No, Alec Baldwin is Not a Bigot


Update: Coates responds here, and Sullivan here. My follow-up here.

Alec Baldwin is a talented actor who also happens to be extremely intelligent, verbally dexterous, and politically active on the left. And he has a history of getting in trouble for very public (or publicized) displays of anger, once leaving a rant on his 11-year-old daughter’s voicemail in which he called her a “rude, thoughtless little pig.” More recently, he’s been blowing up at the swarms of paparazzi that seem to spontaneously generate in his presence at the mere prospect of feeding on his anger. As his outbursts have escalated, Baldwin has gotten himself into increasing levels of trouble for violating current speech codes. For calling a photographer a “cocksucking fag” in a blowup caught on video, and another journalist a “fucking little bitch” and “toxic queen” on twitter, Baldwin has been roundly condemned as a “bigot” and “homophobe,” despite the fact that he has been a vocal supporter of gay rights.

In making these condemnations, several highly-interested observers have advanced the thesis that Baldwin ought to be judged not by his position on gay rights but by the profane insults he hurls during fits of rage. To Andrew Sullivan, these outbursts "reveal who he actually is" – which is to say a homophobic bigot who has "no right to pretend in any way to be a tolerant liberal ...." Similarly, Ta-Nehesi Coates seems to infer that Baldwin does not believe that "LGBTQ human beings are equal," whatever his purported views on gay marriage. According to Coates, Baldwin must have some self-interested motive, amounting to the sentiment "let them fags marry" even though "I don't like you."

These condemnations are grounded in a number of highly implausible theses that amount to a very flimsy moral psychology. The first is the extremely inhumane idea that we ought to make global judgments about people's characters based on their worst moments, when they are least in control of themselves: that what people do or say when they’re most angry or incited reveals a kind of essential truth about them. The second is that we are to condemn human beings merely for having certain impulses, regardless of their behaviors and beliefs. The third is that people’s darkest and most irrational thoughts and feelings trump their considered beliefs: Baldwin can’t possibly really believe in gay rights, according to Coates, if he has any negative feelings about homosexuality whatsoever. The fourth, implied premise here – one that comes out in the comical comments section following Coates’ post – is that we are to take no account whatsoever of the possibility of psychological conflict. We refuse to allow ourselves to imagine that a single human being might have a whole host of conflicted thoughts and feelings about homosexuality: that they might be both attracted to it and repelled by it. That they might associate it with weakness and submission on the one hand, and on the other with the strength and courage required to face discrimination and disapproval. That they might be personally repelled by homosexuality yet be ashamed of that feeling, and meanwhile an ardent supporter of gay rights. They might have all of these feelings, incidentally, while themselves being gay. These sorts of mixed emotions – not merely about homosexuality, but about everything – are in fact the psychological norm. Our impulses are often at war with each other and with our considered beliefs: we do not have shiny, neatly-structured spirits in which our rational and irrational natures happily collaborate.

The psychological norm also includes having all sorts of darker feelings – including violent impulses – that would get us in trouble if we were to act on them. The neat trick of civilization is that it prevents most of us from acting on our more destructive impulses, most of the time. When we’re not simply repressing them or gratifying them in fantasy, we’re sublimating them: into words, into work, and even into love. Meanwhile, we do not condemn people merely for having unsavory impulses, even murderous ones. We can be fairly certain that Baldwin wanted at some level to kill (as would have I) the harasser that he instead insulted (insulting people is itself a form of sublimation, albeit not a very advanced one). Yet no one bandies about the term “murderophilia,” or make the absurd claim that someone’s having murderous impulses must discredit their avowed belief that murder is wrong.

It is just as ludicrous to condemn people for being afraid of or repulsed by homosexuality as it is to condemn them for having violent impulses. Freud thought that homophobia and same sex attraction (which is not the same thing as homosexuality per se) were universal and mutually implicating (a man, for instance, might be both repelled by and fascinated by homosexuality because he associates it with the both terrifying and thrilling prospect of submitting and being penetrated). Whether or not you like such associations or agree with Freud, you cannot condemn people merely for being afraid of something, or for having certain feelings or associations: what counts are their considered thoughts and behaviors. The bigot who gets on TV to tell you that homosexuality ought to be against the law does not belong in the same category as a vocal advocate of gay rights who has not purified himself entirely of negative feelings about homosexuality. Homophobic feelings are no more of a choice than homosexuality itself.

