“The crisis-management objective was acquittal through reasonable doubt, and it was achieved. Restoring the iconic status of his name was never on the table.” – Eric Dezenhall, Dezenhall Resources.
“It’s a huge catalogue. It’s very valuable, it’s worth a lot of money, and there is a big fight going on right now as we speak about that. I can’t comment on it. There’s a lot of conspiracy. I’ll say that much.” – Michael Jackson
First and foremost, this is a book aimed squarely at fans. With phrases such as “Michael made the earth stand still”, “Michael seemed to have the appearance of an ancient king”, and “The pop star seemed to have a white light around him that transcended all…” in the opening chapters, this book sets the tone for what prospective readers have in store. Jones gushes her admiration for Jackson, but one wonders exactly how genuine it is. But more of that later.
Whilst it is undeniable that Jackson has star power, some people need reminding that he is also human – with all the faults that entails. Indeed, Jones (as all Jackson defenders must eventually) bases her tale and supports her story with the twin myths attached to Jackson – those of victimhood and paranoia.
First, to the victimhood. Jackson must have learned at a young age that to feign victimhood as a way to gain sympathy. Once he found it worked, he pulled it when things became inconvenient. The longest running one of these is his “lost childhood” statements. One would have to have lived in a cave not to have heard one of Jackson’s many quotes as to his lost childhood. It’s true that Joe Jackson, Michael’s father, was a tyrant. It’s true that Jackson had to work long hours, rehearsing and performing, driven by a father who craved success for his family. It’s true that Jackson missed out on a lot of opportunities that his peers had for play and discovering the world. None of that is in doubt. What is certain is that Jackson tried to make up for that lost childhood for too many years – so long in fact that it became a cover for attracting his “special friends” into his world. Had Jackson retained the purity and innocence of childhood it may have been believable, however the huge quantity of pills, porn, booze and child erotica found at Neverland puts paid to that notion.
Defending Jackson thus becomes a blame game – everybody but Jackson is responsible for the bad stuff. Jackson never broke a needle off in his leg while injecting drugs, he was the “victim” of a spider bite; Jackson didn’t molest any boys, he was the “victim” of “extortionists”; Jackson didn’t pay millions of dollars to boys to silence them, he was the “victim” of bad advice. There is always a ready excuse at the fingers of his defenders, everything is OK because nothing was ever Jackson’s fault. This is the nub of staunch defenders of Jackson’s thinking – that they are usually victims themselves and identify with a victim mentality is beyond doubt. Puzzlement ensues as to why they don’t feel the same empathy towards the victims of Jackson’s attentions, and remember that no matter what you think of the molestation allegations, his “special friends” were victims. Witness the harassment, innuendos and schoolyard taunts of Jackson’s “special friends” when their peers discovered they had shared a bed with Jackson. Jackson should have just said no.
Secondly, the paranoia. As evidenced by the quote at the top of the page, Jackson felt paranoid. Whilst he was surrounded by vultures, he allowed himself to be. Vultures come with superstar territory, and it is not unique to Jackson or any other celebrity. However, it is well to remember that at the beginning of his career Jackson had superb managers and advisors – Frank Dileo being one, John Branca being another – yet these fell by the wayside as Jackson’s career progressed. They were replaced by progressively corrupt and incompetent staff, one need not wonder why. Jackson’s unhealthy paranoia spread further and further afield until it encompassed nearly everybody he was involved with, including most of his former trusted (and trustworthy) staff, the Sony Corporation, the media and even his own family. Nowadays, according to some fans, nearly everyone is out to “get” Jackson and tarnish his name. Former friends, former publicists, former managers and associates – if any of them speak out of turn and say something bad about Jackson, and it’s usually the truth, they are immediately put on the fan “hit list”, to be hated and ridiculed for evermore. Those who defend Jackson are revered and lauded, even if they lie. Fans have inherited the paranoia of Jackson, making them look ridiculous and slightly crazy. The unstated truth is that Jackson allowed himself to be surrounded, over time, by lower and lower class people, culminating in his acceptance of the Arvizo family. Jones’ explanation follows predictable lines, that Jackson was vulnerable and lonely. She ignores the fact that Jackson was wealthy and powerful, according to business associates he gave no quarter in dealing with them.
