Friday, January 02, 2009

mexico exterminates canadians

The National Post wants all Canadians to know it "stands on guard for thee."

Yesterday's headline almost blared: "B.C. man critical after Canadians shot in Mexico strip club."

The details were every bit as alarming. Apparently (from what one can gather from the breathless reporting), three young Canadian men, on vacation with their families, innocently wandered into a strip club in Baja. The next thing they knew, an unknown assailant shot one man (the subject of the headline) point-blank in the neck. His two friends ran, and the assailant caught one and shot him in the throat and leg. The third man is in hospital with unreported injuries.

In a throw-away line, the reporter tells us: by the way, a Mexican security guard was also shot.

But, that is all prelude for our intrepid reporter. The shooting seems to be merely a dramatic device to support the grand announcement: "Mexico is getting a reputation as a dangerous place to holiday for Canadians."

Is there a band of psychotic serial killers in Mexico searching for a maple leaf to target? From the tone of the article, Canadians must be stacking up like cord wood in Mexican resorts.

But, wait for it. There is always some interesting statistic to support the as-yet unfounded hysteria. And there it is. Not until the end of the story. "In seven years, Foreign Affairs missions in Mexico logged 172 reports of violence against Canadian travellers."

7 years? 172 reports? I suspect that the Toronto police might have some interesting statistics that would simply dwarf the "reputation for violence" label.

Is there crime in Mexico? You bet there is. The three young men hospitalized in Cabo are a perfect example. Each of the reported acts of violence is a tragedy.

But the story is just another fluff piece of hysteria that distorts reality for some nonsense agenda of the reporter -- perhaps no more pernicious than the desire to sell a story.

What offends me is the inevitable result of this style of reporting: it merely ends up feeding people's paranoia. Worse than that, it is bad writing and shoddy logic.

That, I guess, is the blessing. Any story this badly-written will not have legs.

Newspaper readers are smarter than that. Aren't they?


Calypso said...

"Newspaper readers are smarter than that. Aren't they?"

Based on how many and often posed questions I get on "how safe is it there?" I would have to answer no.

That written - statistics mean little if you happen to be one.

In the Xalapa area I have personally experienced no even harsh attitudes - it seems to be a gentler kinder group here - but then I don't spend time in bars or visit tourist traps often.

I think it is safe to say living a sane and cautious existence anywhere will get you further ahead of the numbers.

Theresa in Mèrida said...

Steve, Logic is not a requirement to graduate high school. As far as I know critical thinking is a college level class. I generally have an upbeat and happy attitude towards humanity but there is something about reading something that sticks in the back of people's heads. Like in many things the accusation is enough.
Of course, being shot in a strip club is horrible but how about the man who was shot in a movie theatre in Philadelphia for being too noisy? That is bizarre! But he wasn't Canadian so no warning against traveling in the USA were written.

Sue said...

Steve, you are right on. Because of the hype about making Canadians targets for violence here in Mexico, most of my family has stopped coming. It makes no sense, but all they know is what they read; nothing I say gives them any comfort.

Islagringo said...

I wouldn't be too sure about the smartness of people. Sensationalism sells and that is what that story was geared to do; sell papers.

CancunCanuck said...

Steve, I just posted about this myself, I started getting emails from Canadian reporters yesterday. (They seem to be unaware that Cabo is on the other side of the country from Cancun, it's not like I have any insider knowledge!). The media in Canada has made some extreme statements, it is shock journalism at best, they love to sell the "scary Mexico!" story.

Here's the post I just put up....

Thanks for your thoughts on the matter, I wholeheartedly agree with you! I wish the newspaper readers were smart enough to see the story for what it really is, but in reading the comments sections, alas, my wish has not come true.

Steve Cotton said...

Calypso -- What irritates me more than anything is that the newspapers seem to feed the tourist notion that Mexico should provide a sex and drugs Disneyland, where nothing bad happens -- unlike in their own home towns.

Theresa -- Great point! Most of these stories are about some reporter's or editor's little agenda. Such as, selling newspapers. And damn the consequences.

Sue -- I have several friends and relatives, just like yours, who would not think of visiting me in Mexico -- because of their paranoia about violence. But they have no qualms abnout visiting Vancouver, Seattle, or New Orleans -- nor should they. Every spot in the world has areas eith er to avoid or where caution is a priority. It is the broad brush of fear that concerns me.

Islandgringo -- Bingo. We seem to have devolved to a people who can thrive only with sensationalism. A good editor would never have allowed that story to be printed. Where is Michael Dickson when we need him?

CancunCanuck -- I just took a look at your post. Nice work. I am astounded by the comments in your link. Where on earth do these people come from?

ken kushnir said...

