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„Nobody fact-checks anything anymore“ – Michael Jackson as an early model for the fake news industry

February 7, 2017

This blog is like an encyclopedia of all the wrong stories, misrepresentations, half-truths and outright lies on Michael Jackson. We (along with a few other MJ blogs) have tried to address and examine all fake stories and never proven allegations, which lead to a completely misrepresented caricature and distorted personality of Jackson in the media.

We do this research and vindication work since Michael’s death in 2009, but the year 2016 for the first time suddenly brought a “new” global phenomenon to the consciousness of our societies which is well-known to MJ advocates for decades: fake news.

Michael Jackson as the ultimate testing ground for fake news

There are numerous examples of fake news on Michael Jackson, beginning in the early 1980ies with the stories of the hyperbaric chamber he allegedly slept in, or buying the bones of the “Elephant Man”. One of the most absurd stories was the voodoo piece of Maureen Orth in Vanity Fair in 2003, in which she claimed MJ had sacrificed 42 cows to put a voodoo curse on his enemies.

It’s incredible this false story is still online today, but let’s see it as a proof for actually existing fake stories with which the media make a fool of themselves.

The first stories were mainly spread in gossip tabloids and the yellow press, but later the fake stories entered the mainstream media, and a zealous copy-and-paste business became common all over the mass media. When the claims of sexual abuse began, salacious stories promised high ratings and millions of dollars, and journalists and editors didn’t care about lies. Fact-checking was out, especially in the case of a celebrity who many readers or viewers believed to have lived a “bizarre” life. 

Another example is the hoax of a video tape about Michael allegedly molesting one of his nephews, invented by Victor Gutierrez and promoted by Diane Dimond. Both of them were sued by Jackson. For further details see here and here.

For the unrestrained behaviour of the media and how they distorted the facts during the molestation trial in 2005 please watch this video of Deborah Kunesh with excerpts from the film “The trials of Michael Jackson” of Dana Gedrick and Barry Shaw. Or see this post.

During the trial numerous examples of misinformation happened some of which are described in the film. Media members can be seen trying to put words into the mouths of their interview partners, answering their questions themselves, prerecording reports on the verdict before it was even returned, making fun of Michael Jackson and witnesses, reporting one-sidedly testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and omitting cross-examinations.

stop-misinformation-mjBest described is the media’s behaviour during the trial by Charles Thomson’s article in The Huffington Post.

The era of post-truth already began with Michael Jackson. What the media did with Jackson – creating a whole new person and life with Jackson’s name, that had nothing to do with his real life – was the most appalling deformation of a personality the world ever saw. In fact, Michael Jackson became a prototype for the media to produce fake news and to experiment how fake news works. It became a very successful experiment because Jackson never managed to get rid of the image the media created of him.

Even today, almost 8 years after his death, it is still possible to spread the most horrible fake stories about him, considering the campaign of Robson/Safechuck and their lawyers.

As a result of this campaign we have to face “articles” like the one of Linda Stasi in the New York Daily Mail which was addressed by Raven Woods in her recent Huffington Post article.

Stasi is exactly that kind of “journalist” who turned journalism completely into fiction. She violates all journalistic demands and ethics by using expressions gushing of hate and telling lies that overstep all limits. She presents not one single piece of evidence or fact (of course she can’t!) in her tissue of lies, it’s only full of false accusations based on her personal opinion. She not only behaves like the media in 2005 when they didn’t wait for the outcome of the trial and convicted Michael before any facts were presented, but she includes additional lies like these about the Chandler case:

Lie: “Jackson first spotted the 13-year-old boy at the boy’s stepfather’s Rent-A-Wreck operation in Los Angeles. Jackson had disguised himself and come in to rent a used car of all things.”

Truth: Neither “spotted” Jackson the boy there (he was not there!), because owner Dave Schwartz specifically called his wife June and told her to come over with Jordie and her daughter to meet Jackson, nor was Jackson “disguised” when his car broke down and he came to Rent-A-Wreck for a replacement vehicle, as he was recognized immediately by the employees. See Mary Fischer’s well-researched report.

Lie: “Within weeks, the mother and her children were “enjoying” sleepovers at the ranch.”