In the book Jones uses both devices – Jackson as victim, and paranoia. It’s not called ‘Michael Jackson Conspracy’ for nothing. Yet for all that, Jones misses one very important thing. She fails to give us a convincing motive for this supposed ‘conspiracy’ against Jackson by the media. She may believe that the media could have made money from his downfall, but that is mere conjecture. Conjecture doth not a conspiracy make. She even infers that there was a conspiracy between Sony Corporation and The Santa Barbara DA to wrest the ‘Beatles’ catalogue away from Jackson, but in the end even she has to admit that there is ‘no evidence’ of such a conspiracy (or even evidence of a connection between Sony and the Santa Barbara DA).
Jones’ contention from the start is that Jackson was a victim of the media. This is disengenuous to say the least. Jackson is not alone in being a celebrity that is reported on negatively by the press – ask any high school Media Studies student who will tell you that bad news sells and that good news doesn’t. Jones also directly criticizes herself because she was part of that same media pack. The bottom line though, is that the media is giving the public what they want. The cult of celebrity in America is such that every tiny tidbit of news about famous people is clamoured after by the public. Jones admitted this herself in a 2008 interview:
“There’s this ghoulish sense of everyday people taking pleasure in witnessing the downfall of celebrities; this morbid sense of glee at seeing those better off than ourselves being punished for their success.” – Aphrodite Jones
That there was so much negative press about Jackson is hardly surprising – once it was found out he shared a bed with children his reputation was in tatters. No matter how fans may want to justify it, the world at large doesn’t like the sound of that and it’s not surprising. That Jackson was a celebrity made no difference – his sleeping with children wouldn’t be tolerated from any adult male, and if he was an ordinary Joe he would have been crucified even more. He is lucky that he got off so lightly in fact. Nevertheless, Jones paints Jackson’s treatment by the media as some sort of conspiracy, rather than what it actually was – feeding the public’s disgust at a grown man’s behaviour, a public seeking to confirm their views that what he was doing was wrong. Of course, Jackson’s defenders have their catchcry that “a bed doesn’t mean sex!”, yet ask them their reaction if their husband or wife shared a bed with a member of the opposite sex. They wouldn’t be so forgiving then. It would have been far better for Jackson to have stopped sleeping with children after the first allegations to remove any chance of people getting the wrong idea – but for his defenders, it is our “dirty minds” which condemn him, not his actions – ignoring all social mores along the way.
Incredibly, Jones expects the media to share her and other fans’ view that grown men sleeping with children is ‘sweet’ and ‘innocent’ – if not in all cases, then in Jackson’s case because he said it was all innocent. As backup, they cite the many boys who protest that ‘nothing happened’, as if boys are going to admit to homosexual molestation when all the research says they won’t.
“Most of these victims never disclose their victimization. Younger children may believe they did something “wrong” or “bad” and are afraid of getting into trouble. Older children may be more ashamed and embarrassed. Many victims not only do not disclose, but they strongly deny it happened when confronted. In one case several boys took the stand and testified concerning the high moral character of the accused molester. When the accused molester changed his plea to guilty, he admitted that the boys who testified for him were also victims.” – Kenneth Lanning, Former Supervisory Special Agent Federal Bureau of Investigation
For all that, Jones contends that the media was pushing for a guilty verdict so that they could continue their negative coverage of Jackson and make money.
“If Michael Jackson had been found guilty it would have created an entire cottage industry for the media.” – Aphrodite Jones
Yet the not guilty verdict never stopped the media covering Jackson after the trial. His behaviour was still guaranteed to fill column inches and generate income for the media. This “cottage industry” that Jones refers to was always there and always will be. In reality, Jones is criticizing the media for doing their job – giving the public what they want. If you want to chime in here about journalsistic integrity, don’t bother. Jones is talking about the lower end of the media here – the part which is the most popular with the public – where profit always comes before accuracy. Higher end publications have always been fair in their reporting of Jackson.
