Belief 101: Why Michael is innocent

This is why Michael Jackson thinks he is innocent, has his fans convinced he is innocent, and could possibly convince a jury he is innocent. In his mind, he is.

In the now infamous Martin Bashir documentary, Jackson baldly states there is no greater demonstration of love than sharing your bed– and that's not a euphemism for sex, since Jackson defines sex as that distasteful evil that happens between an adult man and woman. Jackson has removed himself from all three definitions, adult, man, and woman– just as he is no longer black yet does not claim to be white, despite the mystery of his very white children.

He is an androgynous child of no discernible race and no discernible sexual orientation. His playmates of choice are pre-pubescent boys, since even little girls would have too much of a sexual overtone for the fairyland where his mind resides. What he does with the boys is just an extension of euphoric play to him, since apparently there is no penetration involved. They pet and fondle like monkeys, and it is, in his mind, a pure and loving act. He feels good. He makes them feel good. It's all good. And it's all pure and innocent because they're all children together, pure and innocent.

If there is no adult man involved, there is no pederasty, and in Jackson's mind, there is no adult man involved.

His life, he says all the time, is about the children. As a rebuke to his father's once iron-fisted control, Jackson wants to rescue all the children of the world (or at least the boys, anyway) from their parents, their cancers, their poverty, their loneliness. Through each one, he saves himself over and over. And a little discreet and well-hidden fondling– blurred and softened around the edges with wine and sedatives served in soda cans– binds him to the children of his deliverance.

Married couples think of their sexual congresses as acts of love rather than debased cravings. And what Jackson does with little boys he defines as that same wholesome love.

Tell him he is doing something evil or prurient, and his mind cannot grasp the concept. To him, rape is what adult men do to women or young girls. He doesn't think he's in the same category. His little friends are coming to him voluntarily, handed over by their parents, enchanted by the enchanted land he created.

The rules that apply to other people have never applied to Michael. Since he was a performing moppet, his life has been different. He truly does not know how normal people live or how one must adapt to the rules and standards of society. On the one hand, he grew up a dancing slave, forced to perform by his father. On the other, from his earliest memories he was met with adulation by the common people. He does not have to worry about money– at least not yet. He has always been able to make his every dream come true, even changing his physical appearance as if by magic.

A staff serves him as if he were a king. When he goes outside, people become excited and eager to touch him. Imagine being that person, and imagine that being the only life you've ever known.

It's no surprise that he has no respect for authority, no need to get to court on time, no need to fear a judge. Who is a judge, anyway, and what authority could they possibly have over the King of Pop? Throw some money in trouble's direction, and it will go away. It always has.

To his way of thinking, anyone who tries to prevent him from living his life as he pleases is persecuting him unfairly. He pleads his case to us through his website. They are after me for no reason. They just want to bring me down. It's all so unfair and cruel. I am a victim.

 He is paid large sums of money just to talk to television reporters, and none of them so far has had the guts to try to pin him down about the grand illusions he has spun around his existence. From Diane Sawyer to 60 Minutes, he's treated with dignity, his wild stories and fantastical reasoning accepted politely as truth– or at least as his truth. And if it's his truth, then who dares to say the man's insane? Or worst of all, a man?

A chillingly telling scene in the Bashir documentary takes place in the middle of a shopping spree in a tacky Las Vegas gift shop full of fake and overpriced Egyptian treasures, which Jackson is buying up like a bored pharaoh. Bashir and Jackson admire an ornate sarcophagus, and Bashir asks a perfectly normal and, in the context, suitable– question. Would Jackson like to be buried in such an ornate coffin?

A look of utter confusion crosses Jackson's face. Not fear. Jackson is incapable of fearing what he can't imagine dying– just as he is incapable of fearing ever being punished for a criminal act. What has Jackson befuddled is that Bashir is implying that he is not as immortal as his hero, Peter Pan. He demurs that he never thinks of such a thing, it is not going to happen. He moves on quickly to another item as the tiny shadow of reality flits through the gift shop for a brief second, like a Tinker Bell of Doom.

Maybe, with enough money and the right lawyers– it worked for O.J. after all, and all he ever did was slit a woman's throat– Michael can escape that shadow of reality again.

As Tink and Peter say, all you have to do is believe you can fly, and with all the Lost Boys, you will. And Jackson really, truly believes.

Mariane Matera, a journalist whose essays appear widely, lives in Richmond.