Truth: It took at least 8 months until the Chandlers came to the ranch for the first time. The first meeting at Rent-A-Wreck was in May 1992 and the first Neverland invitation to June Chandler and her children was in late January 1993. In the time between Michael was on the first leg of his Dangerous Tour (June to December 1992).

Lie: “Eventually the boy broke down and told his father that Jackson had been abusing him.”

Truth: The boy never told the abuse story on his own volition and at first repeatedly denied any abuse, but only “eventually broke down” after he received a controversial drug by his father in his dental practice.

Lie: “The dad, Evan Chandler, a dentist-to-the-stars and a screenwriter who co-wrote “Robin Hood Men in Tights” with Mel Brooks, called the cops.”

Truth: Evan Chandler never called the cops – show me the police report, Ms. Stasi! Instead he went to a lawyer to check out his possibilities for extortion.

Lie: “Within a few weeks the father was jumped in his office garage and beaten to a pulp.” (suggesting it was someone of Jackson’s side)

Truth: Evan Chandler was beaten by a paparazzi with a camera who tried to “slow him down” and “smacked him in the back of the head”, as told by his brother Ray Chandler in a CNN interview.

She even tells the grotesque, ridiculous story hinted by Robson’s lawyers suggesting that Michael Jackson hired someone to kill his nephews’ mother Delores. “A female member of the Jackson clan who had thrown Michael out of her house” told her about it? Her of all people? And who should that “female member of the Jackson clan” be? Why didn’t she tell it to the authorities when Delores died? Why does she only regret not having written an article instead of not having told it to Sneddon or the police?  And why does she come up with this hateful and malicious fake story now?

Today’s fake news industry

But this is exactly the crucial point: Today it seems easier than ever to spread fake news because the people believe everything they read. People unlearned how to fact-check, they lost their common sense, they became irrational and cannot distinguish anymore between lie and truth. They are not interested anymore in fact-checking because they only want to read what fits in their own world view. This is at least what some media themselves have noticed during the last year.

This article of the Washington Post explains the serious situation. The Washington Post had a special column since 2014 to debunk internet hoaxes, but had to close this column now because the number of hoaxes became so huge that it didn’t make sense anymore and due to the huge willingness of people to believe fake news. Some excerpts:

“There’s a simple, economic explanation for this shift: If you’re a hoaxer, it’s more profitable. Since early 2014, a series of Internet entrepreneurs have realized that not much drives traffic as effectively as stories that vindicate and/or inflame the biases of their readers. Where many once wrote celebrity death hoaxes or “satires,” they now run entire, successful websites that do nothing but troll convenient minorities or exploit gross stereotypes. Paul Horner, the proprietor of Nbc.com.co and a string of other very profitable fake-news sites, once told me he specifically tries to invent stories that will provoke strong reactions in middle-aged conservatives. They share a lot on Facebook, he explained; they’re the ideal audience.

…Frankly, this column wasn’t designed to address the current environment. This format doesn’t make sense. I’ve spoken to several researchers and academics about this lately, because it’s started to feel a little pointless. Walter Quattrociocchi, the head of the Laboratory of Computational Social Science at IMT Lucca in Italy, has spent several years studying how conspiracy theories and misinformation spread online, and he confirmed some of my fears: Essentially, he explained, institutional distrust is so high right now, and cognitive bias so strong always, that the people who fall for hoax news stories are frequently only interested in consuming information that conforms with their views — even when it’s demonstrably fake.

At which point does society become utterly irrational? Is it the point at which we start segmenting off into alternate realities? “What Was Fake” has had a good run, but the nature of Internet misinformation has changed — so as the year winds up, we’re going to change, as well. Thanks for reading over the past year and a half!”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2015/12/18/what-was-fake-on-the-internet-this-week-why-this-is-the-final-column/

The Washington Post asks “at which point does society become utterly irrational?”. The answer is quite easy: It happened at a point years ago when readers and audiences were served with the craziest and most absurd lies about Michael Jackson by the media itself, by journalists and editors and authors who wanted the society to believe any irrational nonsense they could find.

