I HADN’T planned on watching Leaving Neverland, the four-hour Channel Four documentary laying out the allegations of sex abuse against Michael Jackson.

Like most people, I ‘d been aware of the questions (not to mention the grim jokes) around the so-called King of Pop’s behaviour towards children for more than 20 years, but reckon I probably filed them away under “celebrity weirdos” just as so many of us managed to do for so long with Jimmy Savile.

After watching the testimony of the two men at the centre of the film, however, I can now see that this unforgivably glib reaction to the allegations, no doubt shared by many millions around the world, has been a contributory factor in how they and others were able to get away with such abuse. And that makes me feel thoroughly ashamed.

This shocking and harrowing film highlights yet again not only how we allow - arguably encourage - celebrities to commit abuse in plain sight and with impunity, but also how we still insist on blaming the victims when they confront us with the truth.

The allegations themselves are too disturbing to air in full here. Suffice to say the detail with which James Safechuck and Wade Robson separately outline how they were first befriended, then sexually and emotionally abused by Jackson from the age of seven, is chilling and convincing. Jackson groomed the parents as well as the boys, of course, dazzling those who should have known better with his talent, wealth and celebrity, hypnotising them out of their parental instincts. This horrible pattern then moved to rejection as each boy was inevitably ousted in Jackson’s affections by a younger lad, left confused, jealous and ashamed, blaming themselves for everything. They grew from hurt boys into fragile and depressed young men who, like so many abused children, buried what had happened deep inside and struggled to find peace.

One of the most affecting elements of the film is the human drama around the disintegration of the Safechuck and Robson families over the years. As is often the story for victims of abuse, neither of the boys say they were able to confront the truth about what had happened to them until they had children of their own and, not surprisingly, neither can forgive their mother for failing to protect them. They and their families have been ripped apart by pain and betrayal; even now things are out in the open there can be no happy endings.

Shocking as this film undoubtedly was, it all seemed so similar and familiar to the Savile case, not to mention the testimonies of children abused by priests in the Catholic church. Society has accepted for at least a decade that the rich and powerful have been allowed to abuse the poor and vulnerable in plain sight.

And yet if the reaction to this latest film is anything to go by we are still stubbornly refusing to ask the right questions and learn the sort of lessons that might prevent this type of abuse happening in future.

It was perhaps predictable that Jackson’s family and estate – a powerful business that has much to lose from a sudden demise in his popularity - would deny and rubbish the allegations, while accusing the victims of being liars and gold diggers. Jackson himself always denied the long list of allegations against him. It’s also ironic, of course, that the superstar’s family was in many ways responsible for robbing Jackson of a proper childhood, perhaps feeding into his cruel ability to rob other young people of theirs.

But the way his army of fans has mobilised to attack Mr Safechuck and Mr Robson with such vitriol – often without viewing the film - is thoroughly alarming. I get that it’s unpleasant to find out your hero is really a villain. I get that the nature of Jackson’s talent, fame and persona gave him a strange and godlike place in people’s affections. But therein lies the rub. Seeing grown men and women shouting abuse at sex abuse victims in the name of someone they never met (unlike Mr Safechuck and Mr Robson, unhappily for them,) is sickening; personality cults, the slavish worshipping of any person, cause or ideology should worry all of us.

We should also worry when much of the media response revolves around contemplating whether radio stations should continue to play Jackson’s music, rather than examining how the celebrity culture it created is partially responsible for allowing the type of abuse alleged in the film to go on unchecked - even in full view - for so long.

We did the same thing after Savile, putting too much energy into airbrushing him out of Top of the Pops rather than getting to the bottom of how and why he was given so much access to and power over children.

Yes, abusers are the bad people here and it is they who should take responsibility for their crimes and be punished in a court of law.

But as the Jackson and Savile cases highlight, as well as the continuing scandal of abuse in the Catholic church, while we worship and excuse celebrity and power, we let children down. Until that changes society must take its share of blame.