Robin Hood or Robbin’ ‘Hood ?

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Courtesy of Sean Penn

Awesta Mohammadi, Features Editor

What is all the buzz about Sean Penn and El Chapo? Does Penn see El Chapo as a hero? A villain? All are valid questions, but what needs to be asked is should we believe what Penn has to say about El Chapo. As a journalist, you are to keep your interview questions private or concealed from the person you are going to interview until you interview them, meaning the person doesn’t get to read the questions in advance to prepare themselves for the interview. Now that that point is clear, on to point two: journalists are prohibited from allowing their source of evidence (in many cases the person being interviewed) to proofread the article before being published. With the basics of journalism, a clear judgment can be made on true and honest journalism. Before judging Penn’s journalistic ways, let’s take a look at what he had reported on El Chapo and how he did it.

Let’s start with identifying El Chapo as Sean Penn see’s him: a “humble, rural Mexican… peasant-farmer-turned-billionaire-drug-lord… Clark Kent-into-Superman extravaganza”. Penn views El Chapo as a Robin Hood figure who has helped his fellow country men in need. Penn also states that the war on drugs has failed, and that we keep losing it, not because of El Chapo or other drug lords who supply but those who demand the drugs. Without demand there is no supply.

Keep in mind that these opinions of Sean Penn were pre-approved by El Chapo himself.

However, there is more to El Chapo than what Penn has described. El Chapo has killed more than thousands of people, including more than 60 journalists who were killed or kidnapped, justifying the actions as self defense, according to Committee to Protect Journalist. The journalists who have lost their lives due to staying true to their job and risking their lives to report on dangerous topics, such as the cartels, are being disgraced by Penn’s claim of “true” journalism. El Chapo claims to be helping the locals and the poor, but what does he have to say to those who want to ask him of his use of his cook’s daughter as a human shield when the Mexican marines were trying to capture him? Can the drug lords become men, and fight with their own power, man to man? Can they stop using innocent lives as shields and protection? And what about Sean Penn? Why did he ask such light questions that didn’t necessarily bring out the true character of El Chapo – the drug lord who uses babies as human shields? Many questions are left unanswered.

Later Sean Penn discussed his article “El Chapo” on 60 Minutes. In the interview, Penn states the only regret he has is not that his journalism was faulty but that his article failed to bring change.

So was Sean Penn right in claiming that El Chapo was not actually a bad guy, but a misunderstood Robin Hood? Or are reports from actual journalists accurate on El Chapo’s image as an evil drug lord who has taken many innocent lives? It all depends on how you see it.

And why all the buzz you ask? Well that’s because the journalism ethics that were mentioned earlier were violated by Sean Penn. Penn allowed El Chapo to read through and give the okay to publish his work on reporting his story. As a journalist myself, I believe Penn’s article should be taken with a grain of salt. Seeing how Penn had connections and, as most movie stars wanting fame, his work was greatly influenced by these factors.