Jerry Sandusky and Michael Jackson

The protestations of innocence by fans on behalf of Michael Jackson throw up some dangerous ethical precedents. By repeating Jackson’s exhortations to support his behavior, they are making it easier for other pedophiles to get their “message” out there.

In an impassioned plea to fans, one commentator, who spent years in the correctional system dealing with pedophiles, wrote:

Fans, if I was certain that Michael Jackson deserved your seemingly undying loyalty I would be impressed.

The truth is that I would not trust John Kennedy, though he was a fine president, or Tiger Woods, who was a fine golfer, with my wife because I love her. I would not trust my dog with Michael Vick even if he was good football player and I would not trust my teenage son with Michael Jackson because I love him.

When I think of my teenage son ( who is now a man) I think about the incredible gift that I was given and the awesome responsibility that went along with that. I truly would have laid down my life for him and most parents will say that about their children though unfortunately not all. Quite honestly not many parents who are mature and love their children would care what any court of law said about a man with such a muddied past. The minute they saw that connection to the profile, his own up-bringing, his “need” to be around other people’s children and his need for adoration etc, they would say, ” Come on home son, you don’t belong here”.

I could then safely say that Michael Jackson was a man who had a great talent and leave it at that. I guess I wouldn’t be finding out if he was a pedophile or not but my boy wouldn’t be his victim if he was. My conscience would clear I wouldn’t be going around saying my son and MJ were friends or whatever people got out of that. I certainly wouldn’t be indicating that I saw anything normal about what was going on.

Take a step back and question what message you are spreading and whether or not, tonight, or tomorrow, some teen who comes on here tells his parents that he knows a guy like Michael Jackson who just likes to spend time with kids and he wants to spend a night with him. Maybe the kids parents are boozers and passed out by the time he comes in to ask so he just goes.

It is a dangerous version of love that you are purporting kind of similar to what women who end up with dangerous, abusive husbands go through. Not everyone who says that they love you and will never hurt keep that promise.

Jerry Sandusky is accused of molesting several boys and his trial is pending. More details can be found on CNN.

Both Sandusky and Jackson were accused of molesting boys, and both have used the same defenses:

  • Both say they don’t care what people think about their behavior (in Jackson’s case sleeping with boys, in Sandusky’s case showering with boys), it was all innocent and they would continue with it;
  • Both said they have a deep love of children;
  • Both said they would “never harm a child”;
  • Both used charities to make themselves look like “the good guy” (see details here);
  • Both had witnesses to the abuse who remained silent for a time;
  • Jackson claimed the accusations were extortion, as has Sandusky’s lawyer;[1]
  • Both Jackson’s lawyer and Sandusky’s lawyer described their client as a “big overgrown kid”;
  • Both had a succession of boys as “special friends”.

I could go on but you get the general idea. Pedophiles can point to Jackson and say that his behavior was acceptable to many people so theirs should be too. The more people that say that Jackson’s behavior was OK, the more the barriers are broken down when others who behave like Jackson try to justify their actions.

If fans want to whitewash Jackson’s inappropriate behavior with boys, they need to be prepared that the concepts they put forward may be accepted in a general nature, not just when it applies to Jackson. Their promotion of pedophilic behavior – even unwittingly if they believe Jackson to be innocent – creates danger for potential victims as well as an ‘out’ for molesters. Anybody who supports actions that could be construed as pedophilic are crossing a dangerous line.

This applies even if you don’t believe that Jackson was guilty of child molestation!

Fans’ portrayal of settlement negotiations (to ensure a boy doesn’t have to take part in a damaging molestation trial) as “extortion” has left a door open for lawyers who are defending molestation charges against their clients, especially if they are rich, a celebrity, or part of a large organization[1].

If fans want to say it’s OK for grown men to sleep with children, the excuses they give for Jackson can be credibly used by others. This is wrong, and it throws up a valid question about ethics. Where can fans draw the line when defending Jackson’s behavior? How can they defend Jackson’s behavior with children as “appropriate” when clearly, in our society, it isn’t? This is something fans will have to bear in mind (but I fear they will, just like Jackson and Sandusky, continue their behavior even when it’s pointed out how inappropriate it is).

Herein lies the danger of the revisionism of Jackson’s behavior – although he is now dead, and cannot be tried any longer, but there are others who will step up and behave exactly as he did. Will fans condemn them, thus exposing their hypocrisy, or will fans act now and admit that Jackson’s behavior was inappropriate? I guess that depends on the amount of their emotional investment in a pop singer.

If there is any doubt that there isn’t a nexus between the behavior of Jackson, Sandusky and other boylovers, check out the article[2] below. Featured is the author of the report Child Molesters: A Behavioural Analysis, Ken Lanning.

‘Nice Guy Molesters’ Believe They’re ‘Child Lovers’

“I enjoy young people,” Jerry Sandusky told NBC’s Bob Costas Monday. “I love being around them.”