Further, such condemnations are entirely counterproductive, psychologically and politically. Sublimation is a good strategy for dealing with destructive impulses. But complete repression is the worst possible strategy, one that will make a person or a society (not to mention its public discourse) sick. The worst thing we can do is to pretend that we have purified ourselves of our darker impulses: that we don’t have a violent bone in our bodies; that we harbor no ill-will toward humanity and are entirely free of misanthropy in general; and that we are free of more specific misanthropies predicated on our differences with humanity’s various sub-anthropies – that we harbor no misogyny, no misandry, no racism, and no homophobia. This is a self-deception, one predicated on a misanthropy that is more virulent and dehumanizing for its remaining unacknowledged: it allows us to say it is only they and them who have such feelings; only those bastards over there – those racists, those misogynists, those homophobes, those bigots. Not me, the tolerant one. The habit of outing and angrily condemning bigots is motivated by precisely the same impulse as bigotry itself: to identify a segment of humanity that we can justifiably revile – if not for their race or sexual proclivities, for their racism or homophobia.

None of this is to argue that Baldwin doesn’t deserve a certain amount of censure for his blow-ups, because these fall into the category of quasi-action rather than the realm of mere thought and feeling. He deserves just the amount of censure that we typically accord to people who, in fits of anger, level profane epithets and threats at others, no matter how badly they’ve been provoked; and an added measure of censure for using language that many will see as degrading to a particular group. But that’s where the censure ought to end: there is absolutely no evidence that Baldwin’s use of certain words makes him a “bigot” in spite of his longstanding public support of gay rights.

And while I’ve speculated on the universality of homophobia, I doubt that someone’s profane outbursts very often tell us much about their personal feelings toward the images that underlie profane metaphors. Indeed, profanity is highly metaphorical: when I say “shit” as I stub my toe, I do not think of feces; nor could you expect coprophiliacs not to use the word “shit” in negative contexts. When I call someone a “motherfucker,” I am very unlikely to conjure up, in either of us, an actual image of incest; nor with “cocksucker,” an image of felatio. Profanity is highly metaphorical in the sense that it often swaps out meanings entirely for pure expressions of negative emotion. These are words that one habitually uses to express certain emotions in certain situations, and in many cases their literal meanings are vestigial and irrelevant. It is entirely legitimate to say of such words, “they offend me, because I cannot but pay attention to their original meaning, however much you might have forgotten it.” But it is entirely illegitimate – and extraordinarily dishonest – to conclude that a user of such words has their original meanings in mind, when we know they very often do not.

Some slurs are different, of course, and are more obviously meant to insult a particular person by way of disparaging a larger group. But it is still very difficult even in these cases to say anything about a person’s actual values from their use of certain insults or slurs. That’s because the nature of profane insults is that they are designed to be … insulting to others. Which is to say, they are predicated not on my values, but on what I believe to be the values of my target. You insult my mother not because you actually have any beliefs or feelings about my mother, but because you assume I love her and want to irritate me. You call me a “fag,” regardless of your feelings about homosexuality, because you assume it will enrage me (for a potential variety of conflicting reasons). You can say that such manipulative use of these words reflects a certain insensitivity to the sensibilities of the disparaged groups in question; and again, it is legitimate to object to their use on the grounds that they offend; but the notion that every time I take offense, the cause of this offense must be someone else’s outright bigotry, is to indulge a persecutory delusion.

There is much talk recently about the role of reading literature in facilitating empathy. I think this puts the case too generally: one of literature's great virtues is that it can be adequate to human complexity in a way that we often do not have the time or the courage to be. The person who hurts us is, to us, regularly just another asshole: if we were to understand what makes them tick, and why they do what they do, we’d both hurt less and have a chance of being helpful to them and ourselves. That’s an especially important trick to know when dealing with those we count as friends and family, because we cannot simply hit them with words like “bigot” and then run away from them every time they offend us, unless we want to be lonely Our political discourse would be transformed, enormously amplified, if it were to be infected by just a drop of the same spirit. Baldwin has a much better excuse for his outburst than Sullivan and Coates do for theirs: his is a bit of profanity, issued in anger and meant for a specific target. Theirs are attempts at reflection, meant for public consumption, and fail because their authors cannot disengage themselves from their initial emotional response (in the same way conflicted homophobes, for example, might disengage themselves from their aversion to homosexuality when arguing in favor of gay rights). I enjoy (and will continue to enjoy) the thoughts of Sullivan and Coates on various subjects; but they also deserve the appropriate measure of censure, when their posts degenerate into the mere transcription of un-reflected outrage that characterizes so much of today’s public discourse.