A bit of background about Jones. She has written several true crime books, and some of them have done well on the bestseller lists, albeit with mixed reviews. How she came to write the book is curious – she sat through the entire 2005 Jackson trial and was convinced he was guilty as charged – and says she was surprised when the verdicts were “not guilty”. She admits that during the trial she was just “reporting facts” and not bashing Jackson. Towards the end of the trial, she started feeling “sad” for Jackson (as victim, presumably). Afterwards, she went to see some fans at the gates of Neverland and after speaking with them she realized… what? That she could make some money writing a pro-Jackson book? This anecdote is very telling:
” … At a dinner house in March of 2006 on Ventura Blvd and Coldwater Canyon Blvd here in The San Fernando Valley, Aphrodite Jones told me POINT-BLANK, and emphatically stated that Michael Jackson was GUILTY of child molestation. … “
Whilst just an anecdote, there is no reason to suggest the source is lying, and Ms Jones hasn’t come forward to dispute the statement, so we will allow it to stand. We’ll have to assume that with this book she is tapping into fans feeling sorry for Jackson. In any case, despite her previous success, no publishing house felt that her book would garner enough sales (although Jones characterizes their rejections as anti-Jackson bias) and she decided to self publish. People should be suspicious of someone who couldn’t think for themselves deeply enough during the trial, someone who admits they were influenced by the “superficial” media coverage, and then contends that they can write a book detailing the “truth”.
At the start of the book, Jones devotes an entire chapter to the Martin Bashir documentary “Living with Michael Jackson”. She rails against Bashir for “mocking” Jackson – although anybody who has watched the documentary objectively would see that all the cringeworthy moments were of Jackson’s own making. Cruising around hotel corridors on an electric wheelchair, dangling his baby over a 4th floor balcony, attempting to feed his baby through a veil, insisting a statue of the Jolly Green Giant was his “best friend”, at one point insisting he had a romantic relationship with his third child’s mother and then contradicting himself later when he said the mother was a surrogate, Jackson was merely laying bare his bizarre life. Bashir didn’t need to comment and most people would be hard pressed to remember any of the host’s lines from the show. While eccentricity (and a little lying) is what is perhaps to be expected from Jackson, it was his admission that he shared his bed with children that caused real alarm. Add to that a young boy by his side holding Jackson’s hand and resting his head on Jackson’s shoulder and most people became concerned. It is ironic to realize that Jackson was using Gavin Arvizo, and Martin Bashir, to try and make himself look good to the world, to try and portray a positive image yet it had totally the opposite effect. For anybody, especially Jones (being a member of the media herself), to criticize Bashir for using Jackson is a furphy – it was Jackson attempting to use Bashir in an attempt to revive a flagging career and gain some sympathy from the public.
Jones then goes on to do exactly as Jackson’s defence did during the trial – rather than discredit the evidence against Jackson, she attempts to discredit the family making the claims against Jackson. These chapters don’t stand up well to scrutiny. They are filled with impressions, opinions, and twisting of the testimony. For instance, she uses the example of defence attorney Tom Mesereau flourishing a copy of a pornographic ‘Barely Legal’ magazine and asking the accuser’s brother if this was what Jackson showed the boys – the boy, thinking he meant a ‘Barely Legal’ magazine, answered in the affirmative – Mesereau then announced this was an issue which came out after the boys had been at Neverland. Jones presents this as proof that the boy was lying, ignoring his protestations that he didn’t mean that exact copy. When Mesereau points out that the accuser’s grandmother told the accuser “..if a man doesn’t do it, he may rape a woman” rather than Jackson, Mesereau refuses to accept that both Jackson and the grandmother said it. Mesereau pulls out one of the accuser’s interviews where he only mentions the grandmother’s quote, and ignores another interview where the boy said that it was also Jackson’s quote. Jones lauds this slick lawyering against a young boy. In fact, Jones makes the family sound so horrible, bad mannered, ill behaved, manipulative and conniving that one is left with the thought ‘Why on Earth did Jackson befriend these people?’.
A case could be made for his friendship and support when the boy was ill, but after he became well it is a mystery as to why Jackson let these people into his life. Jones attempts to make a case that Jackson had no idea about what they were like, yet Jackson wasn’t so myopic as she suggests. She even contradicts herself when describing the testimony of Cindy Bell, who testified to the Arvizo’s behaviour – food fights, rowdy behaviour and rudeness – on a 12 seat passenger jet. Surely Jackson couldn’t have missed that! Jackson could have made friends with anybody, and loneliness couldn’t be a defense – he had a huge extended family and in court it was revealed that his young cousins were frequent visitors to his home, even when the Arvizo family were there. Other frequent visitors were the Cascio (erroneously referred to in the Jones book as ‘Casio’) children. Following all that to it’s logical, albeit distasteful, conclusion is that Jackson wanted the Arvizo family around because a young boy was part of that family – a young boy who was willing to sleep in his bed.
