Alec Baldwin’s Self-Serving Good-Bye Letter Backfires
By Alex Panisch
Poor, poor Alec Baldwin. The media has been so mean to him, calling him out on homophobic slurs and razzing him for being a bigoted curmudgeon. As he explains in an essay that appears in this week's New York magazine, he’s being persecuted by: Anderson Cooper, GLAAD, camera phones, Rachel Maddow, and the media.
The big bad (liberal) media, which he has always been closely aligned (just ask South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone), is out to get him. Well guess what? Now we’ve up and done it, because, as he threatens, “this is the last time [he’s] going to talk about [his] personal life in an American publication ever again.”
We’ve lost our Baldwin privileges you guys, what are we gonna do now?
The gist of Baldwin’s essay is this: He’s a good guy, the media is out to get him, media culture is toxic, today’s culture is hateful and mean-spirited, and he’s the victim here. Excuse me if I don’t shed a tear.
If you want to know why Baldwin’s essay fails at everything except making him look like a self-pitying ass, you should read it—if you have the time, do it, because it is a glittering monolith of cognitive dissonance, narcissism, and privilege—but if you’re pressed for time, let me bring you up to speed.
Baldwin opens with him contacting an LGBT organization “fresh on the heels of being labeled a homophobic bigot by Andrew Sullivan, Anderson Cooper, and others in the Gay Department of Justice.” But he didn’t want to make a mea culpa though, he told "one young man" at the organization, “I don’t want to get dry-cleaned. I don’t want to be decontaminated by you, Karen Silkwood–wise, scrubbed down. I want to learn about what is hurtful speech in your community. I want to participate in some programs about that. Or underwrite one. And then, like you, I just want to be left alone.” That would be all well and good if hadn’t also referred to that "young man" as "an F-to-M tranny” a paragraph earlier.
He goes on to self-congratulate himself for his philanthropy and position himself as just another New Yorker. “New York was my town,” says Baldwin. “I’ve had people come up to me and say, “You’re a great New Yorker. You’ve given your time and money to so many New York charities. You’re a great supporter of the arts. I like some of your movies—and some of your movies suck, actually.” Alec Baldwin is New York’s No.1 citizen, according to Alec Baldwin.
New York’s darling continues by saying that he is absolutely not a homophobe. “Am I a homophobe?” he asks rhetorically. “Look, I work in show business. I am awash in gay people, as colleagues and as friends.” He talks about his marriage equality activism and officiating a gay wedding. Then he shifts gears and talks about today’s toxic media culture. He bemoans—and rightfully so—the overly aggressive and intrusive paparazzi who harass him.
Baldwin, whose essay up to this point has been rather lacking in self-awareness, takes responsibility for his words. “I’m self-aware enough to know that I am to blame for some of this,” Baldwin tells NY Mag scribe, Joe Hagan. “I definitely should not have reacted the way I did in some of these situations.” Then he goes back to throwing barbs and decrying contemporary culture.
Claiming that he never called a paparazzo a “faggot,” Baldwin asserts that this is an invention of TMZ’s Harvey Levin. He does admit to calling a TMZ pap a “’cocksucking motherfucker’ or whatever.” You know, he just called someone a homophobic slur or something, NBD. Baldwin says that this particular pap has been extremely aggressive toward him and his family and once caused his wife to slip and hurt her leg.
At this point I’d be willing to call Baldwin a narcissist with anger issues who’s probably not homophobic. Then he just digs himself in deeper as if he were trying to alienate his readers.
He talks about doing a play with Shia LeBeouf and basically getting him fired. He bewails the fact that his MSNBC talk show was adulterated by a ratings hungry network that didn’t appreciate his brilliant vision. Phil Griffin, the head of MSNBC, “didn’t care.” His wife—once again a civilian causality in his ongoing war with the media—was bullied by the press when they erroneously claimed that she was texting during James Gandolfini’s funeral.
In his anger over his wife’s being once again in the press’s crosshairs, he called a reporter a “toxic little queen” causing “Anderson Cooper, the self-appointed Jack Valenti of gay media culture,” to suggest that Baldwin should be “vilified.” Baldwin once again nails himself on the cross saying, “At the time, I didn’t view 'toxic little queen' as a homophobic statement. I didn’t realize how those words could give offense, and I’m sorry for that.”
Baldwin goes back on the offensive, claiming that TMZ’s Harvey Levin took a “muffled sound on the video” and said it was the word “faggot.” Baldwin attacks Levin’s credibility and then admits that Levin was the one who published Baldwin’s irate phone call to his daughter, in which he calls his child a “thoughtless little pig.” Back on the defensive, Baldwin laments that Anderson Coooper, GLAAD, and Andrew Sullivan came after him, “all based on what Harvey Levin told them.”
Alec digs his heels into the whole “mean ole gay mafia is after me” routine by claiming that it was Rachel Maddow who got his show canceled. After an ex-cop falsely claimed that Baldwin called him a “coon,” Baldwin lost his sponsors. “[Capital One] paid me $15 million over nearly five years. After taxes and accounting fees, I will have given all of it, $14.125 million, to charity. After the TMZ event, Capital One did not renew my contract, although it politely said the two things were unrelated.”
In the ultimate display of self-absorbtion, Baldwin says that he once had plans to run for office in the next five years, so he could be the savior of New York. “In the pyramid of decision-making in New York City politics, rich people come first, unions second, and rank-and-file New Yorkers come dead last. I wanted to change that.” He was gonna make the government more efficient so taxes would be lowered for all citizens. He was going to improve schools and turn NYC into a glittering utopia—a new city upon a hill.
He wraps up by bemoaning how New York has gone downhill, that he wants to live in L.A., “a place where you live behind a gate, you get in a car, your interaction with the public is minimal.” Worst of all, he won’t be our pretend TV pal anymore. “It’s good-bye to public life in the way that you try to communicate with an audience playfully like we’re friends, beyond the work you are actually paid for.”
So there you have it, Alec Baldwin’s good-bye letter to public life. Our response: Good riddance.