UPDATE: It looks like the news sources I commented on yesterday were not telling the whole story about Sean Penn. While it is true that his boat was leaky and the engine was not working, and it was full of camera crew, etc. what was not reported was that Sean had arranged for more than one boat, and had actually managed to bring people out of flooded areas. I don't care how many cameras he had on scene - at least he's out there helping, and I can't really fault him for that. So Sean, my apologies for being hasty in my conclusions.
I'm still not 100% behind celebrity reporting of disasters, but am starting to realize that it probably something of an accepted norm in that industry. They are making a positive difference by being there, so maybe I need to re-think my position on this. After all, the camera are great for raising awareness of what is actually going on right now, making it more difficult for an attempted coverup. That reason alone makes the cameras worthwhile.
Here's the text of the original post I made. I decided not to remove it, despite my change in opinion.
Sean Penn has stooped to a new low, and even he knows it. Anyone low enough to try to capitalize on the New Orleans disaster deserves to be shot, and Sean Penn wisely equipped himself with a flak jacket for just such an occasion.
Saturday Night Live couldn't have scripted this one better if they tried.
Yes, his boat was leaky. No, the engine did not work. Yes, he brought a personal photographer. Maybe he was able to capture the cynicism live on film. Yes, he also brought along a group of friends. Ultimately they made good engine substitutes. Yes, he is selling copies of the photos. (I'll add a link if I can find one - for now, it's only mentioned in news articles like here.)
This really upsets me. Sean, if you really were trying to help and not trying to gain publicity, or to create a platform to rage against the government, you would not have thought it essential to bring along a photographer. Truly good deeds are only good when they are done for the sake of others, not for personal glory. Stunts like this really make a person questions your motives for helping. I saw you in Iraq and thought, 'here is a man who is motivated to change things for the better.' But today I see you and think 'here is a man who is trashing the image of social activists everywhere.'
Bottom line, you are hurting more than your own rep, Mr. Penn. Next time just write a check if you really feel like helping. Leave the rescue efforts to people who actually own a working boat.