Presidential Politics, Part 1: Michael Jackson and Donald Trump

Lisha: Well, it’s a presidential election year here in the U.S. and a pretty tumultuous one at that, much more so than usual it seems. And there is something going on that really has me scratching my head. Willa, have you noticed how many times Michael Jackson’s name has come up in relation to this election?

Willa: Yes, I have!

Lisha: For example, just last week, promoter Don King made headlines when he introduced Donald Trump at a campaign rally. Here’s the portion of his remarks that caused a stir:

I told Michael Jackson, I said, If you are poor, you are a poor negro – I would use the N-word – but if you are rich, you are a rich negro. If you are intelligent, intellectual – you are an intellectual negro. If you’re a dancing and sliding and gliding nigger, I mean negro, [laughter] then you are a dancing and sliding and gliding negro. So dare not alienate, because you cannot assimilate. So, you know, you’re going to be a negro until you die.

Willa:  You know, Lisha, I always feel very hesitant to speculate about what Michael Jackson would or wouldn’t do today, but I really don’t think he would appreciate Don King’s comments. As soon as I heard that I immediately thought of what King said at the end of the Victory tour:

What Michael’s got to realize is that Michael’s a nigger. It doesn’t matter how great he can sing and dance. I don’t care that he can prance. He’s one of the megastars of the world, but he’s still going to be a nigger megastar. He must accept that. Not only must he understand that, he’s got to accept it and demonstrate that he wants to be a nigger. Why? To show that a nigger can do it. (320)

Lisha: Wow. That’s from Randy Taraborrelli’s book, right? It’s almost identical to what Don King just said!

Willa:  It is strikingly similar, isn’t it? And according to Taraborrelli – who I realize can be a problematic source sometimes – Michael Jackson was so upset by King’s comments he wanted to sue him. Apparently he told his lawyer, John Branca, “That guy has been pushing my last nerve since Day One.”

Lisha: Hmmm, I wonder. Was Don King really dressing down Michael Jackson when he said this? Or was he making an important point about the racial divide in American culture? Taraborrelli definitely gives the impression that King was putting Michael Jackson in his place for not agreeing to perform in another leg of the Victory tour. But I’m not so sure I buy it, especially given King’s recent statement.

Willa: Or maybe he was doing both. What I mean is, I think Don King is saying there is an unbridgeable division in the US between black and white, and Michael Jackson is a fool if he believes he can cross that divide.

Lisha: Yes, you’re right. As King just said, “dare not alienate, because you cannot assimilate.”

You know, there’s yet another account of this story in Jermaine Jackson’s book, You Are Not Alone: Michael Through a Brother’s Eyes. Jermaine recalls Don King’s remarks were made in a completely different context. Here’s how he tells it:

Don didn’t win awards for tact and diplomacy, and his giant ego was the reason he was a promoter. He was brash but effective. Had you seen him – the loudest mouth – and Michael – the quietest soul – interacting, you might have thought, There’s the kid with the embarrassing uncle he can’t help but find funny. I’ll never forget being in a meeting when we were discussing something about the show’s direction and Michael was talking about how he wanted to pay the fans back and keep pushing higher.

“Michael!’ said Don, cutting dead the monologue. “Remember this. It don’t matter whether you’re a rich nigger, a poor nigger or just a nigger. No matter how big you get, this industry’s still gonna treat you like a nigger.” In other words, and in his opinion, you’ll always be a servant to the music industry, so don’t ever think of becoming more powerful than that. Everyone in the room froze. If the music industry blew smoke up everyone’s ass, Don blew in an icy blast of straight talk.

It was Michael who was the first to laugh, cracking the suspended silence. He found it funny, in a shocking way, and wasn’t offended. None of us was. A black man had been addressing black men, and that kind of talk was hardly foreign to someone from Gary, Indiana. (243-244)

Willa: Wow, that is a radically different interpretation, isn’t it? It’s eye-opening to put Taraborrelli’s and Jermaine Jackson’s very different accounts side by side like this. It really demonstrates how the same story can be perceived and interpreted in dramatically different ways by different viewers.

Lisha: Yes, it does. Jermaine seems to think Don King was making a larger point about systemic racism in the music industry, and that’s the way he felt his brothers understood it as well.

Willa: Well, that’s a really important distinction, Lisha, that casts the situation in a very different light. But it’s difficult to know what Michael Jackson’s true feelings were. He encouraged frank talk about race and racism, suggesting he would appreciate King’s comments as Jermaine says, but it’s also well established that he did not want King to be perceived as speaking for him during the Victory tour. In fact, he issued written instructions that “King may not communicate with anyone on Michael’s behalf without prior permission.”

Even before that, Michael Jackson made it very clear he did not want Don King hired as the promoter of the Victory tour. However, his father and his brothers supported King because he promised them a big payoff. So Michael Jackson was overruled and Don King was hired, but ultimately he was proven right, I think – Don King did not have the experience to handle the Victory tour. And all of that history may have some effect on how Jermaine portrays things. He seems to be saying that, despite the surface tensions, deep down Michael Jackson really liked Don King, and that may or may not be true.

Lisha: I agree with you. And I certainly don’t mean to be taking up for Don King! My guess is that boxing is a far cry from the world of concert promotion, so I would imagine King was out of his depth when he worked on the Victory tour. But it does sound like he was trying to be helpful when he made these remarks about the way American culture and industry intersect.

And I think that’s what King is getting at in his pitch for Donald Trump, too. He emphasizes in his speech that his support for Trump is based on a belief that the entire American political system needs to be demolished and rebuilt, because it is a system based on inequity towards women and blacks.

Willa: And that is a real call to arms that has been lost in the controversy surrounding his use of the N-word, which Michael Jackson himself used in “This Time Around.” I think they were both using it to make a point about race and perception, so for me the N-word itself is not the issue in this case. I agree with you that Don King is making a strong statement about systemic racism, and unfortunately there is a lot of truth to his words.

However, King also seems to be saying that racism is unchanging and unchangeable – that no matter what Michael Jackson does, people in the music industry – and people more generally – will always view him, and all people of color, through the lens of racism. And I think Michael Jackson would strongly disagree with that.

While he did speak out forcefully at times about racism, especially as he became older, his entire career was built on the conviction that, through his art and his unique cultural position, he could change people’s beliefs and perspectives. He saw art as a powerful force for change, and I think he fervently believed he could challenge bigotry and other prejudices and make a lasting difference in people’s hearts and minds.

Lisha: I wholeheartedly agree. Michael Jackson’s steadfast refusal to accept cultural norms, even in the face of tremendous backlash, had a powerful impact on American society – far more than we probably realize. And I wonder if rather than discouraging Michael Jackson, King ended up actually encouraging him to defy the very limitations he was being asked to negotiate.

Willa: That’s an interesting question, Lisha. I can imagine that King’s advice to accept that he would never be anything more than “a dancing and sliding and gliding negro” would fill him with ambition to prove King wrong.

Lisha: Exactly. I can’t imagine it otherwise, actually.

