Monday, March 15, 2010

The Newest Cabinet Member

Leo Zuckermann on the newest cabinet change, the replacement of the tourism secretary:
In her new job, [Gloria] Guevara will have to sell Mexico as a tourist destination, which is going to be difficult in the present climate. Not so much for the economic recession of the past year (which is already fading) nor for the A H1N1 influenza epidemic that started in Mexico and scared off foreign tourism. The most important problem, that which is scaring off tourists from other countries, above all Americans, is the growing perception that Mexico is a violent country where a tourist can die from gunshots at any moment.
He goes on to mention that Mexico gets painted in an unfavorable light by a trio of American TV programs: Law and Order, Lie to Me, and Weeds. As always, this is a tricky problem, but I don't think you can blame the TV producers. They are selling fiction, and look for a story wherever they can find one. It's true that it's not great news for Mexico when the mayor of Tijuana appears as a criminal mastermind in an American series, but that's more a product of a narrative generated by the news media (which is to say, by the news in Mexico itself, although some blame the media for that) than it is an unprovoked shot.

I think it's hard to find anyone individually responsible for the gap between the perception and the reality in Mexico. Drug violence is a story in the American media because it's newsworthy and presumably because people like to read about it, and it's unfair to point the finger at a single reporter for offering a factual story. It's only a problem when you pull back and realize that 80 percent of the stories trickling to the States from Mexico are about security. A reporter can perform admirably and professionally, even perfectly, yet still contribute to this distorted perception. I guess it's more than anything a reflection of journalism's shortcomings as a chronicler of truth.

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