Michael Jackson’s legacy clouded by dark documentary
By ANDREW DALTON
AP Entertainment Writer
Wednesday, March 6
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Can the memory of Michael Jackson survive “Leaving Neverland”?
After all, it has bounced back before. The superstar’s image was tarnished by allegations of sexual abuse that shadowed him throughout much of his adult life and even stood trial on child molestation charges in 2005, for which he was acquitted. His untimely death in 2009 seemed to wash that stain away in an outpouring of public love and a resurgence of sales of his always popular music.
Now, 10 years later, the HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland” has aired detailed and disturbing stories from two men who say Jackson groomed them for sex and molested them when they were just little boys.
It has cast a spotlight on Jackson’s unsavory history at a #MeToo moment when old allegations against stars have been taking hold, and taking them down.
So far, there has been no evidence of major damage to Jackson’s music or his estate, which has made an estimated $2 billion since his death. His music has been featured in commercials and is the subject of a Cirque Du Soleil show in Las Vegas. A play about his life by Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage is due out on Broadway next year.
And it may not. After all, Jackson is dead now, which means he can’t be charged or put on trial, keeping the story in the headlines for months or years to come.
And there is Jackson’s nearly unparalleled star status — starting out as a cherub-faced 11-year-old sensation with the Jackson 5, then catapulting into a global phenomenon with the world’s best-selling album of all time, “Thriller,” to his credit and hits adored by multiple generations.
“It’s hard to compare someone of Michael Jackson’s caliber to anyone else,” said Danny Deraney, a publicist who often handles crisis management. “I don’t think we’ve seen anything like it.”
Still, Oprah Winfrey, with her vast influence, may have heralded a shift in public attitudes just by hosting the special “After Neverland,” in which she interviewed the documentary’s subjects, James Safechuck and Wade Robson.
“I hope we can get beyond Michael Jackson the icon, stop staring into the sun, and do what is necessary to help our children and ourselves,” Winfrey said in front of an audience of sexual abuse survivors and their supporters.
She did not directly condemn Jackson. But she praised the film, treated its assertions as truth, and said that she was expecting an earful from Jackson’s defenders.
“I’m gonna get it,” Winfrey, who interviewed Jackson before the allegations emerged in 1993 and his family after his death, said at the end of the show that aired Sunday and Monday on HBO and OWN just after the documentary.
And she did. Even before the special taped, she was subject to fierce criticism by some who left disparaging comments on her social media account.
It could be that Jackson’s fandom is so pervasive, especially in countries that don’t follow his personal news closely, that the documentary and renewed allegations will just make a small dent.
“For Michael Jackson’s fans, more so probably outside of America, I don’t think it will have an effect, because they’ll ride or die with Michael,” Deraney said.
Robson and Safechuck’s allegations didn’t emerge until 2013, when they filed lawsuits seeking money from Jackson’s estate that have since been thrown out and are under appeal. Both men had previously denied Jackson sexually abused them and had been among his fiercest defenders when Jackson was alive, but say having their own children and Jackson’s death led them to confront their truth.
Because of the men’s past denials, some Jackson fans have dismissed their testimonies as lies, motivated by money. Some even refused to watch the documentary. Still, after the film began airing, there were casual fans who felt gutted by the revelations, with some saying they could not listen to his music the same way — if at all.
“People have already made the decision one way or the other,” Deraney said. “I think when a lot of people think of Michael Jackson they already think ‘pedophile,’ whether or not there is any proof.”
“I think what it comes down to,” Deraney added, “is future generations.”
Many millennials have only vague knowledge of the Jackson accusations, and are shocked even by facts that are acknowledged by both sides.
“I’m young enough to have not been aware of the allegations about Michael Jackson as they were happening,” 31-year-old New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie tweeted while watching the documentary. “It is WILD TO ME that anyone thought his behavior around and constant contact with young boys was remotely okay.”
Some of Jackson’s fellow artists have indicated they will not give him and his influence up easily, and say they can separate the performer from the person.
Jason Derulo recently released the first music and videos from a planned boxed set of EPs that the singer and dancer made in tribute to Jackson. It’s set to be released in its entirety on June 25, the 10th anniversary of Jackson’s death.