Meanwhile fake news writing became a big business. The Paul Horner mentioned in the above article has created an empire of it and even admits to make a living of posting fake news. That’s what he said in an interview:

“Honestly, people are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore — I mean, that’s how Trump got elected. He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn’t care because they’d already accepted it. It’s real scary. I’ve never seen anything like it.“

“My sites were picked up by Trump supporters all the time. I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything. His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist.”

00fakenews2-superjumbo

The fake news problem also includes fake photos

All of us probably have heard hoax stories like the paid Anti-Trump protestors coming to Austin/Texas in buses, or the Pope endorsing Donald Trump, and we all have seen in the “Pizzagate” case what dramatic consequences these lies can have.

But the fake news industry not only spreads in the US, it became a global business.

This article tells that Macedonia became a haven for websites dealing with pro-Trump fake news. Young Macedonians found out they can make profit from the US elections by creating fake news sites on Facebook:

“I started the site for a easy way to make money,” said a 17-year-old who runs a site with four other people. “In Macedonia the economy is very weak and teenagers are not allowed to work, so we need to find creative ways to make some money. I’m a musician but I can’t afford music gear. Here in Macedonia the revenue from a small site is enough to afford many things.”

This is an example how fake news even can generate serious diplomatic complications. It became known as the “Lisa case” and is based on a lie about refugees having raped a Russian-German girl. Even after police and the girl herself had debunked the claim, the Russian TV state channel Russia Today as well as several right-wing networks maintained the allegation.

manipulate-your-viewpointAnother recent fake story was spread by Breitbart London, claiming that a 1000-man mob of Muslims attacked the police in the German city of Dortmund and vandalized and set fire to a church on this New Year’s Eve. The Breitbart author completely distorted the original report of a local journalist to stir up hate against foreigners and to create an image of chaos.

The media is reaping what it has sown

The fact that the people don’t trust mainstream media anymore and rather believe internet lies is what the media itself achieved with their way of reporting, with their copy-and-paste journalism, with putting ratings over facts, particularly in the US and Great Britain. The mainstream media have to blame themselves for the results we see now: That fake news is very successful and has a major impact on many levels.

journalism-cartoon

Cartoon by Matt Wuerker. Source: Politico

We now have the internet and social networks where fake news, conspiracy theories and smear campaigns are spreading most and fastest, where people go to to “inform” themselves, where they meet in groups to fuel hate among each other and create a bubble so that no outside information comes in. But the traditional media themselves paved the way for the people to look for these “bubbles” and to ignore facts. Mainstream media didn’t encourage people to think for themselves, didn’t encourage them to look deeper into facts, wanted the people only to be consumers and believe what they are told. Facts are out since a long time when mainstream media began to compete with each other about ratings instead of facts.

Unfortunately now the serious journalists who always did a thorough job are suffering the most from this development. They are the ones who are now called “lie press” (a term once used by the German Nazis in the 1930ies – “Lügenpresse” – and now used again in Germany by extreme right-wing protesters to discredit the mainstream media). Journalists now have the problem that they are no longer believed, although we need them for an accurate coverage of events. We still depend on trustworthy journalists because we need thorough and investigative reporting now more than ever to expose fake news and establish accurate journalistic work.

They definitely should have distanced themselves more from the tabloid-style coverage in the past and should have stood up more against the kind of journalism that lead to the incredibility of the media, now they are all put together under the same umbrella and are called liars.

One of the most reputable journalists in Germany, Giovanni di Lorenzo (chief editor of the weekly newspaper “Die Zeit”), gave a speech on February 28, 2016, on the issue of the lost trust in the media and was very self-critical. He mentioned the “scandalization and tabloidization of reporting” as the first of four reasons why people lost confidence in the mainstream media.

