Piers Morgan Calls for Accountability in Whitney Houston’s Death

One Moment in Time

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Piers Morgan has been interviewing people who were close to Whitney Houston over the past few days.  I think he was hoping they would agree with him that her close friends and the people responsible for her professionally should have protected her, and stopped her from going out to clubs and drinking.  He said the world knew she was an addict, so why didn’t anybody intervene?

He made the same point with Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse.  I understand what Piers was saying.  What kind of friend allows an addict to go to parties where suppliers of prescription drugs to celebrities hang out?  What kind of friend says to an alcoholic “here, hon, have another glass of champagne, it can’t hurt you”?

Everybody just went into total denial after Whitney’s death – she wasn’t out of it, she wasn’t drunk, she could handle the alcohol, she was just having a good time.  She wasn’t an addict, she wasn’t an alcoholic.  The same kind of drivel was trotted out when Michael Jackson died.  What is it about friends of superstars that makes them unwilling to intervene?

Do people have responsibility for others?  Ultimately I don’t think so, I think we all have to be responsible for ourselves.  But I also think that includes not enabling alcoholics and addicts.  And when you love and respect somebody is it okay to just abandon them because they’ve lost self control?  What happened to “he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother”?

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Michael Jackson and Conrad Murray Trial

Jury’s out.   I’ve watched this trial a lot and enjoyed how David Walgren has prosecuted.  He did a pretty good job and he had great witnesses.  His intelligence and the way he conducted himself was satisfying to watch.  Conrad Murray’s attorneys on the other hand were pathetic, as were their star witnesses.   They tried to bend the facts and failed miserably.

Strangely the defense’s closing was passionate and appealing.  Whereas Walgren’s was quite boring.  He’s not as good an actor as Ed Chernoff.  It would be ironic if the jury come to their verdict because of something so arbitrary as temporary charisma.  Temporary because none of the defense attorneys have had an ounce of it throughout the trial, but somehow Chernoff pulled it out of his hat in his closing.

It seems pretty obvious that Murray was horrifyingly negligent and is going to have to face the consequences of that.  But I don’t think he’s an evil man.  More likely he was a man in debt who was sucked into the orbit of a superstar who knew how to get what he wanted.  I find it hard to believe that Jackson wasn’t the one who insisted Murray give him all that Propofol.

Whatever Murray did or didn’t do, he’s been punished already – his life is in pieces, his professional credibility shot.  Whatever part Michael Jackson played in being irresponsible towards himself will probably never see the light of day.  Murray will pay for it all.  Somehow that doesn’t seem entirely fair to me.

Jackson’s family are allegedly going to take out a civil suit against Murray after this, which won’t achieve a thing because he hasn’t got any money.  He’s already a broken man. Do they want to grind him into the dust?  Plus is it likely they didn’t know their son and brother was getting massive doses of Propofol every night?  Why didn’t they intervene then?

There’s something twisted about all of this.  It seems more than a family’s grief.  I wonder if it’s what Michael Jackson would have wanted?

The Insider with Russell Crowe and Al Pacino playing Jeffrey Wigand and Lowell Bergman

I saw The Insider last night, with Russell Crowe and Al Pacino.  A brilliant film about a bone-chilling real life drama.  Crowe plays Jeffrey Wigand, a scientist who was Vice President of Research and Development with tobacco giant Brown and Williamson in the late 1980’s.  He discovered that the corporation added chemicals to enhance the addictive properties of nicotine.

When he confronted them on it they fired him.  They gave him a severance package but he had to sign a tight non-disclosure agreement.  It went against his conscience, but he had a wife and two kids to support, so he did it.  He couldn’t get another job in his field because nobody decent wanted to hire a scientist who had worked for a tobacco company.  The presumption was that he had no integrity.

Enter Lowell Bergman, producer for the CBS show 60 Minutes.  He had received a package with  documents relating to another tobacco company, and he needed somebody who translate them into layman’s terms.  Coincidentally, he called Wigand, and got curious when Wigand wouldn’t talk about his work with Brown and Williamson because he wanted to honor his non-disclosure agreement.

But the tobacco company obviously had a tail on him and they thought he was talking, so they tried to force him to sign an even tighter agreement, threatening him and has family if he refused.  It tipped the scales for him and he told Bergman he would talk.  They arranged for him to be subpoenaed to give evidence in a case against another tobacco company so he wouldn’t legally be breaking his agreement with Brown and Williamson.

