Press Charges Against Alec Baldwin

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A reader quotes me:

“It was one of the purest expressions of violent homophobia you can have.” No, it really wasn’t.  It was someone who was (rightfully) upset lashing out in a homophobic way.  That’s wholly different than someone beating a guy up for something like “looking like a fag”, for example, which is much more of a pure expression of violent homophobia.

“But you just fucking did – in your own words.” No, he didn’t. He didn’t “advocate violence against someone being gay”; he advocated violence against someone who happened to be gay. There’s obviously a difference there.

The fact that his gayness wasn’t the source of the vitriol makes this a different kind of offense.  It’s still offensive, to be sure, and probably reveals a bit how he really feels about gay people (or at least how callous he is about insults rooted in homosexuality), all his work with GLAAD notwithstanding. But it’s really not the same thing as attacking someone because of their sexual orientation.

The fact that he didn’t need to deploy homophobic threats proves just how meretricious they were. They were designed precisely to add homophobic insult to threatened injury. That must account for the vast majority of homophobic slurs: used not to begin with in some fracas but because they can be deployed subsequently to put another human being in his place. So Baldwin is cut off on the road; and he sees an HRC sticker on the bumper of the car and screams: “I’m gonna find you, you toxic little queen, and I’m gonna fuck … you … up. I’d put my foot up your fucking ass, but I’m sure you’d dig it too much.” And then proceeds to follow the dude and intimidate him. That isn’t homophobia? Except in this case, it’s worse. He knew the target was gay, and threatened to beat him up, and urged others – up to a million others who follow his tweets – to beat him up.

Why, I wonder, has Baldwin not been arrested? In my view, George Stark should press charges. Bigoted bullies like Baldwin need to know that their stardom (and their “liberal” past) does not excuse this. Kids are brutalized by this kind of language every day; they commit suicide because of this kind of language; others are killed by those who share Baldwin’s homophobic rage. And yet he still hasn’t apologized to the gay community for inciting gay-bashing.

The reason he escapes censure is because of liberal bias, which, when it defends homophobic violence, is particularly repellent. GLAAD is such a useless irrelevance you can overlook it. But check out Hilary Rosen, a prominent lesbian in Washington, all but giving Baldwin a pass:

What he said was disgusting. But I think he has a deeper reservoir of good will among folks because he’s been a progressive ally and fighter for progressive causes for years, and that’s the genuine side of him.

Fuck that. If he had used the n-word and threatened to lynch a black dude, would anyone doubt his career should be over? And yet gays and lesbians are defending him. How many African-Americans are coming to the defense of Paula Deen? Let’s rephrase his tweet in terms of, say, African Americans and see how it comes across:

I’m gonna find you, you toxic little spear-chucker, and I’m gonna fuck … you … up. I’d lynch your sorry-ass, but I’m sure you’d dig it too much.

Would Baldwin decide that this was merely “ill-advised”? Would African-American leaders vouch for his bona fides? These are the same craven liberals for whom Bill Clinton could sexually harass and assault any woman, and they’d look the other way. Another reader:

Not to defend Alec Baldwin, but there is a hysterical element to the uproar over these utterances that has lost all sense of perspective.

It is natural, when the Muse of Vituperation strikes, to use any available attributes of the person with whom one is irate as part of the denigration, whatever one’s feelings about the class of persons to which the object of the rant belongs. This may be viewed by others as homophobia, anti-Semitism, racial prejudice, or another kind of xenophobia, but it really proves nothing of the kind, unless you define those feelings so broadly as to convict almost everyone of them. At that point, the term “homophobia” becomes meaningless, mere inflammatory rhetoric, like calling Paula Deen a racist because she admitted in a court deposition that she used the “N-word” once or twice some decades back under provocation, bless her little pea-picking heart. Not to defend her, either – I can’t stand her, but that whole thing has become a witch-hunt, and now it looks like you’re trying to gin one up against Alec Baldwin.

