As Jacked As It Sounds, The Whole System Sucks!

Michael Jackson’s response to the 1993 allegations took it’s shape in the form of the 1995 double-album, HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I. Disc One was a greatest hits compilation. Disc Two however, was a new album full of songs presenting Jackson’s take on every single aspect of the case. From his feelings towards his accusers to his feelings towards the media and even down to the details of the settlement of the case.

The release of the album was trailed around the world with a short-film which drew further controversy for it’s haunting parallels of the Adolf Hitler Nazi propaganda film, Triumph of the Will.

“If you hear a lie often enough you believe it.” Michael Jackson
“If you repeat a lie often enough it becomes the truth.” Joseph Goebbels (Adolf Hitler’s Nazi propaganda minister)

 

Triumph Of The Will

The teaser for Michael Jackson’s 1995 album, HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I, was heavily influenced by Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph Of The Will. When it premiered it created huge controversy, especially when critics then tried to tie it in with the alleged anti-Semitic lyrics in They Don’t Care About Us.

The theme of reclamation ran deep throughout Jackson’s career and what those critics failed to decipher was that the teaser was another act of just that, reclamation on Jackson’s part, as well as a satirical stab at the main conspirators behind the events of 1993.

During Jackson’s historic interview with Oprah Winfrey in February 1993, before the allegations had taken place, Jackson complained about the mass media and paraphrased Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, in the process with the line that “If you hear a lie often enough, you believe it.”

By doing so, Jackson was taking the stand that the mass media operated according to those same Nazi principles. As an example, when The Sun newspaper first referred to Jackson derisively as ‘Wacko Jacko’ in the mid 1980s, every other tabloid, whether a competing tabloid or not, took to using the phrase.

Like his hero Charlie Chaplin before him, Jackson referenced the visuals of Triumph of The Will in an effort to completely corrupt the sentiment. Where Chaplin had satirised the film in his Oscar-nominated The Great Dictator, Jackson referenced the film in order to celebrate the victims of the Nazi regime and deride the mindset of those that still supported fascist beliefs.

Jackson empathised with the victim and had long taken to wearing a white arm bandage to show his support for the suffering children of the world.

The right armband higher up his arm takes on greater significance in this short film as victims of Nazi-oppression would have to wear armbands on the right arm in order to identity themselves. Nazis, of course, would wear armbands on their left arm.

The Jews of Nazi Germany were not the only targeted minority. The fate of many black people during the Hitler rule ranged from isolation to persecution, sterilization, medical experimentation, incarceration, brutality, and murder. Blacks, too, were also interned in the Nazi concentration camp system.

Jackson owned a number of videos and films relating to Nazi politics and agendas and, as part of his extensive collection, Jackson owned a copy of the film Nazis: Of Pure Blood, a film based on the Nazi’s ‘Lebensborn’ programme; a programme designed around the eugenic policies of Nazi Germany, providing exclusive treatment to those of society considered ‘biologically fit’ and ‘racially pure’. It was a theme that would run through his HIStory project- racism and the corruption of Establishment.

In Mein Kampf, Hitler would claim that “the Jews had brought the Negroes into the Rhineland with the clear aim of ruining the hated white race by the necessarily-resulting bastardization” and would claim that children resulting from mixed-race marriages were a contamination of the white race “by Negro blood.” Such children were referred to as ‘Rhineland Bastards’. 

So Jackson’s reversal of those sentiments, in a short-film depicting a black, African American man as the subject of adoration by a mainly white, European audience is a direct attack on fascism and fascist beliefs. Jackson’s film is an artistic interpretation of turning “swords into ploughshares”, the Biblical quote that Jackson used in his earlier hit single ‘Heal The World’.

 

“Stop Fuckin’ With Me!”

The first single release from Jackson’s new album was the duet between himself and his sister Janet, Scream. The song is Jackson’s response to all of the lies and accusations that he believed were targeted at him by systemic corruption within the media, law enforcement and government, “As jacked as it sounds, the whole system sucks! Damn it!”

Jackson repeatedly complains about being pressured before finally screaming “Stop fuckin’ with me!” By this stage, Jackson was a million miles away from the doe-eyed, dreamy The Girl Is Mine. Here he was railing against his oppressors using the medium that, more than anyone else, he was the master of.

