a non academic writer (one not in academia) were included in an article by an academic author without acknowledging the source. So the sword cuts both ways.

    In terms of this latest controversy, I have great respect for the wonderful work of Joe Vogel and do not believe he would ever plagiarize. It’s also possible that the Michael Jackson academic project, being based as it seems to be in the UK, is not that familiar with United States society and history and was not aware that the ideas they presented (like the reference to ‘sheets’) are not unique to them. (To be clear, I have not read their charges against Joe or his response. I read this blog and the comments. I wanted to respond to what I see here.)

    It seems to me that the academic community is often far too cliquish and insular, and there’s a tendency to point fingers at or disparage fans, which is not helping matters as far as defending Michael and establishing his legacy. Is it not possible to defend Joe in this situation without stooping to that level? It would be nice for a change to see academic writers acknowledge their indebtedness to the enormous amount of work done by Michael’s ‘regular’ (non-academic) fans, not only in defending him but in doing painstakingly detailed research, research that in fact laid the basis for their work.

    Who was there for Michael when he was alive? it wasn’t academic writers. it was Armond White, a film critic, one or two others in the media (such as Geraldo Rivera, Jesse Jackson, and Matt Drudge), and Michael Jackson’s fans, friends, studio musicians, lawyers (Mesereau) and colleagues. Michael Jackson himself was not an academic and I think it’s highly questionable whether academia alone is going to present him fully and completely to the world. Yet some of these comments show a kind of hubristic assumption that only academics are up to the task.
    Lamenting divisions while being divisive is not going to work. It stifles interest in participating in these discussions. Unless it’s fun to preach to the choir, writers on Michael need to find a way to acknowledge various viewpoints and voices, rather than circle the wagons. Michael was inclusive, not exclusive.

  26. i am on Mr. vogel’s side here, first of, how exactly can a person cite a fan made video in an academic article which has been removed, the so called ‘plagiarism’ , that they have published doesnt even qualify as ‘inspiration’, the only result that has come of this is that another well researched article about jackson has been removed and will probably never see the light again,i have seen those MJAP videos, provided those were well made ones that can still have an impact if it is released (plus whoever edited them has skills),their information’s are well cited and thought provoking. if the people behind these videos are infact jackson fans then why exactly are they hunting a scholar whos in support of jackson while on the mean time jackson is still labelled as ‘jacko’ in every recent articles.

  27. Throwin’ rocks to hide your hands… I should say so. Thank you Dr. Stillwater for this insightful article. Joe Vogel, D.B. Anderson, Armond White and yourself as well as all the egoless advocators have brought Michael Jackson out of the darkness and into the light. These MJ haters will not win over the truth. Thank you, Thank you… and continue your dedicated and selfless work.

  28. In response to Indigenous: I’m not sure how you arrived at the idea that academics are “cliquish” and “insular” and that we don’t take into account the significant contribution that fans make in understanding Michael’s work. Far from it. In my book on *Dangerous* I begin a chapter with a quote from a fan and suggest that journalists and academics need to pay attention to this perspective, which differs drastically from their own in many instances. I think sometimes we write as though our interpretations are the last word, but this is a matter of style. It’s also untrue that academics have only become interested in Michael’s work since his death, although there’s certainly been more interest since then. Kobena Mercer, Michael Awkward, Eric Lott, Michael Eric Dyson and Michelle Wallace, among others, all wrote about MJ in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. There’s a list of writings available at the Michael Jackson Academic Studies website.

    And Nina: you’ve expressed beautifully what I’ve been thinking (I was about to write a blog post of my own on the subject but you’ve saved me the trouble). I’d just add, following on Joe’s comment about Spike Lee et al. working with the Estate, that regardless of the misgivings some have about the Estate, it would be a mistake for scholars and artists not to work with them. As a historian, I think about the vast archive of material on Michael’s work and life that could only be accessed through the Estate. Someday, someone’s going to write a brilliant biography that draws on that material, or make an analysis of his work that differs from anything that’s been written based on something found in that archive.

  29. In regards to the discussion of common knowledge and the interpretation of the Ku Klux Klan symbolism in “Black or White” that is a topic that was addressed in Rev. Barbara Kaufmann’s excellent essay “Black and White and Proud” which I believe was originally written for The Voices Education Project. Her article was published in 2010, therefore a full year before the Academia Project video in 2011. In discussing the KKK symbolism Kaufmann wrote:

    Themes that emerge in the smoky cloud he punches through, are also iconic racial and cultural images—the burning cross which refers to the Klu Klux Klan, the original (American) terrorists who strike fear in hearts and homes with burning crosses. The nuclear cloud is an indictment of governments and an arms race out of control. The lyric “I ain’t afraid of no sheets” is a direct reference to the Klu Klux Klan who wore white sheets and cone-shaped hoods with cutout eyes. The Klan was known for its vigilante justice, and many accused n’s (n-word) were victims of lynching- impromptu death by hanging. The sheets covered them, and kept the criminals anonymous while white law enforcement looked the other way.

    You can read her full article here:

    http://mjtpmagazine.presspublisher.us/issue/december-2010/article/black-and-white-and-proud

    If we want to get picky, it would seem that Kaufmann would have a more legitimate complaint than the Academia Project. However, you are correct, Willa, that this is a fairly obvious interpretation. It wasn’t as if Michael intended those symbols to be some great, cryptic, hidden message. I teach this video in the classroom quite regularly and my students have no problem interpreting exactly what those symbols and references mean-with no help from any source whatsoever.

    Similarly, if a scholar writes an article on, let’s say, Shakespeare’s Othello, for example, and stated that Iago is a representation of evil, there would be no need to cite it as this is a universally accepted interpretation, and you might easily have hundreds of articles that make this claim. However, if a scholar has a very particular and specific theory as to HOW Shakespeare uses the character to represent evil, then we are getting into territory where, of course, the proper acknowledgements and citations must be made.

    Thankfully Michael Jackson, unlike Shakespeare, doesn’t have four hundred years’ worth of academic scholarship to wade through (only a mere four decades’ worth, lol) but that is still a lot, and it may be virtually impossible to state anything about Michael’s work without, at some point, arriving at a conclusion that has already been stated elsewhere. This is true even in the blogosphere. For example, I have an article I wrote on Michael’s use of duality in the film Ghosts. But this is a topic that other boggers have addressed, also, and I can’t lay some kind of exclusive claim to it, unless someone is blatantly using my exact words or ideas. But that doesn’t mean that others can’t arrive at that interpretation, also, and explore their own interpretations of that idea in their own way.

    I realize that when we get into the area of ideas and intellectual property, that can be a very gray and dangerous area. But in all honesty, I haven’t seen anything here that oversteps the bounds of common knowledge, if indeed the disputed material is what you have quoted here. Also, given that Kaufmann’s article made the same observation about the KKK imagery a full year before the video in question, it seems to render the whole argument a bit moot. Obviously, other writers have been writing about these symbolic images in “Black or White” for years. Unless there is something that points more specifically to willful plagiarism than what is being quoted here, it doesn’t seem much of a case.

  30. Thank you, Susan; I wish you would write your blog post anyway. Readers can be stubbornly censorious; and I’ve observed that the “q” word especially tends to be a particular sticking point. (!)

    I also wanted to respond to Indigenous’s post. My comment (about *some* fans) grows out of what I’ve observed from several discussion forums I’ve been involved with for several years. There has been insularity, cliquishness, finger-pointing, closed-mindedness, a tendency to cling to prevailing points of view, to circle the wagons (in Michael Jackson’s defense) whenever an idea that’s (conventionally) perceived as “negative” is proposed—even if the intent is *not* at all disparaging. (To name an example, I’ve been savaged and treated to fairly regular ad-hominem attacks, and accused of terrible intentions toward MJ, for suggesting that he showed a nuanced and non-traditional form of masculinity in his performances. In short, all of the shortcomings you attribute to academic writers, Indigenous, can just as easily (from my viewpoint) be said about (at least) a particular group of fans.

    There are undoubtedly misunderstandings all around, and it’s a double-edged sword, as you put it, Indigenous. From my (admittedly biased) point of view as an enthusiastic reader (and hopeful writer) of all kinds of literature on Michael Jackson, a reader must also be willing to meet a writer halfway, and to trust that they won’t be charlatans, out to pull the wool over the eyes of an unsuspecting public!

    This sense of basic trust must be forged between any reader and any writer, as nothing is legislating this relationship, and in most cases it’s simply a good-faith agreement. I hope that ardent fans of Michael Jackson (as even some of us “academics” are!), readers will try to maintain a reasonably open-minded, courageous, and curious approach to any book or article they come across. Ideally, one would be prepared to entertain (if not necessarily agree with) a variety of viewpoints about Michael’s work and its possible significance. This entails asking questions, and requesting clarification on terminology, or some fundamental ideas and approaches that the author had used in formulating their argument or analysis.

    And, of course, the same can be said about academics’ dialogues with fans! How can we make this dialogue more fruitful?

    • You ask: “How can we make this dialogue more fruitful?”