But Don King isn’t the only one name dropping Michael Jackson in this election! Trump himself has gone out of his way to let people know about his friendship with Michael Jackson, and I think it speaks volumes about how Michael Jackson actually pushed the culture forward. For example, here’s a Jonathan Ernst/Reuters photo that ran with an article about Donald Trump’s success in the Republican primaries:

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds up a photo of himself and late entertainer Michael Jackson that a memorabilia collector asked him to sign as he greets supporters after speaking at a rally with sportsmen in Walterboro

Apparently one of Trump’s supporters requested an autograph for this photo. But instead of just signing it and handing it back, Trump turned around and proudly displayed it to the press corps. This really struck me as a power move. Like, hey, see how awesome and powerful I am? Here’s proof I’ve hung out with Michael Jackson!

Willa: That’s an interesting way of interpreting this, Lisha, and I think you might be onto something. After all, the very next day he told Anderson Cooper that “Michael Jackson was actually a very good friend of mine.” Here’s a video clip of that interview:

Lisha: I mean, think about it. As part of his pitch for why he should be taken seriously as a candidate for the U.S. presidency, Donald Trump goes out of his way to talk about his friendship with Michael Jackson!

Willa: Yes, and I’ve been trying to figure out what it means. In that interview, Donald Trump emphasizes that he “knew the real story of Michael Jackson,” as he says, and was an insider into his world. I disagree with much of what he says about Michael Jackson – both here and other times when he’s talked about him – which suggests he really didn’t know him that well at all, but I’m struck by how eager he is to claim a close friendship.

Maybe it’s a power move, as you say, or maybe it’s a way of showing he’s in touch with pop culture and not just a businessman. After all, Trump has a lot of respect for the power of pop culture. This is a man who starred on The Apprentice for 14 years – a show that featured LaToya Jackson at one point – and used it to redeem himself after the collapse of his casinos, his airline, his entire empire. Instead of being a real estate magnate, he’s now a celebrity, and his fortune is built on his name rather than physical assets. A man like that would value the power of Michael Jackson’s celebrity, but I’m not sure he ever understood him as a person or an artist.

Lisha: Excellent point. I agree that Trump’s own words suggest he didn’t really know Michael Jackson that well. Even brother Jermaine spoke out about it and seemed pretty offended by what was said.

Willa: Yes, as Jermaine tweeted after the interview, “Name-dropping Michael don’t make you cool and won’t win you votes. Especially when using botched facts.”

Lisha: Jermaine also didn’t mind suggesting that Michael Jackson would not have supported Trump politically, either. But one of the interesting things about Michael Jackson is that he seemed comfortable with so many different people all across the political spectrum.

Willa: That’s certainly true! And it’s also true that Michael Jackson seems to have known Donald Trump for many years. For example, he was at his side during the dedication of the Taj Mahal in 1990. Here’s a video clip of that:

Lisha: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen clips of this in various reports about Donald Trump. One measure of Trump’s success seems to be how he attracted the attention of Michael Jackson. A reporter who covered the Taj Mahal event, Alex Connock, recently wrote a fascinating article about it for The Spectator. He describes the frenzy Michael Jackson created at the opening of Trump’s casino: “If Queen Cleopatra herself had risen from the dead and checked in using a solid gold Amex card there could have been no more excitement in reception than that which greeted Jacko’s arrival.” Sorry for the insulting moniker, but I think this description captures the scene perfectly!

Connock also describes being on a private plane with them after the event, when Michael Jackson produced a copy of the National Enquirer and showed an article to Trump!

Willa: Wasn’t that interesting? Can you imagine Michael Jackson and Donald Trump sitting side by side reading the National Enquirer? That is too funny! Apparently there was an article in it about Trump, and they were reading it and talking about it. I wish Connock had taken a picture of that. …

Lisha: Yes, he does too! But he said he was too intimidated to pick up the camera and shoot the picture. Can you imagine how much a photo of Trump and Michael Jackson reading the Enquirer would have been worth?

Willa: I’m sure we’d be seeing a lot of it these days! I’ve also heard that Michael Jackson had an apartment in Trump Tower for many years. Do you know anything about that? If that’s true, I imagine they did cross paths on occasion.

Lisha: I haven’t really seen much about it until recently. The apartment is now up for sale so there has been some publicity about that, including some nice photos.

The whole idea of these two men hanging out together, both of them cultural shorthand for wealth and celebrity, definitely generates some interest.

Willa: Yes, and to some extent I can see why Michael Jackson might have enjoyed spending time with Trump. He is definitely a colorful figure – kind of like P.T. Barnum in a way – and Michael Jackson was certainly drawn to colorful characters.

Lisha: Every time I hear Trump claim that all publicity is good publicity, I have to wonder if Michael Jackson schooled him on the ways of P.T. Barnum!

Willa: I do too!

Lisha:  In many ways Trump is a showman, too, something that seems to come in handy these days when you’re running for president. Did you see the funny Jimmy Fallon spoof of Trump’s dramatic entrance at the Republican National Convention?

Willa: I did! The “Smooth Criminal” segment was wonderful!

Lisha: It totally cracked me up!

Willa: But I think it’s important to note that while Michael Jackson does seem to have spent some time with Donald Trump over the years, he also subtly criticizes him in “Money,” as the MJ Academia Project pointed out several years ago. Unfortunately, their videos are no longer available, and now the transcripts seem to be gone also. But in the soundscape of “Money,” Michael Jackson calls out a list of ruthless and unethical tycoons, and he includes Trump’s name on that list.

The entire song is a harsh critique of the love of money, and it begins this way:

Money (money)
Lie for it
Spy for it
Kill for it
Die for it
So you call it trust
But I say it’s just
In the devil’s game
Of greed and lust
They don’t care
They’d do me for the money
They don’t care
They use me for the money
So you go to church
Read the holy word
In the scheme of life
It’s all absurd
They don’t care
They’d kill for the money
Do or dare
The thrill for the money
You’re saluting the flag
Your country trusts you
Now you’re wearing a badge
You’re called the just few
And you’re fighting the wars
A soldier must do
I’ll never betray or deceive you my friend but
If you show me the cash
Then I will take it
If you tell me to cry
Then I will fake it
If you give me a hand
Then I will shake it
You’ll do anything for money

That’s a harsh indictment. And if you listen carefully to the background sounds of “Money,” at 3:18 minutes in Michael Jackson says, “If you want it, earn it with dignity,” and then he calls out a list of robber-barons who most definitely did not “earn it with dignity”:  “Vanderbilt, Morgan, Trump, Rockefeller, Hinde, Getty, Getty, Getty, …”

Lisha: This segment names some of the most ruthless and unethical business tycoons in the nation’s history. They’re often called the robber-barons, as you said, and that term isn’t meant to be flattering. It was initially used to critique Cornelius Vanderbilt as both a criminal and an aristocrat. The robber-barons were despised for their predatory business practices, but because of their power and wealth, they also enjoyed a great deal of prestige.

For example, the Rockefeller name is now synonymous with privilege and wealth, but at the time, John D. Rockefeller was called the most hated man in America. He was one of the first to employ a public relations manager – a totally new concept in his day – to combat the negative publicity he received.

