White Privilege on the Right and the Left – A Lesson from Malcolm X

White Privilege Forgotten by the Right

Another Brick in the Wall Lyric (Pink Floyd)

I’ve had students defend their rather negative attitude at school like this:

“High school is a time for rebellion. As a high school kid, you should disobey your teachers in order to discover yourself. Perhaps most of all, high school is a time for pranks and practical jokes.”

Anthropological considerations aside, from a socio-economic perspective this type of attitude towards high school is often a sign of privilege. Some parents even encourage their children to “experiment” at the very spot where their offspring should be preparing for the future. And by experimenting they don’t mean developing philosophical thought experiments or exploring a scientific hypothesis. They rather refer to a kind of mischief that is supposed to build a strong character and personality. When teachers complain about the conduct of their children, those types of parents either pretend to agree with the teachers or they try to excuse the misconduct by using phrases like “we’ve all been young” and “with youth comes youthful indiscretion…” Those parents know that what their children don’t learn at school, they will learn from high paid tutors who eventually get them into university.

James Baldwin Quote on Imitation

Apart from developing the weak spine of a spoilt brat, adolescents who grew up that way didn’t do anything else but imitate the kind of behavior that is advertised in pop culture time and again. We all develop an identity by mimetic (i.e. imitative) processes, of course, but it is quite ironic that the high school rascal thinks of himself as an original and daring character. This is the typical narcissism of the youngster who thinks of himself as a hero and doesn’t see that there is nothing heroic about “transgressing rules” at most of today’s permissive high schools. He is unable to love the reality of his situation, but is all the more in love with an unrealistic self-image of which he wants the confirmation by his peers. In the end, however, his eventual professional ambitions are often not “original” at all, as they turn out to be imitations of the ambitions of his parents and their social network.

Malcolm X on Education

When children come from a poor neighborhood and have to walk 10 miles a day to the nearest school, they don’t have the luxury to waste the precious time and money that their community invests in providing a good education. As it happens, some of those disadvantaged children end up at schools surrounded by rich kids who behave like so-called high school rebels. However, the poor child who starts imitating his “rebellious” classmates does not have the resources to compensate for the potential voids in his education as a consequence of his so-called rebellious behavior. There is not an army of high paid tutors waiting at home.

Moreover, in the process of growing up the disadvantaged kid will also start noticing that his mischief is separated from the same mischief committed by privileged youth of the same age group. Indeed some rich parents who do excuse the misconduct of their own children as “youthful indiscretion” will condemn the same behavior as “juvenile delinquency” when it is performed by so-called uneducated poor people, even more so when these are people of color. Racism runs deep. Add to this the fact that a lot of socio-economic problems today in communities of colored people are the consequence of a history dominated by white elites, and it becomes clear why a movement against discrimination calls itself Black Lives Matter to fight “white privilege”.

James Baldwin Quote on the Paradox of Education

People on the political right should be more aware of the double standard behind blaming disadvantaged people for their own miserable situation. The fact of the matter is that opportunities are not equal for all. Some enjoy the privilege of getting away with so-called “youthful indiscretions”, for instance, while others are incarcerated for the very same youthful sins. Those types of privilege are often forgotten by the political right. Also, if we would truly live in a meritocratic society, and not just on paper, the likes of Donald Trump would never make it into the US presidential office (even if they were backed by powerful elites who were planning to use that type of president to push their own agenda).

Condoleezza Rice on Victimhood

In a worst case scenario, the downtrodden develop a deep-seated feeling of ressentiment. They develop an aversion to the ambitions they previously imitated from their privileged peers. They comfort themselves by getting a sense of self-worth in groups that claim to oppose everything privileged people stand for. As a privileged elite points to their mistakes and blames them for their miserable condition, while at the same time that privileged elite can afford making similar mistakes without having to pay for them, they are easily manipulated by recruiters who abuse their sense of victimhood. They fall for the basic story of every manipulator: “They reject you, but I see your potential…” Thus they become the slaves of false Messiahs who promise to deliver them from victimhood, but who actually keep the victimary status alive to gain power over their followers. Gangs thrive upon ressentiment, from ISIS to the Black Disciples to groups of Neo-Nazis.

It is important to realize that the violence originating from ressentiment cannot be disconnected from instances of systemic violence and oppression as described above. Ressentiment ultimately results from a comparison by people who feel disadvantaged, one way or the other, with people who are at least perceived as privileged. Although privileged people often cannot be held personally responsible for racism and other types of discrimination, there are historically grown structural injustices, which result in some people literally having more chances than others. So gang members are indeed personally responsible for pulling the trigger in acts of violence, but the way society is structured as a whole often hands them the weapons. As for the latter, we all bear some responsibility, if just for our voting habits.

To realize the depth of historically grown structural injustices, it is good to listen to the following speech of Kimberly Jones (be sure to watch the video below of Desiree Barnes against looters to get a complete picture of what this article is all about). Jones ends her powerful statement by saying “They are lucky that as black people what we are looking for is equality and not revenge…”:

White Privilege Forgotten by the Left

While the political right often remains blind to instances of deeply ingrained, historically grown systemic violence and social oppression, the political left often does not want to hear about individual freedom and responsibility. Since on many issues I tend to belong to a community of “white liberals” more than to a community of “white conservatives”, I will write in the first-person plural to develop a self-critical reflection. That is not to say I wouldn’t lean to the right as well sometimes. I guess I’m left in the middle.

Anyway, we liberal white folk, we think love for our neighbor should always include a recognition of our neighbor’s potential traumas. Especially in education we should be aware of the violence in its many guises children carry with them. We are all victims, one way or the other, be it of socio-economic circumstances, bullying, verbal and physical abuse, learning disabilities or mental disorders. Although the recognition of that reality is crucial to become a self-responsible person, it becomes a danger when it is used to simply excuse children for not taking part in the educational process as they should.

There is a significant difference in approaching children as being somewhat determined by their problems or as being free to learn despite their problems. In other words, there is a difference in approaching children as mere victims or as people with potential (think of the Pygmalion or Rosenthal effect in this regard). Not being demanding is not a sign of love and respect in education. You might become popular and powerful among young people in that way, but in the meantime you deny them the dignity to develop their talents. In fact, you become the double of those severe teachers who are only strict to gain a sense of power as well. It does happen, although perhaps more or less unconsciously, that the question to let a pupil pass during deliberations eventually has more to do with a powerplay between teachers than with the interest of pupils themselves. In any case, children from a privileged background will once again find ways to compensate for voids in their education as a consequence of an all too soft approach, while disadvantaged peers in the same educational situation remain the victims of oppressive circumstances. The political left often forgets that type of privilege. Again some people can afford being spoilt during the educational process, while others can’t.

Malcolm X Quote on White Liberal

We, white privileged liberals, should be aware of potentially similar dynamics in our assessment of systemic injustices experienced by people of color. Malcolm X (1925-1965) criticized a liberal approach that turns out to simply abuse the victimhood of colored people in a fight over power with white conservatives. He came to the conclusion that many white liberals, consciously or not, have an interest in maintaining that victimhood. Presenting themselves as liberators of a problem they will in fact never solve, those liberals time and again become false Messiahs who gain power and wealth by locking up their followers in an idea of victimhood. In 1963, Malcolm X formulated it this way:

“In this crooked game of power politics here in America, the Negro, namely the race problem, integration and civil rights issues are all nothing but tools, used by the whites who call themselves liberals against another group of whites who call themselves conservatives, either to get into power or to retain power. Among whites here in America, the political teams are no longer divided into Democrats and Republicans. The whites who are now struggling for control of the American political throne are divided into liberal and conservative camps. The white liberals from both parties cross party lines to work together toward the same goal, and white conservatives from both parties do likewise.

The white liberal differs from the white conservative only in one way; the liberal is more deceitful, more hypocritical, than the conservative. Both want power, but the white liberal is the one who has perfected the art of posing as the Negro’s friend and benefactor and by winning the friendship and support of the Negro, the white liberal is able to use the Negro as a pawn or a weapon in this political football game, that is constantly raging between the white liberals and the white conservatives. The American Negro is nothing but a political football.”

For more, listen to:

Against this quite cynical stance of Malcolm X I would argue that the majority of us, white liberals, is genuinely touched by the fate of disadvantaged people, especially oppressed people of color. We feel for them. We sympathize with their just cause to better their socio-economic situation. We are prepared to stand next to them in the fight against racism. Because of the prevalence of drug abuse, poverty and crime in some of their neighborhoods, we understand that it is often very difficult for young black people to fully participate in a good educational process. Hell, we know that some of our own children, growing up in the best of circumstances, wouldn’t take their chances at school if it wasn’t for the high paid tutors to pull them through. Let alone that they would be able to take their chances if they would grow up like some of their disadvantaged black counterparts.

Blaming those black youngsters for their own situation would thus be hypocritical. This is all the more so because the system we receive our privilege from is the same system that keeps them oppressed. Moreover, as privileged white folk we are always partly responsible for maintaining that system and its inherent oppressive violence. That’s why we quite easily refer to socio-economic circumstances when we are confronted with criminal conduct of black youth. We are convinced that at least some of that conduct may be excused, since it is to be partially understood as a consequence of our own violence. And so it happens that by taking up the cause of the disadvantaged fellow citizen, we clear our conscience. We take the moral high ground by judging everything and everyone we perceive as oppressive or racist, while maintaining the same privilege and wealth as them.

Reflexes of the Privileged – The White Conservative in the White Liberal

On the surface we, white liberals, might seem very different from white racists who openly look down on poor and oppressed people of color. However, we don’t really change our white privileged mindset if we merely approach those downtrodden as “helpless victims” who cannot achieve anything without “white” help. At the same time we rave about Steven Pinker’s claim that the world becomes less violent because we rarely ever have to deal with violence directly. We rave about Rutger Bregman’s observation that most people are good until we have to personally deal with those good people doing bad things. In that case we very conveniently refer to the latter as “psychos” – or we use some other convenient monstrous depiction.

James Baldwin Quote on Real Change

The same goes for our attitude towards people we perceive as having a “free spirit”. We rightfully celebrate someone like James Baldwin (1924-1987) as an icon of the Civil Rights Movement and the Gay Liberation Movement. However, we despise the 25 year old gay colleague who falls in love with a 17 year old adolescent. Perhaps this means that we would have only gossiped about James Baldwin if he would have been that colleague, because that is exactly what happened to him at 25.

This ambiguous attitude depends on the (physical or mental) distance between ourselves and the others we compare ourselves with. French American thinker René Girard (1923-2015) points out that others can become our heroes in a process of external mediation. This means that others who are somewhat external to our day-to-day life can become models or heroes we admire, and that they mediate some of our ambitions and (secret) dreams.

When those same others become part of the internal circle of our life, however, the dynamic of comparison may turn them into rivals. In a process of internal mediation our models easily become obstacles in the pursuit of our ambitions. They are often perceived as threats to our own position or way of life. That’s why we can stand the free spirited James Baldwin who is far away, and not the same free spirited person who is close by. The latter is often too intimidating. Just his mere presence is already experienced as competing with everything we unwittingly hold dear.

And so we listen to Charlie Parker (1920-1955) and Billie Holiday (1915-1959) in our hipster coffee houses, yet walk around the struggling musician, addicted to heroin, on the way home from work. We pity the poor young man who seems unable to escape a life of crime, yet condemn a poor young man from mixed descent like Diego Maradona, who did become successful and maintained his parents’ family from age 15. We Billie Holiday Quote on Plantationcuddle the rascal as long as he remains on the streets, but when he rises to the level (or beyond) our privileged situation we tend to look down on him. We actually don’t understand that you can take the man out of the street, but never completely the street out of the man, although we do pay lip service to that sentence. Someone like Maradona is a hero of the poor and the oppressed, first and foremost.

The fact that we often feel sympathy for the poor and the oppressed but sometimes look down on their heroes, is a sign of our complacent, paternalistic and condescending supremacy. Maybe we do want to remain saviors, so the problem we want to save people from has to also remain. Disadvantaged communities don’t need this type of false Messiahs. Therefore, we privileged liberals should realize that we often are more concerned with taking down our conservative “enemy” than with actually focusing on the victims of systemic injustices in our institutions. We should truly reflect on the fact and its implications that our lives, spent in the privileged layers of society, have more in common with the lives of our privileged conservative neighbors than with the lives of the disadvantaged. As long as we use movements like Black Lives Matter in a polarized political powerplay that actually drowns the potential for a policy of social reform, we will remain the folk that Malcolm X characterized so sharply.

Taking Matters into Own Hands

On February 14, 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz shoots 17 people at his former high school in Parkland, Florida. He has already attempted suicide by then. His autism is one of the factors that makes him a target of heavy harassment throughout his youth. His story makes clear that it is not his autism per se that makes him violent to himself and to others, but the social rejection he experiences by bullies, time and again.

David Dorn

On June 2, 2020, a young man shoots David Dorn in front of a pawnshop in St. Louis. David Dorn is a 77-year-old African-American retired police captain. During the social unrest after the police murder of George Floyd, he tries to protect a friend’s pawnshop from looters. It becomes fatal to him. 24-year-old Stephan Cannon is arrested a week later on suspicion of murder.

What Nikolas Cruz and Stephan Cannon have in common is the experience of social rejection. Something like that has similar effects on the brain as physical violence. The former experiences systematic rejection because of his autism, the latter experiences systemic rejection because of his skin color. Both forms of rejection are to be condemned. Unfortunately, neither Cruz nor Cannon seem to experience this condemnation. As a result, they ultimately share another violent reality: they make innocent others, i.e. scapegoats pay for the frustrations they both experience in the course of their lives.

It might be tempting to further isolate perpetrators such as Cruz and Cannon and to explain their violent actions on the basis of a hyper-individual problem from which they would suffer. However, this is all too easy and actually indicates a cowardly attitude. The way communities are made up does play a role in the way individuals behave. In other words, each community has a share and a responsibility in the violence perpetrated by some individuals. Again, a social environment might not pull the trigger, but it often does hand the weapons (see above). This is not to say that perpetrators of violence themselves bear no overwhelming responsibility. Cruz and Cannon do have a freedom of choice. In the end, they pull the trigger – or not.

It is important that Black Lives Matter acknowledges that someone like Stephan Cannon is also one of those blacks who feel rejected in a society dominated by white privilege. Stephan Cannon’s violence, as a revenge against the violence of social discrimination, is an actual imitation and continuation of white supremacy violence. It is precisely for this reason that Black Lives Matter, in addition to making an analysis of the causes of revenge against innocent third parties, must also clearly condemn this form of violence. If it doesn’t, it puts that condemnation in the hands of its opponents. The latter can then continue to live with the illusion that they have nothing to do with the frustrations of a young criminal. In that case, a society dominated by white privilege remains blind to its own violence. The condemnation of violence is therefore not a side issue in the struggles of movements such as Black Lives Matter. It belongs to their essence, at least if they don’t want to become part of the violent hatred they thought they were opposing.

So it is important that protesters against injustices listen to people like Desiree Barnes (a former Obama aide, by the way):

Alphonso Jackson Quote on Victimization and Blame

Malcolm X did not advocate violence as a necessary means to solve the problem of racial injustices. Following Malcolm X, oppressed people of color are not helped by an approach that turns perpetrators of violence from their communities into mere victims of other violence. It only turns those communities as a whole into the poor victims privileged liberals paternalistically love to use in their rivalry over power against privileged conservatives. Again, if movements like Black Lives Matter do not condemn violence against innocent bystanders, those conservatives will easily put the blame for violence on the side of protesters and remain blind to the reality of systemic violent oppression.

In short, following Malcolm X and other African-American voices on the matter at hand, black people in America should not look at themselves through the eyes of some of the white conservatives or white liberals, who often treat them as criminals or victims respectively. They should look at themselves as people with the potential to create a more just society, who can take matters into their own hands, and who can become agents of change.

James Baldwin Quote on Higher Dreams

 

James Baldwin Quote on Love for America

Malcolm X Quote on Human Beings

 

Malcolm X Quote on White Liberal

 

Towards the Death of the #MeToo Movement? – A Case of Killing in the Name of the Victim

TABLOID JOURNALISM VS INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM

READ What You Should Know About the New Michael Jackson Documentary (Joe Vogel, FORBES, January 29, 2019).

READ One of the Most Shameful Episodes in Journalistic History (Charles Thomson, HUFFPOST, June 13, 2010).

READ The Truth About What Michael Jackson Had (And Didn’t Have) In His Bedroom (Raven Woods, HUFFPOST, July 8, 2016).

READ Leaving Neverland Exposed: The Devil is in the Details by Damien Shields.

Regarding the allegations of child sexual abuse against the late Michael Jackson in the television production Leaving Neverland,  people often conclude: “No-one who wasn’t there can possibly know what happened or didn’t happen in Michael Jackson’s bedroom!”

Actually, there is ample proof by now that significant parts of Michael Jackson’s alleged abuse took place in non-existent beds of non-existent rooms on non-existent occasions.

At first sight, to believe that Michael Jackson was a serial pedophile is one of the easiest things to do. It also seems the most rational, even most compassionate thing to do. Well, is it?

Those who believe in Michael Jackson’s guilt often point to his “unusual behavior” as circumstantial evidence corroborating that guilt. However, they do not consider the unusual as well as fraudulent behavior and proven outright lies of accusers like Evan Chandler, Janet Arvizo, Víctor Gutiérrez, Diane Dimond, Dan Reed, Wade Robson and James Safechuck as circumstantial evidence that indicates Michael Jackson’s innocence.

Moreover, Michael Jackson’s accusers often refer to non-existent things as “proof” of Jackson’s guilt. Diane Dimond once enthusiastically referred to a non-existent videotape of Jackson molesting a boy. The videotape was allegedly owned by her convicted fraudulent friend Víctor Gutiérrez. Gutiérrez wrote a graphic pedo-fantasist book about the relationship between Jordan Chandler and Michael Jackson, based on a non-existent “secret diary” of Jordan Chandler. Despite being convicted multiple times for fabricating completely non-existent (pedophile) sex scandals against high profile figures, Víctor Gutiérrez for a long time remains an “expert” regarding Michael Jackson to (tabloid) media. Find out more about Gutiérrez by clicking here.

Víctor Gutiérrez even appears as “investigative journalist” in a 2007 UK television production on the late pop star. The title of that documentary is Michael Jackson: What Really Happened and it is produced by Channel 4. It is the same Channel 4 that, together with HBO, commissioned the 2019 film Leaving Neverland on Wade Robson’s and James Safechuck’s child sexual abuse allegations against the late Michael Jackson. Like the allegations by Robson and Safechuck, director Dan Reed’s “research” for Leaving Neverland seems primarily based on the pedo-fantasist fiction produced by Gutiérrez. Maybe this can be expected, as Reed clearly depends on the Gutiérrez based “information” of Channel 4. After all, in an interview for Slate’s The Gist podcast (with Mike Pesca, on March 1, 2019) Reed describes the origin of the Leaving Neverland film like this:

“At the outset, I had no special interest in Jackson. This project came about in a kind of random way and the timing is quite random.

I wish I could say I’d set out to make a big difference in the #MeToo movement. […]

[The project] came about through a casual conversation with a Channel 4 executive in the UK, and we were talking about what are the big stories out there that are slightly unresolved. […] I commissioned someone to do some research and they [sic] came up with this, I think it was like a foreign page reference to these two guys I’d never heard of, Wade Robson and James Safechuck.”

Dan Reed then goes on to say that he met each of them only once before recording their stories. Well, so far for the “research” of which the results are very similar to the pedo-fantasist fiction by Víctor Gutiérrez – watch:

James Safechuck in particular tells eerily similar stories about Michael Jackson as the ones found in the book by Gutiérrez and very convincingly claims, in Leaving Neverland, to have been molested numerous times in a 1988 non-existent train station.

James claims the abuse in the train station happened at the start of the abuse period, in the so-called “honeymoon period”. However, the train station opened in 1994, and by the time James could visit Neverland again with Michael Jackson present, it was already 1995. So molestation in that train station would have been, at the earliest, when James was 17 and significantly taller than Michael Jackson. After being confronted with this issue, Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed claimed that the abuse did take place in the train station, but that the time period of the abuse is wrong. This directly contradicts Safechuck’s own lawsuit in which he declares that the abuse began in 1988 and ended in 1992. It also goes against the whole narrative of the film that Michael Jackson was a veritable pedophile and lost interest in the boys once they reached adolescence.

Furthermore, Wade Robson and James Safechuck fail to mention Wade started “dating” Brandi Jackson thanks to her uncle Michael Jackson when Wade was about 9 years old. However, they do refer to Jackson’s non-existent jealousy regarding his alleged victims having relationships with girls. Related to this fact is the following claim by Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed (in an interview for !hit Australia, 12 March 2019). It is Reed’s attempt to discredit the testimony by Brandi Jackson. According to Dan Reed, Brandi only began seeing Wade after the majority of the alleged abuse (“hundreds and hundreds of times”, according to Wade) had already taken place:

“The intense period of Wade’s, it’s terrible to say it but sexual relationship with Michael Jackson was from the age of 7 to the age of 9. That was again, if you like, to use a dreadful word, the honeymoon period. The period when they were really seeing each other a lot and he makes it clear in the film he doesn’t really see Michael much after that.”

Exactly how the period of Wade being 7-9 years old could be the period when Wade and Michael “really saw each other a lot” will forever remain a mystery. At the time, the Robson family still lived in Australia. In short, Dan Reed is referring to a non-existent period of many Michael Jackson visits.

And so on. In any case, the reference to non-existent things as alleged “proof” are numerous in all the tales of Michael Jackson’s accusers. Exactly why these accusers should be believed despite their apparent lies, manipulations and fantasies is never quite explained by “believers” of Michael Jackson’s guilt.

It’s time to take a closer look. The testimonies (see below) of the potential victims of Michael Jackson reveal that the so-called circumstantial evidence accusers love to refer to is actually non-existent circumstantial evidence. Moreover, Michael Jackson rarely slept in the bed where children were sleeping alone, contrary to what many people believe.

Charles Thomson, an awarded investigative journalist (among others because of his work on a pedophile ring) and other journalists clarify key aspects of the Wade Robson and James Safechuck cases which were omitted in Leaving Neverland. They reveal the absurdity of these cases:

#MeToo AND TRIAL BY (MASS) TABLOID MEDIA

HIGH PROFILE CASES OF SEXUAL ABUSE THAT TURN OUT TO BE TOO RIDICULOUS TO BE TRUE, CONTAINING A MYRIAD OF PROVABLE LIES, HURT THE OVERALL CREDIBILITY OF THE VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE.

