January 10, 2016

"El Chapo Speaks/A secret visit with the most wanted man in the world," by Sean Penn begins with an epigraph from Montaigne.

The epigraph is: "The laws of conscience, which we pretend to be derived from nature, proceed from custom."

Here's the article, in Rolling Stone, in case you want to make sense of the aphorism. Me, I can't wade through this stuff. First paragraph:
It's September 28th, 2015. My head is swimming, labeling TracPhones (burners), one per contact, one per day, destroy, burn, buy, balancing levels of encryption, mirroring through Blackphones, anonymous e-mail addresses, unsent messages accessed in draft form. It's a clandestine horror show for the single most technologically illiterate man left standing. At 55 years old, I've never learned to use a laptop. Do they still make laptops? No fucking idea! It's 4:00 in the afternoon. Another gorgeous fall day in New York City. The streets are abuzz with the lights and sirens of diplomatic movement, heads of state, U.N. officials, Secret Service details, the NYPD. It's the week of the U.N. General Assembly. Pope Francis blazed a trail and left town two days before. I'm sitting in my room at the St. Regis Hotel with my colleague and brother in arms, Espinoza.
I don't need to visit the interior of the Mind of Sean Penn. Do they still make movie stars? No fucking idea! It's 6:31 in the morning. Another pre-dawn in Madison, Wisconsin. No lights, no buzzing, no cops, no popes. I'm hanging out here with my husband, Meade... oh? Do you think I should get to some point?

What I like about this article is that it's the article that everyone must read but no one will read. Or, maybe, if you scroll down about 20 screens worth of blabber you will get to the boldfaced questions and read some of that. These questions are prefaced with: "Of the many questions I'd sent El Chapo, a cameraman out of frame asks a few of them directly, paraphrases others, softens many and skips some altogether." So what's it worth? Example:
Did your drug business grow and expand when you were in jail?

From what I can tell, and what I know, everything is the same. Nothing has decreased. Nothing has increased....

With respect to your activities, what do you think the impact on Mexico is? Do you think there is a substantial impact?

Not at all. Not at all....

Do you have any dreams? Do you dream?

Whatever is normal. But dreaming daily? No....
The answers are flat and opaque — unrevealing — even as the questions get more Barbara Walters-y. Look at this one:
If I ask you to define yourself as a person, if I ask you to pretend you are not JoaquĆ­n, instead you are the person who knows him better than anybody else in the world, how would you define yourself?
Well, if I knew him – with respect, and from my point of view, it's a person who's not looking for problems in any way. In any way.
Yes, it's perfectly inane. I skipped over a lot of text, but I never saw anything that justified the high-tone epigraph: "The laws of conscience, which we pretend to be derived from nature, proceed from custom." El Chapo wasn't revealing much and Sean Penn couldn't pull any story out of him. I think El Chapo got played by his own vanity. He wanted to be the subject of a biopic. That's why he made this connection. And from what I'm reading elsewhere, Sean Penn seems to have led the authorities to recapture El Chapo. I guess whatever role he played there is not something he wants too much attention for.

Anyway... epigraphs: "In literature, an epigraph is a phrase, quotation, or poem that is set at the beginning of a document or component." That's from Wikipedia, which warns: "Not to be confused with epitaph, epigram, or epithet." An epigraph, to me, implies that what follows will benefit from being looked at through that brief statement. It's tantalizing, no?

Wikipedia gives a few examples of epigraphs, including the Samuel Johnson quote — "He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man" — that begins Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" was originally published in Rolling Stone, and reading Sean Penn's hyper-personal raving style — "Do they still make laptops? No fucking idea!" — I had the feeling he aspired to Thompsonesqueness... to make a beast of himself, perhaps, and get rid of the pain of writing like a professional journalist.

Do they still make professional journalists? No fucking idea!

ADDED: The night the Rolling Stone article goes up, Sean Penn appears at a fundraiser... alongside his ex-wife Madonna. The Daily Mail article with the photos says Penn "unwittingly led the Mexican authorities to" El Chapo and that he's "now under investigation." Madonna and Sean, together again — a good move for both of them.

35 comments:

traditionalguy said...

Poor Sean. He is still suffering from Post Madonna Stress Syndrome.

wendybar said...

Sean Penn is an ass. Arrest him.

David Begley said...

I tried to read it and abandoned it.

The beginning contains an incoherent screed against the War on Drugs. Somehow we are responsible for Shorty's crimes.

Mexican police are investigating Penn. if charged, one count should be writing that piece.

And too bad they don't have the death penalty in Mexico. For Shorty, not Sean.

Hagar said...

There are two posts up at "Lucianne" saying that the interview gave the cops the clues to find El Chapo and arrest him again.

Meade said...

Do they still make blog commenters? No fucking idea!

AllenS said...

What if El Chapo tells his followers: "The bitch set me up?"

Leigh said...

Ah. So we've gone from pretentious coffee table books lefties pretend to have read, to liberal Rolling Stone pieces they pretend to have read. Death is nigh, Vampire Squid, and you are not alone.

Jim said...

Sean dropped a dime on El Chapo. Pass it on.

Terry said...

