If Sean Penn had his way, critics of the President would be locked up

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, that is.

Via Sister Toldjah, I found this gem. Apparently, actor Sean Penn, someone who apparently cherishes his own freedom of speech, thinks that people who refer to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as a dictator should be jailed.


Sean Penn: Journalists who call Hugo Chávez a dictator should be jailed

Actor accuses US media of smearing Venezuelan president
Rory Carroll in Caracas

Sean Penn has defended Hugo Chávez as a model democrat and said those who call him a dictator should be jailed.

The Oscar-winning actor and political activist accused the US media of smearing Venezuela’s socialist president and called for journalists to be punished.

“Every day, this elected leader is called a dictator here, and we just accept it, and accept it. And this is mainstream media. There should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies.”

Penn, who has visited Chávez in Caracas, said Venezuela’s poor majority had willingly embraced his leftist revolution, but that this view was concealed from Americans.

“We are hypnotised by the media. Who do you know here who’s gone through 14 of the most transparent elections on the globe, and has been elected democratically, as Hugo Chávez?”

Penn, speaking on Bill Maher’s HBO chatshow, is part of a small but vocal pro-Chávez Hollywood group which includes Oliver Stone and Danny Glover.

They have remained steadfast even as Venezuela’s leader has lost fans at home and abroad. Inflation, crime and water and electricity shortages have hit his popularity and led to defections from his socialist party.

The Organisation of American States recently accused Chávez of intolerance and authoritarianism, and a Spanish judge accused Venezuela of cosseting Farc and Eta terrorists, sparking a diplomatic spat with Madrid.

Chávez thanked Penn for his support in what he said was a daily battle for public opinion.

“I was reading the declarations from our friend Sean Penn, the famous American actor,” he told a televised rally in Caracas. “Penn defended what he considers to be the truth.”

The Hollywood star was an ally in the effort to counter a campaign to “confuse” Venezuelans, said the president, who has been in power for 11 years. “From here I thank you very much.”

Other celebrity endorsements have come from the linguist and writer Noam Chomsky and model Naomi Campbell.

I’d note here that this story didn’t come from RightWingNews or The Washington Times. Rather, it came from the left-wing British publication, The Guardian.

Me, I find it interesting that Mr Penn would think that people criticizing the government ought to be subjected to criminal prosecution and imprisonment, though to be fair, Mr Penn said nothing at all about criminal prosecution; he just said to throw them in jail!

Anyway, on Thursday, 14 September 2006, Mr Penn exercised his freedom of speech by criticizing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and President George Bush. On Saturday, 24 March 2007, Mr Penn ranted:

You, Misters Bush and Cheney; you, Ms. Rice, are villainously and criminally obscene people, obscene human beings, incompetent even to fulfill your own self-serving agenda, while tragically neglectful and destructive of ours and our country’s.

Mr Penn has spouted off, saying that he hopes critics of his actions “die screaming of rectal cancer,” among other charming things. If the United States had the restrictions on criticizing the President that Mr Penn thinks ought to be appropriate for criticizing Hugo Chavez, Mr Penn would have been in jail years ago.

Of course, President Chavez agrees with Mr Penn, as even the left-wing Guardian has noted: it seems that internal critics of President Chavez are finding themselves in prison.

So, what is the freely and democratically elected President of Venezuela doing?  From Pam Meister:

  • The takeover of numerous banks has caused the Venezuelan dollar to plunge in value.
  • His dream of ending presidential term limits was realized a year ago.
  • He supports the Basque terror organization ETA as well as the Colombian FARC.
  • This oil-rich nation that depends upon “green” sources for its electricity is now rationing said electricity, and Chavez is threatening to “punish” businesses that use what the government deems to be too much, further putting a strain on that nation’s economy.
  • Chavez ordered the takeover of a number of privately-owned businesses, including U.S. food giant Cargill, assets of 60 oilfield services companies, and he continues to tighten his grip on private media.
  • Schools that do not implement his socialist curriculum will be nationalized.
  • Always concerned that the Venezuelan public doesn’t get enough of him, Chavez has a Sunday television show called “Hello, President” that can go on for hours, frequently orders television and radio stations to air his speeches (threatening to close them down if they don’t comply), and now has a new radio program called “Suddenly Chavez,” where radio broadcasts can be interrupted by Dear Leader at any time, day or night, in a bid to “serve to define the lines of communication of the Bolivarian Revolution.” Oh, and just a couple of weeks ago, Chavez himself was the victim of his own bad policy when his live television broadcast was briefly cut off due to a loss of power.

Of course, the final turning of the corner will come when Mr Penn decides to tell us that critics of President Obama should be locked up as well. As far as I know, he hasn’t said that yet, but give it time, give it time.

There’s something just amazingly hypocritical about people exercising their freedom of speech to criticize a government they don’t like saying that people who criticize a government they do like should be punished for saying it. Thing is, with Sean Penn, even if he read this, he’d probably never recognize his own hypocrisy.

35 Comments

  1. “Defended what he considers to be the truth”. And since Penn is probably insane, the “truth” is only in his warped mind.

