There is something not right about the media’s coverage of violence on this planet.
Serial killers such as Ted Bundy and Gary Ridgway received sensational coverage during their killing sprees, the lengthy manhunts and the subsequent trials. Years later the stories of their crimes continue to garner news coverage, while the names of their victims (there were allegedly 30 and 71 respectively) pass into oblivion.
This past summer a lunatic named Breivik captured global attention when he gunned down and blew up a total of 77 people (not including scores who were grievously injured). The story held our fascination, both for the comparative youth of the victims as well as the tragically inept police response.
The most recent news in global mass murder was the reported arrest of a cartel hit man, one Enrique Elizondo-Flores. A member of the infamous Zetas drug trafficking organization (DTO), Elizondo-Flores confessed to killing at least 75 people, many of whom were passengers pulled off buses at cartel-run checkpoints. The staggering volume of dead should, at the very least, have captured a portion of the glaring media spotlight heretofore reserved for the serial killer/mass murderer demographic.
National news coverage of the arrest and confession? Haven’t seen it. Online tags? Unless I missed it on the scrolling Comcast web page, there was no mention. How about in the print media, last bastion of the “complete story?” Found it.
That sum total, in the Trib’s 2/1 print edition, was the only local coverage of the mass murders of at least 75 people (the online version went into more detail). By today’s standard of mass media hype, that response equates to a deafening silence.
It is not difficult to ascertain why Mexican violence gets the cold shoulder from the media across its norther border. The massive motion of the American experience leaves little room for other stories, and our raging capitalism can bring chaos to smaller countries and their economies . That is especially true of Mexico. Our neighbor to the south struggles not only with its own endemic issues, but because it shares a border with the U.S., Mexico must also deal with the cancerous problem of “Drugs run north, guns run south.”
Because of the disparate economies, and our unquenchable thirst for drugs, impoverished Mexicans routinely succumb to the lure of the cartel money. When the cartels run short of volunteers they set up fake checkpoints on highways. Buses filled with laborers stop at these checkpoints and cartel “recruiters” give the young men on the bus the choice of life as a cartel mule or death. One would think that a hard life of dusty labor would make this false choice an easy one to make. But the mass graves alongside lonely Mexican roads, the mounds of body parts found at warehouses, and the many victims of Enrique Elizondo Flores suggest otherwise.
Many of the people killed in Mexico’s drug war are willing combatants. They are gang members, drug dealers, cartel hit men and corrupt politicians. That story, complete with grisly photos of these individuals gunned down on the streets of Nogales, Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana, has been told repeatedly. It is also not unique to Mexico- Americans already have their hands full dealing with gang members and their turf wars based on drugs, prostitution and a horribly misplaced sense of machismo.
But the numbers alone separate our experience from Mexico. Since 2005, approximately 40,000 people have died tragically – many have died horribly – in Mexico’s drug war. Some of those victims were police officers, soldiers, politicians and legitimate businessmen, all singled out for their defiance against the drug cartels. They were kidnapped, killed, bombed and shot.
Many of that staggering number were innocent people. When their buses were stopped, by hard men armed with assault rifles and machetes, many refused to be pawns in the drug war. Some were shot. Some were dismembered. Their stories, at least on the national level, have not been told.
But at least these victims have one advantage over those of serial killers and mass murderers, like Bundy, Ridgway and Breivik. The innocent victims of the Mexican drug war, including those killed by Elizondo-Flores, don’t need to worry about their killer becoming a celebrity.
That won’t happen when you only use 49 words.