When Janet Jackson performs the bridge section, a news reporter can faintly be heard reading a news item. “A man has been brutally beaten to death by Police after being wrongly identified as a robbery suspect. The man was an 18 year-old black male…”

The content of the news item highlights Jackson’s belief of institutional racism within the police force. The inference, of course, being that young black men are more likely to be the victims of police brutality than their white counterparts.

 

“You Think He Brother With The KKK?” 

Jackson launches into a thinly veiled but, equally, vicious attack on Santa Barbara District Attorney (D.A.) Tom Sneddon on track D.S. The protagonist of the piece is transcribed in the CD booklet as Dom S. Sheldon, but on hearing the chorus Jackson is clearly singing ‘Tom Sneddon’. He refers to the subject as a man who is desperate for votes in order to remain ‘T.A.’, an obvious bastardization of ‘D.A.’, which gives an indication of what Jackson means when referring to him as a ‘B.S.T.A.’ (Bullshit District Attorney).

As part of Jackson’s settlement with the Chandler family in early 1994, Jackson was not allowed to discuss terms or conditions of the settlement publicly. What that allowed, however, was for mass media speculation to be perpetuated as fact, when it was, in actuality, nothing of the sort.

Jackson, however, would choose to litter the album with factual accuracies pertaining to the settlement of the 1993 investigation. The media were adamant, though, that they would not only ignore the profound lyrical content of the album but would present a completely different take of events.

Jackson then asks “Did he say to either do it or die?” We learn that during the investigations into the 1993 allegations, 12-year old Jason Francia was interviewed by police who would claim that Jackson was molesting Macauley Culkin (who claims that no abuse ever took place) and that Corey Feldman would probably die early because he “hung out with Jackson.” The inference being, of course, that if Francia didn’t have anything to say to implicate Jackson he could end up dying early like Feldman. Again, lyrics completely ignored by the media at large.

Jackson would then ask whether Sneddon’s desire for pursuing him was racially motivated with the line “You think he brother with the KKK?”, a line that would take on a meaning of it’s own when Sneddon would interrogate witness, and Hollywood film star, Chris Tucker during Jackson’s 2005 trial. When Tucker asks Sneddon if he could have a copy of a photograph Sneddon responds with the line “If you’re a good boy”. Chris Tucker, of course, being a black Hollywood film star.

 

“Insurance… Where do your loyalties lie?”

The 1994 gag on Jackson would prevent him from publicly commenting on the details of the settlement that was paid out to the Chandler family. The result was that the general public would be told by the press that Jackson settled, with no details as to the circumstances behind the settlement. The resulting general consensus being that Jackson settled because he was guilty.

The true meaning of the line “Insurance… where do your loyalties lie?” would only become apparent over 10 years later during Jackson’s trial with the Arvizos when it became clear that it wasn’t Jackson, in fact, that willingly settled the claim but it was his insurance company. Predicting the response from the mass media to a settlement, Jackson then sings “Is that your alibi?” before telling them “I don’t think so.”

In a memorandum presented during Jackson’s 2005 case, it was made clear that Jackson’s insurance company ‘negotiated and paid the settlement, over the protests of Mr. Jackson and his personal legal counsel’ and that ‘an insurance carrier has the right to settle claims covered by insurance where it decides settlement is expedient and the insured (Jackson) may not interfere with nor prevent such settlements.’

None of this, however, was made public information by the so-called interrogative press back in 1994 when the settlement was made. British journalist Charles Thomson would later, and quite rightly, say that for the press “myths that imply Jackson’s guilt are evidently more important than truths which exonerate him.”

 

“You want it? Earn it with dignity!”

Michael Jackson then goes on to take a shot at the American Establishment when reeling of the names of the so-called ‘Robber Barons’ old and new, “Vanderbilt, Morgan, Trump, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Getty…” Authors Lee Artz and Bren Ortega Murphy claim that the historical robber barons achieved a heightened degree of power, privilege and luxury as a result of ‘bribery, deceit, and terror’.

All of the historical robber barons listed were supporters of and, indeed, funders of advancements in the shadowy racist ‘science’ of eugenics. Eugenics was the study of biological sciences aimed at ‘improving the genetic composition of a population’. In other words, it was a science with an aim of delivering a ‘superior race’.

According to writer Tanya L. Green, like the afore-mentioned Adolf Hitler, “eugenicists strongly espoused racial supremacy and ‘purity,’ particularly of the ‘Aryan’ race. Eugenicists hoped to purify the bloodlines and improve the race by encouraging the ‘fit’ to reproduce and the ‘unfit’ to restrict their reproduction. They sought to contain the ‘inferior’ races through segregation, sterilization, birth control and abortion.”