Willa: That’s really interesting, Lisha. I didn’t know that. No wonder Michael Jackson calls him out in “Money”!

I also noticed that the list of names in “Money” ends with a repetition of “Getty, Getty, Getty, … ” J. Paul Getty made his money in oil, and at one time was the wealthiest man in America. Decades later, his grandson Mark Getty used some of that inheritance to create Getty Images, which includes many photos of Michael Jackson in its holdings, both iconic ones and scandalous ones.

Lisha: You’re right! Getty is singled out for repeat. And perhaps it’s no coincidence, given that Getty owns the rights to so many Michael Jackson photographs.

Willa: It doesn’t seem coincidental to me. And it also seems significant that Trump’s name is on the list. I don’t think Michael Jackson would have included him if he really respected him or held great affection for him.

Lisha: Interesting, isn’t it? I mean, as far as influence goes, I would guess Trump is kind of small potatoes compared to the other industrialists and financiers on the list. So maybe it is more about the unscrupulous ways these men achieved their wealth, rather than their influence and social prominence.

I also noticed that Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, mentioned Michael Jackson in an interview with DuJour, a magazine that caters to America’s ultra-wealthy 1 percent. Rolling Stone also commented on that interview because she describes this charming, intimate dinner party with Michael Jackson. To me, it gives the impression that she is indeed quite accustomed to a privileged and powerful lifestyle.

Willa: It was an interesting story, wasn’t it? And if her memory is right, it sounds like Michael Jackson felt at ease with her – as she said, “we were laughing so hard.”

Lisha: It’s such an endearing story! And impressive. Not everyone has that kind of access to Michael Jackson.

Willa: That’s true, though at the time she met Michael Jackson, not everyone wanted to meet him. I’m not sure of the exact timing, but she implies it was after her marriage to Donald Trump, which was in January of 2005. So she must have met Michael Jackson either after the 2005 trial or just before – a time when his public image was perhaps at its lowest point, and a lot of people were treating him like he was toxic. I have to say, it made me feel a little kinder toward the Trumps that they were inviting Michael Jackson into their home at that terrible period in his life.

So all this adds another layer to this entire situation – not just what it says about Donald and Melania Trump and their motives for name-dropping Michael Jackson, but also what it says about the rehabilitation of Michael Jackson’s image since his death. I mean, Trump tends to closely align himself with popular opinion – for example, he was for the Iraq War when it was popular, turned against the war when it became unpopular, and now claims he was against it all along despite recorded evidence to the contrary.

So I have a feeling if Trump had run for president in the 2008 elections, he wouldn’t have been boasting so much about his “very good friend” Michael Jackson, or flashing his picture around in front of photographers. The fact that he’s doing so now is a pretty strong indicator that Michael Jackson’s image has shifted considerably since 2009.

Lisha: Good point.

Willa: But what exactly are popular perceptions of Michael Jackson now? How does Trump see him? And what does he hope to gain by aligning himself with him? Those are the questions I’ve been wondering about….

Lisha: I can’t help thinking about your insightful conversation with Susan Woodward a while back, about how Michael Jackson conveyed a real sense of power, even with all the negative publicity he faced. Trump is clearly aligning himself with that power, and also with the narrative that media portrayals can be unfair and very misleading. He told Fox News:

I remember when Michael Jackson died, I was friends with Michael Jackson. I knew Michael Jackson very well, and then everybody commented on Michael Jackson. I said to myself, you know, it’s amazing, he didn’t even know those people. But it’s like that. The world of politics is a very strange world and people want to get on and they say things. They have no idea what they’re talking about, and I watch it and I listen to it all the time.

Willa: Yes, that’s true. And apparently media biases were a topic of conversation between Donald Trump and Michael Jackson for many years – for example, when they were reading the National Enquirer together in 1990, as you mentioned earlier.

Lisha: There’s something else that I wonder about that might have come up in conversation. Tom Barrack, whose company owns the majority of Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, has been named as one of Trump’s top economic advisors. In fact, it was Barrack who introduced Trump and his daughter at the Republican National Convention.

Willa: Really? I didn’t make that connection. That’s kind of shocking to me, for reasons I can’t quite explain.

Lisha: It doesn’t sit well with me either, given that Michael Jackson’s Estate put out a statement that they were “saddened” by the intended sale of Neverland Ranch. I saw some tweets and other evidence that Michael Jackson’s children wished to keep Neverland Ranch in the family, but it looks like that isn’t going to happen.

Willa: And as we talked about in a couple of posts with Brad Sundberg, Neverland was much more than just a piece of property. It was one of Michael Jackson’s most immersive and experiential works of art, and now it’s been dismantled. That’s just tragic, on so many levels.

Lisha: For sure.

Willa: Well, Michael Jackson certainly had a long and complicated history with Donald Trump – and with the Clintons as well. After all, he sang at Bill Clinton’s inauguration celebration. And he interacted with numerous other presidents over his long career.  We’ll begin taking a look at that in our next post.

Lisha: Can’t wait to dig in!

A quick note: With the recent opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., C-Span posted a wonderful YouTube video of director Lonnie Bunch discussing a Michael Jackson costume that the museum has acquired:

 

 

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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 September 29, 2016, in Michael Jackson and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 40 Comments.

  1. Hi Ladies! Very interesting and thought provoking post. Re Michael living in Trump Tower in NYC for a time, the best source is probably Brad Sundberg. I quoted from it and posted a link in my group on FB which is the easiest way for me to find it. Here it is:…
    “Read Brad’s post about building Michael a dance floor in one of the penthouses of Trump Tower in NYC. “We set the speakers up in such a way that they were in front of the windows, so Michael could face out and see New York as he danced. We ran cables, got the speakers on their stands (not the stands in the photo), and fired the system up. It was loud. Like crazy loud. Like “hurt me!!” loud. It was perfect. Until…” [Extract] Read the full post here: https://www.facebook.com/inthestudiowithmj/posts/533393103501255 – Kerry”

    • Hi Kerry,

      Thanks so much for sharing Brad Sundberg post on Trump Tower! That’s really interesting. I can’t imagine how they got away with those volume levels having a neighbor right across the hall, but I’m sure Brad had that all figured out!

      That’s also a dramatic example of the some of the safety issues involved in performing. You wouldn’t really think singing and dancing would be so dangerous, until you about hear something like this, or a pyro accident, or a bridge falling onstage, or broken bones…

      Reminds me of the story Brad tells in his seminars, about the opening soundscape of “Dangerous,” It is a recording of an actual accident that occurred in the vocal booth while they were working on that song. Apparently Michael Jackson fell off his vocal platform onto some sound baffling and had to go to the hospital! Dangerous indeed.

  2. Hi guys. Not being American and being apolitical, am not particularly interested in your upcoming election, but you have just made it a bit more interesting!!

    However having said that, I think it would be great to have a woman president, tho I know nothing of Hilary’s politics

    MJ mixed with many ‘powerful’ people, being a powerful and influential man himself. Not sure how many of them he would have called ‘friend’ tho.

