News & Politics

Sean Penn's 'Grotesque' Interview with Escaped Drug Lord El Chapo

Mexican army soldiers escort drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to a helicopter. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

Actor Sean Penn journeyed to an unnamed city in Mexico recently and interviewed the notorious drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. The interview is published in Rolling Stone — all 10,000 words.

Penn has an obnoxious writing style and even more obnoxious ideas.

I took some comfort in a unique aspect of El Chapo’s reputation among the heads of drug cartels in Mexico: that, unlike many of his counterparts who engage in gratuitous kidnapping and murder, El Chapo is a businessman first, and only resorts to violence when he deems it advantageous to himself or his business interests.

What a nice guy. It gets worse:

As an American citizen, I’m drawn to explore what may be inconsistent with the portrayals our government and media brand upon their declared enemies. Not since Osama bin Laden has the pursuit of a fugitive so occupied the public imagination. But unlike bin Laden, who had posed the ludicrous premise that a country’s entire population is defined by – and therefore complicit in – its leadership’s policies, with the world’s most wanted drug lord, are we, the American public, not indeed complicit in what we demonize? We are the consumers, and as such, we are complicit in every murder, and in every corruption of an institution’s ability to protect the quality of life for citizens of Mexico and the United States that comes as a result of our insatiable appetite for illicit narcotics.

As much as anything, it’s a question of relative morality. What of the tens of thousands of sick and suffering chemically addicted Americans, barbarically imprisoned for the crime of their illness? Locked down in facilities where unspeakable acts of dehumanization and violence are inescapable, and murder a looming threat. Are we saying that what’s systemic in our culture, and out of our direct hands and view, shares no moral equivalency to those abominations that may rival narco assassinations in Juarez? Or, is that a distinction for the passive self-righteous?

There is little dispute that the War on Drugs has failed: as many as 27,000 drug-related homicides in Mexico alone in a single year, and opiate addiction on the rise in the U.S. Working in the emergency and development field in Haiti, I have countless times been proposed theoretical solutions to that country’s ailments by bureaucratic agencies unfamiliar with the culture and incongruities on the ground. Perhaps in the tunnel vision of our puritanical and prosecutorial culture that has designed the War on Drugs, we have similarly lost sight of practice, and given over our souls to theory. At an American taxpayer cost of $25 billion per year, this war’s policies have significantly served to kill our children, drain our economies, overwhelm our cops and courts, pick our pockets, crowd our prisons and punch the clock. Another day’s fight is lost. And lost with it, any possible vision of reform, or recognition of the proven benefits in so many other countries achieved through the regulated legalization of recreational drugs.

I have neither the time nor energy to dissect this adolescent twaddle. Even a rabid Objectivist would not exaggerate, obfuscate, and spin half-truths the way that Penn has throughout this self-aggrandizing piece. Everybody has some objection to the war on drugs. But it is far from clear that the “regulated legalization of recreational drugs” is the answer.

As for what El Chapo had to say, who cares? He wants a movie made of his life which was the ostensible reason Penn got an audience with the killer. Penn tells of the drug dealer’s humble beginnings, as if this perhaps justifies his violent rise to the top of the cartel world. Liberals are suckers for sob stories and El Chapo’s is particularly weepy.

Giving El Chapo absolute editorial veto power over the article was an interesting concession by Rolling Stone. The drug lord didn’t make any changes, but it shows that the iconic liberal publication will sell their soul for cash.

Reaction to Penn and the interview has been universally negative.

Marco Rubio:

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio called it “grotesque” that actor Sean Penn interviewed Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman while the Mexican drug kingpin was still-at large and evading authorities.

“If one of these American actors who have benefited from the greatness of this country, who have made money from our free enterprise system, want to go fawn all over a criminal and a drug trafficker in their interviews, they have a Constitutional right to do it,” Rubio said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “I find it grotesque.”

After Guzman was apprehended by Mexican authorities earlier this week, Rolling Stone published an interview conducted by Penn. The notorious drug dealer reportedly met with the Hollywood star to discuss making a biographical film.

Rubio said it was a positive if the interview helped lead to the drug kingpin’s capture and that he hopes Guzman, who has escaped from Mexican prisons twice, is extradited to the United States.

“Sean Penn is not someone I spend a lot of time thinking about. I didn’t even know he was still around,” Rubio said. “I guess [the Mexicans] used the interview that he had in order to find him. That’s fantastic. I hope they extradite ‘El Chapo’ to the United States.”

Reportedly, Penn gave law enforcement no help in finding Guzman, but authorities used technical means to track Penn’s movements and figure out where El Chapo was hiding out.

There is no “moral relativism” here. Sean Penn demonstrated a shocking disregard for decency by meeting with and lionizing a murderer of children and destroyer of Mexican society. To equate what law enforcement in America does to stem the flow of illegal drugs with what narco-terrorists do is an absurdity that I wouldn’t expect even a morally bankrupt liberal like Penn to posit.

What a vile, despicable man. El Chapo too.