This is what he said – and I think his words not only apply to German media:

“In the competition for the attention of the reader or viewer many media ran hotter and hotter. The exuberance turned into a scandalization and tabloidization of reporting also in previously reputable  media. The sensations escalated: Kachelmann allegedly a rapist! Guttenberg has plagiarized! Wulff is corrupt! Schavan also plagiarized! Hoeness has evaded taxes! Alice Schwarzer also! Edathy peeps child porn! And: Di Lorenzo has voted twice! [remark: cases of German celebrities being scandalized by the media]. The excitement swept up in the most absurd details: In the case of Christian Wulff for example an important publisher officially submitted the question: Is it true that Christian Wulff wanted to buy lower grade students for his election into the student council at his high school in Osnabrück with After Eight chocolate?
If we put people under such scrutiny: Who is able to withstand this? Who among us would? A look at society like that does not demonstrate a moral compass, it is the contrary: the new edition of the medieval pillory. I think we as media often take it far too easy when dividing the world into “good” and “evil”, and thus follow the desire for skyrocketing numbers of clicks or the rapid sale at the kiosk, rather than forming a counterbalance to hysteria that builds up in the net. Is this really what we want to see as the task of the “fourth estate”? Whether the allegations – as in many of these cases – were justified or, as it turned out later, unjustified in some: If headlines are teeming with exclamation marks, reporting is already equal to a conviction. So it cannot seriously be surprising that the mistrust and malice that we have constantly sown, now fall back on ourselves. We should therefore more urgently than ever ask ourselves which role we want to play as journalists in this society. Do we want to increase excitement, fuel hunts and stoke hysteria? Or do we want to do the exact opposite which I advocate strongly?
The constant scandalization for trivial reasons depoliticizes societies in the long run. It repels more than it creates loyalty towards the medium. Above all, it increasingly blurs the distinction between important and unimportant, it leads to the fatalistic attitude “It’s all bad.” ” (my translation)

This editor understood which mistakes the media have made in the past, and we have to acknowledge that some are aware of it now and are ready to take steps for a change. We indeed already can observe that some media remember their values and start with a more accurate fact-checking. But how can the development of misinformation in the social networks be turned back? Since we as individuals are part of these networks, it is up to us now to a large extent!

Ignorance and agnotology

There is another aspect to the issue of fake news: Ignorance and agnotology, as pointed out in this article. Robert Proctor, a science historian from Stanford University, studies the spread of ignorance and created a word for the study of deliberate propagation of ignorance: agnotology.

Agnotology (formerly agnatology) is the study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data. (Wiki)

“Agnotology is as important today as it was back when Proctor studied the tobacco industry’s obfuscation of facts about cancer and smoking. For example, politically motivated doubt was sown over US President Barack Obama’s nationality for many months by opponents until he revealed his birth certificate in 2011. In another case, some political commentators in Australia attempted to stoke panic by likening the country’s credit rating to that of Greece, despite readily available public information from ratings agencies showing the two economies are very different.

Proctor explains that ignorance can often be propagated under the guise of balanced debate. For example, the common idea that there will always be two opposing views does not always result in a rational conclusion. This was behind how tobacco firms used science to make their products look harmless, and is used today by climate change deniers to argue against the scientific evidence.

“This ‘balance routine’ has allowed the cigarette men, or climate deniers today, to claim that there are two sides to every story, that ‘experts disagree’ – creating a false picture of the truth, hence ignorance.”

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160105-the-man-who-studies-the-spread-of-ignorance

This “balance routine” is also what happened repeatedly in the case of Michael Jackson. A number of documentaries or books presented “two sides of the story” and thus purported to deliver a “balanced” view, for example by interviewing adversaries and friends of Jackson and presenting both sides. But what does it help for the truth to present the view of a Diane Dimond or a Victor Gutierrez whose statements are not based on proven facts, but on lies? This leads to a completely “false picture of the truth, hence ignorance” of the facts.

“Balance routine” is in fact a very common strategy used by the media to pretend a balanced approach to the matter. But it’s just a strategy to disguise their real intention. And their intention in Jackson’s case is to propagate that we will never know the truth, it can be one way or the other, so we don’t need to go to the bottom of it because we will never know anyway (but at least we have to talk about it).

As told in the article on Proctor, presenting two opposing views does not always result in a rational conclusion. Not only in science, but also in events that actually happened, there cannot be one side or the other because there is only ONE TRUTH. The article says that “Proctor found that ignorance spreads when firstly, many people do not understand a concept or fact and secondly, when special interest groups – like a commercial firm or a political group – then work hard to create confusion about an issue.” We need to understand that there cannot be any balance between lies and truth and that we can expect from everybody to search for the only truth before he/she spreads an opinion in the media. This is important because truth is only one and lies are many, so truth only has little chance against the many lies.jonathan-swift

“We live in a world of radical ignorance, and the marvel is that any kind of truth cuts through the noise,” says Proctor. Even though knowledge is ‘accessible’, it does not mean it is accessed, he warns.

