By: Rebekah Devorak | Opinions Editor
If you can’t work a laptop in 2016, there are a handful of things that you definitely aren’t qualified for. Among those things, and chiefly at the top, is an intimate interview with the world’s most wanted drug lord.
But actor and self-dubbed “experiential journalist” Sean Penn didn’t let that stop him.
Penn met with Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman on Oct. 2 in an undisclosed jungle location in Mexico. At the meeting, he conducted an interview that appeared in the Jan. 9 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine. A video of El Chapo – kingpin of the Sinaloa Cartel, considered to be one of the most powerful in the world – answering questions was later released.
While Mexican authorities are lauding the actor, saying that his interview is what led to El Chapo’s arrest on Jan. 8, he deserves none of the praise. This was one of the most foolish and selfish moves a Hollywood celebrity could possibly make.
According to CNN, over 60,000 people have been killed between 2006 and 2012 due to drug-related violence in Mexico. In those six years, over 26,000 had also gone missing. The country itself has been torn ragged by combating cartels and corrupt officials who can’t seem to get a handle on the situation.
Authorities believe the Sinaloa Cartel is right at the heart of those issues. El Chapo has done nothing but ruin lives: those who are addicted to his drugs, those who are gunned down by his henchmen for whatever reason, those who happen to be born in Mexico and must watch as their country crumbles.
The U.S. feels the affliction, too; according to The New York Times, El Chapo’s cartel is responsible for more than half of the illegal importation of narcotics into America.
In his interview with “60 Minutes,” Penn stated that he wanted to interview El Chapo because he felt “complicit” in the suffering and murders that were happening. Given this, it is unbelievable how Penn could choose to interview the man instead of turning him over to the authorities. His decision disrespects the people affected by El Chapo’s merciless cartel because that’s another day he lives free without being brought to justice.
Furthermore Penn, along with his El Chapo contact, Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, could now fear for their lives. Drug cartel members tend to hold strong vendettas and even stronger grudges. According to Mike Vigil, a former chief of international operations with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the fact that the authorities are attributing El Chapo’s capture to Penn means that the possibility of Sinaloa members putting a hit out on the actor or his family is very possible.
Penn said that the interview was done to shed light on the war on drugs, but his thoughtlessness regarding the consequences of his actions says otherwise. The article itself was a storyline easily seen in any television drama: El Chapo spoke of nothing more than how he sells an abundance of drugs and how he hires other men to do his dirty work.
The drug lord also required to view the final draft before publication to make any changes he wanted. This has obviously repelled other journalists from interviewing him in the past. It discredits the reporting because El Chapo has the power to add or remove whatever he pleases.
Bottom line, there are now innocent people put in harm’s way for a story lacking in substance and power to change.
Amidst backlash, Penn said in an interview on “60 Minutes” that he credits it to jealous journalists who are irate at being scooped. What Penn fails to realize is that people, journalists or otherwise, are flagging his behavior because it is irresponsible and unethical, not because they are envious of his byline.
Stick to the silver screen, Penn, and save the drama for the movies.