Saturday, 25 December 2010

Have A Soulful Christmas

Seasons greetings!

Just a brief update to let you know that my exclusive interview with James Brown's widow, Tomi Rae Brown, was published today on the fourth anniversary of her husband's death.

In October, Tomi Rae granted me the most in-depth interview she has ever given to any reporter. During our 75 minute chat we discussed her marriage the Godfather of Soul and the nightmarish four years she's spent battling a smear campaign orchestrated by some of her late husband's associates.

In a teaser published earlier this week, Tomi Rae slammed claims that James Brown had used controversial doctor Conrad Murray and then recommended him to Michael Jackson. The full interview, published today, includes the shocking revelation that trustees ordered James Brown's legs to be cut off in order to obtain DNA for a paternity test.

Christmas Day always brings back memories of James Brown for me. As an 18 year old journalism student, my first celebrity encounter was James Brown. Having been on my journalism course for just a matter of weeks, in October 2006 I managed to talk my way into a press conference with my hero, the Godfather of Soul. Mr Brown not only took a question from me, but also put me on his personal guest list for the show. They say journalism can afford you the opportunity to meet your heroes - I met mine in training and it was an experience I'll never forget.

Less than two months later, I walked downstairs on Christmas Day and almost immediately saw Mr Brown's picture on television. Beneath it flashed the dates, '1933-2006'. I stood frozen for a moment before blurting out, 'James Brown has died.' I was in total shock; just weeks previously I'd watched him perform a two hour concert in London. A dark cloud hung over that Christmas.

Nowadays, Christmas has become a time to celebrate James Brown. Although there'll always be a hint of sadness at losing my hero on Christmas Day, it's an ideal time to put his CDs in the stereo or his DVDs in the player and bask in his incredible talent.

With that in mind, here are three pictures I took from my front row spot at James Brown's gig at The Forum, London, on 26th June 2005. Of the four James Brown gigs I attended before he passed away, this was easily the best. In fact, it was probably the greatest concert I've ever been to. Having recently staved off prostate cancer, Brown had lost a lot of surplus weight and seemed to be in very high spirits. His energy was unbelievable.

This is how I like to remember James Brown at this time of year. Have a soulful Christmas!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Martha Reeves Interview - A Teaser

Last week I conducted an exclusive 90 minute interview with Motown legend Martha Reeves. The article won't be published until January 2011 but in the meantime, here's an exclusive clip.

In this clip Martha describes the thrill that comes from being a part of the Motown dynasty and also recalls the recording of one of Motown's greatest hits, Dancing In The Street. She even puts on her best Marvin Gaye impression and sings a few bars of his original rendition, which was scrapped and replaced with her version. The rest is history.

Apologies for the background noise - I interviewed Martha in the restaurant at her hotel. However, you can still hear her loud and clear.

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Friday, 17 December 2010

My Day With Martha

It's not often that you get the chance to spend time in the presence of true pop music royalty but yesterday (Thursday 16th December) was one of those days; I had the good fortune to spend several hours with Motown legend Martha Reeves.

Often referred to as the Queen of Motown, Martha's gospel roots helped set her apart from the label's other female leads. She's known around the world for hits including Jimmy Mack, (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave and Nowhere To Run, but she's perhaps best known for Dancing In The Street, one of Motown's most famous tracks (and that's really saying something).

A few weeks ago I learned that Martha was embarking on a short UK tour including several nights at London's Jazz Cafe. A keen Motown fan, I immediately requested an interview.

Initially I was told that Martha would only be available by telephone - that was fine by me. How many people even get the chance to speak to music royalty on the phone? But on Wednesday morning I got an email to say that Martha had decided to meet me in person instead. I'm not sure what made Martha decide to meet me after all - I forgot to ask her - but I'm glad she did. It was a last minute affair, arranged with less than 24 hours' notice, but the experience was one I will never forget.

Generous with her time and her answers, Martha spoke to me over lunch for roughly one and a half hours. Our discussion encompassed subjects including - but not limited to - the increasing sexualisation of female musicians, why a computer will never create better music than a live band, her former drug dependency and subsequent Christian rebirth, the corruption she witnessed while serving on Detroit City Council and her plans to return to her gospel roots.

Upon learning that I didn't have a ticket to her sold out show at the Jazz Cafe, Martha insisted that I meet her back at her hotel later on so we could travel together to the gig and she could bring me in for free. Arriving early on with Martha and her entourage allowed me to secure the best spot on the lower level - front row and centre.

Photograph: Charles Thomson

From there I watched Martha, backed by her Vandellas and a tight band (led by Al McKenzie, Martha's musical director of 30+ years), deliver an energetic 90 minute set comprising some of her biggest hits, a few lesser known classics like Third Finger, Left Hand, and an array of tributes to artists including Marvin Gaye (What's Going On), Billie Holliday (God Bless The Child) and James Brown (I Got The Feelin').

Halfway through her set, Martha surprised me by name-checking me from the stage. "I want to dedicate this next song to Charles. He's a young, up-and-coming writer - he's right here in the front," she said, gesturing towards me, "and he's never seen our show before. He's all of twenty-something years old, I think." Then she launched into a rendition of A Love Like Yours (Don't Come Knocking Everyday). It was a strange moment, feeling everybody's eyes on me, but one I will never forget. It's not every day that a music icon dedicates a performance to you.

Martha captivated the audience - a much younger crowd than I had anticipated. Her voice has aged and she sings in a higher register than she used to, but her performance was brimming with energy. New material such as Home To You suited her voice perfectly. The show built to a crescendo when Martha fused her hit Dancing In The Street with tracks from other Motown artists like the Four Tops and Stevie Wonder. The audience went wild.

A great ending to a great day - made possible by a great woman.

NB. My exclusive, in-depth interview with Martha Reeves will be published in January 2011.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

OFCOM ignored 115 complaints; ITV ignores hundreds more

Data released today shows that OFCOM ignored a total of 115 complaints about Tuesday 9th November's episode of 'This Morning'.

Figures show that the episode was last week's third most complained about television programme, beaten only by two episodes of controversial talent show 'X Factor'.

On Thursday 11th November, just two days after 'This Morning' aired a series of nasty comments by Kelvin MacKenzie about Michael Jackson and his children, OFCOM announced that it had already obtained the footage and conducted an investigation into the incident. The body refused to uphold complaints about the show on the fictitious premise that the segment had not breached the OFCOM code.

Bizarrely, ITV seemed to reach the opposite conclusion. On the same day that OFCOM claimed there had been nothing wrong with the segment, ITV removed the clip from its online catch-up service.

Not content with contradicting OFCOM, ITV have spent much of the last few days contradicting themselves. Despite believing that MacKenzie's comments were offensive enough to warrant removing them from the catch-up service, ITV is now bombarding Jackson's fans with generic and inaccurate emails denying that there was anything wrong with the segment.

The email, apparently written by ITV's head of legal compliance Mark Sunderland, completely re-writes the events of Tuesday 9th November and is successfully rebutted, point by point, in this eloquent and frequently hilarious response by Deborah Ffrench.

In the email Sunderland dismisses those offended by MacKenzie's comments as 'fans', but makes no mention of Jackson's friends and family. This is despite Jackson's nephew Taj publicly voicing his dismay over the comments and US Ambassador Paul W Jones, a personal friend of Michael Jackson, sending a letter of complaint to the broadcaster.

Sunderland also wrongly claims that 'This Morning' host Phillip Schofield made clear that MacKenzie's comments did not represent the views of ITV. The footage tells a different story but, of course, ITV destroyed that evidence on Thursday.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Exposing the Lies of Conspiracy Bloggers

As I mentioned in a blog entry earlier today, on Friday evening I was invited onto Blog Talk Radio to be interviewed about my reporting on Kelvin MacKenzie's recent diatribe against Michael Jackson's children on British TV.

During the half-hour interview a number of other subjects were covered, including the release of the new Michael Jackson album and the campaign waged against me this summer by conspiracy bloggers. The latter discussion appears to have provoked the ire of one such conspiracy blogger, whose latest entry is a frenzied rant about my appearance on the broadcast.

During the last five months or so I have become accustomed to seeing harebrained blog entries written about me and have mostly managed to abstain from responding to them, but this one caught my attention because the blogger in question - Bonnie Cox - told some pretty sizable porkies, including a couple about the content of her own blogs.

During my interview on Blog Talk Radio I discussed two of the accusations that Bonnie had made about me in the past few months; namely that I was involved in a plot with John Branca and that somebody had hired me to attack AEG.

