Is there anything that can't be explained by an expert?

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The Independent Online

Just what is the truth about the singer Michael Jackson and his apparent obsession with children?

We asked a psychologist to explain.

"Well," writes Dr Otto Hardwick, "here we see the tragic consequences of a childhood that was not really a normal childhood at all. Michael Jackson was part of a showbiz family that was much more showbiz than family. At an age when other children are working through all the delights (and horrors) of childhood, growing up by trial and error, Michael was already in an adult context, going on stage, travelling from concert to concert, never out of the public eye. Small wonder if, now, he likes to surround himself with children to remind himself of the childhood he never had. This may also help to explain his apparent obsession with skin colour that..."

Which raises the question: why do so many psychologists drop everything that they are doing to give an instant, shallow analysis of showbiz stars?

We asked the media expert Freddy Jenkins to give us his explanation.

"Basically, they're flattered. They're excited by contact with the glittering but false glamour of showbiz. Most of the psychologists who give their opinions on the famous haven't actually met the famous. They are commenting from afar on the problems of fame, and I think this can mean only one thing: that they are overcompensating for the banality of their own lives.

"You can imagine the situation. The psychologist is sitting in his boring little room, mulling over the boring life he leads and the boring ideas he has, when suddenly, the phone rings and someone wants him to do an instant analysis of Michael Jackson, or the people on Big Brother, or the Royal Family, or someone, and he thinks, yes! My chance to mix with the famous!

"Obviously, he isn't mixing with the famous, any more than Norman St John-Stevas ever really mixed with royalty, but you can see the buzz that he, or Otto Hardwick, would get from being indirectly associated with them. Usual fee? Thanks very much."

Which raises the question: what sort of person becomes a media expert, and pontificates so freely (or expensively) on the press and TV?

We asked Professor Elmer Snowden, who teaches media studies, to explain.

"Departed editors, basically. For five years I was the editor of a national daily, whose name I cannot now remember, and when I got the bullet I thought my career was over. Quite the contrary. It was just the start of things. In the old days, an ex-editor crept away into the bushes and hid in shame, but now you find Andrew Marr becoming a big-shot TV personality; Andreas Whittam-Smith becoming film censor; and Simon Jenkins becoming everything. I wager that when Jenkins was editor of The Times, nobody had heard of him. Now he is a household name. When you cease to own a paper, as Conrad Black might soon, however, it's quite a different thing. What makes Conrad run?"

Which seems to lead to that very same question: what makes Conrad run?

We asked our horse-racing tipster, Captain Creole.

"Nice little runner, Conrad, nice runner, pulls a bit to the right, but quite sound, good staying-power, too, least we thought so till last week, blew up a bit there, didn't he? My goodness, what a surprise, all that money, dodgy, that, leave him alone, don't touch him with a bargepole. Tell you what, got a nice tip for you. James Murdoch, people write him off but I fancy him..."

And that leads, I suppose, to our last question. Why does so much journalism these days consist of quotes from famous people?

We asked a famous person to give us a quote on this.

"Easier that way, old boy. When journalists sit on their arses all day and don't go out to do their own digging, it's much easier to phone people up and string a few instant quotes together into a piece. Don't quote me on this, old chum."

But is it really true that journalists sit around on their backsides all day? To check on this, I gave myself a ring and asked myself if I'd moved from my desk into the real world at all that day.

"How much are you paying me for this?" I asked myself.

I put the phone down in disgust. Did people really only talk to the press for money?

To find out, I rang up...

Continued all over the place.