The final irony here is that the open season on Alec Baldwin is predicated in part on the fact that he belongs to a certain group whom many have no qualms making the objects of their dehumanizing impulses. You might object to a friend’s use of the word “fag” in an angry outburst. But you’d have to be remarkably harsh and punitive to immediately end your friendship with him, demand that his employer fire him, and ask the whole world to join you in condemning and ostracizing him. But this is precisely the sort of madness to which some think they are entitled in relation to celebrities: they must repay us our adoration by serving as facile objects of our unforgiving ire. Sullivan and Coates are not even capable of thinking coherently about Baldwin as a complex human being with conflicting impulses and thoughts, a constellation of better and worse qualities. In fact, Coates’ absurd speculation that Baldwin must secretly detest gay people while supporting gay rights out of some sort of cynical self-interest is frankly paranoid – the psychological version of a conspiracy theory. If you want to understand our relation to celebrity, one that is often legitimately psychotic, you could hardly do better than to wrap your head around the significance of the paranoid-schizoid position and splitting.

So when Baldwin claims that the “country's obsession with the private lives of famous people is tragic,” he really captures the essence both of the ongoing harassment of him by tabloid journalists and the condemnation of him by the internet’s self-righteous scolds. The behavior of paparazzi has actual consequences, and actually screws up the lives of real human beings: celebrities are not of the same stuff as the fantasies they facilitate. If someone were to torture you in this way, you might go a little mad. But by all means, make sure that when you do have a temporary fit of insanity, you bowdlerize your profanity for public consumption: because this moment – despite our never having met you, much less having been subjected to the innumerable facets that compose your character – will tell us precisely who you “really” are.

And remember: we’ll be making this remarkably inhumane judgment only because we care, ever so deeply, about humanity, and about the harm you’re doing to it with whatever words you utter in the fit of agony created by our own incessant prodding. 

-- Wes Alwan


  1. Profile photo of Geoff Edwards says

    Thanks Wes.

    I am reminded of a passage from Nietzsche:

    The most Ancient Moral Judgments.—What attitude do we assume towards the acts of our neighbour?—In the first place, we consider how they may benefit ourselves—we see them only in this light. It is this effect which we regard as the intention of the acts,—and in the end we come to look upon these intentions of our neighbour as permanent qualities in him, and we call him, for example, “a dangerous man.” Triple error! Triple and most ancient mistake!

    Daybreak 102.

  2. Profile photo of Wayne Schroeder says

    Speaking of Nietzsche, see Section 13, Geneaology of Morality (and then join us on this topic in the Not For School group at

    “Let us be otherwise than evil [like Alec Baldwin], namely, good! and good is every one who does not oppress, who hurts no one, who does not attack, who does not pay back, who hands over revenge to God, who holds himself, as we do, in hiding; who goes out of the way of evil, and demands, in short, little from life; like ourselves the patient, the meek, the just,” [you and I]”

    “—yet all this, in its cold and unprejudiced interpretation, means nothing more than “once for all, the weak are weak; it is good to do nothing for which we are not strong enough“; but this dismal state of affairs, this prudence of the lowest order, which even insects possess (which in a great danger are fain to sham death so as to avoid doing “too much”), has, thanks to the counterfeiting and self-deception of weakness, come to masquerade in the pomp of an ascetic, mute, and expectant virtue, just as though the very weakness of the weak—that is, forsooth, its being, its working, its whole unique inevitable inseparable reality—were a voluntary result, something wished, chosen, a deed, an act of merit.”

    Yes, we good, we patient, we humble, we just, we free to be called good and virtuous, [we not Alec Baldwins] the courteousness of “as you please,” and the backbone of insects, the crescendo of such individual wonderfulness and sublime merit–how great are we?