    Seem to recall that MJ and Lisa Marie spent some of their honeymoon at Trump Tower? Might indicate an element of friendship with Trump as not many were privvy to their wedding? Or it may just be that MJ had an apartment there?

    All very interesting but also encouraging if it is part of Michael’s character rehabilitation as you suggest. Anyone who helps that gets my vote, if you’ll pardon the pun!!

    • Hi Caro!

      This is by far the craziest election cycle I have ever seen! I envy your view from a distance. I’m going to breathe a sigh of relief once it’s all over.

      I also recall that MJ and Lisa Marie spent part of their honeymoon at Trump Tower. The photographer, Dick Zimmerman, says he shot their wedding photos there: http://www.dickzimmerman.com/stories.html I also read that their apt originally belonged to Donald Trump’s parents. So that might suggests a close relationship to Trump, or Michael’s ability to pay top $$$, I don’t know.

      But it’s interesting to see Michael Jackson’s name being brought up in this way, isn’t it?


  3. Donald Trump was a good friend of Michael Jackson’s and ALWAYS spoke well of him. He spoke to Larry King on CNN right after Michael Jackson died in 2009.

    • Hi j. denino. It’s true that Donald Trump has always been outspoken in saying he’s certain the allegations against Michael Jackson were false, and I respect that. I hadn’t heard him talk before about Michael Jackson playing with his kids when they were young. I enjoyed hearing that story. Thank you very much for sharing this video clip.

    • Hi j.denino,

      Welcome to the conversation and thanks so much for posting this interview! I agree with you that Donald Trump has always spoken highly of Michael Jackson, defending him when others didn’t. As I was researching this topic, I came across a statement he made, predicting Michael Jackson’s clean-sweep of not-guilty verdicts during the 2005 trial. He also talked about the need to publicly defend Michael Jackson, since no one else was. That’s something I appreciate and think he deserves a lot of credit for.

  4. I think Donald Trump’s father might also be one of the reasons that Michael called out Trump along with the others he called out in his song Money. Knowing how well read Michael was, I’m sure he was aware of the elder Trump’s ‘doings’ so to speak. Here’s a song that Woody Guthrie wrote a song called Old Man Trump in which he called him out for his racism in housing.

    and here’s an article about it: http://time.com/4188991/woody-guthrie-donald-trump-fred-trump-songs/

    Now I don’t know if Michael was personally aware of that song himself, but I know he knew about the Civil Rights Era and when he was older Michael was friendly with two people who were active in the movement, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton (as was Woody’s friend folk singer Pete Seeger and I have no doubt he knew of that song) Michael was also acquainted with one of the financial backers of MLK’s involvement in the movement, Harry Belafonte and I think Belafonte might have known about that song also. And being that they were all so deeply involved in the movement I can’t help but think Jesse Jackson and Sharpton might have at least mentioned it at some time to Michael (or not). At any rate he may have known of Fred Trump’s history. He also might have been letting Donald Trump know that he knew about his father too by calling out Trump in the song. While I think Donald Trump and Michael had a somewhat friendly acquaintance between them, I don’t think he and Michael were ‘best buds.’ For one thing he may have witnessed Trump’s racist attitude towards the ‘help’ at his casino. All conjecture on my part, but I can’t see Michael agreeing with Trump as he is and probably was then too on certain issues. As business men, maybe, but not on social issues. Trump was on Larry King Live shortly after Michael passed and spoke very kindly of him:

    Also, that article in Specter Life mentioned that during that time with Trump, Michael also visited a sick child in IN. The Taj Mahal’s grand opening was on April 2, 1990. Ryan White died on April 8, 1990. Here’s a video of Michael and Donald Trump going to visit him before he died. At the 1:10 mark you can see Michael and Trump walking into Ryan’s house together.

    More conjecture, but at the time Trump may well have done that out of the kindness of his heart, however, in the context it’s brought up in this video, it looks to me like he’s using for his own means. Imo, if Trump had a heart at one time, it’s grown a lot smaller since. And I doubt Michael would think if he were still here, that he’d be a good President.

    • thanks for interesting reply rykm50 – giving me info I don’t have and therefore more insight. Thanks also for links. Hadn’t heard the King/Trump interview. So good to hear positive things being said – just a shame that it took Michaels death to prompt them!!!!!

    • Hi rykm50. Thank you so much for all the fascinating information! I had no idea Donald Trump went with Michael Jackson to visit Ryan White’s family after he died.

      And while I had heard of Fred Trump’s discriminatory housing practices – practices he and his son Donald were sued over, settling out of court – I had not heard the Woody Guthrie song. That is really interesting. I’m very curious to learn more about that now! And as you say, those racist housing policies could be a reason Michael Jackson calls out the Trump name in “Money.”

    • Hi rykm50,

      That Woody Guthrie song gives me the chills! It’s my understanding that it was recently unearthed at the Woody Guthrie Archives, so I don’t think it was widely known before. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/watch-tom-morello-liken-trump-to-frat-house-rapist-20160622 But given MJ’s knowledge of the biz and his relationship to the civil rights leaders including Belafonte, I wonder. I’d really like to know more about the song.

      And thanks for the news story about Trump’s visit to Ryan White’s home. I hadn’t seen that and I find it fascinating. Lots to think about there.

  5. Hello Willa and Lisha! Great post! I learned a lot from reading it; for example, I never knew about Melania’s recent interview where she mentioned MJ! You mentioned the timing of the dinner, and here’s my take on it:

    One thing I noticed is that the author of the article (and not Melania) stated that they met for dinner after she and Trump were married, (which occurred in January 2005.) In January 2005 MJ was preparing for the trial in Cali, so it’s highly unlikely he was in New York at any point during that time (although he could have been there), and I don’t think he traveled to NY after the trial (before leaving the country for the Middle East). I think this meeting probably happened between 2000-02, when Melania and Trump were dating, and MJ was in NY recording and promoting Invincible, performing at his 30th Anniversary Concert, etc. Either way, it was good to see someone saying something positive about MJ for once. 🙂

    Also, Willa, you stated the following: “And that is a real call to arms that has been lost in the controversy surrounding his use of the N-word, which Michael Jackson himself used in “This Time Around.”

    Actually, MJ didn’t say it himself; Notorious B.I.G. said it in his rap. But MJ obviously didn’t have a problem with that word being used in that context, and your point is still valid. 🙂 Just wanted to point out that small error to you.

    Can’t wait for your next post!

    • Hi sanemjfan. You’re right that Michael Jackson is not performing the rap. I didn’t mean to imply that – sloppy writing on my part! As you say, Notorious B.I.G. does the rap, but I believe Michael Jackson wrote all the lyrics, including the words to the rap. Is that right, or not? And he included the rap, with its controversial lyrics, as an important element of “This Time Around.”

      Thank you for the clarification.

