There is an aspect of the Michael Jackson affair that has been insufficiently explored, namely, what exactly are we mad about? The general charge is that he has corrupted a young boy. The prosecutor’s specific claims are that he had Angelo (we’ll call him) to Neverland, talked him into the same bed used by Michael, perhaps even gave him a whiff of alcohol, and then off into sexual dreamland.
Mr. Jackson’s lawyer says the fantasy is that of the prosecution–that his client extended to his 12-year-old guest nothing more than the warmth and hospitality he gives out as an expression of his nature. Yes. But did he do it?
The mystery lies in our society’s confusion over sexual misconduct and the causes of it. Jump to Angelo just six years older than he now is. At age 18, he would be free of any interference by the state in his private life, as we like to put it. When he is 18 plus one day, he can hire out to Hollywood studios to do live sex. He can, now that the Supreme Court has swept away the cobwebs on that issue, court other relationships with men old and young (though not under 18), even if they can’t smoke together in a New York restaurant.
If what Michael Jackson allegedly did to Angelo is proved, what exactly do we then fear for Angelo as he grows up, under the shadow of the sleep-in at Michael’s? That his senses will have been deranged? It is entirely believable that a paedophile’s activity with children menaces them psychologically. What is far less than clear is the suspension of any menace attaching to sexual molestation after age 18.
Our sex-driven culture is in overdrive, showing no signs of alarm, let alone dismay. Reports on the Michael Jackson case bring up data on the incidence of child molestation. We learn that in the past thirty years there has been a tenfold increase in such activity. The question that is not being asked is: How is that so? Does this tell us only that guardians of the law have been sleepy in the matter of preventing grown men (if that correctly describes Michael Jackson) from debauching boys?
Let us assume what it is always safe to assume, that a lot of misconduct always happens, and it is a matter of coincidence whether we uncover it, let alone do anything about it. We learned last week that there are three hundred thousand prostitutes in Spain. Well, there were fifty thousand of them in Rome at the time of Saint Augustine. Are we to assume that these prostitutes, male as well as female, set out in their profession because as children they were disoriented? Treated like Angelo at Neverland?
We appear to be saying, in our fulminations against Michael Jackson, that he might well have influenced Angelo toward a life of dissolution, where sexual gratification dominates thought and act. But don’t we speak with forked tongues? The American Civil Liberties Union stays up all night worrying lest anyone should get in the way of Angelo’s sating himself, on radio and on television, in movies and in books, with the sap of degeneracy. But if Michael Jackson did it with Angelo at age 12, he is damned and we are prepared to lead him into prison. If the lawyer could prove that notwithstanding his young appearance, Angelo actually had turned 18 the week before Neverland, Michael Jackson would be protected by the engines of license in whatever he did.
There is something studiously unattractive about the particular depravity of Michael Jackson. His struggle against aging gives him absolute title to Dorian Gray, Manqué–the man who tried everything science could come up with to arrest the aging of his face, but got it all bollixed up, so that he looks now like a circus clown halfway through makeup. It was in a true sense charming that he thought to distract the world’s attention from his problems by jumping up on top of an automobile and dancing–his trademark, since age 6.
That didn’t stop the fuzz, but the tides were with him, singing their loyalty and devotion, signaling the public’s power to relegate Angelo to nothing more than one dance step in the ageless pursuit of pleasure.