Michael: no saint, but no Tiberius either


Michael Jackson has long since joined the immortals, albeit some would spell that without the “t” following the revelations last month in the epic four-hour, two-part documentary Leaving Neverland, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. The film revives claims that the superstar had sexual friendships with young boys, scandal that first burst into the public arena way back in 1993-4 and surfaced again in 2003-5, culminating in Jackson’s acquittal at the end of a four-month trial.

The film has interviews with two of those boys, now long into their adult lives. One of them, Wade Robson, testified in Jackson’s defence at his trial, but now tells a very different story. In the course of researching my book Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons (2010), I came to the view that Robson almost certainly had sexual contact with Jackson but decided to shield the star from a criminal conviction. I thought he had been willingly involved in the sexual contact at the time. What we are told we are going to see in this new film, though – when it goes to TV, which is scheduled for early March through Channel 4 and HBO – is harrowing testimony of manipulation and emotional exploitation that has left both men traumatised.

Jimmy Safechuck, with Michael

The parents of the other boy, James Safechuck, were said to have received “hush money” to keep the family sweet and head off their cooperation with any prosecution. James, known as Jimmy back in the day, was called to give evidence to a grand jury investigation into complaints against Jackson in 1994 but he gave nothing away at that time nor in 2005.

At the time of filming, Robson was 36 and Safechuck 40.  Robson is a dancer and choreographer, Safechuck a computer programmer. Both men are married with children.

These new stories of lasting hurt and trauma leave me deeply sceptical. The current climate all but guarantees that encounters which were welcome at the time, and even part of a loving relationship, are later re-imagined in memory to fit in with the prevailing abuse narrative of our times.

And what a narrative in this case! The horror hype was at work as soon as bums were on seats for the first showing. A Huffington Post report tells us the festival director gave a trigger warning, telling viewers that mental health counsellors were on hand to cope with all the anticipated fainting and freaking out, the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Nor did the audience fail to deliver. They were reportedly left “shellshocked” by the “harrowing” accounts of the two accusers, such that this “searing” documentary “cast a sombre shadow” at the festival.

This is the sort of coverage you will have seen all over the news. What you have probably missed, though, is “the small print” deliberately obscured or left out entirely by most the mainstream media, including important papers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian, as well as the big broadcasting networks. By far the most significant snippet of this down-page material that I have managed to uncover was to be found in a paper whose circulation area includes Hollywood: the Los Angeles Times. Understandably, they talked to Dan Reed, the British director of Leaving Neverland, who also made the Bafta-winning The Paedophile Hunter (2014), about vigilante Stinson Hunter. My guess is that interviewer Amy Kaufman got more than she bargained for when she asked a rather bland question: Why make this a four-hour docuseries?

Reed replied along the lines that it was an extremely complex story. It took time to unravel the psychology behind the kids saying they had not been abused and then changing their minds much later. Then he dropped a bombshell:

The central thing you have to understand is that these children fell in love with Michael Jackson. Jackson wasn’t a kind of grab-and-grope pedophile — he was a romance, relationship pedophile. Wade started telling me how he had fallen in love with Jackson and how that love lasted for years — decades — and how that love motivated his loyalty to Jackson. And how that loyalty ended up requiring him to lie about what happened.

[[[   ADDED FRIDAY 8 FEBRUARY: There is something else Dan Reed said that is arguably even more stunning, and which I meant to include but somehow omitted to do so. He made it plain he thought these very young boys had not just loved Jackson emotionally. They had been enthusiastic over every aspect of the relationship including the sexual side. Reed said:

“When Wade told me that he loved Michael, then everything suddenly crystallized and made sense. This is difficult to say, but he had a fulfilling sexual and emotional relationship at the age of 7 with a 30-year-old man who happened to be the King of Pop. And because he enjoyed it, he loved Michael, and the sex was pleasant. I’m sorry, that’s just the reality.”   ]]]

By Reed’s admission, it took a very long film to persuasively turn a love story into the standard abuse narrative. As a powerful antidote to this exercise in laboured revisionism, I recommend a 30-minute video, Michael Jackson And Wade Robson: The Real Story, which I understand is supported by the extended Jackson family. The family’s denial of Jackson’s emotional and sexual interest in young boys has never been credible to me, but many strong factual points are made against the accusers.

The information given about Wade Robson is particularly important because he had been a key defence witness at Jackson’s trial in 2005.

The picture that emerges very clearly in this YouTube video is that in 2011-12 Robson’s career in entertainment was not going as well as he had hoped. He was talented and successful, but also had extremely high and perhaps unrealistic expectations. He took on ambitious projects that were too much for him.

After failing in one such project in 2011 he went into therapy. Same thing in 2012: different project, different therapist. Significantly, neither this new therapist nor the first were consulted in relation to sexual abuse. His new therapist, a Dr Larry Shaw, is a specialist in dealing with high pressure jobs.

High-level success and perfectionism had been demanded of Robson ever since his early childhood by his mother. The pressure and expectations had become all too much for him after a couple of career stumbles.

It was in 2012, three weeks into therapy, that Robson first came up with his allegations of abuse. He was not claiming recovered memory. He said he knew all along known what had happened with Jackson but did not realise it was abusive.

I maintain, as does The Real Story, that this must be nonsense. As a sophisticated adult Robson cannot have failed to be aware that the conduct in question was illegal and would be widely regarded as abuse. The unavoidable conclusion, in my view, is that regardless of the law and public opinion, he did not feel Jackson had abused him. Yes, there was sexual activity; but, no, he was not abused.

However, now that Jackson was no longer alive, and Robson was struggling in his career, he decided he had been abused after all. Either the experience was genuinely re-imagined as abusive or it was a conscious ploy to re-invent and re-finance himself. The facts suggest the latter possibilities, as will be seen below.

Robson sued the Jackson Estate.

The Jackson estate managed to get hold of a note Robson had written to himself about a book proposal he was working on. The book was to be a memoir in which would talk about his “abuse”. This note was presented as part of the 2016 depositions for the civil case. He had written:

“My story of abuse and its effects will make me relatable/relevant” he wrote.

