Evil Is As Evil Is.

In the end, Michael Jackson was, as was Elvis Presley and so many other tremendously gifted and talented entertainers, a desperate, conniving, brain-addled drug addict. I am mystified both by the strangeness of the cult of Jackson devotees and the strangeness of Jackson’s father, whose own lunacy was evident in the sheer number of second-hand Mr. Tee gold chains he insisted on wearing to the courthouse. The gregariousness of Joe Jackson’s bling fetish is, for me, the moral of this story: they had the wrong guy on trial. Joe Jackson’s chronic self-absorption and exploitation of his child is surely what ultimately lead to Jackson’s demise. Did the doctor deserve the guilty verdict? Who cares. I believe America’s fascination—at whatever level it actually was—with the Conrad Murray trial was hardly about the doctor himself so much as a voyeuristic thrill of peeling back layers of the Jackson onion. So far as a matter of law goes, Murray’s failure to have proper monitoring equipment and to maintain a human vigil over Jackson earned him a trip to the slammer: it was a violation of the most basic tenets of medical ethics, regardless of whether or not Jackson himself administered the fatal dose of whatever. Knowing Jackson was a desperate, conniving, brain-addled drug addict, Murray should never have left the singer alone in a room full of meds. There really aren’t any other relevant matters to the case. Who, what, how big a dosage, were all moot points. Murray’s negligence certainly contributed to Jackson’s death. Murray took the job knowing Jackson was a desperate, conniving, brain-addled drug addict. He signed up for a $100k-per-month babysitting gig, to be Jackson’s personal enabler. And he is now spending all of his loot on attorney’s fees and going to the slammer anyway.

The other major story dominating the news last week was the scandal at Penn State, where former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was indicted on 40 counts of child sexual abuse, and Penn State president Graham Spanier and legendary football coach Joe Paterno were fired. The outrage over Paterno’s firing—for having reported an eyewitness account of an alleged incident to his superiors and not the police—equaled the manic clown fetishism of Jackson’s followers. A graduate student on Paterno’s coaching staff claimed to have witnessed Sandusky sodomizing a ten-year old boy in a shower in Penn State’s locker room. He did not intervene. He did not call the police or confront Sandusky. He waited until the next day and reported the incident to Paterno who in turn ran it up the chain of command.

As great an admirer I am of Jackson’s amazing talent, I have absolutely no doubt, none whatsoever, that Jackson has been sexually molesting if not sexually assaulting minor boys for decades. This Penn State graduate assistant allegedly happened upon a six-foot-two, 200-pound, fifty-something year-old silver-haired man, naked in a shower with a naked 10-year old boy--by account of the indictment--pressed up against the shower tiles while the man sodomized him. The picture that graphic language creates is horrifying. Yet, I am persuaded this is precisely what Michael Jackson has been doing most of his privileged adult life. Many of Jackson’s victims were delivered, eagerly, into his hands by parents who either knew or suspected what Jackson’s actual motives were, but who were either starstruck or were positioning themselves to make money off of him. This is evil. Don’t parse it, don’t excuse it. It’s evil. Why was America so horrified by Sandusky while Jackson remains, in even my memory, a kind of tragically beloved figure?

The Greatest Show On Earth:: The victorious coach.

Forgotten In All The Hollering

These stories, competing for the top headlines last week along with the sexual misdemeanors of GOP presidential candidate Herman Cane, describe a schizophrenic America whose moral compass is subject to the prevailing climates of social acceptance. Michael Jackson, as twisted as he ultimately became, is seen as a tragic victim. Contrast Jackson with Jerry Sandusky, whom we’ve never seen sing or dance and did not watch grow up under the twisted pathology of Joe “Papa Doc” Jackson. Sandusky is portrayed as pure evil. Aren't both men are guilty of the same crime? In a zero-sum view, both men were, despite their circumstances, evil and despicable and deserving both of our disgust and God’s wrath. The strange bifurcation of American opinion, led by the news media’s extreme differences in coverage of the two stories, presents an inconsistent and incoherent set of ethics, fairness and justice. The circus was all about Jackson, all about Joe Paterno. No one was speaking for the legions of lost boys—the 40 authorities know of certainly infer a great many who have not come forward or whose cases cannot be made. And God only knows how many victimized by the insane, irrational, and tragically lost Jackson.

The obscenity of students rioting over Paterno’s dismissal cross-fades with the obscenity of the crowds cheering Conrad Murray’s conviction. All of these people are idiots whose moral compass has been pinned to the south. These were little kids, tortured and abused by adults. And we looked the other way.

Christopher J. Priest
14 November 2011