So of all the evidence people sent me to disprove Leaving Neverland (Dan Reed, 2019), I feel like “Leaving Neverland: The Aftermath” finally did the trick. I don’t think it did it well, because I watched about half the video before I started seeing anything that convinced me, but to its credit, it does successfully pull Leaving Neverland apart and suggests that Michael Jackson is probably in the clear. Bravo to those who sent it to me.
That being the case, I still think it’s worth looking at why it and others like it (the vegan lawyer video I took apart previously for example) fail so miserably in their arguments, and why it took “Aftermath” so long to finally prove its case. For me, the simple answer to why it succeeds is that it does what I’ve challenged others to do – watch Leaving Neverland, cite specific examples from the film that rang false, and explain why (and by explain why, I don’t mean “I just don’t like [X person in the film],” I mean “I don’t like [X person in the film] because [some actual knowledge you have, from your life, an observation you made, etc.]”). More importantly though, it didn’t fall into as many of the logical fallacies other videos and articles I’ve received did. Specifically, most of the faulty arguments against Leaving Neverland don’t seem to understand that:
1 – Speculations based on hearsay does not count as evidence. (i.e., “I heard Michael Jackson paid off his accusers, so he must be guilty.”)
2 – Character assassinations do not count as evidence. (i.e. “Jordy Chandler’s father was a jerk, so you can’t trust him.”) Nor is evidence validating a person’s character (i.e., “Bill Cosby did so much charitable giving, he can’t possibly have raped anybody.”)
3 – Court decisions do not suffice as evidence of innocence or guilt (i.e. “OJ Simpson was found innocent, so he can’t have murdered his wife and Ron Goldman.”)
These were so pervasive in everything I’ve gotten (including “Aftermath”) that I’m not going to respond to them this time. Just please realize that this is why I think it’s so easy for Michael’s doubters to write off most defenses of him. Seriously, if you really think these prove anything, I think you need more help than I can possibly give you in a blog posting. Worse, I don’t think you’re doing MJ any favors. So although I do feel like “Aftermath” ultimately does clear Jackson, I want to use this blog to show how it really doesn’t get there until 37:50 or so into the video. For those that don’t have the patience for all that, feel free to skip down to points #18-20, and then #s 26 and 27 below to get your MJ vindication. Because I promised I would look at any evidence anybody sent me however, and because I had to sit through this hour long video, here were my thoughts on “Leaving Neverland: The Aftermath,” again excluding all of the logical fallacies I mentioned above:
1 – From the outset I appreciated that “Aftermath” uses actual clips from Neverland. To me, this is its greatest strength, because Neverland is the an argument unto itself, using direct testimony from Michael Jackson’s accusers Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck. That’s why I think it appears credible too – in absence of any direct testimony from Michael himself, their word represents the only living witness testimony to what they allege. For me that meant a lot, which is why it took a lot for me to change my mind. “Aftermath” thus starts out on the right foot, in my opinion.
2 – From 4:33 however, a journalist claims that Joy Robson had no reason to lie about Wade being with them on a Grand Canyon trip when the abuse supposedly happened, and then quotes from the trial in which she testified on Michael Jackson’s behalf! Uh, her reason to lie was because she was testifying on Michael’s behalf, no? Now you can ask why, if she lied then, she didn’t figure out or question anything sooner, but this video’s author never asks that. My assumption was that she honestly didn’t remember, but knew that it would look better for Michael if she said that Wade was on the trip with them. This did nothing for me as a Neverland believer, and thus does nothing for Michael Jackson, in my opinion.
3 – From 6:40, a worker at the Neverland Ranch says that the theater’s doors are locked from the outside, so Safechuck’s mother wouldn’t have had to knock. To that I asked first how Safechuck’s mother would know that it was locked from the outside (she’s in somebody else’s home after all), and second, why? Why would somebody design a theater where you could lock people in? Even though I’d never been crazy about Safechuck’s mother (as I said in my response to the lawyer video), I really didn’t get why MJ designed a theater this way, assuming the Neverland worker was telling the truth. All this did was make Michael Jackson seem even more odd to me, playing into Neverland‘s hands.
