Abstract: In the October column, Kerry Hennigan talks about the role of advocacy as part of the Michael Jackson fan phenomenon.
Column by Kerry Hennigan, editor of the monthly newsletter, A Candle for Michael, and administrator of the widely-subscribed Facebook group, Michael Jackson’s Short Film ‘Ghosts.
Hennigan, Kerry. “MJ Studies Today X (14-10-16).” The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies 3, no. 2 (2016). https://michaeljacksonstudies.org/mjstudiesx/.
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Michael Jackson Advocacy
By Kerry Hennigan
When another smear campaign against Michael Jackson raised its ugly head in the media recently, it prompted me (again!) to think about the role of advocacy as part of the Michael Jackson fan phenomenon.
Given the accusations made against Michael throughout his adult career, the criminal court case in 2005 and the many times his art and personal integrity have been impugned, fans have become accustomed to rallying to his defence.
Michael Jackson actually referred to his fans as his ‘soldiers of love’ – a mantle taken quite seriously by many of us.
“I want you to know that I appreciate my fans…It was you who put your heart on the line. It was you who stepped forward to defend someone you love. It was you, on a worldwide basis who supported me as my army, my soldiers of love. You were always there. You are always loyal and I love you forever.” 
That the need for advocacy has continued beyond Michael’s lifetime is a sad indictment of our times, particularly in relation to the role the media plays in manipulating public opinion. The problem for fans is how to combat the falsehoods without spreading them further afield.
The preference of the Michael Jackson Estate is for us not to succumb to the ‘click bait’ tactics of the tabloid-style news sources. However, where serious allegations are concerned, even the Estate will come out with a strong statement, as occurred in June 2016:
“Those who continue to shamelessly exploit Michael via sleazy internet “click bait” ignore that he was acquitted by a jury in 2005 on every one of the 14 salacious charges brought against him in a failed witch hunt.” 
My early engagement with the Michael Jackson fan phenomenon included contributing items of interest to a website based in the Netherlands. I quickly learned there were some direct links that I should not share. I could write a synopsis of what was happening to alert fellow fans to the situation; I could even suggest a course of action to counter the errors or falsehoods, whether it be sending emails or signing and distributing petitions. However, I was never to post links that directed traffic to the source of any dubious story.
Fortunately, there are a number of reliable fan groups and bloggers who diligently provide transcripts, statements and fact checks on legal and/or controversial matters. These groups and individuals perform a vital role for Michael Jackson advocates. 
If we do choose to counteract inflammatory stories or comments, most experienced campaigners are aware that the way fans leap to the defence of their idol is important if we want the uninformed to listen to what we have to say and learn from it.
My personal opinion is that if we truly consider ourselves to be Michael’s ‘soldiers of love’ we need to be conscious of how we express ourselves to the world in that role. Combating ignorance with insults, whether verbal or written, is a form of violence and just compounds the problem.
If we have thrown a metaphorical brick through someone’s window (as tempting as it may be!) they are unlikely to take us seriously, and they are probably not going to feel encouraged to address their reporting inadequacies, which would be the desired outcome.
There is another reason for being mindful of avoiding such actions: Michael Jackson suffered name-calling, bullying and worse condemnation during his lifetime. Posthumously he remains a target for this type of activity (as are his children – a truly shameful situation). Ideally, we should learn from their experience and find better tools to express our feelings on Michael’s behalf.
Sometimes a simple social media post or tweet with a photograph of Michael or a web link to one of his short films or songs better expresses our feelings when the appropriate words fail us.
I created a Michael Jackson playlist on Deezer called ‘Tabloid Junkie’ specifically as an advocacy tool or ‘release valve’ and will sometimes share links to it to help make my point. When all other options have been exhausted, emails sent, tweets posted, etc., or if I’m too angry to think calmly, I let Michael do the ‘talking’. 
When first becoming a committed Michael Jackson fan, I was forewarned by a young friend who has loved Michael since she bought her first ever album, ‘Dangerous’, back in 1991. She said to me ‘You’re going to have to be strong.’
I thought I knew what she meant, and that I was prepared.
I was wrong.
 Michael Jackson, 45th birthday celebration speech. Source of transcript: http://www.truemichaeljackson.com/fans/
Statement of June 21, 2016 as published by Billboard.
Kerry Hennigan is a global pilgrim, who combines her life-long love of travel with her love for Michael Jackson. She works full time in Local Government in her home town in Australia, and her current research focuses are Ancient History, Archaeology and Anthropology. She produces the monthly newsletter, ‘A Candle for Michael’, and runs a widely-subscribed Facebook group, Michael Jackson’s Short Film ‘Ghosts. Find out more about Kerry here.
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