      • Willa: MJ didn’t write Biggie’s rap; trust me, NOBODY wrote Biggie’s raps! LOL! That’s why he’s considered one of the greatest in hip hop. 🙂 According to this studio engineer, the song was practically done, and MJ called and asked Biggie to feature on it, and of course he obliged. Biggie came to the studio, recorded his verse, and afterwards MJ listened to it and loved it! They even took a photo together afterwards, but unfortunately it has never been found to this day. It would be amazing to see them together (other than the 1995 MTV Awards when Biggie gave MJ & Janet an award). https://madandcrazy.blogspot.com/2011/10/2-kings-when-biggie-smalls-crossed.html

        Clearly, MJ wasn’t bothered by the use of the “N” word, based on the context it was used in (i.e. a term of endearment). He wouldn’t have allowed it if it was meant in a derogatory manner, so you’re point about the usage of the word in the song is still correct.

        And don’t worry about the sloppy writing; I’ve written over 100 posts on my blog, so I know how it feels! It happens to all of us! 🙂

        • “MJ didn’t write Biggie’s rap; trust me, NOBODY wrote Biggie’s raps! LOL! That’s why he’s considered one of the greatest in hip hop.”

          Thank you, saneMJfan. I’ve read quite a bit about the history of hip hop, but I’m still very much out of my element when talking about it. So I appreciate the clarification! I really don’t know how that process works. In a 2005 interview, Michael Jackson told Geraldo Rivera,

          I don’t really rap.… I’ve written songs with rap verses in them for very famous rappers, but they’re much better at it than I am.

          So my understanding was that he generally wrote the raps that others performed on his songs. But he also had a pretty fluid creative process, so I can understand his letting someone like Notorious B.I.G. just go at it! And as you suggest, Michael Jackson wouldn’t have used it if he didn’t approve it.

    • Hi sanemjfan,

      Wow, you’re right. The earlier time frame you suggest for the Melania Trump dinner party makes sense to me too. Great catch. And thanks for pointing it out.

      MJ did like interacting with the U.S. presidents, it seems. Stay tuned for the next installment!

  6. Thanks, Willa and Lisha, for elucidating some points about Michael’s relationship with Donald Trump—a subject that’s useful to look at, and also one that I also find extraordinarily difficult and painful to get my mind around. (I imagine that others here may find it that way, too.)

    Donald Trump’s history of anti-black racism is well-documented, even beyond the discriminatory housing policies—-and the Woody Guthrie song that “commemorated” his father, Fred Trump’s, bigotry—that actually brought Donald and his father to a lawsuit by the Justice Department in 1973.

    Here’s an article about Guthrie’s song, and both Trumps’ (father and son’s) discriminatory housing practices, which got them into trouble some twenty years later. Some of the Guthrie’s lyrics are included here, too:

    http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2016/01/25/woody-guthrie-sang-of-his-contempt-for-his-landlord-donald-trumps-father/

    By Thomas Kaplan

    “Woody Guthrie Wrote of His Contempt for His Landlord, Donald Trump’s Father”

    “I suppose
    Old Man Trump knows
    Just how much
    Racial Hate
    he stirred up
    In the bloodpot of human hearts
    When he drawed
    That color line
    Here at his
    Eighteen hundred family project

    “Mr. Guthrie even reworked his song “I Ain’t Got No Home” into a critique of Fred Trump [….]

    “Beach Haven ain’t my home!
    I just can’t pay this rent!
    My money’s down the drain!
    And my soul is badly bent!
    Beach Haven looks like heaven
    Where no black ones come to roam!
    No, no, no! Old Man Trump!
    Old Beach Haven ain’t my home!”

    Fred and Donald Trump were plaintiffs in a lawsuit in 1973 by the Justice Department, which sued them for discriminating against blacks:

    http://www.npr.org/2016/09/29/495955920/donald-trump-plagued-by-decades-old-housing-discrimination-case

    “Decades-Old Housing Discrimination Case Plagues Donald Trump”
    _____________________________________________________________

    Then in 1989, while his split with his wife Ivana (and his affair with Marla Maples) had become the center of tabloid reportage, Donald Trump became a public spokesman in his commentary on a high-profile crime that had occurred in New York. The “Central Park Jogger case,” as it came to be known, sent five black and Latino boys (ages 14-16) to prison for the rape of a white woman—-a crime NONE of them had committed. The case (and Trump’s involvement in it) are worth reading about here:

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/feb/17/central-park-five-donald-trump-jogger-rape-case-new-york

    “Donald Trump and the Central Park Five: the racially charged rise of a demagogue”

    “Yusef Salaam was 15 years old when Donald Trump demanded his execution for a crime he did not commit […..] Nearly three decades before the rambunctious billionaire began his run for president – before he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, for the expulsion of all undocumented migrants, before he branded Mexicans as “rapists” and was accused of mocking the disabled – Trump called for the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York following a horrific rape case in which five teenagers were wrongly convicted.

    “The miscarriage of justice is widely remembered as a definitive moment in New York’s fractured race relations. But Trump’s intervention – he signed full-page newspaper advertisements implicitly calling for the boys to die – has been gradually overlooked as the businessman’s chances of winning the Republican nomination have rapidly increased. Now those involved in the case of the so-called Central Park Five and its aftermath say Trump’s rhetoric served as an unlikely precursor to a unique brand of divisive populism that has powered his rise to political prominence in 2016.

    ” ‘He was the fire starter,’ Salaam said of Trump, in his first extended interview since Trump announced his run for the White House. “Common citizens were being manipulated and swayed into believing that we were guilty.’ ”

    It’s well worth seeing Yusef Salaam (one of the Five’s), testimony in this video:

    http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/video/2016/feb/17/donald-trump-central-park-five-jogger-death-penalty-new-york-video

    “Central Park Five member recalls Trump: ‘He has not changed’ – video”

    Salaam, who spent some years in prison before the the man who actually committed the crime came forward, states:

    “Donald Trump ‘was the firestarter’ when he called for the death penalty in the 1989 Central Park jogger case, says Yusef Salaam, one of the wrongfully convicted Central Park Five: ‘To see that he has not changed his position of being a hateful person … what would this country look like with Donald Trump being the president? I can’t even imagine’ “

    • Nina, thank you so much for sharing this information. I need to research this more thoroughly, but I found Yusef Salaam’s words very moving.

      Also, I didn’t realize that Donald Trump’s father, Fred Trump, was Woody Guthrie’s landlord. So those lyrics come from personal experience with the “color line” that existed in those neighborhoods.

      Thank you again, Nina.

  7. The housing policies case were settled with no admission of guilt on Trump’s part, just like MJ 20 years later. Calling Trump racist without any evidence is like calling MJ pedophile without any evidence. MJ-fans who call Trump racist should be ashamed of themselves. Trump publically defended MJ during that period against the accusations when very few celebrities or so-called friends did. Not to mention the fact that MJ and Lisa Marie honeymooned at one of Trump’s resorts (Mar-a-Lago).

    • Hi Messi. This is a complicated issue. Like you, I appreciate the fact that Trump unequivocally stated his belief that Michael Jackson was innocent at a time when many celebrities, including former friends, were keeping their distance. That took courage, and I respect that.

      At the same time, I find Mr. Trump’s statements about Mexicans and Muslims (and women) to be very troubling. When people accuse him of racism, I think oftentimes they are referring to his own statements, not his father’s housing practices in the 60s and 70s.

