America’s most public “felon with a firearm,” is a white, A-list actor.
Back in November 2014, Mark Wahlberg filed an application with the Massachusetts Board of Pardons, asking that his record be wiped clean of felonies he committed in 1988. In his petition, Wahlberg says he is “not the same person,” that he is “reformed.” To many, however, he’s the same person, just with more money and new friends with influence.
A damning list assembled by Gawker makes it clear that his crimes were hardly limited to the ones mentioned in the petition. His record reveals a flailing soul who gets belligerent when he drinks and a man with a vicious racist streak.
Mark Wahlberg is white. The targets of his violence are people of color.
It’s worth noting that he’s never stopped acting like a criminal. He’s just figured out that money makes it easier to get away with things.
In 1992, he was already a new man with a new name, having found fame and fortune as Marky Mark, rapper and Calvin Klein underwear model. Drunk, Wahlberg turned back into the old version of himself and beat up a black man named Robert D. Crehan without provocation, injuring his jaw so badly it had to be wired shut.
Wahlberg isn’t asking the governor of Massachusetts for a pardon for this crime, because he settled with Crehan for an undisclosed sum out of court.
In 1996, he was arrested for “boating under the influence,” which is illegal for the same reason ordinary suckers aren’t allowed to drive a car while drunk.
Wahlberg isn’t asking the governor of Massachusetts for a pardon for this crime, because the cops let him off.
But his biggest criminal offense makes a joke out of the high-minded (and totally laughable) concept of equal justice for all. As a convicted felon in Massachusetts, Wahlberg is not allowed to own or handle firearms in California, where he now lives. He’s made a $200 million career out of playing patriotic, well-armed, working-class white guys in films such as “Shooter,” “The Departed,” “Pain & Gain,” “Lone Survivor,” and “2 Guns,” yet he’s a convicted repeat offender prohibited by federal and state law from touching firearms and ammo of any kind.
Even if every firearm on the set of his films was fake, the promotional team for “Shooter” publicly touted Wahlberg’s extensive training with firearms at Far Sight Firearms Training Center near Las Vegas, under the tutelage of a U.S. Marine scout sniper. Wahlberg wasn’t training with fake guns loaded with blank rounds, but shooting targets using those lethal weapons he has claimed, in media interviews, to hate. His scout sniper trainer, however, let it slip that that Wahlberg excitedly called “all of his friends” after he hit a target at 1,100 yards. If the gun-guy gossip is to be believed, this isn’t the only time Wahlberg’s been practicing target shooting on a range. It’s the kind of thing that drives gun nuts crazy, because, contrary to popular belief, they are sticklers for the letter of the law. How he gets away with these repeated violations is the subject of much discussion.
Who cares if Wahlberg is handling guns on set? It’s all about the intent, right? This is not only called being a “felon with a firearm,” it’s also known as being a hypocrite. It’s also a clear attempt to whitewash the past, practicing historical erasure at will, and exploiting racialized double standards when it comes to what sins are likely to be forgiven.
Like the Pardoner from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Wahlberg preaches one message while violating that message so openly it inspires incredulous disbelief mixed with grudging admiration for his balls.
A religious man, Chaucer’s Pardoner begins by confessing his crimes and freely admitting his moral and personal failings. Yet he is so sure of his ability to entertain and swindle at the same time that his core message to the poor is: “Greed is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6.10). Then he steals their money. His victims admire him.
Says the Pardoner before he launches into his Tale:
Though I’m a man of vices through and through,
I still can tell a moral tale to you,
One that I preach to bring the money in.
After confessing to his crimes in his petition, Wahlberg tells us his self-interested motives for seeking a pardon; chiefly, he wants a concessionaire’s license so he can make more money by selling booze at the family chain restaurant, yet these reasons are repeatedly hidden by institutions that profit from his ability to sell movie tickets.
A report by CNN not only glosses over the racist content of his crimes, but makes it sound as if he “admits” – reluctantly, humbly – that he is seeking the pardon for the noblest of reasons: to show “‘troubled youths’ that ‘they too can turn their lives around and be formally accepted back into society’.”
Troubled youths? Like Ryan Holle, now serving a life sentence for a crime committed while he was at home, asleep in bed? Or Keith Maxey, sentenced at 16 to life without parole, basically for having the wrong friends? Not only were Maxey’s offenses far less severe than those committed by Wahlberg at the same age, but Wahlberg had a long history of prior arrests. Maxey had none.
Unlike Wahlbeg, Holle and Maxey are black. The list of other juveniles with no second chances is depressingly long. For the crime of being born in the wrong skin, there is no redemption, and no forgiveness.
Can an A-list actor earning $17 million to star in a single film complain that society has turned its back on him? I guess so. Maybe his feelings were hurt that it wasn’t $50 million, which is what Robert Downey Jr. earned for “Iron Man 3.”
Downey is another white guy who can’t believe he’s still being hassled by the ghosts of his past felonies. Perhaps not coincidentally, Wahlberg has publicly stated he wants to play that role in the next installment of the Iron Man franchise: the role of a billionaire who inherited a fortune based on selling firearms to the military.
But, Wahlberg’s petition says, he is not seeking a pardon for the “express purpose of obtaining a firearms permit” for himself, which is to say, not old Mark Wahlberg, racist drug addict, or Marky Mark, shirtless racist, but new Mark Wahlberg, loving white father and multimillionaire. This new version of himself hopes, someday, to obtain a position as “parole or probation officer.”
That makes perfect sense. In this economy, folks need a fallback to pay the emergency bills. Being licensed to carry a gun just happens to be a corollary requirement of being an officer of the law. He has stated it himself: the benefits of making more money and easing his legal paperwork on set are not the express purpose of seeking a pardon. His motives are pure. It is always about the children.
Last week, the new governor of Massachusetts, Republican Charlie Baker, issued a set of new guidelines regarding petitions for pardons. “The move,” wrote reporter Matt Stout, “is a signal that Baker, unsurprisingly, isn’t keen on moving anytime soon on requests for the often politically tricky pardons,” including the pending case of actor Mark Wahlberg.
I don’t know if Wahlberg has ever read the Canterbury Tales, but Baker majored in English at Harvard. I’m quite sure that he has, and he knows how that story ends.
As for us, we have been entertained. And the tale goes on.