Right now there are hundreds of professional journalists reading the Penn article, from the newsroom of the New York Times to the city desk of the Ipswich Chronicle, and they are saying to themselves "God! If only I could write as good as this! Can you believe his last name is 'Penn'? That is so awesome!"
But none of these journalists are women. No woman even dreams of being able to write like Sean Penn. Not even Caitlyn Jenner.

Mary Beth said...

Is Penn as proud of his ignorance about other things as he is of his ignorance of technology? Or would he be if he weren't so unaware of it?

Laslo Spatula said...

"I had the feeling he aspired to Thompsonesqueness."

Just have to say I love that turn of phrase.It has Protoalthousian Whimsy.

I am Laslo.

ddh said...

Sean Penn had a deep thought once, but it died of loneliness. At least this time, we didn't get Sean Penn's attempt to imitate Noam Chomsky.

The Elder said...

"I don't need to visit the interior of the Mind of Sean Penn."

It is a vast, dark, empty and frightening space.

Crazy Jane said...

Props to Althouse for looking at the article and saving everybody else a lot of time.

Sean Penn has his own way of looking at things, and this apparently includes sympathizing with the leader of a gang whose drug sales have imperiled and destroyed the lives of many of Penn's fellow citizens.

Maybe, for his next move, he could return to Venezuela to visit the grave of his other great friend, Hugo Chavez. It would be particularly thoughtful if Penn traveled in a chartered aircraft filled with toilet paper.

Michael said...

For a better understanding of what Chapo does, day to day, I commend to you the movie El Infierno. You will not think any of this cute.
Penn is a very poorly educated person. His interview with El Chapo led to Chapo's arrest. That could have consequences for Sean.

Laslo Spatula said...

Sorry, but every time I read 'El Chapo' my mind goes to this.


I am Laslo.

Jay Vogt said...

Nothing says living on the edge like a room at the St. Regis.

The Gold Digger said...

I am shocked, shocked that a Castro sympathizer who has made a living portraying idiots on camera is not a deep intellectual who writes well.

Owen said...

"This could have consequences for Penn.". He should hurry up and do a movie about a movie star who thinks he's Hunter Thompson and gets played by the cops into inadvertently exposing a drug kingpin. Who then has him snuffed. Live, so to speak.

It would be a meta thriller.

Bob Boyd said...

They're still cranking out wankers at a furious pace.

Sean Penn isn't the latest and greatest, but he's reliable.

Jack Wayne said...

Tom Wolfe nailed Penn's type 49 years ago. Yawn.

Meade said...

EL JERKO

whitney said...

Penn is insufferable

Drago said...

Mary Beth: "Is Penn as proud of his ignorance about other things as he is of his ignorance of technology?"

Pish posh.

Penn, like Lena Dunham and Gore and Obama and garage mahal et all "F***'in Love Science!!" This is by simple virtue of their adopting leftist positions.

Adopting leftist positions means you "F***'in Love Science!!"

It's Science.

James Pawlak said...

When will he be indicted?

Paul said...

If El Chappo's gang even suspect Sean 'The Stupe' Penn ratted him out then Penn's days are numbered.

Go get' em boys!

James Graham said...

The friends of El Chapo will probably believe Penn worked with the Federales and is therefore responsible for his recapture.

If they believe that they may even kill Penn.

If they do kill him I promise not to be pleased.

ddh said...

By publishing the interview with el Chapo, Rolling Stone is trying to establish its credentials as an outlet for serious journalism, just as it did with its cover story on Dreamboat Dzhokar Tsarnayev and its story on revenge rape fantasy at UVA. Who better to deliver serious journalism these days than that international man of action and letters, Papa Sean?

http://www.eonline.com/eol_images/Entire_Site/2010914/425.penn.sean.lr.101410.jpg

Leigh said...

Props to @Crazy Jane for the TP laugh. Maybe Penn could deliver said TP to the new, duly elected body of representatives Maduro appears intent upon ignoring.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/venezuelas-maduro-wont-give-up-power-1447626102

Michael K said...

If Penn's head ends up in a sack on the border, I promise not to laugh.

Fabi said...

Was the interview conducted in a row boat?

tim maguire said...

An interview with El Chapo?!? Spicoli done good!

Always best to go straight to the source, cut out the middle man.

FullMoon said...

Drago said
Penn, like Lena Dunham and Gore and Obama and garage mahal et all "F***'in Love Science!!" This is by simple virtue of their adopting leftist positions.


Not sure if you elevated Garage, or dragged him down even lower.

vanderleun said...

Sean Penn..... trying and failing to imitate Hunter Thompson. I hope he does the complete Hunter and blows his brains out with a bullet. Soon.

Jeffrey said...

Ann,

I've noticed that lately your (supposedly) neutral, dispassionate blogger persona has been slipping a little and you've allowed yourself to show some emotion. In this entry, I really had to laugh at your use of Penn's "No fucking idea!" as a refrain. It's very funny.

Hey, maybe one day you'll even have the courage to state an opinion of your own or make a claim that people here could debate (besides the ones about the uselessness of travel and the ugliness of men in shorts). I'm certainly not saying that you need to, but it might be interesting to see what would happen.