      • Trump is talking about illegal aliens and islamic terrorists. Whether one likes it or not, they happen to be Mexicans and Muslims. I have never seen any evidence of Trump uttering racist remarks. Can you name me one?

        As for the women issue, Trump has great respect for women. The fact that he hired women for leadership positions back in the 80s are proof of that and were unprecedented back in the day. A crude remark a decade ago doesn’t change all of the things he’s done for women, including his own daughters.

        Please research instead of being poisoned by the mainstream media, who also poisoned the public against MJ when he was alive.

  8. “Michael even offers advice to those willing to
    do “anything for money” by making a quick
    buck on his dime to actually go out an earn
    an honest living with “dignity” before listing
    people like “Vanderbilt, Trump, Morgan,
    Rockefeller, Carnegie, Getty” as examples
    of entrepreneurial men who whilst making
    their money also had a strong philanthropic
    side.”

    https://static1.squarespace.com/static/51b18208e4b07a940e1b9dcd/t/55b3d41be4b0b91cd3da2d9f/1437848603653/MJ101+HIS20RY.pdf

    • Hi Messi,

      Thanks for your reply and for bringing Andy Healy’s wonderful e-book into the conversation! One of the most interesting things about Michael Jackson’s work is how it allows for multiple interpretations, so I really appreciate your bringing in other ideas on this and sharing your thoughts.

      I tend to think of robber-barons in this song in a very complicated way. For example, many of the anti-trust laws in the U.S. were aimed specifically at John D. Rockefeller’s predatory business practices. It’s no longer even legal to do the things he did to make money. At the same time, the Rockefeller family has done wonderful things their fortune: creating national parks, work projects, universities, medical facilities, etc.. Because Michael Jackson was a student of history, I tend to think the complexity of this issue wasn’t lost on him.

      But perhaps Michael Jackson is one of the very few who made their fortune on the basis on their talent and hard work alone. The song “Money” gives me a lot to think about in that respect.

      • Well, laws were changed in the US too after the child molestation accusations against Michael Jackson. It doesn’t mean MJ actually did anything wrong. The same could be said about Rockefeller, even though I’m not familiar with his case.

        As for MJ, he has been described as someone who could be a ruthless businessman who didn’t shy away from stonewalling people, even members of his own family. And I’m sure a lot rock fans question MJ’s ethics when he bought the Beatles catalog.

        My point is that I think MJ sympathized with the “robber barons” because they earned their wealth through hard work and intelligence, yet were smeared by the media and the common man. I think MJ maybe even saw himself in them. After all, they’ve done far more for society than those who criticised them.

  9. About the Trump-MJ friendship and the song Money, I have always wondered how MJ and Trump could be friends if the low volume names spoken in Money are intended as highly pejorative. If MJ really thought so negatively about Trump as ruthless money grubber and exploiter of others, how could he have been such good friends with him?? Doesn’t seem to add up.
    One thing I notice in this election is the media pile on and monstering of DT, which is exactly what happened to MJ of course, but for decades not just a year or so. People have called DT the worst things imaginable and even compared him to Hitler and this seems to be widely accepted as ‘the narrative’ in the liberal main stream media. There is even a litany of ‘crimes and misdemeanors’ now about DT just as there was for MJ, with escalating outrage and severity for both, and a general glee in attacking them. I actually have sympathy for him and his supporters the way they have been smeared. For example, they are called violent, but it is DT who has been attacked by a man leaping onstage after him, another trying to take a cop’s gun and shoot him dead, his supporters have been beaten up by groups so blood runs down their faces, people trying to leave his rallies have their cars jumped on, rocked, windows smashed, a campaign office was actually bombed, and this is on top of the verbal attacks. So who is really being violent? New reports give evidence on videotape that people linked to Clinton campaign hired and trained people to go to DT rallies and provoke conflict–2 guys involved lost their jobs (Robert Creamer being one).
    Watching this hate unfold and trying to vote is not easy for me as I see the country being further torn apart. I feel we as a nation cannot condone this behavior and yet it is condoned on the grounds that he and his supporters deserve all this and more. The same thing happened to MJ, hated and scorned and mocked with awful twisting of the truth and being constantly picked on by the media with every word and deed put under the microscope for the worst possible interpretation. I hate to see anyone treated this way even someone I disagree with. We have lost our humanity, it seems. For me it confirms how destructive and irresponsible a force the media can be. They act as moral arbiters in casting blame on others –reminds me of the Puritans who put people in the stocks to be publicly reviled.

    Reminds me of Hawthorne and the Scarlet Letter. The minister who was an adulterer but worshipped as a saint and the woman who bore his child and received public rebuke and shame, forced to wear the letter A, but still held her head up high.

    • Thank you. I see a lot of the attacks on Trump in the same way MJ was attacked. Vicious, vitriolic, unsubstantiated and even with a glee on the face of the attackers, mainly the dishonest, hypocritical mainstream media.

  10. Hi Willa, Lisha, and everyone:

    It’s now the afternoon of Monday, November 14 where I am; and, less than a week after the U.S. elections, my Facebook feed (as well as my own mind and psyche) register this event as something of cataclysmic proportions.

    This is just by way of offering a context for something that, I feel, needs to be said. While I don’t wish to be contentious in an unpleasant way, I do believe that lively and vigorous discussion and debate can be a good thing, apart from the question of whether anybody’s mind is “changed” in the process.
    __________________________________________

    Messi’s comment of October 2:
    “The housing policies case were settled with no admission of guilt on Trump’s part, just like MJ 20 years later. Calling Trump racist without any evidence is like calling MJ pedophile without any evidence. MJ-fans who call Trump racist should be ashamed of themselves.”

    Messi, October 19:
    My point is that I think MJ sympathized with the “robber barons” because they earned their wealth through hard work and intelligence, yet were smeared by the media and the common man. I think MJ maybe even saw himself in them. After all, they’ve done far more for society than those who criticised them.”

    Messi, October 19:
    “Trump is talking about illegal aliens and islamic terrorists. Whether one likes it or not, they happen to be Mexicans and Muslims. I have never seen any evidence of Trump uttering racist remarks. Can you name me one?

    “As for the women issue, Trump has great respect for women. The fact that he hired women for leadership positions back in the 80s are proof of that and were unprecedented back in the day. A crude remark a decade ago doesn’t change all of the things he’s done for women, including his own daughters.

    “Please research instead of being poisoned by the mainstream media, who also poisoned the public against MJ when he was alive.

    and:

    “My point is that I think MJ sympathized with the “robber barons” because they earned their wealth through hard work and intelligence, yet were smeared by the media and the common man. I think MJ maybe even saw himself in them. After all, they’ve done far more for society than those who criticised them.

