Monday, September 20, 2010

Mexico's drug violence and journalistic self-censorship

A typically appalling account of Mexico's drug wars by the New York Times quotes a chilling front-page editorial in the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez, which has been so ravaged by the violence that there's been an exodus from the city. It's a common gimmick for an editorial to pretend to address someone ("An Open Letter to ____"), but this is the first time I've seen one that literally addresses a group of people — the drug lords — as a genuine form of communication:

“We want you to explain to us what you want from us . . . . What are we supposed to publish or not publish, so we know what to abide by. You are at this time the de facto authorities in this city because the legal authorities have not been able to stop our colleagues from falling.”
I noticed the article because one of my friends recommended it on Facebook, which showed up in my feed as: "[Friend's Name] likes 'Mexico Paper, a Drug War Victim, Calls for a Voice.'" My friend remarked on the vacuous cheeriness with which Facebook's jargon has pervaded our content sharing:
When you "recommend" a NYTimes article, Facebook treats it as a "like." "Like" is not the right term for my regard for this article.