Michael Jackson: The Making Of A Myth - Part 1


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Michael Jackson: The Making Of A Myth - Part 1
Deborah Ffrench

One year on, from the shocking events that took place in Los Angeles in the summer of 2009, and the
universe of questions Michael Jackson’s extraordinary death threw into orbit shows no signs yet of
abating. That Jackson actually died on June 25 is not in question. But it is the manner in which he
departed that birthed an epilogue of controversy. Courtesy of TMZ‘s first truly global scoop, conversely
at 14:26 pm — recorded as the moment the vitality in Jackson’s body officially flickered and died, the
world as we knew it would galvanize into unprecedented hyperlife. AOL would call the ensuing web
meltdown a “seminal moment in Internet history.” Jackson’s death would precipitate a virtual news
blackout of anything that wasn’t Jackson related. From then to now, speculations of the Grisham-type
variety about the state of Jackson’s health and body to conspiratorial scenarios involving AEG, Sony,
Jackson’s last advisers, and his doctor — have raged like wildfire across the media.

Los Angeles, in the wake of Jackson’s death, as well as coping with the influx of mourners and the
world’s press, also endured a summer of simmering tension between its bullish City Attorney, Carmen
Trutanich, and Tim Leiweke, president of AEG — the sports and entertainment jewel-in-the-crown
subsidiary of the Anschutz Company. Long-standing billboard issues, the city’s huge debt, and good oldfashioned
ego, resulted in public sparring for several months as the two men locked horns over who
should foot the bill for Jackson’s magnificent Staples Center memorial last July. Simultaneously
transmitted live in over 22 countries around the world, news sources recorded the worldwide viewing
figures as in excess of 1.5 billion, making it the most watched live television broadcast in history. The
run-up to that event saw countless tributes from celebrities, heads of state, politicians, friends, and fans.
But there was anger and a repetition of old accusations too.

On Capitol Hill, the day after Jackson died, in response to Congresswoman Diane E. Watson’s request
that a minute’s silence be observed for Jackson, some members protested by leaving the House floor.
Congressman John Yarmuth, would later tell radio pundit John Ziegler that the gesture made him feel
“almost nauseated.” On the same day, Maureen Orth, past correspondent for Vanity Fair, appeared on
MSNBC’s Morning Joe and Today to declare Jackson, “a failure as a human being.” On June 29, Rush
Limbaugh called the media coverage a “horrible disgrace,” and on the eve of the July 7 memorial,
Congressman Peter King took the time to release a youtube video pronouncing Jackson, “a pervert” and,
“a low life.” Diane Dimond, long-time Jackson detractor, responding to the blogs of grieving fans on her
website where she had posted an article just days after Jackson died, wrote that she hoped Jackson‘s death
would be “ a teaching moment for millions ”adding that, “ the cyclical nature of molestation that causes
the victim to grow up and victimize others …the list of what Michael Jackson's life can teach us is long.”
The next few months would bring a seemingly endless stream of graphic, brutal revelations. International
speculation about the results of the autopsies, the shock discovery of propofol and other narcotics in
Jackson’s system, the redefining of his death as a homicide, arguments over how fit for This Is It Jackson
had been, ever-changing dates for the final burial of Jackson’s body, custody of his three children, as well
as the fight for executive control of the Estate; all severely polarized a city with a history of igniting

A succession of tributes at the BET’s, VMA’s, Emmy’s, Grammy’s — albeit briefly, and finally the
Oscars, brought some relief from the rancour. But with the awards season over, the business of
determining what and who killed Jackson, returned to the fore when Doctor Murray turned himself in to
be formally charged in February this year with involuntary manslaughter. The following month, Joe
Jackson and his attorney-on-call, Brian Oxman, launched public opening shots against Dr Murray in a 13-
page legal document filed at the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Effectively serving notice to
Murray’s lawyers of their intention to pursue a ‘wrongful death’ civil suit against their client, Edward
Chernoff and his team can hardly have been surprised since a civil suit so often follows or parallels a
criminal one.