In his book The Extremely Unfortunate Skull Valley Incident, Donald W. Scott claimed that “in 1904 a significant amount of Rockefeller money, together with major contributions from the Morgan, Vanderbilt, and Carnegie families, went towards the creation of the Station for Experimental Evolution.” The station was opened by Charles B. Davenport and conducted clandestine experiments involving different races. Davenport would later go on to write the book ‘Race Crossing in Jamaica’ in 1929, a tome dedicated to providing scientific evidence of cultural degradation following breeding between whites and blacks.

Carnegie and Rockefeller also both funded Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal’s eugenics study An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy of 1944. It was a scientific paper aimed at tackling the issue of blacks in post-slavery America. Myrdal would write, “There is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of white Americans’ desire that there be as few Negroes as possible in America. If the Negroes could be eliminated from America or greatly decreased in numbers, this would meet the whites’ approval – provided that it could be accomplished by means which are also approved. Correspondingly, an increase of the proportion of Negroes in the American population is commonly looked upon as undesirable.”

Margaret Sanger’s birth control clinics were funded by the Rockefellers anonymously with the hope of avoiding public exposure of the family name. Critics of Sanger would claim that her beliefs were no different to those of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime. Where Hitler would “demand that defective people be prevented from propagating equally defective offspring” Sanger believed in “making sure that parenthood was ‘absolutely prohibited’ to the feeble-minded.”

Her Planned Parenting organisation was built around her personal view that there should be “More children from the fit, less from the unfit… that is the chief aim of birth control.”

Sanger would talk of the successes of the eugenics movement and would claim that it brought to the public’s attention the “unceasingly spawning class of human beings who never should have been born at all”. In an effort to pacify the black masses, Sanger suggested to fellow members of the Negro Project that “we do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population… if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members”. This at a time when black men and women in eugenics-led America were subject to state-sponsored sterilization. Unsurprisingly, Sanger would also speak at Ku Klux Klan rallies.

John D. Rockefeller would also fund Thomas Dixon’s religious congregation and, Dixon, in honour, modelled the hero of the third part of his Ku Klux Klan Trilogy of Reconstruction, 1907’s The Traitor, on Rockefeller. The second book in the trilogy, of course, was The Clansman, which would later go on to be adapted by D. W. Griffith in the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation. The Birth of a Nation was literally a recruitment film for the Ku Klux Klan, fully promoting the ideas of ‘white supremacy’ and became the most successful film in American Cinema history. When Jackson sings “Earn it with dignity”, it’s this very establishment that he is tackling.

When the HIStory album was reviewed, however, not one journalist picked up on the line, which would make any comment on Jackson’s art in 1995 a wholly vacuous affair.

 

Ava Maria

Triumph of the Will wouldn’t be the only propaganda film that would inspire Michael Jackson’s HIStory project. Jackson would choose to model the set of the short-film for his mammoth hit, Earth Song, on the barren wastelands in Soviet, anti-American propaganda film, Ava Maria.

It’s an interesting reference on Jackson’s part. The Soviet film is an attack on America’s policies during the Vietnam war – a war that Jackson nemesis Tom Sneddon served in. Jackson also models part of his live concert performance of the song on parts of the film.

Where the film’s soldier massacres a gift-baring girl, the soldier on Jackson’s world tour crumbles to the ground and begs forgiveness from a gift-baring girl. It’s a classic Jackson moment – taking negative imagery and reversing the sentiment.

It’s interesting to note, however, that even though Earth Song would become one of the most successful international singles in Jackson’s long, illustrious career (it spent six weeks at the top of the UK charts, keeping The Beatles first single in 25 years off the Christmas number one slot) it was never released in the United States of America.

 

“Sunday Times, Not A Friend Of Mine”

Jackson’s Tabloid Junkie was his response to the mass media at large. Every word, every line, was aimed at all of the liars and all of the misleaders who made up a great portion of those who pursued Jackson.

Jackson believed he was a victim of a ‘pattern’ aimed at ‘black luminaries’ and when he sings the line “To lie and shame the race” he claims that he is targeted in order to undermine the black race. Jackson would talk in greater detail about those patterns later on in life but he was happy to tackle the tabloids in 1995 and accuse them of being party to, what he believed, was a systematic attempt to destabilise him.

