Someone needs to check on Alec Baldwin. In the two weeks since Baldwin unintentionally discharged a live weapon at two people on the Santa Fe set of the Western picture Rust, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza, it’s been made abundantly clear that laying low isn’t a part of the PR plan. Baldwin has been tweeting through it, posting alleged proof that an assistant director yelled “cold gun” on set and amplifying an Instagram post by costume designer Terese Magpale Davis, who wrote that the narrative of an unsafe Rust set “is bullshit” (Baldwin was also a producer on the film). That narrative, which includes the fact that a half-dozen crew members walked off the set just hours before Hutchins and Souza were shot, situates the tragedy within a larger framework of not just the presence of live rounds on Hollywood sets but of existing workplace schisms that have exploded into full-blown union strikes.
The defensiveness continued yesterday when the embattled star tweeted his proposed solution to the whole debacle which randomly turned into pro-cop propaganda. “Every film/TV set that uses guns, fake or otherwise, should have a police officer on set, hired by the production, to specifically monitor the weapons safely,” said Baldwin.
Not only is this simply a terrible idea as opposed to just using fake guns and making sure the people handling those guns are well-rested, and, more importantly, are actually well-trained, but it’s also an act of capitulation to right-wing outrage.
It’s unclear exactly what led Baldwin in this direction. Maybe he thought up this idea after a long night of speaking to investigators. Maybe he’s just tired of all the conservatives lighting his ass up for previous anti-gun declarations and wanted to throw them a bone, because make no mistake, an argument for more police on sets is an argument for an even deeper yet more pronounced relationship between Hollywood and the state—and yes, the proliferation of firearms.
It doesn’t take much to see the connections between the police and the gun lobby. OpenSecrets reported just last year that the NRA’s PAC has received some of its largest contributions from police officers in the last election cycle. What may come as a surprise for eagle-eyed onlookers is just how much Democrats have become benefactors of the gun lobby when it comes to campaigning. “Overall,” the report finds, “six of the top 10 recipients of police union funding in the House are Democrats, numbers mirrored in the Senate.” If we’re looking to the presidential race, individual donations revealed the same pattern: “Biden has slightly outraised Trump in reported individual law enforcement officer contributions this year as of April 30. People listing police officer as their profession contributed over $70,000 to Biden’s presidential campaign compared to Trump’s $62,000.” The gun lobby has gone blue and Baldwin’s conundrum is a perfect encapsulation of why: No matter where one might sit politically, police are still viewed as protective, especially as it relates to wealthy whites.
As much as Baldwin has come under fire for his anti-firearm tweets, ranging from cringe-worthy dad jokes to “hands up” hoodies that are their own form of aesthetic terrorism, when it came to feeling protected both bodily and in terms of material assets, the solution could only be more law enforcement? It couldn’t be, perhaps, listening to the crew when they said that it was dangerous to work the wild hours they did without proper rest? Maybe it’s listening to Halyna herself who, it’s been reported, advocated for better working conditions alongside her fellow crew members on the Rust set. Baldwin and his production staff could’ve vetted the scab, non-IATSE workers who took over for the protesters. They might’ve found that a few of those workers had already faced consequences for firearms going off on sets. Maybe they would’ve pressed pause until the workers’ needs were met. But, no, that would actually mean some sort of accountability and, as we know, the police aren’t in the accountability business.
It’s hard to even determine who Baldwin’s tweet was directed toward. “Every film/tv set should have a police officer.” Does that mean that Baldwin’s only fault here was not hiring police?
Let’s say there were more police on the set of Rust. How would they have ensured that safety measures were met during filming? The police academy and the NRA-training sessions haven’t necessarily meant safety for those policed, at least based on the track record. The police themselves, who commit around 1,000 killings a year, are behind plenty of gun violence in this country. The calling for more police doesn’t mean more safety and could even have the unintended impact of creating dangerous situations for a younger, more inclusive Hollywood.
A nonprofit collective, BLD PWR, co-founded by Insecure’s Kendrick Sampson, Mike de la Rocha, and Tia Oso, has been ringing the alarm regarding police on film sets. Their work to separate police unions from Hollywood and further remove police officers from sets has gained traction in the last few years but, rather interestingly, the group found that the urgency dwindled right around the time of George Floyd’s murder. Baldwin joins a cadre of liberals who, when assuming a defensive position, end up showing their conservative colors. Those “hands up, don’t shoot” hoodies had a very short half-life. It’s clear that Baldwin is still suffering from the same malady that might have contributed to a woman’s death: an outright refusal to listen to the less influential. What we’ve learned about Baldwin is how performative his politics can be, beyond the makeup and wigs. When push comes to shove, he sounds just like his enemies.