Headlines that ‘Michael could have been saved,’ followed in the wake of Joseph Jackson and Oxman’s
accusations that Murray had not acted quickly enough or, more damagingly, disclosed vital information to
staff at the UCLA Medical center Jackson was taken to. Both Oxman and Joe Jackson claimed that when
Jackson arrived at UCLA, staff had to use “ aggressive resuscitation ” to establish a pulse and a heartbeat,
which eventually stopped. In the lead up to Murray’s trial, details such as these will inevitably take center
stage in the media’s coverage. What is also certain, is that this coverage will focus almost exclusively on
the most sensational aspects of Jackson’s alleged drug dependency for maximum effect and maximum

In the eye of this storm, the fate of Murray — a man who increasingly bears the look of someone
completely bewildered as to how he arrived at his infamy, seems almost surreal. While the media have
consistently placed Murray sharply front and center of the investigation into his death, they have so far
declined any public self-reflection on the part they arguably played in creating — or at least, exacerbating
the conditions that brought Jackson within touching distance of a fatal tragedy.

This is not a defense of where Murray stands along the line of causality that led to the death of Jackson.
Involuntary manslaughter, a paradoxically catch-all yet legally tight charge with barely punitive
consequences for someone found guilty of it, needs only the component of reckless judgement to be
present, and Murray looks likely to qualify. But the media’s focus on Murray’s still-to-be-determined
culpability, is in reality, self-serving. The truth is, Murray, while not exactly the “fall guy” his defense
team have cast him as — is not only the only player in this story.

Famously reticent, Jackson — after the success of Off The Wall in 1979 and the phenomenon of Thriller in
1982, had long ago retreated behind carefully constructed PR statements and controlled press calls in an
attempt to limit an already chaffing over-exposure. Already no stranger to the knife, in 1979 Jackson had
rhinoplasty surgery to remedy damage sustained during a dance routine. Later, he would have surgery to
restore cohesion to his scalp after the serious burn injuries he suffered while filming a 1984 PepsiCo
commercial. By the late 80’s, while he was still relatively comparable to ‘little Michael’ from his Motown
days, the media were still a relatively neutral presence in Jackson’s life. Fantastic tales of Jackson‘s
exotic lifestyle at Neverland — some leaked by Jackson himself, played in the public gallery as evidence
of a bizarre but adorable man/child.

This neutrality eroded, however, as Jackson’s physicality changed more radically and his perceived
‘oddness’ began to attract criticism and attention in the intervening years between his highly successful
Bad tour and the beginning of promotional chores to support the release of the Dangerous album in 1991.
But it would be the momentous events of 1993 that would shatter forever the fragile stand-off that existed
between Jackson and the press.

Attempting to scope an overview of the most turbulent and devastating years of Jackson‘s life is almost
impossible for one reason. So much of the truly important information was not covered by the journalists
and networks paid to do just that. Most Americans remain unaware to this day that the ‘facts’ they were
presented with, in both 1993 or 2003/5, bore no resemblance to the truth of what lay behind the headlines
and ubiquitous media coverage. The ambivalence that many people still have about Jackson’s legacy
hinges on these omissions, and it for that reason that retracing the steps of the media-led immolation of
Jackson’s name and reputation remains an important task.

It would, of course, be both ridiculous and naïve to have expected journalists, editors, and TV networks to
have ignored the commercial news ‘value’ of the accusations Jackson faced from 1993 onwards. But in
charting the negative narrative pursued by an entire industry, it can be clearly seen that the media’s
behavior as a whole — and in particular, that of certain individuals within it — went way beyond acceptable
standards for any profession. The highly effective ‘monsterdom’ of Michael Jackson was both deliberate
and systematic. But in examining its construction, it is possible we may come to understand how a myth
was built.

Michael Jackson - The Making Of A Myth - Part 1 is continued in the below downloadable PDF file - CLICK LINK TO DOWNLOAD FULL ARTICLE
http://www.stereoboard.com/pdfs/Michael ... Part-I.pdf