4 – At 9:04, our radio / podcast journalist comes back and I began to think he was either dense, or deliberately misunderstanding that the Robson family’s association with Michael Jackson began when Robson was seven and continued from there. (I say “deliberately” in part because he also mispronounces Robson’s name, which is not only a well-known fact, but he pronounces it correctly earlier in this same video.) Hence…
5 – It also seemed to me like the journalist deliberately mis-characterized Neverland because around 9:24 he says that the family moved to the U.S. when Robson was nine. He uses this as another argument against Robson being abused since age seven, when the move’s timing didn’t have any bearing on anything to me. I think anybody who actually watched and paid attention to Neverland would understand that the family moved to the U.S in the first place because they were under the impression that it would be good for Robson’s dance career. Why? Because Robson had hung out with MJ since age seven, so they had an established relationship with Michael from before. Seriously, who the Hell moves across the world to pursue a career unless they feel like they already know somebody who lives there?! My father didn’t move to the U.S from India until his friends moved here first; my mother didn’t come until she married him. I myself only felt comfortable moving to Los Angeles because my aunt’s family were already there. Nobody can be as stupid as the maker of this video seems, which is why I tend to think this was a deliberate misinterpretation to try to make the argument. Instead, I think it doesn’t inspire confidence in it, and makes the video seem contrived.
6 – I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about speculations, but seriously, what the Hell is the journalist talking about at 15:34? “If Michael Jackson set Wade up with his niece, it shows a level of depravity that would cause dozens of people to come forward against Michael?” (paraphrase) What? How does that follow?
7 – 16:11 struck me as the height of specious reasoning, with pics of Safechuck not wearing jewelry after the maker of this video plays a clip from Neverland of Safechuck saying that he likes jewelry. I like violent movies like John Wick (Chad Stahelski / David Leitch, 2014). The fact that I watched one last weekend doesn’t mean that I do it all the time or that it’s the only thing I watch. Just because Safechuck didn’t wear his jewelry on every day of his life proves absolutely nothing. This just had me further questioning the basic intelligence of the makers of this video.
8 – Case in point, the filmmaker’s seeming belief at 16:19 that pick up shots, which by definition are done after the completion of earlier shooting, of Safechuck with the jewelry despite not having it earlier prove something. If I was Dan Reed and Safechuck told me he had this jewelry, I would not only not expect him to have it on him (particularly if I believed it was a reminder of trauma), but would also ask him to go get it so that I could shoot him with it for the film. Why? Because that’s filmmaking! How does it prove anything? I really don’t get how the maker of “Leaving Neverland: Aftermath’s” mind works, and I think any Neverland believer would write him and this video off as nuts. All that kept me going was my promise to you all that I’d watch.
9 – Then at 16:49 “Aftermath’s” author does this weird zoom in on Safechuck’s face from an interview Jimmy did with Oprah Winfrey which implies what? That Safechuck’s upset at the memory? If a viewer assumes he’s being honest, I doubt that would surprise them in the least. So why zoom in on it?
10 – I responded to the train thing when I blogged about the lawyer video, but I want to use the big interview with MJ’s biographer that begins around 17:39 to point out that the biographer repeatedly saying he doesn’t know anything for sure just reminds a viewer of “Aftermath” of how speculative all of this is. Contrast this with Robson and Safechuck, who say they do know, and the fact that Leaving Neverland gives us an opportunity to listen to them tell us about it. Again, the reason Neverland swayed me initially is because I never heard any firsthand account of any of this abuse. If somebody had sent me a video of Michael Jackson on the witness stand describing his relationship with Robson and Safechuck, we probably wouldn’t even be having this conversation. I’m not even sure MJ took the witness stand though, which puts the burden on the authors of “Aftermath” to disprove Neverland‘s supposed firsthand testimony. Reminding us of how uncertain MJ’s defenders are doesn’t help, in my opinion.
