White mischief

Fatherhood meets the mother of all fantasists. By John Lyttle
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The Independent Online
Michael Jackson To Have Child. So what else is new? the cynical will doubtless say - and let us be frank, where Michael Jackson is concerned, we may all have become cynics, stunned observers at a sick media circus that never ends, such is the ringmaster's talent for constant re-invention.

We are, after all, talking about a poor black boy who "grew up" to become a rich white woman, the victim of a strange skin condition that has not only rendered him pale and uninteresting but caused his nose to narrow, chin to dimple and cheekbones to sharpen, the Jehovah's Witness in love with the supernatural who swiftly, and secretly, wed a Scientologist (Lisa Marie Presley - that was the name of his latest flame) at the very moment accusations of child sex abuse hit. And who just as quickly divorced when a multi-million-dollar settlement bought off further legal action from Jordy Chandler and other pre-pubescent accusers who threatened the increasingly purple reign of the self-proclaimed King of Pop. Jackson was able to moonwalk away from the mess, career intact - the last three singles have sold in the millions - and now one has to ask if his defiance of the law, manipulation of public opinion and apparent ignorance of any moral considerations have carried him beyond such dull categories as damage limitation to a gaudy place where the everyday frames of reference regarding celebrity and behaviour are simply suspended: perhaps it no longer matters exactly what Michael Jackson does, or who he does it do, just as long as he does it, and the public has its popcorn and a clear view.

So why not pay for the artificial insemination of a nurse (her story)/have sex with a nurse for love (HIStory) and break the news in time for the release of the latest song? Here's the plug: it's called Stranger in Moscow. Why not play up the "fact" - note: at this stage of the game there are no facts, merely multiple-choice rumours and grist to the mill - that Jackson is supposed to have known the lady concerned, Debbie Rowe, for 15 years (despite his brother-in-law stepping in to call the expectant mother "a liar", and her claims, "complete nonsense")? Why not breeze past the news that the child is to be placed in the gloved hands of a masked man happy to adopt Christ-like poses at award ceremonies (and whose latest celluloid project is the barely constrained metaphor of Ghosts, a 35-minute horror film about a shape-shifting spook reviled by adults but loved by the adoring tots who know "He didn't do anything wrong. He's not a monster.")?

Fantasy and fatherhood. One suspects that Michael Jackson either sees them as a PR pincer movement or worse, simply cannot distinguish between the two and, furthermore, hopes that we can't either. Or can, and no longer care. He may be right. Cynicism is its own trap. We are encouraged to become connoisseurs. We begin to savour our sophistication and reflex ability to make light of the dark: hey, Michael Jackson's not got a friend so he's decided to grow his own! In doing so, of course, the process obliterates the deed and gives permission to carry on regardless. Having lost our own innocence we no longer seem perturbed by the loss of it in others or troubled by the spectacle of it perhaps being feigned by expert impersonators.

Or maybe we just wearily realise that after so many scalpels and blades, there isn't much point in sticking knives into even the most false idol.