When the media describe a man with more than 40 arrests as a “beloved street performer” who “enjoyed making people happy,” you can bet they’re trying to sell you a narrative. So it went with the story of Jordan Neely, the man who died of strangulation after being subdued by several fellow passengers on the New York City subway last week.
Neely had a lengthy history of criminality and mental illness. In 2015, he was caught trying to drag a 7-year-old girl down the street, resulting in a four-month jail sentence for attempted kidnapping. In 2021, he punched a 67-year-old woman exiting the subway, breaking her nose.
However the news media found Neely’s odious history to be far less compelling than the fact that he was black, and therefore automatically a poor victim according to their warped interpretation of morality. And so they dug through his past for something they could spin, until at last they found something workable: between his more than 40 other run-ins with law enforcement over the past decade, he also sometimes panhandled while dressed as Michael Jackson.
Thus was born the legend of Jordan Neely, the widely beloved Michael Jackson impersonator who enthralled subway passengers with his immense talent and charm. This media-made Neely may have had a couple of unfortunate brushes with the law here and there, but he was, at his core, a ray of sunshine who brought joy to the world through the language of dance.
If you think that’s an exaggeration, watch this video below. And as you watch it, remember that we’re talking about a violent felon who tried to kidnap a little girl and punched an elderly woman in the face.