11 – I think the fact shared at 21:48 about Brett Barnes saying MJ never molested him is stated in an inter-title during Neverland which says the same about Macaulay Culkin as well, if memory serves. Again, so? Who said MJ molested every kid he met (besides those
“doctors of deviant psychology” Piers Morgan and Corey Feldman in this video)? Adult rapists don’t rape everybody they meet either – they pick their victims strategically, which is a fact. I don’t think any Neverland viewer would have trouble believing that Jackson was strategic about this too, particularly in light of how strategic he was about so many other things in his life.
12 – Robson’s strident denial at 25:12 or so might’ve moved me if he hadn’t done it in that phony “Ebonics” accent. To me, that suggests he was playing a role of some kind, and Neverland suggests that he was taught to do so my MJ himself. It’s known that the abused often separate themselves from what happened, and since we already know Robson lied in his original testimony, what was the point of putting it here?
13 – To me the maid’s changing story is in the same category as Robson and Safechuck’s – when Neverland argues that MJ pressured and paid for them to lie, I think that’s the natural assumption of what happened to the maid too. It isn’t really helpful to “Aftermath.”
14 – From 27:27 or so I just had to laugh, because in other videos, the fact that Jordy’s version and Robson’s supposition (Robson says he “knew” in the clip “Aftermath” shows, but again, how could he “know” if he wasn’t with Michael and Jordy at the time?) are the same as what’s written in the Michael Jackson Was My Lover: The Secret Diary Of Jordie Chandler book is offered as proof that Robson’s making it up. Now “Aftermath” implies that if Robson’s account differs from Jordy’s family he’s lying! So if Robson’s version differs from the Chandler book he’s lying, but if it matches the Chandler family’s account he’s lying too. I think at this point the viewer walks away feeling like the poor kid can’t win.
15 – By a similar token, I found it equally amusing that Jackson’s attorney Mark Geragos’s threat to anybody that comes after MJ at 33:42 or so is presented as benign, while Jordy Chandler’s father’s threat is presented as proof that Chandler was in the wrong. For me, all this reiterates is that tough talk really doesn’t prove anything. (Has it ever?) Worse still, the journalist from earlier and “Aftermath’s” author seem to think there’s some difference between legally threatening the accusers’ parents and threatening the accusers. Because minors can’t represent themselves, I doubt most people would make that distinction.
16 – At 35:33 or so we have this weird “defense” that MJ’s private investigator (according to a pinned note under the video the “attorney” part is a typo) Scott Ross simply called Robson to testify, so he wasn’t subpoenaed. Why couldn’t both occur? And again, if this was a traumatic event in Robson’s life that he was trying to put behind him (as Neverland supporters believe), why would he keep the subpoena? To me this was like Whitney Houston saying “show me the receipts” of her drug purchases, because we all know that drug dealers keep a paper trail of their crimes. *sigh* (And I say “crimes” because nobody, including Robson, disputes Robson having lied under oath for Jackson previously, and perjury is illegal.)
17 – And to answer Scott Ross’s question at 36:20 of why Robson testified if they didn’t need him, the Neverland believer can give two reasons: 1) Robson’s mother believed MJ was innocent at this point and urged him to do it. It’s not like she knew who all the defense had to help MJ, and 2) Robson says in the film that MJ called and put pressure on him to do so, as he had whenever this came up. Still not helpful.
18 – Now we get to where “Aftermath” starts sounding like a legitimate defense of Michael Jackson’s innocence to me. The assertion at 37:50 about when the party referenced in Neverland took place has some teeth, because if true, it can be a decent argument that Wade Robson was lying in Neverland. The thing is, now you’re putting tweets from Taj Jackson (who I’m guessing is Tito Jackson’s son from the group “3T” – I told you MJ defenders that I was a huge MJ fan) against Robson’s story, both of whom have reason to lie and both of whom may be mistaken. In Taj’s case, how he’d remember when some random dinner took place is beyond me – I wish the maker of “Aftermath” had explained that. In Robson’s case, I think a Neverland believer would likely assume that Robson embellished this to explain why he lied for Michael in an attempt to save face. So for a Neverland skeptic it works, but I don’t think it would do much for the average person. After all, the Jackson family has done everything in their power to discredit this film, and this just seems like more of that.
