The ultimate takedown of Sean Penn (and Geraldo Rivera)

A real journalist who has tracked down and interviewed murderous villains delivers the best rebuke to Sean Penn.  Monica Showalter writes in Investor’s Business Daily about Penn and his big fan, Geraldo Rivera:

Fox News' Geraldo Rivera declared that the criticism being heaped on Sean Penn for his vetted "interview" with Mexican drug lord Chapo Guzman is simply a mistake.

"I would have done it," the big-name network newsman wrote. Guys like Penn "are not co-conspirators with the world's most wanted man. They wanted to talk to him the way others have talked to a rogue's gallery of bad guys ranging from Pol Pot to Stalin to Hitler to Castro to Mark Chapman to John Wayne Gacy or Ted Bundy. This is what enterprise journalists do. They take newsworthy information from sources however distasteful, and they convey it from point A to point B," Rivera wrote.

That's pretty fine words until you realize that 67 Mexican journalists have been murdered by Mexico's heinous cartels, including Guzman's, for the "crime" of trying to report the truth without Chapo's vetting. The Washington Post called it an "epic insult" to their memory.

But in Rivera's own mind, it all seemed so logical. That may be because the television news culture he inhabits is so corrupted.

For an example of an uncorrupted journalist, she quotes an email exchange she had with her friend Nate Thayer:

Nate Thayer is a foreign correspondent's foreign correspondent who spent 20 years in Southeast Asia tracking down Pol Pot, the murderous Cambodian communist dictator who slaughtered a third of his nation in the 1970s for the purpose of rebuilding society from scratch, even killing citizens for the "crime" of wearing eyeglasses. Pol Pot was a monster. Thayer, a badass freelancer for the Far Eastern Economic Review, tracked Pol Pot down in the Cambodian jungle when he was on the run, and in 1998 managed with great difficulty to get the world's only interview with the beast.

In the course of getting that interview, not once did Thayer compromise his journalistic principles — not once. He had to develop contacts in the Thai military so as to obtain permission to go into the Khmer Rouge no-go zones, develop contacts inside Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge communists in the jungle, develop contacts with assorted other marauders and bad guys, and continuously persist in the back and forth that goes with such a high-risk endeavor. Thayer also had to evade random roadside killers, terrible bouts of malaria and other jungle diseases, and weather unbelievable hazards, all for the sake of the journey and his achievement. In short, he had to take the long way to the dictator, the principled way, not the short-and-easy compromised way that Penn did.

Thayer is an old friend and I asked him what he thought about it:

"The difference between Penn and a journalist are clear," Thayer wrote by email. "He has every right to do what he does and meet who he wants. But he advocates for people's political positions. Whatever that is, it is not journalism. And it puts the rest of us at risk.  (Emphasis added) I hang out with rogue bad guys for a living (Pol Pot, the NKorean Kim's, the KKK etc), but it is vital to be clear on ones independence. They all respect that because they know that is where real credibility . . . is based upon. They need to go through the sausage making process. Otherwise one falls into the 'useful idiot' category. The jury is out on whether Penn falls in what category."

Of course, as a freelancer, Thayer enjoys none of the perks and privileges, not to mention the money, of the likes of Penn and Rivera.  He’s the real deal, and he knows what they have never learned about a profession they allegedly all practice.

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