Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Bad News Bearers

Our amiga Joy drew our attention to this superlative essay in the Columbia Journalism Review: The Most Misreported Country. With only 195 possible candidates, do you even need to ask who the winner was?

When it comes to Mexico, U.S. journalists seem interested in only four things: drugs, traffickers, violence, and corruption (with an occasional nod toward immigration). Journalists peddle a sort of drug-war pornography, salaciously and insatiably dwelling on the most lurid aspects of the trade: narcos, gangs, smugglers, pipelines, cells, mass graves, severed heads, torture chambers, dirty cops. Journalists promiscuously quote DEA agents, eagerly accompany undercover cops on ride-alongs, descend daringly into drug-infested neighborhoods, and intrepidly interview members of the drug trade.

The author, Michael Massing, has written extensively about the War on Drugs, and zeroes in on the most glaring problem with the coverage of Mexico:

Over the last thirty years, the U.S. has sent billions of dollars to countries like Mexico and Colombia, dispatched legions of agents to the region, dispatched helicopters, fumigation squads, eradication teams, and justice advisers, yet heroin, cocaine, and marijuana continue to flood our country. And the reason is clear: Americans continue to crave the stuff. We are the ones who sustain the drug trade; we are the ones who in the end are mostly responsible for the drug violence that periodically erupts in Mexico. You’ll almost never see a journalist explore this, however. It isn’t sexy. What is sexy are the cartels, and so the pretense about their lethal impact on the United States must be maintained.

...Doing so, however, might undermine the presumption—unquestioningly accepted by journalists—that Mexico is a pusher nation forcing drugs on unsuspecting Americans. For the U.S. press, the fault is never in ourselves, but always south of the border.

But because Burro Hall don't play dat, here's a little something the US media doesn't want you to know: the World's Largest Mural (specifically, “made by a painter,” though we don’t understand exactly what other kinds of mural there are) will soon be completed in Mazatlán - Mazatlán, Mexico!

(For our friends in the US media: That means the mural will be in Sinaloa Cartel territory.)


Mexfiles said...

The U.S. journos go looking for gangsters, and -- surprise -- they find them. Maybe Mexican newspapers need to write more on the corporatist corruption, drug addiction and random violence of the United States. I hear there's a couple of major cities (like Las Vegas and Mimai) built on gangster funding, and the cartels up... called corporations ... control massive swaths of the economy and openly bribe their political leaders.

Burro Hall said...

But disappointingly few corporate CEOs keep caged white tigers on the premises.

Leah Flinn said...

This is part of the reason I decided to blog about my life in Mexico. The reports on mainstream media news is so skewed, it's no wonder that nearly everyone I encounter from the US or Europe is concerned about my safety in Mexico. Thank God for blogs.

Lazlo Lozla said...

And you have to wonder about our obsession with world records and somewhat nicer news coverage...

Doug said...

Notwithstanding the US media's omission of the major US role in the problem, the obsession with gangsters (and severed heads, etc.) seems to be characteristic of the media on both sides of the border. I mean the love for violent drug war porn knows no boundaries, right?