The actor and MSNBC talk show host Alec Baldwin’s anger issues are well-known at this point — no one can reasonably be surprised at his outbursts at the paparazzi who follow him or his self-serving, self-pitying interviews about his hope to leave the entertainment industry despite the fact that he hasn’t yet.
But rage is one thing. Homophobia is another. And once again, Baldwin has gone to an anti-gay slur in a moment of weakness, calling a photographer something that sounds to ears other than Baldwin’s a lot like “cocksucking faggot.” He has claimed, in now-deleted tweets, that he said “cocksucking fathead,” then went on to tweet about just how tolerant he was of gays and about his misunderstanding that “cocksucking,” directed at a man, has an anti-gay valence.
Baldwin’s most prominent critic thus far has likely been Anderson Cooper, who tweeted while reporting in the Philippines:
The two cable news personalities’ recent shared history is illustrative of just what a phony ally Baldwin is. After Baldwin dismissed his own threats against a journalist on Twitter, calling him a “toxic little queen” and noting the writer would “dig” Baldwin anally violating him “too much” as “having nothing to do with issues of anyone’s sexual orientation,” Cooper called him out as hiding behind his self-proclaimed liberalism. “If a conservative talked of beating up a ‘queen’ they would be vilified,” said Cooper. Baldwin struck back, telling Howard Stern:
Anderson Cooper has a job to do. And that job is to reinforce his credibility in the gay community after the fact that you couldn’t get him out of the closet for 10 years with a canister of tear gas. Now he’s the sheriff. Now he’s running around writing everybody a ticket!
To recap: Baldwin threatens and mocks a “queen,” and when a gay man suggests Baldwin may not be a great ally, Baldwin mocks that person’s coming-out process. At what point does this just get pathetic?
The idea that a liberal person cannot possibly be prejudiced, that one’s well-considered and thoughtful statements laboriously typed out on Twitter erase one’s statements in the heat of the moment, is what Baldwin’s trying to sell his audience, and it’s bunk. If anything, the place one goes in moments of tension — which, the question of “faggot” vs. “fathead” aside, includes the “toxic little queen” incident and racially charged mockery of black photographers — is more indicative, not less, of one’s state of mind, going as it does unmediated by publicists or thoughts of what would be good for one’s career.
Baldwin is at a precarious moment in his career; with his longtime role on “30 Rock” now in the rear-view, his MSNBC series “Up Late” is struggling in the ratings. Guests have included Keir Dullea, Debra Winger and Ellen Barkin — whether it’s Baldwin’s intention or a concession to the market for bookings, these are the sort of people who aren’t invited to do Letterman or Leno. And maybe this latest incident will be the final straw that wakes up his fans — this person isn’t just angry but filled with the strange sort of hatred that can’t be explained away.
That’s because homophobia and racism that boldly announce themselves are rare, in the public eye — no openly and proudly prejudiced person would last long as anything but a cult figure in 2013. What Baldwin does, time and again, is ask his audience whether a smart, liberal person such as himself could possibly say the horrible things he’s accused of; whether the Alec Baldwin we know from television could possibly have uttered something other than “fathead,” a quaint and almost endearing insult. Whether his fans abandon him is up to them, and frankly seems unlikely; if it hasn’t happened by now, why should it this time?
But perhaps it’s time for us to reevaluate what being a gay ally means. It doesn’t mean taking GLAAD’s advice on what the most politic thing to say is and then tweeting out what you know to be what society expects from you; we all know Baldwin can read from a script and play a character. If Baldwin expects forgiveness, he might consider trying to be a member of society each day.