Then he did an interview for 60 Minutes.  Before it was aired he received death threats against himself, his wife and his children.  He lost his home and his wife left him.  Then 60 Minutes was threatened by the tobacco giant and they decided not to air the interview.  Bergman was devastated, and so of course was Wigand.  He’d lost everything – for nothing.

Brown and Williamson is owned by BAT Industries, Pic, the second largest tobacco concern in the world.  At that point they had never lost any of the lawsuits brought against them because they had so much money and power.  But Bergman didn’t give up.  He risked his own career and leaked information about the cover-up and 60 Minutes’  betrayal of him and Wigand to the New York Times who also printed Wigand’s testimony.

Subsequently 60 Minutes aired the original interview.  Bergman left, though – after working there for 40 years – because for him the core integrity of 60 Minutes was broken.   Brown and Williamson sued Wigand of course.  But Attorney Generals of 40 States sued the tobacco industry and got a $368 billion settlement – and one of the conditions of that settlement was the dismissal of the suit against Wigand.

It’s a beautiful David and Goliath story.  Wigand was – and still is – an honest man who got caught up in the sinister machinations of corporate power and greed.  Brown and Williamson  had no compunction about trying to destroy him.  All that money, all that power, against one man and his integrity.  And integrity triumphed.  It makes you think.

Wigand taught science in school for a while, but now he lectures around the world, and is an expert witness on tobacco issues.  He also spends a lot of his time and energy on his a non-profit organization SMOKE-FREE KIDS Inc.

He’s a really great guy.  You can read about him on his website.   As for the film, it’s riveting.  It’s well written, beautifully acted and directed.  I think it’s both Russell Crowe’s and Al Pacino’s best roles.  If you’re trying to persuade somebody to give up smoking, show them this movie.

Michael Jackson’s Death and The Trial of Dr. Conrad Murray

I feel a lot of compassion for Dr. Conrad Murray, on trial for the involuntary manslaughter of Michael Jackson.  The odds are so massively stacked against him, I can’t see how justice can possibly be done.  Michael Jackson is being held up as a hero, and a fantastic father, a straightforward man, a brilliant loyal friend.

But a lot of that is just part of the myth that’s developed around him, and much of it is out and out denial.  He was a superstar who wanted what he wanted, and if he didn’t get it from somebody he got rid of them.  He was a man who was neurotically obsessed with changing his appearance.   He wasn’t a normal guy.  And he was addicted to something.  That was obvious from a recording which was used as evidence yesterday.  He was virtually comatose, his speech massively slurred.  Completely out of it.

But his family and the world want to believe that he was in great health, emotionally stable and didn’t touch drugs. With that kind of enablement it’s no wonder he lost control.  And with that strength of denial, what chance does Dr. Murray have of his side of the story even being heard?   One thing everybody said, though, was that his relationship with Jackson was very caring.  Actually, a prosecution’s witness said that!

Last night Piers Morgan interviewed some of Murray’s ex-patients, who utterly adored him and swore by him.  So it doesn’t seem that he was the kind of callous doctor who would irresponsibly administer drugs to his patient.  But he was in debt when he started working for Michael Jackson.  And he was promised a pretty good salary – $150,000 a month.  What if he too got sucked into the star’s orbit and lost his power like everybody else?  What if Jackson was already heavily addicted to this weird anesthetic Propofol, and demanded that he give provide it or he was out?  What if Dr. Murray believed that he could wean his patient of the drug and was trying to do exactly that?

As he sat, stone-faced, in the courtroom yesterday, betraying nothing, I wondered whether he was feeling bitter about how much he had cared about Jackson and tried to actually save him from himself.  Caught in a deadly web that wasn’t of his making.  Whatever the outcome of the trial, he has a difficult time ahead of him.  And let’s not forget that the celebrity here isn’t the man on trial.  It’s the victim.

That being so, it might turn out that the man on trial ends up being the bigger victim.

The Loss of Innocence and Finding My Way Back Home

Oprah’s interview of Tyler Perry was flighted here yesterday, the day after, in therapy, I opened the door into facing the loss of my innocence as a little girl, and what it did to me.  I was talking about how things were clear for me at one point in my life but they’ve become so muddied, I’ve become so confused right deep down in the core of me, and I have to fight so hard for clarity.

It seemed there was a time when I had clear vision.  The image came up of me standing in a field; the sky was blue and I could see forever.  There was nobody around, not one other person in the whole world.  Then there was another part of me running in the dark, stumbling, terrified.  Pursued.  I can’t see my way.  My vision doesn’t work.

