The Only Response To 'Leaving Neverland' Is To Burn All Michael Jackson's CDs
After 'Leaving Neverland' aired, my Facebook feed was streaming with action.
'This isn’t going to stop me from listening to his music', I read.
I hadn’t seen the documentary, but after reading Joe Vogel’s article What You Should Know About The New Michael Jackson Documentary I wasn’t sure if I was going to bother. Vogel insinuates that one of the accusers, Wade Robson, is having some recent career and financial troubles, hence the accusations, and I thought: here we go again.
In 1993 when Michael Jackson was first accused of child molestation by 13-year-old Jordan Chandler, I believed, just like so many others, that the family was just after his money.
Michael Jackson’s music has been a staple in my life since I could dance -- at parties, weddings, nights out on the town. I watched on television Michael Jackson delivering a statement about the horrors of being strip-searched and my heart ached for him.
“Throughout my life, I have only tried to help thousands upon thousands of children to live happy lives,” he said from his Neverland ranch in 1993. “It brings tears to my eyes when I see any child who suffers. I am not guilty of these allegations. But if I am guilty of anything it is of giving all that I have to give to help children all over the world.”
I was in my teens when the case settled out of court for $22 million and it only validated for me that it was all about money. When fresh allegations surfaced in 2003 by Gavin Arvizo, a boy with cancer in remission, and Michael Jackson was found not guilty, fans celebrated. Everyone knew Michael didn’t have a proper childhood because he shot to fame so young, and him being friendly with children was his way of catching up -- and so were the sleepovers he had with children, which he was completely open about.
Finally, Michael Jackson, with all his health problems, could move on with his life, and we could all continue to dance and sing to his music -- carefree. When he died a few years later, I thought it was the stress of these accusations that did it.
I hoped, finally, he would be able to rest in peace.
It was my sister initially who urged me to watch "Leaving Neverland". An even bigger fan than me, she said she would never again listen to his music.
“I am so disturbed,’ she said. “You have to watch it.”
And I did. And I cried. I cried a lot. I could not believe what I was hearing.
Wade Robson and James Safechuck met Michael when they were young boys -- Robson through winning a Michael Jackson dance competition, and Safechuck when he acted alongside Jackson in a Pepsi commercial. Now adult men, both allege that as young boys, and for years after that -- from the age of 10 for Safechuck, and seven for Robson -- they were sexually abused by Jackson.
Both boys admit to being in love with Jackson for many years, and believing they had a special relationship with him -- Safechuck alleging that he and Jackson even had a private wedding ceremony and exchanged rings, and that Jackson bought Neverland for him.
It was only after marrying and having their own children that Safechuck and Robson developed empathy for their younger selves and decided to come forward. The documentary also includes interviews from other family members.
What is especially astounding is how close Jackson was to both of these families. He befriended the parents and siblings and had very close relationships with them for many years, telephoning for hours, visiting their homes, having them stay with him in Neverland. If the accusations are indeed true, this would have been all part of the grooming process, to establish trust, as The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has found this a key trait of paedophilia.
“My greatest inspiration comes from kids,” Jackson said in the documentary "Living With Michael Jackson" in 2003. "It's all inspired from that level of innocence, that consciousness of purity.” Unsettling words, in the face of "Leaving Neverland" accusations.
If true, Michael’s fame, power, artistic talent, and support from fans around the world would have also had a part to play in the grooming process.
Safechuck opens the documentary by saying, “He was at the peak of his creativity, and he was at the peak of his success, and everybody wanted to meet Michael and be with Michael. He was already larger than life. And then he likes you.” Oprah discussed the grooming process in her special, which aired after the documentary. With an audience made up entirely of child sex abuse victims -- Oprah a survivor of child sex abuse herself -- Safechuck spoke of his mother saying, “she was groomed ... the world was groomed as well”.
Robson added, “The grooming had started long before we ever met him, because he was who he was.” Robson was mimicking Jackson’s dance moves from age five.
As many paedophiles are very good friends with the families of the children they abuse -- or may in fact also be family -- it makes it hard for abuse survivors to come forward, fearing their world will crumble. In the case of Michael Jackson, he is loved by people all over the world. This would have made it especially difficult for Robson and Safechuck to come forward, having to explain to every Jackson fan out there who loves him and adores him that Jackson hurt them in this way.
How could we expect children to articulate themselves, let alone defend themselves, against the force that is Michael Jackson? At least as adults now, they are better equipped to explain their stories.
"He was the most loving, caring person I knew," Wade said. "And he also sexually abused me for seven years."
Jackson’s sister Latoya also came out in 1993 to say her brother was a paedophile, further estranging herself from her family. She retracted her story years later, and if these allegations are true, we can start to understand why.
My emotional response to seeing "Leaving Neverland" has been an overwhelming urge to hug Wade and James.
Because if the allegations are true (which I believe they are without a doubt) Michael Jackson used us -- his fans -- to undertake his abuse.
He used his art to keep the secret, and to keep the boys that he abused loyal to him. He sang ‘heal the world’ and he abused children.
This is why the only appropriate response is that Michael’s music not be played. I will burn his CDs because I believe Wade and James.
Some may want to wait until a trial to make up their minds. But discrediting the authenticity of the documentary, just as Vogel did, or saying you will continue to listen to his music, without even watching the documentary first, is just continuing to prop up a person who may, in fact, be a child abuser, while knocking the victims to the ground.
So what if Wade has money and career problems? Who doesn’t! And why shouldn’t they sue Michael Jackson’s estate? Can you put a price tag on your childhood?
If you have supported Michael Jackson’s art, you owe it to the victims to at the very least, listen.
Koraly Dimitriadis is a freelance writer and the author of Love and F—k Poems and Just Give Me The Pills.