How “Leaving Neverland: The Aftermath” Convinced Me That Michael Jackson Is Probably Innocent (In Spite of Itself)

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!

 

 

 

 

 

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What I Think of “LAWYER TAKES ON MICHAEL JACKSON CASE”

All right, Michael Jackson die hards, because I said I’d look at all of the evidence you had to present (and I happen to be between jobs currently), I’m keeping my word and telling you what I think of what you sent. I’m doing it through my blog because frankly, Twitter’s character limit doesn’t seem to do it justice. My responses to you on Twitter  have all been choppy and I’m sick of it, so here you get to sit through my opinion in total after I’ve been sitting through yours. In that spirit, let me start by responding to this video.

First off, I’m not crazy about the way this lady talks. Her long disclaimer at the beginning, and then argument about how she wasn’t an MJ fan until making this video strikes me as excessive and / or unnecessary. I can understand explaining that you never worked on the case so this is just your opinion, but I think the long bit about how she wasn’t a fan but then became one is just odd. If you don’t like the way I phrased that, get used it it, because it’s how this lady talks about everything in this video herself. So in the interests of “what’s good for the goose, here we go.

So at 5:10, she says something factually wrong – allegations of MJ’s sexual abuse surfaced before, not after his death. She explains it correctly later, but I point it out to illustrate what bothers me about the way she explains everything – to me, it’s hard to even decipher what she’s saying half the time. She goes on these long tangents about what she would do in X, Y, or Z situation, when I really don’t care what you would do – get to your evidence lady, not your speculation about other people’s character or motives. Then she talks about some odd belief that there’s no evidence against MJ. There was evidence, hence they were able to take him to his criminal trial. It just wasn’t sufficient to convict him in the jury trial beyond any reasonable doubt – the same standard of proof that freed OJ Simpson (I myself am not going to comment on OJ, because I’m not 100% sure how I feel about that case either, and I care far less, as it never affected me personally. As a huge MJ fan, this case did).

So the video continues. She mentions a GQ article that says she didn’t want to mention originally because it was unsubstantiated, by her own admission, but she does it anyway. Why? She says it’s because she thinks it’s pretty accurate, which means we’re going further into “speculationville” now. For me, not a very encouraging start.

To her credit, Ms. Lawyer does summarize the Jordy case accurately, but then gives us a dance break for some reason before we’re back for more. At this point, she decides to attack Jordy’s relationship with his father, which has yet to prove anything besides the fact that Jordy’s father was a jerk. That too was already proven by a recording she played earlier in the video, reminding us how the Jordy case began. Relevance? No idea, but she feels the need to do a deep dive into it, perhaps to show how “lawyery” she is (hey, if she can speculate, why can’t I?). She also goes on to question both Jordy’s family and MJ’s intelligence. I’m still not seeing how any of this exonerates Michal Jackson, but it’s typical of all of the “evidence” you all have sent me – speculation about people’s motives based on things the press tells us about them, and character assassination of the accusers. Neither are proof of Michael’s innocence.

So now she moves on to 2005, with her usual speculation about why those accusers came forward with this latest cause of action. I keep harping on this all being speculative because “MJ is innocent” is as much speculation as “MJ is guilty.” So far in the video no hard evidence has surfaced, just this attorney interpreting events for us the way Rush Limbaugh does political news, reading unsubstantiated motives into events and using a lot of specious reasoning (like “MJ was found innocent, ergo he must not have done it,” which is as specious as “MJ settled with Jordy’s family, so he must be guilty”) to do it. To me, the important thing to remember in the criminal case is burden of proof, which I feel is important for two reasons: 1) “beyond all reasonable doubt” is a lot harder to establish than “a preponderance of the evidence (a fact the Jackson family exploits in their HBO lawsuit, as we will learn later),” and 2) in cases where preponderance is the standard, the two most common ways to prove a case are with documentation or some kind or firsthand witness testimony. You know, like they give us in Leaving Neverland (Dan Reed, 2009).

Now what I find interesting about the “disaster witness” whose character this lady assassinates next is that the witness reminds me a lot of Jordy’s father and Wade Robson’s mother, thus answering the question of “what kind of person would let their child sleep with Michael Jackson?!” My speculation? A crazy one. The difference between my speculation and our host’s, though? I have three living, breathing pieces of evidence in Robson, the other Neverland dude, and Jordy (This was part of why I believed Neverland – all of a sudden, all the weird behavior in these cases made sense to me.)

