A society coerced into fear

Submitted by gwolf on Sat, 09/13/2008 - 22:25

A common trait of virtually all of the media in Mexico -and, as far as I have been able to see, in Latin America- is the push for society to be afraid. The government and the media (which go hand-in-hand, mainly due to a series of favors owed to each other - currently stemming from the government's illegitimacy and lack of trust from the general population) wants us all to think the country is as violent and as dangerous as it has never been before.
And yes, I cannot and won't try to deny that there are many critical points that need attention - But the answer cannot be militarization, cannot be further restraining the civil liberties, cannot be criminalization.
The only way to prevent crime is to reduce poverty. And poverty is not reduced by giving foreign "investors" (bah, ask people living on cities that border the USA if the maquilas have brought any kind of investment or somehow bettered the living conditions of the population!) access to segments of the economy so far limited to the government - Poverty will only be reduced when the government starts reviewing the tax systems to remove the legal loopholes that make it possible for a large enterprise to get tax exemptions on most of their income, and make the lower income people pay zero taxes, even get social aid.
But back to the topic: Since the 1994 crisis (the "decembrine errors"), we are being constantly bombed about the raging insecurity in Mexico. Maybe we have been bombed with that same ideas for more time, but I was not very politically conscious before that. When things go a bit smoother on the political side, the media relaxes the "we are so fucked" mantram.
When our de facto president current ruler took power, on December 2006, he had so much opposition he could not for months attend a single public event. So far, he is still avoiding them; everywhere he goes, the place must be cleared and sanitized of anybody who might show he just does not agree with the imposition we had. What was his first government action? To decree that every branch of the government would get a 10% budget cut on the salaries - but the security forces (the army, the different police corporations) would have a 46% raise.
After almost two years of ineptitude, they keep chanting the old "oh, we are living such dangerous times" mantra. The security forces recently got yet another raise, and everybody in the media says this country cannot be lived in anymore.
And people buy that crap.
Up to a month or two ago, the general outcry is that the drug lords had taken over the country - And, yes, in several areas of Mexico, their presence is bigger than the official security, or the security agencies are completely coopted by them. But not even His Majesty Felipe Calderón I "El Ilegítimo" can say with a straight face that "we are winning the war against the drug lords" (a war brought by himself, of course - Think of it as Mexico's Irak. Think of Calderón as Mexico's Bush.) - A new attention sink was needed.
Of course, this country is not safer than Finland. But crimes do happen there as they happen here. Here, we have got a tremendous movement because of one brutal kidnapping in August, and everybody now thinks that everybody is at risk of dying kidnapped.
So today, after over a month of bombarding us with fear about kidnaps, I am sick of reading stupid reactions. What made me post this was a request for ideas at a local Free Software-related portal about monitoring known potential criminals. Of course, such a proposal would violate the right to anonimity and to lead a personal life even a convicted criminal has. And, of course, the cries of people that think the society should castrate rapists and kill kidnappers, basically going back 4000 years in history. People, let me hand you a stone and a stick so you can club the whole society to death.
The first step towards getting out of this security nightmare perception we have is to be critical towards what the media tells us - and to understand (and _really_ understand. I won't buy your argument that "it's easier to rob somebody for MX$4000 than to work a full day for MX$100", as it's only easier on one level, but it is a tremendous cost on many others) what makes good people act against the society.

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foo's picture

Governments

Other countries work like that too; at least in the USA and Australia it has been the same recently.

Anonymous's picture

Amén. And your captcha is

Amén. And your captcha is simply wonderful!

jt3k's picture

I won't buy your argument

I won't buy your argument that "it's easier to rob somebody for MX$4000 than to work a full day for MX$100",

Seriously man, what would be the risks? It's not like you'd get caught. And normally you'd be armed and your victim not. Win win situation. No real danger for the robber.

Your post was well phrased at first, and I agree with the core idea of being critical of what media feeds us. The recent kidnappings were high profile but the probability of being a victim of that crime is not that high. However, you started ranting off and making ridiculous claims. Please do remember that the election results in Mexico were almost a tie, and had AMLO won, he would have faced the same opposition as our current president.

