Despite the not guilty verdict, Michael Jackson’s reputation has collapsed as dramatically as the ravaged features on his face. The revelations about his fondness for boyish company will haunt him for the rest of his life, even though he was cleared of charges of molestation. It cannot be happily ever after in Neverland.
For all the revulsion that the Michael Jackson case prompted in certain quarters, one fact stands out amid the welter of sordid allegations: not one boy stood up in court and unequivocally stated that he was physically abused by Jackson. As I argued in this magazine last year before the trial began, the evidence against him could hardly have been weaker. All we ever had was innuendo about damp swimming trunks and shared showers, of erectile tumescence and bedroom embraces, with most of these claims made by disgruntled former employees and money-grabbers with a history of litigation. The sort of behaviour Michael Jackson was charged with would until recently scarcely have raised an eyebrow if it came from the Latin master in many an English prep school.
But because of the current climate of hysteria over paedophilia, we seem to have lost all sense of perspective. In this new culture of fear, even the most unthreatening affection for adolescents is interpreted as the sickest of perversions, to be obliterated at any cost. What is so disturbing about this approach is that, because of its lack of discrimination, any eccentricity or romantic attachment is lumped in with the most aggressive forms of physical brutality. So, for zealous crusaders against paedophilia — like Tom Sneddon, the Californian district attorney who became obsessed with the Jackson case — attempting to cuddle a 13-year-old is seen as just as heinous a crime as sodomy or assault.
Now real child abuse is one of the most evil of all offences.