That was Sandusky’s explanation after being accused of 40 counts of child molestation charges. He enjoys kids. He started the popular and successful Second Mile charity; he says he even felt like a kid himself sometimes.

But that ‘nice guy’ defense is a classic tactic of a child sexual predator, said Ken Lanning, a former FBI special agent for 30 years and now a consultant in the area of crimes against children. This type of predator hones in on children who are particularly vulnerable, then gives them whatever it is they feel they’re missing. Poor? The predator will shower the child with gifts and money, Lanning said. No dad? The child molester looks to fill that void by acting as a fatherly figure.

“They call themselves child lovers,” said Lanning. “They nurture these kids, so when someone asks, ‘Did you molest this child?’ they say, ‘I would never molest or hurt a child.'”

“In their mind, it’s not molesting, it’s love,” he said.

The defense and justification is one that has been seen before in cases of alleged child molestation. When Michael Jackson was accused of such an act, he told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in a 1995 interview that he could “never harm a child or anyone. It’s not in my heart.”

Jackson was cleared of all charges after the accuser’s family and Jackson’s team came to a $20 million civil settlement.

In a 2003 documentary with Martin Bashir, “Living With Michael Jackson,” the music superstar talked about having sleepovers with children at his Neverland ranch. A boy who appeared in the documentary told Bashir that Jackson had never acted inappropriately during his time at the ranch.

Two years later, the boy accused Jackson of molestation and took him to trial. Jackson faced four more charges of child molesting, along with one charge of attempted child molesting and eight possible counts of providing alcohol to minors. Again, he was found innocent.

Child-lover molesters almost never use violence for sex, said Lanning. Instead, they groom and seduce and manipulate and use cooperation to get what they want out of the child.

“I can’t tell you how many cases where there are letters from the victim written to the accused, saying, ‘You’re the nicest person I ever met,’ or ‘You’ve been so good to me,'” said Lanning.

Many victims don’t tell anyone of the inappropriate behavior because they are considered “compliant child victims.”

“A child can’t legally consent to having sex, but some of them aren’t necessarily fighting him off,” said Lanning. “They’re developmentally immature, and later they feel ashamed and embarrassed that they cooperated in their victimization.”

At any one time, these types of child molesters have four different areas of focus going on at once.

“They operate in a pipeline,” said Lanning. “They always have their eye out for new victims and new kids to go in the pipeline; then they go into full seduction mode. They’re grooming the kids, and usually the parents, too, by showering the kids with gifts and attention. Then at some point, they’re having full sexual activity with the child; then later, maybe a year or two after this goes on, the kid gets too old and the predator is not interested anymore. He’ s trying to move him out – pushing him out the other end of the pipeline.”

The kids then often realize that the predator did not actually care about him. The predator used him and no longer has an interest in him sexually.

“That’s when victims often come forward,” said Lanning.

If parents feel suspicious, Salter said they should not feel like they need hard proof to remove a child from the situation.

“You must act conservatively when it comes to the health and safety of children,” said Anna Salter, a Wisconsin-based psychologist who has worked with sex offenders and victims for 30 years. “If you’re wrong, you’re wrong. If you’re right, you’ve really saved the kid from severe trauma.”

“I often tell parents, if any adult wants to be around your kids more than you do, beware,” said Lanning. “And beware of anything that seems to be too good to be true.”

During the Jackson trial, Lanning recalled many of Jackson’s friends and family coming to his defense by saying, “He’s dedicated his life to children. He loves children. He’s like a child himself.”

While Lanning does not want to discourage or call into question all the good people who do work with children, especially underserved youths, he said many of Jackson’s defenses didn’t actually clear him.

Lanning also said he can’t be sure whether Jackson actually did molest children at his ranch, “when people said he liked children more than adults and is always taking in troubled kids to his ranch, none of that means he’s not a child molester. I’m not saying he is, but that certainly doesn’t say he’s not. It fits with a consistent mold with many individuals who have this problem.”

For both Sandusky and Jackson, Lanning said, “nothing is unique about either situation when looking at child molestation charges.”

“Everyone is angry at Penn State, but it could happen again and we all need to understand that organizations are living organisms – the first priority is survival,” said Salter. “People underestimate the pull to save an organization, and we have to send a powerful message that, yes, there is the desire to protect the organization, but you have an allegiance to the larger society and to children not to yield to that pull.”


[1] “Grand jury reports say Sandusky sexually assaulted eight boys over a 15-year period, but Amendola says the accusations may relate to money. “In my opinion, we have a bunch of people who have read the allegations, realize that there is a large university involved and there may be a lot of money involved in lawsuits that will be coming. Until we sort through these allegations, we have absolutely no idea if they’re authentic or not,” he said.” – New Jersey Newsroom – Retrieved 20th November 2011

[2]ABC News – Retrieved 20th November 2011