    Indigenous, October 20:
    “One thing I notice in this election is the media pile on and monstering of DT, which is exactly what happened to MJ of course, but for decades not just a year or so. People have called DT the worst things imaginable and even compared him to Hitler and this seems to be widely accepted as ‘the narrative’ in the liberal main stream media. There is even a litany of ‘crimes and misdemeanors’ now about DT just as there was for MJ…”

    and:

    “…DT who has been attacked by a man leaping onstage after him, another trying to take a cop’s gun and shoot him dead, his supporters have been beaten up by groups so blood runs down their faces, people trying to leave his rallies have their cars jumped on, rocked, windows smashed, a campaign office was actually bombed, and this is on top of the verbal attacks. So who is really being violent? New reports give evidence on videotape that people linked to Clinton campaign hired and trained people to go to DT rallies…”
    __________________________________________

    The above remarks can easily be taken apart, riddled as they are with false equivalencies and unsubstantiated rumors (e.g., protestors being “paid” by the Hillary Clinton campaign). (One might ask: *whose* mind is being poisoned by who, or what?)

    In the days since the election, there has been a rise hateful acts: swastika and other graffiti on university campuses and elsewhere, attacks on women wearing hijabs, harassment and threats toward women and people of color, all issued in Donald Trump’s name.

    I believe it’s up to decent, thinking people everywhere to unequivocally condemn these acts. More to the point, I think we are ALL responsible for helping one another develop a deep understanding of this kind of hate speech: its historical origins, its connection to our present political moment, and its relationship to further acts of physical violence.

    Nobody is “apolitical.”

    Michael Jackson’s fans constitute millions of people internationally. With as large a fan network as he had, it’s to be expected that we’ll meet people from all walks of life, and from all ideological and political perspectives. But I’ve noticed a consistent—and troubling—pattern in many of the dialogues I’ve read and taken part in within this fan community: and I hope that, at some point, we might *specifically* address some of the broader ramifications of the whole project of “vindicating” MJ. What, exactly, do we mean by “defending” Michael Jackson?

    Thank you, Willa, Lisha and everyone. I wish you well.

  11. Nina, thank you so much for your many insightful comments, both here and in the past. Especially in light of recent events, I feel the need to make a comment about this as well.

    It has been said a number of times in recent months that we are living in a “post-truth” era. As a writer, thinker, and simply as a human being, I find this intolerable. One of the highest goals of art, and of our lived experience, is the search for truth.

    It makes me very uncomfortable to point the finger at anyone and say, You, sir, are a racist (or misogynist, or homophobe or xenophobe or other type of intolerance). Racism (and patriarchy) are so deeply entrenched in our national character that we are all implicated, and we must all strive to work through our own biases.

    However, I feel I must speak out about Donald Trump. He hasn’t just said inappropriate things, repeatedly. He has built his entire political career on intolerance.

    He began with the birther movement. The sole objective of this movement, if it can really be called a movement, was to question the legitimacy of our first black president. Trump demanded Obama provide his birth certificate to prove he was a real American, and when Obama did, Trump refused to accept it. Apparently no amount of documentation could convince him that a black man had a legitimate right to be president.

    More recently, Trump kicked off his presidential campaign by trying to incite fear and anger against Mexican immigrants, saying,

    When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

    This was not some offhand comment accidentally caught on tape. It was in his speech to announce his candidacy. This is an undeniable truth, and it is unacceptable in an American president.

    • FYI, it was the Hillary Clinton campaign who started the “birther” issue back in the 2008 Democratic primaries. I know it’s in to bash Trump, but I thought MJ fans were above that, especially considering MJ was also victim of the mob mentality.

      Trump never referred to Mexian immigrants when he made that comment. He was talking about ILLEGAL aliens, especially criminals. It is not unacceptable for an American President to want to defend his country. Would you not want to defend yourself against a rapist?

  12. Messi says,
    “He was talking about ILLEGAL aliens, especially criminals. It is not unacceptable for an American President to want to defend his country. Would you not want to defend yourself against a rapist?”

    Utterly astonishing. (And after everything that’s been going down lately, I thought there was NOTHING venal or stupid enough to surprise me anymore.)

    Willa, Lisha, *everyone* here: should we even answer such tripe? Or should this person be ignored as the troll they (very possibly) are?

    (I’m still up for having an intelligent discussion about Michael Jackson, Trump, politics, social justice, and many related matters. In the aggregate, this whole cluster of topics is too huge to tackle; but

    __________________________

    Willa, I totally agree with what you initially said. This practice of pointing fingers at people and calling them “racist” (and all the inevitable retorts, a volley that seems to have become many people’s favorite online pastime), has been unhelpful, and worse.

    As far as I’m concerned, racism and white supremacy are very serious matters. They have LONG required a no-holds-barred discussion, especially among white people—not a vapid game of name-calling by adolescents in a schoolyard. Enough already!

    The same can be said for discussions of sexism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, and all other forms of bigotry; these are, in fact *part and parcel* of the practice of racism historically, and are not separable from it.

    As for truth-seeking, there’s plenty to be said about that, too; but I trust we’ll have time to discuss all these important things.

    • This is supposed to be a discussion, yet here you are with your name-calling. I have not insulted you. I do not make apologies for supporting Trump, just like I didn’t make apologies for supporting MJ when he was alive. Maybe you should acquire some critical thought regarding what you’ve read about Trump, just like you’ve done with MJ.

      • Hi Messi. Michael Jackson spent his entire career, from the time he was a young child until the end of his life, fighting intolerance in all its forms. So it is very shocking to hear him compared to Donald Trump.

        Michael Jackson befriended many people with disabilities, while Trump mocked a man with disabilities from the stage, encouraging his followers to laugh at him.

        Michael Jackson strove to overcome artificial differences of race, nationality, and religion – for example, telling Rabbi Boteach,

        I love the Jewish babies and the German babies and the Asian and the Russians. We are all the same and I have the perfect hypothesis to prove it. I play to all those countries and they cry in all the same places in my show. They laugh in the same places. They become hysterical in the same places. They faint in the same places and that’s the perfect hypothesis. There is a commonality that we are all the same. … I feel like a person of the world. I can’t take sides. That’s why I hate saying, “I am an American.” For that reason.

        However, Trump wants to build walls and isolate America from the rest of the world. He exaggerates our differences, and stirs up fear and hatred to try to divide us – from Mexicans, from Muslims, from anyone (including for a time President Obama) who is not authentically “American” in his eyes.

        Michael Jackson refused to act like a stereotypical rock star and insisted on treating women with respect. (I believe this is one reason he was treated with such suspicion. Apparently, any man who doesn’t take advantage of groupies must have something wrong with him …) Trump, however, has said things about Megyn Kelly, Carly Fiorina, Hillery Clinton, and women in general that I never thought I would hear from a presidential candidate – statements that to me are disqualifying. I’m not just talking about the things he said on a bus 10 years ago. I’m talking about things he’s said this year.

        Perhaps most importantly, Michael Jackson was an outsider who challenged the status quo, and tried to make America, in particular, more welcoming to all. Donald Trump is a billionaire with a strong sense of entitlement who wants to “make America great again” like it was in the 1950s, when power was reserved fairly exclusively for wealthy white men like him.

        For all of these reasons and more, it is deeply disturbing to me to hear Michael Jackson compared to Donald Trump, especially when I’m still reeling from the aftershocks of a very bitter election.

        I’m sorry if you felt attacked, Messi, but I hope you can see why your comments felt inflammatory to many of us.