19 – Also compelling however is the journalist dude’s statement that Safechuck couldn’t have testified on MJ’s behalf because of the Statute of Limitations. This, as I said in my response to the Vegan lawyer, and Jimmy Safechuck joining the lawsuit after Robson decided to sue has all kinds of shadiness about it, as do a bunch of things Safechuck’s mother says in Neverland. Combining this with the whole bit about the train station gave me pause, and taking those points together with the dinner I mentioned in #18 is where I started to get a bit of “reasonable doubt.” I honestly want to watch the accusers’ interview with Oprah Winfrey now to see if it’s clear there too.
20 – 42:30 convinced me even more, because MJ’s security guards saying the meeting couldn’t have happened without them knowing and having a record is believable to me. I wish “Aftermath” had more stuff like this, because…
21 – …the bit from 47:45 about the typo being corrected from the Robsons’ charitable website struck me as just that, a typo – they hired somebody to write the copy (as I did for the website for my aunt’s not-for-profit), that person made a mistake, became aware of it, and fixed it. I have no idea why it’s in this video.
22 – The bit from 49:38 about the “Thriller” jacket didn’t do anything for me either. I’m pretty confident there were many replicas of that jacket made, in no small part because growing up in the ’80s when the “Thriller” video actually came out, I saw it everywhere, in different colors, no less.
23 – As for the book stuff from 51:00 or so, Neverland itself creates as compelling a case that Robson and his mother were opportunists as “Aftermath” does, and that’s what I think motivates Robson lying about the book. If you want to take that with #18-20 here to say that it proves Robson wasn’t molested by MJ, so be it. I still don’t think proof of greed denies somebody being sexually assaulted though, and I’m sure Neverland believers would want more.
24 – The Cirque du Soleil bit struck me more as overconfidence or arrogance on Robson’s part than lying. He assumed he had it in the bag but he didn’t. I’ve done that before myself, and I feel like this kind of megalomaniacal thinking goes hand in hand with abuse too.
25 – As for the timing of Wade Robson’s sealed lawsuit mentioned at 53:30, you can literally argue that the whole point of doing Leaving Neverland was because he wasn’t able to share the details of the lawsuit! See, this is what frustrates me most about “Aftermath.” While, as I mentioned before, there are a handful of points that do help out the narrative that this is all just an attempt to bilk money out of Michael Jackson’s estate, poorly formed logical arguments like this undermined the credibility of this video for me. If you want to clear Michael, I think it would’ve been more worthwhile to start a crowdfunding account to finance an investigation into Wade’s parents’ marriage. I think there may have been something there that could’ve explained why Robson does seem like an abuse victim in Neverland, thought not necessarily at the hands of Michael Jackson. Instead, this video’s author, like every other Michael Jackson fan, seems to believe that Robson’s motivation somehow proves Michael’s innocence. To me it just proves that Robson’s greedy family has skeletons in its closet. Bring those to light! Then you might really have something! As it is, at this point “Aftermath” just look as desperate as Robson and Safechuck do.
26 – The manipulation of California’s Statute of Limitations laws that begins on 54:24 however finally starts unraveling the whole thing. While I didn’t make much of the part about Robson being discredited, actually spelling out that Safechuck being added renewed the Statute of Limitations explains why Safechuck is in this. Since I had problems with that guy’s story since Neverland, this was where I said “Hmmm…”
27 – And by 55:30 I was sold. To me it officially felt like Robson is making this up. I’ll give him credit, he had me fooled, but it’s kind of hard to deny with the email evidence part. I wish this director had gotten to the punch sooner, because you could’ve had a much shorter and more effective video, in my opinion.
So in spite of all of the half-assed arguments and confusing filmmaking, the hard evidence of “Leaving Neverland: The Aftermath” renewed my faith in my all-time favorite singer’s innocence. I doubted the Hell out of it strongly as you all know, but I pride myself on giving credit where it’s due and admitting when I’m proven wrong. MJ would be proud of you all I’m sure, and now I can go back to listening to all of his great music. Thank you!