“Michael was the sole reason I started singing and dancing, so this was a way for me to give back,” Derulo, who has not seen “Leaving Neverland,” told The Associated Press. “I started this project because of my love of the performer that Michael Jackson is and the influence that he had on my life as the best performer that ever lived. This has nothing to do with anyone’s personal life.”
India.Arie says it was right to speak out against R. Kelly, who faces new sexual abuse charges after the Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly” aired more than a decade after he was cleared of child pornography charges. But Jackson’s situation is different, the singer said.
“I think it’s too late for people to be saying ‘mute Michael Jackson,’” Arie told the AP.
“With R. Kelly there’s video,” she said, referencing a sex tape that allegedly shows the singer’s abuse. “With Michael Jackson, there’s a lot of speculation. I don’t know if it’s going to go as far. … Not because we love him more, I just think it’s a different situation.”
Jackson’s estate, his most ardent fans, and his family, have no such ambiguity in their views. They say the documentary repeats discredited allegations from admitted liars.
Jackson’s brothers said they were already in a rough period of managing his memory and legacy with their father Joseph Jackson’s death last year, when they heard that “Leaving Neverland” was coming.
“This time is difficult for us because you know Michael, coming up on the 10th anniversary of his passing and my father passed away six months ago,” Marlon Jackson told the AP last week. “So those things are still there, and you never get rid of them. You learn to live with them. And now we’re dealing with something that’s totally different but has no truth to it. There’s no facts at all.”
At least one prominent and formerly devoted fan says he’s been forced to reconsider.
“I’ve spent a lifetime loving MJ,” Los Angeles Times music writer Gerrick D. Kennedy wrote after seeing the documentary’s premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.
“Roughly an hour into ‘Leaving Neverland,’ it felt like my chest had caved in …. It wasn’t long before I accepted that ‘Leaving Neverland’ would force me — and likely many others who also feel a deep connection to Jackson’s work — to see that none of us really knew him. And that maybe we’d been avoiding the truth.”
The subjects of the documentary themselves don’t have strong feelings about whether people should give up Jackson’s music.
“It’s a chance to reevaluate who you want to be your idols,” Safechuck told the AP at Sundance. “Because you can write a song, does that mean you should be people’s moral compass? … It’s less about tearing down somebody and more about an opportunity of who do we want to look up to.”
“There’s plenty of other amazing people to fill that role.”
Associated Press Writers Gary Gerard Hamilton and Lindsey Bahr contributed to this report.
Follow Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton .
R. Kelly cries, calls accusers ‘liars’ in sex abuse case
CHICAGO (AP) — R&B star R. Kelly cried, stood up and ranted about being “assassinated” during his first interview since being charged with sexual abuse, calling his accusers “liars” and saying people are going after him for his money.
Kelly, one of the best-selling music artists of all time, told Gayle King of “CBS This Morning” that he never sexually abused women or controlled their lives. The 52-year-old singer was charged last month with sexually abusing four females dating back to 1998, including three underage girls.
“All of them are lying,” Kelly said in segments of the interview broadcast Wednesday. “I have been assassinated.”
Kelly, out on bail following his Feb. 22 arrest in Chicago, said he has done “lots of things wrong” when it comes to women, but said he has apologized. He denies doing anything against their will. The singer said he believes social media is to blame for creating the allegations against him.
At one point during the interview, Kelly stands up and rants, saying: “I have been buried alive, but I’m alive.” He says he needs someone to help him “not have a big heart.”
“You all don’t want to believe the truth,” he said.
When pressed about whether he was attracted to younger women, the 52-year-old Kelly said: “I’m an older man who loves all women.” He acknowledged living and being in a relationship with two young women.
The recording artist has been trailed for decades by allegations that he violated underage girls and women and held some as virtual slaves. Kelly has consistently denied any sexual misconduct and was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008. Those charges centered on a graphic video that prosecutors said showed him having sex with a girl as young as 13.
As part of his current case, Kelly is forbidden from having any contact with females younger than 18. He has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse.