Towards the end of the song Jackson pleads with his audience to “Believe me, baby… you better believe me” and sings “Sunday TImes, not a friend of mine”. It was The Sunday Times sister paper, the UK’s The Sun, that was the first paper in the world to report the Chandler allegations. Like The Sunday Times, The Sun is part of Rupert Murdoch’s News International group of newspapers.

During the 1980s The Sun was also the newspaper that coined the derogatory term ‘Wacko Jacko’, which formed another part of the ‘pattern’ that Jackson felt had been set against him. Instead of elevating him as they would Elvis Presley, the press, on the whole, derided him – regardless of his achievements, or maybe because of them.

It was during Kelvin MacKenzie’s tenure as Editor of The Sun that the ‘Wacko Jacko’ phrase was coined. MacKenzie is quoted as saying that he aimed his newspaper at a population that hated blacks (‘wogs’) and homosexuals (‘queers’). “You just don’t understand the readers, do you, eh? He’s the bloke you see in the pub, a right old fascist, wants to send the wogs back, buy his poxy council house, he’s afraid of the unions, afraid of the Russians, hates the queers and the weirdos and drug dealers. He doesn’t want to hear about that stuff (serious news).”

 

“By Any Means Necessary”

There is, however, a triumphant finale to the album, an indication of Jackson’s spirit and resolve. The title track of the album History provides an insight into Jackson‘s rarely-discussed political beliefs and viewpoints.

In interview with Black publication Ebony in 1984 Jackson is asked how he could communicate his political beliefs and feelings in public without publicly discussing them. Jackson responds with “I try to write, put it in song. Put it in dance. Put it in my art to teach the world. If politicians can’t do it, I want to do it. We have to do it. Artists, put it in paintings. Poets, put it in poems, novels. That’s what we have to do. And I think it’s so important to save the world.”

He would then go on to talk about Stevie Wonder’s efforts in doing just that, “That’s why I love Stevie Wonder’s biggest-selling album called Songs in the Key of Life. He has a song on that album called Black Man… I just jumped up screaming when I heard that record because he’s showing the world what the Black man has done and what other races have done, and he balanced it beautifully by putting other races in there, what they have done… Then he brings out what the Black Man has done. Instead of naming it another thing, he named it Black Man. That’s what I loved about it… And that’s the best way to bring about the truth, through song. And that’s what I love about it.”

Wonder’s Black Man is a track that features numerous talking heads talking over each other, reeling off great facts and figures of history. Similarly Jackson’s History features samples of great political figures and events in history sampled over each other. The choices Jackson makes, however, are rarely mentioned.

Jackson chooses to sample Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and Martin Luther King, Jr. on the same record. That Jackson elevates them to such heights while attacking the likes of Rockefeller and Carnegie gives the audience a rare insight into the machinations of Jackson’s politics. Through Jackson, millions and millions of people throughout the entire world would hear the words of Malcolm X’s ‘By Any Means Necessary’.

The track is then followed by the macabre tale of murdered child singer, Little Susie. The song is based on the Thomas Hood poem The Bridge of Sighs and even takes lyrical cues from the piece: “Take her up tenderly, Lift her with care; Fashion’d so slenderly, Young, and so fair!” It’s another interesting reclamation on Jackson’s part. Hood was also author of the outrageously racist A Black Job which featured lines such as “A thing to make all Christians sad and shivery, To think of millions of immortal souls Dwelling in bodies black as coals, And living – so to speak – in Satan’s livery!” A Black Job is, itself, based on one of Aesop’s Fables, Washing the Ethiopian White, the story of a slave owner who tries to wash his black slave so that he becomes white.

Jackson commissioned the German artist Gottfried Helnwein to provide artwork for the song Little Susie in the HIStory CD-booklet. 

Writing in The Jewish Journal in 2004, journalist Mitchell Waxman considered Helwin’s artwork as some of the “most powerful images that deal with Nazism and Holocaust themes.” The amount of effort and detail that went into Jackson’s work was all but ignored by the music press in 1995 who wrote more about his alleged ‘wackiness’ and less about his message and his art.

The final track of the album is Jackson’s sublime rendition of Charlie Chaplin’s Smile. Where the album was trailed with an homage to his great hero, it now ends on an optimistic note thanks to Chaplin.

© The Michael Jackson Academia Project

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