As most of you have probably already heard, Michael Jackson was acquitted of all charges today, much to the surprise of pundits and prosecutors. Apparently the accuser’s mother was just too opportunistic and unconvincing for jurors to accept, and the rest of the case just fell down like dominos. If she wasn’t credible then the conspiracy claims fall apart, and her sons testimony looks suspect as well, and the rest of the case was mostly rumor and innuendo.
Of course, one of the great strengths of our legal system is that Jackson was protected by the principle of ‘reasonable doubt’. He might well not be innocent, but the prosecution didn’t present a strong enough case to prove it to the satisfaction of a jury, so he gets the benefit of the doubt. And it has to have been some major doubt, because everything about Jackson cries out for punishment in the eyes of most normal, rational Americans who might find their way onto a jury. We should all be thankful for this, because it means that no matter what we do, there’s always a chance that fate and a jury of our peers will give us the benefit of the doubt too.
Free though he may be in the eyes of the law, Jackson still faces the merciless judgement of the court of public opinion. In the eyes of most people he still remains the freak which he has chosen to make himself through his pursuit of self-gratification through an alternative lifestyle which few of us can begin to comprehend. He faces financial problems, public suspicion, and a career which is likely to have been destroyed by the combination of his negative reputation and his apparent loss of whatever muse made his early work palatable. He still has considerable assets and will likely be selling some of them off in the near future to pay his lawyers.
The future for Michael Jackson problably won’t be as grim as some people would like it to be, but it won’t be a tale of glorious redemption and an amazing comeback either. He may have some fanatical supporters, but the public is mostly just tired of him. It will take a lot more than a favorable verdict to reverse the general impression of Jackson as an out of control freak whose behavior is so bizarre it makes almost any charge brought against him believable to a good portion of the population. In his rise to the title of ‘King of Pop’ he manufactured an image of excess which benefited him when publicity was his friend, but which has turned around to bite him in the ass now that he’s on the way down.
Jackson may be free under the law, but he’s never really going to be free. He’s going to be a prisoner of the press and of legal and public suspicion, trapped on Neverland Ranch, with nowhere to go and nothing much to do except ride his rides and play with his monkey until his life reaches some sad and ironic conclusion in a few years. Pity the freak, because we’re the public which fed his lust for notoriety and encouraged his craving for self-indulgence. We told him it was okay to be a freak for our amusement and now we profit from his example that sometimes the price of fame is just too high to pay.
(Note, some changes were made to this article after posting the initial draft)
All Contents of this article copyright 2005, Dave Nalle