What's Barbara Really Talking About?
I have no problem with pleading your case by proxy. Unless your proxy is Michael Jackson.
In this week's Maclean's
, Barbara Amiel recounts the twisted saga of Michael Jackson. Now, I have never been a find of Amiel, her lifestyle, her politics, or her contribution to the Canadian journalistic canon. However, my first reaction to the article was reasonably positive. Well written and comprehensive with only a few lead sinkers like:
As the tape was played, Michael slumped in his seat. His life seemed as wrecked as his face. Humpty Dumpty had fallen off the wall and all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again. Indeed, nothing can be as it was for Jackson.
He seems stuck somewhere in the emotional landscape of adolescence. Uncannily, he resembles in every detail Peter Shaffer's notion of Mozart in his film Amadeus.
But these small literary crimes can be forgiven. She is, after all, painting a portrait of a sad and disturbing epic that has thoroughly captured the public consciousness, so perhaps some hyperbole and clunky, cliched metaphors are acceptable.
Unless, of course, the whole article is actually about something else. Which it almost certainly is.
It suddenly dawned on me what Amiel is doing in this article- lashing out at her and Lord Black's own detractors under guise of some thoughtful examination of Jackson's legal woes. Consider these passages:
Before guilt or innocence is established, his money will have been divided up by the legal system for the benefit of the legal system and the government.
The prosecutors and police who seek to make their careers out of convicting high-profile defendants have had their glory.
And the kicker:
It is not a crime to be a carrion vulture or scavenger, and the sight of a rich vulnerable person brings out the jackal in a lot of people. I suppose this case simply filled a feeding frenzy of our times. It's not an edifying spectacle.
Hmmm...does this strike anyone as eerily familiar? Is Amiel bemoaning her own treatment at the hands of prosecutors, police, media and stockholders? Is she not, in her own mind anyway, a 'rich vulnerable person'? She has turned an article on a weird, possibly criminal pop star into some strange tirade against the same forces gathering around her husband's business empire. Not because he's done something wrong, mind you...he, like Jackson, is the victim of some anti-rich predatory drive in our culture.
Why else would Amiel try to minimize the seriousness of the crime Jackson is alleged to have committed? For her literary charade to work, Jackson must appear to be a somewhat innocent victim of some amorphous societal drive to strike down the rich and powerful. Here's how she explains the child molestation charges:
Is there really any doubt that he had children in his bed for his pleasure? And what was the damage to them? Child molestation of any sort is not a desirable thing, and I can't think of any culture that has viewed it so, or even viewed it as a neutral sexual orientation. But in the absence of violence, fear and physical coercion, in the total absence of penetration, what actual harm has he done? These children have received millions for their moments in his bed.
Now that is crass. Child molestation is not a desirable thing? Brilliant deduction, Amiel! And I could easily cite a slough of research that any sort of sexual abuse, even if devoid of coercion and fear, is pretty god damn damaging to a child- whether or not they get paid for it in the end. To even suggest that the psychological trauma of sexual abuse can be fixed with large sums of cash is disgusting, and reveals a great deal about how Amiel views the world.
If you're upset at the way you've been treated, Babs, write a column about it. Don't try to downplay child abuse or construct a flimsy allegory to plead your case. As you say, it's not a very edifying spectacle.