Interviews with the two women who live with Kelly will air Friday, including one woman whose parents say is being held against her will. Kelly suggested the young woman’s parents were in it for the money and put blame on them for his relationship with their daughter, saying they brought her to watch him perform when she was a teenager.
CBS said it interviewed Kelly for 80 minutes. More of the interview is expected to air Thursday,
In an excerpt that aired Tuesday night, Kelly told King that allegations of him having sex with and abusing underage girls were “not true,” calling them “rumors.” When King asked Kelly if he has held women against their will, he replied: “That’s stupid!”
“Use your common sense. Forget the blogs, forget how you feel about me,” Kelly said. “How stupid would it be for me, with my crazy past and what I’ve been through — oh right now I just think I need to be a monster, and hold girls against their will, chain them up in my basement, and don’t let them eat, and don’t let them out.”
When King persisted in questioning, Kelly angrily responded: “Stop it. Y’all quit playing! Quit playing! I didn’t do this stuff! This is not me!”
He cried as he hit his hands together, saying: “I’m fighting for my (expletive) life.”
Kelly also noted he was acquitted in the child porn case and accused prosecutors of trying the same case again.
“When you beat something, you beat it. You can’t double jeopardy me like that. It’s not fair,” Kelly said.
Michael Avenatti, a lawyer for two Kelly accusers, responded to Kelly’s “double jeopardy” comment Tuesday on Twitter.
“He fails to understand that it doesn’t matter ‘how long ago’ it happened. And he also has no clue as to how ‘double jeopardy’ works,” the attorney tweeted.
In a follow-up tweet, Avenatti addressed the emotion that Kelly shows in the interview: “R. Kelly’s tears are out of fear and despair. Because he knows that after over two decades of sexually abusing underage girls, we blew this wide open and have him and his enablers dead to rights.”
Check out the AP’s complete coverage of the investigations into R. Kelly.
How to distinguish a psychopath from a ‘shy-chopath’
March 6, 2019
Author: John Edens, Professor of Psychology, Texas A&M University
Disclosure statement: John Edens has received funding from the National Institute of Mental Health to conduct research on individuals in criminal justice and forensic settings.
Partners: Texas A&M University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
What makes a criminal a psychopath?
Their grisly deeds and commanding presence attract our attention – look no further than Ted Bundy, the subject of a recent Netflix documentary, and cult leaders like Charles Manson.
But despite years of theorizing and research, the mental health field continues to hotly debate what are the defining features of this diagnosis. It might come as a surprise that the most widely used psychiatric diagnostic system in the U.S., the DSM-5, doesn’t include psychopathy as a formal disorder.
As a personality researcher and forensic psychologist, I’ve spent the last quarter-century studying psychopaths inside and outside of prisons. I’ve also debated what, exactly, are the defining features of psychopathy.
Most agree that psychopaths are remorseless people who lack empathy for others. But in recent years, much of this debate has centered on the relevance of one particular personality trait: boldness.
I’m in the camp that believes boldness is critical to separating out psychopaths from the more mundane law-breakers. It’s the trait that creates the veneer of normalcy, giving those who prey on others the mask to successfully blend in with the rest of society. To lack boldness, on the other hand, is to be what one might call a “shy-chopath.”
The boldness factor
About 10 years ago, psychologist Christopher Patrick and some of his colleagues published an extensive literature review in which they argued that psychopaths were people who expressed elevated levels of three basic traits: meanness, disinhibition and boldness.
Most experts in the mental health field generally agree that the prototypical psychopath is someone who is both mean and, at least to some extent, disinhibited – though there’s even some debate about exactly how impulsive and hot-headed the prototypical psychopath truly is.
In a psychological context, people who are mean tend to lack empathy and have little interest in close emotional relationships. They’re also happy to use and exploit others for their own personal gain.
Highly disinhibited people have very poor impulse control, are prone to boredom and have difficulty managing emotions – particularly negative ones, like frustration and hostility.
In adding boldness to the mix, Patrick and his colleagues argued that genuine psychopaths are not just mean and disinhibited, they’re also individuals who are poised, fearless, emotionally resilient and socially dominant.