OVER MEDIATIZED CASES, LIKE THE CASES OF ACCUSER CARL BEECH OR LIKE THE CASES OF THE ACCUSED BUT INNOCENT CLIFF RICHARD, SIMON WARR AND BRIAN BANKS CREATE A CULTURE WHEREIN REAL PERPETRATORS CAN SHED DOUBT ON THE ALLEGATIONS OF REAL VICTIMS. NOT TO MENTION THE CASES AGAINST THE AMERICAN DAVID BRYANT AND HIS ENGLISH NAMESAKE, DAVID BRYANT.

BY NOT TAKING INTO ACCOUNT WHAT HAS BEEN DECIDED ABOUT A PERSON’S GUILT IN A COURT OF LAW, AND BY ALLOWING A HIGH PROFILE MEDIA FRENZY REGARDING TWO ALLEGED VICTIMS WHOSE CASES WERE ALREADY DISMISSED TWICE BY A JUDGE, ONE FURTHER PARTICIPATES IN THE CREATION OF A CULTURE OF DOUBT CONCERNING THE ALLEGATIONS OF VICTIMS.

THUS, IF THE #MeToo MOVEMENT REFUSES TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT HOW EXACTLY AN ALLEGED HIGH PROFILE PERPETRATOR WAS ACQUITTED THROUGH DUE PROCESS AND IF THE #MeToo MOVEMENT ALLOWS FOR NEW ACCUSATIONS IN A “TRIAL BY MEDIA” WITH EASILY PROVEN LIES AND HUGE MONETARY DEMANDS, THEN THE #MeToo MOVEMENT IS ITSELF AN ENABLER OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AND VIOLENCE (AS PERPETRATORS ONCE AGAIN CAN HIDE BEHIND A VEIL OF DOUBT).

SIMPLY LAZILY REFERRING TO A HIGH PROFILE PERPETRATOR’S ALLEGED “POWER” AND “GOOD LAWYERS” IS NOT ENOUGH TO JUSTIFY ANY TRIAL BY MEDIA. IT OPENS THE DOOR FOR WITCH HUNTS.

THAT’S WHY THE #MeToo MOVEMENT SHOULD BE VERY TROUBLED ABOUT A FILM LIKE LEAVING NEVERLAND.

AGAIN, IF THE #MeToo MOVEMENT IS NOT TROUBLED BY A PRODUCTION LIKE LEAVING NEVERLAND, THEN THE #MeToo MOVEMENT IS SIMPLY, HOWEVER TRAGICALLY, ONE MORE ENABLER OF THE RAPE CULTURE IT IS TRYING TO FIGHT.

HENCE, FOR INSTANCE, #WADEANDJAMESDONOTSPEAKFORME USED BY A GROWING NUMBER OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE SURVIVORS.

#MeToo Credibility Leaving Neverland 1

AS MANY AN ACCUSED BUT OFFICIALLY ACQUITTED PERSON WILL TESTIFY, THERE WILL ALWAYS BE PEOPLE WHO SIMPLY DON’T BELIEVE ONE WAS INNOCENT. THIS MAKES IT VERY EASY FOR FRAUDS TO LAUNCH NEW ALLEGATIONS AGAINST SOMEONE WHO WAS ACQUITTED BUT STILL SUFFERS FROM A BAD REPUTATION, ESPECIALLY IF THAT PERSON IS NO LONGER HERE TO DEFEND HIMSELF.

According to a Vox/Morning Consult survey (published April 5, 2018),

“Women who supported #MeToo were actually more concerned than women as a whole about some potential ill effects of the movement. Sixty-eight percent of #MeToo supporters were very or somewhat concerned about false accusations, for instance, compared with 63 percent of all women.”

Why?

According to the same survey,

“Women’s concerns are often rooted in a desire for the movement to succeed.

[…]

It’s not surprising that women who were supportive of #MeToo were also more likely than average to have certain concerns, said Sarah J. Jackson, a professor of communication studies at Northeastern University who studies racial and gender justice activism. People who support the movement “understand the stakes,” Jackson said.

In her recent interviews with feminist Twitter users, she said, she found a keen awareness of the ways feminist causes can be undermined — an awareness that false rape accusations, for instance, can be portrayed in ways that harm anti-rape activism as a whole.”

Read more here: Why women are worried about #MeToo.

A SERIAL PEDOPHILE?

Brett Barnes, Karlee Barnes, Omer Bhatti (O-Bee), Aaron Carter, Eddie Cascio, Frank Cascio, Kevin Macaulay Culkin, Bela Farkas, Corey Feldman, Brandi Jackson, Taj Jackson, Sean Lennon, Harriet Lester, Emmanuel Lewis, William Ray Norwood Jr. (Ray J), Danny Oliver, Kelley Parker, Alfonso Ribeiro, David Rothenberg (Dave Dave), Anton Schleiter, Franziska Schleiter.

What do these people have in common?

Well, for one thing, they all got to know Michael Jackson up close and personal when they were young boys and girls.

Secondly, they have all publicly, repeatedly and emphatically denied that Michael Jackson ever approached them inappropriately when they were children. They have claimed the opposite, testifying to nothing but good memories about their experiences with the late pop star.

I will wholeheartedly admit that this doesn’t mean that Michael Jackson didn’t molest any other children. However, often the testimonies in defense of Michael Jackson are read in light of the few allegations of child sexual abuse against him by those who believe that he indeed was a pedophile. Some of the “believers” then go to great lengths to explain the psychology of the people who claim, as adults, that they were never molested by Michael Jackson while they might very probably have been molested. This is a patronizing, belittling and arrogant attitude to listen to people’s testimonies, to say the least.

I would like to propose the opposite approach without, however, “explaining away” the possibility of Michael Jackson as a child molester beforehand on purely speculative psychological grounds. So I suggest to interpret the few allegations in light of the numerous testimonies in favor of Michael Jackson, after which certain non-speculative facts can be considered in relation to the allegations.

Before I go on, some people might want to know if I’m a fan of Michael Jackson. The answer is that I am a fan of his music, although certainly more of his early work as an adult solo-artist. I grew up on his first three albums, but his music generally is not my pick of the day. My taste in music is quite broad, not only in the “classical” sections, but also in the pop and rock sections. Aerosmith, Tracy Chapman, Leonard Cohen, Marc Cohn, DMX, Fleetwood Mac, King’s X, Joni Mitchell, Prince, Todd Rundgren, Bruce Springsteen, The Doors, Toto and U2 are among my favorite artists. One of my all-time favorite bands is Dan Reed Network, which is quite ironic since the director’s name of the controversial HBO-production Leaving Neverland is also Dan Reed.

I wanted to point this out because some people assume all kinds of things when you strongly defend the possibility that Michael Jackson wasn’t a pedophile at all. They assume that Michael Jackson must be your big idol, and that you belong to some sort of “crazy fan cult” that will deny the so-called truth about Michael Jackson being a pedophile at all costs, even in the face of “overwhelming” evidence or indications. I can honestly say that I would not have any problem admitting that Michael Jackson most likely was a pedophile if the evidence or circumstantial evidence would point in that direction. On the contrary, if that were indeed the case, then his victims would be welcome to receive my full support. However, in a world that is founded upon the so-called Age of Reason or Enlightenment, judgments should be made on the basis of facts and these facts point in the direction of false accusations. All the extremely thorough research done by legal and judicial authorities over the years, time and again exonerate Michael Jackson – for more on this, see FACTS TO CONSIDER WHEN WATCHING “LEAVING NEVERLAND”.

Dan Reed (the director of the HBO production Leaving Neverland) believes that Michael Jackson was a serial pedophile, as is also claimed by Wade Robson. There are a number of people who clearly qualify as potential victims because they slept in the same room as Jackson and had a close relationship with him (Jackson could have “groomed” them). Other children, who visited Neverland Ranch under the guidance of tutors and as a group (often in the absence of Michael Jackson) less easily qualify.

The vast majority of people who qualify as potential victims have testified that they never experienced any abuse by Michael Jackson (see below for some of their testimonies). This does not fit the pattern of the serial pedophile Dan Reed and others want to establish so eagerly. 

Already in 1993, following the first case of allegations against Michael Jackson by the Chandler family, 40-60 children were interviewed by prosecutors (some sources mention up to 100 children). None of these children corroborated the story of the accuser’s side. So what about the exceptions, the people who did level allegations against Michael Jackson? Are their stories credible? It is time to take a closer look at the specific cases against the late pop star.

NOTE ON THE TWO CASES OF CSA DURING MICHAEL JACKSON’S LIFETIME

It is good to remember some important facts about the two cases of child sexual abuse (CSA) that were brought against Michael Jackson during his lifetime (again, for more on this see FACTS TO CONSIDER WHEN WATCHING “LEAVING NEVERLAND”).

Regarding the Jordan Chandler case of 1993, people should consider the following facts. Jordan Chandler’s parents are divorced. His father, Evan, is a Hollywood dentist who wants to make it in show business. He becomes very disgruntled with his ex-wife June, his son Jordan and Michael Jackson when they don’t sustain the level of communication he expects from them. In a lengthy taped phone conversation between Evan and David Schwartz (Jordan’s stepfather) Evan reveals his plans to “destroy ex-wife June and Michael Jackson” if they don’t return to his desired level of contact. Evan Chandler suggests his plan is to level allegations of child sexual abuse against Michael Jackson. If his ex-wife and Michael Jackson do re-establish contact with him, he promises not to go through with his plan. In other words, Evan Chandler clearly aims to blackmail Michael Jackson. Whatever really happens between Michael Jackson and his son is of no importance to him. When Michael Jackson resists Evan Chandler’s extortion attempts, Evan Chandler tries everything to force his son to level allegations of child sexual abuse against Michael Jackson. Jordan Chandler denies anything inappropriate ever happened between him and Michael Jackson multiple times, until he finally succumbs to the pressure of his father. Evan Chandler threatens to go public with the allegations if Michael Jackson refuses to pay a settlement. Michael Jackson indeed refuses, after which Evan seeks monetary compensations in an official civil case against Jackson. Michael Jackson and his legal team file for the criminal case to go before the civil case so he can clear his name, but to no avail. After the civil case is settled (for $15,331,250) in which an official document makes sure that this is not an admission of guilt on the part of Michael Jackson, Evan Chandler is no longer interested in pursuing criminal charges against Michael Jackson. The criminal case goes on, though, but is rejected by two different Grand Juries – in any case, Michael Jackson did not buy his way out of court!

Jackson’s legal team had advised him to settle the civil case so they could assure a fair upcoming criminal trial. Moreover, Jackson was mentally and physically exhausted by the turmoil at the time and huge financial interests of his employees were at stake (Jackson had already cancelled part of the Dangerous tour). As the Chandlers eventually didn’t press criminal charges, Michael Jackson would later consider the settlement of the civil case one of the major mistakes of his life.

After the whole circus winds down, Jordan Chandler no longer wants anything to do with his parents anymore and files for legal emancipation. At the trial against Michael Jackson in 2005, his mother declares that she hadn’t been in contact with her son for 11 years. Jordan at some point even obtains a permanent restraining order against the father who had forced him to level allegations against Michael Jackson. If there is one manipulative, abusive person in this whole situation, it is indeed Jordan Chandler’s father Evan Chandler. Not only other people become the victim of his behavior. Eventually Evan Chandler commits suicide, a few months after Michael Jackson’s passing.

Tom Mesereau, Jackson’s lawyer in the 2005 case, refers to Jordan Chandler and the 1993 civil case against Jackson in the following way (in a lecture for Harvard Law School, November 5, 2005) – Mesereau begins by saying that Jordan Chandler never showed up to testify in 2005:

 

 

The second case against Michael Jackson during his lifetime revolves around Gavin Arvizo, which culminates in the 2005 criminal trial. The Arvizo family turns out to have a history of (at times successful) extortion attempts. On August 27, 1998, when he is only eight years old, Gavin steals two school uniforms and two school uniform pants from a J.C. Penney Department Store. Strangely enough, the incident ends with a settlement between the Arvizo family and J.C. Penney in which the store pays the family $152,200. Janet Arvizo, the mother, claimed that she had been touched inappropriately by security guards. The file about the case clearly indicates her manipulative tactics.

Apart from the Michael Jackson and the J.C. Penney cases, the Arvizos get also caught being involved in fraudulent and manipulative activities against actor and comedian Chris Tucker, comedian George Lopez, television host Jay Leno and editor Connie Keenan. Mother Janet Arvizo also committed welfare fraud.

A very important fact is the changing of the timeline of Michael Jackson’s alleged abuse by the Arvizos. The Michael Jackson Allegations website points out the consequences of this (see also below, Rolling Stone’s account of the same situation):

“Initially the Arvizos claimed that the molestation started as soon as they returned from Miami with Jackson, on February 7, 2003. This version of the story is also represented in the prosecution’s initial felony complaint, filed on December 18, 2003.

However, later they changed this story and said that Jackson started molesting Gavin after February 20. As you will see, this timeline change was not just a minor correction. It significantly changed the narrative of the Arvizos’ initial story.

[…]

According to the story that the Arvizos ended up with due to the timeline change, Jackson started molesting Gavin while the CPS and the police investigated, while there was a huge public attention on him and Gavin because of the Bashir documentary, and while his PR team was working overtime on damage control because of the public relations backlash resulting from the Bashir documentary. To believe the Arvizos’ story you have to believe that all the while this was happening (including a police and a CPS investigation), Jackson suddenly started molesting Gavin Arvizo, even though for three years he had not touched him and not even trusted him and his family. This is exactly the story that the Arvizo family ended up with after they were forced to change their initial timeline because of the discovery of the ‘rebuttal tape’ raw footage.

According to some people, Michael Jackson must have had tons of victims of child sexual abuse. During his lifetime, two cases came out. The first case turned out to be concocted by an overambitious, money hungry and abusive father. His son Jordan didn’t want anything to do with him anymore after he was forced to level allegations against Michael Jackson and after the case wound down. The second case was concocted by a family who had a long history of extortion attempts and who were caught lying on all counts during the trial against Michael Jackson in 2005.

Surprise, surprise? Considering all the supportive testimonies of people who knew Michael Jackson when they were children, it is probably no coincidence that of all the alleged potential victims the only cases that came out were clearly non-credible extortion attempts. There is no avalanche of victims coming out of the closet, unlike the cases against Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein, for instance. On the contrary, people like Brett Barnes, Kelley Parker, Harriet Lester, Brandi and Taj Jackson and Anton and Franziska Schleiter are asking Wade Robson and James Safechuck to stop lying about Michael Jackson.

A REPEATING PATTERN

Concerning the cases of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, the pattern to seek monetary compensations for alleged abuse repeats itself. This is a fact. Moreover, Robson and Safechuck were also caught lying on multiple occasions regarding their cases, not only by investigative journalists, but also by judges. This is a fact. It is no coincidence that their cases were already thrown out of court twice. The judge even reprimanded Robson, saying that “NO RATIONAL FACT-FINDER COULD POSSIBLY BELIEVE ROBSON’S SWORN STATEMENT.”

It is probably also no coincidence that Robson first made allegations when he was experiencing financial troubles and troubles regarding his career (he was not accepted as director for a Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil tribute show). And it is probably also no coincidence that Safechuck “suddenly realized” that he had been abused by Michael Jackson only days after the Safechuck family business got sued for nearly a million dollars.

The HBO production Leaving Neverland, about the Robson and Safechuck cases, leaves out all the kind of above mentioned information. It is therefore an unethical piece of journalism for several reasons: it contains significant and proven lies; it profits from a deceased person’s bad reputation who can no longer defend himself; it offers a prosecution’s case veiled as a “testimony of child sexual abuse”; it unashamedly profits from the sympathy of victims of proven child sexual abuse during this #MeToo era. In short, Leaving Neverland is a mere “trial by media” – a witch hunt of increasingly low credibility value.

With Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed finds himself in the company of people like Diane Dimond and Víctor Gutiérrez and their stories about Michael Jackson. Both Dimond and Gutiérrez are tabloid journalists of the worst kind, the latter being convicted for blatantly lying and making up stories on multiple occasions, also regarding Michael Jackson.

Víctor Gutiérrez is a proven and convicted pedo-fantasist like Carl Beech. However, the (tabloid) media did not dismiss the NAMBLA sympathizer. Although he was convicted a first time in 1998 for his allegations of pedosexual fantasies against Michael Jackson, Gutiérrez was treated as a reliable source and specialist by the (tabloid) media in the wake of the 2005 criminal trial against Michael Jackson. It’s quite unbelievable, but it happened. Apparently, when it has to do with Michael Jackson, some “journalists” have no problem disregarding even the slightest minimum of rationality and ethics.

It is now proven that Wade Robson read multiple tabloid stories while he was preparing his (ammended) complaint. He mailed those stories to himself. Robson also declared reading books about the pattern of child sexual abuse, supposedly to make sense of his own experience. Whatever the level of truth in his own story, the tabloid stories and the books on child sexual abuse clearly helped Robson to put the pieces of his own story together. It is also proven that Robson knew about information from tabloid stories not being true, and yet he used that information in his (ammended) complaint (an infamous Charlie Michaels story about a certain Mother’s Day in particular). As for James Safechuck, many elements of his story are so comparable to the story that Víctor Gutiérrez concocted in Michael Jackson Was My Lover: The Secret Diary of Jordie Chandler (Alamo Square Distributors, 1996) that they seem copy pasted from that book.

The question to determine Michael Jackson’s guilt should not be whether or not the stories of Wade Robson and James Safechuck “fit the pattern” of child sexual abuse. The question should be whether or not the different elements of their stories, which constitute that pattern of child sexual abuse, are actual facts as opposed to lies.

An approach to reality that reduces reality to “correspondence to a pattern” is an externalization of what Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995) calls “totality”.

A “pattern” is a way to approach reality. It is not reality itself. Knowledge of a pattern can be used by deceivers to “sell” a story as “truth”. Tabloid journalism excels in this respect. The testimonies below (see also the Open Letter by the Schleiter Family) challenge the standard “totalitarian” story of Michael Jackson as a textbook pedophile. 

The tabloid background and multiple proven lies (established by judges) didn’t help the cases of Robson and Safechuck (who contacted Robson and was eventually represented by the same legal team) regarding their credibility. Several victims of child sexual abuse were outraged about Leaving Neverland and spoke out against Wade Robson and James Safechuck once they knew more about the history of their cases.

Those who still manage to be intellectually dishonest by referring to the blatant untruths in Leaving Neverland as “unimportant details misremembered because of trauma” should realize that those so-called unimportant details are not presented as such in Leaving Neverland. They are presented as key elements in the stories of Wade Robson and James Safechuck.

In short, to minimize the untruths regarding those key elements as allegedly “being misremembered because of trauma” is ABUSE OF REAL TRAUMA:

CSA Victim Opposing Leaving Neverland Tweet

THE QUESTION OF VICTIMHOOD

It is patronizing if not arrogant to assume that people who knew Michael Jackson since their childhood only say nice things about him “because they remain under the manipulative spell of his pop star aura.” Let us listen to those testimonies first.

It is patronizing if not arrogant to assume that everyone who defends Michael Jackson “must be a fan.” Let us first find out if his ardent defenders are indeed all fans and if that is the main reason why they defend him.

It is patronizing if not arrogant to assume that big fans of Michael Jackson “would not admit that he was a pedophile even if the evidence pointed in that direction.” Let us first find out why many fans don’t believe that he was a pedophile – do they really have strong reasonable and plausible arguments, or is it mainly a rationalization of emotional impulses?

It is patronizing if not arrogant to assume that the Los Angeles Police Department, the FBI, the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services and the Santa Barbara County Superior Court would stand “no chance against the power and money of Michael Jackson.” Let us first find out what kind of investigations were conducted, how the raids on his Neverland ranch were done, how the police took photographs of his genitals and how he was treated when they arrested him.

I think it is important to move beyond those kinds of speculative assumptions because judgment based on assumptions ultimately damages the so-called #MeToo movement big time. The fact that victims have a voice is a breakthrough. As scholars have pointed out, the Judeo-Christian influence on the western world plays a tremendous part in this achievement – Gil Bailie, for instance (Violence Unveiled – Humanity at the Crossroads, The Crossroad Publishing Company, New York, 1995, p. 20):

“There’s plenty of truth in the revised picture of Western history that the young are now routinely taught, the picture of the West’s swashbuckling appetite for power, wealth, and dominion. What’s to be noted is that it is we, and not our cultural adversaries, who are teaching it to them. It is we, the spiritual beneficiaries of that less than always edifying history, who automatically empathize more with our ancestors’ victims than with our ancestors themselves. If we are tempted to think that this amazing shift is the product of our own moral achievement, all we have to do is look around at how shamelessly we exploit it for a little power, wealth, and dominion of our own.

The fact is that the concern for victims has gradually become the principal gyroscope in the Western world. Even the most vicious campaigns of victimization – including, astonishingly, even Hitler’s – have found it necessary to base their assertion of moral legitimacy on the claim that their goal was the protection or vindication of victims. However savagely we behave, and however wickedly and selectively we wield this moral gavel, protecting or rescuing innocent victims has become the cultural imperative everywhere the Biblical influence has been felt.

However, the perversion of the achievement to listen to “the voice of the victim” threatens to silence the voice of real victims again: people pretending to be victims murderously persecute others in the name of “the victim” in order to gain power and end up making ever more victims. As French-American thinker René Girard points out (Evolution and Conversion – Dialogues on the Origins of Culture, Continuum, London, New York, 2007, p. 236):

“We have experienced various forms of totalitarianism that openly denied Christian principles. There has been the totalitarianism of the Left, which tried to outflank Christianity; and there has been totalitarianism of the Right, like Nazism, which found Christianity too soft on victims. This kind of totalitarianism is not only alive but it also has a great future. There will probably be some thinkers in the future who will reformulate this principle in a politically correct fashion, in more virulent forms, which will be more anti-Christian, albeit in an ultra-Christian caricature. When I say more Christian and more anti-Christian, I imply the figure of the Anti-Christ. The Anti-Christ is nothing but that: it is the ideology that attempts to outchristianize Christianity, that imitates Christianity in a spirit of rivalry.

[…]

You can foresee the shape of what the Anti-Christ is going to be in the future: a super-victimary machine that will keep on sacrificing in the name of the victim.

The #MeToo movement should be about a concern for real victims, also victims of false allegations. The focus, time, energy and money of a society should go to real victims, not pretenders. That’s why the #MeToo movement should be concerned about false allegations. It should not lend itself to sustain the condemnation of people in a mere trial by powerful media, especially if those people are no longer here to defend themselves and were already acquitted on all counts during their lifetime. Regarding Michael Jackson, we should focus on what can be known for a fact before speculating and jumping to conclusions.

In any case, the people who have testified against Michael Jackson in a court of law were all caught on multiple and significant lies, while the people who testified in his defense were not (apart from Wade Robson, who claims to have lied in the only criminal trial against Michael Jackson in 2005). Also, many (if not all) people who testified against Michael Jackson sold their stories to the tabloids for big money. These are facts. It is also a fact that Michael Jackson was acquitted in 2005 and declared not guilty on all counts. Despite this declaration, many still had doubts about him and Michael Jackson would suffer the consequences of this trial mentally and physically. Michael Jackson never really recovered from the 2005 trial and was virtually destroyed. He would die four years later. The HBO production Leaving Neverland, true or not, further kills the reputation of an already dead man who can no longer defend himself “in the name of the victim”.

To get a clearer picture of the “regular” experiences with Michael Jackson, as opposed to the four exceptional cases of child sexual abuse against him (the Jordan Chandler case, the Gavin Arvizo case, and the Wade Robson and James Safechuck cases), below are some voices of people who are speculated about a lot, but are rarely been listened to.

VOICES OF “NEVERLAND CHILDREN” ON BEHALF OF AN ACCUSED DEAD MAN

SEAN LENNON (son of the late John Lennon) in exclaim! March 6, 2019 – emphasis mine:

“I think that was a super strange time, but not in a dark way. In an odd way, in a unique way. It was odd because Bubbles was all dressed up in dandy outfits and we were all running around playing videogames with this chimpanzee. It was a surreal scene. It was kind of part Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, part Dr. Doolittle, and part, you know, ‘Motown’s Greatest Hits’ or something. It was a convergence of a lot of disparate universes that merged for a while. And that was a strange scene but it was really fun. I mean it was amazing to hang out with all those animals, but there was also something very eccentric about it, you know?

[…]

He was the coolest dude I’d ever met for sure. I mean people, you know, they have a lot of opinions about him and like anything else, my opinions can only be based on my experience. But he was super fun to hang out with. I mean he was like a big kid, you know?

Michael Jackson and Sean Lennon 1

So yeah, the time that I got to spend with him was – it was like Disneyland all day long. He’d set up water balloon fights and pie fights in basketball courts. Just really fun stuff where he’d like invite all his friends over and there’d be two teams and everyone would dress in garbage bags and throw pies at each other. It was like super high-level fun and it was orchestrated fun and insanity.”

Michael Jackson and Sean Lennon 2

ANTON AND FRANZISKA SCHLEITER, An Open Letter, Enough is Enough, March 4, 2019

(https://schleiter-family.com/) – emphasis mine:

“In 1995 we first met Michael at a German TV Show. That day, something that we could never have imagined in our wildest dreams happened. It was the start of a unique friendship. A friendship so normal yet so unusual and magical. One that would last until the very last day of Michael’s life and will continue forever in our hearts.

From the beginning we knew that what we were privileged to experience, was a treasure worth protecting. Especially regarding the world we live in, with media that wants to make up stories that sell, rather than seeking the truth and people who want to read shocking headlines rather than knowing the truth. Over the years we were offered over a quarter million of Euros for interviews, but no money in the world could ever materialize a value that would stand above the value of our memories with Michael. This is the reason why we have never spoken a word publicly about our friendship.

Something has changed our mind about speaking up lately. The utter shocking news of a new documentary that would portray Michael once again as a child molester. Even writing this sentence, putting his name and that word together, makes us feel sick to our stomach. Michael never behaved inappropriately towards us and we neither witnessed nor suspected him doing it to someone else ever.

We have been angry with the public treatment of Michael many times in the past, but we chose to stay silent – hoping the truth to run marathons and protecting Michael and his privacy.

And we had good reason to be angry, for example when Anton was falsely portrayed in a German tabloid as having a homosexual affair with Michael. We witnessed first hand how ugly the media can be and how they make up most terrible lies just to have a story. When our father denied to talk to an inquiring journalist on the phone, the story read something like ‘Father refuses to defend Michael’. Unfortunately scandals sell much better than anything else.

Michael Jackson and Anton Schleiter 1

Spending a lot of time with Michael, we experienced two-faced people more than once. When Michael was in the room, they acted most charming with seemingly good intentions, but once he turned his cheek they would become rude and you could sense that their intentions were not that good after all. In front of us, they didn’t care showing their real face. We were only the shy German family in the background, not worth paying attention to. But we were observing and slowly but surely we started to get a glance at the often difficult world Michael was living in. It was a world in which it was so very difficult to trust.

And yet Michael was kind to everybody he would meet and believed in the good so strongly. Some would call it naiv, to us it was just one of his character traits that made us look up to him. Giving everybody a chance, even if you’ve been fooled by people over and over, really is remarkable. And it makes us even more sad to know, that many took and still take advantage of this.

Being around Michael made us realize that everybody wanted a piece of him. We often wondered why, from all people, he would let us into his circle of trusted friends. Now we understand it was maybe the fact that we didn’t want anything from him and simply enjoyed being together. When he offered to pay for our education, our parents denied because it was too much of a gift. It was a no brainer for us then, but looking back on it now, it was probably something that Michael didn’t experience often.

Michael Jackson and Schleiter Kids

Those who wanted a piece of his fame or his money did not care about Michael as a person or about his kind heart and uplifting spirit. It is truly a shame and we almost feel bad for those people in a way, because blinded by money, they probably didn’t realize that they just had the honor to meet a person that has a uniqueness about him that the world would only witness every other century. His music, his message, his creative and genius mind was truly one of a kind.

While our friendship with Michael was very normal in a sense that we hung out, chatted on the phone, went to the movies just like friends do, it was also magical in the sense that Michael had a warmth about him that was captivating. You would immediately feel comfortable and safe around him. He was one of the most humble persons we’ve ever met, always putting the well being of others over his own.

There was never a single moment of doubt of his pure heart and intentions, which also led our parents to allow us to travel alone with Michael.

Though we’re speaking up today, we still want to protect and respect our personal stories. What we can say though, is that each and every time we had to say good bye to Michael, we all cried because we knew how much we would miss him. The times we spent together were the most fun. And while Michael was always up for a good water balloon fight, he was also a great mentor, teaching us about life and sharing his incredible knowledge. We can remember how excited he was to tell us about the Wright brothers when he learnt that we had never heard of them. He gave us books and movies of stories we could learn from and he was eager for us to develop our talents.

We understand that our story can only put a small piece of the puzzle together for those who are still in doubt of what to believe about Michael Jackson. To those who still doubt that he was innocent, we can only plea to simply do your own research. And if the fact that Michael had to endure every possible raid of privacy in his trial in 2005 and still was found NOT GUILTY on ALL CHARGES, if this fact is still not enough for you, then maybe you can simply listen to his music.

Meeting many of his fans over the years, we were astounded how much they ‘got him’ as a person, even though they never personally met him. Michael and his fans had a unique friendship of their own. He trusted them and it is no wonder why they continue to trust in his good heart. They simply listened to his music and to his words. If you listen closely you’d know all of his stories and you’d know what kind of person he was. You would know that his mission for his time on earth was not only to bring happiness in form of melodies and rhythm but also to change the world to the better.

Boy, how he could inspire us to be our best selves and to show more love and respect to each other! Yet people choose to blow up lies that threaten to overshadow all of the greatness this man has brought.

Enough is enough.


Today we speak up for Michael because he deserves better and because he was the best friend we could have ever imagined.

Anton and Franziska and our parents Marlies and Wolfgang

Michael Jackson and Schleiter Family

COREY FELDMAN  

For CNN, Piers Morgan interview, October 28, 2013 – emphasis mine:

Well, Michael was the big brother I never had quite honestly. He was everything to me as a kid. He taught me so many things. He’s taught me about loving animals, vegetarianism, animal rights, environmental issues, caring about your fans, how to treat your fans, the fact that the moment that you meet your fans may just be a fleeting moment to you and something that you’re in the middle of things that you got to take time for. But to them – they’re going to remember this moment for the rest of their lives. So how important it is with that exchange and how you treat them a lot.

[…]

We discussed everything, you know what I mean, and it was literally like a big brother, little brother relationship where we’ve talked about everything, I would talk about the abuse that I endured in school which is also in the book, the abuse with my parents and also the difficulties of having to go to work everyday instead of being able to play. You know both of us shared that similarity.

Michael Jackson and Corey Feldman

We were robbed of our childhoods. We weren’t able to just have sleepovers or go play at the arcade with other kids or take your bike down the street and do what you want. That didn’t exist for us. That wasn’t a reality. So instead we ought to, you know, go from meeting to meeting and, you know, sit in a room full of people all day and be judged and have people question you about everything that you do, again, life under the microscope, totally different, a very different perspective than most people ever have the experience of having.”

For HuffPost, November 2, 2013 – emphasis mine:

“I don’t know a lot of things that happened in the years I wasn’t around, but all I can tell you is remarking about the person that I know, the person that was my close friend, that was like a brother to me. Michael was not that guy.

He was a guy who was so innocent, so kind of sheltered, you couldn’t even swear around him. You couldn’t talk about drugs, you couldn’t talk about nude women, you couldn’t talk about sex. You couldn’t talk about anything, because he was a very religious man for much of the early stages of his life and career.

When I got arrested, I was afraid, to be honest with you, that he’d never talk to me again because he had such a clean image — that I really expected that he’d just be like, ‘see ya!’ you know? And that really showed me the value of what type of person he was.

The fact that when I did get arrested, even though his image was still squeaky clean and by all rights he could have stepped aside and moved me back, but he didn’t.

He called me. I got that message on my answering machine, which said, ‘Hi Corey, it’s Michael. Is everything ok? Call me if you need me.’ You know, he was a friend. He was supportive. And thank God for that.”

For NBC – The Today Show, Matt Lauer interview, October 30, 2017 – emphasis mine:

FELDMAN: “I told the police [the names of Hollywood pedophiles]. In fact if anyone wants to go back to 1993, when I was interviewed by the Santa Barbara Police Department. I sat there and gave them the names. They are on record. They have all of this information, but they were scanning Michael Jackson. All they cared about was trying about to find something on Michael Jackson.”

LAUER: “Who you said, by the way, did not abuse you.”

FELDMAN: “Who Michael was innocent. And that was what the interview was about with the pollice in 1993. I told them, he is not that guy. And they said, maybe you don’t understand your friend. And I said, no, I know the difference between pedophiles and somebody that is not a pedophile because I have been molested. Here’s the names, go investigate.”

KELLEY (KELLIE) PARKER, for RTL 4, Erik Mouthaan interview, July 6, 2009 – emphasis mine:

“I have nothing but amazing memories from the entire time that I knew Michael and was friends with him. I can’t say enough good things. He just had this unconditional love. He was so pure. And… I just have so many great memories.”

Kelley Parker on Michael Jackson Tweet

Michael Jackson and Kelley Parker

KEVIN MACAULAY CULKIN 

For CNN, Larry King Live, May 27, 2004 [also talking about the criminal trial back then, in which Macaulay Culkin would eventually testify on behalf of his friend Michael Jackson] – emphasis mine:

KING: “What happened at the house? That’s what all the things that people are concerned about.”

CULKIN: “That’s what’s so weird.”

KING: “What did happen?”

CULKIN: “Nothing happened. You know, nothing really. I mean, we played video games. We, you know, played at his amusement park.”

KING: “Did he sleep in the bed?”

CULKIN: “The thing is with that whole thing, oh, you slept in the same bedroom as him. It’s like, I don’t think you understand, Michael Jackson’s bedroom is two stories and it has like three bathrooms and this and that. So, when I slept in his bedroom, yes, but you understand the whole scenario. And the thing is with Michael he’s not good at explaining himself and he never really has been, because he’s not a very social person. You’re talking about someone who has been sheltered and sheltering himself also for the last like 30 years. And so, he’s not very good at communicating to people and not good at conveying what he’s actually trying to say to you. So, when he says something like that people – he doesn’t quite understand why people react the way that they do.”

