Looking back at Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal as an adult, one can imagine numerous meanings in the song.On the one hand, one might think it was a patristic, male-centered glorification of violence against women; complete with the macho mafia-inspired pinstripe aesthetic and tommy guns.
On the other hand, one could also see it as a tongue-in-cheek indictment of the above, soaking in over-the-top self-delusion (Annie are you okay? just before describing her murder).
Of course both views are bullshit; Jackson explained in his autobiography Moonwalker that it was simply a groove that he was "into at the time." No reasonable person would take either of those two points of view seriously.
Now imagine that Smooth Criminal was released way back in 1817 and that the original Moonwalker text was lost to time. That fans had simply been copying copies of copies of it by hand for two hundred years, each successive generation mutated and corrupted and previous generations lost to the ages.Now imagine entire cultures arising and modeling their world views around Smooth Criminal. The original explanation being lost, do those first two opinions on the song have more or less validity in 2017? How seriously would you take them now? What would two centuries of inaccurate re-writing have turned Moonwalker into? Perhaps competing texts, each incorporating subtle changes supporting their own point of view?
Would any of this seem to you, a fan, worth ostracizing opponents of your pet theory? Sacrificing your own rational thought and free inquiry in exchange for resting secure in the knowledge that YOUR take on Smooth Criminal is the correct one? Invading Neverland Ranch to displace some johnny-come-lately belief system preaching that the song was really about criminals who shave and are therefore "smooth" ...
Even though those opinions are completely contrived and have no basis in Jackson's intent when writing the song ...This is how I see religious conflict in Western civilization. All of it.