While Hilaria Baldwin’s rapid downfall is incredibly funny, it also offers a more serious lesson in the consequences of media corruption.
One under-appreciated element of that corruption involves entertainment journalism, an industry that enriches corrupt elites by burnishing undeserving reputations and normalizing radical cultural leftism. Baldwin’s delayed date with destiny hillustrates this well. (The h is silent, as in “Hilaria.”)
After Baldwin, the yoga-instructor-turned-wife of Alec Baldwin, started beefing with Amy Schumer, social media sleuths unraveled Hilaria’s personal narrative in short order. Within a few literal hours, she went from influencer to laughing stock—and rightfully so.
Baldwin was raised in Boston. She went by Hillary Hayward-Thomas. Her parents are not Spanish. In public appearances, however, she frequently spoke with a heavy Spanish accent, implied she grew up in Spain, and clearly claimed Spanish heritage.
This landed her multiple features on the cover of “Hola” magazine. In one infamous TV interview, she pretended to briefly flail to find the English word for “cucumber.” The real story seems to be that she visited Spain occasionally as a child and her family lives there now. It’s all very funny.
But a lot of Baldwin’s background never added up. This information was all accessible with very basic Google searches and 20 minutes of time. Nevertheless, she was covered over and over again by entertainment journalists who apparently never pieced these strange claims together, despite glaring red flags like her fluctuating accent. It took social media users all of 12 hours to strip the emperor of her sustainably sourced clothes. Why?
In the aughts, bloggers like Perez Hilton earned a lot of money and a lot of backlash for harsh coverage of celebrities. Some of that backlash was warranted. But now the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. Rather than treating celebrities neutrally, the entertainment media treats them reflexively as protagonists. (See: the early coverage of Jussie Smollett’s hoax.)
Sometimes this is because they do something vaguely woke. Sometimes it’s because outlets don’t want to deal with stan mobs, or want to capitalize on their enthusiasm. Sometimes it’s for access. Sometimes it’s because of what they believe about consumer demand.
Look at this post about Baldwin from E!, which is representative of how the press covered her until this low point in her public life.
“Passionate response.” “Unique upbringing.” Those terms may technically be accurate, but this sympathetic framing is a garbage way of covering an entitled lying elite who burnished her image by misleading the public for years.
A celebrity like Baldwin’s value is her reputation. She’s famous for her marriage, not her talent as an actress, model, or singer. For the most part, even celebrities whose fame is predicated on talent are only as valuable as their reputations. Friendly media coverage helps people like Baldwin get endorsement deals and other business opportunities.
The point is that entertainment media is acting more as a machine to enrich elites than the Fourth Estate—and in the midst of a populist reckoning over elite corruption illustrated by people like Harvey Weinstein and Les Moonves. On the other hand, this second wave of celebrity bloggers is sharpening its knives, learning from the successes and failures of the aughts, and using this new generation of self-publishing platforms to expose the rich and famous.