Later, Jones espouses on the testimony from past victims. Sadly, one witness, a son of one of Jackson’s former maids, who testified that he had been molested by Jackson as a boy was dismissed by Jones as merely having been ‘tickled’ by Jackson. ‘Tickling’ that involved tears from the witness and 5 years of therapy. Jordie Chandler’s allegations were dismissed by Jones as ‘financially motivated’ – the 20 million dollar settlement was characterized as a ‘drop in the bucket’ for Jackson. Rather than focus on the principle of the matter, that Jackson paid the money to make the problem go away rather than defend his reputation, Jones in rather typical fashion makes Jackson out to be the victim. She cares not one whit for molestation victims, rather strangely she prefers to be on the side of a multi-millionaire with lawyers and PR people on tap – just because he is famous. Whilst she criticizes the families for accepting money instead of taking on a powerful celebrity, Jones seems oblivious to the impropriety of someone that is accused of molesting boys paying a settlement instead of standing and facing his accusers. To most people, these payments made Jackson look shifty, morally unaccountable and to some people, guilty.
When describing the testimony of June Chandler, the mother of the 1993 accuser, Jones becomes downright dishonest. She writes:
“She talked about the time when Jordie began to sleep with Michael in his room, showing no indication that anything unusual had happened to her son while he was in the presence of Michael”
Contrast that with June Chandler’s actual testimony:
Q. Now, when you got to Las Vegas, did you have — obviously you had a room —
Q. — in The Mirage. And who was in your room when you first got there? Who was staying in your room?
A. Jordan, myself, Lily and Michael.
Q. All in the same room?
Q. Now, did those arrangements change at any point in time?
Q. And when did they change?
A. The second night things changed.
Q. With regard to “things changed,” could you tell me what changed first?
A. Well, there were approximately three bedrooms in that suite at the Mirage Hotel. Lily and I were staying in one bedroom, Jordie had another bedroom, and Michael had another bedroom. The second night, they were going to see a performance, Cirque du Soleil performance.
Q. “They” meaning who?
A. Jordie and Michael —
A. — and Lily and I. It was around 11 p.m. at night, and I got a call from somebody at Cirque du Soleil saying, “Where is Michael?” And I said, “He should be there with my son.” They said, “He’s not here.” A little while later, another call, he still didn’t show up. They still did not show up. And I — there’s a knock on the door and it’s Michael and Jordan, and they came back into the suite. Michael —
Q. Now, let me stop you right there, okay?
Q. About what time is it when your son Jordan and the defendant in this case, Mr. Jackson, showed up?
A. Well, I think the performance started at 11:00, and I would say Jordan and Michael showed up around 11:30.
Q. Now, could you describe for the jury Mr. Jackson’s demeanor at the time that they came back to the room?
A. He was sobbing. He was crying, shaking, trembling.
Q. Michael Jackson was?
A. He was.
Q. And what about your son’s demeanor?
A. He was quiet.
Q. Now, at that point in time, did Mr. Jackson tell you why he was upset or crying?
Q. All right. Tell the jury what he said.
A. He said, “You don’t trust me? We’re a family. Why are you doing this? Why are you not allowing Jordie to be with me?” And I said, “He is with you.” He said, “But my bedroom. Why not in my bedroom? We fall asleep, the kids have fun. Boys” —
MR. MESEREAU: Objection. Nonresponsive; narrative.
THE COURT: Narrative; sustained.
Q. BY MR. SNEDDON: All right. Tell us what – Mr. Jackson said that he wanted your son to sleep with him in his bed – what you said to Mr. Jackson.
A. What I said to Michael was, “This is not” — “This is not anything that I want. This is not right. Jordie should be able to do what he wants to do. He should be able to fall asleep where he wants to sleep.”
