Why the Hell Not? Actor Sean Penn interviews El Chapo

Rolling Stone took a hard stand on employing white men who don’t need help by creating the obvious and very necessary journalistic pairing of actor Sean Penn and drug kingpin El Chapo. We read it so you don’t have to.

sean penn el chapo
A match made in journalistic heaven

Because the world is a totally normal place that makes sense, actor Sean Penn interviewed then-escaped, now re-incarcerated  Mexican drug lord “El Chapo” in October, and recently published his interview in Rolling Stone, the prestigious magazine famous for its responsible journalism and flawless coverage of my alma mater. The piece is over 10,000 words long, roughly 9,000 of which are completely superfluous. I wanted to do a breakdown of just how ridiculous the writing is. I really tried, guys. But I couldn’t get through more than a couple of paragraphs at a time without needing to lie down. If you don’t want to spend forty-five minutes of your life on Sean Penn’s attempt at radical-chic gonzo journalism, I have pulled out a few gems below, along with my rough attempt at translation:

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Leaving Something Behind: Reading Socially Through Book Traces

E.L. documents her journey through the margins of one library’s books—thinking about reading as a social process, about building community, and about what we can learn from the scribbles left behind.

 By E.L.

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Alderman library stacks at the University of Virginia

Follow Book Traces on Twitter @booktracesuva, on Tumblr, and on the official website.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in libraries lately. As a grad student and inveterate skimmer of books, this is not rare. But for the past six months, I’ve been working as a project intern for Book Traces, where I systematically inspect my university’s circulating book collection for evidence of how past handlers have used, modified, and engaged with their books.

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Activism at the Intersections of Race and Gender

One might think that it makes sense for activists to “stay in their lane,” so to speak. Antirape activists over here. Antiracism activists over there. White women over there. Black men over here. Black women forced to choose sides or try to make it to both if their schedules allow. However, these so-called lanes are really anything but parallel. They exist in not only a tangled network of ideologies, but also a history that so severely enmeshes rape and race that it is difficult, nay impossible, to isolate one from the other.

As we are all so painfully aware, on November 19, 2014, Rolling Stone magazine published a story about the national problem of college administrations mishandling rape cases, UVa being the case study of choice. In the wake of this article, all kinds of forms of protest arose, such as some beautiful writing in Cav Daily and The Declaration, a student rally, the Take Back the Party march, and the Slut Walk to name a few. These caught the attention of national media outlets as well as the university. I participated in many of these protests and meetings and conversations and, despite the eventual backlash, was impressed with the vigor with which students expressed themselves. However, in the back of my mind, I could not stop wondering, “Why am I only one of very few black people, male or female, at these events?” Now let’s skip ahead a bit.

On November 24, 2014, a grand jury in Missouri failed to indict  police officer Darren Wilson who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9. On December 3, a grand jury in New York decided not to indict Daniel Pantaleo for choking Eric Garner to death. The failures to indict sent shockwaves of protests around the country, including in our front yard of UVa. The night of December 3, a majority black group of students filtered through various libraries and buildings chanting “black lives matter,” “stop don’t shoot.” Campus police were on forceful guard during this protest. That same night, racist remarks against the protesters were made through the anonymous posting application Yik Yak . The comment “Did anyone just see all that farm equipment walk through Clemons?” was especially gross and proves that the university’s history as an institution built on the brutal enslavement of black people is far from past. As disheartening as the hateful words against the protesters were for me, my extreme joy at seeing students of color express themselves was not diminished. However, again, my mind wondered, “Where are all of those white men and women from the slut walk etc? Is this not their fight too?”

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