The Rant

In Defense of Alec Baldwin

Even people with disdainful dispositions who are prone to angry outbursts are entitled to a little peace as they go about their daily lives

Well! There we have it. Alec Baldwin has spoken.

It's hard to strip away the hissy-fit, airing dirty professional laundry, and the self-serving revelations of how he's been wronged and how little he deserved any of it. Despite his penchant for douchebaggery, though, he makes some very valid points. I've read a few pieces ripping him a new one for this rant, and I mostly agree with them. Since it's already been done, and done well, I'm directing my focus instead to something on which he is accurately calling bullshit.

I understand great celebrity and its attendant wealth and privilege comes at a price — it does with celebrity of any sort, but especially with acting. I even believe that it should. I'm just not sure it needs to come with a price so high.

I believe even assholes are entitled to a certain level of privacy and feeling of safety for their families. Even people with disdainful dispositions who are prone to angry outbursts are entitled to a little peace as they go about their daily lives.

I've read Baldwin's piece several times, and waded into the cesspool that is the "Comments" section. There I see people behaving every bit as disgustingly as they say Alec Baldwin has. And the commenters (ostensibly) don't have the constant drain of being surrounded and screamed at — baited — so that they will explode, pushed and bumped into on purpose, in the HOPES that they'll have some embarrassing or hateful moment recorded to be sold to TMZ. Sold to TMZ so that the world can laugh at them and feel superior, or clutch its pearls while diagnosing their neuroses.

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This is what tabloids do. This is what the paparazzi does. And we buy their products. I don't really think Alec Baldwin is a likable guy, based on what he's written in New York Magazine and his public persona. But he is a 55-year-old man who has certainly earned the right to speak his point. I have no problem with him having his say in the media he despises — even he acknowledges the irony in that. If he wants to have a fit in public, that is his right. If people want to judge his rant, that's their right, too. What bothers me is the delight we take in his failings.

I'm not convinced he didn't call a photographer a "faggot," and I doubt he didn't realize calling someone a "toxic little queen" was hurtful. I'm also not convinced, however, that those utterances (alleged and real) make him a homophobe. I think they make him a jerk — I'd rethink any friendship with someone who used terms like that, even in the heat of anger. It reflects negatively on them to think the thought, let alone say the words. But in the grand scheme of the homophobia that's sweeping the nation's legislatures in the form of attempted laws sanctioning discrimination, I'd consider Alec Baldwin's transgressions minor.

The transgressions of the tabloids and paparazzi that provoke him intentionally, on the other hand, are much greater. Can anyone make the argument with a straight face that tabloids do anything but hurt people? Would anyone defend what they do as helpful? Enlightening? Fair? Truthful? Do these magazines have anything on their agenda that isn't hateful? Do their goals come anything close to delivering real journalism? At least Alec Baldwin's body of work has been largely positive, bringing people happiness and honest work. The same can not be said of the paparazzi.

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They want to make their money with outrageous headlines, truth and circumstances be damned, and if in doing so they make it impossible for a famous person to be outside with his daughter, so be it. If they have to poke at the celebrity's raw nerves with a cattle prod, that's just fine with them. Baldwin writes, "Every time people throw this mud on me, there are very serious consequences in my life." THAT I believe. That is the single sentence in the entire piece that strikes me as most true and honest. And it seems to be completely disregarded by many of us. How is that not a cultural disgrace?

In talking about the lost relevance of even left-wing media, Alec Baldwin wrote, "If MSNBC went off the air tomorrow, what difference would it make? If the Huffington Post went out of business tomorrow, what difference would it make?" Frankly, I feel the same way about Alec Baldwin. But I don't wish he would go away; not like I wish the paparazzi and the tabloids would.