Deliberate propagation of ignorance happened and still happens to Michael Jackson from the side of his haters and from the media, and it is what has to be exposed also in today’s media war.

In addition, the problem is that the expression “fake news” by now has become almost meaningless because it is also used by those who are the masters of misinformation. It is also used as a convenient slogan for everything that doesn’t suit the agenda of someone. And it is also used by conspiracy theorists who target mainstream media as a whole. We have even heard another expression now: “alternative facts”. To explore this issue in detail it would be necessary to look at the accurate definition and meaning of fake news and its different variations and motivations, which of course would require an extra post.

Prospects

In my opinion we have researched and discussed the facts on Michael Jackson’s history at length and in detail. In principle there is no need to regurgitate the same facts again and again, unless we find new evidence or discoveries. I think a time has come to go beyond the vindication of Michael himself and learn from his story, draw conclusions and raise awareness for problems that affected not only Michael Jackson, but can affect all of us and the world as a whole. I am sure this is what Michael would have wanted and for what he fought himself.

When we look at the political situation we are in and look at the reasons for it, the issue of fake news is of high priority. There are studies and researches underway how fake news influences elections and political processes. The term “post-factual” was newly created to describe the ignorance of facts in society and politics. It means that people decide and vote and form an opinion just according to feelings and perceptions, but not on the basis of facts.

When election results in a country are based on this kind of news sources, democracy is at stake. When people are no longer interested in facts and don’t fact-check anymore, but believe what they want to believe, democracy is in extreme danger. And when people are not even interested in democracy anymore, we will relive the history of the first half of the last century. All the political achievements made in the last century after WW II, whether it’s democratic values, human rights, civil rights, equality policy, international relationships, will be in vain. We will fall back into very dark times. But it is us who decide how we are going to live. It is us who decide whether we will live in a world of truth or fake.

This is what we have to learn from Michael Jackson’s life story. He as an individual suffered immensely from fake news, and in the end died from it. If fake news pervades the whole society, we all will suffer from it and in the end society dies.

For a solution of the problem the only thing I can do is to repeat this comment of our Helena made in another post:

“The only way out I see from this impasse is helping people to learn to appreciate the truth in the same way we appreciate clean water and refuse to drink it when it’s dirty. People should understand that lies are poisonous and will turn their life into a complete chaos. And that a small grain of truth is better than a ton of lies, even if the truth is grim and sad, and lies are bright and entertaining.”

24 Comments leave one →
  1. Asma permalink
    May 17, 2017 4:32 pm

    I second and third what Talia and Kaarin said and their sentiments. Helena and Susanne this blog and your efforts are priceless in this cycle of abusive reporting. And I cannot imagine what Helena is going through with the chaos in her country. Heck, we here in the U.S. are at our wits end at the circus here, so I can only imagine in her case. Please take your time, both of you, and know how utterly grateful we are.

    Like

  2. Talia Gifty permalink
    May 16, 2017 7:08 am

    Thank you, Susannerb, I really appreciate you replying back. And thank you Kaarin222.

    Like

  3. May 15, 2017 3:11 pm

    Thank you susannerb and Talia Gifty for your posts. Helena has indeed done a monumental
    piece of work to defend Michael Jackson. Also I am thankful to all posters on this blog.To people from all over the world having a kind of conversation.-it is no small feat to achieve something of this order.-I know Helena has to take a break and to take care of her own life.
    I wish her all the best.Now of course even US is having a precarious political situation.I cant help but imagine what role Michael would have in a situation like this in his country.
    He did not want to be political, still he was always there to help those most needy.

    Like

  4. susannerb permalink*
    May 14, 2017 1:27 pm

    Talia Gifty: Thank you very much for your comment. I’m sorry we’ve been rarely here lately and I ask for your patience and understanding. After years of hard work and dedication, we now sometimes need a timeout to care for the challenges in our own lives, especially Helena who has to cope with the circumstances in her country.
    I hope we are able to be back in the near future with another post telling the truth about MJ to which we feel committed. Something is in the planning, but still needs some time, so please stay tuned. Thanks for your interest in our work!