Continuing, she goes through all of the stuff the disaster witness says MJ did, which jibes with what Robson and the other dude in Neverland said (I can never seem to remember his name for reasons I’ll explain later). Yes, I know the book counter-argument, but if I have to sit through this to hear what this woman has to say, you all have to keep reading to see what I make of that. Then she points out that other people have corroborated the abuse too, and once again goes back to character assassination to “disprove” it, which seems to be the only arrow in this lady’s quiver. Now I think the FBI and CPS stuff is compelling, unless you watch Neverland, in which case you know that MJ had the place rigged to alert him if he was ever in any danger of getting caught. It stands to reason then that MJ had great hiding places too. Then our host plays a clip that I’m now embarrassed to admit had me fooled for most of my life as well (remember, I only stopped believing Michael after seeing Neverland), because as my father pointed out, in India (where my family is from), family share beds with others all the time. Things Michael did and said later however got even my father off the “he’s innocent” train (no pun intended), even though I naively hung tough until literally a few weeks ago, for which I blame my fandom. I think that’s the heart of you all’s resistance too. Am I speculating about that? Of course, but after the kids in Neverland explain how MJ had that effect on people, and watching you all prove it with your extreme response to even the suggestion that MJ may have been guilty, I can live with it.

Now the next clips she shows, which I again also have seen before, were also where I found truth in Neverland. MJ being a virgin suggested to me that he may very well have been a homosexual at a time when being so was really interpreted negatively, particularly in the Black community and particularly for a Jehovah’s Witness. The thing is, I realized long ago that sexuality is something that will do serious damage to your psyche if you repress it. For me, Leaving Neverland has me speculating two things about Michael, the first being his questionable sexuality, and the second his misunderstanding of the concept of love. Stevie Wonder literally wrote a whole song about how difficult it is for even family members to just say they love each other, and my sister went through therapy to allow herself, and then by extension my immediate family to start saying it. I think Michael believed that because he was so comfortable with the idea of love, and had genuine affection for the children he played with, he believed that what he was doing with them was an act of love also. As the kids in Neverland point out, Michael would tell them he loved them repeatedly, and denounce women and the rest of “ignorant” society, a word he used so often that they parodied his use of it on “South Park.” All of these descriptions match with MJ’s behavior, which again as a fan I studied the Hell out of. As I’ve said before, I wanted to be Michael Jackson when I grew up. Clearly I was not the only one, and I believe Michael took advantage of that.

So after a long montage defining MJ’s oddity (in which he never mentions this whole “the insurance company made me do it” defense for his settlement that I heard for the first time just talking to you all), we go back to this lady’s ongoing speculation about the media’s motives, which boils down to “if it bleeds it leads.” The reason why I have trouble going along with this in this particular case is because it’s not like the media never tells the truth! That’s the specious reasoning I referred to earlier, the same thing that lead to racism / sexism, etc. (“If the Jew I’m dealing with is miserly, all / most Jews must be miserly”) With that logic, you could declare that any time the media points out your lies an inconsistency, you can just call it fake ne– oh, right. (Thank goodness MJ didn’t live to see that term become popular. I speculate it would like become his favorite.)

She speculates more about why the media does this or that, calls Martin Bashir’s doc a “hit piece,” and then does something that really bothers me. She starts implying that if a child becomes aware of their having been sexually abused later in life it must be false. This really makes me want to watch her other video, where she claims to document “real” abuse, not just because I have the feeling her dumb ass (yeah, I said it, and here’s why) is going to take a shot at Islam, because this whole idea suggests to me that she knows very few people, if any (again, haven’t watched her other video) who’ve been sexually abused. If she had, I think she’d realize that it’s common for sexually abused people to block it out of their mind. In my opinion, that’s why this particular crime is so heinous – it literally stunts the mental development of the victim, at a time when they personalize everything that happens to them. Want to know where I’ve seen that recently? Here’s a hint: it’s a documentary that has me struggling with my longtime love for my once all time favorite musical artist. Much worse than for me though, this video is entitled “Lawyer Takes on Michal Jackson Case,” and at 31:18, she says she “just learned” what a Motion for Summary Judgment is?! I’m a paralegal, and I know what that is! Is she an attorney or not? What the Hell is this?!

So then she completely misunderstands what Robson said about his understanding of his abuse (Robson doesn’t say in the doc that he thought he was going to have pedophilic urges toward his own son. He said he started envisioning MJ doing to Robson’s own son what was done to him). She also never explains how she knows the Michael Jackson Was My Lover book was a work of fiction beyond it being written by a tabloid writer. (So? Rupert Murdoch started the most successful news organization in the U.S after making his fortune running tabloid newspapers. For those of you ready to attack Fox News, first explain to me how that differs from claiming MJ winning his criminal trial proving his innocence. Specious reasoning is a bitch, ain’t it?)

