January 5, 2021

KEVIN WILLIAMSON: ‘Hilaria’ Baldwin and the Allure of the Invented Persona.

Mrs. Baldwin’s career strategy was not really all that different from that of young Elizabeth Warren, who inflicted self-help books on the reading public (All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan) and misrepresented her ancestry — Cherokee cheekbones! — in an attempt to build a reputation and make herself seem more interesting than she is. But Warren got started some years before smartphones were ubiquitous and social media had displaced reality for so many people, and she wasn’t married to a movie star.

Mrs. Baldwin is not the first Hillary we’ve heard do a corny fake accent.

Alec Baldwin is, we have reason to believe, not quite the charming man in private life he is in public. But his celebrity was not built on being a good man, or any particular kind of man, in his private life. His celebrity is built on performing, and he is one of the best in the business. The strange pseudocelebrity of social media is an invitation for everyone to become a performer, but not everyone has the kind of chops that Baldwin has. (Most professional actors don’t.) Social media can be a platform for genuinely gifted performers who take to a digital platform rather than a traditional stage (all those great guitarists on YouTube); but it also involves users in the worst aspects of celebrity culture, without imposing the entry fee of talent and only rarely offering the rewards that go along with it. The would-be celebrities of social media chase the paparazzi instead of being chased by them — that’s the sign of our times.

* * * * * * * *

The longing after a sense of significance that causes Hillary Hayward-Thomas to reinvent herself as the more exotic “Hilaria” is the same force that powers social-media hate mobs and shallow hashtag activism, cults like QAnon and the anti-vaxxers, and the relatively new but almost ubiquitous phenomenon of partisanship as a form of identity politics.

Every society worships something, and we have decided — disastrously — on ourselves.

The recurring catchphrase of Tom Wolfe’s epochal “The Me Decade” article from 1975 was “Let’s talk about Me,” and the promise of endless change and reinvention. But even he didn’t predict the surprising number of celebrities and pseudo-celebrities who would re-invent themselves into different genders, races, and imagined backgrounds, despite the 21st century left constantly screaming about the imagined dangers of “cultural appropriation.”

As PJM’s Megan Fox wrote last week, “Why anyone would try to pull off this hoax in the age of the internet, I have no idea. It seems so dumb to even try, yet plenty of people do it. Remember Rachel Dolezal? Or Jessica Krug? There’s no getting away with faking your heritage in 2020… I do enjoy, however, the fact that the race imposters are always ideologically far-left, even making a living on the race-obsessed culture in America. Race imposters are never conservatives. It’s always the fringe kook left that does things like this. Why isn’t anyone asking why? Has there ever been a conservative person who impersonated another race in order to be liked or to be more acceptable to their community? Who are the true racists in this country?”

InstaPundit is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.