      You can make it more fruitful by not pathologizing and misrepresenting those who disagree with you as cliquish, close minded, and clinging to prevailing points of view, and by not being condescending and patronizing, suggesting that differing opinions are uneducated or ill informed.

      People can disagree with you simply because they think you are wrong.

      • Since plagiarism is one thing we’ve been talking about here, Eleanor, I should give full attribution.

        It was a post (above) by Indigenous that I was responding to, where she mentioned that “academics…. need to have their work conform to the prevailing academic pov”; that “the academic community is far too cliquish and insular”; that they have a tendency to “point fingers,” “disparage fans,” and “circle the wagons,” as well as showing a reluctance to properly acknowledge the labor fans have performed on Michael’s behalf—notably, in their meticulous and detailed research.

        So, to give credit where it’s due, I was responding to these statements.

        As for you and me specifically, I believe some of our differences involve “A TERF war, on a global scale.” (A paraphrase.) But, “I’d rather hear both sides of the tale”; and I believe it’s important that others have have the opportunity to hear the “other side” as well.

        • I’m aware of that. But you appropriated her language and applied it to people who disagree with you — “a particular group of fans.”

          “My comment (about *some* fans) grows out of what I’ve observed from several discussion forums I’ve been involved with for several years. There has been insularity, cliquishness, finger-pointing, closed-mindedness, a tendency to cling to prevailing points of view, to circle the wagons (in Michael Jackson’s defense) whenever an idea that’s (conventionally) perceived as “negative” is proposed—even if the intent is *not* at all disparaging. (To name an example, I’ve been savaged and treated to fairly regular ad-hominem attacks, and accused of terrible intentions toward MJ, for suggesting that he showed a nuanced and non-traditional form of masculinity in his performances. In short, all of the shortcomings you attribute to academic writers, Indigenous, can just as easily (from my viewpoint) be said about (at least) a particular group of fans..”

          What you seem to be doing (correct me if I’m wrong) is attempting to draw a parallel between a particular group of fans’ disagreements with you (a group I am part of) and the MJAP’s attack on Joe Vogel, which seems to be a little over the top.

          And in your follow up comment, you say —

          “But an underlying problem may be that they’re likely to have a difficult time pursuing several “agendas.” or ways of thinking about MJ simultaneously—and they won’t easily allow anyone else to try it! ”

          Seriously? Are you kidding? Who are these empty headed fools? Fans? People who disagree with you or hold opposing opinions?

          I have only encountered you on this site and Raven’s, and I have never seen anyone savaging you. On the other hand….

          Although your terf comment is very witty, to call someone a TERF, a term used by transgender people to attack women is tantamount to hate speech.

          In our discussions, although I strongly disagree with you, and I think there is far more evidence for my point of view than yours (yours seems more politically based than founded in evidence), I have never attacked you personally, as you do me, repeatedly. Taking someone else’s words and applying them to fans, fans who disagree with you about your position on MJ’s sexuality, seemed aimed at me.

          I am a proud MJ fan. Although I have been an academic, my interest in MJ is not academic. The academic approach is not the only legitimate approach to coming to a deeper understanding and appreciation of that very complex man and artist Michael Jackson.

          I find your polarizing disquisitions very painful.

          • Just to clarify, I thought I was the one suggesting that MJ “showed a nuanced and non-traditional form of masculinity in his performances.” If I had realized that was your point of view, you would have gotten no disagreement from me. I am 100% on board.

  31. I find it sad when communication breaks down, because I still believe a kind of richness can be ignited when an exchange between people with different stories, priorities, and sensibilities is allowed to grow, without either fizzling out or producing more rancor.

    For a start, I wonder if people can (even momentarily) suspend a strongly-felt need to *defend* Michael from a host of his detractors. Can we acknowledge that his long-awaited defense may come in many forms, shapes, and colors—and needn’t always be couched as a head-on collision with “haters,” real or imagined? Was Michael’s “crucifixion” his only identity, the story of his entire life and career? It would sometimes seem so, from what I’ve read online in popular discussion boards. This circles back to what (I imagine) Joe Vogel, D. B. Anderson, and others have experienced in their encounters with certain fans, like the MJ Academic Project. For one thing, they are harassing people and falsely accusing Joe of plagiarizing, which is flatly unacceptable.

    But an underlying problem may be that they’re likely to have a difficult time pursuing several “agendas.” or ways of thinking about MJ simultaneously—and they won’t easily allow anyone else to try it! (I sometimes liken this single-mindedness to Captain Ahab, who—in “Moby Dick”—takes himself and his entire crew on a worldwide search for the evil, ever-elusive white whale who once removed part of his leg.)

    In general, I tend to agree more with Toni Bowers, who beautifully and usefully points out in her article in the L.A. Review of Books, “Dancing With Michael Jackson”:

    “To dwell over-long on Jackson’s suffering would be to forget his indomitable playfulness and strength of will. The amazing thing is not, finally, how weird Michael Jackson was or how difficult his life was, but how great was his capacity for delight, his generosity, his ability and determination to bring joy to others. Endlessly curious, delighted with people, and thrilled by the beauty of the world, he just had so much fun. He suffered, yes; he faced down and endured painful experiences. But that’s what makes his exuberance so remarkable, and makes the fact that he brought (and continues to bring) pleasure to other people so precious. No matter what, he danced. We need to remember and honor that, and dance along.“

    http://lareviewofbooks.org/essay/dancing-with-michael-jackson

    And when it comes to a highly paradoxical picture of Michael, I’d also want to mention Sylvia J. Martin’s article, ” Remembering Michael Jackson: Moonwalking Between Contradictions:

    “I believe that the moonwalk became an apt metaphor for how Jackson at times managed our expectations about him and his messages, in order to try to speak to a wide range of human experience. In doing so, Jackson subtly shows us that pop – a commercial genre commonly dismissed as bland – carries the potential to be subversive.”

    http://learcenter.org/remembering-michael-jackson-moonwalking-between-contradictions/

    • Nina,

      I understand your point, but this isn’t a case of failure of imagination on the part of readers, or inability to understand.

      It’s a battle for control.

      • I think you may be right, D.B. Anderson. I imagine it’s about who gets to control the narrative (at any rate, I think that’s what you mean).

        I tend to take a very long view. So for me, one answer may be that, over the long haul, the narrative will be controlled by the same amalgamation of different kinds of people who have so far controlled the story of Elvis or Marilyn (or any other iconic star, for that matter): namely, *everybody* who has ever had an interest in telling it. And the personnae of the narrators, as well as the story itself, will shift dramatically over time. (I’ve been reading Greil Marcus’s book “Dead Elvis,” which touches upon these issues.)

        I wrote on the last post, “The Power of His Art”:

        “The notion of a “personal agenda” or “political agenda” is often used disparagingly to describe people who are perceived as viewing Michael exclusively through a scrim that is in some way *impure.* But I’d like to suggest that instead of “agendas,” we instead discuss our passions, and our assumptions about the world, and how these relate to him. What moves us? What makes us angry? When we are thinking about Michael, what are our deepest wishes, hopes, and desires for the way he will be remembered? And our anxieties about what would happen if our wishes weren’t met? ….. I think this might serve as a point of departure….”

    • This comes with sincere thanks to Willa Stillwater for her principled, informed response to Joe Vogel’s unfortunate experience, and with admiration for the thoughtful comments here.
      I expect that the journal in question will do its own review, and that Professor Vogel’s work will be thoroughly vindicated.
      I think it’s important to the future of Jackson studies that everybody behave as professionally and respectfully as they possibly can right now. Let’s keep the level of discourse high. Systems are in place for this kind of thing. Let the process take its course.
      Two final thoughts:
      Malice is powerful, but it’s also possible to be sincerely mistaken; perhaps some of both are at work in these attacks?
      And — it’s good to see this community working together to think this awful thing through. It’s right that the task of responding should not be left up to Joe. Joe: you are not alone.

  32. Well that deteriorated quickly.

    Folks, the complaint against Joe wasn’t even made in earnest. It was spurred partly in retaliation for the removal of a fan-created video from the internet. The “fans” created a video mocking the upcoming Off The Wall documentary, which Joe is going to be in. Apparently Sony or the estate yanked it – thus, a copyright claim for a copyright claim.

    Rest assured that no academic process will stop the constant trolling, misogyny, doxxing, and hate speech we are subjected to.

    Peace x

  33. Thank you for the discussion everyone. I have posted a link to this blog on my group page. https://www.facebook.com/groups/michaeljacksonsghosts/

  34. Thank you, again, to all of you for your principled, calm and thoughtful remarks. Civil discourse is so important to any community, yet I fear Twitter (and the Internet more generally) has become a breeding ground not only for break downs in communication, but for harassment, mob mentality, cyberstalking, bullying, and more.

    I’ve met so many wonderful people through our mutual interest in MJ. There is plenty of room for everyone to do good, interesting work, or to simply enjoy listening, reading and learning in an environment of openness and respect. My issue will be resolved soon enough. I thank you all again for your support, and hope civility and decency will prevail.

