Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Two for Two

William Finnegan's new piece in The New Yorker about Tijuana's police chief and the city's improved security climate is quite good, as was his piece about Michoacán several months ago. Against my best efforts, I typically read long-form pieces on the nation subconsciously looking for mistaken facts and flawed thinking, but if there was any of either in Finnegan's article, I didn't see it.

One difficult challenge when writing about Mexico's security issues is the fact that everyone could be lying, and, consequently, every explanation or narrative you seek to employ could be totally false. Some writers take this as a cue to turn journalism on its head, embrace the anti-truth, and write with a degree of cynicism and distrust that basically makes learning anything impossible. Others, particularly in the newspapers, write Mexico basically straight up, which means that a big contextual element is missing, and also that sooner or later, the law of averages will probably catch up to them, and they'll wind up being fed lies by a dirty politician. This is not an easy dilemma, but Finnegan splits the difference quite nicely, and his approach is pitch perfect.


jd said...

Yep. The only minor quibble is that he might have played up a bit more how much the international press has latched on to the Leyzaola as savior narrative, usually with only a minor "to be sure" sentence or short graf about how he's probably a torturer. But being content to let the reader draw one's own implications is fair enough.

One thing I liked is that, without being polemical, it gets at the essential practical problem with torture (the moral depravity is a whole other issue): it is designed to elicit false confessions, and replaces investigation with brutality. To see Calderon and so many others go to TJ and laud Leyzaola gives one little hope that the higher ranks of Mexican officialdom understand what they need to do.

pc said...

Also I really thought he nailed it.

Odd that the FBI was so far in his corner. You'd think they'd be a little hesitant to jump on the bandwagon of any flavor of the month after Gutierrez Rebollo, though that was a while ago. But also, maybe they aren't paying attention or dont believe the torture stuff, but isnt the FBI the one agency more than any other that just says torture is bad policy for the reasons you mention, ie that it doesn't work?