That's the number one question I get about Mexico. Aren't you afraid because of all the crime? I wish I had a peso for every time I have been asked that! My response is that I would rather be in Mexico than in Oakland, California. Then I ask, would you walk around in places that you shouldn't be in too? "Well, no " Is the response usually. Then they figure it out, that the people put themselves in to the questionable situation.....They it makes them look a little slow....

On Mexican Time said...

Good blog !!

I just want to mention that yesterday, January 1, 2008 - there were 4 ppl shot to death in Calgary. That is 4 murders in one city, already for the year 2009. 3 of which were gang related, and the 4th...they aren't sure about .... That is all I have to say to all the ppl who say Mexico is too dangerous a country to travel!!!

Gary Denness said...

How many sides of the story do newspaper readers get? If you're just bombarded by stories of drug wars, murder and crime in a country you don't know much about, and hear nothing else of, what are you going to think?

I had a few emails from potential visitors last year asking whether it was really so dangerous. That tells me that most of them are at least a little skeptical of the reporting, but have nothing else to go on.

Newspapers have always and will always print stories they think will sell newspapers. Fact is there is a nasty drug war going on, and they will print stories on the piggy back of that.

Such is life. We know better, but then most of us live here.

On Mexican Time said...

hehe - i meant 2009!

Steve Cotton said...

Ken -- I wish peple would use that same common sense when they read the newspaper. It is similar to the story that gets published every January that 300 billion women (or some such outlandish figure) are beaten up by their husbands on Super Bowl Sunday. If people would set aside their prejudices and think critically, most of this nonsense would die out.

On Mexican Time-- Thanks. And a very good point.

Gary -- I had friends who refused to travel to Mexico because of the perceived crime danger. Instead, they chose a holiday in London. Need I add the rest of the story? They were mugged late at night a block from Marylebone Station.

Brenda said...

Common sense doesn't enter into it. Sensationalism sells. Most people delve no further so that is all they know.
Stupid people doing stupid things get hurt regardless of where you are, unfortunately the papers love to report bad things about Mexico.
I also get many questions about the safety here in Mexico. My stock answer is to ask, would you get drunk, flash lots of money and walk down dark streets at 3 AM in your home city? The usual answer is NO. Well, then don't do it here either then. Duh! No commonsense in the world anymore.
This topic makes me angry. Gee 172 incidents in 7 yrs., find me a city in Canada or USA where there are not that many in a year or less time; but there are no warnings out for that. Sheesh, makes me speechless.

Steve Cotton said...

Brenda -- You are correct; these news stories are irritating. Context and rational thinking seem to be thrown out the window whenever crime is mentioned in Mexico. I have a very-well educated friend (a professor of Latin Amercan studies) who gets apoplectic whenever I talk about moving to Mexico. He is certain a drug lord is going to shoot me.

Anonymous said...

Geez, They're shooting Canadians now?!?! What the heck are they gonna do to people from the U.S., boil them in oil!!
Mexico will always be less violent than her neighbors to the north....unless you happen to be a bull.
Detroit Mich.

Anonymous said...

Steve an interesting post. The Canadian press does over emphasize violence in Mexico. I think part of it comes from this stat. In Canada, there were 542 homicides in 2000 resulting in a national rate of 1.8 homicides per
100,000 population. By comparison, there were 15,517 homicides in the U.S., resulting in a rate
(5.5) three times higher than Canada’s.

I would argue that since homicide occurs less frequently in Canada then it is news and to have it occur in another country an even better story. Even though crime rates have been falling for years, the media like to keep alive how unsafe the world is. And the police certainly need people to feel unsafe. So this story plays into a lot of fears and myths people have such as Canada is such a safe place and no one gets murdered like they do in the US but it is still an unsafe place.

What was really fascinating was googling crime stats in Canada and the US. Lots of conclusions and even few facts to support them. |Ah the news media isn't what it used to be in the old day.

Steve Cotton said...

Frank -- Liked the bull reference. It's a good symbol. No one much cares about violence unless they think it is happening to them.

Richard -- Reporting violence is fine. That is a newsworthy story. It is the conclusions that annoy me. "Mexico is getting a reputation as a dangerous place to holiday for Canadians." That line irritated me just as much as the string of stories during the presidential election of those smug elite reporters and commentators telling us which assertions by candidates were true and false. Give me the data; I can draw my own conclusion.

Deb Hall ~ Zocalo Folk Art said...

I know I'm weighing in a little late here, but,

"Newspaper readers are smarter than that. Aren't they?"

The answer is NO. Not only is the "safety question" the ONLY question coming my way while visiting LA, but some have detailed that they have cancelled travel plans to "winter" in Mexico this year after spending as many as 20 event-free consecutive years at the same sleepy beach South of the Border. These travelers are NOT novices or newcomers. What gives?

The Norte Americano press has done such a magnificent job of fanning the flames of fear that even those who KNOW better are staying away.

Does the perceived fear of kidnapping, violence, or possible death trump logical thought? Sadly for Mexico, YES.