The Blog

Stardumb: Sean Penn

Don't call him an "activist," he's been here for years. The artist formerly known as Spicoli speaks out about sensing the war.

12:00 AM, Oct 15, 2003 • By DAVID SKINNER
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Now that the war is over, except for the ugly work of dealing with bitter suicide factions and freelance anti-American terrorists, how would Penn characterize the fighting he had earlier said would claim "'collateral damage' of many hundreds of thousands"? The war, he told the Post, became "a big [expletive], devastating, obscene mass of murder and a total betrayal of every principle the United States is based on and an absolute setup of young boys in the military by this current administration."

What planet does this guy live on? Does he really think that defeating a long-time enemy of the United States, that threatened the security of a region (after signing a peace agreement saying it wouldn't), that has used, developed, and was aiming in the future to again develop weapons of mass destruction, that had made friends with terrorist organizations is a betrayal of any part of the American creed?

Particularly amazing is that while Penn casually pukes forth the most venomous accusations--calling the administration treasonous and murderous--he doesn't mind a bout of self-pity for all the harsh language that's been directed at him. After publishing the October letter to Bush in the Washington Post, Penn complained, "I was hit by a tidal wave of misrepresentations, and even accusations of treason. I experienced firsthand the repressive condition of public debate in our country, as it prepared for war." Worse than a total, bloviating hypocrite, this guy is a crybaby.

Like an appendix of quotable lines from a Shakespeare play, here are a few from the Times ad and the Post letter:

-"The human death toll of the corporate march includes those courageous and heroic Americans who have died." (Times)
Yes, Penn is saying the death toll includes people who died.

-"We are struggling now with the question of whether there is any longer a time to kill. We are grappling perhaps with mimetic evolution." (Times)

Penn is suggesting a pacifism that never tolerates killing might be desirable--and then talking out his derrière.

-"I have consulted over 100 experts in our Middle Eastern Affairs, military and civilian, with a primary focus on U.N. weapons inspection capabilities. These consultations measurably increased my doubt at the factuality or wisdom of the administration's assertions and proposed remedies."

Whether by "over 100 experts" Penn means, like, a hundred short articles over, say, a three month period, I don't know. Because consultations, even brief ones, with "over 100 experts" would take more time than any working actor/director has. Furthermore, if any of the "over 100 experts" received a stipend, Penn should get his money back.

-"There can be no justifications for the actions of al Qaeda. Nor acceptance of the criminal viciousness of the tyrant, Saddam Hussein. Yet, that bombing is answered by bombing, mutilation by mutilation, killing by killing, is a pattern that only a great country like ours can stop." (Post)

Though Penn in this prewar letter was arguing for renewed inspections, he sounds for a moment like a hawk. In fact, given his identification of Saddam as a criminal and vicious tyrant, it's surprising he isn't more pleased with the outcome of Operation Iraqi Freedom thus far. What's strange, though, is that he seems to believe the Osamas and Saddams of the world can be stopped only by nonmilitary means. Perhaps he would have us "sense" our way toward peace, "evolve" in that direction ("mimetically" of course), and ask that the world's tyrants and terror-masters do the same.

Personally my favorite line comes from the Washington Post profile of last week, where Penn told his interviewer that he wouldn't discuss directing projects he's got underway. "You give up the energy and you don't want to do them anymore . . . It's like Woody Harrelson used to talk about giving up his 'chi.' You've got to hold onto this stuff. It's still being created."

THE MOST BIZARRE COMMENT of Penn's, however, comes in the title of his New York Times essay ad: "Kilroy's Still Here." A bold choice, it suggested some kind of parable in which this "Kilroy" (whoever he is) teaches us an important lesson. Maybe the story would end--after the K-man's big heroic deed is carried out and the baddies are sent to rest--with the line "Kilroy was here."

But The Daily Standard's research department says this particular inscription dates back to a World War II ship inspector who'd mark rivets as such, to make it clear that they'd been checked and paid for. The words remained in many ships coming out of the Fore River shipyard in Massachusetts, and caused many soldiers to wonder about this ubiquitous Kilroy. What made the line famous, however, was the decision of American soldiers to mark territory they'd fought over or occupied with those very words, to turn Kilroy into a boogey man, a Kaiser Soze.