  13. Well…. at any rate, they had one thing in common: both men liked to grab crotches.

    Michael, his own; and Donald Trump, other people’s. Including the Statue of Liberty. Look at the second entry here:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/comic-riffs/wp/2016/10/11/here-is-how-the-trump-clinton-race-is-shaping-up-according-to-cartoons/

  14. I took my time but I can’t think of another event that mainstream media was so falsely convinced of the outcome than the current presidential elections and Michael Jackson’s conviction in 2005. Do you?! The analysis of the reasons why this happend within the media system in regard to both cases would be very interesting. Not only because it would throw light upon each given situation but also about the media system in general as well.

    • That’s a very good question, Julie. I think one of the most misreported stories of recent decades was the lead-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, when most major media outlets were convinced Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. Even though most major news sources accurately reported that Iraq was not involved in the September 11 attacks, criticism of the U.S invasion was muted because most newspapers and other mainstream media were convinced U.S. troops would find weapons of mass destruction, and that would justify an unprovoked use of force. Of course, nothing of the kind was found.

      I agree that reporting on Michael Jackson’s 2005 trial was very poor, and so was reporting on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. However, as I see it, they were poor in very different – almost opposite – ways.

      Coverage of Michael Jackson’s trial bordered on hysteria, with trivial events (such as “pajama day”) blown up to outsized proportions, while careful consideration of the evidence was largely absent. By contrast, Trump himself routinely stoked hysteria to draw attention to his campaign, and the media seemed to just follow along in disbelief at what was happening, unwittingly assisting him in stoking interest in his every move.

      In both cases, careful analysis was no match for the hype. However, I tend to see Michael Jackson as the calm eye of a storm whipped up by the media, while Trump himself was a master at whipping up controversies that gave him a lot of free publicity and overwhelmed the media.

      That’s my view anyway – but the more I think about it, the more complicated it becomes. Michael Jackson also used the media at times for his own purposes, and Trump was often angry at how he was covered. So I feel like I’ve been oversimplifying. And you’re right – this would be an interesting topic to explore more fully.

  15. Trump is definitely not my president but as global citizens we should not stay silent because the “Heil Trump”movement is not only a US phenomenon. We have our own trumps here in Europe who appeal to ages old ethnic sentiment and xenophobia. It is very disturbing that Trumps agenda , his cabinet and advisors, the category of world leaders and social groups he attracts, his own demagogic rethoric starting with fueling the birther conspiracy ,to his hate campaign against minorities, social media bullying, nepotism, lies and consumer fraud is ignored or denied by his supporters. HC may have called them deplorables but Trump actually said the same , when he said that even if he would go on Times square shooting people they would still vote for him.

    It is indeed very complex, the electorate is not as predictable as are their motives. Many Trump voters probably voted for Obama in the last elections. And though the media historically missed the huge support Trump turned out to have in some blue states, they were right that more people would vote for HC. However It is not the media who created Trump, Imo social media –which is the peoples voice – today has a wider outreach and influence than mainstream media and has no restrictions whatsoever as for factchecking ethics etc .That is more disturbing than the media, who one way or other are helt to certain standards and can be reprimanded.
    Jane Mayers book “Dark money, the hidden story of the billionaires behind the rise of the radical right “ also gives an interesting insight in the rise of the tea party ,the libertarian movement ,the instigators and their MO and the systematic undermining of Obamas character and policy .It is from before Trumps campaign, but explains in a way how someone like Trump could be elected.

    In this post fact , fake news climate it is no surprise that Michaels lyrics are misinterpreted and a photo of him and DT twisted into Trump propaganda. He was just another businessman out of many who MJ , a businessman himself, in his 45 year long career met and was pictured with. In calling out Trump in the context of the robber barons, he could not have been clearer about what he meant. Despite their constant reference to his ‘weirdness”, even his criticasters know that Michael Jacksons name is worth billions and namedropping him sells. And so did Trump.

  16. As the days wear on and we see more and more evidence of Trump’s mendacity (through his picks for cabinet appointments, etc.), I can underscore Sina’s point. He is emphatically NOT my president, and he never will be; even though I’m a U.S. citizen and lived in this country all my life. And I agree: as global citizens we need to denounce Trump and his ilk, as we note the rise of people like Nigel Farage in the U.K. and Marine Le Pen in France.

    Thanks, Willa, for your insights. I’d just like to add this point: beyond the sharp (and obvious) contrast in their personal characteristics and their deeds, Donald Trump (as president-elect) and Michael Jackson (as entertainer) have vastly different job descriptions.

    Both are showmen and fans of P.T. Barnum, whose talent for putting on “the Greatest Show on Earth” didn’t go unnoticed by Michael himself. (For more on MJ’s admiration for Barnum, see Margo Jefferson’s USEFUL book, “On Michael Jackson.”) Yet Michael never committed the folly of running for president: he had too much respect for his own profession to do so. Much as he yearned to maintain his global visibility, I’m sure he knew he’d be out of his depth by getting into politics—an arena of public life that didn’t really interest him, anyway.

    Donald Trump, a billionnaire celebrity with no discernible talent except for being visibly obnoxious, clearly had no such compunctions. As a result, we’ve elected to the highest office in the U.S. what the American public SINCERELY wanted: a reality TV star whose lies can masquerade as “telling it like it is,” and whose patent incompetence actually marks him–in the minds of millions—as “a man of the people.”

    To the extent that Trump professed his “loyalty” to Michael, they likely had a friendship where Michael fed Trump’s unfathomable narcissism in some way. In all his innocence, Michael probably “oohed” and “aaahed” at Trump’s lavishly-appointed gilt palaces. Perhaps he constantly flattered Trump: that, and Trump’s *bogus* identification with MJ as another victim—like himself—of the “lying media,” would prompt him to (self-servingly) speak highly of Michael Jackson. Come on.

    As for Melania Trump’s congenial conversation and good words for Michael, I believe we’ve already heard PLENTY of prominent spokespeople who’ve said good things about him. We don’t need fascists and their enablers to speak on his behalf. We’re not *that* desperate for MJ supporters, I hope. And I hope it’s clear to *thinking* people why Trump’s imprimatur could only taint Michael’s reputation—not enhance it.

    But apart from taint OR enhancement, I find that I personally have had to accept Michael Jackson *with* all his flaws, rather than trying to wave them away. I don’t even care about finding evidence of Michael’s (later) possible denunciation of Trump. I can remain disappointed with Michael Jackson on certain issues, so I don’t feel I need evidence that would necessarily “exonerate” him of this, or numerous other peccadilloes he displayed in the course of his career. He was human, after all—and he wasn’t perfect. A complex person, he could be easily led (and ALSO the opposite of that), petty (and ALSO attuned to matters of great magnitude). I prefer to let all his contradictions stand, rather than tidying them up.

    As for Trump’s impending presidency: welcome to the “post-truth” world, which was predicted by philosophers decades ago, and now reaches its apogee in our “society of the spectacle.”

  17. Thanks, Sina, for the reference to Jane Mayer’s book. I think I’ll look it up. Also, I think it’s true what you say: Trump himself has utter contempt for his own supporters.

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