  35. Can I just take a minute and say how brilliant I think Joe Vogel’s JPMS article is? It’s the best example I’ve seen of how a piece of music can be revealed through its historical context. By looking at US race relations in the 1990s and the perceived crisis of masculinity, along with the overall picture of race and representation in the film industry, “Black or White” takes on a profound significance that is likely to be missed without these insights. If anyone has yet to read the article yet, treat yourself to an exciting read!: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jpms.12112/full I feel badly that an unfounded accusation was made and look forward to seeing it reposted on academia.edu very soon.

    As a life long musician who is relatively new to both fandom and academia, I feel like I’m slowly becoming trilingual in three distinct subcultures: musicians, fans and academics. (Actually, that may even be four groups if you add sound engineers!) We don’t always speak the same language or have the same customs, so culture clashes may be inevitable. I’m glad the subculture divide is being addressed here so that hopefully some resolution and understanding can be found.

    As I believe everyone here without exception has expressed, I am also an admirer of the MJAP videos. I do not believe they violated copyright law and would like to see them re-posted to YouTube someday soon.

    A big thank you to Willa and Joie, and all the other heavy-hitting MJ scholars and fans here, for attempting the fan/academic divide and being so generous with your knowledge and insights.

  36. I’d just like to say I appreciate Joe Vogel’s book and articles a lot. I think they are very much needed and if anyone thinks they can write better ones they are free to do so and then the market will decide, but online harassment and slander is not the way.

    Writing is not as easy as some people imagine it and books and articles are bound to have some mistakes or statements that not everyone will agree with. To me personally the Cascio songs are a sore point as well, I do not think they are MJ, I hate that they are in MJ’s official catalog and I always cringe when I see people refer to any of those songs as MJ songs, but that doesn’t make me behave like a lunatic, especially not with people who overall have a positive impact on the way the world looks at MJ and his work. Books like Joe’s are needed and I consider those a big step in the right direction regarding MJ books.

    And while we are at it, I always thought that one often overlooked part of Michael’s career is the Jacksons era. Especially Destiny and Triumph are great albums in my opinion. Listen to the lyrics on Destiny, in my opinion they make it Michael’s most personal album until Dangerous. Triumph is an overlooked masterpiece as well. And considering how many songs MJ wrote on those two albums especially, to me they are as much MJ albums as any of his solo works. So I’d love to read something about those.

  37. There are similarities between some of Joe Vogels insights, themes and wording and The MJAPs on their analysis of B&W that cannot be a coincidence, even if Vogels focus in this article is more on gender .E.g. as far as I know, it was The MJAP who first connected B&W to Birth of a nation.
    This would not have been an issue if JV had referenced The MJAP s work as a source as he did all the others. Michael Jackson even gave credit to ‘streetkids ‘ for teaching him the moonwalk. Academia would not remove someones work on a baseless claim, it is in the line with their policy to which anyone who submits their work is expected to abide. Everyone has the right to have their intellectual property acknowledged and protected .
    If JV thinks he is in his right he can easily provide Academia with evidence of the opposite.
    I wish the administrators of the MJE would be as protective of Michaels work as Academia is of their good name and high standards.
    This is by no means a judgement of the content of the article , which imo is an interesting read.
    As Willa and others have stated , The MJAP videos were taken down on claims of copyright infringement that were clearly not in accordance with internet policy, ergo false.
    I didnt see any outrage then, which to me speaks of double standards.

    As for common knowledge, fans know alot , but the general public only knows the MJ stereotypes. This blog attracts many post 2009 fans to whom, if you read the comments ,much about Michael is still a revelation. Much of what today is common knowledge was not a few years ago. It became common knowledge because someone had the insight and wrote about it. A recent work on Dangerous has an error about the rap in B&W which I thought was common knowledge. Even to Joe Vogel some of the MJAPs insights were new, according to exchanges between them that I have read, in which he expresses his admiration for their work I wonder why he later dismissed The MJAPs work as inferior(without context).

    The MJ fanbase even when Michael was alive was not a unity, Michael must have been aware of it , but never interfered with fan division. But the online misconduct is getting out of hand and is widespread, simply because people cannot handle disagreement and instead of ideas attack people. The lowest is a fan and her followers who wished death on Katherine Jackson to prevent her from alledgedly giving money she inherited from her son to her other chidren. Mind you, this is a fan who preaches love , unity and advocacy for Michaels legacy and good name. No one has a monopoly on the public persona of Michael Jackson, being a fan does not require special skills or qualifications and MJ is not a protected species. Anyone can write, blog, discuss, claim etc about him AND be criticized for it,
    But unlike the average fan, academics imo have higher standards to live up to.

    The MJAP has no reason to be jealous of anyone. Their videos speak for themselves . If their work is taken down on provable false claims it means they may indeed be dangerous to certain entities. I hope like anyone who makes a contribution to preserving Michael Jacksons legacy, they can continue their work and find a way to keep it online. They have alot to offer and are very well equipped for the discourse. I could do without the rants and insults, but I admire their passion and knowledge and not followinging the program.

    • Exactly those rants and insults are what many fans take issues with. It’s not just some minor “oh well, but they make some great points in their videos” thing for many of us. To me it doesn’t matter how great their videos are any more, now after I have seen some of their rants and insults on Twitter. It’s a shame. And actually I am someone who agrees with some of their points, like the Cascio songs not being Michael, so feeling threatened over opinions is not an issue to me. But they seem to be people who think they can push down their POV on others throats by aggression and insults and they seem like fanatics who think their way of thinking about Michael Jackson is the only good way. That alienates people and it’s not a good way to make themselves being heard and taken seriously.

      There is also this elitist view among them that they call out post-2009 fans, so it is interesting that you too brought this point up in your post, although in a bit more neutral and more polite way than I have seen them doing it elsewhere. When they bring up post-2009 fans that’s usually a way to discredit them and to make themselves superior over them – some of them even seem to insinuate that post-2009 fans are “not real fans”. Once again creating a division, “us against them” mentality within the fandom.

      Personally post-2009 fans (including writers who took up an interest in MJ post 2009) make me happy. New fans are always welcome, that’s how MJ’s legacy is kept up and grows. And just because someone is a post-2009 fan or writer it doesn’t mean his or her insights are less important or less valuable. You can be a fan since the J5 days and that still doesn’t mean you know everything about Michael and everything you think or say about him is true and correct and your way of thinking about him is better than someone’s who discovered him after 2009. I have become a fan in 1988 and I think there is a lot I know about him, but I’d like to listen to the insights of other fans, including post-2009 ones. I do not even make this distinction between pre- and post-2009 fans in my mind.

      Yes, sometimes there are errors in articles and books, maybe sometimes even about matters that an old fan probably would know, but I am not clinging on those mistakes, I look at the full picture. Besides old fans aren’t above mistakes and errors either. I think it’s sometimes good to remind us – whether old or new fans – that none of us possesses Michael Jackson, his image or art. He or his art is not anyone’s possession. In any case, militant fanaticism is certainly not the way for someone to make his or her POV be heard.

    • Hi Sina. Thank you for joining the conversation. I just wanted to clarify that, for me, the issue isn’t that Academia.edu took down Joe’s article. That’s fairly trivial. They aren’t the publisher – just a network for sharing papers and information – so it’s kind of like having something removed from Facebook or YouTube. If that’s all this was about, I would have been disappointed but would have taken a wait-and-see attitude, just as I did when the MJ Academia Project videos were removed from YouTube.

      But there’s much more at stake here. Joe is an academic who has been accused of plagiarism. If found guilty, he could lose his position, and it’s unlikely any other institution would want to hire him under those circumstances. It could be the end of his career. You said that “academics imo have higher standards to live up to,” and it’s true – the standards are much higher for academics, and the consequences much more severe. That’s why I’m taking this so seriously.

      As evidence of possible plagiarism, you mentioned that “as far as I know, it was The MJAP who first connected B&W to Birth of a nation,” and suggested that Joe should have cited them as a source for his article. However, I just looked and that isn’t accurate. Birth of a Nation isn’t mentioned in their video on Black or White. In their video on the HIStory album, they do mention Birth of a Nation in connection with the background lyrics on “Money.” As they point out, “Michael Jackson … reel[s] off the names of the so-called Robber Barons old and new, ‘Vanderbilt, Morgan, Trump, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Getty …'” They then say this about Vanderbilt:

      John D. Rockefeller would also fund Thomas Dixon’s religious congregation and, Dixon, in honour, modelled the hero of the third part of his Ku Klux Klan Trilogy of Reconstruction, 1907’s The Traitor, on Rockefeller. The second book in the trilogy, of course, was The Clansman, which would later go on to be adapted by D. W. Griffith in the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation. The Birth of a Nation was literally a recruitment film for the Ku Klux Klan, fully promoting the ideas of ‘white supremacy’ and became the most successful film in American Cinema history. When Jackson sings “Earn it with dignity”, it’s this very establishment that he is tackling.