KING: “Why do you think he likes young people so much?”

CULKIN: “Because the same reason why he liked me, was the fact that I didn’t care who he was. That was the thing. I talked to him like he was a normal human being and kids do that to him because he’s Michael Jackson the pop singer, but he’s not the God, the ‘king of pop’ or anything like that. He’s just a guy who is actually very kid-like himself and wants to go out there and wants to play video games with you.”

Michael Jackson and Macaulay Culkin (1991)

KING: “Did your parents encourage it?”

CULKIN: “They weren’t against it. It wasn’t like they encouraged it or pushing me upon it. I wanted to hang out with him and they were fine.”

KING: “What do you make of what he’s going through now?”

CULKIN: “Like I said, it’s unfortunate, and you know, it’s a circus.”

KING: “Do you think it’s a bad rap?”

CULKIN: “You know, I think so. Yes. Listen, look what happened the first time this happened to him. If someone had done something like that to my kid, I wouldn’t settle for some money. I’d make sure the guy was in jail. It just really goes to show as soon as they got the money they ran. I mean, that’s what really happened the first time. And so I don’t know. It’s a little crazy and I kind of have taken a step back from the whole thing, because it is a bit of a circus. And you know, if the same thing was happening to me, I wouldn’t want to drag him into it and vice versa. So I try my best to take a distance from it, but like I said he’s still a friend of mine.”

KING: “If they asked you to be a character witness, would you appear?”

CULKIN: “I guess so, but probably not. Like I said, it’s crazy, and I don’t really want to be a part of it.”

 KING: “You like him.”

CULKIN: “I like him and he’s a friend of mine. I’m not saying I wouldn’t. It hasn’t been brought up to me and I don’t think he’d want me to either. Just because, like I said, if the same thing was happening to me…”

KING: “What reaction has happened to you from all of this?”

CULKIN: “What do you mean?”

KING: “Do people inquire of you a lot about it?”

CULKIN: “Sometimes. You know, people always have their opinions. It’s funny. People always talk to me about him, because you know, I’m one of these people who will tell you anything about my life, really, to get me going. You know, so yes, I mean, I’ve openly and freely talked about him and stuff like that. But overall, you know, he’s just a good friend of mine.”

KING: “You wish him well.”

CULKIN: “Of course I do.”

On the Inside of You podcast, Michael Rosenbaum interview, January 15, 2019 – emphasis mine:

“It’s almost easy to try to say it was ‘weird’ or whatever, but it wasn’t, because it made sense.

He reached out to me ’cause a lot of things were happening big and fast with me. I think he identified with that.

[…] I think that’s one of the reasons also why we got along, is that everyone’s always thoroughly impressed by him. So the fact that somebody treated him like a normal person… It was that simple.”

EMMANUEL LEWIS, CBC Television, George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, October 10, 2012 – emphasis mine (by the way: notice how the website “MJFacts” manipulated the following photo, adding bottles and changing a few other details):

Michael Jackson and Emmanuel Lewis (original vs manipulated)

You know this guy is great. You know Michael’s got a heart of gold. You know that he wouldn’t do any of those things that people were talking about. Later on, of course, after he died, a few of those people came forward and said, ‘You know, it never happened, we didn’t do anything, was pressured by parents, by this or that; we needed money real bad…’ and they figured that was a way to get out. And there’s people out there in the press that actually came clean. But it’s a little late, you know. Thanks a lot, you know what I mean? You put him through hell.”

 

Michael Jackson and Emmanuel Lewis 2 (Visit to Disney World, 1984)

EDDIE AND FRANK CASCIO, Oprah, December 6, 2010 – emphasis mine:

FRANK CASCIO: “We grew up with Michael, literally, since he was three and I was five, and so being around him was just normal.”

Michael Jackson with Cascio Brothers

 

 

EDDIE CASCIO: “He really just was so humble and then never really played off on the fact that he was, you know, Michael Jackson, you know. He was just Michael. He was just our friend.”

Michael Jackson with Frank Cascio

DAVE DAVE, Larry King Live, September 3, 2009 – emphasis mine:

“I believe that Michael was a great person. He has never hurt a soul and I am happy to have been his friend for all these years, and been a dedicated friend.”

Michael Jackson and Dave Dave

BRETT BARNES

Michael Jackson and Brett Barnes (Photoshoot)

Emmanuel Lewis tweets a couple of times on behalf of Michael Jackson’s defense after the airing of Leaving Neverland, the HBO production containing new allegations against the late pop star. Already on May 8, 2013, after Wade Robson goes public for the first time with his allegations against Michael Jackson, Brett Barnes tweets in Michael Jackson’s defense:

“I wish people would realise, in your last moments on this earth, all the money in the world will be of no comfort. My clear conscience will.”

Brett Barnes Tweet on Wade Robson Lies

To this day he keeps defending his late friend.

Michael Jackson and Brett Barnes

RETURNING ONCE AGAIN TO THE ALLEGATIONS AGAINST MICHAEL JACKSON

FOR MORE, SEE FACTS TO CONSIDER WHEN WATCHING “LEAVING NEVERLAND”

1993 – THE JORDAN CHANDLER CASE

In a taped phone conversation with David Schwartz (Jordan Chandler’s stepfather), Evan Chandler threatens to make allegations against Michael Jackson and his ex-wife if they continue to refuse communicating with him. Eventually, Evan indeed forces his son Jordan to make allegations of child sexual abuse against Michael Jackson. Once the allegations are made, Evan manages to make an appointment with Jackson and his lawyers. When he sees Michael Jackson on the day of the meeting, Evan walks up to him and amicably hugs the pop star – the alleged molester of Evan’s son Jordan. The hug is described by Evan’s own brother, Jordan’s uncle Ray, among others. Jackson refuses to settle for money at that point. Therefore, Evan goes public with the allegations.

Michael Jackson and his legal team relentlessly try to get the criminal trial ahead of the civil trial by filing motions, all of which are rejected by Judge David Rothman. California law at the time allows the civil trial to go ahead of the criminal trial. Michael Jackson and his legal team lose four (yes, four) motions in their attempt to postpone the civil suit until the criminal proceeding is completed. In other words, Michael Jackson is eager to go to trial to clear his name! The Chandlers, on the other hand, turn out to be only interested in a civil suit of which they want a settlement before any criminal proceedings.

Eventually, Jackson’s legal team advises him to settle the civil case for $15,331,250 so focus can be on the upcoming criminal trial. Jackson makes sure that an official statement is signed that this is not an admission of guilt. Michael Jackson’s legal team prepares for the criminal trial. The prosecution presents the case to two different Grand Juries, but the case is rejected twice. The Chandlers are not interested in cooperating with the authorities for the criminal case. Clearly they are not interested in a conviction of their son’s alleged molester.

Rolling Stone describes the end of the case as follows (January 29, 2019):

Jordan Chandler went on to attain legal emancipation from both of his parents. June Chandler testified at Jackson’s 2005 trial and said she had not spoken to her son in 11 years. Evan Chandler, who closed his dental practice in 1994, killed himself in 2009.”

People should make up their own mind about this whole matter, but to me this looks like an extortion plot set up by Evan Chandler, which destroyed his own family and the relationship between parents and son. It seems money was the driving force of the Chandlers, especially since they were not interested in pursuing criminal charges.

2005 – THE GAVIN ARVIZO CASE

Rolling Stone, April 7, 2005 (Inside the Strangest Trial on Earth, p. 36),  summarizes the case of child sexual abuse against Michael Jackson in 2005 as follows – emphasis mine:

“The prosecution’s case, seldom satisfactorily explained in the mainstream media, goes as follows. On February 6th, 2003, the Bashir documentary, in which Jackson is seen admitting that he sleeps in his bedroom with young boys, is shown on British TV. Among the children who appear in the video is his accuser in this case, a thirteen-year-old cancer survivor who had been introduced to Jackson during his chemotherapy treatments several years before.

According to the prosecution, Jackson had not molested the boy at the time the Bashir documentary aired, but he was sufficiently concerned that the boy might make such allegations that he and a band of Neverland courtiers entered into an elaborate conspiracy to “falsely imprison” the boy and his family for nearly five weeks (in luxury hotels, at Neverland ranch and other places), during which time they coerced the family into denying, on camera, that anything untoward had ever happened between Jackson and the boy.

[…]

At any rate, it was only after the filming of this so-called rebuttal video – which, incidentally, Jackson then sold to the Fox Network for $3 million – and after authorities had begun an investigation into Jackson’s relationship with the boy, that Jackson allegedly molested the child, in early March.

The prosecution’s case therefore boils down to this: In a panic over negative publicity, Jackson conspires to kidnap a boy and forces him to deny acts of molestation that in fact never happened, and then he gets over his panic just long enough to actually molest the child at the very moment when the whole world is watching.

It is a fantastic argument, a bilious exercise in circular prosecutorial logic: conspiracy to commit conspiracy, false imprisonment for the sake of it, followed by a sudden act of utter self-destructive madness. And none of it makes sense…

No wonder the prosecution’s case doesn’t stand a chance, and no wonder Michael Jackson is acquitted on all counts in 2005. And rightly so – justice is served.

Michael Jackson’s defense team catches the Arvizos lying, contradicting themselves and each other and changing their stories in significant ways.

Moreover, the Arvizos are not only caught lying in their case against Michael Jackson, they are also caught lying in other cases. They have a history of creating extortion plots.

Again, people should make up their own minds about this, but “if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck”, then it probably is a scam – once more.  

2013-2019 – THE WADE ROBSON AND JAMES SAFECHUCK CASES 

Readers should take a look at the following link to understand how both of these cases fall apart and why they were already twice rejected by a court of law:

FACTS TO CONSIDER WHEN WATCHING “LEAVING NEVERLAND”

Both Wade Robson and James Safechuck continue to seek huge monetary compensations, although a company like HBO recognizes them as victims – well are they?

All the facts that have come to light since the HBO-production Leaving Neverland aired, indicate that these cases too are scams.

CONVERSION?

The apostle Paul came to the conclusion that he had been in fact a persecutor while he was under the impression that he was defending (potential) victims. Some people have a similar audacity and spiritual humility regarding the Michael Jackson case and admit that they were wrong in persecuting Michael Jackson. This is what “conversion” looks like, also from a Christian point of view – becoming aware of your own complicity in violence, and turning away from that violence towards love:

Damien Craig Carter on Michael Jackson

I guess we all need redemption from a world that is dominated by greed and lust for power.

Conversion_on_the_Way_to_Damascus-Caravaggio_(c.1600-1)

Let’s get back to life. Back to reality.

FINAL NOTE ON MICHAEL JACKSON AS A “POWERFUL PERSON”

It is weird how some people keep describing Michael Jackson as a “powerful man”. He is dead. He cannot defend himself against the accusations that are now leveled against him by people who are backed by powerful institutions like HBO and Oprah Winfrey. Many assumptions about Michael Jackson’s so-called “power” simply aren’t true.