When did it become dark?  I didn’t know.  I sat, scrolling through my memory, scanning for that moment.  I started to get a sensation in my mouth which I remember having in my early teens, although I can’t remember when it started.  It would happen when I was going to sleep.  My tongue would start to feel as though it was swelling and it would just get bigger and bigger.  In my mind I could see a white kind of picket fence, quite high and something spilling over it, overwhelming me.  Disgusting.

If I opened my eyes and forced myself awake, the horror would fade.  But as soon as I succumbed to the desire to sleep it would start again.  I had it for years.  Eventually it faded, but I started having nocturnal epilepsy.

That sensation started happening in therapy yesterday, but I still couldn’t find that time when my vision became unclear and things got dark.  All I knew was that it had something to do with sex.  My therapist said it sounded like the loss of innocence. Time stopped for me for a while.

When you get abused in childhood you’re never the same again.  Life gets very confusing.  Nothing is safe.  It’s dark inside your world. There’s no place to go, no person to turn to.  Yesterday Tyler Perry talked about how he would find this park in his head where kids were playing, happy and safe, loved.  He would go there when his father abused him.

I realized, the image I had of that place where my vision is clear isn’t before I lost my innocence, it’s the place I went to after I lost it, like Tyler’s park.  Trying to describe what it was like for him as a child, Tyler said: something in you dies.   I think it’s rather that the spirit of the innocent child goes into a place you can’t reach.

When you dissociate, you move into your teens and early adulthood absolutely lost.  Acting out, taking drugs, stealing, being promiscuous.  Lashing out at society or people or yourself.  Hell-bent on destruction, seeking a way to escape the pain of acknowledging that your innocence is lost and your spirit is in a coma.

But miraculously it calls out to you constantly, and slowly you start to hear.  You begin to find your way back to it, because it’s the core of who you are.  It’s a rough journey and a long one.  Trying to make sense of the confusion, learning how and who to trust, how to forgive yourself, how to rebuild the foundation of your life and develop a core capacity to self-protect so that it never happens again.

When Oprah asked Tyler what he would say now to the innocent child that he was, his reply was that he’d do the best he could with his life to honor the child and what he went through.   I say to the child in me.  I hear you, it’s safe to come out of hiding.  You didn’t got through that for nothing.  I’ll never let myself be abused again.  Like Tyler, I’ll spend the rest of my life doing the best I can with what I’ve got, embracing life in a safe way. I honor the dreams you had and I’ll do what I can to make them a reality. 

A Rabid Public Appetite for Gore and Tragedy?

It’s ironic.  Given all the fear-mongering that’s been done around Muslim fundamentalists, a man who’s been influenced by it all and hates non-whites and Muslims has chosen to use Muslim fundamentalist means to get his message across.

And it continues to be a relief to see how Norway is dealing with their tragedy, refusing to let the psychopath have a public platform.  What a disappointment it must be to him to be confined and denied celebrity status.

The general sanity of the Norwegians in charge of the investigation and trying him has been like a balm on what’s become an open, festering global wound.  The pleasure so much of the general public takes in the worst kind of disasters.

I wish the news channels would take their brief from the Norwegians.   But every time I switch on the news, there’s the murderer’s damn photograph.  Everybody milking it for maximum ratings, newspapers splashing it over the front page with hugely dramatic headlines for maximum readership.

Are the majority of people around the world enjoying this in some kind of sick way, is it just food for a rabid public appetite engorging itself on horror, needing ever increasing gore and tragedy?

Are our lives so boring?  Why doesn’t everybody just go to the movies?

Imagine if readers and viewers said en masse we don’t want to see his picture any more, or see any more intrusion into the survivors’ suffering.   We want only to see the deepest respect shown to them, and to know that the legal system will take care of putting this man where he can’t hurt anybody again.

And imagine if the news channels and newspapers said even if you want to see his photo and you bay for bloodlust headlines we won’t give them to you.  We won’t pander to your addiction and we won’t let this man and what he’s done reach celebrity status.

And pigs might fly.

R.I.P. Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse.  Such a beautiful young girl with such an outrageously gorgeous voice.  When she started out she had an inner grace and poise that was moving, striking.  She was centered.  She looked so strong.

What happened?  I guess she wasn’t strong enough after all.  One thing I know.  We all have to take responsibility for what we do with our lives and how we respond to pressure, but those who put temptation in front of vulnerable souls – drug manufacturers and dealers – should be torn apart by wild dogs.

R.I.P. Amy.  The cloak of darkness which hid your gorgeous spirit has fallen away and your beauty will live forever.