MJ Studies Today CII

Abstract: This month’s MJ Studies Today column looks at a new book about Michael Jackson published in February 2024. Titled Michael Jackson: The Man, The Music, The Controversy by Monika Wiesak, it presents a sympathetic view of the superstar without shying away from the serious controversies that have continued to dog his legacy. Wiesak’s conversational narrative includes much that is familiar to Jackson fans, but also accesses details from court documents and interviews to explain what happened to Michael, and possible reasons why.


Column by Kerry Hennigan, editor of the free monthly newsletter A Candle for Michael, administrator of the fan group “Michael Jackson’s Short Film Ghosts” on Facebook, and an MJ blogger on WordPress. Kerry is a life-long student, has Certificates in the Archaeology of the Ancient World and the Archaeology of Ancient Britain from Cambridge University in the UK and is currently focused on the Viking Age.


REFERENCE AS:

Hennigan, Kerry. “MJ Studies Today CII: ‘Illuminating Insight’ : reading Monika Wiesak’s book Michael Jackson: the Man, the Music, the Controversy” (14-06-2024). The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies Vol 10, No. 4 (2024). https://michaeljacksonstudies.org/mj-studies-today-cii/


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“Illuminating Insight”: reading Monika Wiesak’s book Michael Jackson: the Man, the Music, the Controversy.
By Kerry Hennigan

Photo montage © Kerry Hennigan

Self-published in February 2024, Monika Wiesak’s book Michael Jackson: The Man, The Music, The Controversy recently appeared unheralded on Amazon’s online store. Unlike many of the books on Jackson that surfaced pre and post his death fifteen years ago this month, this modest paperback (191 pages) rewards the reader who cares about what happened to the world’s greatest pop icon, and why. Of course, dedicated Michael Jackson fans already know the story, but having it published in a sympathetic book gives it far more weight than the most impassioned blog or social media post.

Michael Jackson: The Man, The Music, The Controversy is not a detailed biography of Jackson’s life. Instead, Wiesak quickly recaps the well-known story of his early beginnings as a child prodigy and member of the Jackson 5 to focus on his rise to power in the music industry with his post-Thriller success. The consequences of becoming the most recognisable person on the planet included seemingly harmless tales of his “weirdness” being reported by a media desperate for stories about him.

These “harmless” tales quickly became cynical jibes at Jackson’s child-like delight in simple things and his love for children and childhood. Despite being a very private person when off stage, the distorted persona the media created for him made Jackson a target for financial scams and false allegations of the cruellest kind. In his song “They Don’t Care About Us,” Wiesak writes that Jackson “responded to the allegations by asking what happened to his rights. Was the promise of liberty a mere illusion?” [1]  The author suggests that Jackson’s story “offers illuminating insight into the world of entertainment, media, and power. It raises the question: How free are artists to express themselves?” [2] 

In contrast to the false persona with which he was cruelly afflicted, Jackson’s personal friends have expressed a contrasting view of him. Wiesak quotes painter David Nordahl, studio engineer Brad Sundberg, photographer Harrison Funk, musicians who worked with Jackson in the studio and/or on tour, dancers and hair and make-up personnel, who have all expressed similar sentiments. Jackson was gentle, kind and highly intelligent. He did not rely on the resources of his record label to supply catchy songs for him to sing; he wrote much of his own material. “He was a true artist,” Wiesak asserts, “and his persona came through his art.” [3]

Michael Jackson: the Man, the Music, the Controversy delves into the false allegations that derailed Jackson’s career trajectory commencing in 1993, following his Super Bowl half time show. In the triumphant afterglow of this event, and in the midst of his Dangerous world tour, the news broke, generating salacious headlines. Wiesak writes that the mainstream media’s narrative about Jackson’s fall from grace would have the public believe it was Michael’s own fault, “that he was a sick and depraved man whose own actions led to his downfall.” [4]

Wiesak explains the power of “groupthink” in the media, and how “few reporters will diverge from mainstream narratives on any topic.” [5] If they do, they risk being unemployed, mainstream corporate media being “a tool of empire.” This book does not shy away from naming those who participated in the media “free-for-all” that threatened to destroy Jackson’s integrity as an artist and humanitarian, never mind the denial of basic human rights to which all are meant to be entitled!

The story of the media destruction of Michael Jackson did not end with his death in 2009, however, and Wiesak dutifully includes the belated Robson and Safechuck claims and the Leaving Neverland bombshell in her narrative. There would be no “resting in peace” for Michael Jackson, with various media outlets quickly adopting “cancel culture” without any better attempt at fact checking than when the superstar had been alive. And now, of course, there could be no legal claims of defamation – the deceased are exempt from such protection in many countries, including the US.

Michael Jackson: the Man, the Music, the Controversy is not an academic book; nevertheless, Wiesak includes 28 pages of notes at the back of the book to substantiate her conversational narrative. It is an easy-to-read but difficult to digest tale of triumph and tragedy, jealousy and greed, and the denigration of one man’s best intentions during his life and beyond his death.

“It is not easy to combat a mountain of lies, but it can and must be done,” Wiesak concludes. “Michael once stated that he wanted his music to be ‘a voice for the voiceless.’ There is no reason it cannot be. In defiance of the decades of slander, Michael Jackson’s music lives on.” [6]

Michael Jackson: The Man, the Music, the Controversy
By Monika Wiesak   ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0CV5BC4GK

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Monika Wiesak (7 February 2024) Language ‏ : ‎

English Paperback ‏ : ‎ 202 pages ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8986556833 Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 15.24 x 1.3 x 22.86 cm Available in Hardback, Paperback, Kindle and Audible editions.

As well as being a Michael Jackson fan, Monika Wiesak is the author of two books, America’s Last President: What the World Lost When It Lost John F Kennedy, and Michael Jackson: The Man, the Music, the Controversy. Listen to her talk about Michael and her book about him on the podcast “That’s Enough Outta You.” Season 2 Episode 32, April 25, 2024. https://youtu.be/7CsYUXafdoU?si=0ZTZPOFqcsuz-HVB

Kerry Hennigan
14 June 2024

Sources:

[1] Wiesak, Monika. Michael Jackson: The Man, The Music, The Controversy. 2024, page V.

[2] Ibid. page V.

[3] Ibid. page 24.

[4] Ibid. page IV.

[5] Ibid. page 160.

[6] Ibid. page 163.

Illustration: “A little light reading…” photo montage compiled by Kerry Hennigan, incorporating the cover image of Monika Wiesak’s book Michael Jackson: The Man, The Music, The Controversy (2024). No infringement of original photographic copyright is intended in this not-for-profit, educational exercise.