      When the HIStory album was reviewed, however, not one journalist picked up on the line, which would make any comment on Jackson’s art in 1995 a wholly vacuous affair.

      So the MJ Academia Project and Joe Vogel both mention Birth of a Nation, but in connection with different works (“Money” and “Black or White”) and to prove different points. The MJ Academia Project references it as evidence that Rockefeller was a racist, while Joe is suggesting a history of systemic racism in the American film industry, and saying Birth of a Nation both resulted from that racism and helped perpetuate it. Those are completely different contexts, and not anything Joe would need to cite.

      You’re right that there are similarities between the Academia Project videos and Joe’s article – both are exploring the ways Michael Jackson confronts racism in his work. But that isn’t plagiarism. Plagiarism isn’t when two authors look at the same subject matter. It’s when an author takes specific ideas or language from other people and doesn’t give them credit for it. And I see no evidence of that in this case.

      • Hi Willa and Joe, thank you for your response.
        I just read that the article is back on the Academia site, which means they did not see grounds for the claim.

        @ Dissenting Voice : Academia took your complaint seriously and looked into the claim Its only fair to accept the outcome.
        As for the Cascio tracks, I agree that they are a stain on Michaels legacy and I will gladly help to eradicate them from Michaels name, But there are more effective ways to do it.

        I hope some lessons are learned and that the focus will be back on Michael Jackson.

    • Sina,

      There is complete failure on the MJAP to familiarize himself with academic work done on Michael Jackson in the past – pre-2009. He shows compete ignorance of the scholarly work done by many critics who came even before Joe. I suggest that if he is not a reader of academic literature and hasn’t familiarized himself with the body of work published by scholars in the United States, then he is of course confused.

      I would also point out that Sam Habib did not attach his name to his work when first published. His was an anonymous account. Had he done so, he might have been contacted and asked to participate in discussions about the work. When he became aware of discussions happening here at this blog, he had yet an another opportunity to reveal his identity to the blog owner and request to be included. He did none of this. Very unprofessional.

      Even now, there is nothing stopping Sam from doing an analysis and submitting to a journal and getting it published. He will of course, be subjected to a peer review process as a condition of getting published and for this he had better have done his homework as to the existing literature, as journals won’t publish non-original work.

      There is also nothing stopping Sam from republishing his videos, except that they infringe on a corporate trademark and he has not asked permission to use it. Requesting the necessary permissions in a an adult manner would be the logical step. He has chosen not to do so, but instead prefers to cast himself as a victim and to spew hatred far and wide. This solves nothing but he appears incapable of constructive problem-solving,

      Finally, Habib’s most recent temper tantrum has involved twisting the #BlackLivesMatter movement against the Michael Jackson estate, intentionally using my published work to support his claims against Sony and “white lawyers”. That is unacceptable and I refuse to allow the meaning of Michael’s work in They Don’t Care About Us, and my analysis of it, to be used to support his jihad against John Branca.

      Therefore, I have removed my article (which was the most popular independently published post on the Kinja platform in 2014) from the internet in order to protect it from misuse. My article was registered with the US Copyright Office in December, making me eligible for statutory damages from anyone who is caught having published an unauthorized copy. I will be checking and if this should occur, my attorneys will begin the necessary actions immediately.

      • I’m very glad that Joe’s article is again up at academia.edu. The whole claim was fatuous from the get-go; and D.B. Anderson, I think you’ve described very accurately some ways this is so. I completely agree that Samir Habib’s claim against Joe Vogel reveals the extent of his bad faith. He clearly made no effort to seek out existing texts, demonstrating that he really has no clue what academic scholarship is all about. For instance, in May 2010 he wrote a rather wide-eyed appraisal of “Black or White,” in a blog post called “The Sociopolitical Message in Black or White,” apparently unaware that many, many articles had already been published—for the previous 15 years at least—that had drawn the (obvious) connection between the animal that Michael morphs into/out of, and the historical significance of the Black Panther Party. He writes,

        “The video ends with Michael destroying racist graffiti including the slogans “nigger go home,” “no more wetbacks,” swastika images and finally “KKK rules.” After he does that he morphs onto a black panter. A BLACK PANTHER!!!! Do you know who the Black Panthers are???

        That, my friends, makes that song (and video) a HUGE political statement. It means that when Michael Jackson was the biggest star on the planet he had something very important to say. It means that Black or White is not JUST a fantastic pop record. It means it was also a political masterpiece…..”

        http://www.mj-777.com/?p=3255

        Since I’m a filmmaker and someone who studies media, I’ll offer this opinion, which is probably a matter of taste: I was unimpressed by the MJAP’s video work to begin with. I found that the juxtapositions they created between Michael’s lyrics/images and their historical antecedents quite superficial. The MJAP’s manner of editing and titling these videos—and especially their use of sound—only buried whatever “message” they wished to convey under layers upon layer of polemic. Their methods made for neither good journalism nor good (documentary) art.

        Finally, there’s his cynical, unprincipled reference to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which I saw a bit of on twitter. That Samir Habib would trivialize a serious effort to stop an epidemic of violence against black people—-simply in order to give ballast to his (petty) grievances—irks me as much—if not more—-than other aspects of his absurd “case” (though I’d refrain from calling it a “jihad,” D.B. Anderson).

        • I chose the word “jihad” deliberately, precisely, and with forethought. That’s what precisely what this is. Purifying the land of all people who listen to Sony products or think Branca is doing a good job.

          Jihad: a struggle against unbelievers.

      • D. B. Anderson…
        I was horrified when I read this part of your post:

        “Finally, Habib’s most recent temper tantrum has involved twisting the #BlackLivesMatter movement against the Michael Jackson estate, intentionally using my published work to support his claims against Sony and “white lawyers”. That is unacceptable and I refuse to allow the meaning of Michael’s work in They Don’t Care About Us, and my analysis of it, to be used to support his jihad against John Branca.”

        While it is a tragedy that you have removed your article from the internet in order to prevent its misuse, I certainly understand your desire to protect your work from misappropriation.

        Recently a popular Australian rock singer (a true ‘veteran’ of the industry) made a strong statement about the use of some of his hit songs by anti-Islam protesters clashing with anti-racist demonstrators at a rally here in Australia. He himself was born in the UK, is married to a Thai, has multi-racial children and celebrates Australia’s cultural diversity. He strongly expressed his dismay at hearing his songs used as ‘red-neck’ anthems.

        This type of misappropriation of someone else’s work to promote contrary views is scary stuff even to a non-academic like myself. I hope your work can soon be made accessible again so that those of us who want to read serious discussions on Michael’s life and work can enjoy it.

        • lets all not turn into a hate group here i think Mr.Habbib just got annoyed about the MJAP vid( they got removed huh?),it’s not too late for either to apologize and get this over with,provided he too can join the discussion,and explain,

      • This is the real tragedy of this situation, and so many others like it. Now yet another important and much needed article on Michael’s work has had to disappear from the internet, in a time when we need them more than ever. Last spring, I added your article to the resources I made available to my students in order to further research the themes of “Black or White” (even though the focus of your piece is on TDCAU, it still helps illuminate the themes he was addressing in “Black or White”) and was also, to my knowledge, the first article to address the connection of Michael’s music to current events and to “BlackLivesMatter in particular, a message that students today can certainly relate to. In choosing articles for my students to resource, I am always very careful to choose articles that are intelligent and thought provoking but that are also easily accessible for general readers (i.e, not overly “academic” and filled with lots of academic jargon-the kind of stuff will scare most 18-year-old readers away screaming!). I do sincerely hope that at some point you will be able to make the piece available again, or at least available for educational use.

  38. In response to Sina, I published a 300-page book on Michael Jackson before I had ever even heard of MJAP and before any of their videos were made. So it is not as if I had never thought about Black or White before this article. In fact, as I mention in my statement, the entry on Black or White is the longest in the book (five pages). It includes explicit mention of the line, “I Ain’t Scared of No Sheets” on page 159. I write: “When he says, ‘I ain’t scared of no sheets,’ he is not simply speaking of the KKK but of more subtle, structural forms of racism as well.” Again, this is long before MJAP ever released a video.

    I gladly credit anyone I learn from, which is why this article and my book is loaded with citations and acknowledgments. Anyone is welcome to look through them. Also, to be clear, in spite of MJAP’s claims, Academia.edu has not made any verdict. They are reviewing it simply because that is their protocol when a claim has been filed. Once they look at the evidence I sent them, MJAP’s claim will be easily dismissed (and may result in legal action against them, given their public, patently false statements).

    One final point: Academia.edu is not a publisher; they don’t hold the copyright; they are simply a platform (think, the academic version of Facebook). My article remains available in its actual journal (where it was peer-reviewed) and publisher website (Wiley).

    • Thank you Joe – I was logged into my personal mail at work today when I got the subscriber notice from Academia.edu that your paper had been uploaded again. I understood the assessment process the site was obliged to undertake first, but nevertheless I was pleased to see that justice was done with respect to your excellent article.

