As the Michael Jackson child abuse case trundles on it is coming to resemble pure panto, and for the time being at least, it looks as though Jacko is going to get off.
This week cute-child-turned-weird-adult MacCauley Culkin took the stand, unequivocally stating that Jacko is not a child abuser, and that he had never experienced anything dodgy during his visits to Neverland. (Of course, an adult who refuses to abandon childhood is inherently dodgy, but if that's considered an offence, then Jeanette Kranky and Timmy Mallet had better watch out.)
Many people take the view that there's no smoke without fire, and therefore Jacko is guilty. And frankly something weird has obviously been going on. Jacko is unquestionably an incredibly strange individual - and not just his bizarro child parties at Neverland. There's the way he treats his own children - making them wear disguises, etc. - which borders on abuse, but not of the sexual variety.
Jacko is also a case study in what happens when a celebrity has enormous wealth and is surrounded by fawning acolytes - you start to believe that your own bizarre whims and desires are normal. Frankly, if Adam Clayton announced that he wanted to raise his own personal army of tiny robots, we wouldn't be too surprised.
And then of course there's the plastic surgery. Exactly why celebs believe that extensive plastic surgery makes them look better is unclear. Jacko, Mickey Rourke, David Gest and countless others should realise by now that plastic surgery actually makes you look worse. It may get rid of a few wrinkles, but at the expense of making your face look like a plastic mask that's been welded on with a blow torch.
Weird Jacko may be, but being weird isn't a crime. And what really undermines the case for the prosecution are the incredible sums of money being offered to anyone - child visitors to Neverland, cleaners, valets, dogsbodies - who can come up with the dirt on Jacko.
The average cleaner doesn't get paid much, even in Neverland. Yet TV stations, newspapers and magazines are offering hundreds of thousands of dollars to anyone with an incriminating story about Jackson. Imagine if you were placed in that position: $10,000 a year to clean toilets, for ever, or $500,000 to say you saw Jackson wanking over Sesame Street. You wouldn't have to be a
particularly bad or greedy person to be tempted...
There's also the fact that there are some odd people out there. What many fail to realise is that a large proportion of liars don't need even a financial incentive to lie. They do it because they're just plain weird. You can meet them in the pub - the lone weirdo alcoholic who claims they used to know Little Richard, or someone equally unlikely - or just dip into some accounts of alien abduction. There's obviously potential to make money (and, in a weird way, fame) out of claiming you've been abducted by aliens, but the striking thing about such accounts is that some people seem to lie for no obvious reason.
The idea of being vilified by people with financial or simply weird motives is actually quite terrifying. Imagine it happened to you or us. A legion of people would come crawling out of the woodwork: embittered ex-partners, people you knew at school but lost touch with, ex-colleagues who barely knew you, probably even your own relatives. Frankly, we've known people who'd dob us in
as dipsomaniac paedophile Satanists with an interest in cannibalism if it meant they got interviewed by London Tonight.
Jacko may be guilty, but we may also have to accept that we'll never really know the truth. And what's rather distasteful is that the Jackson case has turned into a total media circus by now, and the original point - that children may have been abused - seems to have become secondary to collective swooning at
In a way, this is more disturbing than anything else. Many, many people have collaborated in the whole abnormal project that is Michael Jackson's life, not least the parents of the kids who went to Neverland. It seems that now more than ever, there are too many people who believe that the most important thing in the world is being famous - and that risking your kids ending up in a three-header with Wacko Jacko and Bubbles is entirely normal.
Because he's famous.