Q. Is this you talking or Mr. Jackson speaking?
A. I was saying this. And Michael was trembling and saying, “We’re a family. Jordie is having fun. Why can’t he sleep in my bed? There’s nothing wrong. There’s nothing going on. Don’t you trust me?”
Q. All right. How long do you think this conversation lasted between you and Mr. Jackson over where Jordan was going to sleep that night?
A. I would say 20 to 30, 40 minutes.
Q. So it was a back-and-forth conversation; is that right?
Q. Do you recall how many times during that conversation that Mr. Jackson emphasized the fact that you didn’t trust him?
MR. MESEREAU: Objection; leading.
THE WITNESS: No, I don’t recall how many times —
THE COURT: Just a moment.
THE WITNESS: I’m sorry.
THE COURT: Overruled. Go ahead. You may answer.
Q. BY MR. SNEDDON: Go ahead.
A. I don’t recall how many times.
Q. Was it on more than one occasion?
A. Absolutely, yes.
Q. Was it on many occasions?
A. Quite a few.
Q. Do you remember how many times during the conversation that Mr. Jackson emphasized to you that you were family?
A. Many times.
Q. Did you at some point in time relent and allow your son to sleep with Michael Jackson in his bedroom?
A. Yes, I did.
Q. And was it after that discussion on that night?
Q. Is that the first occasion?
Q. When you were in Las Vegas, do you remember how many of the nights in Las Vegas that your son Jordan slept with the defendant, Michael Jackson, in Michael Jackson’s room?
A. I would say two occasions.
Q. Now, at some point in time after you had agreed to let your son Jordan sleep with Mr. Jackson, were you the recipient of a gift from Mr. Jackson?
A. Yes, I was.
Q. Would you describe that to the jury?
A. It was a gold bracelet, and it was given to me by Michael.
Q. And you say “a gold bracelet.” Had you seen that gold bracelet in a shop of some kind before?
A. I had seen it before, yes.
Q. And the brand name on that bracelet?
Q. Was it expensive, to your knowledge?
A. Oh, I — yes, it was.
Q. When was it you received this gift in relationship to having agreed to allow your son to sleep in bed with Mr. Jackson?
A. I think it was the next evening when we were attending a show, a magic show, by David Copperfield.
As you can see, something unusual did happen – Jackson was crying and begging for the boy to spend the night in his bed whilst the boy stood quiet, unwilling or unable to speak. Not only that, but June received a reward for allowing Jackson to spend the night with her son. Afterwards she testifies:
Q. Did you notice any change in your son —
Q. — Jordan?
Q. What was the nature of the change?
A. Well, he started dressing like Michael. He started acting withdrawn, sort of smart-alecky. Not as sweet as he normally was. And withdrawn. He just didn’t want to be with us, Lily and I.
Q. Had you always been close prior to that?
A. Extremely close.
As her testimony unfolded, June Chandler did indeed confirm that her son’s behaviour did become unusual after being around Jackson. She went on to describe the bizarre situation of a celebrity superstar spending nights in the suburban bedroom of a young boy:
Q And during this time, did Mr. Jackson ever spend the night at your residence?
A. Yes, he did.
Q. And do you recall on how many occasions Mr. Jackson spent the night at your residence?
A. I would say more than 30 times.
Q. And were some of those occasions on consecutive days or nights?
Q. And how long consecutively do you think that that occurred?
A. Oh. It could be a week or two at a time.
Q. Where did Mr. Jackson stay in the house?
A. In Jordan’s bedroom.
Q. Are there more than one bed in that room?
Jones portrays this as Jackson wanting to be a part of a normal family, yet June Chandler’s testimony made it very clear that Jackson wasn’t interested in spending time with her or her daughter alone, it was always with the boy. In fact, when Jackson slept over at the Chandlers, as soon as the boy left for school, Jackson would also leave rather than spend time with the mother. Jones attempts to portray June Chandler as a gold digger, and lauds Mesereau’s attempts to portray her and her husband as extortionists, yet Mesereau presented no evidence of extortion to the court. Mesereau was merely attempting to smear her character with loaded questions. Judge Melville sustained many objections to his questioning on the grounds that they were argumentative. Mesereau was openly hostile towards June Chandler, he knew how damaging her testimony was towards Jackson with regards to his relationships with boys. Mesereau never made a dent in her testimony over Jackson sleeping with her son and behaving inappropriately with him, and the gifts she received as rewards. Her final testimony? She very much regretted ever trusting Jackson.