  39. Joe’s article has been reinstate on Academic. edu — http://t.co/71RIKcjh8U

  40. its seems as though, anyone and everyone who writes positively on mj get lynched , maybe thats the reason why there’s only few real academics who writes on him.

  41. Definition of ‘ivory tower”–“a state of privileged seclusion or separation from the facts and practicalities of the real world.” And an interesting comment here: “An ivory tower may also be an entity of “reason, rationality and rigid structures [that] colonizes the world of lived experience,” as explained by Kirsten J. Broadfoot in an article about the possibilities of postcolonial organizational communication. This imagined academic community creates an essence of exclusivity and superiority. Broadfoot explains this as a group that “functions like an exclusive club whose membership is tightly controlled by what might be called a ‘dominant frame.'” In an academic sense, this leads to an “overwhelming and disproportionate dominance” of the United States and the Western world. The ivory tower can be dangerous in its inherent privatization of knowledge and intellect. Academics who are seeking “legitimacy for their narratives from the heart end up echoing the sanitized tone of the Master Narrative.” This becomes a cyclical process as intellects collectively defend the “imaginary ivory tower.” (Kirsten J. Broadfoot, Diverse Voices and Alternative Rationalities: Imagining Forms of Postcolonial Organizational Communication Management Communication Quarterly November 2007 21: 249-267).

    Interestingly, this article has to be purchased, apparently, and reminds one of the work of Lawrence Lessig and the brilliant student he mentored, Aaron Swartz, a man who tried to make academic work, paid for by taxpayers, accessible to all (JSTOR) but was hounded by the DOJ of USA and committed suicide. See a wonderful documentary on Aaron’s work “The Internet’s Own Boy.” I strongly encourage people who are concerned about the locking up of information that should be public and the hounding of those who seek to disseminate needed information to the public—such as Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, Aaron Swartz, Edward Snowden—to take a look at this documentary.

    Seems a lot of defensiveness and unnecessary attacks here, including bringing in words like “jihad” that IMO are not helpful and link a person who has an intellectual POV with a terrorist act, by implication. This borders on ad hominem.

    Re academics who published on Michael before his death, there was plenty of mocking disparagement—such as feminist literary critic’s Elaine Showalter’s article in the LA Times.

    Michael loved his fans—can there be any doubt? To see them disparaged by some commenters on a regular basis (if the shoe fits) is offensive and uncalled for. It can certainly be argued that academics tend to get compartmentalized in their disciplines, which are necessarily narrowly defined into specialty areas. On the other hand, Michael’s intellectual curiosity and interests were wide-ranging and challenge any restricted viewpoint that is primarily focused on one aspect of his work. That’s why we need both academic and nonacademic writers to discuss his work and do research.

    Rev. Barbara Kaufman takes a more spiritual view than some commenters/writers. IMO Michael was deeply spiritual and a seeker throughout his life. There is a lot of cultural snobbism, and Michael himself experienced in spades, and we need to move beyond it.

    Finally, I admire those academic writers who are able to write in such a way as to be accessible to a more general audience, including non-academics, and applaud Joe Vogel and Willa and Joie for being among them. Joe’s work and this blog have meant a great deal to me.

    To return to the question of citing another’s work, it might be a good rule of thumb to be more generous rather than parsimonious, and recognize that not citing a source that has actually been an intellectual source, even if it was not cited in a direct quote, is a good and just idea.

    • So glad you weighed in, stephenson. So much of value in what you have to say. I especially liked the quote —

      “Academics who are seeking “legitimacy for their narratives from the heart end up echoing the sanitized tone of the Master Narrative.”

      And I think fans are a little wary of academics who write about MJ, because, as you point out, among —

      “academics who published on Michael before his death, there was plenty of mocking disparagement”

      Fans on the other hand, do not have those pressures and want to celebrate and appreciate MJ, not disparage him.

      And to quote you again —

      “That’s why we need both academic and nonacademic writers to discuss his work and do research.”

      Like you,” I admire those academic writers who are able to write in such a way as to be accessible to a more general audience, including non-academics.” Sometimes I wonder if the current crop of academic writers could complete a paragraph without the requisite use of the words “subvert,” “disrupt,” “interrogate,” and “binary.”

      As you say, “There is a lot of cultural snobbism, and Michael himself experienced in spades, and we need to move beyond it.” The medium is the message.

      This blog has meant a great deal to me, as it has to you. For the posts and for the community it has created, and for giving equal time and equal respect to fans and academics, in both posts and comments.

      Although I am heartened by what appears to be a growing academic interest in and appreciation of Michael Jackson, an interest and appreciation that is long overdue, as a fan who writes about MJ, it also makes me nervous. I would hate to see discussions of MJ polarized between town and gown, with academics automatically assuming that their opinions should carry more weight than the opinions of fans. I would hate to see fan opinions given no legitimacy unless and until picked up and repeated by academics. I would hope that academics would be as scrupulous about using and citing fan-generated content as they are of using the work of their “peers.”

      MJ’s work is accessible to all of us, as is almost everything that has been written about him. And, to bring this full circle, in some cases, the academy may hinder, rather than help, a clear-eyed, open-hearted understanding of Michael Jackson. The academy has probably killed off far more creativity than it has ever fostered, but then the academy is a cultural gate keeper, not a cultural gate crasher. And MJ was a gate crasher.

      • “Sometimes I wonder if the current crop of academic writers could complete a paragraph without the requisite use of the words ‘subvert,’ ‘disrupt,’ ‘interrogate,’ and ‘binary.'”

        Hi Eleanor and Stephenson. As someone who uses those words more often than I care to admit, this just made me laugh. But I agree strongly that “we need both academic and nonacademic writers to discuss his work and do research,” for the reasons you mentioned and others.

        I think some of the most exciting work being done right now is coming from academics. Not only are they providing fascinating new insights into his work, they are also giving his work a legitimacy that was actively denied him for far too long. When pop critics hear of semester-length classes on Michael Jackson being offered at Duke University by Mark Anthony Neal or at Merrimack College by Marie Plasse, or read books exploring the depth of his work by someone like Susan Fast, they’re forced to question their own biases and the earlier dismissal of his work.

        See for example, this review of Susan’s (and Lorena Turner’s) books in The New York Times. As the Times reviewer, Jon Caramanica states, “For someone so squarely at the center of pop culture, Jackson was far ahead of his time in terms of how he negotiated and altered his identity on the fly — a subverter in the pop spotlight.” Wow. This may be the most nuanced and most appreciative reading of Michael Jackson ever printed by the Times, and I don’t believe Caramanica would have arrived there on his own without being led there by Susan.

        So the insights and sense of legitimacy that academics can provide is crucial to Michael Jackson’s legacy, especially in the long term.

        However, it is also true that fans have done much of the heavy-lifting over the past 30 years or so, and academics are deeply indebted to them. In an earlier comment, Susan herself mentioned “the significant contribution that fans make in understanding Michael’s work” and went on to point out that, “In my book on Dangerous I begin a chapter with a quote from a fan and suggest that journalists and academics need to pay attention to this perspective, which differs drastically from their own in many instances.” For example, academics are happy to talk about how he manifests his sexuality on stage, but tend to be very hesitant to discuss his sexiness on stage – something fans are only too happy to discuss! And that’s an important part of his legacy as well.

        So both perspectives – those of the academic and those of the fan – are vital to understanding this phenomena known as Michael Jackson, along with the perspectives of dancers and filmmakers and costume designers and others. (And of course, some academics – like Susan, Joe, Marie, Toni, Nina, Lisha, Raven, and others – are fans …)

        • I’m glad you enjoyed my comment, Willa, and I appreciate the gracious nature of your response. You always are able to hit exactly the right note. And I appreciate your original post and hosting the ensuing discussion, which, has been informative and, as usual, has gone in several different directions.

          But I am of two minds about your statement that “the insights and sense of legitimacy that academics can provide is crucial to Michael Jackson’s legacy, especially in the long term.”

          On the one hand, it is my sincere belief that non-academics offer valuable insights; and that MJ’s work speaks for itself and does not need legitimizing by anyone.On the other, I agree completely. Whether I like it or not, you are correct. And the one need not cancel the other out. (Nina, take note.)

          But, as you point out, “fans have done much of the heavy-lifting.” And, although you do quote Susan as saying, ” that journalists and academics need to pay attention to this [fan] perspective, which differs drastically from their own in many instances,” I would point out that, in Susan’s statement, there is not only the tiniest whiff of condescension, but also an implied recognition that journalists and academics routinely dismiss non-academic work — work that does not necessarily differ in perspective or quality from that of academics or journalists.

          As someone who has spent the last six years immersed in doing little else than studying MJ’s work, who has been given the opportunity to contribute to DWTE a few times, and who is currently working on a book about MJ (the never-ending story), I would just love it if journalists and academics would accord the same respect to the serious work of non academics as they expect and get from us — not because it offers a “fan perspective” (if there is even such a thing as a uniform fan perspective) but because it just might be as legitimate, and legitimizing, as any work being done by practicing academics.

          And, Willa, that is why I am so grateful to you and Joie and your blog, because, you do exactly that.