He would suddenly be transformed from a failure to a victim.

He began to claim he could not work because dancing and other entertainment were too strongly associated with sexual abuse. This was what he claimed in court documents. In fact, though, he continued dancing, etc.

But in Sept 2017, with his lawsuit heading for failure, he proclaimed himself “healed” from the bad association regarding entertainment activities and announced his return to show business.

So, he was traumatised when it looked as though there was money in it that would bail him out when his career nosedived. Then, straight after that prospect vanished with the failure of his lawsuit, hey presto, he was no longer traumatised.

Go figure!

We may suppose that as a relatively humble computer programmer, Safechuck, too, would not have been averse to the lure of potentially huge financial gain from a successful lawsuit. As noted above, the family had accepted what were apparently outright bribes in the past: a Rolls Royce was just one of the lavish presents Jackson gave them; and Jimmy’s father, a dustman, mysteriously became a millionaire following his association with Jackson.

So we need not be surprised that, like Robson, Safechuck also filed suit. Neither man’s case has been successful.

But sorting out the motives Michael’s old flames had for suing Jackson’s Estate, and companies, and making Leaving Neverland, does not explain the film’s emotional impact. A big part of it was what we might call the yuk factor. Plenty of gay guys experience revulsion to the point of nausea at the thought of having sex with a woman; and of course it is not so long ago that straight people’s utter disgust at the idea of men having sex with each other was used as an argument against normalising such behaviour.

That’s how it is now with child-adult sex. One reason for Leaving Neverland’s great length is that it dwells long and loathingly on the graphic intimate details of the love life disclosed by these two guys.

Robson met Jackson through a dance competition at age five, and said the sexual abuse began when he was seven. Safechuck was cast in a Pepsi commercial starring Jackson at age ten, and the alleged abuse began after months of close friendship.

Safechuck’s description of his experiences at Jackson’s fabled Neverland mansion is particularly atmospheric. Little Jimmy began to stay the night in Michael’s bed. The star told him he’d performed oral sex on him while he was asleep. Michael introduced him to masturbation. Things quickly escalated. They had sex all over the Neverland Ranch – including inside the castle, pool, attic and train station. “Neverland was a giant bed”, as one report put it. Virtually every structure on the grounds had hideaways with beds or privacy nooks for sex. Oral sex games were played in the pool and jacuzzi.

We learn from one report that as the photos of each location ticked by, “disgusted groans in the Sundance theatre grew louder”.

But what did little Jimmy, now big James, have to say about this? He said:

“It happened every day. It sounds sick, but when you’re first dating somebody, you do a lot of it,” he said.

Quite so. Lovers get carried away in a passionate relationship. There is no shying away here from Jimmy’s own active participation: there was mutual engagement. No amount of disgusted groaning in the cinema can negate that.

There is no evidence that Jackson ever coerced or forced boys into sex. He clearly wanted their willing participation. Does this mean he was entirely an ethical boy lover? No, it does not. As I was at pains to emphasise in Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons, he was never the saintly figure his adoring fans believe him to be. His carefully wrought image as a figure of child-like innocence was always a mask, a persona. There is no doubt in my mind that some of his behaviour was quite manipulative, especially as regards his Machiavellian manoeuvrings to keep parents onside or neutralise their suspicions and hostility.

Wade Robson, with Michael

Perhaps the strongest charge against him, though, is that of giving some kids the impression they alone were the special one. For any boy destined to grow up gay, especially, any bad-faith declaration of undying love would always run the risk of ending in heartbreak and lasting trauma. Not that he is necessarily guilty of this charge: Robson and Safechuck have both had heterosexual adult lives, after all.

But there is also the question of personal loyalty at the friendship level. In my book I said there was little evidence that any of Jackson’s boys were cynically dumped once they grew beyond Jackson’s age-of-attraction, as has been alleged. However, it now looks as though I may have been too keen to give him the benefit of the doubt. While we do not yet know what Robson and Safechuck say about this in the film, their stories have been in the public domain from documentation filed in their lawsuits, and a number of writers have pored over the entrails.

One of them is long-time Jackson watcher Desiree Hill. In 2010 she blogged with high praise of my book, saying “it’s fantastic…a tome of astute analysis”. I can now return the praise. Her detailed chronicle The Jimmy Safechuck Story is a must-read for anyone who wants a well documented “case for the prosecution” regarding the alleged “dumping” of the particular boy in question. I am not saying her view is necessarily correct but it needs to be taken into account.

A boy lover well versed in the classics wrote to me recently comparing Jackson with the Roman emperor Tiberius, and it is undeniable that Neverland’s numerous custom-designed love-making locations clearly echo the emperor’s arrangements for his retirement fastness on the isle of Capri. As the historian Suetonius wrote in The Twelve Caesars:

On retiring to Capri he devised a pleasance for his secret orgies: teams of wantons of both sexes, selected as experts in deviant intercourse and dubbed analists, copulated before him in triple unions to excite his flagging passions. Its bedrooms were furnished with the most salacious paintings and sculptures, as well as with an erotic library, in case a performer should need an illustration of what was required. Then in Capri’s woods and groves he arranged a number of nooks of venery where boys and girls got up as Pans and nymphs solicited outside bowers and grottoes: people openly called this “the old goat’s garden,” punning on the island’s name.

He acquired a reputation for still grosser depravities that one can hardly bear to tell or be told, let alone believe. For example, he trained little boys (whom he termed tiddlers) to crawl between his thighs when he went swimming and tease him with their licks and nibbles; and unweaned babies he would put to his organ as though to the breast, being by both nature and age rather fond of this form of satisfaction.

It is already beginning to look not too good for Tiberius at this point, wouldn’t you say? But there is more. And it is much worse. Suetonius continues:

The story is also told that once at a sacrifice, attracted by the acolyte’s beauty, he lost control of himself and, hardly waiting for the ceremony to end, rushed him off and debauched him and his brother, the flute-player, too; and subsequently, when they complained of the assault, he had their legs broken.

