Thursday, March 31, 2011

False Premise and Crowbar Award Winner

From the NY Times' new (I think) Mexico correspondent:
Armando Ruiz and Verónica Villafuerte held each other tight, cuddling, caressing, stretched out on a bench in the middle of a busy promenade here. Nearby, just past a couple deep kissing in the grass, a man toyed with the buttons of his paramour’s blouse.

Children played all around. Cars passed. No one cared.

“It’s a little more open now,” Mr. Ruiz said after sitting up. “We can enjoy ourselves.”

In Havana or Rio de Janeiro, well, big deal. But historically this has been a city of formalities, of long-sleeved shirts, not skin-tight skirts. Blushing has generally been the response to overt sexuality, along with a lexicon of double entendres to mask X-rated desires with banal words, like “coger” (which, officially speaking, means to grab).
The trend that this article seeks to highlight does not exist. This isn't as egregiously misleading as the previous post's article, but it is is pretty silly. Unless the president was one of them, I can't imagine two people making out in public causing upset at any point in Mexico City since probably the Revolution. I certainly never noticed the absence of PDAs during my time there five years ago. And as far as coger, it's not because Mexicans are prude, but just because it has developed to mean "to fuck" and no one ever uses it to indicate "grab". It's not a nice way to say something dirty; it's a dirty word that developed from a banal one. That kind of cross-culture, single-language variation is pretty common; we don't assume the English are prudes because "shagging" means something different there than it does on a baseball field. And the albur isn't used to hide sexual references; on the contrary, it's a clever (ideally, anyway) way to squeeze sex into every possible realm of human interaction.

But the most laughable part of the article is this:
Other couples, however, described public affection in more ominous terms. Mexico these days is essentially Jekyll and Hyde: positive economic growth is paired with a sprawling war on drug cartels that has claimed 34,000 lives since 2006.
In the history of hysteria, I defy you to find a more unnecessary, out-of-place reference to the war on drugs.


malcolm said...

"Love in the time of drug wars."
God I forgot how much I hate the media sometimes. But I need to pay the bills somehow. Oh wait, it doesn't even pay the bills.

pc said...

Yeah I thought of your comment about the throwaway lines when I read this one. Although that paragraph was a lot worse than what popped up in the Ackerman piece.

Bills suck.

malcolm said...

the problem with these lame generalizations and throwaway lines etc is that it only takes about two minutes to come up with something better, and these guys are actually doing a disservice to journalism by being lazy. they're hurting their own company – the New York Times, while the best paper around, has serious competition online these days, and sticking to the old standard easy stories and observations won't necessarily cut it, unless the piece is really beautifully-written.

malcolm said...

i did meet a guy a few years ago in queretaro who was absolutely disgusted by the Zona Rosa. Bunch of queers, doing things in public that shouldn't be done in public, he sneered. We asked if he'd like to come out of the closet but he said no, gracias, and went on his way, mumnling or something. oh wait, he was a gringo.

pc said...

Well that's one prude. I guess Mexico has to import them.

It was surprising to see something like this in the Times. For the last several years at least, they have been consistently pretty good on Mexico. I guess if the editors let that article slide the way it was written (and at the same moment as everything going on in Mexico State that basically holds the country's political future in the balance, to boot), the previous span of quality has more to do with the quality of the correspondents they had in DF rather than a system set up to generate good foreign reporting.