          A final note. My comments are in no way meant to support MJAP or the attacks they have made on Joe or D.B. or anyone else. This discussion is a side issue, but one that is important to me.

        • Thank you, Willa. I had wanted to say something on behalf of some of the work academic writers have done on Michael Jackson, as well as the contributions of many bloggers and fans; but you’ve expressed it very elegantly here. (And I have to say I might be hard-pressed to write about Michael without recourse to words like “disrupt” and “binary”!)

          I’d also like to point out that the seeming divisions people have perceived aren’t necessarily between those who populate academic institutions and those who are seemingly positioned “outside,” looking in. Many of the concepts that have gained currency in the academy (encapsulated in terms like “binary,” “subvert,” “disrupt,” and “interrogate”) have also in recent years moved into other cultural communities, like the art and activist worlds. (I imagine that the #BlackLivesMatter movement, for example, wouldn’t find those words completely foreign to their own activities and goals.)

          Plus, along with many fans, others have written about Michael outside the context of academic institutions: cultural critics, music journalists, bloggers, memoir and fiction writers, essayists…. and even writers like Maya Angelou, whose beautiful poem about Michael Jackson, “We Had Him,” has moved so many of us. (I thank Eleanor Bowman again reminding me of this poem a few posts back.)

          I seem to return again and again to the Angelou’s first line of “We Had Him” here:

          “Beloveds, now we know that we know nothing.”

          Re-reading this, I contemplate what it might mean to “know nothing,” and to accept, and possibly even embrace, this paradoxical state. In so many ways, it mirrors my experience in intensively researching Michael: the more I learn, the less I seem to know, and the more my perplexity increases. This may be one reason why I don’t share many fans’ sense of urgency in the whole project of vindicating him, or disseminating any definitive “truths” about him to counter all the distortions. (This, by the way, is not about the infamous allegations. Instead, I’m referring to questions about his broader legacy, and in fact anyone’s legacy: what becomes of the memory of “who we are” after we die?)

          The “knowing nothing” that Angelou tells us about here is, I think, paradoxical; because of course we DO know things about Michael Jackson, and many other things besides. And we don’t lose what we know.

          Yet Angelou’s vision of “knowing nothing” has offered me a momentary respite, a place where I could disregard the incessant din that was occurring in my own mind when I first heard it read by Queen Latifah at the memorial gathering in LA in July, 2009. For so many years before, while Michael lived, there had been ceaseless questions (and, it seemed, the dire need to obtain definitive “answers”) about him. There were all the accumulated and verifiable facts about his life, and how these facts might be interpreted; there were also mistruths, half-truths, disinformation, gossip—-all the received knowledge, rumor, speculation, scuttlebutt. Included in this collection of “knowledge,” of course, were vicious attacks, and ALSO effusive praise— plus all the wisdom about “human nature” afforded by both personal and collective experience.

          But somehow, all of this—ALL of it—was made irrelevant by this one line, which struck me as so profoundly true: “beloveds, now we know that we know nothing.”

          It pointed me (and still does) toward the possibility of a radical openness that resonated with my visceral experience of Michael’s performances themselves. In that way, It seems a great gift.

    • I am not certain you have met the person in question, or you might not find jihad such a bad description.

      I will repeat again – I used the term precisely because Sam Habib’s stated purpose is to be “a pressure group” – one whose purpose is oppose Michael’s estate and Sony at every possible turn. He calls himself as academic but it is merely a self-complimenting label.

      I wish this blog supported the upload of screen shots. Since it doesn’t, I will provide text of some recent tweets.

      Aug. 13: “We were the attacked party. We were the original, grassroots activists. Joe Vogel and his ilk were the imperialistic occupiers.”

      Aug 13: ” I’m never going to accept occupation. No one should ever accept occupation. ESPECIALLY if all it does is uphold big business.”

      Aug 13: “If you had a conscience that didn’t rely on upholding white supremacy you’d see the criminality in that.”

      Aug. 13: “This is me. And all the white supremacist, pro-big business people shouting at me.”

      Aug. 13: [about me personally – an accusation of me being paid by the estate] “Her first article on MJ got a retweet from the official Michael Jackson Estate Twitter… So what do you think?”

      Just a small sample.

      I find the academic discussion in this thread has gone severely off course. I’m sorry but if you are not a writer who has been published on MJ and dealt with the constant abuse meted out by this group for the last several years, your nuanced and balanced arguments aren’t informed by reality.

      Jihad is precisely the word. Go spend some time on Twitter before you argue otherwise. Then let’s talk. Until then, I’m afraid this thread has devolved to chasing unicorns.

      • One other point and then I think I shall take my leave of this thread…

        it is severe distortion of the matter at hand to allow this conversation to devolve into the academy vs. the popular press. This is irrelevant. My articles were published on Gawker and the Baltimore Sun and neither were behind a paywall. It did not stop the attacks.

        Sam Habib and his friends – which include some of Michael’s ex-employees – have a goal which is to destroy the “occupiers” of Michael’s estate. Anyone who writes and does not demonstrate an anti-estate bias is fair game. This includes Joe Vogel, myself, Zack Greenburg of Forbes, and many others. Do not get wrapped around the axle of the academy. It is not the issue.

        • D.B. Anderson,

          I just wanted to let you know that I take this issue very seriously.

          The discussion of academic and nonacademic (“town and gown”) tensions is perhaps only ONE example of a whole set of divisions and fault lines that have erupted in the past few years, at least. It seems to me that rigorous inquiry, of all kinds, can be sustained by people working in different kinds of settings; so the issue doesn’t have to revolve around academic “versus” nonacademic ways of speaking and writing. (While I believe that conversation is important in its own right, it might best be pursued at another time.)

          Anyway, the violent harassment that’s been directed at you, Joe, Zack, and other people who’ve published or blogged about Michael Jackson is simply beyond the pale.

          Right now, I wonder if you’d feel comfortable revealing more of what you’ve experienced with Habib & company. I’d like to know more about it. If not, or if you feel you’ve had it with the whole conversation, I’d certainly understand that too.

        • I’m afraid from what I have read in the Twitter lines of not just Sam but some of his followers it was not a revenge over the video. The video was a tool that this group knew would be taken down and for copyright. They intentionally named it the same name as Spike Lee’s soon to be released documentary on Off The Wall. Copyrights include the titles as I’m sure you all know. I know that they did this because they got hold of a list of Copyrights of John Branca’s law firm a few weeks ago.
          This is deep seated and unfortunately something that was started a few months ago when Joe first posted his article on academia.edu. There were several discussion blatantly calling Joe a plagiarist in a closed group on Facebook.
          I have read Twitter lines of some of his closest followers and you can tell that as far back as July 24th the plan was in the works even then. It isn’t something that just happened. Joe and DB Anderson were just the people that they used to hurt the group of fans that they hate. Hate is the right word as well they will tell you so.
          This group has people in it that work behind the scenes and in fact Sam my not be the writer of some of those passages.
          The group was angry.Their agenda was falling apart when MJJJustice and a few others of us started to reveal counter evidence to the very heart of their conspiracy. The conspiracy that Sony and/or John Branca plotted to and killed Michael Jackson to gain control of his music catalogue. No one can dare counter those claims.

        • I have observed MJAP and his cronies (cabal) on twitter and Facebook. They are relentless in pushing their point of view as the only one. Their behavior is vile in stalking those who do not agree with them. Many have witnessed it. I would agree with DB Anderson’s use of the word “jihad.” Their singled minded hate for the Estate executors, in particular Branca, and Sony is their motivator. They are determined that all MJ fans must feel the same way and do not tolerate other opinions at all.

      • I’ve seen these tweets, and have spent time on Twitter. But I don’t know what to make of them, because the words alone communicate very little to me one way or another. Lacking a proper context, I don’t quite know what it is I’m reading.

        • if this is the reaction by jackson fans for journalist/academics who writes honestly on mj, then poeple like DB Anderson , probably will not write an article about jackson again, but from the tweets i have seen (its not much),they simply seems misinformed, MJAP’s mission though is to pour light on jacksons career , the whole project has diverted into harassing those who had successfully done that(Anderson,vogel and who is it going to be next toni?), but if they wish to co-operate with other academics then i , too will support them (as i have before).

  42. I truly appreciate the fine academic writing that is being done about Michael Jackson and his work. I am heartened by the coursework being offered on him at the university level. It seems like this is growing and I hope it continues. I also want to applaud all the MJ bloggers out there who have been working hard to research and write about the life and work of Michael Jackson. I could name dozens of blogs that I have followed for years that are doing the heavy lifting of promoting truth and accuracy. This is especially important because journalists have failed to do this. It is left to the hard working bloggers and academics to tell the story where media has failed. We are all in this together and constantly learn from Michael and each other.

    We cannot let MJAP and their followers control the entire narrative.

  43. After Joe Vogel’s article was rightfully reinstated on the Academic edu site, as the plagiarism allegations by theMJAP were blatantly false and meant only to harrass, the MJAP and co-accusers /supporters have privatized their Twitter accounts.

