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U.S. News Reports Biased Against Baja California?

Monday, June 30, 2008

Are U.S. News Reports Biased against Baja California ?

By Brian Flock

            The Recent Fuel Crisis Hints at Manufactured Hysteria and Jaundiced Coverage

Baja California , Mexico , has been on the receiving end of a wave of negative news over the past year – including the real, the distorted, and the completely manufactured. A handful of violent crimes involving foreigners became a barrage of one-sided, singularly heavy-handed critiques of the region. Furthermore, gangland-style violence common to urban areas of California and greater United States ’ cities became somehow intriguing and newsworthy when it occurred south of the border. Footnotes regarding violent crime on the nightly news in the United States became major headlines when it occurred in roughneck neighborhoods south of the US/Mexico border.

            This ongoing trend of negative news towards the United States ’ southern neighbor became especially apparent during this month’s Baja California “fuel crisis.” On June 11, I included a section in my monthly newsletter regarding the dramatic price differential between fuel in Mexico and California where gas was approaching US$5.00 per gallon, and diesel had already surpassed that threshold. My point was to simply catch readers’ attention by showing them one nominal perk of a visit to Baja California . I saw the difference as notable but there was certainly no obvious invasion across the border for cheap gasoline.

            Then on June 14 The San Diego Union-Tribune, the original instigator of the supposed crime wave against tourists in Baja California, began the story of a purported run on fuel throughout the northern Baja California region by United States’ citizens. The implication of the story was that U.S. citizens suddenly started a mad dash south of the border in order to save between forty and fifty percent on fuel. On June 14 they were “heading” into Mexico . On June 15 they were “swarming” into Mexico . By June 18 there was a “mad scramble.”

            The culmination of the slanted news barrage seems to have peaked on June 19 when Reuters news service released an article titled, “ US motorists dodge bullets for cheap Mexican fuel.” My normally unflinching reaction to the ongoing fare of negative press articles on the Baja California region was finally jolted.

            The headline instantly struck me as utterly outrageous in its assertion. The press had either perfected a conspiracy to berate the border region, or a group-think fueled by its own fumes had perfected the art of distorting facts. In fact, the self-fulfilling prophecy of the media was later doused by a single tanker shipment of diesel to the region.

As a northwestern Mexico local whose profession has me traveling up and down the coastal corridor of Baja California, I did not observe any of the aforementioned shortage until I went to purchase gasoline on June 18 at the largest and most profitable AM/PM service station in the world, located in southern Rosarito less than a kilometer south of the historic Rosarito Beach Hotel. (This was four days after the story of cheap gas first broke in The San Diego Union-Tribune.)

            I was astounded to see possibly a hundred or more vehicles waiting to receive diesel from the only two pumps in operation. Of the scores of local buses and trucks waiting in line, I viewed precisely one fair-haired gringa with a pickup full of materials who I visually considered to be an American. Yet her fully loaded and tied down Dodge Ram pickup bed indicated that she was a regular visitor and not a casual tourist enticed into Mexico by low fuel prices as indicated by the media. Nor was she dodging a single bullet. Instead she stood outside of her cab and leaned against the driver’s door with boredom as she waited for the line of trucks to advance.

            Meanwhile I filled up the tank with regular gasoline at just over US$2.50 and waited fewer than thirty seconds in order to be attended. Clearly the crisis related to not gasoline but diesel trucks with much larger tanks with a much more significant impact on the region. I have little doubt that the crisis on diesel was in fact created by the media, not simply reported by it. Fear created by the news seems to have created the diesel crisis.

            What is the United States ’ media bias against Baja California and Mexico ? I can’t answer with certainty but it is downright distorted and out of touch with reality from the perspective on the ground overlooking the Coronado Islands .

Posted: Thursday, July 3, 2008 12:28 PM by Herb Kinsey


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