Although it had not been the focus of extensive research for the past few decades, the concept of the bold psychopath isn’t actually new. Famed psychiatrist Hervey Cleckley described it in his seminal 1941 book, “The Mask of Sanity,” in which he described numerous case examples of psychopaths who were brazen, fearless and emotionally unflappable.
Ted Bundy is an excellent example of such a person. He was far from unassuming and timid. He never appeared wracked with anxiety or emotional distress. He charmed scores of victims, confidently served as his own attorney and even proposed to his girlfriend while in court.
“It’s probably just being willing to take risk,” Bundy said, in the Netflix documentary, of what motivated his crimes. “Or perhaps not even seeing risk. Just overcome by that boldness and desire to accomplish a particular thing.”
Seeds planted in the DSM
In the current DSM, the closest current diagnosis to psychopathy is antisocial personality disorder. Although the manual suggests that it historically has been referred to as psychopathy, the current seven diagnostic criteria for antisocial personality disorder mostly fall under the umbrella of disinhibition – qualities like “recklessness,” “impulsiveness” and, to a lesser extent, meanness, which are evident in only two criteria: “lack of remorse” and “deceitfulness.”
There’s no mention of boldness. In other words, you don’t have to be bold to have antisocial personality disorder. In fact, because you only need to meet three of the seven criteria to be diagnosed with the disorder, it means you don’t even need to be all that mean, either.
However, the most recent revision to the DSM, the fifth edition, did include a supplemental section for proposed diagnoses in need of further study.
In this supplemental section, a new specifier was offered for those who meet the diagnosis for antisocial personality disorder. If you have a bold and fearless interpersonal style that seems to serve as a mask for your otherwise mean and disinhibited personality, you might also be diagnosable as a psychopath.
Can a psychopath be meek?
Whether this new model, which seems to put boldness center stage in the diagnosis of psychopathy, ultimately will be adopted into subsequent iterations of the DSM system remains to be seen.
Several researchers have criticized the concept. They see meanness and disinhibition as much more important than boldness when deciding whether someone is a psychopath.
Their main issue seems to be that people who are bold – but not mean or disinhibited – actually seem to be well-adjusted and not particularly violent. In fact, compared with being overly introverted or prone to emotional distress, it seems to be an asset in everyday life.
Other researchers, myself included, tend to view those criticisms as not particularly compelling. In our view, someone who is simply disinhibited and mean – but not bold – would not be able to pull off the spectacular level of manipulation that a psychopath is capable of.
To be sure, being mean and disinhibited is a bad combination. But absent boldness, you’re probably not going to show up on the evening news for having schemed scores of investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars. The chances that you’ll successfully charm unsuspecting victim after unsuspecting victim into coming back to your apartment to sexually assault them seem pretty slim.
That being said, timid but mean people – the “shycho-paths” – almost certainly do exist, and it’s probably best to stay away from them, too.
But you’re unlikely to confuse them with the Ted Bundys and Charles Mansons of the world.
Elizabeth Bent, Research Associate in Microbiology, University of Guelph: Is it possible for a bold psychopath to mask her boldness with fake emotional distress, in order to better blame her victims for invented crimes? Just curious if you’ve met anyone that does this.
Optimism In the Face of Crisis: There Is No Planet B Mike Berners-Lee’s new book plots a practical path forward despite the challenges
E – The Environmental Magazine March 4, 2019
Feeding the world, climate change, biodiversity, antibiotics, plastics – the list of concerns seems endless. But what is most pressing, what are the knock-on effects of our actions, and what should we do first? Do we all need to become vegetarian? How can we fly in a low-carbon world? Should we frack? How can we take control of technology? Does it all come down to population? And, given the global nature of the challenges we now face, what on Earth can any of us do?
Fortunately, Mike Berners-Lee has crunched the numbers and plotted a course of action that is practical and even enjoyable. There Is No Planet B: A Handbook for the Make or Break Years maps it out in an accessible and entertaining way, filled with astonishing facts and analysis. For the first time you’ll find big-picture perspective on the environmental and economic challenges of the day laid out in one place, and traced through to the underlying roots – questions of how we live and think. This book will shock you, surprise you – and then make you laugh. And you’ll find practical and even inspiring ideas for what you can actually do to help humanity thrive on this – our only – planet.