Now that was an unethical boy-lover. But it was not Michael Jackson!






Welcome to the joys of Springer!


The publication of yet another dry, difficult, boring article in an obscure academic journal may seem no big deal, but I hope heretics will be persuaded that one specific recent addition to “the literature” really is major news for us.

Some readers will have noticed straws in the wind – a hint or two from me in the comments section, even the actual news being leaked at a couple of Kind chat forums – and now the time has finally arrived when I am ready to spill the beans with an official announcement.

Official, that is, because the article is my very own. I like to think the really special thing about it is the content – what it actually says in its 15,000-words – but the most immediate aspect to crow about is that this is the first piece of mine accepted as a work of serious scholarship after going through the process known as peer review i.e. after being read and critiqued in detail by other scholars, who tend typically to be professors and other senior academics.

This in itself would be of no great interest to anyone but me, but when the article in question claims that consensual child-adult sexual relationships could be ethical, or even represent the embodiment of an ideal in human relationships, it does become a bit special. And when that article is written by an activist without so much as a doctorate to his name, much less a chair in moral philosophy, it becomes unique. Even more securely unique, indeed, given that my formal introduction to ethics was acquired while studying an Open University course in philosophy from a cell in Her Majesty’s Prison, Wandsworth.

“Unique”, as it happens, was an epithet used by one of the three anonymous (so they can criticise without inhibition) peer reviewers, who wrote: “The article is unique, interesting, important, and nicely argued. It will be an important contribution to the literature.” Another reviewer called it “stimulating and polemical” while the third said it was “…a great article. Very well researched… Well written and well argued throughout.”

Enough with the fanfare! The title of the paper is “Childhood ‘Innocence’ is Not Ideal: Virtue Ethics and Child–Adult Sex”. It was published online by the journal Sexuality & Culture on 20 April. The print edition will probably come out later this year, from which point it will grace the shelves of university libraries.

Wannabe readers will not need to hunt it down in the groves of academe, though, nor will they need to pay through the nose for it or seek a pirated download (somewhat harder to find now, following a lawsuit last year). No, all they need in order to read the full text free of charge online, or to get a free PDF download, is this link to the article’s page on the Sexuality & Culture website provided by Springer Nature, a gigantic academic publishing corporation.

And thereby hangs an important tale. Springer didn’t get big and profitable by being generous. It may look as though you are being offered a free lunch but it won’t be the publisher picking up the tab. Most of their articles are paid for in the traditional way: the reader has to buy them, just like going into a bookstore and buying a book. That tends to be very expensive for the reader, at £35 or more (around $50 U.S.) for an article of typically only 15-20 pages, unless they are able to borrow a copy from a library. This has been getting increasingly difficult in recent years because the libraries themselves in the UK and elsewhere have been finding it harder to come up with the money for their subscriptions to the journals. This means there is an increasing danger that only a small elite have much chance of discovering the latest scholarship and research.

Determined to reach the widest possible readership for my own pro-Kind paper, I decided this was not good enough. I could have done the same as most authors, which is to transfer the copyright to the publishers, so they can charge for the “intellectual property” (the article) and keep all the money that comes in. Doing it that way means there is no cost to the author. But I decided to put my money where my mouth is by forking out far more than I can sensibly afford in order to retain the copyright and exercise my choice to make the paper free to all readers under a scheme known as Open Access.

I paid Springer’s standard charge. Including VAT this came to a whopping £2,311, or over 3,000 American dollars. The first sign that this was money well spent is shown by the figures: in the first three weeks there have been over 300 downloads from the publisher’s link and more via ResearchGate, which is a networking site for scientists and researchers. This might seem small potatoes compared to the million a minute or whatever it is for cute cat clips going viral on YouTube but it is extremely good for a scholarly site – and unlike the cat clips a good article can have a long-lasting influence on people who are themselves seriously influential – such as public intellectuals (those high-profile profs who tend to be on the telly a lot), or leading bloggers and journalists.

With the help of a single generous sponsor I also made an earlier Springer publication of mine Open Access. This was a book review (which did not itself need to be peer reviewed) titled “Arthur P. Wolf: Incest Avoidance and the Incest Taboos, Two Aspects of Human Nature”. Without me making any significant effort towards publicising this review, it has gained 2,100 downloads since going online in November 2015. I confidently expect my present paper to get much bigger figures, not least because I intend to trumpet it far and wide.

The fact that I put my own money upfront this time around was an expression of my passionate belief in “Childhood ‘Innocence’ is Not Ideal”. It was also an act of faith in heretics here that you will wish to play your part by supporting my endeavours. I trust you will be willing to make whatever donation you can, not just to ensure that I can pay my next electricity bill now that I have taken a big hit to the wallet, but that I can also keep Heretic TOC and other projects going on a flourishing basis. My only income these days is a state pension. Thanks to serial career-busting activism over the years I have never been able to generate more than a sliver of a pittance from company pensions or anything of that sort.

That was my choice of life-style. I do not complain. But looking forward to the next few years I will be unable to keep on giving my time so freely unless I can cover my costs . I might be forced to give up Heretic TOC entirely, along with any further scholarship, in order to supplement my meagre income by devoting my time to commercial work instead – editorial consultancy and research such as I used to do after being recruited by Gordon Wills in the 1980s, in the field of marketing, and in more recent years Bill Percy, assisting with his history writing and research projects. The earnings in both cases were good, and the work was interesting, so it is tempting to go in that direction again.

I would far rather stick with what I am doing now, though, as I feel it is more important. But for that I need your help, your contribution. That is why, as you will see, I have added a Donate button to Heretic TOC. You will see it on the right hand side of the page. It is the last item, after the Follow button. The system uses PayPal, which is a very easy way of paying from accounts in any major currency, either using a credit card or your own PayPal account.