    They have begun a cleansing of some of their tweets and facebook messages in an effort to hide evidence Joe Vogel may need to prove or take legal action, if he so chooses. By deleting these tweets they have all but admited their duplicity and culpability in this matter.

    It was noted that Syl Mortilla aka Peter Mills, author of “First Book of Michael” also a self-admitted member of theMJAP and contributed to the BlackorWhite analysis, closed his Twitter just days before the false copyright infringement was placed against Joe Vogel.

    A new “aurydiax” account opened soon after, merely to upload the parody of “Off the Wall 35” on Youtube and circulate it in effort to shame Michael’s Estate – their plan was thwarted by copyright claim against it and it was taken down by Sony within hours. However, the tweets exchanged between Aurydiax, Habib, MJCast and Charles Thomson complaining that Copyright was used to take down their video were quite interesting. At one point theMJAP stated “I will be filing my own copyright claim soon” (paraphrasing) ….. Immediately following these tweets, MJJJustice Project receives pingbacks from the MJAP blog claiming that Joe’s work had been removed due to plagiarism.

    As Lauren stated, this plan was long in the making as discussions via tweets of Vogel’s supposed “plagiarism” were flying back and forth between Sam Habib and Syl Mills since mid June. Syl (Peter) went so far as to lament that Vogel should have at least cited them for their work and hoped Vogel wasn’t going to steal more of their information. These tweets were retweeted by the small group of followers of Mills/Habib as well.

    In fact, the claim that Joe plagiarized and his article has been removed from Academicedu tweet is STILL *pinned at the top of Habibs twitter account – even though Joe Vogel did not and the article IS on the site. Again this indicates not only a lack of truthfulness, but insidious plotting to keep his small group of adherents out of the loop, as they follow him in a cultlike fashion.

    (*Pinned means a tweet that is permanently affixed to the top of your Twitter timeline)

    Is it ONLY about Hate for Estate, their projects, anyone who affliates with the Estate?

    Seems there may be an additioanl underlying current that is also moving the waters.

    The “occupation” tweets that DBAnderson highlighted are interesting and revealing. Habib also stated they were the original “grassroots activists” Seems Habib believes their position, or VOICE as wanna leaders of the MJfanbase has been usurped. This is further validated by the Voice As One facebook opened by Syl Mortilla/Peter Mills in an effort to galvanize the fans to work together for Michael in an Anti-defamation group setting.

    The admins on the site at one pont were notably listed as

    Syl Mortilla
    Peter Mills
    Morgana Bramah –

    How and why would one person need to use two personas ?

    Before the filing of the claims against Joe Vogel this Admin list was amended.

    Syl/Peter are gone

    Christine Drake and Morgana Bramah are now listed as Admins.

    The reason i bring this up is to show a coorelation between the action and the preparation prior to the false allegations against Joe.. It shows a premeditation and plan.

    There are many other layers to this kerfuffle but i fear it will become way too complex to understand by anyone who hasn’t been observing and witnessing the activities of this group of “REAL” fans, as they are in the habit of calling themselves.

    We at MJJJustice Project support Joe Vogel and oher academics AND bloggers who write about Michael Jackson in effort to illuminate his talent, genius, message and mission ..

    Keep the Faith … and as Armond White said .. “Keep it Moving”

    MAbbas aka “Buds”

    • Thank you Buds for this detective work. I do not understand these people’s motivations or ideology nor (especially) how they can believe they should be leaders (assuming they do) of Michael’s fan base – which is international, and many of whom don’t speak English much beyond knowing all the lyrics of Michael’s songs! To discover the depths of their duplicity is quite astounding… do other artist’s (living or deceased) fans behave in such ways? I understand and have unfortunately experienced personal jealousies tear fan clubs etc apart, but nothing to this degree. I find it both frightening and depressing. And all (supposedly) in the name of a wonderful individual who wanted to ‘heal the world’. Serious grievances aside, how can we indulge in harassing and vindictive behaviour (of anyone!) while purporting to be heeding Michael’s message to ‘make that change’ to make this a better place for everyone? I’m scratching my head here.

  44. I will answer with MJs words:
    I am a black American
    I am proud of my race
    I am proud of who I am
    I have a lot of pride and dignity….

    This man,Michael Jackson were born in a time,where black pple have to sit back in the bus,while whites were sitting in the front….for example….Racism in America didn,t change a lot until today and until today America didn,t apologise,what they did to Michael Jackson!
    Yes,this man was much too Dangerous!
    Are we ready Now to listen and to understand?
    They don,t care about us!….

  45. Constance Pierce

    Thank you, Willa. I appreciate your writing. Your piece was thorough, objective and well expressed. Thank you, Nina. The way you express complex issues and challenge the mind to hold paradoxical concepts simultaneously, is always interesting. Graitude to all – scholars and fans alike – who contributed. The discussion turned a negative situation into one allowing some emerging avenues of connection and light.

    So many have commented on the quality and integrity of Joe’s scholarship and I affirm that fully. However, I would like to comment briefly on his humanity. After serving over 30 years in academia, I have witnessed scholars in numerous fields behave in highly competitively ways – occasionally even brutally so. Contrary to this, Joe has always evidenced a resolute generosity of spirit in drawing attention to the accomplishments, insights and scholarly contributions of others. 

    Moreover, Joe is a valuable anomaly among Jackson scholars. He has a long history of literary research, scholarship and publication in addition to Michael Jackson studies. He has researched/published pieces on historical figures as diverse as William Blake, William Wordsworth, the Transcendentalist writers, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Baldwin and others. 

    This is to underscore that Joe’s expertise is myriad and deep. He offers a rich reservoir of literary and aesthetic experience to the burgeoning scholarship on Michael, lending a special expertise that few others are able to proffer in such a way. Joe also creates from the heart. This can not be said of all academic writers. 

    From another perspective, his current situation is reminiscent of a spiritual philosophy regarding “shadow.”  When one emanates light or truth in a radiant way, that same light inadvertently – but inevitably – draws forth elements of the dangerous shadow side of the culture it engages. Michael’s plight was a stellar example of the machinations of those paradoxical states. So I attribute some of the current situation to the classic workings of contrary spiritual forces. (visually suggested in the Book of Job as illustrated by William Blake).

    On a more pragmatic level, Joe is the last person in the world one would imagine singled out for cyber-bullying and/or libelous attack. So the irony is acute. I offer prayers that this danger will pass over and will be rendered harmless in the end. Glad to see his piece re-instated on academia/edu. Joe Vogel infuses empathy and wisdom into all he engages.

  46. The complexities only exist if we actually take any of their content as the truth because it isn’t.
    None of them have the academic credentials to actually make a valid claim. None of them.

  47. I would like to thank Willa for not censoring comments and Stephenson for his wise and leveled observation.
    Attacking/ criticizing namecalling people instead of sound criticism of their ideas or visions as well as cliquish/elitist conduct is what causes ‘grief’ and from what I have seen it is not limited to one fraction of fans. Maybe it would help if academics to begin with would take an academic distance and not involve in “unacademic” discourse. I have never heard Sylvia Martin, Armond White, Spike Lee and many others involved in anything and they have been writing about / working with Michael for ages.
    They get criticism too, which comes with the teritory, but they handle it gracefully . Michael got the worst things leveled at him ,even criticism from fans, but he hardly ever reacted, not to the media , let alone involve himself in fan issues.

    I agree with Stephenson about the ivory tower , I personally learned more about Michael from bloggers like Seven Bowie, The MJAP, Rev.Kaufman, The MJAP videos , Ravens AFL and DWTE , because they make it a joined effort , most academic writers I have to admit I dont even know. (Seven I believe even stopped blogging about MJ because of the infights).
    But I do not dismiss academic discourse, what I get from it most of all is to read or watch recommended work about subjects that have or trigger my personal interest.

    I would like that lessons are learned from this ‘episode’ and propose to Willa the following , in reaction to the discussion at hand : “The importance of academic and artistic integrity and the grief it causes when the integrity is questioned.”
    I would like to make the analogy to Michaels work or what has been presented as his aka the Cascio tracks ,which caused the same emotional reaction and grief when it occurred and still does.
    Can we extend our concern, anger and other emotions expressed here to the work of the man who is at the base of all the blogs, books, articles and other media.
    If we are genuinly concerned about artistic integrity, I expect at least as much concern for Michaels work as for those who write, blog etc. about him.
    In extension / reversely to the copyright claims against Joe Vogel my proposal is to write an article on your blog about the Cascio tracks and why many including myself have serious doubts about their authenticity. I am not a writer, and if you agree to the proposal, I am sure there are enough fan -writers who will take the challenge. I do not have a secret agenda, my agenda is Michaels legacy and artistic integrity .
    I see the executors are named repeatedly in this discussion. I personally do not care much about their doings and if anyone wants to have a civil discourse why I take this stance I will gladly explain. But as far as protecting Michaels artistic integrity I think the input comes from fans /academics , not from administrators.
    I hope you will consider the proposal .

