Abstract: In this article, Elizabeth explores her landmark essay, ‘Throwing Stones to Hide Your Hands’ The Mortal Persona of Michael Jackson’, which was one of her first academic pieces on Michael Jackson, and which spurred the creation of ‘The Dangerous Philosophies of Michael Jackson: His Music, His Persona, and His Artistic Afterlife’. She goes on to offer new and exciting perspectives on the biblical story of Naboth, connections with Michael Jackson, and allegory.
Essay by Elizabeth Amisu, PGCE, MA, founder and former editor of The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies, author of The Dangerous Philosophies of Michael Jackson: His Music, His Persona, and His Artistic Afterlife, and creator of the unique in the world courses on Michael Jackson with the most bespoke ones: Introduction to Michael Jackson studies and Teaching Michael Jackson Studies
Amisu, Elizabeth, “Throwing Stones to Hide Your Hands” Revisited”, The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies, 4, no. 1 (2017). Published electronically 24/08/2017 https://michaeljacksonstudies.org/throwing-stones-to-hide-your-hands-revisited/. Originally published electronically 15/09/ 2017 www.elizabethamisu.com, https://gallery.mailchimp.com/fd00dab174da2030aad041ba5/files/cebbcf1c-763f-4a55-9809-3b65c2f1e83b/Throwing_Stones_Revisited_September_2017.pdf
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‘Throwing Stones to Hide Your Hands’ Revisited
By Elizabeth Amisu
“What cruel force drove the king, queen, slanderers and all who attacked Naboth? Was it a deep-rooted hatred for his success or simply a desire to acquire what was rightfully his? The questions of human nature remain unanswerable. However, Jackson, in his inimitable style took his suffering and turned it into an artistic legacy.”
— Elizabeth Amisu
In the spring of 2014, I wrote an article called, ‘Throwing Stones to Hide Your Hands’: Mortal Persona of Michael Jackson’, which has subsequently been translated into a range of languages. Looking back through the transom of those three years, I am still enraptured by my own willingness to translate something so unwieldy and indefinable and to wrestle it into the rigidity of sentences and paragraphs.
‘Throwing Stones’ was a heady, emotional piece of writing, constructed in the heat of grief, anger, and solidly rejected by the only academic journal that I sent it to. I have to say that I owe a great debt of gratitude to the academics who deemed the article unworthy of publication. They gave me renewed vigour. The version of ‘Throwing Stones’ that exists on The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies is a piece of writing that is determined to illustrate Jackson’s personas in lurid detail, and to subsequently debunk myths which have proliferated as a result of them.
At the time of writing this piece, I was particularly enamoured with Jackson’s repeated use of biblical references and religious iconography, a staple of Early Modern culture and printing tradition in the late seventeenth century, and relevant to this day. Jackson’s ultra-modern and regularly futuristic world collided regularly with that of the English renaissance, as shown in the seventh episode of Michael Jackson’s Dream Lives On: An Academic Conversation, ‘MJ 7 Meets Shakespeare 400’.
The crux of ‘Throwing Stones’ is the story of Naboth, the Jezreelite, and how he was attacked and destroyed for the pleasure King Ahab had in his vineyard. Although, I found it quite tempting to pepper this article with quotes from the biblical story, in order to elucidate new perspectives of Jackson, Naboth and allegorical interpretations, I have decided to put the entire story in the footnotes, as they are also found in ‘Throwing Stones’ and in the notes section of The Dangerous Philosophies of Michael Jackson.
What has really come to light in the re-reading of ‘Throwing Stones’ and this particular allegory, is that there are a plethora of other players in the narrative. Much in the way smaller parts begin to resonate more powerfully after close inspection, we see that there are no small parts in Naboth’s story, his tragedy and his demise. The most noticeable of them all is Jezebel, the King’s wife, who, in her effort to please Ahab, takes matters into her own hands.