    You know we have no resentment, no suppressed hatred, no revenge, no pity, just goodness :)

  3. C. M. Frederick says

    I think it is also important to note that Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Coates are also celebrities of a sort with a brand and agenda behind the calculated words with which they write about Mr. Baldwin. As you rightly observe, Mr. Baldwin reflexively uses words to “hurt” someone that he perceives is harming him at that moment. Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Coates are reflectively WRITING words as opposed to ejauculating pejorative utterances. Mr. Baldwin had an audience of one, i.e. the journalist harassing him. Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Coates have an audience of many, a demographic, to which they SELL their words. Thank you for calling them out.

  4. Andy M says

    Man. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a clear expression of an attitude I’ve had many times but have been unable to capture with reasoning myself. I’ve always felt that the witch-hunts and public shaming that follow events like this have been of a much more perverse nature than those leading the posse would have you believe. Society needs more dialogue like this and less name-calling and finger-pointing. Unfortunately, for those who are the quickest to otherize, the ideas contained in this post represent an affront to their self-assumed moral superiority. They will likely come down hard against you in the only way they know.

  5. kevin says

    heh “we not alec baldwins!” also, the public shaming seems like another sublimation of a kind.

    the most concise anything I’ve read in a long time. this is all an instant classic, and even now I’m trying to imagine the role this plays in worldwide social evolution. I can also see an explanation of many issues in studying history (mainly seeing through the constant projection of modern attitudes on the past) instead of really focusing on how the mechanisms haven’t changed much over hundreds and maybe even thousands of years.

    the fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) is a relatively new technology that serves as a window into brain functions. it is unlocking and basically proving all of these concepts about psychological complexity. where society once thought it knew everything about the body, a new physical ligament was recently just discovered, and these completely different facts converge at the significance of never assuming one has finished learning about the inner spaces. something that writing for an ‘audience’ can be hard to really capture, since people love their stases.

  6. Mike Davies (UK) says

    Just yesterday I was reading about how the singer James Arthur – a winner of the X Factor in the UK – has been heavily criticised in the media for using homophobic insults in a recorded ” battle rap”. Reading this story I had to admit to deriving a certain pleasurable satisfaction from the humiliating barrage of derisive criticism the singer received for both his supposed homophobia and, more amusingly, his incompetence as a rapper.
    It occurred to me that in cases such as this the moralistic condemnation of un-politically-correct language used by celebrities may sometimes serve as an intellectual rationalisation of instinctive aggression happy to find a justifiable target. There is, I am sure, a certain self-deception involved in exaggerating the significance of celebrities’ unfortunate word choices, so that while we would be mildly disconcerted by a friend or relative’s use of the word “queer” as a general insult, we tell ourselves that the use of the word by an X Factor winner has a moral significance which is extreme enough to make him deserving of total humiliation, regardless of the personal suffering he has doubtlessly experienced as a result.

  7. Mike F. says

    This is an interesting, rational analysis of the culture of turning every mindless episode into an opportunity to rant on your own special interest agenda item. I think that taking the popular “press” to task for not being fair to Alec Baldwin sort of misses the point that they intend. They are trying to make the particular epithets that Mr. Baldwin used more the “the ‘N’ word,” the word that is so taboo in everyday discourse that you can only refer to it obliquely. When these now relatively commonly used epithets achieve that status, the culture will have progressed enough to where we could have a gay man as President. To get there, you need to seize on every opportunity to point out the unacceptableness of usage and Alec Baldwin conveniently volunteered an opportunity. Since we would all ignore the same speech from the teenager across from us on the subway, we need the occasional celebrity fit of rage to set off the discussion again.
    Nice post for a philosophy website. Hopefully you didn’t leave a similar reply on whatever website you read all the ranting. Rationality is not welcome in those places. The agenda is different.

    • C. M. Frederick says

      Yes, their agenda is different. The motive, perhaps not the only motive, is to make money. The use of the phrase “N word” as opposed to just saying nigger is absurd. I forget the exact circumstance, but some years ago a person was called out for using the word ‘niggardly’ because it simply SOUNDED like ‘nigger.’ To top it off, people who are the first to criticize the use of words like fag, nigger, etc. are also some of the people who love to throw around the words Hitler, fascist, racist, etc. which are also words that simply shut conversation down. As far as “progress” and the presidency is concerned, I believe it more likely a “fag” will become president than someone who is labeled the worst epithet in the political sphere: “atheist.”

  8. swallerstein says

    Very perceptive analysis, Wes. I’m sure that you’ll be able to help a lot of people as a therapist, if you pursue that career.