Bizarrely, Cox took to her blog this weekend to deny ever making either of those accusations, apparently forgetting that the original accusations were still on her blog for anybody and everybody to read.

Here's Cox in her latest blog entry, denying that she ever accused me of being involved in a plot with John Branca:

And yet here she is the previous month, blatantly accusing me of being involved in a 'buddy-buddy three-some' with John Branca and Randy Taraborrelli, 'getting along on MJ's wallet, name, blood, sweat and tears':

Back-pedal, or amnesia? You be the judge.

Similarly, here's Bonnie in her latest entry claiming that she didn't accuse me of being hired to attack AEG:

No Bonnie, it wasn't Muzik, it was you. Look:

Jog any memories?

During my discussion with the hosts about conspiracy bloggers and their methods, I mentioned how these bloggers totally dismiss any evidence which contradicts their pre-determined conclusions. I used the example of bloggers who constantly claim that I didn't write positively about Michael Jackson until after he died, even though a fifteen second visit to my website will show that I've been writing pro-Jackson articles for several years.

Did Bonnie take this opportunity to 'fess up to her deception? No. She logged straight into her blog and repeated the exact claim that I'd just debunked:

Her comment is a lie. Simple as that. The first time I was ever paid for a story about Michael Jackson was in March 2009 when I was contacted by a member of MJ's camp and specifically asked to leak information on his trip to London, in order to create hype around his impending concert announcement. Prior to that my only work on Michael Jackson was largely very sympathetic and was written pro bono, such as my 2008 interview with Aphrodite Jones about her book 'Michael Jackson Conspiracy'.

Any claim that I was paid for anything Jackson-related before March 2009 is a lie and any claim that I didn't support Jackson before he died is also a lie.

In her new blog entry, Bonnie once more utilises the exact tactic that I described in my radio interview, telling her readers a half-truth and filling in the gaps with pure fantasy. She mentions my 2007 article about the album 'Thriller 25' and claims that it is proof of a pre-existing relationship between myself and Sony:

Firstly, Bonnie is a liar. I did not interview Sony's 'marketing head honcho'. I interviewed a member of Sony's catalogue release department marketing team. On top of this outright lie, she omits important information with the specific intention of misrepresenting my interaction with Sony.

What Bonnie doesn't tell you is that I was dispatched to Sony HQ in December 2007 by a fansite. Like many journalism students, I used to write for free for fansites in order to bolster my portfolio of published work and gain vital interviewing/writing experience.

In other words - as a 19 year old journalism student I interviewed a member of Sony's catalogue release marketing team for a Michael Jackson fansite. This, according to Bonnie, proves that I am a dastardly co-conspirator in an evil Sony plot to murder Michael Jackson.

The other thing Bonnie doesn't tell you is that my review of 'Thriller 25' was negative, not positive, which totally negates any implication that I was somehow acting as an agent of the record company who put it out. I described one of the remixes on the set as sounding like 'a hobo bludgeoning a dwarf with a sack full of windchimes'. In fact, the review was so negative that Sony complained about me in writing and issued me with a lifelong ban from their catalogue release department.

The latest blog from Bonnie is, essentially, just more of the usual; another gigantic dose of paranoia with a generous sprinkling of deception. But this time she has been caught out in a series of undeniable lies. She denied writing certain comments about me when those comments were still on her blog in black and white for all to see. In doing so, she has demonstrated just how changeable and unreliable she really is.

In the past it has been pointless to respond to Bonnie's claims because there has been no way to refute them. How can you prove that you haven't done something? If you've been to the Grand Canyon and someone accuses you of lying, you can pull out a photograph. If you haven't been to the Grand Canyon and somebody claims that you have - how can you prove they're lying?

What differentiates Bonnie's latest blog from her previous offerings is that this time she's trapped herself in her own web of deceit. Here, in black and white, are Bonnie's lies for all to see. On one day she'll claim that I'm in cahoots with Branca, on another she'll deny ever saying any such thing. In one entry she'll say I've been hired to attack AEG, in another she'll claim that it wasn't her and that it must have been a different blogger.

Her reader numbers have dwindled significantly since the summer after she embarked on a number of ill-advised campaigns against everybody from make-up artist Karen Faye to a variety of innocent fans. But after this latest embarrassment, it'll be a wonder if she has any readers left at all by the end of the year.

Here's an excerpt from the Blog Talk Radio discussion that caused the controversy:

US Ambassador Lends Support to Kelvin MacKenzie Campaign

Paul W Jones, US Ambassador to Malaysia, has added his voice to the growing chorus of protest over Kelvin MacKenzie's controversial comments about Michael Jackson last week.

MacKenzie provoked a storm in Jackson's fan community this week after saying that he had a 'substantial question as to how and why' Jackson's children had ever been born, that the star's death could have 'saved some children from a lifetime of being mentally corrupted' and that the star's children are better off now their father is dead.

The comments have already attracted the ire of Jackson's nephew Taj, who on Thursday used his twitter account to threaten ITV with legal action unless they issue an on-air apology.

Now US Ambassador Paul Jones, a friend of Jackson's, has fired off a missive to ITV. He has not released his email for publication as he complained in a private, not professional, capacity - but his wife today confirmed that both she and her husband had registered complaints with the broadcaster.

In her email to ITV, Jones' wife Catherine said she was 'disgusted' and 'angry' over MacKenzie's 'sickening' comments and that an on-air apology is 'the very least [ITV] can do'.

New Clip: I speak on Blog Talk Radio about the Kelvin MacKenzie debacle

I was invited onto Blog Talk Radio on Friday night to discuss the Kelvin MacKenzie outrage. Here's an extract from my interview.

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Saturday, 13 November 2010

Jackson to ITV: Give My Family an Apology or I'll Sue

Michael Jackson's nephew Taj has waded into the row over Kelvin MacKenzie's comments on Tuesday's edition of UK breakfast show 'This Morning'.

MacKenzie sparked outrage among Jackson's fans when he appeared on the ITV show and said he couldn't understand why Michael Jackson's children had been born. He went on to raise the subject of Jackson's 2005 trial and suggest that the star's death had 'saved some children from a lifetime of mental corruption'. He ended his diatribe by stating that Jackson's children are better off now their father is dead.

Fans began complaining to ITV and UK television regulator OFCOM on Tuesday but on Thursday, after OFCOM stated that they would not be acting on complaints over the show and ITV removed the clip from its website, Taj Jackson took to his twitter page and weighed in on the row.

After re-posting links to articles about MacKenzie's comments and urging his 20,000 followers to complain to ITV, Jackson threatened legal action against the TV station.

He wrote, "If we don't get an on air apology from ITV soon, my next step is legal. The time for bad mouthing & spreading lies about my uncle are OVER."

Taj Jackson's comments sparked a groundswell of support for the campaign and on Friday the television station was bombarded with emails and phonecalls from fans around the world expressing their disgust at MacKenzie's outburst. An ITV representative confided in one caller that bosses were 'looking into' the complaints.

OFCOM: 'Bullying Grieving Orphans Doesn't Break Any of Our Rules' - Watchdog refuses to take action as ITV destroys the evidence

On Thursday afternoon, just two days after Kelvin MacKenzie used breakfast programme 'This Morning' to attack Michael Jackson and his children, regulatory body OFCOM claimed to have conducted an investigation into the incident and said they wouldn't be taking any action over the complaints they'd received.

The watchdog, who wouldn't reveal how many complaints had been made about the programme, released the following statement: "Whilst we understand that some viewers may have been offended; it does not break any of our rules. The complaints have not been upheld."

The statement is both glib and inaccurate. At least one rule was unarguably broken; Section 7.11 of OFCOM's broadcast code demands that, "If a programme alleges wrongdoing or incompetence or makes other significant allegations, those concerned should normally be given an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond."

Kelvin MacKenzie undeniably used 'This Morning' as an outlet to accuse Jackson of significant wrongdoing, raising the singer's 2005 trial and saying that his death could have 'saved some children from a lifetime of mental corruption'. It's also undeniable that 'This Morning' did not give the star's family or estate an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond. There's a strong argument to be made that at least four other sections of the OFCOM code were breached as well. You can read about that in my last blog entry.

OFCOM's reaction is unsurprising. Like the PCC, where Michael Jackson is concerned OFCOM isn't interested in taking action over even the most blatant breaches of their broadcasting code.

In 2003, when Martin Bashir's 'Living With Michael Jackson' was aired, OFCOM was hit with an extraordinary number of complaints about Bashir's conduct - including a complaint from Jackson himself.