    Like

  5. Talia Gifty permalink
    May 10, 2017 6:32 am

    Hey, you guys. I hope everyone is doing great especially you Helena. Thank you for all you have done and I hope to read more posts of yours soon. God bless you all. Don’t stop fighting for what’s right.

    Like

  6. Asma permalink
    February 18, 2017 2:22 am

    Got it, thank you so much Helena.

    Like

  7. February 17, 2017 3:19 pm

    “Is there a way to contact you or Helena via Private Messaging on this site at all?”- Asma

    Asma, if you press “contacts” you will get straight to our email where you can talk to both of us. I myself prefer to discuss everything in the open, but if there are some ideas you need to share in private you are welcome too.

    Like

  8. Asma permalink
    February 17, 2017 1:29 pm

    Hi again Susanne,

    Is there a way to contact you or Helena via Private Messaging on this site at all? I feel like sometimes it’s helpful for me to bounce off ideas before posting them publically, and just other ideas in the process of being formulated that shouldn’t be shared right yet. I am just curious, no pressure or bother. Have a very lovely day and I will keep reading as I see a lot of great posts and discussions I missed.

    Like

  9. dorito permalink
    February 12, 2017 1:20 pm

    I had a thought the other day, back in 2013 when the fake fbi files talked about 24 settlements (really?!), I was surprised that one of michael’s sworn enemies Diane diamond was one of people to say that it’s fake and we don’t have evidence and it’s not true, and I was like “wow how come when she hates michael so much and feed off of the lies told about michael, did she support him all of a sudden?” so I think why now, sneddon was still alive back then but he was really sick because of cancer and he couldn’t really make any statements so I think he put his buddy Diane to say something!! because there is no way in hell that sneddon would let someone say he had all the evidence to put michael behind bars but choose not to (we know how desperate he was when falsifying evidence, so think what he would have done with this kind of information if true). does anybody agree with me? also when that news came out wade was like “see I told you I’m not lying,those files prove my allegations and the estate should release those people from the agreements” and he tried to get ahold of them but when he found out that it was fake and it was dispoven and nowhere does it state that in the real fbi files he went silent hahahahha! also one of the people in that list was him and he is saying that michael never gave him money -.- should have done your research wade! for him to claim that those fake fbi files prove his allegations and that he’s telling the truth only shows me how desperate he is, and shows the lack of substance his case has!! when will this all end?? let the man rest in peace already!!

    Like

  10. February 10, 2017 1:59 pm

    Typos again I meant WorldPress.com has a gravatar. I did post a pic. but it does not show.

    Like

  11. February 10, 2017 1:55 pm

    I have signed in on AorldPress.com with this username.Thank you again Helena for all your work.I really do not understand why WR ,lawyers judges go on and on with WR´case ad infinitum. And thank you helena for all the excellent and exact work you have put into this blog

    Like

  12. Asma permalink
    February 10, 2017 2:07 am

    Hi Susanne,

    Thank you for your reply! I will most definitely share my thoughts as soon as I am able. Been crazy busy! But today my prof went over some exercises on fake news and just trying to process and consolidate my thoughts. The climate is buzzing here and I signed up for some political activism ventures as well. So between that, work, school, loved ones and thinking about how to contribute in vindicating Michael (oh yes, I do think about it too and personally find it to be so important), I take a lottle while to process a response. But I am passionate about the topic and want to continue the discussion. So as they used to say, to be continued! 😉

    Like

  13. dorito permalink
    February 9, 2017 6:42 pm

    oh I’m sorry for saying that word, I admit I did not read the rules!!! I had so many things on my mind that I just wanted to express them and didn’t notice the rules!! I will never use the word ped-le again in association with michael!! I apologize again 🙂

    Like

  14. susannerb permalink*
    February 9, 2017 11:21 am

    Asma:
    Thank you very much for your comment. I see what you mean, it was just always the case that MJ was treated with a double standard. To me it seems he even was singled out to be bullied and destroyed – for whatever reason. He always was treated differently, and the problem is in fact that in his case the lies were repeated so often that most people regard them as truth now.
    In this context I would like to remind everybody again of our rules on this blog (click “Rules” above), especially of Rule 1, as I have seen commenters using the word ‘pedophile’ in combination with MJ’s name. We ask everybody again to avoid these words because we want to steer against this association. Please read the rule!