The next chapter is devoted to the mother of the accuser. While Jones can’t be argued with as to the bizarreness of the woman – almost everybody agrees with that assessment – Jones tries to portray her as someone willing to do almost anything for money, someone who was salivating at the thought of cash payments coming her way, someone who merely accused Jackson so she could get a big payout. Jones’ portrayal falls down once we look at Janet Arvizo’s (and in fact, the whole Arvizo family’s) behaviour since the trial. Not one of them has accepted any of the standing offers for huge amounts of money from the media to tell their story. They have kept a dignified silence and refused to accept any of that easy money. This stymies the way Jones has chosen to describe the mother and her family as money grubbing grifters and opportunists.
Alas, dear reader, I got to page 212 (of 295) and came upon yet another gush from Jones – “[Jackson’s] mere presence caused a swirl of excitement that transferred into a rythm…” – and I just didn’t have the stomach to go any further. I realise that this book is directed at an audience, Jackson fans, and that they would love every bit of this book, but I just couldn’t take any more of Jones’ sycophantic prose, her dumbing down, her opinions presented as facts, her adulation of Mesereau and her playing down of important testimony. Jackson may have been acquitted of molestation, but the overwhelming evidence that he was a pedophile remain. However, the main thrust of her book – that Jackson was the victim of a media conspiracy – doesn’t hold water. I kept thinking of the double edged nature of the media (and I’m surprised Jones couldn’t see it for herself). Jackson exploited the media mercilessly when he needed to advance his career or to sell his albums, videos and concerts; he can hardly complain when the media wants to cover him in other ways. Controversy sells newspapers and Jackson provided plenty of that.
To believe in the picture that Jones paints of Jackson, we need to suspend belief. We have a man who she described as sweet and caring, yet employed a thug, Anthony Pellicano, to do his dirty work. We have a man who said “Children show me in their playful smiles the divine in everyone. This simple goodness shines straight from their hearts and only asks to be lived.” and “When I see children, I see the face of God. That’s why I love them so much.” – yet allowed his attorney to attack children on the stand during his trial. Jackson was constantly surrounded by friends, (such as the Cascios), yet he was “lonely”. We have to believe that a man who made it to the top of the ruthless and cut throat pop business was “vulnerable”. Jones trots out the lie that “children asked to sleep with Jackson” yet ignores the testimony of Joy Robson who told the court Jackson called her up asking her to deliver her son to his bed in the middle of the night, and June Chandler’s testimony above detailing how Jackson cried and begged for her son to sleep in his bed. We have to believe that a man with no sexual interest in children kept books of child homoerotica in his bedroom where he slept with boys. Jones wants us to believe that a man who managed a home with over 60 staff had no idea what was going on in that very home. Jones gives the impression that Jackson is a victim – a ploy which has worked for Jackson to cover his indiscretions for years, and ultimately what you need to believe if you want to believe this book.
After reading this book, thinking people are left with this distasteful scenario – if Jackson fans were in a social situation, and they saw a middle aged man leading a young boy by the hand to his bedroom to stay for the night, would they be thinking “how cute”? It’s enough to make you shudder.
 A high-powered but secretive crisis communications firm, Dezenhall Resources, worked with Jackson’s legal team in the months before the 2005 allegations of molestation became public to help anticipate potential lines of media inquiry and craft strategies to deflect media attacks. http://www.seattlepi.com/politico/407857_politico24518.html (retrieved 28th January 2011)
Q. Are you aware of any allegations being made that Mr. Jackson inappropriately touched you when you were with him?
A. Yes, I am. And I’m very mad about that.
Q. You’re mad about it?
A. Because it’s untrue, and they’re putting my name through the dirt. And I’m really, really, really not happy about it.
Macauley Culkin was also decidely unhappy about the treatment he received:
“I couldn’t believe that, first of all, these people were saying these things or — let alone that it was out there and people were thinking that kind of thing about me.” – Macauley Culkin testimony
 Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis – retrieved 12th August 2009
Testimony of Joy Robson, Jackson trial, 6th May 2005 (more details here)
See the list of items seized in 1993 here