Sean Penn interviewed El Chapo. Or so NorteñoBlog has been told. I haven’t actually made it to the part of the article where Penn talks to Chapo, because I’m still wading through Penn’s introduction, which spends 2,300 words just getting out of New York City and uses most of those words to probe the anguished psyche of its narrator. It’s like The Monster at the End of This Book, only with less editing and more penises. (See below.)
Here are some of the items on Sean Penn’s mind: Sean Penn’s inability to use a laptop or a smart phone; an unspecified period in history “when walls were walls”; El Chapo’s history as a prison escape artist (OK, this inclusion makes sense); the failed history of the drug war (this also makes sense, but maybe he could have summarized it in a couple sentences?); the whole storied history of how Sean Penn landed this interview, which I am assured actually exists; Sean Penn’s limited knowledge of Spanish; and the passage no self-respecting blog can resist quoting, the passage that should grace Sean Penn’s tombstone or at least his Pulitzer, the passage that will howl in my ear the next time I’m writing something for money:
I throw my satchel into the open back of one of the SUVs, and lumber over to the tree line to take a piss. Dick in hand, I do consider it among my body parts vulnerable to the knives of irrational narco types, and take a fond last look, before tucking it back into my pants.
I mean, there’s at least two unnecessary commas in there!
What happens next is unprecedented: El Chapo speaks to Sean Penn. I assume. I’ll report back when I get that far.
Yes, there are all sorts of moral and ethical concerns with this article. Should Sean Penn have turned in Chapo? NorteñoBlog says NO, because for obvious reasons, I think it’s very important that non-journalists be allowed to play “journalist,” with all the legal protections possible. Should Sean Penn have more loudly condemned Chapo? NorteñoBlog says NO; Penn mentions upfront that Chapo is ruthless, he goes on AT GREAT LENGTH about the moral ambiguities surrounding his quest, and excessive moralizing rarely helps an article. Should Rolling Stone have allowed Chapo to review the article before publication? NorteñoBlog would like to play Sliding Doors with this question.
In this (“the real”) world, RS offered Chapo pre-approval, which allowed them to get the interview, which MAY have led Penn to “write the story in a more favorable light and omit unflattering facts in an attempt to not to be rejected.” True, but imagine alternate scenarios. Had they not offered pre-approval, they might not have had an interview at all and this blog post (and possibly a crucial butterfly) would not exist. Had Chapo changed the article into something (even more?) utterly toothless, RS might have killed it and we’d still be none the wiser. The best case scenario — Sean Penn gets a thorough and probing Chapo interview without offering the jefe pre-approval — seems unlikely. In any case, it’s done, and we’re left with Sean Penn’s dick and walls being walls. Whatever else it is, this article is one of a kind. I don’t see how RS’s pre-approval agreement holds any precedent for the future of journalistic integrity.
Oh yeah, and Chapo’s back in jail! Here’s blog faves Los Plebes Del Rancho, impressively quick out of the gate with their corrido “La Recaptura Del Chapo.” (I’m not sure whether that’s new singer José Manuel Lopez Castro playing requinto, but whoever it is tears shit up.)
A YouTube search for the words “corrido” and “recaptura” yields impressive fruit. It’ll make a pleasant soundtrack to finishing Sean Penn’s article. No spoilers, though — I want to savor the surprise when I reach the end and it turns out Sean Penn is just interviewing himself.