    I very much hope you are right that people start to relate the fake news issue to MJ, whether in an academic or emotional way (though I prefer a fact-based way), however I fear it will not happen quickly. Nevertheless, the only thing we can do is to continue telling the truth about the lies, and this is one of the best moments in recent history to do it, you are right about that.

    As Michael’s haters use his name over and over again in combination with negative slogans, one of our methods could be to repeat his name over and over again with positive words like philanthropy, charity, awards, musical influence, etc., and now also with fake news. Perhaps it helps to raise more attention. It’s definitely a good chance right now to bring MJ’s name in combination with the fake news debate into the minds of the people, which also requires that our posts are spread online.
    It would be interesting to hear what your professor is telling you on this subject.

    Like

  15. susannerb permalink*
    February 9, 2017 11:15 am

    Arnela de Noir: Any suggestions?

    Like

  16. Asma permalink
    February 8, 2017 5:13 pm

    Oh Susanne I forgot to acknowledge that I hear you on how some news orgs such as CNN are starting to shift gears. They still have a long long wat to go, and I don’t trust them fully yet, but thank you for that quote from the manager. I hope they stay this course and learned their lesson. I still can’t help but hold a huge grudge against them for how they covered Michael starting in 2003 and bringing us Diane Dimond, Nancy Grace and Jane Valez-Mitchell. I’ll be watching them like a hawk lol.

    Like

  17. Asma permalink
    February 8, 2017 4:32 pm

    Hi Susanne,

    I wonder however if Michael’s case is used in the context of today’s relevancy of fake news and its origins the topic can be seen as important? I’m with you on the fact that the media will likely brush this off seeing MJ as a celebrity therefore, “not that important.” But look at the way legendary celebrities are spoken about in the news. From David Bowie, Prince, to Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds and contrast that with MJ.

    Those mentioned are reported as having cultural impact. And they have! But few have had more significant artistic cultural impact as Michael did and it spans across a broad scope not only in mysic, but philanthropy and politics as well. If somehow a case is made that fake news (in the U.S. at least) had its origins in the way he was reported, how his topic of conversation coincided with the entertainment tabloidization of mainstream reporting, perhaps it can start picking up steam. If MJ is spoken often with this relevant context online, they’d be bound to pay attention. The one thing media and propagandists tend to do is repeat their slogans over and over again. And the subject of his connection with fake news as we see it today is far from not having merit.

    Most all of the work and research, thanks to you, Helena and several others is already done and easily accessible. Now it’s just a matter of connecting him to the relevance of the current climate. I also find, when the public can find a more human figure they start relating better and want to learn more. Fake news is very important due to how it affects our democracy and way of life. But if some people still find it too academic for it to be “relatable”, it might help for them to actually connect the dots in a more emotional way.

    With the topic being focused on that, and as soon as we can find a more clear and simple working definition of what fake news actually is, which according to my own professor who is teaching us about the topic (I’ll have to share this story with you guys in another post. Let’s just say I inadvertantly am fortunate enough to learn about fake news this semester, without me having to sign up for it!), *also* entails “smearing” of an individual or group, I personally hope that the climate is ripe for people wanting to listen.

    Now, I’m just thinking out loud here. I don’t know nor have any workable strategies for how to make this happen. But I guess I feel hopeful and cautiously optimistic in thinking that the iron is hot right now in terms of fake news, and the idea of connecting Jackson (which shouldn’t be hard) to the phenomenon and tracing how starting with a celebrity can leak over into important areas and impact us all. Also to drive home that celebrities are also *human* and if one human being is hit, we all are via dominoe effect, and also include the study history of the Salem witch trials (part of U.S. history but I would say relatable in all countries, or maybe a similar aspect of that) and how that connects as well. Again, just thinking out loud.

    I must say though thank you and Helena for *Finally* bringing this to the forefront. I can’t help but to feel a little encouraged on the issues surrounding not only MJ but overall. I will stay cautious, though.

    Like

  18. February 8, 2017 12:56 pm

    And what is to be done abouth that. Pages like mjfacts???