Nominally, your contributions will go to Dangerous Books Ltd, which is the name of the company I set up principally as the vehicle for promoting and selling my book Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons (authored under the penname “Carl Toms”) some years ago. My PayPal account just happens to be in this name but it is not actually a company account. So your contributions will go to me personally and be entirely at my disposal.

I see no reason why the donation system should not work smoothly, but if there are any teething problems with it do let me know.

In making this appeal I am acutely aware that many heretics have faced career disasters and consequent financial limitations comparable to my own, so may not have much to give; others will have been so traumatised by unkindness to the Kind that they have found it tough just to hold off depressive inertia and keep themselves going sufficiently to make a modest living. To these I say, give what you can and you will be doing yourself a favour as well as me: you will feel good for having contributed. It’ll cheer you up a bit!

There are also those who have been resilient; they include skilful, talented people who have done well in life, being wisely alert to pitfalls and how to avoid them. Among them are those who generously came to my aid a couple of years ago when my need was far more desperate than it is now. When it looked as though I would need an expensive legal team to keep me out of prison, this gallant band of stalwarts rose to the challenge stupendously, some pledging four-figure sums. Fortunately, in the end I needed only a tenth of what had been offered and accepted that amount with relief and gratitude.

To these heroes, and to others who are at least modestly prospering, I would now say I have no need for a four-figure sum from any single individual (but of course it would be nice if any millionaire heretics happen to be feeling bountiful!) I would urge you, though, to think seriously about a three-figure one: without a number of donations at this level I could be struggling.

Enough with the funding!

A word may be needed about the paper itself. It is not an easy read, especially the first sections. One of my main targets in this early part is the stance taken by the eminent British conservative philosopher Sir Roger Scruton. Heretics who are into philosophy might enjoy what I hope is a successful demolition job on his enthusiasm for denouncing “perversion” and “obscenity”.

It is in the later part, though, that I feel I really get motoring. This is where, having ditched the negative approach to sexual “virtue” espoused by Scruton and his supporter Agustin Malón, I develop my own, positive, approach.

I might add that I have met Malón a couple of times and downed a few beers with him. He is a very nice guy; so our differences are ideological rather than personal. A Spanish scholar, he is a professor of education, and has written a number of papers pertinent to our concerns that are far more humane and sympathetic than anything I have seen from Scruton.



Would you Adam and Eve it! John Woodcock MP, the man who had me kicked out of the Labour Party could be shown the door himself, after being suspended at the end of last month over – wait for it – alleged sexual harassment! It is claimed “he sent inappropriate messages to a former female member of staff”.

In an even more delicious irony, the first thing Woodcock did to undermine my position in the party two years ago, after the police alerted him to my background as a Kind activist, was to go blabbing to the press. And guess what he is complaining about now?

Yes, you’ve guessed it: he is upset that his detractors have gone blabbing to the press! The BBC quoted him as denying the truth of the allegations, and as saying:

“The decision… to place details of my case in the press and then suspend me places a serious question mark over the integrity of the process….”

Oddly enough, he didn’t seem so concerned about “the integrity of the process” in my case, which I blogged about in An Open Letter to the Labour Party.

Can’t say I feel a lot of sympathy for him. As he appears to have made it his life’s mission to undermine Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, at every opportunity, the party would do well to see the back of him.



Email received this morning from a correspondent in the U.S.:

“I talked with a fellow tonight who was recently released from prison. He told me that someone smuggled a copy of your book on Michael Jackson in by having it mailed to an inmate who was not there on a sex crime, so his mail is less scrutinized and it got through. Then, to allow the sex-crime inmates to read it, someone took the cover from a book by Isaac Asimov that was about the same size, and replaced your cover with that so the guys could read it without the guards knowing what they were reading.”

So, never mind drugs, mobile phones and the rest, it seems the cool item to smuggle into prison now is Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons. Way to go, dudes!

Why Prince George always wears shorts


This is your captain speaking! This is an important message. Listen carefully. There is absolutely NO TRUTH in the rumour that this blog has been hi-jacked by mutineers masquerading as “guest bloggers”. My command remains unchallenged. For morale-boosting reassurance, uplifting martial music will now be played.

As for scurrilous suggestions that I have been sleeping at the wheel, or the joy stick or whatever gizmo it is that keeps this show on the road… Or on the runway. Or in the air. Or… Where was I? Ah, yes, in command, that’s it! And I have decided it’s time to cheer you lot up back there with some absolutely spiffing, top-notch in-flight entertainment, starting on a patriotic note – patriotic, that is, if you happen to be a traditionalist Brit who loves the monarchy.

Personally, I don’t, much. But I am as much a sucker for charming royal children as any reader of the flag-waving tabloids or Hello! magazine.

Prince George in shorts… with strange man!

Have you noticed, by the way, that where royal kids are concerned, everyone is allowed to be a paedophile? Britannia  magically waives the rules against fancying kids when it happens to be royal ones. They are public property, so we can all drool over their loveliness without fear of arrest. Celebrity ones too, I suppose, like the Beckham kids, albeit father David took flak recently for kissing his daughter on the lips. Usually the photos speak for themselves, so nothing about the illicit nature of the enthusiasm need be too verbally obvious.

Occasionally, though, one may spot a rare indiscretion, as in the recent commentary by Yahoo Style on the outfits worn by four-year-old Prince George. Whereas the Daily Mail concocted some dubious  blarney for the fact that the little Royal Highness is always dressed in shorts (“it’s a royal tradition”), the unnamed Yahoo fashion writer just blurts out the truth, in car-crash English but we get the point: “…he looks hella cute in them.” The article ends, “Tradition or not, we need no excuse to adore Prince George’s shorts.”

Here! Here!

That “hella” thing is a helluva mess from the word-mangling key-clacker (or I am just showing my age?), but they probably won’t be sacked for it. Unlike Wendy Henry, editor of the Sunday tabloid The People, whose treatment a generation ago of Prince George’s father in his short trousers days was more than indiscreet: these days anything similar might well precipitate investigation over indecent images of a child.

