Michael Jackson’s musical legacy is under scrutiny with many radio stations already worldwide banning his music after the ‘Leaving Neverland’ documentary rekindled allegations of child sexual abuse.
People in the Cayman Islands, like in everywhere worldwide, are divided on whether he was a paedophile or not, many loyalties split between his musical genius and questionable behaviour with young boys.
Nevertheless, whilst radio stations are banning him and many media institutions considering doing the same, two music museums in Detroit and Tennessee aren’t scrubbing the King of Pop from their exhibits. Not yet anyway.
The National Museum of African American Music says some Michael Jackson artefacts will be on display in a planned exhibit called “One Nation Under A Groove,” when the museum opens in downtown Nashville in early 2020. The museum has previously released renderings of the building’s design, featuring an image of Jackson on the exterior.
Meanwhile, in Detroit, the chairwoman and CEO of Motown Museum said its mission is to share the stories and artefacts of the history of Motown.
“Michael Jackson’s musical contributions remain part of the Motown story,” Robin Terry said. Motown Records was the first major label to record The Jackson 5, in which Michael debuted as a young star alongside his siblings and released their hits “I Want You Back” and “ABC.”
The HBO documentary aired detailed and disturbing stories from two men who say Jackson groomed them for sex and molested them when they were just little boys. Allegations of sexual abuse shadowed Jackson throughout much of his adult life, and he was acquitted on child molestation charges in 2005. Jackson died in 2009, aged 50. There’s been no initial evidence of major damage to Jackson’s estate or his music because of the new documentary, but public outrage is gathering.
The two-night, four-hour doc received mixed reviews from social media users, and Michael Jackson fans reportedly harassed Oprah Winfrey for conducting an after-show interview with Wade Robson and James Safechuck.
"I tried and tried and tried to get the message across to people that sexual abuse was not just abuse, it was also sexual seduction," Winfrey said on her decision to conduct the interview. "But, for me, this moment transcends Michael Jackson. It is much bigger than any one person.”
Meanwhile, the attorney who took Robson's hours long deposition ahead of Jackson's now infamous 2005 child molestation trial says he and Safechuck are lying about being abused by the King Of Pop and insists the pair were never paid off by the superstar.
Jackson's former lawyer and confidante Brian Oxman, 66, blasted the film, claiming Robson and Safechuck are simply chasing “fame and money”.
And for the first time the former attorney - who knew Jackson for three decades - details how he had numerous telephone calls with Robson to take his sworn out-of-court testimony ahead of the Gavin Arvizo trial and reveals how he repeatedly stated: “Michael never abused me.”
The once high-profile attorney was on the defence team which successfully helped Jackson get acquitted of 14 charges of abuse levelled at him by accuser Arvizo.
And at each point during his deposition and while sitting on the stand, Oxman says, Robson was “adamant” that Jackson never touched him or any other children.
Oxman said the Australian dance choreographer even volunteered to fly from his homeland to defend the Bad singer at the highly publicised trial.
The Internet has blazed over this documentary. Celebrity fandom has morphed into a vicious online tool, with superfan gangs - Beyonce's Beyhive, Justin Bieber's Beliebers, Cardi B's Bardi Gang, to name a few - attacking whenever their idol's reputation is thrown into question, no matter the circumstances.
And when celebrities face accusations of grievous crimes, as is the case with Jackson, psychiatrist Sue Varma said the urge to push back grows.
The phenomenon stems from a "need to have an escape, a fantasy, someone we aspire to be," she said. “It's a form of denial. They are superhuman and we want - rather, we need - to believe that they can do no wrong."
Jackson diehards swarmed Twitter as the doc aired, hijacking the film's eponymous hashtag to smear accusers while also defending their idol under #MJInnocent.
"Shame on you for dragging an innocent man," wrote one Twitter user with the handle @Claudia20195, calling alleged victims Wade Robson and James Safechuck "money hungry".
"The more I read into and watch this whole #FindingNeverland documentary the more angry I get," wrote another, @bailey_hensel. "These guys are exploiting a dead man to make a dollar... My heart is breaking for the Jackson family."
The documentary's director, Dan Reed, said he has been receiving vitriolic messages from Jackson fans for months.
"They have a blind devotion to him," he said. "It's almost like it's a religious cult."
Superfandom - a relationship to a figure, object or ideology that often spills over into obsession - is nothing new, said media scholar Paul Booth of Chicago's DePaul University, but social media has increased its visibility.
"Fans have always had disagreements and antagonisms," Booth said, "but the difference today is people who aren't fans have ready access to view it."
The Internet, he said, allows entry into "fan communities", heightening feelings of identification and a need to defend.
"When our object of fandom, which we have associated so much with who we are, is accused of something heinous, it some ways we want to deny that because it seems to reflect on us as people," Booth said.
Today, he said "it's not enough to mount a defence," as social media discourse offers a platform to "attack back."
"The best defence is a good offense" to many superfans, Booth said, calling this attitude "the basis of toxic fandom."
For digital media scholar Mel Stanfill of the University of Central Florida, the online venom is encouraged by "the shifting way people converse."
"You can just fire it off," she said. "You don't reflect, you just react."
"Our expectations about what is socially appropriate has changed."
Views on whether Jackson molested children or not are completely polarised. The graphic details from the two men, plus the accusations of others, do not deserve to be completely dismissed. But then again, without concrete proof, the only conclusion is that the star should be given the benefit of doubt and be allowed to rest in peace. For now.
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