Sean Penn loves dictators, especially if they are anti-American leftists. Recently, the Hollywood star visited Venezuela to campaign for strongman Hugo Chavez. Mr. Penn joined Mr. Chavez at a major rally in the city of Valencia. The actor has been a longtime friend of the despot. With Venezuelans going to the polls on Oct. 7, Mr. Penn came to bolster Mr. Chavez’s re-election efforts. He should be ashamed; Mr. Penn’s actions border on treason.
“Thank you very much for visiting us again, dear friend,” Mr. Chavez said, while introducing Mr. Penn in front of a large crowd. “We’re all Americans, from the north, the center, the south. Long live the American continent!”
Mr. Penn, sporting expensive sunglasses and wearing a white shirt, was accompanied by Argentine producer Fernando Sulichin. The actor waved to the audience, and then embraced the Venezuelan socialist. Although he didn’t speak, Mr. Penn’s message was obvious: He backs Mr. Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution. In other words, the Hollywood star supports a brutal tyrant, who is a mortal enemy of America and capitalism — the very nation and economy that have enabled Mr. Penn to attain great wealth and celebrity status. He is not just a colossal hypocrite, but obtuse.
Mr. Chavez has transformed his country into an oil dictatorship. Since 1999, he runs a military regime characterized by human rights abuses, economic nationalization and neo-imperial socialism. Political opponents are harassed. Critics have been imprisoned. He has cracked down on the independent media. He controls the judiciary and the central bank. He has expropriated private property. He has raised taxes on the rich. He has engaged in massive social spending and redistribution of wealth, using nationalized oil companies as a personal piggy bank to reward his constituents.
The results have been disastrous. He has amassed massive deficits and crippling debt. Inflation is soaring. Poverty and unemployment have risen. The middle class has been eviscerated. Government corruption is rampant. Businesses and investors have fled. The rule of law has been overturned. Basic freedoms are repressed. The Catholic Church is persecuted. Venezuela’s fledgling democracy has been dismantled. It has become the Cuba of South America — a failed Marxist police state.
Moreover, like communist Cuba, Chavez’s Venezuela seeks to export revolutionary socialism abroad. Mr. Chavez openly meddles in the internal affairs of his neighbors, subverting their democracies. He arms and funds Marxist guerillas in Colombia; he props up anti-American leftists in Bolivia and Nicaragua; and insists on forging an axis with Havana. Mr. Chavez may despise supposed Yankee imperialism. But he has no qualms coddling up to a resurgent Russia, Islamist Iran or an expansionist China. He has even called for Iranian nuclear technology, Chinese missiles and Russian bases to be stationed on Venezuelan soil. In short, Mr. Chavez despises America, and openly advocates the downfall of our capitalist system.
Instead of trying to produce a decent movie, Mr. Penn prefers to jet set around the globe. He is aiding and abetting a murderous dictator who is in bed with hostile powers. To be fair, he is not the only Hollywood leftist to glamorize communist despots. Oliver Stone, Michael Moore, Robert Redford — the list goes on of wealthy Hollywood elites who have made pilgrimages to Cuba’s Island prison, extolling the supposed virtues of Fidel Castro’s Marxist utopia. They are not just willfully blind to the economic misery and political enslavement caused by communist rule. They willingly choose to side against their own country. They are self-hating Americans, who prefer the false promise — and false existential meaning — of revolutionary politics. For them, ideological fanaticism trumps patriotism.
Yet, even by Hollywood standards, Mr. Penn is extreme. Several years ago, he also visited Iran. He praised the mullahs of Teheran, claiming they want “peace” with Israel and “social justice” for poor Iranians. In short, he allowed himself to be used as a propaganda tool for an Islamic fascist regime that has been waging a covert war against the United States for decades. It is one thing to be a degenerate Hollywood liberal, smugly lecturing Americans on how bad their country is while endlessly snorting cocaine and bed-hopping with prostitutes. It is quite another to actively help brutal governments that oppress their own people and seek to undermine America on the world stage.
Mr. Penn is an embarrassment to his profession and his country. The sad thing is he probably doesn’t even realize that a wealthy, decadent hedonist like himself wouldn’t last long if he lived in Iran’s medieval theocracy or Mr. Chavez’s thug state. Both Islamists and socialists would confiscate his money and drugs, curtail his career in film and imprison him for any criticisms against the state. They don’t care for self-absorbed narcissists, who spout anything that pops up in their drug-addled heads. Sadly, we in America do. And it’s time we show the likes of Sean Penn if they want to be traitors that is their choice. But we will no longer watch their movies. Hollywood must clean up its act or face the consequences of American patriots launching massive boycotts against actors who betray the nation.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute.