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LibreOrganize 0.6.0 - Documentation

What’s Up with the So-Called ‘News’ on México?

from the May 10, 2023 Bulletin

I’ve dug into articles about México going back centuries. México has never been well covered. But the coverage has gotten worse. In the early 20th century, the US public could widely recognize the name of the current Mexican president. But the frequency of media coverage — and the range of topics covered — began diminishing in the 1970s. By the 1990s, US media coverage of México was essentially only focusing on drug trafficking and violence, and that’s still true today.


“If it bleeds,” goes the old media saying, “it leads.” Does that explain why coverage on México focuses on violence and crime?


That’s part of the reason. Most all media outlets in both México and the US remain privately owned, largely in the hands of oligarchs. The news has become more and more profit-driven, more sensationalistic, less concerned about quality. 

The internet has magnified that trend. Now it’s all about the clicks. As a result, real investigative journalism has become rare.


Media owners don’t want to pay for in-depth research or to follow up on important events, because just posting some “clickbait” online — some dramatic or shocking headline that grabs clicks — can make them big profits. 

Ciudad Juarez/Associated Press

Newspaper staffs have shrunk over recent decades, and foreign bureaus have been particularly decimated. Overseas slots used to be prestigious jobs reserved for seasoned journalists. Now the few foreign bureau assignments left go to younger — less costly — reporters who aren’t expected to do as much. In a lot of US newspaper coverage of México, I mainly see a regurgitation of what US reporters read in the Mexican media. If you want to know what the Mexican media is saying, insiders say, just read the Washington Post


What about progressive media sources?


Progressive media, for the most part, aren’t providing alternative analyses. México can be confusing. Progressives have a good idea of who’s who in countries like El Salvador or Honduras, where US interference has been clear, or in countries where right-wing governments are killing dissenters. But México had leftist leaders in the early 20th century, especially in the 1930s. After that, the ruling PRI party became expert in paying lip service to revolutionary ideals. The PRI would make a show of defying US policy by supporting Cuba, for instance. But domestically the oligarchs ruled and the people suffered. 


US progressives can also get confused because leftists in other countries don’t sound like the US left. Former Bolivian President Evo Morales once said, for instance, that “eating chicken can turn you into a homosexual.” Does that mean he’s not left and should not be supported? AMLO doesn’t come off as a feminist champion. Does that mean he’s not left — even though he’s improving the lives of the common people and pursuing the oligarchs to pay back what they’ve stolen?


Cultural and economic issues all rate as important, but many US progressives tend to prioritize the cultural over the economic in their assessment of who qualifies as “left.”


Is the sparse and negative Western media coverage damaging to México?


Yes. This negative coverage gets Americans behind policy proposals that serve US imperial goals, like all the current talk about militarily invading México to “solve” the drug and gun crisis by taking out the cartels. We should always, by the way, say drug and gun” to counter the mainstream frame and help people understand that most of the guns the cartels use come illegally trafficked from the US.


US media coverage has people believing that an incompetent autocrat is ruling México. This coverage is eroding support for the important changes in México now underway.

Is the mainstream media escalating attacks on AMLO to influence either the Mexican or US elections in 2024?


This coverage at least partly represents an attempt to influence the upcoming 2024 Mexican presidential election. People are reading that the policies of AMLO and Morena’s are bad for the economy, bad for the environment, bad for democracy. 

The headline over one May 2021 Economist article:

Voters should curb Mexicos power-hungry presidentAndrés Manuel López Obrador pursues ruinous policies by improper means

Reuters last week reported that the Environmental Commission of the USMCA — a tripartite US-México-Canada body — has voted to investigate the possible damage that AMLO’s new Tren Maya is doing to the ecosystem. But we saw no similar investigation or coverage when the US decided to allow drilling for oil in Alaska! The real issue here? The corporate media hate the Tren Maya because they see it as a successful public project, something anathema to the privatizing agenda of the neoliberals. They would love to see Morena lose in 2024.


Bashing México has been a go-to electoral strategy for US politicians for decades. Candidates compete on who can be the toughest — and most racist — anti-Latino voice. Right-wing voters love lines like Pat Buchanan’s “No way, José! Adiós, Pancho!” and Trump’s “murderers and rapists” and “shithole countries.” In 1992, I remember, even Jimmy Carter argued to the effect that NAFTA deserved support because it would help civilize Mexico. Blaming México for US problems gets votes.


How can we counter the anti-México media barrage when they’ve got big guns and we’ve got cap pistols!

I’m excited about this México Solidarity Bulletin and the opportunity to do a new column debunking those mainstream narratives. And the México Solidarity Project has also pulled together a pool of progressive researchers, social media influencers, and independent journalists — like Kurt Hackbarth — who are writing for the few publications like the Jacobin that cover México well. 

We’ll be reaching out to progressive media sources and offering them the expertise of our network so they don’t have to have their own investigative reporters or rely on the mainstream media for news about México. 

We’ll unmask journalists like Denise Dresser who pose as progressives. She says she’s pro-Bernie and anti-AMLO. She’s using Bernie as a cover for her oblique shilling for the PRI, a party more similar to US Republicans. I’d call her part of a class of “first-world Mexicans” culturally, philosophically, and politically connected to the global North. They resent AMLO for capturing working people’s hearts in México, just as Bernie has done in the US. 


If we can replace the mainstream narrative with one that supports the Mexican people, how will that impact both sides of the border?

After the 1995 Zapatista revolution, pro-Zapatista marches in the US put pressure on Clinton not to intervene. We still support the Zapatista project, but we need to similarly support AMLO and Morena. They have massive support throughout México. The Mexican government today poses the biggest challenge to US imperialism. If the Mexican people, under AMLO, can improve their standards of living and stay in México, and if the Mexican government can gain sovereignty over its economy, US workers will gain more bargaining power — and be able to design joint strategies with the Mexican people. We’ll be able to move forward with our own “transformation.”

Francisco Romero, National Chicano Moratorium Committee/Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times