  2. Penn seems to me to be a one step forward, two steps backwards kind of ……. He supplied help to the victims of Katrina and Haiti, yet, he says some far left field whacko things. He does put his money where his mouth is on humanitarian aid, but that’s as far as he should allow his Progressive mouth to go. But then again, he can say what he wants. Too bad Hugo won’t let his people do the same.

  3. Me, I find it interesting that Mr Penn would think that people criticizing the government ought to be subjected to criminal prosecution and imprisonment, though to be fair, Mr Penn said nothing at all about criminal prosecution; he just said to throw them in jail!

    Interesting. If someone called you a child-molester, Dana, I’d assume that you wouldn’t think that worthy of jail time either – but I’m wondering if you’d refer to that as mere “criticism”.

    Calling Chavez a “dictator” isn’t criticism – it’s a lie. It may be true come the next election – 2012? – but he’s been elected with the support of more of the voters than any American President of recent years – 63%.

    If you believe Chavez is a dictator, then you also have to believe that the USA has been a dictatorship for, oh, ever.

    And in the what appear to be valid criticisms of him being authoritarian, you seem to forget the bloody military coup that attempted to overthrow him as the democratically elected President. Try to imagine such a coup attempt in the security state the US has now turned into – what sort of authoritarianism would you see as a reaction to that?

  4. Pho: Of course, you neglected to mention Chávez’s own attempted coup in VZ in 1992. How come?

    You may not call how Chávez has used his position to consolidate his own power “dictatorial,” but reasonable people (unlike Sean Penn) can certainly disagree. Using his own party to make change after change in policies (the 1961 constitution, for example) all designed to allow him to essentially do as he wishes isn’t … dictatorial? Shutting down press outlets that disagree w/him?

    I know many Venezuelans. One used to work in [VZ] government, but when it was found out she wasn’t a Chavista, she was canned and can’t work in government again. She’s currently trying to get out of the country. Most of the others are already here in the US and trying to get their relatives out of the country ASAP.

    Sorry, but your lame comparison to the US here is, well, just that — lame. Indeed, I’m sure the US system of checks and balances would allow a newly elected president to do precisely what Chávez has done in VZ. Oh, that’s right — it won’t!

  5. Last I heard, Soviet leaders were re-elected by much larger margins than Chavez.

    Last I heard, Soviet elections weren’t certified by neutral and respected outside observers.

    Indeed, I’m sure the US system of checks and balances would allow a newly elected president to do precisely what Chávez has done in VZ.

    This is the US system which now allows the US President to detain without trial and even assassinate anyone he wants – including American citizens?

  6. Sorry, but your lame comparison to the US here is, well, just that — lame. Indeed, I’m sure the US system of checks and balances would allow a newly elected president to do precisely what Chávez has done in VZ. Oh, that’s right — it won’t!

    Pho just posts the same tired old catchphrases over and over and over et cetera ad nauseum. I doubt a single original thought has popped out of his cranium since he was toilet trained. Honestly, listening to static over the internet is more informative than listening to the Pho.

  7. I love the comment to Penn from the manager of the Chicago White Sox. He reminds us, it’s so easy to blot hot air when one is ensconced in America and insulated by money.:

    The outspoken White Sox manager called Penn a “payaso” (clown) and “izquierdista estupido” (stupid leftist) on Twitter Friday for his praise of controversial Venezuela President Hugo Chavez.

    “Oh my God, Sean Penn defended our President Hugo Chavez,” Guillen, a Venezuela native, tweeted. “That’s easy when you [don't] live in Venezuela and have money. LOL…shame on [you].”

  8. The Phoenician wrote:

    Calling Chavez a “dictator” isn’t criticism – it’s a lie.

    Right. That’s why President Chavez gets to rule by decree. Now, his rule by decree window of 18 months expired, but:

    On the last day of the 18-month period of rule by decree, Chávez pushes through 26 laws, some of which mirror the rejected constitutional changes. He also announces his intention to nationalize the Spanish-owned Bank of Venezuela.

    Leonid Brezhnev wasn’t a dictator, either. After all, the Supreme Soviet had to approve his actions, right?

  9. Dana:

    Did you even bother to read the comments from the Economist that Phoenician cited, about continued American/Iraqi atrocities being committed in Iraq?

    If you did not, you should, then comment!

    If you did, where is your comment?

  10. This is the US system which now allows the US President to detain without trial and even assassinate anyone he wants – including American citizens?

    Nice catch phrase. Now prove it.

  11. The issue at hand, I believe, was Sean Penn wanting people jailed for calling Chávez a dictator. Pho has said saying such “is a lie” so presumably he agrees w/Penn.

  12. From June 2008:

    Foreign suspects held in Guantanamo Bay have the right to challenge their detention in US civilian courts, the US Supreme Court has ruled.

    In a major legal setback for the Bush administration, the court overturned by five to four a ruling upholding a 2006 law which removed such rights.

    Pho said above “This is the US system which now allows the US President to detain without trial and even assassinate anyone he wants – including American citizens?”

    This is the US system of checks and balances which “checked” what the administration (and many in Congress) desired, and said “no.”