  9. Daniel Horne says

    Feeling in a cantankerous mood, Wes, so I’d like to offer the following meat-headed responses to your insightful analysis:

    1. Saying Baldwin isn’t a bigot feels as false as saying he is one. Clearly, the man has issues. I’ve been plenty mad and thrown my share of tantrums, but I manage to avoid the choice of words to which Baldwin repeatedly returns. This was not an isolated event. Anyway, I think most of us know from personal experience that bigotry is more a series of spectra on which one can fall, rather than a litmus test one passes or fails.

    2. Baldwin (or any other major celebrity) is hardly in a position to bemoan the “tragedy” of America’s obsession with the private lives of famous people.

    First of all, this is a misuse of the word “tragedy,” compared to all the truly tragic stuff we take for granted in American society. Get over yourself, Al.

    Second, this phenomenon is hardly unique to America. Every country with a print media has tabloid journalism dedicated precisely to obsessing over the lives of the rich and famous. The very word paparazzo is Italian, not English.

    Third, and more to the point, Baldwin couldn’t enjoy the uber-wealthy status he continually seeks to maintain but for the very human (not American) inclination toward celebrity-worship. Baldwin didn’t simply sign up for this program; he sought it out his entire career. Baldwin won’t know from tragedy until the paparazzi stop following him, and all that would imply. The society that stops obsessing over the private lives of celebrities is a society that stops having celebrities, period. It certainly wouldn’t be one that allows “A-listers” like Alec Baldwin to live so well. If Baldwin truly wanted to be left alone, he’s always free to (a) retire (how much more money does he need?), (b) get a lower-profile job that takes him out of the public eye, or at least (c) move to the countryside. But Baldwin’s actions don’t jibe with his words. It’s pretty clear he wants it both ways; to be idolized and enriched by the public when it suits him, and to be left alone when it doesn’t. Charisma doesn’t work that way, and what Baldwin declares to be tragic is what he ought to appreciate as a blessing (for him, anyway).

    3. Memo to Andrew Sullivan: Hypocrisy is a stinky cologne:

    Argh, and here I am spending hundreds of words on Alec f-ing Baldwin.

    [implodes into a vortex of irony]

    • swallerstein says

      Daniel Horne:

      Let’s say that I have conflicting and ambivalent feelings about a certain minority group, as Wes claims that Baldwin probably has, and that when I get angry at a member of that group, I carefully avoid using words that insult or reflect negatively about that group out of political correctness or out of fear of being considered “reactionary” or out of concern for my public image as progressive, am I then less of a bigot than Baldwin, who expresses his conflicting and ambivalent feelings verbally or am I just a more skillful politician?

      • Daniel Horne says

        Hi Mr. Wallerstein,

        The way you’ve constructed your hypothetical, the question answers itself: If you have conflicting and ambivalent feelings about a certain minority group, then you have bigotry issues, period. The only remaining question then, is how or whether you choose to address those issues.

        One can choose to cure or accept one’s own prejudices. Better a repentant sinner than an unrepentant one. But denying the shamefulness of one’s own behavior (indeed, denying the very behavior!) as Alec Baldwin does with his dissembling editorial, indicates a more unabashed and more comfortable bigotry. I assert this is more problematic than someone willing to admit and address their failings. If nothing else, it induces me to push back against the conclusion, “No, he’s not a bigot,” as forcefully as the conclusion “He’s a bigot.”

        But mostly, as I hope I indicated in my first response, I’m against the practice of stamping people’s foreheads with “bigot” or “not-bigot.” Labeling behavior is more useful (and more accurate) than labeling people.

  10. swallerstein says

    Daniel Horne:

    Ok. I agree with you that bigotry is about how one addresses one’s issues. I don’t believe in thought crimes. Virtue, in general, is about how one deals with the cards life (one’s education, one’s upbringing, one’s genes) has dealt one, not with the cards that one was dealt.

    By the way, since I was interested in your claim that people in every country with print journalism (probably not Cuba) have tabloid media obsessed with the rich and famous, I checked out the figures for Chile (my home) and while the newspaper with the highest national circulation could be considered as a quality newspaper (let’s leave out its obvious rightwing slant), the sum of the circulation of the two national newspapers which only report celebrity gossip, crime and sports (no political news, no economic news, no international affairs) is greater than that of the two national newspapers which, regardless of their slant, cover politics, economics and international affairs. So that goes in support of your claim (except Cuba and I’d bet Islamic societies).