After learning that the king is disgruntled at not being able to purchase Naboth’s vineyard, Jezebel subsequently sends letters to the elders of Naboth’s province. She sends them in the king’s name, and with the king’s seal. Often, we are fed versions of Jackson’s life as a narrative filled with surreptitious Jezebel-type characters, underhandedly sabotaging him for personal gain. Those concepts are also engaged with in ‘Throwing Stones’ and they are important stories to regard and to interrogate. However, now that this searching work has been done and many of the culprits in Jackson’s critical, commercial and personal demise have (to some degree at least) been named, our attention is turned towards Jezebel. What possible reasons could she have had for doing what she did?
We may never understand the behaviour of a “Jezebel” in this instance. There is a very real possibility that she was not in the least concerned about a provincial man or his vineyard, and was far more concerned over matters of state and political unrest. The text says ‘the king would not eat’. This indicates Ahab’s obsession with Naboth’s vineyard was beyond a normal, healthy desire, provoking a natural sense of disappointment. Could a king not have had many of such vineyards to please him?
The problem was not that this specific vineyard had any special markings or unique features. It was simply one thing that had been denied the king, who, in all likelihood, could well have had whatever he wanted. I imagine it was this very fact that was making Ahab ill. As the king became weakened, he would likely have become a unique target for opportunists, hoping to steal upon his riches and his kingdom. Why would Ahab himself not have done the dark deed necessary for him to have taken Naboth’s land?
On closer consideration, it is clear from the story that the ones who acted out Jezebel’s instructions may well have thought they were doing the intentions of their king. The lines of morality were incredibly blurred. Where do loyalties lie? To king? To the virtuous? Or to one’s own neck? How much were the elders motivated by fear? How far was Jezebel herself motivated by the terror of losing her husband and his throne?
Revisiting both Jackson and Naboth’s tales, I am inspired to put both Jackson and Naboth in positions of power. To frame them as autonomous beings with the ability to determine their individual fates. How much was Naboth aware of the danger that his denial of the king put him in? How much was his refusal to give away the inheritance of his people, of his forbears, a show of strength? It was an incredibly bold, brave move, to deny the king what he could so easily have taken by force if he wanted to.
The awareness of what Naboth was doing when he denied the king now strikes me as an act of incredible courage. Naboth, knowingly put his own life in jeopardy, and as a result, lost his life. What he never lost was his integrity. Following Jackson’s story there is a similar inherent theme. He doesn’t relinquish his goodliness. It must be taken from him posthumously, as has been the case with Jackson.
Since his death, Jackson’s Neverland, a veritable treasure of his own mapping making (much like Naboth’s vineyard) has been up for sale and is yet (at this time of writing) to find a willing purchaser. Much of Jackson’s stake in the Beatles/ATV catalogue has been sold off, while much of his personal art remains shielded from biographers, academics, and analysts. The preserve of documenting, analysing and presenting Jackson’s creative life remains in the willing, persevering hands of the precious few.
In 2017, as my personal creative and academic schedules increased in intensity, I stepped down from my role as co-editor of The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies. I did so because, despite the eagerness and willingness of contributors to write regularly and intuitively, passionately on Jackson, there remains only a handful of academically focused books on Michael Jackson.
Throughout The Dangerous Philosophies of Michael Jackson: His Music, His Persona, and His Artistic Afterlife, I examine Jackson from a variety of perspectives, typified by my multiple labels and categories for him. I go on to broaden these definitions by the depiction and examination of horcruxes, using a variety of other artists as spokes from the prism to cast a light on the furthest side of Michael Jackson’s mysteries. Despite all of that, I gain new awareness that Jackson is Naboth still.
Amisu, Elizabeth. “‘Arrojar Piedras Y Esconder Las Manos’: La Personalidad Humana De Michael Jackson.” The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies 1, no. 3 (2015). Published electronically 30/3/16. http://michaeljacksonstudies.org/arrojar-piedras-y-esconder-las-manos-la-personalidad-humana-de-michael-jackson/.
———. The Dangerous Philosophies of Michael Jackson: His Music, His Persona, and His Artistic Afterlife. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger, 2016.
———. “‘La Isla Está Llena De Rumores’: Revisando Al Peter Pan Del Pop.” The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies 1, no. 3 (2015). Published electronically 30/3/16. http://michaeljacksonstudies.org/la-isla-esta-llena-de-rumores-revisando-al-peter-pan-del-pop/.