Finally, I'm not quite sure if I'm getting you right, but you seem to imply that the war on drugs, so to call it, is a very bad thing and drug lords should be left alone to continue with their fine business. That's a worrying thought but maybe I didn't understand your intentions.

All in all, nice post.

PS I had to enter a CAPTCHA to preview my comment, and I have to enter another to post it. Isn't that stupid? I already authenticated as a human...

vicm3's picture

Who knows...

I don't agree with all the post, by the way I will call "December mistake" (don't you think more than the other way).

Well when I agree is that the media is getting used|served|payed to do this terror campaign, it's probed that frightened people tends to sacrifice rights for “protection” and let the military do job that is by no meant theirs, the police and the different polices are no to fight crime (no in the idea of stand on firepower).

Even when we had the military on streets, their times, their movement do really a little to make what is claimed need to do. Besides great media display, military don’t work, and we are seeing the number of civil deaths grown over time…

What the country need among a lot other things, are well works no that that barely can be named as occupation, here where I live is totally know that is cheaper buy beer than beans, and it make you happier… where are the employment that was the campaign motto of FECAL? Besides adding newer taxes, keep paying the fobaproa/ipab.

Where I don’t agree is on the last argument, there are young people (15-17) that get pay for rob armed, SUVS and trucks and get pay for it 500-1000MXN for a vehicle that cost 160-250K MXN… and examples exists a lot…

Besides I read the cofradia thread and really is more like the idea of mark places for “here are know criminals”, “here is a drug vending point”, and like this… I don’t see how is different and|or better than the lists of conflictive areas of SSP or those signs posted on Benito Juarez delegation for that matter…

toxickore's picture

Softer if they're afraid

The plan is simple from their stand point of view: If you can induce fear into the society they will get more docile and agree if you give them a plan to remove their basic civil liberties, just like in the US.

And for the uninformed people, is not rocket science to know that giving the people more oportunities instead of spending thousands of pesos on security will bring this problem down from the roots.

Jenaro's picture

You began ok but....

I have to agree with jt3k.

The beginning was OK, but the you came with that Illegitimate stuff, that is questionable.

But as you said, the government is using Fear to control us, nothing new, nothing exlusive of our country. But it is not just the Government, the business are take a piece of that cake too.

Last weekend, I got a call from an insurance company from one of the main banks (the one that is allied with a big northamerican bank) offering an insurance contract, and now they're including the kidnapping in their services, but the guy on the phone was so insistent on the kidnapping stuff that made me feel uncomfortable with his offer. So I said him that was not the way to sell anything and hanged up the phone. But then I was thinking, this guy gave me all of my data, my address, my phone numbers, my age, my birth date, my relatives names, he got in his hands a lot of info of me. What can assure me that he or somebody else can't use that against me.

This is starting to get really wrong.

Anonymous's picture

fear is used to control

fear is used to control people...
government use it, but also the church, and of course, it is used in the business...
and in someway, in every kind of relationship between humans.
and each person use it to control itself.

and it is always wrong, but when it is considered the only way to keep the power... is a crime.

mike modano's picture

Even when we had the military

Even when we had the military on streets, their times, their movement do really a little to make what is claimed need to do. Besides great media display, military don’t work, and we are seeing the number of civil deaths grown over time…

What the country need among a lot other things, are well works no that that barely can be named as occupation, here where I live is totally know that is cheaper buy beer than beans, and it make you happier… where are the employment that was the campaign motto of FECAL? Besides adding newer taxes, keep paying the fobaproa/ipab.

Where I don’t agree is on the last argument, there are young people (15-17) that get pay for rob armed, SUVS and trucks and get pay for it 500-1000MXN for a vehicle that cost 160-250K MXN… and examples exists a lot…

Besides I read the cofradia thread and really is more like the idea of mark places for “here are know criminals”, “here is a drug vending point”, and like this… I don’t see how is different and|or better than the lists of conflictive areas of SSP or those signs posted on Benito Juarez delegation for that matter…