March 25, 2009

Honestly I thought they were all too lazy to kill people

map_thumb.gif Like many Americans, I've been following the recent news stories about the dangers facing gringos in Mexico with alarm and distress. Of course, my reaction isn't to the supposed dangers but rather to the stories themselves: preposterous sensationalism built on a foundation of dubious anecdotes and misleading statistics.

A new site called The Truth About Mexico is dedicated to correcting the record. This map showing the distances between the high-risk areas of the country and the tourist destinations is a good place to start. Anyone traveling from Kansas to Cancun for spring break will, for one week, be farther away from Ciudad Juarez than they are the rest of the year. "Consumers of American media could easily get the impression that Mexico is a blood-soaked killing field, when in fact the bulk of the drug violence is happening near the border. (In fact, one way of putting this would be that Mexico is safe as long as you stay far, far away from the US.)"

That wry observations is from an absolutely essential article by mi amigo Francisco de Koughan (proprietor of the Burro Hall blog). Frank's advice to anyone freaking out about a visit to Mexico: Do the math. A few back-of-the-envelope calculations show that the most accurate way to process the screaming headlines about hundreds of Americans killed in Mexico in recent years is that "your chances of not being murdered here are 99.9997%. Anyone who considers those to be dangerous odds would be advised not to spend spring break in Las Vegas, either."

There is indeed a great deal of senseless, drug-fueled violence happening in Mexico right now: over 5,000 people were killed last year, and this year the body count hit 1,000 in just 51 days. But the vast, vast majority of the dead were either involved in the drug trade themselves, or were part of the forces (Army/ police/ judges/ officials) who are fighting them. If you’re planning to spend spring break either working for a drug cartel or joining the Mexican Army, then by all means you should think twice about coming here.

That sounds like a joke — OK, that is a joke — but not everyone gets it. As Frank points out, the Houston Chronicle recently ran a breathless article headlined Caught in the Chaos: More than 200 U.S. Citizens Killed in Mexico Since ‘04. Only close reading reveals that "the dead include at least two dozen victims labeled hitmen, drug dealers, human smugglers or gang members, based on published investigators’ accusations. Others were drug users or wanted for crimes in the United States…in at least 70 other cases, U.S. citizens appear to have been killed while in Mexico for innocent reasons: visiting family, taking a vacation, or simply living or working there.”

"In other words," Frank writes,

of the “200 U.S Citizens Slain,” 130 of them simply didn’t draw their own weapons fast enough. So we’re really talking about seventy murders in four years, during which time Americans made 60 million visits to Mexico, which has a population of about 120 million. For the record, that’s ten percent fewer murders than took place in Houston, population 2 million, in the first three months of 2008. [emphasis mine]

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Preposterous sensationalism built on a foundation of dubious anecdotes and misleading statistics is a 20 billion-dollar industry. ...Well, these days probably only about 14 billion.

"Overjoyed, the cowboy walks back to El Paso while the couple drives to safety in Mexico"

Thus ends the movie version of Jim Thompson's "The Getaway".

It sounds like, for people "wanted for crimes in the United States", the reality is more like the original novel. Harrowing stuff.

Fans of the Radosh brand: If you haven't done so already, add Burro Hall to your RSS collection. Mucho enjoyablo. And I don't even know where Mexico is!

I hear it's mostly just pictures of his dog.

Thanks for the nod!

Steroid- and cocaine-crazed racist NYPD thugs terrorize targeted population groups daily, as do government armed goon squads in other US municipalities.

Hillary blames insatiable Americans for Mexico violence. We crave donuts and cola-I bet Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts, Coke and Pepsi CEOs start knocking each other off for market share. My appetite for high end electronics and cash forces people to kick in doors and invade my home too. Pathetic...;

@Hillclimber. Outlaw caffeine and watch how fast Coke and Pepsi turn from jingles to machine guns.

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