———. “‘Throwing Stones to Hide Your Hands’: Mortal Persona of Michael Jackson.” Writing Eliza (2014). Published electronically 11 June. http://elizabethamisu.com/post/88515649217/throwing-stones-to-hide-your-hands-the-mortal-persona.
———. “‘Throwing Stones to Hide Your Hands’: The Mortal Persona of Michael Jackson.” The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies 1, no. 1 (2014): 5. Published electronically 17/6/2014. http://michaeljacksonstudies.org/throwing-stones-to-hide-your-hands-the-mortal-persona-of-michael-jackson/.
———. “‘Throwing Stones to Hide Your Hands’: The Mortal Persona of Michael Jackson.” In A Companion to Michael Jackson Academic Studies, edited by Elizabeth Amisu, 11: MJAS, 2015.
 Elizabeth Amisu, The Dangerous Philosophies of Michael Jackson: His Music, His Persona, and His Artistic Afterlife (Santa Barbara, California: Praeger, 2016), 86.
 “‘Arrojar Piedras Y Esconder Las Manos’: La Personalidad Humana De Michael Jackson,” The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies 1, no. 3 (2015), http://michaeljacksonstudies.org/arrojar-piedras-y-esconder-las-manos-la-personalidad-humana-de-michael-jackson/; “‘La Isla Está Llena De Rumores’: Revisando Al Peter Pan Del Pop,” The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies 1, no. 3 (2015), http://michaeljacksonstudies.org/la-isla-esta-llena-de-rumores-revisando-al-peter-pan-del-pop/; “‘Throwing Stones to Hide Your Hands’: Mortal Persona of Michael Jackson,” Writing Eliza (2014), http://elizabethamisu.com/post/88515649217/throwing-stones-to-hide-your-hands-the-mortal-persona; “‘Throwing Stones to Hide Your Hands’: The Mortal Persona of Michael Jackson,” The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies 1, no. 1 (2014), http://michaeljacksonstudies.org/throwing-stones-to-hide-your-hands-the-mortal-persona-of-michael-jackson/; “‘Throwing Stones to Hide Your Hands’: The Mortal Persona of Michael Jackson,” in A Companion to Michael Jackson Academic Studies, ed. Elizabeth Amisu (MJAS, 2015).
 Amisu, Elizabeth. “Choose an Early Modern Printer or Publisher and Look at the Place of Literary Publications within His Work as a Whole.” 21. London: King’s College London, 2014.
 Merx, Karin, and Elizabeth Amisu. Episode 7 – MJ 7 Meets Shakespeare 400. Podcast audio. Michael Jackson’s Dream Lives On: An Academic Conversation. Podcast, 36. Accessed 26/09/16, 2016. http://michaeljacksonstudies.org/episode-7-7516-mj-7-meets-shakespeare-400/.
 Naboth’s Vineyard: Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. 2 Ahab said to Naboth, ‘Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.’ 3 But Naboth replied, ‘The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors.’ 4 So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, ‘I will not give you the inheritance of my ancestors.’ He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat. 5 His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, ‘Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?’ 6 He answered her, ‘Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’’ 7 Jezebel his wife said, ‘Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.’ 8 So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. 9 In those letters she wrote: ‘Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. 10 But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them bring charges that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.’ 11 So the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city did as Jezebel directed in the letters she had written to them. 12 They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth in a prominent place among the people. 13 Then two scoundrels came and sat opposite him and brought charges against Naboth before the people, saying, ‘Naboth has cursed both God and the king.’ So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death. 14 Then they sent word to Jezebel: ‘Naboth has been stoned to death.’ 15 As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, ‘Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.’ 16 When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard. 1 Kings 21:13, NIV. Amisu, The Dangerous Philosophies of Michael Jackson: His Music, His Persona, and His Artistic Afterlife, 251.
 1 Kings 21:13, NIV
 Amisu, The Dangerous Philosophies of Michael Jackson: His Music, His Persona, and His Artistic Afterlife, 127-40.