So now she goes into the famous “train that wasn’t built yet” argument. Before commenting this lady’s opinion, I’d like to address why I can’t ever seem to remember Jimmy Safechuck’s name: he is the victim in Finding Neverland that I doubt to some extent. Not because I’ve seen proof, but because of how he and his mother behave in the film. On Jimmy’s end of things, he gets the last word in the film, and admits being angry with his mother. To me that could matter because earlier in the film it’s revealed that he told his mother that MJ wasn’t a good guy, and… nothing. The sleepovers just ended. Then later in the film when Jackson dies, his mother says that she celebrated that Michael would never be able to hurt another child again, which begs the question of why she didn’t go to the police right when she found out he had hurt hers. She never tells us that MJ threatened her or anything, and her comments suggest to me that she might be trying to save face in this documentary. Safechuck also doesn’t join the lawsuit against Jackson’s estate until he hears that Robson is going to do it. Do any of these facts unequivocally exonerate Michal Jackson? No, and again, I found all of Robson’s story believable in Neverland. Safechuck and his family however give me some concerns.

But what does the “lawyer” who doesn’t know what a Motion For Summary Judgment is think? Well, according to the title card that suddenly pops into the video at 33:04 or so for some reason, she thinks that because Safechuck would be older than 14 when the alleged “Neverland train rape” occurred, his story isn’t believable, and with that I won’t argue. The part I will argue is that it’s impossible to expect a child to get years and times exactly right, even in the cases of trauma. What makes me say that? Besides actual psychological research about this, for years I believed I was diagnosed with my chronic illness the year after my abused mother passed away, only to learn in my twenties that I was actually diagnosed two years later. My mother’s death was the trauma; my memory was wrong, as proven by actual medical documentation, or real evidence. A younger sibling of mine also has remembered things about their traumatic childhood incorrectly, despite the fact that they’re a scholar and the memory made no logical sense. Memory is an unreliable thing. Could that mean Robson and Safechuck are remembering incorrectly? Sure.

Of course, our lawyer host finally begins her summation (a term I now realize she might not know) by giving us her speculative opinion on what might happen to Safechuck and Robson because that’s what she seems to believe evidence is. She then mispronounces “Bucharest” in explaining where we’re at now because it seems like her alleged law degree hasn’t helped her much. To her credit, she does understand the difference between “non-disparagement” and “defamation,” but conveniently leaves out that the easiest way to prove defamation under the law is to demonstrate that the remarks are false. While she is right that the non-disparagement clause is in the Jackson estate’s current lawsuit against HBO is in their favor, she doesn’t bother to explain that non-disparagement helps because it saves them from having to disprove Neverland. All the estate now has to prove is that the remarks are pejorative, a term I hesitate to use because if she ever reads this, she probably wouldn’t know what that means either. (And yes, that is speculation on my part, but clearly we’re not operating in a world in which anybody knows the difference anymore.) She also points out that multiple judges have refused to touch the Jackson estate’s case, for which I don’t blame them. I’m nobody, and I greatly regret now having to deal with angry Michael Jackson fans on my Twitter for the rest of my life too. sigh

To round things out, she first speculates that anybody who believes Neverland must be biased against MJ, which I know to be false because I watched it with the intention of picking it apart as this woman attempts to, and it still swayed me. As I’ve said before, I was a disbeliever myself literally until I watched this film. I bought all of his terrible post “Dangerous” albums, I watched his stupid Ghosts movie with Stan Winston (1997), and that sad documentary made by his former security people. I think I really didn’t believe MJ did it because I had never heard any actual testimony from his alleged victims. Even now as I said, I’m really not sure about Safechuck, but everything Robson and his family said just rang too true for me. And that just hurts.

She wraps it all up with a montage of Michael Jackson hanging out with kids to show us why she doesn’t get a predatory vibe from him. I didn’t either until I saw Leaving Neverland, for all of the reasons she describes (besides that “animal holocaust” thing. A person who speculated more than using actual evidence to argue might think that was the real reason she made this video though). The reason why I believe the film however is again because of what Robson says about MJ’s frequent and casual use of the word “love,” and Robson’s comment that MJ called others “ignorant,” a word you would’ve seen MJ use in the videos our would-be lawyer shows too if she chose to include them. I agree with all of her beliefs about Michael’s loneliness and eccentricity – these are well-known facts. She leaves out his ego though, which I can believe would convince Michael Jackson that because what he did was “a loving act,” as he puts it in his interview with Bashir, and the world is “ignorant,” it was okay. I wish somebody had gotten close enough to him while he was alive to tell him that it wasn’t.

