Why do we still talk ill of the dead? 6



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It has always been a social faux pas to talk ill of the dead however it is becoming more and more common for media outlets and the general public to discuss someone who has passed away.

One of the most recent examples is Michael Jackson. MJ died on June 25, 2009 from an overdose of prescription medication. He left behind three children and a huge family, and a world full of devastated fans. In 2005, the singer went to court to defend four counts of molesting a minor, four counts of intoxicating a minor in order to molest him, one count of attempted child molestation, and one count of conspiring to hold a boy and his family captive at his Neverland Ranch, as well as conspiring to commit extortion and child abduction. He denied all counts. On June 13, 2005, the jury found Jackson not guilty on all fourteen charges, which included all of the above plus four lesser misdemeanour counts.

Despite being found innocent of these damning charges, Michael Jackson has, 7 years after his passing, been the target of more rumours surrounding his life. Just last week there were headlines splashed across every major newspaper in the world: Police find sickening collection of child pornography in Jackson’s home.

It was claimed the photos were from 2003 when police raided Jackson’s home for evidence, and only now they have been made public.

According to Vanity Fair, a representative for Michael Jackson’s estate reached out to the magazine and said, “Everything in these reports, including what the County of Santa Barbara calls ‘content that appears to be obtained off the Internet or through unknown sources’ is false.”

A representative from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department gave Vanity Fair the following statement regarding the documents:

Some of the documents appear to be copies of reports that were authored by Sheriff’s Office personnel as well as evidentiary photographs taken by Sheriff’s Office personnel interspersed with content that appears to be obtained off the Internet or through unknown sources. The Sheriff’s Office did not release any of the documents and/or photographs to the media. The Sheriff’s Office released all of its reports and the photographs as part of the required discovery process to the prosecution and the defence.

So there you have it: these images were false and not from Jackson’s collection, and brought a lot of hurt to his family. But the rumours didn’t stop and now there’s news stories saying that Jackson may have molested his nephews.

His young daughter, Paris, responded on the anniversary of her father’s death and said, “Things may be a little sh*tty in the press right now but everyone knows it’s all bull and i swear on the family name i will protect you for as long as i live [sic]”.

Other celebrities who have been the source of rumours after their death include Patrick Swayze, Marilyn Monroe, Amy Winehouse, Robin Williams, Whitney Houston – the list goes on. All have been the subject of media reports that say they were recluses, or promiscuous, or drug addicts, or had their estate torn into. It’s so sad when you think about it.

A little to closer to home, you may have experienced this in your own family. Sometimes people have completed their own grieving and feel it is OK to make a comment about someone who has passed – but it is never okay.

While it may be nasty to make false and defamatory statements about someone who has died, in most states there is no recovery for libel or slander of someone who is deceased, but it fit is truly bad, you could seek counsel from your lawyer.

It opens up an interesting debate: is it ever really okay to gossip about someone who has died?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. Where Michael Jackson is concerned the press don’t give a damn whether he was alive or dead as long as they can print sensationalist stories about him. They’ve been writing the narrative for so long that even the younger reporters (who grew up reading fabricated stories) don’t even know what is fact or fiction. It’s disgraceful but that’s a fact of life at the moment.
    The sad thing is there is no integrity these days. As long as they read something on a news site they are entitled to publish it without any critical thinking or judgement. All they need to do is cite their source and they’re protected under law. The fact the subject is dead is even better because there are very few laws protecting the rights of dead people in the media. The original source newspaper or website is entitled to protect the identity of their “source”. In RadarOnline’s case they had a good source (Sheriff’s report) but they embelished it with outrageous lies. The rest of the world’s media weren’t fooled into believing the lies, they simply did’t care if they were true or not because they’ve got a good story and can quote their source as RadarOnline, confident that no action will be taken against them.

    1 REPLY
    • Couldn’t agree more, I feel terrible for his family and three kids who have to see this garbage everywhere. They have no respect whatsoever, even after key people have denied there being any such pornography very little (mainly credible) media are reporting about it that.

  2. They have had some vendetta against him since the mid-80s, it is pathetic how much they ridiculed him it’s bullying. Even after a prosecutor has denied any child porn was found and the photographer whose pictures were allegedly found didn’t even exist at the time. But it doesn’t matter how many credible people come forward and deny this, these disgusting gossip rags will still continue to post any lies they want and gullible people believe it thinking they know it all despite not checking the credibility or sources that could back up the claims. Had there been any evidence of child porn it would have come up in the trial, given it would be the smoking gun for the jury and Jackson would be in jail. A prosecutor has no reason to lie for him, so I’ll take their world over gossip rags that have been reporting that Jen Aniston has been pregnant for the last decade. It’s disgusting how they can get away with posting stories about people who aren’t here to confirm or deny them. This is obviously perfect timing for the media, who ambitiously released this conjecture in hopes it would negatively overshadow the day that his fans, family, and friends remember him. As an aspiring journalist, I’d rather work for free for credible respected media, than work for a gossip rag a spread hurtful lies about another human being let alone someone who isn’t even alive to speak up.

  3. The retired DA Ron Zonen who was on the failed prosecution team in 2005 told People Magazine specifically there was “no child porn” and “no sexually explicit porn relating to children” found at Neverland… the photos Radar Online claims were in fbi files and police report were photoshopped from internet.. And Jonathan Hobin, an arttist from Canada just exposed UK tabloids with similar tactics- His art which wasn’t even published until 2010 was included in the Daily Mail article as part of the cache of “disturbing” images found in in 203 Neverland raid – … What more proof is necessary to discern Tabloids CREATE their stories, INVENT their own facts for revenue.. ..

    Worst part of this whole scenario is that Huffington Post and other mainstream media copy-pasted this garbage without independent research of their own.

    ** Great article but must take exception to “died of overdose of prescripton medication” This is not factual — Conrad Murray administered anesthesia used in surgery, not prescription drugs. Murray was convicted of manslaughter, as his mal-practice while attending his sole pateint, was so egregious he had no defense –

  4. People are less superstitious than in the past when it was believed that if you spoke ill of the dead, they will come back and haunt you.
    Now that is not believed and people feel if they were a bad person, not to let their history die with them. Never forget what they were really like. Satisfying the need to get it off their chest what they feel or know.

  5. MJ…… maybe a ‘few kangaroos’ short in the top paddock’, & then some…………….

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