This isn’t the real title of Alec Baldwin’s epic orgy of narcissism and self-pity in the latest New York Magazine; that would be “Good-bye, Public Life!” It is, however, the more accurate and descriptive title, and although it is annoying and occasionally colon-disturbing to be trapped in Baldwin’s mind for the ten minutes or so it might take to wade through this opus, I think it is well worth it. For Baldwin provides us all with a frightening case study of how self-absorption and arrogance precludes an ethical world view, and with it responsibility, accountability, fairness, empathy, respect, perspective, honesty...the works.
The essay is obviously intended to make Baldwin look as good as possible; its whole thesis is that he is maligned, misunderstood, the constant target of knaves and fools, and a victim of circumstance. Yet with every statement, he makes it brilliantly clear that it isn’t everyone else, but him. He is a juvenile, egomaniacal jerk. The evidence is right in front of his face, but he just can’t see it; he teems with hate for everyone else. Alec’s hit list includes former employers, colleagues, companies and the United States of America. Here’s a partial list (I must have missed someone) of those Baldwin, while protesting what a great guy and how misunderstood he is, spits on in his farewell: Andrew Sullivan, Anderson Cooper, Harvey Levin, stage director Dan Sullivan, Shia LaBeouf , Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski., Rachel Maddow, MSNBC producer Jonathan Larsen, MSNBC chief Phil Griffin , Capital One, AT&T, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York, Broadway, the Huffington Post, Kim Kardashian, Roger Ailes, Fox News, MSNBC, Breitbart, and both the liberal and conservative media.
If the point of the rant is to make us feel sorry for Baldwin, it works, at least for me. I feel sorry for anyone so socially inept and self-deluded that he can write what reads like a candid confession of a pathologically hostile and inconsiderate attitude toward the rest of mankind and think it is a persuasive defense of his actions and character. This is a man who called a male reporter a “toxic little queen” in a hateful twitter attack and says now that he didn’t realize that phrase might be considered offensive by gays. This is man who has had ugly public confrontations with reporters, photographers and flight attendants, and just can’t understand why people are giving him the cold shoulder, except that he is positive he doesn’t deserve it. They are throwing mud on him, he says:
“In the New Media culture, anything good you do is tossed in a pit, and you are measured by who you are on your worst day. What’s the Boy Scout code? Trustworthy. Loyal. Helpful. Friendly. Courteous. Kind. Obedient. Cheerful. Thrifty. Brave. Clean. Reverent. I might be all of those things, at certain moments. But people suspect that whatever good you do, you are faking. You’re that guy. You’re that guy that says this.”
And to prove how unfair this is, Baldwin pour out his heart in this essay, which insults everyone he can think of.
You really owe it to yourself to read it all. It will take some tolerance and determination, but “Good-bye, Public Life!”might constitute the most valuable public service Alec Baldwin has ever performed, until he actually keeps his promise for once (he has previously sworn that he was going to leave the country) and exits public life. I am certain that once finished, you will, as I did, say a little prayer that if your ethics alarms ever show signs of becoming this dysfunctional, someone will be kind enough to slap you silly, sit you down, and confront you with the harsh reality that you are becoming an insufferable asshole, and need to shape up quickly, lest you end up like poor Alec Baldwin, a deluded, incurable, Ethics Dunce.