For several months I’ve been running to the magazine section of my local bookstore to browse Vanity Fair. And each month I find that what I’m looking for in that publication is missing.
You see, Sean Penn, the gifted actor and not so gifted journalist, reportedly flew to Cuba last October to interview Fidel Castro on behalf of the magazine. It’s unclear whether Penn actually got to see the communist dictator. Castro has met with very few visitors since taking ill in 2006, and the handful of exceptions have been foreign government officials. The veil of secrecy around Castro’s health continues to be quite opaque. But let’s assume that Penn got the access that none of the foreign media outlets based in Havana have gotten despite their Faustian bargains with the regime. It’s quite easy to predict what Penn’s work would look like.
First of all, Penn would report that Castro is in “excellent” physical health. Undoubtedly, we would read about how “bright-eyed” Penn found the octogenarian despot. Castro’s stamina would be “impressive” and his posture would certainly be quite “upright” in Penn’s eyes. Penn would tell us how “alert” Castro is and how “encyclopedic” his memory is.
What we wouldn’t learn is what caused Castro to ostensibly step down from power to begin with. That’s a state secret, of course. Imagine if President Obama had a health concern and the White House instantly moved toward a complete media blackout of the story.
The inquisitive Penn would ask the “maximum leader” about the state of U.S./Cuba relations, and Castro’s response would be that Cuba is a country that has been under siege from its imperialist neighbor to the north for the last 50 years. The word “blockade” would definitely appear in Penn’s article, for it is the disingenuous term Cuba’s communists have always used for America’s commercial trade embargo.
But Penn would omit the true origins and intent of the embargo. He would also neglect to tell Vanity Fair’s audience that Fidel himself rejected commercial relations with the U.S. while Cuba was a client state of the Soviet Union. The fact that the United States is Cuba’s leading food supplier despite the “blockade” would also be missing from Penn’s reportage. It’s too much of an inconvenient truth for those like Penn who have an agenda of appeasing left-wing tyrants.