 

 

 

What I Learned From Uber

uber

I cried like some sort of grandmother.

I opened the email, and I cried and cried and cried.

This was not like any other cry I’d ever had.  This was a sobbing, heaving cry that I couldn’t get under control.  I couldn’t see, I was crying so hard.  And I’ve been going through a phase lately where I cry a lot!  But not like this.  This was something different.  I know that to be true, because of what started it.

An Uber gift card.

I’ve never used Uber.  It seems too trendy and expensive to me.  My cousin drives for Lyft, and I come from a community with a lot of cab drivers, and I overheard one of them complaining that he was constantly losing business to Uber.  My heart went out to him.  To me, Uber is the ride-sharing equivalent of gentrification, so I really have had no interest in it, nor need for it, until now.  Having totaled my car, I’ve been getting around by city bus, and here in Orange County, California, it’s pretty limited, especially later in the day.  Not like Chicago, or I imagine New York.  So my life has become pretty limited.  But somebody sent me a $50 Uber gift card and I just couldn’t handle it – I’m even tearing up about it as I write about it now.  Why’s that?

Because I hate myself, but he doesn’t hate me.  And he barely even knows me.

The bane of my whole existence, more so than my poor health, lack of steady employment, or mostly single parent upbringing has been my low self-esteem, and I see signs of it in places I didn’t even know it existed.  Recently I blind carbon copied Nina Rubin on a job lead she emailed to me, after hearing I’d have to leave California soon if I can’t find full-time employment.  She noticed right away that instead of tooting my own horn, like most people do when trying to get a job, I did the opposite.  I tore myself down, letting this person who barely knew me know everything that was wrong with me as a worker, and why I hadn’t been able to successfully change careers after two years of trying.  I did it out of fear that if I oversold myself and couldn’t handle the job, I’d be found out as the loser I am.  Nina was shocked, advising me never ever to do that again.  And I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

Nina wasn’t so much shocked that I didn’t realize it though, she was shocked that I thought so little of myself, when during the time I was her client, a coworker who barely knew me gave me her kidney.  Prior to that, I’d shared with Nina in-sessions that I won a trip to Washington DC for writing an essay when I was in high school, had been published numerous times, had friends across the country, and a family who loved me dearly.  Most recently I’d won a $3000 scholarship to attend paralegal school, which was why she gave me the job lead in the first place, because she believed in me, that I could do the job, and likely would do it well.  Why then, didn’t I believe that?

There are many reasons, which therapists have sussed out as coming from my difficult childhood.  I’ll spare you all the details, because they’re just background to why that Uber gift card made me cry.  The point is that no amount of praise, no achievement, no number of friends has ever seemed to convince me that I’m a worthwhile human beings.  I see myself only through all of the awards I didn’t win, all the goals I didn’t accomplish, and the piddling number of significant others, rather than friend, that I’ve had.  I’m a lonely person with an unbelievable amount of long-term friends.  I had a credit on a TV show with my very first job in television, yet give myself no credit.  And most of all, I see myself as a failure, despite having succeeded at more things than many people have ever tried.  And yet in spite of all that, somebody I barely knew heard that I didn’t have a car, and without my asking, bought me a $50 gift card to use Uber so I could get around.  He’s not related to me.  He doesn’t owe me anything.  Thus far all I’ve ever done for him was show up for meetings of a filmmaking group he organized, and helped the other people in the group with their first attempts at making films.  And for that, he moved me because he naturally sensed what nobody else could convince me, that I’m a good person BECAUSE I AM.  I just didn’t realize it until now.

It made me think of the movie (because I’m a film geek) About Schmidt (Alexander Payne, 2002), where (spoiler alert!) the Jack Nicholson character weeps at the end, having realized that he really does matter to somebody after all.  What my friend Stacy (a professional therapist) and others have been trying to convince me of for years is that I don’t need to prove how worthwhile I am to others because they know it, and wouldn’t help or spend time with me if they didn’t.  The “some” of us, as Tavis Smiley likes to put it, is not “the sum” of us, and while I may have spent my life judging myself by my faults, others have not.  My friends and loved ones know I have flaws, and the vast majority of them don’t care.  I am a good person, or as my father put it, I am “a good boy.  He just sells himself short.”

In the past, I rationalized the kindness others showed me as a sense of obligation, because of whatever connection I had to them, or basic human kindness, or pity, or worst of all, because they wanted something from me.  It never occurred to me that they were helping me because they just liked me, that I am, as Nina put it, “an amazing person,” and thus worthy of their time and effort.  In other words, people aren’t helping or spending time with me because they feel they have to or because I bugged them into doing so.  They’re doing it because they want to, to the point that even in a limited number of interactions, they can tell I’m a good guy.