    This doesn’t currently exist in Venezuela.

  13. “Sean Penn is the product of the usual Hollywood disease, the delusion that star power gives them adequate mental capacity to live life much less to make political judgments.” (unknown)

    The problem with Pho’s and Penn’s “he was elected he isn’t a dictator” argument is the fallacy that elections somehow equals liberty. Garnering 63% of the vote should be a clue. Freedomhouse.org has Venezuela rated about a 2 on a scale of 1 to 7. Hardly the land of the free.

  14. Scott, Hitler won elections. That means nothing and Pho knows it. Just another way to elevate his paranoid hatred of America to even higher pathological levels.

  15. Pho: [static::static]
    Ad hominem because you have no way to deal with the facts, Eric.

    Pho, since you work in a library, and claim to be an avid reader, I was curious if you knew where the expression above came from?

    Hint: he’s a major US novelist who was written a lot of non-fiction, too.

    2nd Hint. I reviewed the book it came from on this Site.

    Good hunting, old chap!

  16. “Sean Penn is the product of the usual Hollywood disease, the delusion that star power gives them adequate mental capacity to live life much less to make political judgments.” (unknown)

    I find it interesting that celebrities in entertainment feel these urges to spout off, like their very fame makes their opinions on politics important. I mean, no one asks other celebrities, like sports stars, what they think about politics, and i’ll wager Brett Favre’s views are ever bit as credible as Sean Penn’s …

  17. Did you even bother to read the comments from the Economist that Phoenician cited, about continued American/Iraqi atrocities being committed in Iraq?
    If you did not, you should, then comment!
    If you did, where is your comment?

    Perry, some of us are very busy, and can’t possibly have the time to click on every link that is posted here. Indeed, that is the reason I post so few links myself, out of respect for other people who are busy as well. Most of us have full time jobs and several have children and families that require their attention, too. We simply don’t have time to chase down every rabbit hole posted on the ‘Net.

  18. There is a quote from a movie I very much like, “Matrix,” which is kinda valuable here. “I want to be important, like an actor.” When I first heard that, I spit my Pepsi out my mouth to avoid it coming out my nose.

  19. As dictators go Chavez is a piker. Saddam used to easily pull in 90% of the vote. If we are lucky Chavez will eventually get the “hang” of it.

  20. Phoe, even if you don’t believe that President Chavez is a dictator — or at least trying to become one — do you still think that people who claim he is should be put in prison? That is what Sean Penn was saying, you know.

  21. Nice catch phrase. Now prove it.

    Already been shown, Hube.

    Phoe, even if you don’t believe that President Chavez is a dictator — or at least trying to become one — do you still think that people who claim he is should be put in prison?

    I thought “Interesting. If someone called you a child-molester, Dana, I’d assume that you wouldn’t think that worthy of jail time either – but I’m wondering if you’d refer to that as mere “criticism”.” was pretty clear, Dana – neither you or I would consider calling someone a “child-molester” worthy of penal time.

  22. I think the relevant point here is you can get in office as the result of an election, then proceed to govern like a dictator. This, of course, is exactly what Adolf Hitler did in Germany.

  23. Hube writes,

    “US system of checks and balances which “checked” what the administration (and many in Congress) desired, and said “no.”

    This doesn’t currently exist in Venezuela”

    Nor does it [a system of absolute checks under law] in New Zealand. Parliament there is supreme, and may make any law it chooses without violating anyone’s legal rights.

    Wonder why a fellow who contentedly lives in a system like that, would be so concerned about the U.S. Constitution?

  24. Already been shown, Hube.

    Yeah? I just showed how the US system, which you think is so not different from VZ, contradicted your statement. Or has what you stated been such a long-standing “progressive” talking point that it has taken on an aura of “fact?”

    BTW, you still neglected to point out that Chávez attempted a coup in VZ early last decade. Just thought I’d bring that up. Again.

  25. The Phoenician wrote:

    I thought “Interesting. If someone called you a child-molester, Dana, I’d assume that you wouldn’t think that worthy of jail time either – but I’m wondering if you’d refer to that as mere “criticism”.” was pretty clear, Dana – neither you or I would consider calling someone a “child-molester” worthy of penal time.

    It might be. Calling someone a child molester could cause that person irreparable social and economic damage if the claim were believed: he could lose his friends and his wife and his house and his job. At least in the United States, such is an actionable tort. In the US, the standard for winning a slander or libel case is much higher for a public figure; to enter politics opens you up to more publicity, positive and negative, and you have to prove actual and intended malice to win such a case. Naturally, if the claim is true, it is an absolute defense against slander or libel claims.

    The wild and crazy claims made concerning President Bush did not reach the level of slander as far as being able to prove it in a court of law; the same would hold true concerning calling President Chavez a dictator, because he is a public figure. And, of course, the truth being an absolute defense, a slander claim would naturally fail.

  26. It might be. Calling someone a child molester could cause that person irreparable social and economic damage if the claim were believed: he could lose his friends and his wife and his house and his job. At least in the United States, such is an actionable tort.

    In much the same way false accustaions of “dictatorship” have been used to justify attempted military coups?

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