The community of Michael Jackson lovers, admirers, supporters and defenders has arrived at a fork in the road. Do they continue to take actions that heretofore have had absolutely no impact on the behavior of media and legal authorities or do they decide to look at the situation–that is, bringing Conrad Murray to justice–with new eyes? The practical reality is that justice is not a popularity contest where the more beloved the victim, the more “justice” he or she receives.
This is America, a nation of laws. The facts don’t change and the prosecution’s trial strategy doesn’t revolve around the esteem in which the victim is held. Nor should it! Multi-millions of Michael Jackson fans would stretch, arms locked, around the world. That would not–should not–impact the course of action of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office one little bit. Why? Because we are a nation of laws, not mob rule.
In the case of Conrad Murray, it appears that millions of fans, most of whom have never even seen the inside of a courtroom, are somehow now experts in bringing criminals to justice. They speculate, assume and presuppose that because the victim is Michael Jackson, and if he’s dead, then someone murdered him and someone must pay. Without really being privy to the evidence that the District Attorney’s office assembled over nine long months–during which time they were loudly criticized for taking so long–the fans believe they can do a better job than a District Attorney’s office with an 87% conviction rate. Without truly understanding the legal distinctions between first, second and third degree murder, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, or medical malpractice for that matter, they treat all charges the same. Michael Jackson is dead, so someone must have murdered him.
So what do the fans do? They dress up like Michael Jackson and show up at the courthouse with posters festooned with various images of Michael. Playing right into the media’s hand, they’re quickly perceived and presented by the media as “crazy Michael Jackson fans” and no one’s collective mind is changed–either about how Michael actually died or why the fans are even there. No one takes them seriously because all observers hear is cries of “Justice for MJ!”–whatever that means–accompanied by a mob mentality. The fans are people to be tolerated; just part of the landscape of craziness that routinely surrounded Michael when he lived and is no different now.
What if the fans showed up in street clothes, with posters bearing one image of Michael over the entreaty “May Justice Prevail”–without presupposing what that justice should be?
Michael Jackson deserves to be represented by mature, composed, intelligent, articulate and determined fans.
- Mature because they look like people who left their jobs in the city to stand vigil.
- Composed because they don’t behave like fans at a Michael Jackson concert, moonwalking and hamming it up for the media’s cameras.
- Intelligent because they have formed a sober, well-imaged message–about themselves and about Michael.
- Articulate because they spell every word of that message correctly.
- Determined because they want the world to understand that Michael Jackson mattered. That his absence remains a large wound on the collective consciousness of society.
It’s a strategic error to publicly dare the prosecutors to behave a certain way because “the eyes of the world are upon you.” The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office is not the enemy! And make no mistake: the eyes of the world are on the media-manipulated crazy Michael Jackson fans. Please, for Michael’s sake, don’t be one.
We must be mindful of media’s real power to manipulate images and literally shape public opinion about fan activity.