    Like

  19. susannerb permalink*
    February 8, 2017 11:28 am

    Thank you, guys. There is so much more to say on the fake news issue, it’s really a complex field. There are many interesting aspects that have to be taken into account. It would also be interesting to look at the history of deliberate misinformation. Perhaps we can explore the various aspects in another post.

    One thing possibly can be regarded positive in this whole mess: The media are challenged to make a change. I am far away from being really optimistic, but it is already visible that some major TV channels and newspapers feel the challenge and make an effort to provide more fact-based information. The accusation of being “fake news” leads to more efforts on their part to fact-check and investigate. I just hope they don’t do it just for their defense, but also out of veraciousness.
    Like a CNN manager said:

    “This effort is not a response to the administration in Washington, but it’s certainly well-timed,” Morse said. “It’s very important for us to do good, solid independent work at a time like this.”
    http://www.npr.org/2017/01/30/512457231/cnn-beefs-up-investigative-reporting

    Of course I’m talking about politics now and not celebrity gossip. I doubt somehow that these efforts also will extend to entertainment and tabloid news. In general celebrity gossip is not regarded as important as political coverage, and I fear that Michael Jackson is not a significant person for many journalists for a serious coverage. But at least the current fake news debate is an opportunity for us to point out that if it is so easy to spread lies in politics, how much easier is it in cases of celebrities or individuals or when someone is picked out to be bullied. In any case, we will observe this continuously.

    Like

  20. Talia Gifty permalink
    February 7, 2017 9:59 pm

    Great post Susanne. Thank you for touching on a topic that seems to never stop in the media and the world of people who go along with whatever they say even if it is lies. Thank you for your hard work in this post. It was very good and hit lots of good points.

    Like

  21. Asma permalink
    February 7, 2017 8:42 pm

    Ooops sorry, I keep spelling your name wrong, but thank you *Susanne*. 🙂

    Like

  22. Asma permalink
    February 7, 2017 8:12 pm

    Hi Susan (and Helena) I finished reading the post and want to thank you for it. I really appreciate how you tied in the events that are current to the tactics that were/are used against Michael and not only that putting spotlight into what is happening in other nations as well (Russia and Germany respectively). I also found Robert Proctor’s reference very enlightening as Stanford University is right in my own backyard here. It is truly frightening how smears, lies and misinformation can take root so quickly and how history has this tendency of repeating itself over and over again and risking to take us back to the dark ages. I question whether if that will always be the fate of us as human beings? Or may we finally *this*, find a way, a system of application, to prevent this from ever happening again?

    In any case, just like Helena said, we need to value the truth at all times. Even when it is not desirable. Treat it with the utmost reverence even when it is a small grain than a pile of lies that are bright and entertaining.

    I also appreciate how you included that fake news has now become this catch all phrase, and that even in 1930s Germany there were accusations against legitimate media for “lying.” I am still in a quest to actually define fake news, but one thing I was told was that smearing an individual definitely fits the pattern. At least that is what I was told. When I heard about “pizzagate” I couldn’t help but have flashbacks to the 2003-2005 time period. Obviously I have a lot more formulating in my brain on this topic. For now though, thank you and Helena so much.

    Asma

    Like

  23. February 7, 2017 6:40 pm

    Susanne, thank you very much for writing what has long been on our minds. Michael Jackson was indeed a testing ground for fake news and for all those who devised the experiment it was quite a “success”. The media evidently thought they would be able to contain this process and limit it to Jackson only, but see how quickly fake news has spread all over and rebounded on each of us and is turning our life into chaos.

    Michael has done a lot for the world by his music, but it seems that his main feat is yet to come – his life and fate are already teaching the world a lesson and may help people to see how precious, vital and indispensable the truth is. And if things really take a turn for the better, surprise-surprise, it may indeed become the healing of the world which Michael was so much dreaming about.

    Like

  24. Asma permalink
    February 7, 2017 5:32 pm

    I am so behind in all the new posts, but I cannot WAIT to read them ALL. “Michael Jackson as the ultimate testing ground for fake news” BAM Susan! *High Five* ✋ I’m so excited to read this and thank you so much for putting it like that!

    Like

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