Michael Jackson, the Rule of Scientific Parsimony, and Cognitive Dissonance

There are many explanations and theories for Jackson’s behavior with children. It may seem incredible that everybody has the same information about Jackson yet they come to such different conclusions, however it is not as incredible as it seems. It all has to do with the interpretation of the information and the intellectual rigor used to come to a conclusion.

One of the most effective ways of coming to a intelligent conclusion on any sort of speculative subject is to use the rule of scientific parsimony. You may have heard this referred to as Occam’s Razor. The method is this – when weighing up up two theories we should use the conclusion which results in the least amount of assumptions, or, the principle that in explaining a thing no more assumptions should be made than are necessary. When it comes to Jackson, once you understand how acquaintance molester pedophiles behave, how their victims behave, and how the victims parents behave, there is one and only one assumption to be made – that Jackson was an acquaintance molester pedophile.

There is no need for further assumptions or explanations; all of Jackson’s behavior – from his need to share his bed with young boys, his pursuit of young boys, his books of nude boys, his nude and partially nude photographs of his young friends, his payments to both parents who complained about his behavior with their sons and the parents who were compliant, his lack of believable adult female relationships, his comments about children, his use of thugs such as Anthony Pellicano to attempt to silence boys, their parents and critics, his secrecy and manipulation – becomes obvious and crystal clear if we apply the rule. There is no need to come up with incredible stories which involve elaborate conspiracies involving hundreds of people, extortionists, liars (apart from Jackson and those around him), Jackson’s so called secret girlfriends, lost childhoods, regression or Jackson’s supposed purity.

To attempt to explain away Jackson’s behavior using any other means requires an avalanche of contradictory theories, often ones that are totally ridiculous. The explanation that Jackson had the mind of a 10 year old is often put forth as an explanation for his rapport with children, yet the same people putting forth this notion also praise his business acumen and laud his business achievements. The explanation that Jackson collected books with pictures of naked boys for art purposes is belied by the lack of any kind of art, drawings or sculptures by Jackson featuring figures (of boys, girls, adults or otherwise).

Naturally, Jackson fans can’t come to terms with the fact that Jackson was a pedophile, which leads to cognitive dissonance.

What is Cognitive Dissonance?

There is a huge amount of literature available on cognitive dissonance, and we can only hope to skim the surface of that knowledge in our explanation here. If you want to learn more about it you could start with Leon Festinger’s original ‘A Theory of Cognitive Dissonace’ and work your way from there. We’ll try and explain it in the simplest way possible.

A cognition can be considered to be a belief. Cognitive dissonance occurs where someone holds two beliefs, but knows that one is not compatible with the other. This causes tension which must be resolved. An example is someone that enjoys eating too much, but realizes that this will be harmful to their health. Dissonance, being unpleasant, motivates a person to change his cognition. There are three ways to resolve the dissonance that may occur in someone’s mind.

  1. Change beliefs – This is the simplest way to resolve dissonance. In our example, the overeating person would just decide that eating huge amounts of food would be OK. Of course, people find it difficult to change long held beliefs so this is the least common way that dissonance is handled.
  2. Change actions – probably the most effective way to eradicate dissonance. The overeater simply eats less and there is no further tension.
  3. Change perception of action – or, in other words, to rationalise. For example, the overeater will convince themselves that they can go on a diet any time, or that they shouldn’t have to give up something they enjoy for some nebulous health problems that may or may not happen in the future.

How does this apply to people who make excuses for Jackson’s behavior? They keep coming up with convoluted explanations as to why Jackson’s behavior was entirely acceptable, even though they know, in their hearts, that it is wrong. Normally, they would not countenance a middle aged man who lived in their neighborhood who had young boys over for sleepovers, owned books which featured naked boys, was accused multiple times of molestation and had toys and games in his backyard to attract his preferred age group of boys. They would, in fact, be horrified, and would do all they could to warn others of this danger to children as soon as they found out about it.

Yet, with Jackson, they can’t hold the differing views that Jackson was a great artist, someone who looked so kind, yet was in fact an acquaintance molester pedophile. They need to rationalize (or even dismiss) his actions (and the objects he owned) in an ever larger and convoluted way so that they can hold both the idea that they should be (quite rightly) suspicious of, for example, men who sleep with children and the idea that Jackson did just that. Some of their rationalizations include:

  • Sleeping with someone doesn’t equal sex.
  • His accusers were only after money.
  • The kids asked to be in his bedroom.
  • The naked boy books were sent by fans, and were part of a huge library (debunked here).
  • He had sex with his wives, so he couldn’t be a pedophile.
  • He loved all children.
  • He was acquitted.
  • He had the mind of a child.

On the surface, these rationalizations may appear plausible to some, however, let’s go back to our friendly neighborhood middle aged man with a predilection for the company of young boys – would they be making the same excuses for him? If the answer is an emphatic no, as it should be, then we can reasonably conclude that they are suffering from cognitive dissonance.

In general, most people will (eventually) change their beliefs on a subject after enough contradictory evidence emerges. For most people, evidence emerges that is so solid and undeniable that it is easier to give up a complex worldview than have to constantly generate excuses why this evidence is false. Other individuals, especially when they have support networks of others reinforcing a delusion or worldview, will go to such great lengths to rationalize away dissenting ideas that after a certain point, an admission of error would cause the collapse of an entire web of mutually supporting beliefs. This is why Jackson fans become so aggressive towards Jackson realists for exposing truths about Jackson – it requires more and more rationalizations for them to think up.

Now, at this point, some Jackson fans reading this essay may be angry and, in their mind, saying that it is Jackson defenders who are in the right and that it is actually Jackson realists who are the ones suffering from cognitive dissonance. Sadly, that would be the level of intelligence to be expected from people who defend Jackson. Unfortunately, Realists cannot, by definition, suffer from cognitive dissonance because there is none. Jackson Realists have no struggle in their conscience with the fact that Jackson’s actions, even in the best possible light, towards children was at best inappropriate (and at worst illegal and reprehensible). It did not help those children who were dragged away from family, friends and routine to spend night after night in Jackson’s bed, even if, according to fans, there was no molestation. Jackson Realists know that Jackson’s behavior was wrong and that there is no excuse for it.

All is not lost for Jackson fans, however. There is a way to get rid of that dissonance. Accept the fact that Jackson was a pedophile, change your belief that it was acceptable for Jackson to have had sleepovers, collect child erotica, take children away from friends and family. Enjoy his music, but don’t say it’s OK for him to have exploited children (because that’s what you are doing, no matter how you dress it up).