Jackson's footage, along with correspondence, proved that Bashir had lied about the subject of his documentary, lied about interviewing Jackson's friends like Elizabeth Taylor, set-up filming opportunities and then sneered at them in voiceover, omitted vital comments from Jackson, and used sneaky editing and snarky voiceover to give a misleading impression of Jackson's words and behaviour.

OFCOM took no action.

In 2007 Jacques Peretti made a documentary even more offensive than Bashir's. Watching the show with a notepad in hand, I counted almost one factual inaccuracy per minute of screentime. As well as misstating facts and evidence throughout the entire show, Peretti specifically sought out interviewees who disliked Jackson and had a history of lying about him.

Two of Peretti's talking heads - Diane Dimond and Victor Guttierrez - were sued by Jackson for millions of dollars in 1995 after the pair appeared on US TV show 'Hard Copy' and claimed to have a videotape of Jackson molesting a child. Jackson challenged them to produce the videotape and they couldn't.

Dimond used her friendship with DA Tom Sneddon to extract herself from the lawsuit but Jackson successfully sued Guttierrez and he was ordered to pay the star millions of dollars in legal fees and compensation. Instead he skipped the country and never coughed up the cash. Both Dimond and Guttierrez were interviewed in Peretti's documentary and the presenter didn't see fit to mention this lawsuit when introducing either of them, instead allowing them to masquerade as Jackson experts.

Another of Peretti's talking heads - former Jackson aide Bob Jones - admitted during his testimony at the star's trial in 2005 that his book on Jackson included embellishments to make it more enticing to publishers and public alike. The embellishments included a claim that he'd seen Jackson lick a child's head - a story he admitted on the stand was a fabrication. Peretti didn't see fit to mention this either.

The only pro-Jackson talking head and indeed the only real authority on Jackson's trial - lawyer Thomas Mesereau - was given roughly one minute of screentime and Peretti dismissed his comments by insinuating that he was money driven and Jackson had simply bought justice by hiring an expensive lawyer. On top of all this, Peretti at one point overtly stated that Jackson and Jordy Chandler had been 'in a relationship' and wrongly claimed that the boy had accurately described Jackson's genitals.

OFCOM dismissed all complaints about the programme on the extremely tenuous basis that some of them had been sent in before the show aired. But what of the complaints received afterwards? OFCOM didn't care.

OFCOM has a history of ignoring completely valid complaints about the media's treatment of Jackson and their dismissal of the complaints over MacKenzie's rant is simply another in a long line of travesties committed by the body against the singer and his family.

Bizarrely, on the same day that OFCOM announced that there was nothing wrong with MacKenzie's outburst, ITV seemed to reach the opposite conclusion. Although they still refuse to give Jackson's family and fans an on-air apology, or even an apology by telephone or email, ITV has removed MacKenzie's comments from the online version of the programme. Two days ago, Tuesday's episode of 'This Morning' briefly disappeared from the station's online catch-up service, the ITVPlayer. When it re-appeared, the entire discussion about Michael Jackson and his children had been deleted.

There's no question that the removal of MacKenzie's comments from the online version of the programme was a direct response to the barrage of complaints sent to the station and to OFCOM in the preceding days. OFCOM acknowledged in an email to me that they had requested footage of Tuesday's 'This Morning' from ITV, meaning ITV will have been aware that an OFCOM investigation into MacKenzie's comments was now being conducted. Perhaps foreseeing a potential PR disaster, ITV appears to have then removed the footage from their website, preventing new viewers from watching the clip and complaining about it and also preventing newspaper journalists from watching the footage and quoting it.

What we are witnessing is a cover-up and a clumsy one at that. OFCOM denies any rules were broken in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary and now ITV staff are trying to destroy that evidence before the media can get hold of it.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Kelvin MacKenzie: Jackson was an abuser and his children should never have been born

It has been a while now since I blogged about Michael Jackson. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that in the wake of my last Huffington Post article I became the subject of some rather bizarre conspiracy theories. The second is that there hasn't been much to write about.

However, today I was informed of an incident which my conscience wouldn't allow me to ignore. Kelvin MacKenzie, former editor of the Sun newspaper, appeared today on the British TV show 'This Morning' and claimed that Michael Jackson was a child molester and his children are better off now that he's dead.

He launched this vicious diatribe in the wake of a moving interview with Jackson's children, conducted by Oprah Winfrey, in which the three kids recounted what a wonderful father Jackson was and how much they missed him.

Here is a full transcript of the exchange:

Phillip Schofield (Host): Let’s finish on this one. Michael Jackson was the best dad, his daughter tells Oprah. Oprah Winfrey has done the first interview with Michael Jackson – his parents, his children; Paris and Prince Michael and Blanket, of course, since he passed away. Paris called her dad the best dad and revealed that he was a normal dad. She said that he made the best French toast in the world. We’ve got a clip from it, actually. Here you go.

[Clip of the children talking about their father]

Schofield: Interestingly, these things don’t happen without controversy. Here you go. Michael’s brother Randy has spoken out against the chat, saying ‘I know that he would not have wanted this. In fact, she’s the last person on earth he would want around his children.’ He said that because in 2005 while the jury was deliberating Michael’s molestation charges, Oprah did a whole show dedicated to him.

Lesley Joseph (Guest): But you do wonder why they went on, because I have a feeling that those kids – much as I don’t know anything about it – but they do seem terribly well adjusted. So I’m sure they would not have been got on there had they not wanted to do it and had they not… Especially the girl, and you just have the feeling that she said, ‘Listen, I want to go on and say how great my dad was. And then who’s to say they shouldn’t? They do seem incredibly well adjusted, maybe I’m wrong.

Kelvin MacKenzie (Guest): Well, she gave a good interview but of course she’s been brought up in the limelight. It was quite a nice thing for her to say, I must say, about her dead father. I have much more significant question about how and why some of those children were born and under what circumstances they were born – and whether he, in the end, would have turned out to be a great father. Certainly, there are aspects to him which I think your audience would raise their eyebrows.

Joseph: But that’s them, Kelvin, that’s not the children. The children are born [audio interference].

Holly Willoughby (Host): Because their identities were kept so secret I think we all had it in our minds that they were going to be a bit of a horror show but they seem, like you said, very well adjusted and normal kids just talking about their father.

[Cross talk]

And they’re not to blame for what went on before or even for the fact that they were born. That’s him, not them.

MacKenzie: OK, well a rather different view to that is that the death of Michael Jackson may well have saved some children, possibly, who knows…

Schofield: Allegedly, though…

MacKenzie: Others…

Schofield: He wasn’t found guilty

MacKenzie: …from a lifetime of being mentally corrupted, shall we say.

Schofield: We don’t know that, though. We don’t know that…

MacKenzie: No, we don’t know that.

Schofield: …that is the case.

MacKenzie: He’s faced a number of charges, a number of allegations, and I in some ways feel that the children will have a better life for their father not being around, which is pretty unusual.

Schofield: Those are tough words and I think they would obviously disagree with you there.

MacKenzie's comments were morally and ethically reprehensible. He demonstrated a complete lack of respect for the justice system and also for the ethics of his profession. Jackson was acquitted of any wrongdoing and nobody has any right to insinuate that he was anything other than innocent.

That said, it's not unusual to witness misinformed nitwits talking rubbish about Jackson's court case - the vast majority of those who take to the airwaves to deliver their expert opinion on his trial have never read single day's worth of transcripts. More alarming than MacKenzie's ridiculous comments about Jackson's trial was the callousness he demonstrated in claiming that the children were better off now that their father was dead.

The comments had no basis in reality. After watching video footage of Jackson's children speaking about what a wonderful father he was and what a magnificent childhood he gave them, MacKenzie completely disregarded everything they'd said in order to offer a baseless opinion that they were actually severely at risk of abuse and mental corruption. Moreover, he in one breath showed apparent concern for their wellbeing and in another insinuated that they should never have been born in the first place. In other words, he's a hypocrite.

He's also a bigot. In the past he has claimed that he tailored his newspaper to those who hate 'wogs' and 'queers' (note to US fans: 'wog' is a derogatory phrase used to describe black people). MacKenzie has a long and provable bias against Jackson and, during his time as editor of the Sun, was responsible for countless inaccurate and heavily biased stories about the star. He was also helming the newspaper when it coined the term 'Wacko Jacko' in the 1980s.

Given MacKenzie's long and demonstrable hatred of Michael Jackson, questions must be asked as to why exactly he was asked onto the show in the first place, unless producers were specifically angling for exactly the kind of cruel and heartless comments that he inevitably wound up making.

Moreover, the incident once again raises questions about the validity of television shows which invite non-experts to offer their opinions on people they've never met and stories that they don't understand. What purpose does this practice serve? These inane TV spots plagued Jackson during his 2005 trial. 'Expert panels' comprising collections of people who had been nowhere near the courtroom for the duration of Jackson's trial were routinely assembled on television shows to offer their brainless comments on a court case in which they couldn't even recite the charge sheet.

MacKenzie's outburst was unaccaptable. Although entirely devoid of any moral, ethical or factual basis, the comments about the trial were unsurprising. It's all been said before and - though I'm sure it'll pain MacKenzie to hear it - far more shockingly. But to announce on television that three orphaned children are better off now their father is dead and proclaim that they should never have been born in the first place - that is beyond vile.

Fans wishing to complain directly to the television show can do so by emailing

For fans wishing to take their complaints a little further, MacKenzie's comments also breached numerous segments of the OFCOM Broadcast Code. OFCOM is the UK's regulatory body for television and radio programming.

Section 2.2 of the code demands that, "Factual programmes or items or portrayals of factual matters must not materially mislead the audience." MacKenzie's comments were clearly misleading. He ignored the facts and evidence presented at Jackson's trial and dismissed the verdict. He also ignored the children's firsthand accounts of their lives with Jackson in order to portray them instead as having been 'corrupted' and say that they were potential victims of 'abuse'.

Section 2.3 of the code demands that, "Broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context." MacKenzie's comments were patently not justified by the context. In a discussion about an interview between Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jackson's children, MacKenzie irrelevantly raised the subject of Jackson's trial and proceeded to dismiss the verdict, insinuating that Jackson was a child molester.

Section 7.1 of the code demands that, "Broadcasters must avoid unjust or unfair treatment of individuals or organisations in programmes." This section of the code is constantly flouted when dealing with Michael Jackson. Examples of programmes which were biased, inaccurate and borderline illegal include Martin Bashir's 'Living With Michael Jackson' and Jacques Peretti's 'What Really Happened'. OFCOM never implements this section of the code. Does calling somebody a child abuser when they've been acquitted in a court of law constitute treating somebody unjustly or unfairly? You'd be hard pressed to find anybody to argue that it didn't, but watch OFCOM try anyway.

Section 7.9 of the code demands that, "Before broadcasting a factual programme, including programmes examining past events, broadcasters should take reasonable care to satisfy themselves that material facts have not been presented, disregarded or omitted in a way that is unfair to an individual or organisation." Material facts were clearly omitted and disregarded during Kelvin MacKenzie's unprovoked diatribe against Jackson. He ignored the facts, evidence and verdict in Jackson's trial and accused the star of being a child molester. MacKenzie also ignored the children's comments about their upbringing and proceeded to portray it as the exact opposite of what they claimed.

Section 7.11 of the code demands that, "If a programme alleges wrongdoing or incompetence or makes other significant allegations, those concerned should normally be given an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond." Clearly, Jackson could not respond to Kelvin Mackenzie's inaccurate allegations, but no representative of Jackson's family or estate was invited to appear on the show or to offer a rebuttal in the aftermath.

Fans wishing to complain to OFCOM can do so at this link:

However, they will be required to supply a UK address and telephone number.

Monday, 11 October 2010

New Video: Kriyss Grant speaks about dealing with crazy Michael Jackson fans

Here's another excerpt from my interview with 'This Is It' dancer Kriyss Grant. In this clip he speaks about how he and his fellow dancers were subjected to abuse by some Michael Jackson fans in the wake of the star's death, and laughs about the sometimes crazy questions he receives from the King of Pop's followers.

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Friday, 8 October 2010

The Interviewer becomes the Interviewee - The Final Instalment

The conclusion of my interview with poet and author Lorette Luzajic has been uploaded. In this segment I discuss the dangers of fanaticism, what I've learnt from being attacked by conspiracy theorists, and my future plans.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Interviewer becomes the Interviewee - Part Five

The latest instalment of my interview with author Lorette Luzajic has gone online. In this segment I speak about conspiracy theorist bloggers who claim to be conducting 'investigations' but actually ignore facts which disprove their theories and perpetuate lies which have been disproven on numerous occasions.

I also speak about how these conspiracy theorists are preying on vulnerable fans, as well as discussing the overzealousness of some Michael Jackson fans and how politics and in-fighting in Jackson's fan community are having a detrimental effect on his legacy.

Throughout this interview I have often spoken about conspiracy theorist bloggers, using examples to illustrate how they repeat lies even after they've been repeatedly disproven, and use irrelevant facts to 'prove' absurd theories.

The response of one such blogger, Bonnie Cox, has been to publish even more hilarious fibs. In her latest blog entry she writes: "Now Charles Thomson has been recruited to cut into AEG (he’s out of hiding now, welcome back Charles) as well as Randy Taraborrelli and his trolls being sent to my facebook page."

In another perfect illustration of the very methods I have discussed in my lengthy interview with Lorette Luzajic, Cox claims with no evidence whatsoever that I have come out of 'hiding' after being hired by somebody to slander the concert promotion company AEG.

As far as I can remember, I haven't made any public comment on AEG whatsoever. Moreover, I was never 'in hiding'. Last month I conducted a highly publicised interview with the rapper Cazwell. I have also, in recent weeks, launched a YouTube page.

Cox also used her blog this week to publish some stunning anti-Semitic comments. "Using a jewish slang word in a song that calls attention to the separation of the races and his gets banned?" she wrote. "You know why? You know who's running the the Entertainment industry now, or at least who controls most of it..."

Looks like somebody's been spending too much time on illuminati conspiracy forums - and for somebody who posts so many bible verses on her blog, she doesn't seem to be doing very well on the 'love thy neighbour' front.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The Interviewer becomes the Interviewee - Part Four

The latest instalment of my interview with author Lorette Luzajic has been uploaded.

In this segment, I discuss the demonisation of biographer Randy Taraborrelli, the methods of conspiracy theorists and the absurd claims that Deborah Ffrench and I are the same person.

Using examples, I reveal how conspiracy bloggers take small and inconsequential facts, then use them to 'prove' irrelevant, globe-spanning conspiracies. I also expose the enormous lie that conspiracy bloggers have been spreading about me for months, even though it can be completely disproven with one brief visit to my website.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The Long Forgotten Q&A - Part One

All the way back in February I announced that I was going to hold a Q+A for my blog fans. I asked followers to email me questions and said I would answer the first ten I received. I set up a second email account for blog correspondence - then forgot about it. I only recently remembered and realised that I'd better start answering questions.

This blog is dedicated to one question, which prompted a lengthy answer. More will follow.

How do we non-journalists best go about starting a career as a freelance journalist?

Helen, UK

I think that first and foremost it is important to decide whether you want to be a journalist or a writer. Lots of people say to me that they love to write and therefore would love to work in journalism, but the truth is that journalism has very little to do with writing. You can be the best writer in the world but if I sit you behind a desk and ask you to produce a news story, your writing skills are going to be of little value to you. A journalist's job is to report - it's no use being a great writer if you have nothing to write about.

As a journalist you will typically spend 90% of your time investigating and 10% writing. The job of a journalist is to find stories, gather evidence, interview sources and then, once all that research is completed, write it all up.

Being a great writer will be of especially little value to you in news journalism, where there is little creative freedom. Stories are generally written to a strict set of guidelines, often referred to as the 'inverted pyramid' structure. There's more creativity in feature writing but the focus remains on research as opposed to prose.

So if you want to be a journalist, your passion has to be for investigation; for digging out new information, sifting through documents, tracking people down, testing the gatekeepers and asking tricky questions. A passion for writing is way down the list.

If it's journalism you're interested in, it's also worth thinking honestly about what your motivation is for breaking into the industry. If you think it is a glamorous profession, think again. Shows like Sex and the City portray the life of a journalist as an easy one. Carrie Bradshaw writes a slender column for a magazine on what seems to be a fairly infrequent basis and can somehow afford to live in a central New York apartment while splashing cash on high end designer outfits. To say that this is not an accurate representation of the industry would be a huge understatement.

That's not to say there aren't perks to the job. Journalism can afford you the opportunity to meet your heroes - my first real excursion into the world of 'celebrity journalism' was a brief chat with my own hero, James Brown. You can also wind up scoring seats at movie previews or lining the red carpet at showbiz events - but these things often aren't as glamorous as they seem.

Red carpet events such as film premieres can be deathly boring. You stand around for hours on end waiting for the stars to show up and when they do there's no certainty that you'll have any access to them. If you happen to be fronting the TV coverage for a primetime show, you're quite likely to get an interview. The dozens of print journalists squeezed into the press pen, however, are often less lucky.

The minor celebs - the reality contestants and C-list popstars - will hang around the press pit for ages because the TV crews don't want to speak to them. The stars of the film, however, will often breeze straight past the print reporters and simply have their assistants furnish the press with generic quotes about how they 'love this city' and 'thank the fans'.

It's not just celebrity events which seem less interesting when you experience them close-up - it's the celebrities themselves. That's not to say they're all dullards or bores - not at all. What I mean is that the more time you spend around celebrities, the more you realise that they really are just people. Rich people. Famous people. But people all the same and, as with all people, there are some you enjoy talking to and some that you don't. After a while you stop getting truly excited about the prospect of interviewing a celebrity, unless it's somebody you really admire.

As a general - but not universal - rule, the more famous somebody is, the less interesting they are in interview. That doesn't mean they're a less interesting person, it just means they have more to lose by speaking freely. They're guarded, surrounded by PR professionals who hover over your shoulder in an attempt to intimidate you into not asking any tricky questions, and who glare at you if you dare stray from the topic of whatever it is the celebrity is promoting at that moment in time.

Stars often speak in soundbites or just recite pre-rehearsed answers. If you've ever watched multiple news channels during the week of a film premiere, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. You'll watch ITV News and see an actor and director giggling as they recount an annecdote, then tune into BBC Newsnight and watch them telling the exact same annecdote to a different reporter with equal 'spontenaity'.

That's not to say all celebrity journalism is vacuous. Of course it isn't. Some can afford you a real insight into the mind of an artist; the process of a genius musician or the struggles of an icon behind the glamorous Hollywood facade. Jonathan Lethem's article 'Being James Brown' is one of the greatest articles I've ever read on any subject, for instance. But most celebrity journalism, particularly in newspapers and celebrity magazines, consists largely of puff pieces, gossip and dodgy paparazzi photographs. Glamorous is probably one of the last words I'd use to describe it and there are legitimate questions to be raised about whether much of it is even journalism at all.

Journalism has a few core functions. One function is to reveal new information to the public. Another is to tell the truth. Another is to act as the fourth estate, testing government and the legal system in order to ensure that they're held to account. If you're serious about journalism, I think you need to have a real interest in justice. I think you have to be invested in seeing that wrongs are righted, that power isn't abused, that corruption is exposed, that mysteries are solved and that justice is served.

It can have other facets, like high end celebrity journalism as I described earlier, which affords the public genuine insight. Sports too, and arts and culture. But primarily, it's about truth and justice. If the thought of upholding both of those really gets your blood pumping, journalism is probably for you.

My first piece of advice would have to be to go and get trained somewhere. In the UK you can study for a journalism degree or you can study with the National Council for Training Journalists (NCTJ). The former will equip you with far more knowledge and experience, but the latter requires a sixth of the time and, inexplicably, is more readily accepted in the industry.

Once you're qualified it will still be difficult to find work, especially since the recession, during which many newspapers were firing reporters and slashing freelance budgets. There are steps you can take that will make it easier to find work once you're trained.

During my journalism degree I had to complete work experience at local newspapers and was encouraged to contribute to local newspapers for free in my spare time as well as writing for our in-house student magazine.

In my second year I started writing articles for free and sending them to a US music journal, who were glad of the free copy. After two articles, they started paying me for my contributions. Writing articles for free is valuable in that it gains you first hand experience, it helps you to build up a portfolio of published work and it allows you to make contacts and build relationships in the industry.

By my third year at university - with my experience, my portfolio of published work and my network of contacts - I was contributing to newspapers and magazines on a national and international basis and usually being paid for my work.

My last piece of advice will sound quite contradictory: Carve yourself a niche, but don't limit yourself. I carved myself a niche as a black music writer. The more I published on the subject, the more people came to me for work in that area. But at the same time, there's no point in limiting yourself to that niche because it will reduce your income. Although I specialise in black music, over the years I've taken on financial journalism, property journalism, autosports journalism and various other topics. In a job as unreliable as freelance journalism, you can't really afford to pass on work unless you're only doing it as a hobby.

So that is my advice to anybody planning to become a freelance journalist. Make sure journalism is for you, get yourself trained, be willing to write for free in the beginning, make sure you build a network of contacts and try to carve yourself a niche as some sort of specialist.

Finally, read and write as much as you can. While literacy is not the most important part of a journalist's job, it obviously helps. Read everything you can from tabloids to broadsheets to celebrity magazines, obscure fanzines and specialist journals - so you can familiarise yourself with different journalistic writing styles. And write all the time, even if it's not being published. Practice makes perfect.

Examiner 'Plagiarism' Case: An Update

Yesterday I received an extremely apologetic email from Valmai Owens, author of the Examiner piece which included large chunks of my Huffington Post article 'One of the Most Shameful Episodes in Journalistic History'.

In writing her article about the media's handling of the Michael Jackson trial, Ms Owens says she enlisted the help of a researcher. She asked her researcher to send her some information which would be relevant to the article.

Ms Owens received a research document from her researcher and liked it. Believing that her researcher was the author of the document, she included much of it and only changed it slightly. Ms Owens says she had no idea that the researcher had copied their information directly from my Huffington Post article.

The article has been removed from the Examiner and other websites and Valmai Owens has apologised profusely for the mistake.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Examiner Plagiarises My Huffington Post Article

I was shocked to receive an email this morning alerting me to the fact that an Examiner writer has plagiarised large chunks of my Huffington Post article about Michael Jackson's trial.

In her September 8th article 'Truth Versus Sensationalism: A Global Event', Valmai Owens copies the theme and structure of my article 'One of the Most Shameful Episodes in Journalistic History' almost exactly. There is even a large chunk about the aftermath of the verdict in Jackson's case which she's scarcely bothered to alter. Moreover, she doesn't reference me or my work once in her whole article.

I have posted below some examples of this brazen plagiarism, including the lengthy chunk about the aftermath of the verdict. I have complained to the Examiner in writing and by telephone (rang several times and always reached a voicemail, so left a message). No response as yet.

Feel free to let the Examiner know what you think of their behaviour.

UPDATE: The Examiner appears to have removed the article in question but given that they still have not returned my email or phonecalls, I can't be sure what has happened.


My article:

Reading the court transcripts and comparing them to the newspaper cuttings, the trial that was relayed to us didn't even resemble the trial that was going on inside the courtroom. The transcripts show an endless parade of seedy prosecution witnesses perjuring themselves on an almost hourly basis and crumbling under cross examination. The newspaper cuttings and the TV news clips detail day after day of heinous accusations and lurid innuendo.

Examiner article:

There was no similarity at all between what was reported to the public by the media and the trial that was playing out in the courtroom. Instead, we read of the allegations, accusations and shocking innuendos written and aired by a biased press seemingly out of control. Nowhere during that time did we read of the unreliable and shady prosecution witnesses who deliberately gave false, misleading and incomplete testimony, and whose testimony disintegrated under the cross-examination of Jackson’s defense team.

My article:

Newspapers reacted just as hysterically as TV stations. 'Sicko!' shrieked the New York Daily News. 'Jacko: Now Get Out Of This One' goaded the New York Post.
The Sun - Britain's biggest newspaper - ran an article titled 'He's Bad, He's Dangerous, He's History'. The piece branded Jackson an 'ex-black ex-superstar', a 'freak' and a 'twisted individual' and called for his children to be taken into care. "If he weren't a pop idol with piles of cash to hide behind," it said, "he would have been picked up years ago."

Examiner article:

Jackson was deemed guilty by the media even before the trial had begun and with headlines like “Sicko!” New York Daily News. “Jacko: Now Get Out Of This One” New York Post. “He’s Bad, He’s Dangerous, He’s History” “If he weren’t a pop idol with piles of cash to hide behind, he would have been picked up years ago.” The Sun, fed the public’s insatiable need for scandal and gossip and boosted audience numbers which then encouraged the media to milk the case for what it was worth.

My article:

The story was over. There were no apologies and no retractions. There was no scrutiny - no inquiries or investigations. Nobody was held to account for what was done to Michael Jackson. The media was content to let people go on believing their heavily skewed and borderline fictitious account of the trial. That was that.

Examiner article:

No consideration was given to the toll all of this would take on Jackson; the damage it would cause to his reputation, career and more importantly, his spirit. No-one was held accountable. No apologies were offered. No retractions, no inquiries, no investigations and no blame were admitted on the part of the media for their assassination of Jackson’s character.

My article:

When the jury delivered 14 'not guilty' verdicts, the media was 'humiliated', Mesereau said in a subsequent interview. Media analyst Tim Rutten later commented, "So what happened when Jackson was acquitted on all counts? Red faces? Second thoughts? A little soul-searching, perhaps? Maybe one expression of regret for the rush to judgment? Naaawww. The reaction, instead, was rage liberally laced with contempt and the odd puzzled expression. Its targets were the jurors... Hell hath no fury like a cable anchor held up for scorn."

In a post-verdict news conference Sneddon continued to refer to Gavin Arvizo as a 'victim' and said he suspected that the 'celebrity factor' had impeded the jury's judgment - a line many media pundits swiftly appropriated as they set about undermining the jurors and their verdicts.

Within minutes of the announcement, Nancy Grace appeared on CourtTV to allege that jurors had been seduced by Jackson's fame and bizarrely claim that the prosecution's only weak link had been Janet Arvizo.

"I'm having a crow sandwich right now," she said. "It doesn't taste very good. But you know what? I'm also not surprised. I thought that celebrity is such a big factor. When you think you know somebody, when you have watched their concerts, listened to their records, read the lyrics, believed they were coming from somebody's heart... Jackson is very charismatic, although he never took the stand. That has an effect on this jury.

"I'm not gonna throw a stone at the mom, although I think she was the weak link in the state's case, but the reality is I'm not surprised. I thought that the jury would vote in favor of the similar transaction witnesses. Apparently the defense overwhelmed them with the cross-examining of the mother. I think it boils down to that, plain and simple."

Grace later stated that Jackson was 'not guilty by reason of celebrity' and was seen attempting to hound jury foreman Paul Rodriguez into saying he believed Jackson had molested children. One of Grace's guests, psychoanalyst Bethany Marshall, leveled personal attacks towards one female juror, saying, "This is a woman who has no life."

Over on Fox News, Wendy Murphy branded Jackson 'the Teflon molester' and said that the jurors needed IQ tests. She later added, "I really think it's the celebrity factor, not the evidence. I don't think the jurors even understand how influenced they were by who Michael Jackson is... They basically put targets on the backs of all, especially highly vulnerable, kids that will now come into Michael Jackson's life."

...The following day on Good Morning America, Diane Sawyer upheld the notion that the verdict had been influenced by Jackson's celebrity status. "Are you sure?" she pleaded. "Are you sure that this gigantically renowned guy walking into the room had no influence at all?"

...In her final New York Post article about the trial, Diane Dimond bemoaned the not guilty verdict, saying that it left Michael Jackson untouchable. She wrote, "He walked out of court a free man, not guilty on all counts. But Michael Jackson is so much more than free. He now has carte blanche to live his life any way he wants, with whomever he wants, because who would ever try to prosecute Michael Jackson now?"

Examiner article:

Even after the jury reached its unanimous verdict of not guilty, a humiliated press still would not accept responsibility for their shameful behavior. The media analyst Tim Rutton said at the time, “So what happened when Jackson was acquitted on all counts? Red faces? Second thoughts? A little soul-searching, perhaps? Maybe one expression of regret for the rush to judgment? Naaawww. The reaction, instead, was rage liberally laced with contempt and the odd puzzled expression. Its targets were the jurors… Hell hath no fury like a cable anchor held up for scorn.”

Appearing on Court TV, Nancy Grace said, “I’m having a crow sandwich right now. It doesn’t taste very good. But you know what? I’m also not surprised. I thought that celebrity is such a big factor. When you think you know somebody, when you have watched their concerts, listened to their records, read the lyrics, believed they were coming from somebody’s heart… Jackson is very charismatic, although he never took the stand. That has an effect on this jury.

"I’m not gonna throw a stone at the mom, although I think she was the weak link in the state’s case, but the reality is I’m not surprised. I thought that the jury would vote in favor of the similar transaction witnesses. Apparently the defense overwhelmed them with the cross-examining of the mother. I think it boils down to that, plain and simple.” She later added that Michael had been found not guilty “by reason of celebrity.”

Wendy Murphy on Fox News added, “I really think it’s the celebrity factor, not the evidence. I don’t think the jurors even understand how influenced they were by who Michael Jackson is… They basically put targets on the backs of all, especially highly vulnerable kids that will now come into Michael Jackson’s life.”

Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America was another who adhered to the idea that Michael had been acquitted due to his celebrity status, “Are you sure?” Are you sure that this gigantically renowned guy walking into the room had no influence at all?”

Diane Dimond in her last New York Post article wrote, “He walked out of court a free man, not guilty on all counts. But Michael Jackson is so much more than free. He now has carte blanche to live his life any way he wants, with whomever he wants, because who would ever try to prosecute Michael Jackson now?”

Sunday, 3 October 2010

New Video: Kriyss Grant speaks about his concerns over 'This Is It'

In this latest excerpt from my interview with Kriyss Grant, the 'This Is It' dancer explains comments he made in an interview about organisers 'taking advantage' of Michael Jackson and elaborates on his early concerns over the comeback concerts.

The full article is available here on my website. To receive YouTube updates every time I upload a new video, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

The Interviewer becomes the Interviewee - Part Three

Part Three of my in-depth interview with Lorette Luzajic has gone online. In this segment I discuss the bizarre series of events which led conspiracy theorists to accuse me of being involved in Michael Jackson's 'murder'.

In upcoming segments I will put some of these conspiracy theorists' claims under the microscope, showing how they continue to repeat lies even after they've been proven false and how they take small, innocuous pieces of factual information, then use them to 'prove' grandiose conspiracies.

I will also discuss the demonisation of Randy Taraborrelli, baseless claims that I have an alter-ego called Deborah Ffrench, why air-brushing over Jackson's mistakes actually removes culpability from those who drove him to an early grave and how in-fighting and power politics in Jackson's fan community are tarnishing his legacy.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

The Interviewer becomes the Interviewee: Part Two

Author Lorette Luzajic today uploaded Part Two of our brand new interview. In this part she asks me about my role in the release of Michael Jackson's FBI files and what we learned from their contents, as well as asking me about the strange similarities between Jackson's obsessive fans and his obsessive detractors.

In the coming days the interview will continue to be serialised, a few questions at a time. In upcoming segments I will talk about the overzealous fanatics who think they are improving Jackson's legacy but are actually staining it, and the methods employed by conspiracy theorists who are taking advantage of Jackson's vulnerable fans.

In other news, I have uploaded another clip from my interview with 'This Is It' dancer Kriyss Grant. To receive YouTube alerts each time I upload a new video, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Interviewer becomes the Interviewee

I was recently interviewed at length by author Lorette Luzajic about my work on Michael Jackson and my strange experiences with his fans.

During the interview I spoke about how and why I became instrumental in the release of Michael Jackson's FBI files, the peculiar similarities between Jackson's supporters and his detractors and the farcical series of events which led conspiracy theorists to accuse me of assisting in Michael Jackson's murder.

The interview was long and detailed so will be serialised on Lorette's blog over the coming days, a few questions at a time. I will update my blog and my twitter page each time another part of the interview is uploaded.

Earlier this year Lorette interviewed me about my growing fame as a Michael Jackson expert and my take on the allegations made against the star. Click here to read part one of our prior interview, and click here to read part two.

YouTube Update: Kriyss Grant talks to Charles Thomson

I've added another clip to my YouTube page, this time taken from my interview with Kriyss Grant. In this clip, he talks to me about meeting Michael Jackson for the first time after his successful 'This Is It' audition.

I will be uploading more clips to my YouTube page in the coming days and weeks. In order to receive updates every time I add a video, you can subscribe to my Channel.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Cazwell Interview Now Online

My interview with US rapper Cazwell has now gone online. Click here to read it.

As another treat for my blog readers, here's a second audio excerpt from the interview, in which Cazwell discusses his upcoming music videos.

In the coming days and weeks I will be uploading clips from past interviews, and I will also upload clips from future interviews as and when they're conducted. To receive YouTube updates when I upload new clips, you can subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Cazwell Interview - A Teaser

I recently interviewed US rapper Cazwell for Sawf News. The full article will go online in the coming days - and I will update the blog when it goes live - but in the meantime here's a short teaser, in which Cazwell talks to me about homophobia in the hip-hop industry.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Thanks to Aphrodite Jones

I was pleasantly surprised to log into my emails this morning and find that author and TV presenter Aphrodite Jones had defended me in a recent interview. Here is the extract, taken from from this article on the 'All For Love' blog:

But on that note, we also talked about the increasing division among the fanbase, and how it is doing more harm than good by undermining our best efforts... But I dropped a bomb she wasn’t expecting when I mentioned the latest source of division-Charles Thomson. She was absolutely shocked about that.

WHAT?! You’re kidding me! Oh, and he’s such a sweetheart, too… Why are they attacking him? He’s written so many great articles about Michael.”

I said I only knew some things I had heard from various boards... but she cut me off before I could even make headway. “Oh, please,” she said, digging furiously among the contents of her bag until she had extracted a copy she just happened to very handily have on hand of the Andrea Peyser article, in which Peyser, of course, is ranting on and on about The Saratoga Dance Hall Of Fame honoring “a pedophile.”

Holding the awful article up as an example, she said righteously, “Do you see this? This is what you guys need to be concerned about. This is what we need to be fighting.”

So I just thought I'd take a moment to say thanks to Aphrodite for her kind words of support. Back in 2008, when I interviewed Aphrodite for Deadline magazine, she said my article was the best she'd ever seen written about her career. Since then she's always been available to give me quotes for articles or help me out with my research.

In the last month or two, a number of my followers have shown themselves to be extremely fickle and very easily led. It is nice to know that Aphrodite is not among them.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

R.I.P Phelps 'Catfish' Collins

R.I.P Phelps 'Catfish' Collins, 1944-2010
(Photo: Flickriver)

I learned today from my friend Tony Wilson that Phelps Collins, the legendary James Brown and P-Funk guitarist, passed away earlier this month.

Phelps, best known as Catfish, passed away on August 6th after a battle with cancer. His death came while I was on vacation in Cyprus with scant internet access and so passed me by. It was with great sadness that I learned today, several weeks later, of his death.

Catfish Collins is a legend in the world of funk music. His stint playing guitar for James Brown was short but prolific. Alongside his brother, bassist Bootsy Collins, Catfish worked with Brown for only 11 months between 1970-1971. However, during that time he played many of the most famous funk guitar riffs of all time, working on tracks such as Sex Machine, Super Bad, Soul Power and Talkin' Loud and Sayin' Nothin'.

L to R: Bootsy Collins, James Brown and Catfish Collins live in 1971.
(Photos: Getty)

In 1972 Catfish joined George Clinton's group Funkadelic where he recorded even more funk classics, including numerous credits on the album America Eats Its Young and, perhaps most famously, playing the infectious guitar riff on timeless party anthem Flashlight.

Stints in brother Bootsy's 'Rubber Band' aside, Catfish largely avoided the spotlight in later years.

I met Catfish briefly at London's Cumberland Hotel in 2008 while he was on a rare tour with his brother, paying tribute to the late, great Godfather of Soul. While waiting for an interview with Bootsy that never materialised - a long story for another time - I chatted to Catfish about life on the road. He complained that he'd never really enjoyed touring and was sick of living out of a suitcase. This would be his last tour, he said.

My friend Ron Roelofsen, a James Brown archivist, met Catfish at another stop on the same tour and had much the same conversation. "I had the honour to meet [Catfish] in person in 2008 during the JB tribute tour in Holland and Belgium," Ron wrote on his website after hearing the sad news. "A very nice and also funny guy. I never forgot his answer to my question, 'What have you been doing for the last 30 years?' Catfish: 'Fishing'. 'And is there a chance that you will be making some new music again after this tour?' 'No, I go back fishing.'"

In losing Catfish we have lost one of the architects of funk music. Despite the brevity of his time with James Brown and Funkadelic, he leaves behind a tremendous legacy. James Brown is famously the most sampled artist of all time, but little credit is given to the musicians playing in those samples. Catfish is one of the most (if not the most) sampled guitarists in the history of recorded music. Long may his music live on.

Bootsy Collins is hosting a tribute concert for his brother on September 4th at the Madison Theater in Covington, Kentucky. For details and tickets, click here.

Monday, 9 August 2010

A Final Word on the Lunacy

I have spent the last two weeks in the mediterranean, scuba diving and the such like, but the vacation was marred somewhat by the knowledge that in my absence yet more tripe was being published about me all over the internet.

In the last two weeks an entire blog has been set up for the sole purpose of slagging me off. The blog - created by a fanatic called Yazmeen, who last month launched numerous racist tirades against her followers on twitter - claims that I am a 'hypocrite' and cites as its proof a bunch of old comments I made on a message board.

The comments, selectively lifted from thousands made on the website in question, include me bemoaning Michael Jackson's decision to appear in public with a young boy after announcing his London residency last year and stating repeatedly that the star was to blame for a lot of his own negative press.

And if you think that's evidence of 'hypocrisy' then I suggest you invest in a dictionary.

My work on Michael Jackson has centred almost exclusively on the allegations of child molestation made against him in 1993 and his trial on similar charges in 2005. Using the Michael Jackson case as a vehicle to explore wider social ills, my articles contend that the case against Jackson was flimsy at best and the media's coverage of his trial was utterly shambolic.

Nowhere among the comments on Yazmeen's blog do I say anything to the contrary.

Look over the comments and you will see me complaining about Jackson's insistence on miming the majority of his latter performances, lamenting his apparent laziness and blaming him for many of the PR disasters that defined his later career - all comments that I still stand by to this day, many of which I even reiterated in my fairly recent interview with Lorette Luzajic; an interview I plugged on this very blog without any shame or apprehension.

What you will not see anywhere among the comments which Yazmeen claims prove my 'hypocrisy' are any statements endorsing the media's right to call somebody a child molester when they have been acquitted by a jury. You will see no comments trumpeting the work of those who have profited by accusing Jackson of molesting children and no argument in favour of the media's trial coverage.

In fact, if you look closely enough you will actually find comments in which I berate former Jackson associates for making lurid claims about his personal life in exchange for column inches. You'll also see me complaining to official bodies about reporters who call Jackson a paedophile, and urging others to do the same.

So far from evidencing 'hypocrisy', the comments Yazmeen has unearthed actually serve only to prove my consistency.

Yazmeen has been attacking me publicly and emailing me privately for several weeks now. While I was on vacation she offered to stop harrassing me if I told her everything I knew about the O2 announcement and the This Is It concerts. What I knew was limited and uninteresting and I gladly told her, thinking it would finally give me some peace. I even offered her detailed advice about how to investigate Jackson's concert rehearsals for herself and wished her good luck in her research.

However, Yazmeen is convinced that I am lying to her and keeps accusing me of holding back information, particularly regarding Sony's involvement in the O2 gigs. No matter how often I tell her that I don't know anymore than I've already told her, she keeps emailing me back threatening that if I don't tell her what I know, she will keep slandering me on her blog.

While I know little at all about Sony's involvement in the O2 gigs, it is clear to see why they would be chipping in. The publicity surrounding the concerts was sure to result in an enormous boost in record sales, from which Sony would obviously profit hugely.

Additionally, Sony was responsible for the majority of Jackson's solo back catalogue meaning that any CDs or DVDs sold at the O2 during Jackson's residency would be earning them money. So the question is clearly not why Sony would be involved in This Is It, but why they wouldn't. Apparently, though, this common sense explanation isn't sinister enough for Yazmeen, so she keeps pressuring me for a less flattering one. When I can't produce one, she takes to her blog and slags me off again.

Furthermore, given that she keeps writing ridiculous and inaccurate articles about me, I occasionally feel the need to publicly defend myself as I am doing here. When I do, she acts completely outraged - as though it's perfectly acceptable for her to keep libelling me but not pefectly acceptable for me to defend myself - and sends more emails threatening even more slander.

This culminated in her latest assault on my character, in which she nastily outed me as a gay man, as though that in itself is a legitimate reason for her followers to turn on me. This was something she'd threatened to do last month while pressing me for info on Sony.

In an email on July 29th she wrote, "I screencapped your posts both on MJ and James Brown forums & a queer site.... I am NOT trying to expose you but your denials and attempts to discredit ME is leaving me no choice.... I want INFORMATION."

I gave her all the information I had - which was very little. She outed me anyway.

Yazmeen's latest article about me proves that those currently attacking me have absolutely no idea where to draw the line between what is and is not acceptable. They see themselves as crusaders fighting desperately to bring Jackson's 'murderers' to justice and, as far as they're concerned, nothing is sacred. They don't care who they hurt, who they slander, who they intimidate or who they baselessly accuse of murder.

A person's private life and their professional life are separate entities and it is unacceptable to raise the former in an argument about the latter. In my professional life, I am a journalist and I take that role seriously. I never publish an article for mass consumption unless it has been deeply researched and thoroughly fact-checked.

But I do not apply the same rigorous fact-checking procedures to comments written on my personal social networking accounts - and nor should I. It is absurd to claim that I am compromised in my professional life by comments made on message boards as a teenager.