      • swallerstein says

        In this case, a thought crime would be having ambivalent and/or hostile feelings about a minority group, if one does not express them or act upon them. I was answering Daniel Horne’s comment that Baldwin has “issues” to deal with. I made the point that ethics is about how one deals with one’s issues, independent of whether one might have ambivalent and/or hostile feelings (the issues).

  11. Will Allen says

    Calling someone a “cock-sucking fag” or “toxic little queen”, and threatening to commit anal rape, is not a “quasi-action”, and it is extraordinarily dishonest to portray that behavior as such.

    There is little point in trying to discern the contents of Baldwin’s mind (so I will semi-agree with your point about the value in making judgements about Baldwin’s degree of bigotry), and he isn’t my friend, so there isn’t much point in imagining he is. I admit that my love for my family colors my judgement of their behavior, so if a member of my family made a habit of threatening people with rape when he lost his temper, while engaging in slurs which do actual damage to innocent third parties which belong to the group that the slur references, I would have to be honest enough to admit that I was a biased party in evaluating the offensive behavior. When someone I’m not close to engages in that behavior, it is perfectly reasonable to conclude that the behavior is unacceptable, and to act accordingly. If I had a desire to watch MSNBC, that might mean contacting MSNBC, and asking that the person. who regularly engages in behavior I find unacceptable, to be fired. If I was a manager at MSNBC, I might, very reasonably, conclude that MSNBC is better served by not having an association with a person who engages in such behavior.

  12. swallerstein says

    Daniel Horne:

    Thanks for the link to La Dolce Vita. A crucial question is why so many of us (me too) are so fascinated by the lives of celebrities, often celebrities who otherwise hold no interest for us: that is, I might read a biography of Wittgenstein or Nietzsche in order to understand their thought or because I see them as role models, but although I don’t even bother to watch Baldwin’s films, I end up following celebrity gossip about his rather childish emotional outbursts, as do so many of us.

    Maybe Wes’s psychoanalysis (or yours) can tell us something about why we follow celebrity gossip.

  13. etseq says

    So…the real victim in all of this is actually Alex Baldwin and those silly faggots better shut up if they know whats best for em (as explained so patiently by a heterosexual)! The best homos can hope for is some kind of half-hearted tolerance because gay sex is so icky to straight men don’t you know. Freud said so!

    Sorry, this queer ain’t buying it. It sounds like a sophisticated version of the same old right wing BS – homophobes are the real victims! Thought police!! PC run amok!!

    I think it is telling that you find such traction in Freud’s narcotic fueled speculation that both same sex desire and homophobia is universal. I wish the former were true – more dick for me – but experience (and more science based psychology) has proven otherwise. The later is certainly false but it makes for a nice excuse when you want to rant about how gross fags are.

    • swallerstein says


      No one in this blog has ranted on about how gross fags are (your terminology).

      Wes tries to explain the ambivalence that non-gay males, with liberal non-homophobic political ideas, may experience about gays from time to time. He uses Freud, whose theories may be right or may be wrong, but whose theories seem worth exploring in this context.

      I don’t think that we would have contributed to this discussion if most of us were not concerned about whatever ambivalence we might have towards gay males and about how to deal with it ethically. Most of us were brought up and educated in situations in which homophobic prejudices were “common sense” and while we can try to educate our children in a more enlightened way, the prejudices we learned as children are almost impossible to completely erase: we can strive not to act upon them and that is what ethics is about.

      • etseq says

        I prefer my homophobes old school – this liberal white male circle jerk reminds me of high school where emo boys would beg me for blowjobs and then get all defensive the next day.

        If you really have to put this much thought into analyzing your conflicted feelings about gay sex…just sayin

  14. etseq says

    “Homophobic feelings are no more of a choice than homosexuality itself”

    One of these things is not like the other…

  15. Laura says

    Actually, homophobic feelings are a matter of choice, etseq, but homosexuality is not. Unfortunately your rant misses the point and is, sadly, very immature. It’s important when you are part of a minority group that you present your argument or defense with well-thought out, considered and clear statements. Avoid emotional outbursts like you did here–it makes people not want to listen to you.

