Sean Penn, "Chapo Guzman", and Rolling Stone

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by vrDrew, Jan 11, 2016.

  1. vrDrew macrumors 65816

    Jan 31, 2010
    Midlife, Midwest
    If you've a spare twenty minutes or so (and the inclination) take a look at Sean Penn's rambling account of his meeting with (then) fugitive Mexican drug lord "Chapo" Guzman. Its interesting on a number of levels. But not necessarily for the quality of Sean Penn's journalistic work.

    The first observation I had was that there was remarkably little actual interviewing going on. Penn's limited Spanish ("hola" and "adios") certainly played a part. Guzman made a number of statements, claiming that he turned to narcotics because there was no other means of earning a living. But beyond that, nothing groundbreaking.

    Sean Penn himself is something of a polarizing figure. The guy who rose to fame as Jeff Spicoli now fancies himself as something of an outlaw journalist, but without the writing chops of Hunter S. Thompson. His prose is that of an intelligent man; with stylist ambitions slightly out of reach of his abilities. He uses the word "brume" to describe the aftereffects of a bout of flatulence. A pretentious word that (I presume) was not technically accurate. He mentions twice the expensive wristwatches sported by Guzman's sons - but manages to omit the sort of detail that brings the story to life: Were they diamond-studded; chunky gold Rolexes? Or were they slender haute complication masterpieces of the watchmakers art. We already know the Guzmans are rich - but are they gaudy buffoons; or second-generation men aspiring to a life of style and taste? Penn never went to college and it shows. He's obviously literate; but you get the feeling he's never written anything and had an editor hand it back to him with a note telling him to try harder.

    Which brings us to Rolling Stone. Obviously this interview was a big "get" for them. But in the aftermath of the false Virginia gang-rape story; you'd think that they'd think twice about their journalistic reputation and giving any interview subject approval over one of their stories. And quite frankly, Penn's rambling copy could have easily been cut by half or more.

    Still an interesting read.
  2. haxrnick macrumors 6502a


    Aug 4, 2011
    Penn better hope Chapo's men don't think he's the reason he was captured.
  3. hulugu macrumors 68000


    Aug 13, 2003
    quae tangit perit Trump
    Amateur hour.

    Sean Penn tried to play journalist for a bit, and thus put together a pseudo-Gonzo account of Travels with El Chapo, but ultimately, he didn't garner anything of interest.

    Meanwhile, he committed a bit of journalistic malpractice by giving the source pre-approval of the account making the whole exercise suspect.

    As the Poynter article below notes, Penn didn't challenge any of Guzmán Loera's account or his assertions. He didn't talk with experts in the field, or note that El Chapo's cartel has murdered dozens of journalists.
  4. aaronvan Suspended


    Dec 21, 2011
    República Cascadia
    Sean Penn lacks strong writing skills.

    If it wasn't for Drug War, El Chapo would be picking lettuce in Salinas.
  5. JamesMike macrumors demi-god


    Nov 3, 2014
    You should also know he carries a chip on his shoulder because of his dad being blacklisted back in the 50s.
  6. Scepticalscribe Contributor


    Jul 29, 2008
    The Far Horizon
    That to me is the key element is this excuse for a story.

    The fact that a 'celebrity' seeks to interview (or conduct what he terms and tries to sell as an interview) a criminal, thug, murderer and drug lord, gives rise - in itself - to headlines and a story which is repotted by much of the sort of news media which deals with such matters.

    This is not news, - in itself - and nor is it any sort of analytical attempt to serious examine the mind and motivations of someone such as El Chapo.

    Of course, the real story here is the degree of impunity that El Chapo has operated under for far too long, an impunity no doubt further reinforced by the many murders of journalists attributable to his cartel which is the sort of story one might have hoped that the western media would have been interested in covering and reporting.

    Not only is Sean Penn no Hunter S Thompson, he isn't a Gabriel Garcia Marquez either. If you are young to touch these subjects, an ability to write helps, but so too, does the willingness to master the subject in question, and to realise that the interrogation of your subject, and not your conversation with yourself, is the real story to be told here.
  7. hulugu macrumors 68000


    Aug 13, 2003
    quae tangit perit Trump
    Right, and while I understand that Rolling Stone just went for the sizzle, there still has to be some meat under there; instead we got steam.

    And, they could have used Sean Penn as a hook, like all those BuzzFeed cat videos, to get people to read some actual journalism, but instead they seemed content to promote the get without wondering what it all meant.

    The Washington Post has a series of the murders of journalists worldwide, and the last section covers Mexico. One story that it tells is how journalists self-censor because they don't want to screw with the plaza. El Chapo isn't above shooting up a newsroom or beheading a journalist, despite all of Penn's ******** about him being just a businessman. While the Sinaloa cartel isn't as terrifying as Los Zetas, they're still stepped in blood and carne asada—burning bodies to cover up murders.

    I agree. I just touched on HST because it's Rolling Stone and Penn's ramblings sounded suspiciously like the half-assed nonsense I'd get from freshman still high on the fumes of Fear and Loathing. HST's imitable style has always led young (and ego-driven) writers to bedlam.
    (Hemingway is also dangerous, but less annoying to grade.)

    I've got to stick with Alfredo Corchado's views on the subject, when he wrote on Twitter: "To describe #chapo #SeanPenn mtg as an interview is an epic insult to journalists who died in name of truth..."
  8. LizKat macrumors 68040


    Aug 5, 2004
    Catskill Mountains
    He's a more than capable actor in my estimation, but why not just leave it there. I don't always get where he's coming from with some of his non-cinematic endeavors, and this one leaves me totally uninterested.

    The only thing I want to hear about Guzman is that his next trip to the slam is to one with no tunnels or access to people willing to build an escape route for him. So far I've resisted clicking on any links related to this "story" except the one for this thread. I think I'll keep it that way.

    But I didn't know Penn's dad was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. Very interesting. I'd probably be trying to make a lot of movies along the lines of Clooney's Good Night and Good Luck if I'd been Sean Penn and some of Hollywood's craven cave-ins to McCarthy's ******** had ruined my dad's career. He should stick to serving revenge as a cold dish buzzed back to hot perfection in a microwave oven, right there in Hollywood. Get Lionsgate to distribute the films. Let someone else write about a drug thug whose name should only appear in police blotters and court circulars anyway.

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