    • Hi Sina. I am in contact with Vera, the person who is bringing the lawsuit against the estate about the Cascio tracks, and I would love to do a post with her. However, it’s my understanding that she does not feel at liberty to talk about the Cascio tracks until the lawsuit is resolved. So at this point, that’s kind of in a holding pattern, but I do hope to do a post about the Cascio tracks sometime in the future.

      I would like to say that I think Michael Jackson did participate in creating those tracks. The lyrics of those songs, especially the way he shifts subject positions, sound distinctively “Michael Jackson” to me. (Marie Plasse and I talked about his complex and distinctive use of subject positions in a post a few weeks ago.) However, I have a lot of respect for Vera and I’m actually glad she’s bringing the lawsuit. I think there needs to be more daylight cast on those tracks, where they came from and how they were produced, and I’m hoping the lawsuit will provide that.

      I would also like to say that, while Vera strongly disagrees with me and has expressed her opinion vigorously, she has always been courteous and respectful to me and others, and I sincerely appreciate that.

      • I don’t think the Cascio songs are Michael Jackson and I have to say it’s always like a punch in my stomach when I see people reference them as MJ songs. It’s an insult to him as an artist in my eyes. They are so below his level in every sense IMO. Yes, they attempt to mimic his pet themes and lyrics, but that’s just it: mimicing it. Even officially it’s Eddie Cascio, James Porte and MJ who are credited with writing those songs, but I doubt MJ had much, if anything, to do with them. He is definitely not the one singing them IMO. I have all 12 Cascio songs (including 9 which have not been officially released) and they seal the deal to me that is not MJ. Not to mention all the weird excuses about why the Cascios were not able to provide just one piece of evidence for their authenticity. The hard driver where the original demos were stored were destroyed according to Eddie. Quite conveniently… Not one iota of evidence.

        This is really a shameful episode of recording history and one that no one in official circles seem to care enough about to get the bottom of it which is a shame. As you could see I am not one of those anti-Estate fanatics (on the contrary) but this was a huge blunder by the Estate. At the very least they should have seen that the songs were controversial (Taryll Jackson and others raised concern over their authenticity before release). So why hurry to release them before the controversy is resolved? They should have put other songs on the album instead with no authenticity issues.

        I can understand why the whole episode scarred a lot of fans.

        • My personal take on why the estate rushed to put out those tracks even with all of the controversy: They were probably banking that these tracks would become huge hits, or at the very least, that the controversy would cause sales to blow up, in a very positive way, as per the old saying, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Unfortunately, if that was the plan, it blew up in their faces. I don’t think they really banked on just how passionately fans would object to those tracks, or how big of a stain they would become on the album (added to the controversy, of course, was the simple fact that the tracks themselves simply weren’t that well received critically, MJ or no MJ). But honestly, I think they really bought into the idea that these were great tracks that would generate a huge buzz for the album; hence, the huge rush to put them out on the album without taking the time to really determine their authenticity. The controversy, of course, only served to further divide the fan base. It’s a shame because some of the strongest tracks on Michael could have been combined with the tracks on Xscape to make for one killer, posthumous MJ album, rather than one mediocre one album and one very good album. There didn’t have to be this great rush to put out the Cascio tracks before they could even be properly authenticated.

          • Just as an added aside to my previous comment, another tragic effect of the Cascio tracks and the resulting controversy is that it has caused doubt to now be cast on every MJ posthumous release. I even remember reading some snide reviews of Xscape where the reviewers were questioning whether the vocals were Michael. Of course, fans know better because most fans know the history of those unreleased tracks. But the general public and some casual fans don’t know the entire history of Michael’s unreleased work, and now there is a general distrust of every new MJ album released, with some people even questioning the authenticity of tracks that we KNOW are Michael

          • It’s that what they were thinking then I think they should hire for someone responsible for the artistic overview of the Estate’s activity – someone who is truly respectful of and passionate about Michael’s art and considers it ART, not just buisness. Branca may be a good lawyer but it does not mean he has ears for music and make good artistic decisions.

            Let’s put it this way: the Milli Vanilli scandal was a huge scandal of pop music history. Many of you probably remember it. Milli Vanilli was a pop group at the end of the 1980s and they had a couple of hits and they even received a Grammy as best newcomer, I think in 1988 or 1989. But later it turned out they did not sing a note on their album. They were just two pretty faces put on the music someone else sang. At it was a HUGE scandal back then! In a way it’s the same thing: you are selling music under someone’s name that is not performed by the artist you claim performs it. And actually in MJ’s case it should have been an even bigger scandal because we are talking about Michael Jackson here, not some one-hit wonder. Imagine if it had been done to the Beatles!

            The way I see it very few hard-core fans think today it’s Michael Jackson on those tracks. Even those who do are more like “it has SOME Michael Jackson on it” – but even they concede it’s not all MJ. And it has little to do with the pro-Estate/anti-Estate division in the fandom. Many fans who otherwise support Estate projects think it’s not MJ. Me included. That’s why I agree with Sina that whenever this blog refers to those songs I think at the very least they should put a note beside it that the authenticity of those songs is strongly questioned. I personally would rather not see them being referred to as MJ songs at all, but in any case we cannot just act as if nothing happened, as if nothing is wrong with them and as if they are just as much a part of Michael’s catalog as other songs are.

            As for the Estate’s motives in rushing these songs. I’d like to think they were just genuinelly fooled. It would not make them look good, but it’s still better than some calculated PR stunt while knowing full well the songs were fake. Or worse. Like testing the fandom if they’d could sell them fake songs and if they could have then they would have a never ending stream of “unreleased MJ songs” for 50-100 years. I’d really not like to think this was the case, so I’d rather go with the bona fide “fooled’ version. But they have been warned, to be honest. Taryll Jackson expressed doubt about the authenticity of the songs in advance and there were others as well – allegedly even the co-executor John McClain expressed his doubt. So they should really have not released those songs until the dispute was resolved one way or another.

      • Thank you for answering Willa

        ‘ I would also like to say that, while Vera strongly disagrees with me, and has expressed that, she has always been courteous and respectful to me and others, and I sincerely appreciate that’

        Which goes to show that you can disagree even on something that is the soul of Michaels as an artist , without all the drama.

        I am also in support of a lawsuit and I undertand that she does not discuss a pending case . My concern is that a court case will only look at the legal side of the matter like how much of Michaels voice should be on a record to call it a Michael song. It will not establish whether Michael was involved in the production and if he wrote the songs. Whereas there are many more angles outside the legal ones to consider. One of many being as you mentioned the patterns and structures of his work.
        However, people are capable to imitate the most complex artists and get away with it , at least for a long time. Here is maybe the most interesting case of art fraud, An in fact mediocre painter who imitated Vermeer so extremely well because he had made a meticulous study of the characeristics of his work , the themes, settings, use of colours, how his work developed etc. So much so that even experts had trouble establishing the fraud, It could happen because the system of art coinosseurs, unscrupulous dealers and the blind spot of experts, facilitated it and no one had anticipated that anyone would have the audacity and maybe the skills to imitate such a renowned and distinctive artist .
        http://www.essentialvermeer.com/misc/van_meegeren.html#.Vc9dZvntmko

        I appreciate that despite your personal stance you have an open mind to discuss it and I hope in due time you will.

  48. june elizabeth

    Seems some comments here have served to morph the discussion into the 3 disputed Michael tracks, which in my opinion only reinforces the purpose of MJAP’s aim in making claims against JoeVogel and DBAnderson in the first instance, i.e., to once again question the veracity and intent of the executors of Michael’s estate. Why does every discussion with MJAP turn off topic into yet another effort to diminish the Estate, rather than any proactivity on the part of MJAP (and others of like mind) to utilize their research and writing skills to refute the spurious lies and claims of tabloid and some “legit” media (and their backers) whose main aim is to destroy Michael’s musical, humanitarian and social message? Writer/advocates of good faith should work together rather than divisively to meet and counter these almost daily challenges to Michael’s legacy.

  49. ‘I have seen too many instances of passionate fans allowing their passion to threaten or destroy something positive. The Michael Jackson Fan Club (MJFC) was a wonderful resource for disseminating information and sharing ideas. However, it was destroyed in large part by rival factions who could not settle their differences. And I was very disheartened to read a news article last week that a memorial in Germany may be dismantled because of ongoing disagreements between fan groups. This does not honor Michael Jackson’s legacy.’

    Willa, you have touched something which is very much at the heart of being a fan of Jackson and writing about him professionally (and recreationally), the ongoing warring factions, and I am concerned about this because I really believe that it is making people very afraid to write and put their words and their criticism out there. The actual amount of academic writing on Jackson is miniscule compared to the amount that exists on Elvis and the Beatles. This is something that needs to change and in MJ’s words, we have to be that change. I fully support everyone that writes about Jackson, especially academics like yourself and Joe. What worries me is that accusatory attacks like he experienced can really dissuade future critics. If we can work in a spirit of love and harmony, there is no end to what we can achieve in the preservation of MJ’s legacy.

    Eliza

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