A Faceless State

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Earlier I wrote about how much of the news coverage concerning the Mexican-US border was problematic. Using Giroux’s Reading Katrina: Race, Class, and the Biopolitics of Disposability, I showed that articles about violence towards Mexican immigrants dehumanized them into beings of disposability, human lives not worth protecting. With the recent rise of drug-related violence in Mexico, and the rise in media coverage, one can be sure that news stories about powerful drug-cartels, corrupt politicians, and poisonous smugglers will contain post-racial rhetoric.

On the front page of the New York Times today was a photograph of what looked to be three soldiers in a tank driving through a war zone. We find out however, that the soldiers are patrolling the streets of the border town Reynosa, where “A cartel has hired paramilitary force to protect its turf.”

We find out that Mexican drug cartels make more money than the government, have just as superior weaponry, and have infiltrated government positions including the US Embassy. Drug-related violence took over 6,000 lives in 2008 and already 1,100 in 2009.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently visited Mexico to speak with leaders about the crisis. While talking to the press, Clinton pointed out the United States’ role in the rise in crime. Clinton states, “Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade.” She also pointed out the United Sates role in producing weapons for cartels: “Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians.”
These sound bites have been quickly picked up and called “America bashing” by both Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly.

O’Reilly, exhibiting a truly masterful use of historical amnesia, actually goes as far as to say that America has nothing to do with the socio-economic state of Mexico.

What he forgets is that it was US government subsidized farming that flooded the Mexican market, single-handedly wiping out 2.8 million Mexican farm jobs from 1993 to 2005 . What he forgets is that it was US investments that helped introduce global capitalism into the Mexican economy destabilizing it. Furthermore the US does supply Mexico with a huge number of firearms. A statement given to the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs by the ATF and DEA reads, “according to the ATF’s National tracing Center, 90 percent of the weapons [in Mexico] that could be traced were determined to have originated from various sources within the US.” So it’s not just America bashing, but actually a fact the US citizens have bought drugs  and sold weapons to drug-cartels.

What is particularly problematic however, is the way in which the country of Mexico is portrayed. On “Fox and Friends” Steve Doocey frames his question to Wyoming Senator Barrasso with “We hear about all this stuff that’s going on down, down there, drugs, and guns, and just a constant flow of people across our southern border because it’s so porous.” Doocey’s statement makes Mexico seem like a dangerous war-zone, a place run by drug lords and violence. The faceless people we have seen on the news, running around with guns, are trying to invade our country, our homes. A statement made by Limbaugh on his show on 3.26.09 shows a similar image not one of a war-zone but of …

“Chaos — the chaos on the border. Mrs. Clinton going down to Mexico, saying it’s our fault. It’s the drug habits of Americans that are driving these gangs, and it’s making the gangs pull the triggers. It’s making the gangs get the guns. It’s making the gangs trying to get into the United States. It’s the United States’ fault.”

This statement again, disregards the history and current facts about America’s involvement with the Mexican economy and gun smuggling. Limbaugh’s, Doocey’s, and O’Reilly’s statements all continue to paint the picture of Mexicans as drug dealing killers. They disregard the fact that most illegal immigrants do not commit crimes in the United States, and are in fact trying to make a living by working in legal industries. The images of criminals further creates the idea that the Mexican population is a population of disposable bodies, that do not require protection or rights, rather they are faceless and a threat to our lives and values, already tarnished by liberals.

Crime appears to be the main target of this type of coverage. However, the omission of the facts, that actually hold the US accountable, and portrayal of Mexico as a nation of criminals, makes it irrefutable that it’s more than just crime that bothers these old white guys. It’s Mexicans.

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