The thrill that’ll get ‘cha, when you get your picture…
Naturally, everyone is interested in Chapo… less so in Sean Penn (who cares about his farts?), and the article in Rolling Stone seems more about Mr. Penn than about Chapo… but still, it is an important piece and attention must be paid. Although badly edited (or not edited at all) and chock full of irrelevant details (about Mr. Penn, his flatulance, his ramblings on his penis, his claims not to know how to use a computer — while at the same time using technical acronyms like BMM) and an overuse of the first person singular, there is value in what Gawker calls “A presumably edited, rambling 11,000-word account of a madman’s meeting with a criminal. ”
The squawk about “journalistic ethics” of giving the subject control over the interview (“obviously, unambiguously indefensible to give the subject of an interview/article final say over its publication” said Chris Hayes of MSNBC) seems overblown — one having to ask how else such an interview, by an actor (not a journalist) would be conducted elsewise. I am more concerned by the possible role (intentional or otherwise) Mr. Penn and The Rolling Stone played in what may have been a bloodbath in rural Badiraguato.
I know real journalist who say they’d kill for a good story, but in this instance, an amateur journalist may have gotten a lot of other people killed. As Penn (or the RS editors) note, following the interview:
There were additional reports that 13 Sinaloa communities had been ravaged with gunfire during simultaneous raids. La Comision Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (the National Commission for Human Rights) struggled to enter the area but were prohibited. Villagers protested their treatment by the military. By the time news agencies broadcast the story in the United States, the mayhem throughout Sinaloa in those days had been essentially reduced to a nearly successful raid that had surgically targeted only Chapo and his men, and claimed he had been injured in flight with face and leg wounds.
The late, legendary, Mexican journalist Julio Scherer García, famed for his saying “If I could interview the Devil, I’d go to Hell” managed a more in-depth, enlightening interview in 2010 when the then octogenarian Scherer met with “El Mayo” Zambada. Scherer, like Penn, told of the security measures he needed to interview the “irregular agricultural export trader”, but the focus of the story was on the so-called “cartel” leader, and on the business itself and not on the details of obtaining the interview.
Naturally, outside Mexico, Scherer’s coup was practically ignored: which is what gives the shallow Rolling Stone “interview” its oversize importance. Although there are plenty of narcotics/human trafficking/gunrunning organizations around, when U.S. law enforcement agencies (followed by the media) started dubbing them “cartels” (and… in an absurd attempt to make them seem more a military than police issue… “TCOs” [Transnational Criminal Organizations]), there had to be a “Mr. Big”… and Chapo fit the bill, becoming the poster boy for those who want a villain to blame for social ills. Buried in Sean Penn’s Excellent Adventures there is at least the recognition that Chapo is less a super-villain, than just a hillbilly made good. That Joaquín Guzmán Loera is even in the “drug” trade has more to do with abject poverty in the Mexican countryside than anything else; that if people buy “drugs” they are going to be sold; that foreign corporations (unnamed, supposedly by Chapo’s own preference) are eagerly profiting from the “investments” created by the trade; and that Chapo himself is rather unimportant in the scheme of things when it comes to these sort of enterprises.