    That said, Wes was in no way arguing that Alec Baldwin or “homophobes” are the real victims. Rather he made a very carefully thought out argument about the inherent hypocrisy of the incident and why that hypocrisy exists. That’s all.

    I do disagree with one point and that is that Alec Baldwin is held to a different standard by the fact that he is a celebrity. I understand that the paparazzi are extremely difficult (free speech) and break laws trying to get the scoop on a given celebrity but–that comes with the life of being a celebrity in this country. As such, Mr. Baldwin needs to grow up. This is the life he is in. No that doesn’t mean he needs to accept the paparazzi’s abuse but he needs to handle it in a more mature, civilized way. Whether he’s a bigot or anti-, or pro-gay is immaterial (again, free speech) but because of his celebrity status, the standard he is held to requires him to shut up when he’s being harassed, let the authorities deal with it, and move on with his life. With dignity.

    • Fredbo says

      While I agree that a person may choose a more public existence, be it as an actor, musician, politician or even podcaster, to say that there is a different standard to which they are held in no way justifies the legitimacy of that standard. I believe all of this “bigotry” is just a manifestation of a power struggle. The “authorities” don’t care about protecting Alec Baldwin from harassing photographers. The authorities, at least in their mind, have bigger fish to fry. Mr. Baldwin “defended” himself in a reactionary and ham-fisted way. The press that follows people like Mr. Baldwin are fully aware of the game they play and purposefully goad celebrities until they snap, especially the more unstable ones.

      And as far as Esteq is concerned… Just because someone is gay, straight, black, white, young, old, male, female, fat, thin, etc. in no way determines who is “right” in these matters or what being right even means. In the end I try to live and let live. Assholes will always exist. People will be nasty (and worse) to each other. Some will always have power over others. And sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

      • Laura says

        What justifies the legitimacy of the standard people in the public are held to is the fact that there actions, words and opinions often have influence on the public. Thus, Baldwin should behave with respect regarding his influence. The fact that he doesn’t merely reflects his immature and narcissistic personality.

        I’m not entirely sure what your second paragraph is referring to but I wasn’t dismissing the content of esteq’s statement but the manner in which he conveyed it. Yes, there will always be assholes and power struggles and people will always be nasty to each other, as you mention. Unless they aren’t. There are two options.

        • Fredbo says

          You bring up an interesting dynamic here: that of whether a public figure has the responsibility of being a “role model.” This thinking raises all kinds of hairy issues, including the “do as I say but not as I do” phenomenon. I think it is a mistake to hold any public figure to some “higher standard” merely because they are well known. It is often the case that many public figures lack even a common decency. I believe individuals have the responsibility to seek virtue by other means than just looking to celebrities for guidance.

          The other part was meant to be directed at Etseq. Sorry for not being clear…

          • Laura says

            I agree but the fact is that public figures are immensely influential despite their apparent bigotry, immaturity, narcissism, whatever. Whether it’s right, wrong, healthy or unhealthy–that’s the reality. So a higher standard is necessary. It protects us. Theoretically.

          • cirek says

            i dont think its really about their being role models. their careers depend on their audience, and on whether companies are comfortable being associated with any project they work on. any thing they do to tarnish their image is going to lower their value in that respect.

    • etseq says

      Laura – how very condescending of you. You share that trait with the author .

      PS – I’m sorry I am not a better Model Minority for you….kinda dickish thing to say honestly.

      • Mark says

        Honestly etseq, stop giving us ‘mos such a bad name, Wes is not offending me, and if you’ve got a point to make, then clearly make it, instead of playing internet troll, because frankly these people wont fall for it.

  16. cirek says

    “You insult my mother not because you actually have any beliefs or feelings about my mother, but because you assume I love her and want to irritate me.”

    this is a good rationalization. but the assumption you speak of is an act of projection. generally speaking, gays dont call others faggots out of anger, and blacks dont call others niggers out of anger. in attempting to insult someone by merely associating them with homosexuals, baldwin did exhibit bigotry. that doesnt mean hes opposed to all things gay, of course.


  1. […] Obviously the things Baldwin said are horrible, and he should be duly criticized for them. But I’m rather repulsed by this effort to determine whether Baldwin is ontologically homophobic, and to insist that it requires his banishment from the liberal “team,” whatever that is. Wes Alwan, from the great philosophy podcast The Partially-Examined Life, has a good takedown: […]

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