Sean Penn in Iran

We whined a
a while back about Sean Penn’s foray into international journalism and his trip to Iran, and now Penn is
posting dispatches from there. His
second series of articles
appeared today in the SF Chronicle. At first glance, in the opening paragraph actually, we learn that he had some
difficulty holding his bladder while sitting through a religious service…file this under “more than I needed to know.”
But it gets better (sort of), and I found the dispatch a kind of fascinating look into the country, as well as into
Penn’s perspectives on international affairs.

Because of the high profile of his trip (just

google it
, you’ll see), he hooks up with some high profile folks. He meets with Mehdi Rafsanjani, a campaign
director and son of former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani who does his best to play up the “America as
hypocrite” argument you often hear from people outside the states (and which in some cases is spot on…although in this
case seems quite hollow if not downright stupid), but he does a fine job not letting the comments stand on their own,
and answers them with an appropriate dose of skepticism. In all honesty, Penn sucks as a writer. His editors need to do
a much better job fine tuning his tortured prose. Just take this graph:

While I have said there is a great warmth toward Americans, it’s never far from your mind that you’re one
bedside book in the toilet away from death. One handshake with a woman away from jail. A visitor is subject to all the
laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran and all its thinly veiled oppression. And less thinly veiled restriction on the
press. It’s like dancing on a volcano. So, who was this “Star Wars” Sith? And why did he want to give us his

I guess I understand what he’s saying, but man, I gotta throw a syntax flag. Pweeee! Five yard penalty.

That said, Penn roams over a lot of topics, from freedom of the press (or lack thereof) to the Iran/Iraq war to
sexual mores, but I have to say Penn doesn’t really examine these issues in a satisfying way. And the implicit
comparison of Iranian dissidents being jailed and/or killed with the imprisonment of Judith Miller left me wondering
what he was talking about.

I enjoyed the fact that Penn decided to take his interviews beyond powerful figures and hangs out a bit chatting
with regular folk. These are some of the nicest bits. Anyway, I’ll keep tuning in and see where this goes. What do
other folks think?