Michael Jackson’s properties got raided several times by police forces, his computers were meticulously investigated by the FBI, he barely had any privacy, his genitals were photographed by the police, tabloids continuously sought to publish scandalous stories about him (paying huge amounts of money for whoever wanted to tell a story), and he constantly had people around who wanted to take advantage of him (as is also testified by the Schleiters in their Open Letter). In 1993, during the first of two cases leveled against him during his lifetime, Michael Jackson and his legal team relentlessly tried to get the criminal trial ahead of the civil trial by filing motions, all of which were rejected by Judge David Rothman. California law at the time allowed the civil trial to go ahead of the criminal trial. Michael Jackson and his legal team lost four (yes, four) motions in their attempt to postpone the civil suit until the criminal proceedings were completed. In other words, Michael Jackson was eager to go to trial to clear his name, but he didn’t stand a chance. That’s how “powerful” he was.

Even when Michael Jackson was acquitted on all counts in 2005 for a case that was actually too ridiculous to go to trial at all (see above why), he had to face the fact that many people still believed in his guilt. And (tabloid) media kept feeding that perception. Michael Jackson could never defend himself against the bulk of venomous tabloid vomit. Again, that’s how “powerful” he was. Some people keep thinking Michael Jackson was acquitted in the Arvizo case because of his power and money, without looking at the case itself and its ridiculousness. Leaving Neverland of course confirms that assumption (at first sight that is). And anyone who dares to consider even the possibility that Michael Jackson is innocent of the charges leveled against him, is arrogantly labeled “a crazy, irrational fan”. And yet people who are not a fan of Michael Jackson have spoken out against Leaving Neverland and have discredited the allegations by Robson and Safechuck.

If the #MeToo movement wants us to accept that emotionally manipulative and deceitful cinematic productions by powerful media, launched to the world for big money, are more important to determine a person’s guilt than the facts that are revealed through arduous investigative proceedings – selling the former as “rational” and the latter as “irrational” -, then the #MeToo movement will eventually be more about defending grifters than about defending real victims of (child) sexual abuse.

That is not a world that I want to be a part of. This world:

MADONNA’S TESTIMONY

 

 

P.S. OTHER CASES KILLING THE #MeToo MOVEMENT

In a reaction on Facebook to this post, Leigh Fetter commented:

“Look at the recent acquittals of Oscar winning actor Geoffrey Rush, actor John Jarrett, the imminent quashing of the guilt verdict against Cardinal Pell et al. not to speak of Ms Amanda Knox and Raffaello Sollecito based on extraordinarily flimsy evidence in a time of moral panic. Accusations contagiously invoke the archaic bloodlust latent in crowds, by a drumming up crimes against the most innocent ‘victims’ such as girls and children. This enables a veneer of righteous indignation and sanctimonious fury, much like the blood-libel accusations of the Middle Ages, to shield the accuser from his own participation in the diabolical genesis of a sacrificial crisis and its desired catharsis, in the condemnation and putting away of the one called ‘diabolical; a predator’. As Girard has taught us, the existence of one voice of doubt destroys the blindness – and therefore the satisfaction and effectiveness – of the sacrifice. The number and intensity of these recent accusations speaks to a profound spiritual crisis at the heart of our ‘post-Christian’ societies and, I dare say, there will be many more victims who will be condemned as ‘rapists’, ‘homophobes’, ‘paedophiles’ etc like the terms ‘Christ killers’ and ‘kidnappers of Christian children’ that gave cover for the the fundamentally arbitrary persecutions in the Middle Ages.”

Also read Love the Enemy’s Side of the Story (Covington Kids vs Nathan Phillips).

POST SCRIPT

Important strands of the Jewish and Christian traditions are particularly sensitive to phenomena like mob violence, victim blaming, sexism and racism. Those strands try to give “voice to the voiceless”, whether in situations where the voice of individuals disappears in the roar of a patriarchal group mentality or in situations where the voice of individuals disappears in the roar of the mass media crowd.

The Christian tradition interprets the concern for the voice of the voiceless as the work of the “Holy Spirit”, who is also called the “Defender”, “Advocate” or “Comforter” (see, for instance, John 14:16-17, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you foreverthe Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”).

Therefore, from this perspective the Jewish and Christian traditions will be at once an advocate and a critic of the #MeToo movement, as the movement should represent the voice of the voiceless and not the voice of a blinded and blinding lynch mob.

The above article mainly focuses on the case of multiple child sexual abuse against Michael Jackson (although not exclusively) as a prime example of how the roar of the mass media crowd threatens the credibility of the #MeToo movement. That movement should be about giving “voice to the voiceless”.

MORE INFORMATION:

Rome, René Girard and the Sixteen-Year-Old Researcher

Linde Van den Eede, one of my high school students for almost two years now, wrote a very interesting paper on the end of the Roman Republic from the perspective of René Girard’s “mimetic theory”. She chose it as an assignment for her English class (English, mind you, is a third language here in Belgium).

Linde is one of those people who likes to reflect on our cultural history and on the ideas of what it means to be human. Her paper is a precious little pearl, well-researched and opening up perspectives for further reading and writing. Today, Linde celebrates her 17th birthday, which means that she was only 16 when she wrote her paper. I am convinced that whoever reads her paper will be quite astonished, as I was, about the academic level of her writing.

I am very happy and grateful to be able to share this piece of hard work on the occasion of Linde’s birthday – click here: PDF NON MOS, NON IUS.

vincenzo_camuccini_-_la_morte_di_cesare

AN AFTERTHOUGHT (A REFLECTION AFTER READING LINDE’S PAPER) 

Dictatorial regimes like the creativity of artists, novelists, philosophers and scientists insofar as that creativity proves useful for the maintenance of the totalitarian system. In extreme right wing and extreme left wing regimes, art becomes propaganda, novels serve as censured forms of escapism, philosophers turn into political ideologues, and scientists become technicians who are no longer interested in knowledge of reality as a whole.

In a totalitarian system governed by money, creativity is allowed insofar as it serves the goals of capitalism, which is to yield ever more money. Art becomes propaganda at the service of “supply and demand”, only now it is called “publicity”. If there are any novels left, they are supposed to be “entertaining”, thinking is reduced to “management”, and science only serves technological innovation.

What dictatorial regimes don’t like is freedom. They don’t like the true creativity of artists, novelists, philosophers and scientists, which is the creativity “to move beyond the system”. True creativity allows us to reflect on the system that we are part of, which is also a way of distancing ourselves from that very same system. Being able to reflect on a system means that we are not totally defined by that system. This kind of freedom makes us human.

True artists and novelists imagine “new worlds” that enable us to question the world we are living in. They don’t just offer forms of escapism. True philosophers and scientists ask new questions or ask age-old questions anew, and open up unprecedented perspectives. If humanity has found ever new ways of “being in the world”, it is not because people burned books that were deemed “not useful” or “a threat to the existing system”. No, it is precisely because there were people who rescued and revisited ideas that were supposed to be burned.

We give up our own humanity if we just ask ourselves how to function in a given system. Of course that is an important question, and we are always at the same time part of the systems that we are able to question. But to safeguard our humanity we should cultivate our ability to ask what it means to be human (and asking the question is more important than answering it). This liberating ability is quite unique to us, human beings, and therefore contains our humanity.

Let’s hope we never lose it.

cicero denounces catiline (cesare maccari, 1889)

 

 

Left with Right Identity Politics? A Jewish Challenge

“Cutting off hands, Congo is ours!”

These words are sung regularly nowadays by certain young people across Flanders, Belgium. I heard them last year during a sporting event organized by the school I’m working in. The following is an example of a sticker found at my school:

Handjes kappen de Congo is van ons (sticker in SJC)

I also heard the racist chant on Congo more recently on a TV news report. Amateur footage showed how a young Belgian-Rwandese woman suffered harassment at a music festival from a group of young men. The men were singing “Handjes kappen, de Congo is van ons” (“Cutting off hands, Congo is ours”). They of course refer to a horrible practice by colonists in former Belgian Congo: colonists sometimes cut the hands of workers who tried to escape oppressive labor conditions. In short, “Handjes kappen, de Congo is van ons” is a very racist song, referring to barbaric aspects of western history and culture.

Leopold II and Congolese hands cut off

Apart from plain racist statements, nationalist claims are also a hype. “This is Flemish soil” are words which often come from the very same people who sometimes sing the Congo song, thereby jeopardizing the cause of those Flemish nationalists who want nothing to do with racism. At least at the already mentioned sporting event this was the case. “Handjes kappen, de Congo is van ons” was uttered by students who write “Dit is Vlaamse grond” (“This is Flemish soil”) everywhere they can (on walls and desks, in notebooks, etcetera). It is quite ironic that people who claim to defend “the Flemish cause” associate themselves with a brutal practice of Belgium’s colonial past.

Godwin's LawIf the racist song is merely a self-proclaimed (however horribly misguided) “joke”, then the singers are really taking a basic element of a so-called politically correct framework as their moral reference point: racism should be rejected. If it is not a joke, then the singers truly reject what is often loathed as “political correctness”. In the latter case, the singers carry out Adolf Hitler’s worldview. Before going any further with this, it should be stressed that Godwin’s law is not at work here.

Claiming that “Flanders is for the Flemish” or, say, “Sweden belongs to the Swedes” on the one hand, and that “Congo belongs to the (Flemish) Europeans” on the other, is the same as claiming that some people have more rights than others. Apparently it is believed that Congo does not belong to the Congolese but to the Flemish.

Black Earth (book cover)To understand how those claims are connected to Hitler’s worldview it is recommended to read the work of historian Timothy Snyder (who was the first to deliver the René Girard Lecture at Stanford University, organized by Imitatio). Snyder explains Hitler’s worldview also in an interview with The Atlantic:

What Hitler says is that abstract thought—whether it’s normative or whether it’s scientific—is inherently Jewish. There is in fact no way of thinking about the world, says Hitler, which allows us to see human beings as human beings. Any idea which allows us to see each other as human beings—whether it’s a social contract; whether it’s a legal contract; whether it’s working-class solidarity; whether it’s Christianity—all these ideas come from Jews. And so for people to be people, for people to return to their essence, for them to represent their race, as Hitler sees things, you have to strip away all those ideas. And the only way to strip away all those ideas is to eradicate the Jews. And if you eradicate the Jews, then the world snaps back into what Hitler sees as its primeval, correct state: races struggle against each other, kill each other, starve each other to death, and try to take land.

[…]

It’s a very dark, empty universe. I mean, that’s how Hitler describes it to himself. There are really no values in the world except for the stark reality that we are born in order to take things from other people. And so Hitler sees the only good thing as removing the Jews who pervert, as he says it, human nature and physical nature. […] Unnatur is actually a term that Hitler uses, and I think it’s a really telling term. […] He sees the Jews as being the thing which destroys the world, which infects the world. He uses the term “pestilence” in this sense—the Jews have infected the world. They’ve made the world not just impure in some kind of metaphorical sense—he really means it. And so the only way to purify the world—to make things go back to the way they’re supposed to be, to have a natural ecology, to go back to this struggle between races, which Hitler thinks is natural—the only way to do that is to physically eliminate the Jews.

[…]

I went back and reread [Hitler’s manifesto] Mein Kampf, and reread the second book, and read all the major Hitler primary sources, and I was really astonished at how clearly these ideas came out—that, in fact, Hitler’s quite explicitly an ecological thinker, that the planetary level is the most important level. This is something that he says right from the beginning of Mein Kampf, all the way through. And likewise, I was struck that Hitler explicitly said that states are temporary, state borders will be washed away in the struggle for nature. In other words, the anarchy that he creates was actually there in the theory from the beginning. Hitler says from the very beginning, what we have to do is destroy the Jews; strip away the artificial political creations that the Jews are responsible for; and let nature just take its course. And what he means by nature’s course is [that] the stronger races destroy the weaker races.

[…]

In short, the “natural order”, according to Hitler, is the struggle between races, whereby the stronger “races” take land from the weaker. And so it happens that people to this day can claim that “Congo belongs to the Flemish” (which means that the Congolese are seen as belonging to a “weaker race”). Also according to Hitler, the so-called “natural order” is “morally preferable”. The Jews, in Hitler’s view, challenge the idea of a direct causality between a so-called “natural physical order of things” and “what is morally preferable”. I think Hitler is quite right about the latter case.

The Jews eventually, in the course of their history, question any determination of human beings by the physical forces that govern our universe. In ancient “pagan” (in this context “non-Jewish”) cultures these forces were deified and worshipped as “gods” (or “the divine” – “the sacred”). They were the authors of human life, whose laws prescribed the ultimate meaning and destiny of that life. Hitler re-interprets those forces in a somewhat pseudo-Darwinian sense, likewise claiming that the goal of human life is necessarily determined by the “laws of nature” as he defines them (see above). By contrast, the God of Israel ultimately calls human beings to become the authors of their own life and to understand themselves as relatively independent of “the given order of things”. To “the given order of things” belong our spontaneous inclinations, which also do not automatically determine our behavior (and the very fact that we can choose to follow our inclinations or not proves that we are relatively free and not determined by them). Even allegiance to a family, to a “father” and a “mother” becomes something that is not naturally, automatically given in a Jewish sense: it becomes a revealed commandment in the Ten Commandments. This might encourage us to focus our attention on those people who truly are father and mother figures in our lives, those who are not necessarily our biological father or mother (see The Judgment of Solomon in 1 Kings 3:16-28). Jesus maybe goes even further, as he invites us to question our attachment to our own family and culture (see previous post: Jesus Christ, Narcissist?) in order to love our neighbor and “love our enemy”. In any case, to many people, like victims of incest, it is probably a relief that abusive family members or oppressive cultural customs do not determine their identity.

What is ultimately at stake in the ideological battle between Judaism and, for lack of a better word, (neo)paganism is a question about what it means to be a cultural animal. Some people would say that the identity of every human being is determined by a particular culture and its history. In this case, any attempt to overcome our paradoxical so-called natural attachment to “our own cultural in-group” is perceived as a “perversion of nature” that is bound to tragically fail. From this perspective we are born into a culture whose given traditions, customs, norms and values we should deeply respect. It is also believed that history shows whose culture is “superior” to other cultures. Again paradoxically, it seems like an endless and necessary law that we are committed to deify our history and cultural heritage.

Contrary to the traditional pagan notions of identity, the Judeo-Christian influence on history instills us with the idea that we are also free individuals. In other words, our identity is not determined by any particular cultural group, history, sexual orientation or even gender we’re born into. As individuals we do not necessarily belong to any particular group except, paradoxically, to humanity. Thus Judaism indeed opens up the possibility to perceive the other as “other human being” (as Hitler would have it and detests it, see above), irreducible to the particular characteristics of any “group”.

the-very-relationship-with-the-other-is-the-relationship-with-the-future-quote-1

To be a cultural animal from a (neo)pagan viewpoint means that a human being is born into a given culture that he naturally tries to maintain and develop.

[Anarchy in this context is the ability to exist without being dominated and determined by other cultures. This usually results in the exclusion or destruction of other cultures, understood as a “natural evolution” in the cyclical order of things. There is no goal in this context but the goal to “preserve” and “obey” the endless laws governing human history.]

To be a cultural animal from a Jewish or Judeo-Christian viewpoint means that a human being is born with natural gifts to adapt to and create any culture.

[Anarchy in this context is the ability to exist without being dominated and determined by the physical order of things, and to consider the possibility of the beyond, the revolutionary and truly new “meta-physical”; it is a consideration of a non-cyclical, linear future.]

Cyclical vs Linear

It is clear that Judaism warns against the deification of any particular culture or history. Claiming the moral high ground by thinking that one’s culture is “superior” leads to the oppression of “others” who are perceived as “less human”, and Judaism battles this inhumane outcome. In this sense, Judaism is directly opposed to many far right identity politics. Ecclesiastes very nicely points to the futility of any human culture – generations and kings come and go (Ecclesiastes 1:11 & 4:14-16):

No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.

The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom. I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor. There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

On the other hand, Judaism also warns against the deification of individuality and human freedom. Claiming the moral high ground by thinking that one is “enlightened” and free from particular cultural traditions and historical influences unlike “backward others” leads to stores of rage and resentment from those others (who are merely “tolerated” but not really engaged in dialogue). In this sense, Judaism is directly opposed to far left-wing and all too liberal identity politics, which feed the resentment right-wing identity politics thrive upon.

Levinas Quote on War

Jesus warns his fellow Jews against the illusion that they are not dependent on historical influences like their ancestors. To think that we would not have made the mistakes our ancestors made in their time, is to deny the inescapable historicity of our humanity, and again leads to a rejection of the other as “other human being”. Again we then show the tendency to reduce others to the particular characteristics of a “group” different from “us”. In the words of Jesus (Matthew 23:29-32):

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!”

In short, Judeo-Christian tradition acknowledges that there are physical forces and cultural laws which precede our existence, but they are merely starting points. They do not determine the goals and destiny of our lives. We are called to live an existence as individuals who ultimately belong to no particular group but humanity. Thus we are called “to love our neighbor as ourselves”. Therein lies the essence of “human nature” in a Judeo-Christian sense.

P.S. 1 It remains to be seen if a young Flemish nationalist movement like Schild & Vrienden is also a racist movement. Dries Van Langenhove, leader of the movement, called the above mentioned racist Congo song “an edgy student song, sung at nearly every party”. I hope he doesn’t mean that it should therefore be accepted. The supposed racism of “other cultures” doesn’t in any way justify racism in one’s own quarters (although it might make it comprehensible). To be proud of your own culture means that you don’t imitate morally questionable practices of other cultures, and that you don’t take those practices as a reference point to justify your own practices. In the case of responding to the racism of others, we are responsible for our own behavior, and we shouldn’t blame others for the way we act – that would be hiding behind a scapegoat mechanism.

Anyway, here is an interview with Dries Van Langenhove by Lana Lokteff of Red Ice. It reveals some of the suppositions of Schild & Vrienden concerning “identity formation” and some of their views on what it means to be part of a cultural realm:

P.S. 2 For more on the word culture and its etymology click here for slides on Australian pop culture (assembled by Angela Ballas – Yaryalitsa). Or watch the powerpoint:

Sherin Khankan on Islam

Sherin Khankan (°1974), Denmark’s first female imam and one of the leaders of the Mariam Mosque in Copenhagen, was interviewed for Belgian television (May 29th, 2017).

The full interview can be watched here – definitely a MUST SEE:

Here are some transcripted excerpts from the interview:

Interviewer Bart Schols: Did you get some bad reactions on what you’re doing? Because every religion has a very traditional side sometimes, probably also in Denmark?

Sherin Khankan: Actually, I never focus on the bad reactions. I always focus on the support, and we have a lot of support from all over the world. Actually, recently we had a visitor, from one of the world’s largest mosques, the world’s third largest mosque – it’s the Grand Mosque in Indonesia –, and the grand imam he came and he blessed our mosque, and he prayed in our mosque, and he made a written document, saying that female imams are of course a possibility, and it’s a part of our Islamic tradition and theology… So, but of course, when you create change… When you change the structure, when you change the fundamentals, when you challenge the patriarchal structure, you challenge the power balance. And when you do that, people will get upset, it’s natural.

So we are prepared for opposition, but actually the worst opposition that we met so far was not from Muslims. The reactions from Muslims were quite moderate, but from the right wing parties, Islamophobes, Nazi-parties… we had very bad reactions.

Interviewer: More than from the inside?

Sherin Khankan: Yeah, I think it’s because… to Islamophobes progressive Muslims are a greater threat than Islamists are, because we are actually able to change the narrative on Islam in Europe.

Interviewer: Okay. You are traveling around the world with a message, if I may call it like that. What is the fight that you are fighting?

Sherin Khankan: First of all we want to give women the chance to disseminate the Islamic message. We want to create a place where women are equal to men. We want to challenge the patriarchal structure. We want to challenge the growing Islamophobia, and we wish to unite or unify all the great forces throughout the world who are fighting for women’s rights.

Interviewer: That’s in general, but if you, like in different countries, because you travel around the world, around Europe… you have different issues. There’s the headscarf, that’s a discussion about everywhere, also here in Belgium. What is your position on that?

Sherin Khankan: I do believe that, it’s stated very clearly in the Declaration of Human Rights, that any person has the right to practice his or her religion in the public sphere and in the private sphere. So if a person chooses to wear the headscarf of her own free will, it’s her choice and nobody should be able to touch that woman.

Interviewer: Also a police officer, for example?

Sherin Khankan: Of course, why not? A police officer, a doctor, a lawyer, a judge, anyone, because what’s important is not what you wear on your head. It’s what you have inside your head. So even if you ban the scarf, people will still have the same opinions inside. So it’s not a matter of the scarf, it’s a matter of realizing that we are living in a world and we have to accept pluralism as a factor, as a fundament for our societies. If not we are becoming oppressive. So I’m fighting for any woman’s right to wear the hijab and not to wear the hijab…

From a rational point of view, you would expect that Western extreme right-wing parties are delighted with the kind of Islam Sherin Khankan is advocating. After all, their message to people from other cultures has always been: “Adapt or go back to your country!” Exactly what culture people should adapt to or how that culture is defined is never quite clear, but anyways: here you have a kind of Islam that is perfectly compatible with the principles of a Western political, secularized culture, respecting the separation of Church and State. This separation goes both ways, of course. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes it very clear:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Sherin Khankan defends an Islam that does not interfere with the fundamental rights in a modern, Western democracy, so what are some extreme right-wing parties making such a fuss about? Aren’t they defending their “own” Western culture and values? Apparently, we shouldn’t expect too much rationality from them. What happens is quite simple: extreme right-wing parties partly need an “enemy monster” to justify and manage their own existence. If the so-called monster that is Islam turns out not to be such a monster after all, their reason for existence is threatened. That’s why extreme right-wing parties always make reasonable Muslim voices “the exception”. Sometimes they also argue that those reasonable Muslim voices are to blame for the infiltration of Islamist extremists in Western society, as if they function as “hosts” for extremist “parasites”.

What extreme right-wing parties rarely notice, of course, is the result of research done by security services all over the world: when people feel very oppressed or frustrated, they can radicalize very quickly one way or the other (extreme right-wing parties, as advocates of the reasoning that “our own culture is under threat”, are also an example). So to suppress a religion like Islam and Muslims is a very bad idea. The British Security Service MI5 (Military Intelligence, Section 5) claims there is evidence that a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalization. Indeed, as the research by MI5 reveals, the vast majority of extremists participating in terrorist attacks in the UK, are British nationals. They are not illegal immigrants and, far from having received a religious upbringing, most are religious novices.

Ah, well… Are we strong enough to create identities beyond the need for an enemy monster? What if “the Wicked Witch of the West” isn’t wicked after all? I can’t help but mention in this context a great book that deals with the recurring dynamic of the need for a monstrous enemy: The Wicked Truth: When Good People Do Bad Things by Suzanne Ross. It is about the musical Wicked, the subversive and challenging prequel to the well-known story of The Wizard of Oz. Indeed, today we could ask the question: “What if the Wicked Witch of Islam isn’t wicked after all?” Maybe we remain anti-rational weaklings who need witches… Or maybe there’s hope, if we just listen to women like Sherin Khankan.