The one-time conservative and former Second Amendment supporter is probably going to regret her latest column; not because of her handwringing over the schadenfreude displayed by some on the Right after actor and gun control activist Alec Baldwin fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza on the set of Baldwin’s movie Rust, but because she’s awfully quick to claim that Baldwin did nothing wrong and shouldn’t be blamed in any way for the incident.
His anger issues are well-documented, as is his politics. He alone is to blame for his reputation and public image.
He is not to blame, however, for a tragic and horrific accidental shooting on the set of a movie he was working on.
That’s according to witnesses and court documents that describe the incident, in which cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed and director Joel Souza was injured. (Authorities say they haven’t ruled out charges, but it seems highly unlikely that Baldwin has any true culpability here.)
As a producer of the film, Baldwin will almost certainly be named in any civil suit filed by Hutchins’ family. But as the guy who was holding the gun and pointing it at Hutchins and Souza when it discharged, I disagree that Baldwin doesn’t have any true culpability here. According to the same witnesses and court documents that Cupp cites, crew members were regularly using the guns on set to go plinking while filming wasn’t taking place, which is a huge violation of the entertainment industry’s safety protocols. There have been reports that some crew members were shooting just hours before Hutchins was killed, as a matter of fact. And the film’s assistant director told police that he had not checked the revolver before handing it to Baldwin, who also apparently didn’t check the gun before he started practicing his cross draw while Hutchins and Souza were behind the camera.
I’d say it’s far too early to declare that Baldwin bears no responsibility for what happened. At the very least, he violated two of the cardinal rules of gun safety; treat every gun as if its loaded until you personally prove otherwise and never point it at anything you’re not willing to destroy. The local District Attorney says her office is continuing to investigate the possibility of criminal charges, and Baldwin himself is “an active part of the investigation” according to the local sheriff. For Cupp, however, the real crime is that some conservatives are being mean to the actor.
Don Trump Jr. was quick to mock — and profit off of — the tragedy, posting pro-gun memes and even selling a T-shirt on his website that reads “guns don’t kill people, Alec Baldwin kills people.”
Other right-wing personalities, from Candace Owens to Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance, piled on, using the opportunity to presumably rile up and delight their fans on Twitter — Owens said the incident was “poetic justice” — all while Hutchins’ family prepared to bury her.
Baldwin’s daughter Ireland took to Instagram to pointlessly, I’m sure, remind Owens, “A woman’s life was lost. Your tweets, lack of information, and ignorance are hurting people.”
To parse the so-called “politics” of the right wing’s morbid schadenfreude over an innocent woman’s accidental death is an exercise in futility and frustration.
Of course, Baldwin’s gun control stance isn’t weakened but affirmed by this incident, in which real guns and real ammunition were inappropriately handled by the armorers and prop masters who should have been responsible for them.
Responsible gun owners don’t delight in accidental shootings; we lament them.
There is some truth to Cupp’s last sentence. In all of my coverage of Hutchins’ shooting, I haven’t laughed at or joked about Baldwin’s role in her death, because I personally don’t find much humor in the situation. However, it’s absolutely ridiculous for Cupp to assert that the gleeful mocking of another’s tragedy is a phenomenon found only on the Right. Perhaps Cupp has missed the growing popularity on the Left for the subreddit known as the Herman Cain Award?
The subreddit, which now has upwards of 340,000 followers, “celebrates” those “who have made public declaration of their anti-mask, anti-vax, or Covid-hoax views,” only to die from Covid-19 or Covid-related complications. (It is named for Herman Cain, the former GOP presidential candidate and businessman who died from Covid-19 complications in 2020 after attending a Trump campaign rally in Oklahoma.)
As psychotherapist F. Diane Barth wrote just a few weeks ago (and before Baldwin’s shooting claimed the life of Hutchins):
This push to revel in schadenfreude, and to assign collective blame, is understandable and more than a little expected, especially on the internet. But this so-called award also captures the collective loss of empathy that colors so many of our political and personal conversations right now. Like soldiers who have been trained to see their enemies as less than human, we have forgotten that those who disagree with us are, despite everything, still people.
Barth called the subreddit a “depressing sign of the times,” and I think the same could be said for some of the glee displayed for Alec Baldwin’s misfortune. I don’t think either are particularly healthy or helpful, but both are symptoms of a much deeper issue; the outright hate and hostility that many Americans feel towards those not in their own political or cultural tribe. The fact that Cupp is unwilling to acknowledge the role that her own (relatively new) tribe has played in taking us to where we are today tells me that, despite all of her protests, Cupp is more part part of the problem than the solution.