Faultless nation

Posted: Jun 15, 2005 12:00 AM

Geraldo Rivera's mustache is safe. The television personality had pledged to shave it off if Michael Jackson had been found guilty of child molestation. Geraldo had nothing to fear. A California jury acquitted O.J. Simpson of murder, so why should it hold Michael Jackson accountable for molesting children? Maybe Michael can now help O.J. search for the "real killer."

Cable TV went berserk. The predictions were mostly wrong and the analysis was idiotic. One of O.J. Simpson's attorneys, Robert Shapiro, predicted on CNN that the jury would convict Jackson. Legal analyst Wendy Murphy confidently prophesied to Fox's Shepard Smith, "I think there is no question we will see convictions here."

One verdict is indisputable: Michael Jackson is a very sick man who needs help. Those who see Jackson as a cash cow are not about to get it for him. They will continue to use him for their own purposes until his fame, which has morphed into infamy, is drained of its remaining monetary value. They will then discard him like a soft drink can, leaving him to consume and to be consumed by his own "Jesus juice."

What was missing in virtually all of the commentary and analysis of the verdict was how this case reflects America's moral climate. The narcissistic generation has come full circle, from indulging children to abusing them; from setting standards to removing all taboos. Nothing is wrong any longer, because nothing is right.

In such an environment, who is to say that anyone's behavior should be judged? In the 1980s, some people rejected the notion of universal standards, asking, "Who are you to impose your morality on me?" The question became moot as the immoral have now imposed their immorality on the rest of us.

This isn't the end for Michael Jackson. He is not free. He remains a prisoner, not only of the sycophants and dysfunctional family members who surround him, but of his inner demons.

Michael Jackson exhibits every symptom of pedophilia. One silly cable TV analyst said before the verdict that whatever happens, Jackson must change his behavior. It has been easier for Jackson to change the color of his skin than it will be to alter his behavior.

Sam Vaknin, author of "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited," has written on the "roots of pedophilia" for the Psychology Resource Center online. It reads like a profile of Michael Jackson.

Vaknin writes that for a pedophile, "Sex with children is a reenactment of a painful past . children are the reification of innocence, genuineness, trust and faithfulness - qualities that the pedophile wishes to nostalgically recapture."

Is this not a description of Neverland Ranch with its private zoo and toys - stuffed and living? "Through his victim," writes Vaknin, "the pedophile gains access to his suppressed and thwarted emotions. It is a fantasy-like second chance to reenact his childhood."

The pedophile, says Vaknin, shares a psychosis with his victim. He is "the guru at the center of a cult." He regards sex with children as an "ego-booster," which guarantees companionship.

Most sexual offenders do not stop until someone stops them. There is no reason to believe that Michael Jackson, should he in fact be a sex offender, will be an exception.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys are sexually assaulted before becoming adults. Only 35 percent of those child sexual assaults are reported to authorities, so there is more of this occurring than has met the media eye.

Social sanctions and cultural norms once argued against sexual license, especially with children. But what happens to a society in which sanctioning anything becomes a supposed greater "evil" than what was once almost universally recognized as evil, itself?

Our tolerance for everything has produced an unwillingness to restrict anything. A jury (how could it be of his "peers," for who could be said to be a peer of Michael Jackson?) found Jackson innocent of the charges against him.

But our culture is not innocent. We produced Michael Jackson, and, like the fictional "Frankenstein" monster, he walks among us as a living judgment to our promiscuous permissiveness.