More absurd is Yazmeen's decision to unnecessarily reveal my sexuality to her readers. My sexual orientation is completely and utterly irrelevant to my profession, so to publicly declare it in a below-the-belt attempt to discredit my work was beyond petty. It was downright spiteful.

The fact that Yazmeen genuinely thought her followers would see my sexuality as a character flaw of some kind - proof of my unreliability - serves only to diminish whatever faint glimmer of credibility she and her supporters may once have laid claim to. Those who take their orders from a homophobic internet bully with a propensity for racist diatribes are not worth worrying about. I shan't mourn their departure from the Charles Thomson fan club. Yazmeen is welcome to them.

What it boils down to is this: As far as these people are concerned, I am not a big enough fan - and for that, I must be punished. The smear campaign against me began several weeks ago when I made some comments during a conversation on my personal twitter page about Michael Jackson's struggles with drug and alcohol dependencies at various stages in his career.

I was bombarded with angry messages from fans insisting that Jackson had never been addicted to any substance in his life and scolding me because commenting on his alleged addictions was 'not helping Michael' and 'could prejudice Dr Murray's trial'.

Since when is it my job to ensure that everything written on my personal twitter page is 'helpful' to Michael Jackson? I'm not Jackson's spokesperson, I'm a journalist - and I wasn't even writing in a professional capacity when I made the comments. Furthermore, the idea that me writing to a paltry 250 followers on twitter is going to shift the foundations of Dr Murray's criminal trial is laughable.

Since Jackson's death his own relatives, including sister Janet, have given candid interviews in which they state that they knew Jackson had drug problems and tried repeatedly to stage interventions. That these bloggers are so self-righteous as to assume that they know more about Jackson's private life than his own family members highlights the shocking extent of their delusion.

When I cite these interviews, the bloggers say that the star's siblings have clearly been drawn into an evil conspiracy to wrongly paint their brother as an addict and destroy his reputation!

Bottom line: I don't purport to know more about Jackson's private life than his own family members, and for that reason I have become the victim of a prolonged campaign of abuse.

The 'discovery' of my controversial message board posts has riled these fans further. Many of Jackson's fans live in a bubble of denial and mandatory self-delusion. Lots of fansites censor all their news content on the basis that anything positive is true and anything negative is 'tabloid garbage'. Anything they don't want to hear is branded a lie.

A lot of Jackson's fans cannot handle any negativity whatsoever. Some fansites will even ban you for stating proven facts, such as discussing the star's stint in rehab in 1993, debating the morality of miming concerts for paying audiences, talking about his wigs or complaining that he let kids into his bedroom after the Jordy Chandler debacle.

These fans don't seem to realise that in refusing to ascribe Jackson any blame for any of the bad things that happened to him, they effectively paint him as an invalid, incapable of making any decisions for himself - everything is always somebody else's fault. Unless it's positive, at which point Jackson transforms into a shrewd businessman and all round genius. They want to have their cake and eat it and anybody who challenges their sanitised and unrealistic image of the star immediately becomes the subject of threats, abuse and character assassination.

While the majority of emails, tweets and other communication I receive from Michael Jackson's fans are friendly, supportive and complimentary, there are those - led by Yazmeen and other fanatical bloggers - who take the view that unless a person writes 100% positively about Michael Jackson at all times, they are a hater, a hypocrite or even a hired agent in Sony Music's apparent conspiracy to murder the popstar. For these people, it is all or nothing. You either believe he was 100% right all of the time, or you're an asshole.

Why must one be a raving fan in order to believe in Jackson's innocence? What does my opinion on Jackson's music have to do with my opinion on his trial? I don't have to agree with Jackson's decisions in order to recognise the ludicrousness of the case against him in 2005. I don't even have to like him. What I think of Jackson, his music, his performances or his decisions is totally irrelevant.

To call my negative comments evidence of 'hypocrisy' is patently ridiculous because I have remained entirely consistent in my attitude. I've never defended incidents like the baby dangling episode and I never will. It is entirely indefensible. So is Jackson's decision to let children into his bedroom after 1993 and, perhaps more importantly, his decision to broadcast it to the world using Martin Bashir's documentary as a mouthpiece. The list goes on and on.

Yazmeen's logic is flawed on every level. Her contention is that by writing about Jackson's innocence and at the same time not agreeing with a lot of his career decisions I am somehow contradicting myself, but there is no correlation between the two. It is perfectly legitimate to hold one opinion about one issue and a different one about another.

Yazmeen's argument is, effectively, that anybody who says they like apples but hate pears is a hypocrite.

Where is the hypocrisy? I was writing articles about Jackson's innocence all the way back in 2008 and I'm still doing it now. Whether or not I agree with Jackson's miming, find his extensive surgery aesthetically pleasing or enjoy his post-Thriller musical output has nothing to do with my thoughts on his trial, which have provably not changed.

I am growing tired of answering these delusional claims on a point by point basis. I think this will be my final blog on the subject. My detractors have already been roundly discredited, not least by their own cockamamie conspiracy theories about body doubles and Sony assassins, and anybody who continues to hang on their every word is not going to be swayed by logic or reason.

Those who choose to lend their support to paranoid fantasists with provable racist and homophobic attitudes are undesirables. I won't lose any sleep over their decision to stop supporting my work.

My final comment on the situation: That these fans are branding me a hypocrite is made all the more hilarious by their own blatant hypocrisy.

Yazmeen herself is about as changeable as they come. This article documents some of her racist outbursts on twitter. How Yazmeen can be such a vehement supporter of the biggest black popstar in history and at the same time write such horrendous racist abuse on the internet is mind-boggling.

Among other things, she calls one poster a 'smelly, cotton picking NIGGER' (her capitalisation). "Why do black people smell?" she asks in another post. "Don't you sell deodorant in the ghetto? Oh, they only know how to get to the liquor store!!!! How many babies u have?"

In another shocking comment she writes, "Answer this, DID I THROW YOU A BONE? NOO, SO WHY ARE YOU BARKING NIGGER BITCH?" Another comment says, 'Why burn coat [sic]... when you can burn niggers?"

Yazmeen squares her racist beliefs with her support of Michael Jackson as follows: "Well it's because I despise niggers...,,and before a stupid ass jumps...,Michael wasn't a nigger, he was black."

Bonnie Cox's response to Yazmeen's racist tirade: "She said some things in the heat of the attack that I would not have condoned... but she was right." Bonnie, by the way, recently claimed on her blog that Tom Sneddon was a Sony hitman, adding that my decision to hide my facebook profile after her supporters bombarded me with obscene mail is concrete proof that I am also on Sony's payroll.

The article containing Yazmeen's racist tweets also reveals how she went from claiming to be 'a billion percent sure' that Sony murdered Michael Jackson to claiming that she believed he'd actually faked his own death. It further details how she berated Jackson's fans for sending abuse to the star's family members, then began harrassing them herself.

But it's not just Yazmeen who is gunning for me. It's her barmy army of supporters; conspiracy theorists who believe that Sony murdered Michael Jackson and I am somehow involved. This group of hardcore zealots is equally hypocritical.

When Jackson was on trial his hardcore fans adopted 'innocent until proven guilty' as their mantra and repeated it until they were blue in the face. Now his doctor is on trial and they show up in their droves at each of his court hearings to scream 'murderer' at him as he walks into the courthouse. It's one rule for Michael Jackson and another rule for everybody else. Constitutional rights must be upheld when their idol is on trial, but are meaningless when somebody they don't like is put in the same situation. And the hypocrisy doesn't end there.

Jackson's hardcore fans complain ceaselessly about his unfair media treatment but at the same time have absolutely no hesitation about publishing inaccurate, libelous information all over the internet about anybody they take a dislike to, be it branding somebody a liar or a hater or outright accusing them of murder.

Jackson preached love, acceptance, understanding and charity - an ethos that his hardcore fans claim they wish to perpetuate - but they see nothing wrong with directing horrifying abuse at anybody who dares to disagree with them on any issue.

In one breath they preach 'L-O-V-E' and in the next they unleash racist tirades and death threats. Those who are now gunning for me were, a few weeks ago, spamming Jackson's shattered brother Randy - who recently suffered a mild heart attack - with shameful diatribes accusing him of looting his brother's bank accounts in order to fund an addiction to hard drugs. A message of support sent to me from a Jackson family member said they've even gone after Jackson's grieving, 80-year-old mother.

Where my attitudes towards Jackson are concerned, there is no hypocrisy to speak of. Where those attacking me in his name are concerned, there is plenty.