Of course someone like Alec Baldwin is going to use terms like “toxic little queen” ranting at someone gay (or who he thinks if gay) with whom he’s so angry – he once famously called his own daughter a “pig”, for crying out loud. The insults are personal, not evidence of bias against a class of persons. Baldwin should have kept them private, instead of tweeting them. The way he used this language makes him an angry buffoon, but not a homophobe. I’d have probably called the guy a fucking little faggot, if I’d been in his shoes – but I wouldn’t have tweeted it.

For the record, I am openly gay, with a partner of 39 years. My dealings with individuals different from me are above reproach, but I wouldn’t want to be held to public scrutiny over what I’ve said about the @#$%! who cut me off in traffic talking on their fucking cell phones.

In other words: there are plenty of things we feel, but we don’t say them out loud, and we don’t tweet them. And we don’t tweet encouraging a mob to “straighten” another person out. Baldwin did all the above. Another:

I don’t think your comparison with Mel Gibson is entirely apt. Gibson had a history of anti-Semitic statements (some of them relating to his father, a notorious Holocaust denier) that preceded his drunken altercation with the “Jew” cop. Calling the cop a Jew was confirmation of what people already suspected of him. Baldwin, for all his history of mouthing off to people (including his own daughter), hasn’t had a history of making homophobic slurs (at least not to my knowledge). So this incident does not confirm what many people already suspect about him (other than that he has anger management issues).

Nevertheless, at least for me, the threats of violence are so specifically related to homosexual stereotypes, and so graphic, that I think I’m done with him. And I say that as someone who has been a fan for years. Not only that, I once met him on an airplane when he saved me from being hit by my suitcase falling out of the overhead bin. In addition to being quick to catch the suitcase, he was charming and humble. Or so it seemed.

The thing for him to do is acknowledge it and profusely apologize. Lots of liberal-thinking folks, especially baby boomers, find out that they’re still carrying around buried bits of racism, sexism or homophobia embedded during their childhoods. But he hasn’t apologized, which is troubling in and of itself. Okay, sure, he was mad because his wife was insulted. But he’s had time to cool down and come to his senses and see how ugly his tweets were.

How do we know if this man isn’t routinely given to this kind of homophobia? These things do not come out of nowhere. Another has the right idea:

You know, I never understand why celebrities (or most other people, it seems) in situations like this don’t just cop to it. What would be so awful about saying:

Yeah, that was homophobic of me” or “Yes, that was racist” or sexist or transphobic or whatever? “Yes, that was homophobic of me. I’ve done a lot of work supporting the gay and lesbian community over the years, and I’m proud of it, but the truth is, I’ve lived in a society where homophobia was the norm for a long time, and as you’ve seen, I’ve obviously internalized some of that. That’s not good. I’m sorry for what I said. I should never have said it, and I need to do some serious self-examination to ensure I don’t make such an awful mistake again. If there are people out there who have gone through a similar experience – both gay people and their straight allies – I hope you’ll please help me figure out what I can do to make the situation better. In the meantime, I hope the past work I’ve done supporting gay friends and strangers serves as evidence that I am not irredeemable and that my heart has often been in the right place. That does not excuse this incident or the words I used – I want to be clear about that. Again, I am sorry, and I ask for your help and support in becoming a less prejudiced person, and I aim to demonstrate over time that I’m worthy of your forgiveness.

I just don’t get the whole “Of course I’m not homophobic / racist / sexist / whatever” mindset. I suppose it’s just ego, and I know it infects even people who aren’t famous. But the truth is, we’re all at least one or two of those things to a degree. That’s why they’re such a problem – because they’re pervasive and affect us in ways we’re often not entirely conscious of. Maybe celebrities copping to it would just lead to a trend where people admit being prejudiced and then don’t change. But I’m guessing not. And I think the admission of it would serve as a reminder of how deeply these pernicious forces run in our culture (which would help us root them out) and of the fact that we’re all human and imperfect (which would take the steam out of overly p.c., sanctimonious finger-waggers).

In any case, something needs to change. As it stands, our cultural conversation is frequently much more about not getting caught (or doing damage control if you are caught) than it is about seriously addressing the thinking that leads to people like Alec Baldwin saying horrible things.

It would be good for Mr Baldwin to begin that conversation, starting with a full apology.