Tuesday, January 19, 2016

‘Cartel’ Author Don Winslow Responds To Sean Penn: “Call It Anything You Want – Except Journalism”


Don Winslow, the author of The Cartel, offers his view of Sean Penn's so-called interview with a Mexican drug lord fugitive in a piece for Deadline.com.

Bestselling novelist Don Winslow has written two epics about the Drug War: 2005’s The Power of The Dog and The Cartel, the latter of which was one of the best reviewed novels of 2015 and sold to Fox for a film that will be directed by Ridley Scott. Winslow has spent nearly 20 years researching the Mexican cartels, and the most of the violence in The Cartel is based on real events. He dedicated the book to the more than 100 journalists killed in cartel violence, and named every slain reporter in his intro. He agreed to write for Deadline why he was so appalled by Sean Penn’s El Chapo encounter and subsequent 60 Minutes interview.


“My article failed.”

So Sean Penn tells Charlie Rose.
Well, yes.
As someone who has researched and written about the Mexican cartels and the futile ‘war on drugs’ for coming on twenty years, I know how tough a subject it is. Mind-bending, soul-warping, heartbreaking, it challenges your intellect, your beliefs, your faith in humanity and God. No journalist or writer who has ever tackled it has emerged quite the same – and all too many have not survived at all, but been tortured, mutilated and killed on the orders of such as Joaquin Guzman. (I resist the cute sobriquet of ‘Chapo.’ He is not one of the Seven Dwarfs – not Dopey, or Sneezy or Bashful. He’s a mass murderer.)
When I first heard that Penn had done an interview with Guzman, I was wondering what terms were demanded to grant that interview. Penn has a reputation of not shying away from controversy or hard, unpopular stances. I was hoping that he would ask Guzman questions that would matter.
Mr. Penn tells Charlie Rose that he considers the article a failure because it did not succeed in addressing his real issue – our policies of the ‘war on drugs.’ But in an article of 10,500 words, the phrase ‘war on drugs’ appears three times. It was not the purpose or focus of Penn’s horribly misguided piece.
Penn’s article had nothing to do with the forty year, trillion dollar failure that is the ‘war on drugs’ — it was instead a brutally simplistic and unfortunately sympathetic portrait of a mass murderer. Penn thought he had scored a journalistic coup – instead his interview was the by-product of Guzman’s infatuation with a soap-opera actress (Guzman didn’t even know who Penn was) and told the exact story that Guzman wanted – with line by line editorial approval courtesy of Penn and Rolling Stone.
Guzman was never called to answer the hard questions. That’s a shame, because these questions need answers.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:
You can also read my Crime Beat column on Don Winslow's crime novel Savages via the below link:

1 comment:

  1. Your postings often serve as catalysts for my memory/recollections, and -- somewhat relevant to all of this insanity involving Penn and El Chapo -- there was a great book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, News of a Kidnapping, that was a superb nonfictional account of Latin American (Columbian) crime syndicates; it is a great example of superb journalism, and should have been required reading for Sean Penn. BTW, I recommend the book to anyone who wants to understand better the crime world and Pablo Escobar.

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