Appearing on Real Time With Bill Maher, amateur Latin America scholar Sean Penn details his recent humanitarian trip to Haiti, reveals that he has started an NGO, and praises the United States military's reconstruction efforts in Port-au-Prince, calling it the "most noble [military] mission since World War II." (Penn has apparently forgotten the 2004 operation to provide relief to parts of tsunami-ravaged South Asia.)
But as is his wont, Penn couldn't get through the interview without reference to the beneficent Venezuelan and Cuban governments (who supplied "narcotics" in Haiti, despite their own drug shortages) and how Hugo Chavez is unfairly maligned in the United States media. How should one combat this misinformation campaign? Penn has a plan:
Because every day, this elected leader [Hugo Chavez] is called a dictator here, and we just accept it. And we just accept it. And this is mainstream media, who should – truly, there should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies.
It seems that Penn—a half-wit, but apparently an honest half-wit—has learned a thing or two on his political pilgrimages to Cuba. This is a dirty little trend, both in Europe and an America, amongst the thicko intelligentsia: For example, insult 95,000 "relatives" of the "Prophet" by publishing a cartoon and a liberal newspaper, under legal threat, issues a pathetic front page apology. Insult the democratic credentials (of which there are none to speak) of that sinister troll in Venezuela, and an self-important actor suggests you spend a little time in the cooler, rethinking your claims of objectivity. Watch the clip here (about 5 minutes in) and observe the cowardly silence of Bill Maher, his audience, and his panel of Greek social climbers. Mustn't challenge the big-hearted, weepy, humanitarian Oscar winner, for he surely means well. As does Chavez.
As Penn says, the population of Venezuela now has "access to dreams" they never had in the past (could Penn even name the previous president of Venezuela?); a funny little formulation that unconsciously acknowledges that after 10 years of chavismo, the poor are still amazingly poor, the rich are now in Miami, having been replaced by members of the Bolibourgeoise, and the economy is a mess. The poor may have aspirations, but, as Venezuelan economist Francisco Rodriguez discovered, they have seen no real material gains.
In light of his calls for jailing journalists, I suspect Penn would agree with this decision, recently reported by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas: "Venezuela rejects company's request to launch two anti-Chávez TV channels."
In 2008, I responded to Penn's preposterous piece in The Nation, which detailed his groveling appearance at the Castro compound in Havana. A sample:
None of this bothers the average Cuban, [Penn] writes, because unnamed American government officials and "prominent dissidents acknowledge" that "the ruling Communist Party would win 80 percent of the electorate" if the country ever got around to having an election. So why not test this theory and silence international critics? Because not even the regime believes that they have the support of the country's vast proletariat. As one student recently told the New York Times, young Cubans "don't believe in a world where the Internet is forbidden and your whole world is Cuba with the rest blocked out." Indeed, even Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo, the leftist dissident Penn cites, recently told a reporter that "Talk to young people, and 90 percent will tell you their dream is to leave the country."
Whole thing here.
And while Penn's lower lip quivers discussing the destruction he witnessed in Haiti—and it is horrible and depressing—I won't hold my breath for a comment on the recent death of Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo, or the hunger strike of dissident Guillermo Farinas: