The statue of Lady Justice dates back to ancient Rome, and the model is believed to be Themis, goddess of justice and law. Although she has undergone slight modifications over the years, typically Lady Justice is shown with a sword in one hand and a set of scales in the other. Later, a blindfold was added, signifying her impartiality.
If Lady Justice were created today from scratch, however, she would be shown running for dear life from a courtroom, with packs of microphone-wielding reporters and camera crews in hot pursuit, as she screams “Leave me alone!” or “No comment!” or the always popular, “Don’t you people have any decency!?”
I bring up this sociological tidbit because all of us in the United States have grown accustomed to media circuses in high profile court cases. We have seen the talking heads bobbing incessantly. We have seen the mouthpieces trashing each other in highly bombastic terms. We have seen the juicy reports and heard the provocative soundbites. We have seen the fourth estate on its worst behavior, indulging in everything from dumpster diving to telephoto photography to hidden microphones and video cameras to peeling off wads of cash in order to buy information and beat the competition.
But let’s be clear on this point: You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
On Friday, Michael Jackson plead not guilty to nine felony counts involving improper activities with a child under 14. Jackson is being accused of plying a cancer-stricken boy with wine, watching porn with him, and molesting him. Each charge carries with it a possible sentence of between three and eight years in prison.
We're gonna need a bigger tent
This will be the media circus with the biggest elephants, the most daring trapeze artists, the hungriest tigers and the loudest barkers. This will make the whole O.J. thing seem like a dispute over a fender-bender in small claims court. There will be so much tabloid money spread around to so many potential sources, you have to believe it will stimulate the economy.
This will make Michael’s infamous and unflattering mugshot seem like the front of a Hallmark card.
Jackson’s attorney, Mark Geragos, insists his client is “absolutely innocent” and has raised doubts about the motivation of the accuser. Pretty mundane stuff. You would think a prominent, high-profile attorney who has appeared on “Larry King” more than Joan Collins or Liz Taylor combined would be on the top of his game at this point. Doesn’t he know a nation of muckrakers is depending on him?
Santa Barbara district attorney Ton Sneddon denied that a delay in filing charges indicated he had a weak case. My goodness, you would hope he hunkers down with members of his team and prepares something worthy of leading “Entertainment Tonight.”
Just like you wouldn’t predict the World Series winner by the outcome of opening day, don’t assume that Thursday’s opening salvos will be typical of the way this will develop.
Send in the spin doctors
Consider some of the elements involved. Michael allegedly poured wine into a soda can and gave it to the kid. No wonder he’s known as the King of Pop. And you have to assume that Michael still has enough money to afford really good wine, so pouring it into a soda can is a crime in itself. I imagine the National Enquirer will try to hire Robert Parker to explain the proper way to serve sparkling wine.
Jackson also allegedly put pills in the wine that was in the soda can. Now we’re into the whole issue of illegal prescription narcotics and where he may have gotten them. I guarantee you there are members of the media who are trying to find out if Michael and Rush Limbaugh know each other.
Then toss in some pornography. The news stories were careful to report that Jackson allegedly showed the boy “heterosexual” pornographic videos. I guess the intimation is that Michael possessing straight porn is a shocking development in itself. Personally, I make it a point not to judge someone else’s proclivities. If it is revealed, however, that one of the porn video titles happens to be called “Beat It,” then Michael is in deep doo-doo.
Beware of the nice man in the suitThere are also allegations that Jackson abused the child. This is old news, except now there is said to be a witness: the younger brother of the boy. This works out well for the media, because now there are two youngsters to hound. If these kids drive up to a McDonald’s with their parents and notice that the guy taking their order at the window is wearing a suit, a hairpiece and makeup, they would be advised to clam up and move on.
Already, the parties involved are bracing for the worst. The Santa Barbara District Attorney’s office hired a Hollywood public relations firm to handle the expected media crush. It’s a nice idea, but unless those publicists are trained in hand-to-hand combat, it’s a waste of money.
Also, the child’s father pleaded no contest to charges of child cruelty in 2002 and spousal abuse in 2001. The boy’s family filed a lawsuit in 1998 over an incident with mall security guards in Southern California. And there is a child welfare investigation that originally cleared Jackson of any improper behavior. All of these angles will have to be explored by the press, which means all of the people involved should shred any documents with their names on them, change their identities, alter their appearances and move to a foreign country. Either that, or cash in.
Some kids run away to join the circus. But nobody runs away to join the media circus. That’s because you don’t have to. It’ll come to you, bigger and better than ever.