Leaving Neverland Exposes a Culture of Judgement Without Ethics or Law
Leaving Neverland may be remembered as the biggest example of false allegations in recent history. I would like to believe that we are all advocates for victims of abuse. But what determines who is a victim? Does the mere act of pointing an accusing finger at someone automatically make the accuser a victim? According to our laws, every citizen is innocent until proven guilty. But over the past couple of years, our society has shifted towards ignoring this most precious right. HBO’s Leaving Neverland accuses music legend Michael Jackson of the most-vile criminal acts possible. Creators of the film admit to giving no presumption of innocence. And most journalist have applauded the film while acknowledging that it is blatantly one-sided.
However, the other side of this story has been strong in its defense of the music legend. Jackson’s side is being told by his fans, family and billion-dollar estate. Many have asked, would this film have been made if Michael Jackson were still alive? The answer is no for the following reasons. In 2005, Jackson was accused of similar acts and found not guilty. And both current accusers previously gave testimony under oath saying the crimes they are now alleging never occurred. Therefore, without any evidence proving their claims, Jackson would be able to sue for defamation. Because the movie makes serious criminal allegation without any proof, Jackson would likely win a lawsuit. For these reasons, no one would have made this film if Jackson were here to defend himself.
US law gives more information as to why this film was made. There is no law that protects the deceased from slander. Once someone dies, the most outrageous claims can be made. The dead person’s family or estate have no legal recourse for protecting their memory from slander. HBO and the film’s director Dan Reed sought to exploit this loophole in the law. Despite this loophole, Jacksons estate immediately slammed HBO’s film as “a one-sided character assassination”. In an interview with Variety, director Dan Reed brushed off the criticism by saying, “The estate has no legal argument whatsoever”. Reed’s comments give a lot of insight. Jackson has been dead for almost 10 years. The people behind the film believed they could say whatever they want. Make a blatantly one-sided film accusing the music legend of committing horrendous crimes. Then brag about no threat of legal consequences.
On February 21, 2019 the estate of Michael Jackson filed a $100 million lawsuit against HBO. The suit centers around a non-disparagement agreement the late pop star had with HBO. In 1992, HBO televised his concert “Live from Bucharest”. The contract Jackson had written up includes the following highlights in detailed legal terminology: HBO cannot do anything that would harm or defame the reputation of Michael Jackson, and HBO cannot make any additional show or project about Michael Jackson. If so, HBO would have to check with Jackson, his representatives or his company Optimum Productions. Leaving Neverland’s director admits he did not contact Jackson’s family or his estate. Moreover, the lawsuit makes a very specific point. The pop star’s concert became HBO’s highest rated program. But in the film Leaving Neverland, a claim is made that Jackson was sexually abusing children on that same concert tour. The lawsuit states there could not be a more direct violation of the contract agreement. But would a contract from 1992 still be valid? There is language in the contract that refers to this. It included words like “perpetual”. This means ongoing and unchanging. So even in death, HBO would still have an agreement with Jackson’s representatives and Optimum Productions which remains a company within the estate. Attorney Christine Lepera told Vulture.com, “The suit does have merit because of Jackson’s contract with HBO”.
Moving forward, the lawsuit will give the estate a chance to make two significant accomplishments. One, prove HBO was in violation for making the film. Two, debunk the accusations the film is based on. What would happen if that were to occur? HBO’s film has been a worldwide media campaign intended to ruin Michael Jackson’s legacy. Many have gone on record saying they believe the stories of accusers’ wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck to be credible. What if these allegations of abuse turn out to be false? The estate appears confident. Perhaps this is due to their history of successfully having Robson and Safechuck’s lawsuits against the estate dismissed. The two accusing men have the same lawyer. Over the past six years the Estate has been successful in having their lawsuits dismissed a total of four times. A judge dismissed Robson’s first lawsuit by ruling, “No reasonable fact-finder could believe Robson’s sworn declaration”.
Unfortunately, people have been falsely accused. And false stories of abuse make it harder for real victims of abuse to be believed. In every situation, searching for the facts is the best way to protect both the accuser and the accused. Sometimes advocates for victims’ rights come across as ignoring facts and the presumption of innocence. Credibility is lost when a social agenda becomes more important than a search for the truth. In conclusion, it is very possible that Jackson’s estate will be successful in their lawsuit against HBO. If so, it will shine a very bright light on this issue. And Leaving Neverland would be remembered as the biggest example of false allegations in recent history.