In the issue of 19 November 1989, Henry published a front-page photograph headlined “The Royal Wee”, showing Prince William, then aged seven, dressed in his school uniform –  including shorts – taking a leak. The photo was captioned “Willie’s Sly Pee in the Park”.

The photo was doubtless slyly taken, and it was surely not the only shot stolen by the impertinent paparazzo. The published image did not reveal the princely prong in all its majesty but others on the roll (as it would have been in those pre-digital days) could well have done. Who knows what incriminating evidence a police raid on the picture editor’s office might have yielded?

As far as I am aware, Henry was not investigated by the police, but her act of lèse–majesté was too much for the paper’s owner, Robert Maxwell, a man not noted for an excess of scruples. So, she had to go.

Prince William was in the news again last week, of course, along with brother Harry, in connection with their new documentary for ITV in commemoration of their mother Princess Dianna, marking the 20th anniversary of her death in a car crash in Paris at the age of 36.

The boys and their mum: title photo for the ITV documentary


Diana: Our Mother, I found, is a moving tribute to the late princess for a number of reasons. The story of any tragically early death could hardly fail to be affecting, especially when it comes, as this one does, from two sons who so obviously loved their mother deeply. That Diana famously had a rare gift for winning hearts makes it especially touching, in the most literal sense: she would hold hands with AIDS patients, chatting in a physically close, friendly, way at a time when they were being shunned like lepers by others. Likewise her contact with those whose bodies had been shattered by land mines, and others reduced to living rough on the streets, was characterised not just by empathy, but by kindness whose sincerity was made manifest in her body-language, in her closeness and tactility.

The biggest impression the programme made on me, though, came through what it revealed about Diana as a mother. What William and Harry said about her was striking in itself, but the real impact came through family photos of her and the boys together: fabulous, beautiful pictures of them all having a whale of a time. Royal families have an advantage over us peasants in this regard: they can have an official photographer on hand, ready to capture those special moments of rapturous glee, whereas ordinary families – even the happier ones – tend to end up with terrible photos on the mantelpiece, all forced smiles for the camera and static poses. Or used to. I suppose it is better now, in the age of the video camera and the smart phone, but I haven’t seen much evidence of it. Am I wrong? Has a revolution in superb family photography passed me by? Do let me know.

Diana’s philosophy as a parent, it seems, was quite simple: kids should have fun. And be naughty. Just like herself. William said she used to send him rude cards:

“Usually she found something, you know, very embarrassing… a very funny card, and then sort of wrote very nice stuff inside.  But I dared not open it in case the teachers or anyone else in the class had seen it.”

Prince Harry, who was 12 when his mother died, spoke of her willingness to break the rules:

“One of her mottos to me was, you know, ‘you can be as naughty as you want,  just don’t get caught’. She was one of the naughtiest parents.  She would come and watch us play football and, you know, smuggle sweets into our socks.  Our mother was a total kid through and through.”

Know who that reminds me of? Michael Jackson. He was brilliant with kids whose parents had been too tough on them, too ambitious for their success and too demanding, as his own father had been. That’s a big part of why kids like child star Macaulay Culkin loved to hang out with him.

Prince William and Prince Harry on Harry’s first day at Wetherby School in London, September 1989

Just giving kids what they want all the time is in general a terrible idea; but that is exactly what some of them need, some of the time – including, I would think, boys like William and Harry, who might otherwise have been suffocated in the tight, disciplined, joyless embrace of a “proper” upbringing as potential heirs to the throne.

Jackson, incidentally, met Diana backstage after one of his London concerts, with her husband, Prince Charles. He did not see her sons – the evening event was past their bedtime – but it soon became clear he was very keen to meet William, especially, who was then aged six while Harry was three. He subsequently bombarded Diana with phone calls, inviting William to stay at Neverland. That was destined never to happen, so he had to make do with keeping a framed blowup photo of William at his home instead, showing the little prince on his first day at Wetherby School in 1987, wearing, yes, his regulation shorts.

I said above that I would be starting with royal children, but sadly I have to finish with them, too. I had hoped to bring you up to date with some other items but they will have to wait, as I must turn to other things. My intervention today, incidentally, after saying a few months ago that I would be handing over to guest bloggers for the foreseeable future, or simply leaving the site unpiloted, has been done on a whim and should not be taken as indicating a sustained return. Guest bloggers have been doing a great job and another guest piece is among my files, awaiting publication. I hope more will come, so please feel free to send submissions.

LSM interviews Yours Truly


Leonard Sisyphus Mann, distinguished guest blogger here at Heretic TOC, has interviewed me for his own blog, Consenting A̶d̶u̶l̶t̶s̶ Humans, focusing on my book Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons – how it came to be written, for instance, and the high drama over its publication, including a ferocious and sustained attack against the book from thousands of Jackson fans around the globe, even before its appearance.

The first part of the two-part interview is scheduled for publication tomorrow evening, so you might want to watch out for it. Also included is a Special Offer – a bargain price for Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons, exclusive to readers of Consenting A̶d̶u̶l̶t̶s̶ Humans. The second part is due to follow a week later, on Wednesday 19 April.

So, that’s it for now, just the above brief news item: short, but sufficient, I trust, to pique some interest.

Creating victims, real and imaginary


How do you turn a so-called child victim into a real one? One sure-fire way is to have her locked up for 20 hours in a police cell after she has refused to give evidence against her lover.

That is what Judge Robert Bartfield did earlier this month when a 15-year-old girl would not testify against her 32-year-old boyfriend at Bradford Crown Court in northern England.

After the girl eventually testified under duress, the man was found guilty of sexual activity with a child. A spokesperson for Victim Support rightly said the girl had been treated in a “grotesque and, frankly, degrading manner by those who are supposed to be protecting her”. Even the NSPCC managed to get this one right, saying it was shocking – and, for once, they were not talking about the behaviour of the man on trial.

Judiciary officials have launched an investigation into the case.

