It would be fair to think I took a wrong turn and accidentally arrived late to Liam Neeson’s party, but the truth is, I never wanted an invitation in the first place. This blog has never been about jumping on the latest trending topics, but now the dust has settled, almost like weary detective DCI Luther, I want to reassess the crime scene and cobble together my own conclusion.
In an age where “sharing” is part of the fabric of digital pop culture, I’m always amazed that people born before the age of millennials, stumble and fall so easily. You would assume those who are a bit older would be wiser, but Liam Neeson proved that isn’t always the case.
So, for anyone who may not be aware (and I can’t imagine there are too many) in an interview for his latest film, Liam Neeson was discussing the methodology behind his acting and recalled a time when a friend told him she was raped. Liam further detailed the frustration of his feelings when he said…
“I went up and down areas with a cosh, hoping I’d be approached by somebody. I’m ashamed to say that, and I did it for maybe a week – hoping some [Neeson gestures air quotes with his fingers] ‘b***k b*****d’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could kill him.”
Perhaps there is more ethnic diversity in Northern Ireland now, but it wouldn’t have taken weeks but months to find a black/brown person over 30 years ago! The most recent statistics I could find revealed in 2011 the ethnic minority population of Northern Ireland was less than 2% of the population as a whole; of that 2% less than a quarter were black.
But I digress…
Liam Neeson realised the error of his ways when he said “It was horrible, horrible, when I think back, that I did that,” he said. “And I’ve never admitted that, and I’m saying it to a journalist. God forbid.”
Thaaaaaat’s right Liam you spoke to media journalist and US culture writer Clémence Michallon, who probably couldn’t believe how effortless it was to be given one of the most click bait-able stories of the first quarter of 2019. Ms Michallon did what any media journalist would and decided to share the conversation with an audience hungry for any content deemed controversial.
But imagine this…
Imagine, Ms Michallon decided the confessional portion of her interview served no purpose and edited it out? Digital vultures would simply circle over the carcass of another sensationalist story. In an age where we share all aspects of our lives through various digital platforms, was it not a good thing Liam Neeson was honest enough to express how he truly felt?
There are certain conversations that don’t naturally lend themselves to speaking with a journalistic stranger on a promotional film tour. Perhaps this type of conversation should have been with a family member, therapist or close friend; in a physical real-world setting where the media have no vested interest in gathering click bait.
Living in a world where “sharing” is part of the culture, it’s easy to forget there is nothing wrong with a little mystery. It’s okay to have meaningful dialogue that isn’t captured and propelled into the digital space…it’s actually okay to keep certain thoughts and/or conversations confined to a more personable, considered, confidential construct.
No matter what opinion you hold of Michael Jackson or his accusers Wade Robson and James Safechuck; is a “documentary” the best place to have an intimate conversation? Can a person heal mentally and/ or spiritually if the world knows the explicit details of (alleged) sexual acts committed against them as children?
The current of conversation should never stop flowing, I genuinely believe open dialogue will assist in changing the world. Blues musician Daryl Davis proves this to be the case, as through conversation he has influenced over two hundred Ku Klux Klan members to leave the racist organisation. There is a documentary featuring the phenomenal work of this man, however much of his conversational exchanges take place in the privacy of the real world where only Daryl and his conversational participant are involved.
If Liam Neeson told his story to a group of friends, he would be able to read the nuance of expression and be directly held accountable for his naïve state of mind, not only that, but he would be able to freely explore, reflect and attempt to understand the origins of his prejudice without any external repercussions. If James Safechuck discussed his issues in a professional context with a therapist, he would never have to deal with the uncertainty of how he might be perceived by the wider world…and would certainly never have to deal with the fact that his children (or even grandchildren) will forever have access to the explicit detail of a personal violation.
Digital social interaction is still very new to us as a human species and I have not walked down from mount Sinai with a set of 10 crack commandments. I have no idea how we regulate personal interpretation, especially because I believe in freedom of thought and expression. How much someone should share is something we can only define for ourselves but as a species we certainly need to be open to the fact that explicit conversation doesn’t always work as well with an audience of total strangers.
Until next time.