Alec Baldwin on (Leaving) Public Life ⇒

Alec Baldwin in New York Magazine:

I used to engage with the media knowing that some of it would be adversarial, but now it’s superfluous at best and toxic at its worst. 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?

I agree with much of his piece but Baldwin’s disdain may be misdirected. The question isn’t what if MSNBC or the Huffington Post goes dark tomorrow, it’s what if Facebook does. What if Twitter disappears? Which is to suggest that the problem isn’t the media, it’s us. Baldwin intimates as much later in the piece:

The heart, the arteries of the country are now clogged with hate. The fuel of American political life is hatred.

And still later, on living in New York City since 1979:

To be a New Yorker meant you gave everybody five feet. You gave everybody their privacy. I recall how, in a big city, many people had to play out private moments in public: a woman sobbing at a pay phone (remember pay phones?), someone studying their paperwork, undisturbed, at the Oyster Bar, before catching the train. We allowed people privacy, we left them alone. And now we don’t leave each other alone. Now we live in a digital arena, like some Roman Colosseum, with our thumbs up or thumbs down.


There was a time the entire world didn’t have a camera in their pocket—the first thing that cell phones did was to kill the autograph business. Nobody cares about your autograph. There are cameras everywhere, and there are media outlets for them to “file their story.” They take your picture in line for coffee. They’re trying to get a picture of your baby. Everyone’s got a camera. When they’re done, they tweet it. It’s … unnatural.

Yeah, I know, boo hoo for the famous the person, but I think he’s on to something that requires at least a little introspection on our part. How do we separate the person from the celebrity? How do we tell the difference between the gossip and the news?

Anyway, Baldwin closes with the worst thing a person can say about New York:

Everything I hated about L.A. I’m beginning to crave. L.A. is a place where you live behind a gate, you get in a car, your interaction with the public is minimal. I used to hate that. But New York has changed. Manhattan is like Beverly Hills.