The Null Device
John Niven on Michael Jackson
John "Kill Your Friends" Niven gets stuck into the blind spot in recent coverge of Michael Jackson's death
What has stunned me and truly floored me in the past week or so has been the complete sidelining by the entire media of Jackson's later life. Across the board, from every news channel to all the quality papers, there has been wholesale collusion in the notion that "he was a great artist and, yes, there was some, umm, troubling stuff later on, but let's forget all that right now and just celebrate the music".
He went on to say, unchallenged, how there were different Michaels and that he wanted to remember "the Michael who made Thriller and Off the Wall". There were also, presumably, different Hitlers. Some people might like to remember the Hitler who reunited Germany and brought back full employment. Not the later Hitlers, with their "attendant problems". The problem is that people keep on bringing up all the bloody stuff that these other later, more troublesome, Hitlers did. You can probably make a claim for several different Peter Sutcliffes, one of whom was a model employee who was very nice to his mother. The problem is....
I am very familiar with the argument of separating the art from the artist – Philip Larkin was a compulsive masturbator with racist views who loved pornography. The poems were magisterial. Wagner was a boiling anti-Semite. The music is timeless. Now, having racist views, masturbating to pornography, I can guarantee that everyone reading this paper has had some contact with practitioners of these dark arts. I would not venture that everyone is on handshake terms with people who get little boys drunk and then try to abuse them – I'm afraid I can't embrace the good tunes and overlook the "troubling stuff" and the "attendant problems" just yet.
Ultimately one is faced with two options. Either Jackson really was an innocent, a childlike man-boy who simply enjoyed hanging out with young boys, up to and including having them sleep in his bed ("There's nothing more loving you can do," he told Martin Bashir in the infamous 2003 documentary, while Arviso cuddled him adoringly), and that some of these children decided – in collusion with their money-grabbing parents – to take Jackson to the cleaners. Or Jackson was an active, predatory child molester.
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