It is probably too much to expect, but let’s hope the judge’s barbaric insensitivity will be followed by a change in the law, as happened in California following at least one similar case back in 1983, involving a 12-year-old girl called Amy. Her step-father, a US Air Force doctor, was on trial for alleged sexual contact with her.

Amy did not want to lose the man her mother had married four years earlier. Reportedly, she feared the family would be broken up in the event of a conviction. She was kept in solitary confinement for eight days but bravely remained rock solid in her refusal to testify. The case was abandoned only after she had been brought back to court six times, each time defying the judge’s demand that she give evidence.

The new law, passed the following year, was an amendment to the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1219, to the effect that “no court may imprison or otherwise confine or place in custody the victim of a sexual assault for contempt when the contempt consists of refusing to testify concerning the sexual assault.”

Ten years later the authorities tried to change this law in order to force 13-year-old Jordie Chandler to testify that Michael Jackson had molested him. It didn’t work, and the law fortunately still stands. As I wrote in my book about the superstar’s relationships with boys:

… here were the authorities proposing to force Jordie to testify against his will. Even Michael, with all the insults and humiliation that had been heaped upon him, was never accused of resorting to forcing a child into anything.

Arguably even more shocking than the judge’s tough tactics in the Bradford case was the reaction of at least one feminist commentator, Deborah Orr, in her Guardian column. She supported the judge, on the grounds that his hard line was for the girl’s own good in the long run: just what Jordie’s father said when he betrayed his son’s confidence – which turned out to be a disaster. Feminists rightly used to be angry over men telling women what is for their own good; now they have become the new authoritarians.

Orr then went on to describe a really sinister recent addition to the ever-expanding empire of false victimhood. It goes like this: if the “victim” you aim to “protect” does not feel like a victim, and refuses to be cast as one, then you just change the rules of the game to make sure they cannot escape the victim label you are determined to pin on them.

The “victim” refuses to say they have been sexually assaulted? Very well, in that case you re-brand the man’s crime: it was not sexual assault but “exploiting the victim’s vulnerabilities”. In this scheme of things, if the child had been a willing participant in a sexual act with a grown-up she must have been vulnerable by definition. In other words, she would be deemed automatically to have been unwilling but for her vulnerability to the wicked attractiveness of the adult, who must have been criminally handsome, or outrageously charming, or talented, or famous, or rich, or strong, or protective, or maybe even just a diabolically nice guy. Any or all of these attributes, which might be thought positive qualities in another context, are perversely turned by this dogma into negative ones. They just become tools of “the grooming process”.

The fundamentally anti-sexual agenda behind all this becomes apparent when we see that the vulnerability concept is being applied to adults as well as children. These extremists effectively want to abolish the age of consent. Yes, you did read that right, but don’t rush to crack open the champagne. They are trying to infantilise everyone, making consent more and more difficult at any age. The logical endpoint is no sex at all for anyone, no matter how old they are, rendering an age of consent redundant.

Orr quotes with approval a certain Professor Betsy Stanko, assistant director of planning with the Metropolitan Police. After a decade of research on rape (note that we are talking primarily about adult alleged victims now) she concludes that a way to deal with low conviction rates is effectively to ditch the consent criterion. If the woman consented, so you cannot convict a man, you find ways of finding that consent did not count because the woman was vulnerable. What makes her vulnerable? Being drunk at the time, wearing sexy clothes, being swept off her feet by a tall, dark, handsome stranger, especially if he happened to be rich and famous. Pretty well anything, really, that would show she was up for a roaring good time.

Neatest of all, vulnerability would be demonstrated if the woman had been in a steady relationship with the man. By the Stinko Standard, evidence of such a relationship would count against the man, not for him. What absolutely Orr-some Alice in Wonderland logic!

Bearing in mind the interesting current debate here about feminism, in the comments on Gentle poet Ginsberg doesn’t deserve this, I should perhaps ask fellow heretics whether Deborah Orr is a feminist worth discussing things with, or whether she and her ilk are beyond redemption. I would just throw in the thought that she is married and has children (which in itself surprises me, in view of her seeming anti-sexuality) by the novelist and ubiquitous public intellectual Will Self. I cannot say I have read his books or have any in-depth knowledge of the guy, but he comes across in his articles and broadcasts as intelligent and perceptive.

Maybe we should write to him, in a devious attempt to influence his wife. How about this:

“Sir, your wife is a shrew. It’s time you took her in hand.”

Umm. Maybe not. The Cunning Plan might need a bit more work.

One angle might be to play on his justified sense of grievance over being suspected as a paedophile by a security guard and a police officer when he was in the countryside hiking with his 11-year-old son last year. Justified, as I say, but by Jesus, Mary and all the saints did Self bang on about it! A torrent of indignation poured forth from his keyboard about what was admittedly bound to have been an upsetting experience, although it’s not as though he was arrested or had his reputation trashed in the media. His tale of woe was nevertheless spun into an epic yarn of over two and a half thousand words in the Daily Mail.

As the Mail’s headline put it, “Will Self reveals moment an innocent ramble became a nightmarish tale of modern Britain”. Who knows, having had a slight taste of the nightmare some of us have to put up with every day of the week, maybe the traumatised Self could be tapped as a source of sympathy.

The high price of respectability in Brazil


As slums go, the Santa Marta favela in Rio de Janeiro is remarkably pretty, even glamorous.  The stinking open sewers, garbage-strewn alleys and tumbledown shacks are doubtless much like those in many hundreds of such favelas, home to almost a quarter of the city’s population of over six million.

But Santa Marta is special. One thing that makes it so, in the mantra of the real estate dealers, is “location, location, location”. Unlike the  vast, sprawling, nondescript favelas of industrial north Rio, Santa Marta lies in the favoured south, only a couple of Metro stations away from well-heeled Copacabana, with its famous beach.  Actually, Santa Marta doesn’t really “lie” anywhere. Instead, it clings precariously to a steep and, as it were, “holy” hillside, directly beneath Rio’s truly most iconic feature – tourists make thousands of “icons” of it every day – the huge and imposing mountain-top statue of Christ the Redeemer, whose open arms embrace the city.