I wept because that Uber gift card might have finally brought me to the point of realizing it for myself.  I know I won’t change overnight – old habits die hard – but I now recognize what’s good about me because other people do too, and have shown it.  I didn’t achieve all of those things because I’m lucky.  I’ve struggled in life because I have challenges that most other people don’t have.  And most importantly, I’ve overcome those challenges because I am “an amazing person,” and am where I am in life because until now, I just haven’t realized or accepted it.

But no more.  It’s time to turn the page, move on, and ride that Uber.  The kidney transplant gave me 15-20 more years of life that I didn’t have before.  I have nothing to lose, and no more reasons not to do that which I’ve always been capable of doing.  I am a good person.  And if I live my life knowing that, the past will not matter.  Car or no, I will always be able to get where I need to go.

And if for some reason I can’t, there will always be people ready, willing and able to help me get there.  Because I’m worth it, and regardless of whether I tell them, they’ll know it!

 

 

 

 

What I Learned From Salisbury Steak

Muslims don’t eat pork.

It’s a basic rule of Islam that’s so ingrained into every Muslim from birth, I learned it before learning that we don’t believe that Jesus (PBUH) is the son of God.  I learned it so well, that when I went to McDonald’s as a child, before they switched to vegetable shortening, I saw them changing the grease, and we didn’t go to McDonald’s for years afterward until they switched.  I eschewed Hostess Twinkies, glazed doughnuts, and other foods other kids defiantly ate in front of me, because I knew the rules, and refused to break them.  I still do that today, even though I’m more Agnostic than Muslim.  But of all the pork products I successfully saved from my Muslim mouth, the one that failed me was so-called it “Salisbury” Steak.

Salisbury Steak, I just learned, is a pork product, and I’ve eaten it for years.  Last night I bought a TV dinner, read the ingredients after taking one bite, and learned of my mistake.  I stopped eating the steak immediately, threw it out, went out and got fast food, and asked God to forgive me.  I was okay with that, because I knew God absolves us for honest mistakes.  Muslims learn that too – God judges you more by your intentions than your flaws.  Had I continued to eat the steak, I’d be punished.  Had I been starving and had no other option, He would’ve let it go.  I know the rules, and I followed them, so I’m good.

Here’s the thing, though: not 24 hours before, my former life coach Nina Rubin sent me a job lead from a friend of hers.  I quickly got on the computer, emailed my resume as requested, and wrote a long and rambling email that emphasized all of the things I couldn’t do rather than my good traits.  I figured I should be honest, and luckily, I BCC’d Nina, who advised me that I should’ve been positive.  She noted that my email sounded really negative and suggested some changes, even giving me a sample of the kind of cover letter I should send in the future.

And I have been mentally beating myself senseless about it ever since.

As I ate the dinner that replaced the sinful Salisbury, something occurred to me: I believe that God – a being I’ve never seen or heard from – would forgive me for breaking one of His commandments, but I absolutely refused to let myself off the hook for blowing that job opportunity.  Did I need the job more than eternal salvation?  If I truly believe, probably not.  And yet nothing could convince me that I wasn’t the worst, stupidest person in the world because Mr. Award-winning writer had written an honest, but negative email, thus likely costing myself a job when I needed it most.  And that’s something worth pondering, I think.

See the thing is, while it’s true that a Muslim would say my eternal soul meant more than any job, and that maybe it was all for the best, and part of God’s plan for me, at the end of the day, I have to live in the here and now.  And while I did make a huge mistake from a practical standpoint, of all of the sins I committed in this little story, I have begun to realize that the biggest was likely not forgiving myself for making the mistake.  While it is true that I’m assuming that it’s God letting me off the hook for the Salisbury Steak, not me, I’m the person who made the mistake, just as I’m the person who has to live my life.  If God is going to let me off the hook in the hereafter, thus escaping punishment, why am I punishing myself in the here and now?  Isn’t not getting the job punishment enough?

Here’s what I learned from that Salisbury Steak: when we make mistakes, it’s important to forgive ourselves and move on.  Just as the steak box taught me never to eat Salisbury Steak again, Nina’s feedback on my email taught me what I did wrong there, too.  Having learned the lesson, the experience is over.  No more Salisbury Steak, and no more negative emails.  End of discussion.  Move on.  The sooner I learn this, the better off I’ll be.  Spiritually and mentally.

I guess eating that “steak” wasn’t so bad after all.  😉