Perhaps this special location lay behind the decision to use Santa Marta for filming the video of Michael Jackson’s song “They don’t really care about us” in 1995. As many here will be aware, the shoot featured local kids (surprise, surprise!) singing and dancing along with Jackson.  He was accused at the time of exploiting their poverty, which may be true.  But it is also true that the massive worldwide publicity generated by the event meant that suddenly, the image-conscious Brazilian authorities – then bidding for the World Cup and Olympics that are finally now coming their way ­– started caring about Santa Marta. Artists were commissioned to beautify the place with murals; the more prominent houses were painted in bright, cheerful colours.  More practically, a cable car was built, so that favela dwellers would no longer have to sweat their way to the top; concrete steps replaced slippery mud banks; railings were installed so that kids would no longer tumble and hurt themselves.

Jon, my guide when I visited the favela a few days ago, testified personally to the importance of this last improvement. A Santa Marta resident all his life, when he was little he fell off an unguarded sheer drop, badly injuring his back.

“I still have the scars to prove it,” he told me, in good English learned not in school but from the internet and talking with tourists.

As the author of a book on Michael Jackson (and his boys), I was particularly keen to explore the superstar’s connection with the favela. Not that Jon would have let it pass unnoticed: a visit to what has become a Jackson “shrine” is a highlight of his tour. The Jackson area includes a balcony with a statue of the late great in an open-armed gesture, appearing to – ahem – embrace the city below, rather like Jesus.  Accused in his lifetime of presenting himself as a messiah (not the only allegation he faced, of course) at least he cannot be blamed for this little excess.

Little, indeed, is the operative word here. The statue is tiny, less than life-size. By contrast, Jackson promoted his History album with a 60-foot statue of himself, floated upright on a barge down the River Thames, in London. Now that was a statue fit for a god!

Why all this is expected to be of interest to readers of Heretic TOC is a bit obscure, I confess. My interest in Jackson is primarily rooted in his boy-love rather than his over-the-top self-presentation or the way his fans idolised him. Unsurprisingly, there was not a trace of evidence in Santa Marta that I could find in my brief visit to suggest any BL connection, other than the faint echoes discernible from the video itself – which was played to me in the inevitable souvenir shop and which I felt obliged to buy. Oh, yes, there is another thing I nearly forgot to mention: Michael had a couple of young boys in his entourage, so he wasn’t exactly short of company!

What I’m trying to do, I suppose, in a roundabout way, is to let y’all know that Heretic TOC is on vacation in Brazil right now, escaping the horrible wet, windy, grey English winter for a few weeks. After a very agreeable week spent in Rio seeing all the usual tourist sights, I will soon be off hiking deep in the interior. I expect this will be all about mountains, rivers, waterfalls and valleys rather than a “heretic” thing, so it is entirely possible my next blog won’t even mention Brazil, although it will probably be written in this country.

I should not leave the favela theme, though, without some acknowledgement of a much bigger issue than Michael Jackson’s fleeting presence long ago. Apart from poverty, which is still the defining feature of favela life for many, although it could be worse – satellite TV dishes festoon the rooftops – violence has also been endemic in these communities, as those familiar with the film City of God will be aware.

That has changed for the better quite a bit in recent years, thanks to police “pacification” programmes: one by one, dozens of favelas, starting with Santa Marta itself in 2008, have been subjected to intensive policing, resulting in the expulsion of the criminal gangs that used to rule the roost, dominating entire communities not just the drug  scene. Without such pacification I could not have entered Santa Marta without severe risk of being intimidated and robbed.

The price of such victories has been high, though. The police in Brazil are often accused of brutality, the latest allegations arising from their handling in recent days of demonstrations against the World Cup ­– a popular protest  despite the country’s fabled love of football, because people would prefer to see the money go on decent public services, especially in education and health provision.

But I digress. The allegations have often all too clearly been true, although a culture of impunity means police officers are very seldom held to account for actions that include outright torture and murder of suspects, with even mass killings not unknown. Not so long ago, Human Rights Watch reported over 3,000 deaths annually from police violence in Brazil. In one appalling incident, the Candelária church massacre of 1993, eight minors were killed by the police, including two boys aged 14, one 13 and one 11.

Basically these kids, and others like them in many cities, have been treated like vermin who need to be exterminated in order to “cleanse” the streets, making them safe for the prosperous classes who don’t like their pockets picked by Dickensian gangs of urchins, or having their stores robbed – and who, in their respectability, don’t much care for kids to be hanging around plying a trade as prostitutes either.

Pacification, then, has its agreeable side, as I discovered: it is good to stroll about in a relaxed, crime-free environment. But the flip side has been ugly and vicious in the extreme. And the favelas have arguably been not just pacified but stultified. When the law rides into town a lot of the colour and the fun rides out!

P.S. Director Spike Lee also shot part of his Jackson video in the city of Salvador, where I am staying right now. This location was in the historic district of Pelourinho, originally a slave market. Naturally, I plan to pay a visit!

N.B. For one week, starting on Monday 10 February, I expect to be hiking in remote places away from any internet connections. Accordingly, I will be unable to approve and posts your comments in this period. So, if you have anything to say about this or other H-TOC blogs, get in quickly!

Benjamin Britten: both ‘gay’ and a boy lover


Benjamin Britten, as a boy lover, will need little introduction to many heretics here, especially after a new biography in this centennial year of the great composer’s birth, and all the other razzmatazz that attends celebrity.

So is there anything more to be said about him, as the year draws to its close? There’s the usual exclusion principle to note, of course, which makes it impossible to be simultaneously both an esteemed figure and a paedophile, or not an active one at least. Britten still just about makes the cut in this regard: his hebephilic, rather than truly paedophilic, preference for barely pubescent boys was always highly visible, but he was never metaphorically caught with his pants down (or theirs) even though he hugged them, kissed them on the lips, declared his love, swam naked in their company and even – shades of Michael Jackson – shared his bed with them.

No doubt he has been cut some slack because some of his most important works, especially the operas Peter Grimes, The Turn of the Screw and Death in Venice, all strongly feature the theme of childhood innocence and appear to abhor its “corruption”. In this, too, his career is strongly reminiscent of Jackson’s. The pop megastar was a very different musician and personality but both artists surrounded themselves constantly with children, especially boys, who were featured extensively in their work. Both took boys to bed with them and both insisted – or had others insist for them – that it was all entirely “pure”, and they were protective, not predatory. The comparison is at times uncannily close: Here’s Michael’s little friend Brett Barnes: “I was on one side and he was on the other, and it’s a big bed.” And Ben’s beloved David Hemmings: “It was a very big bed.” Or what about the first time Michael slept with young Jordie Chandler? They had been watching a video of The Exorcist and the boy said been so frightened he had not wanted to sleep alone. Hemmings again: “I have slept in his bed, yes, only because I was scared at night…” No videos in those days: he had been scared, so it was claimed, by the crashing of waves on the seashore near Ben’s house!

Unlike Chandler, though, who very credibly testified that his relationship with Jackson became overtly sexual, Hemmings, who was decidedly not an innocent child, always protected Ben’s reputation. Young David, who played the role of the “corrupted” boy Miles in The Turn of the Screw, later went on record saying he flirted with Ben. A sexual advance would not have shocked him as he had already been sexually involved with a couple of boys and began a long heterosexual career as early as age seven, when he was getting his hands in naughty places with little girls – something it would be ill-advised for even a child to confess these days! But Ben, if we are to believe Hemmings, kept himself on a tight rein, so nothing illegal happened between them.

Britten’s close, but possibly unconsummated, relationships with many boys has long been uncontested, following Humphrey Carpenter’s candid biography in 1992 and John Bridcut’s even more comprehensively revealing one in 2007, Britten’s Children. The new biography by Paul Kildea, Benjamin Britten: A Life in the Twentieth Century, adds little to the story of his sexuality except a sensational and almost certainly false claim that the maestro contracted syphilis, probably from his long-term adult partner, the singer Peter Pears. This claim “fell apart within about four days”, according to reviewer Philip Hensher, when a doctor who cared for Britten in his final illness went public to say that the diagnosis “does not fit with everything else … there is no serological, bacteriological, pathological or histological support for the diagnosis.”

The pox, mercifully, need not detain us, but Pears should. Bridcut writes that 13-year-old boys were Britten’s ideal, but he apparently also gained some sort of sexual satisfaction from his relationship with Pears, who was less complicatedly gay, having no apparent interest in youngsters. According to Carpenter, Pears described Britten as more masculine than himself in every way, except in bed, where the composer preferred the passive role. The biographer’s informant was John Evans, who later edited Britten’s letters, for a volume that would appear in 2009. After Britten’s death, Pears confided to Evans that Britten had “needed the active figure (Peter) to his passive, but he also needed to be active to a boy’s passive. And I’ve always had the impression that Peter meant that both types of relationship had been consummated – which left me absolutely thunderstruck.”

As well it might! One possibility that appears to have been overlooked by all the biographers is that Britten’s inhibitions, fostered in the cultural and climatic frigidity of his native England, might have melted quickly away in sunnier and sexually hotter spots abroad, as has happened to many a frustrated Brit. He spent a lot of time in the East, touring in, notably, India, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Ceylon. He wrote of seeing “the most beautiful people, of a lovely dark brown colour…wearing strange clothes, and sometimes wearing nothing at all.” He even notes that he became accustomed to boys “attaching” themselves to him.

Be that as it may, the revelation that Britten appears to have experienced two distinct sorts of homosexual attraction, passive in relation to the adult Pears, and active (psychologically at least) towards young boys, is surely worthy of thought and comment, especially as regards the current “politically correct” claim that gay men are no more likely to “molest” underage boys than straight men are likely to “molest” underage girls. It depends how you define “gay”, of course: the term tends to be used to describe adolescents who are attracted to physically mature males, but less often the other way around, when the preferred words usually change to “hebephile”, “paedophile” or just “child molester”. The language has now largely abandoned the older words “pederasty” and “sodomy” (no great loss in the latter case), which in the days of Oscar Wilde a century ago were applied almost indiscriminately to man-man contacts and man-boy ones.

What Britten’s case exposes is the falsity of the new language, which obscures an extensive “cross-over” phenomenon: “gay” men, such as he undoubtedly was, do sometimes like boys. In fact, whether we call it “gay” or not, men show a disproportionately higher homosexual interest in children than heterosexual. Research suggests that about a third of male paedophiles prefer boys, about a third prefer girls, and a third are attracted to both. The one third preferring boys is a very high figure given that only about 5% of all men in society are preferentially homosexual. Consider, too, Ray Blanchard’s experimental work: he has demonstrated that men typically have a significant degree of sexual response to their second age category preferences as well as their first: the erectile response of teleiophilic men (i.e. “gay” ones, preferentially attracted to adult males) to erotic images of pubescent boys is on average well over 60% of their response to such images of grown men. A key implication is that the gay men who loudly insist there is no connection whatever between gayness and boy love are making a politically expedient but factually flawed claim.

Enough with the technical stuff already! Let’s get back to Britten in this festive season (for which Heretic TOC wishes all readers well!) with a rousing operatic finale. Admittedly his opera Death in Venice is not that cheerful, but if his librettist Myfanwy Piper had had her way it would surely have cheered us up. The opera features child dancers taking part in “the Games of Apollo”. Bearing in mind that these children were meant to represent athletes, she suggested they should be attired just like the competitors in the games of Ancient Greece, which had inspired the theme – in other words, naked! Britten loved the idea but turned it down because, in Bridcut’s words, it might have attracted “unwelcome publicity”. One suspects that these days, alas, he would have more to worry about than sniggering reviewers!

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