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Lazy, obese, and complacent is no way to go through life, son

30 November 2010

Ganchoblog semi-praised the Washington Post for ALMOST managing to write an article with a Mexican by-line that was about something other than gangsters.

Los Pinos was presumably tickled to get some attention in the Washington Post that painted the president in a positive light and didn’t have to do with insecurity. And then they read the lede:

Mexico is battling billionaire drug mafias armed with bazookas, but when President Felipe Calderon ranks the threats his country faces, he worries more about methane gas, dwindling forests and dirty refineries.

… the article muses, “Who knew?”, which is a bit odd because Calderón has made quite a bit of noise on climate change for most of his term. In effect, the answer to that rhetorical question is, “People who follow Calderón’s public statements”, a group in which you’d expect the Washington Post correspondent to be included.

Meanwhile, in Washington itself, the television political chat-show, “Face the Nation” made some news when it’s “annual[…]attempt to bring together for an intellectual conversation four authors who wrote serious historical or political books,” went slightly awry.  Edmund Morris,  the Kenyan-born biographer (of Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan), managed to utter the word “bullshit” (in regard to a rather stupid question about what Roosevelt would do if he were alive — which he isn’t, and hasn’t been for a long time) and was bleeped out. That a well-educated person can get exasperated perhaps is news to some, but what annoyed Americans was that Morris

…launched a devastatingly serious critique about what he sees as unattractive about the American people today:

I see an insular people who are insensitive to foreign sensibilities, who are lazy, obese, complacent and increasingly perplexed as to why [Americans] are losing our place in the world to people who are more dynamic than us and more disciplined.

The Washington Post article seems to confirm Morris’ critique. i was struck that Crooks and Liars (a website that focuses on U.S. media and politics) finds it so unusual that a public affairs discussion would have “intellectuals”— the figures that dominate Mexican television discussion programs.

I’m not sure reporter from the Washington Post, like Bob Woodward, nor a media mogul and political commentator Ariana Huffington are exactly the same as people like Sergio Aguayo, or Lorenzo Meyer (academic researchers and historians, as well as journalists), let alone the late Carlos Monsivaís or Elena Pontiatowska — highly acclaimed belle-lettrists, cultural critics and journalists, or Gabriel García Marquez, who has appeared on Cristina Pacheco‘s afternoon chat show… which would be like having Gore Vidal on “Oprah”.  In other words, in the U.S., media figures who write on politics are considered “intellectuals”, whereas here an “intellectual” better have something else in their tool-kit besides opinions and conversations with other media and political figures.

Leaving aside the absurdity of bleeping out a mild (and pertinent) obscenity,what seems to upset the critics in the United States is that Morris presented a well-thought out social critique.  Perhaps an uncomfortable truth, but what makes it intriguing is that his attackers complained about his accent and his use of that single word (and he was quoting an American movie).  Apparently, it wasn’t entertaining:  from what I’m told, Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” often has serious authors , but expects them to be funny.  Some of our intellectuals are witty (the late lamented Monsivaís got chuckles from even the most poorly educated viewer), but aren’t expected to be entertainers, nor to temper their thoughts and language to the lowest common denominator.  They are there to engage the viewer, to present a logical perspective, and — if one disagrees — one is expected to at least forced to admit that there is intellectual rigor behind the presentation.

Which leads back to the Washington Post (Woodward’s newspaper, by the way).  The reporters, or editors, are too insular (or insensitive) to consider that Mexico and Mexican political leaders might have concerns beyond the narrow obsessions of the U.S. media, and are too lazy to do more than make complacent remarks about world issues.  Obese?  I don’t know, but perplexed they certainly are.

Mexican media isn’t all that great, but consider our provincial newspapers.  In the United States,  Sarah Palin (who seems to know nothing, and can’t even write the books put out under her name) is considered a serious contender for the Presidency.  When she shows up in a local community, it’s likely to be at a shopping mall, and would merit coverage for that.  And whatever bone-headed statements she might make.

Seriously considered as a Presidential candidate here is Dr. José Narro Robles, a MD, consultant to the World Health Organization, and Rector of the largest university in Latin America.  He showed up in our local community, to present opening remarks to the Latin American Philosophical Congress, and his speech — calling for more state action to foster social and economic equality — was front page, above the fold, news in our local newspaper.

And, that is why intellectuals can tell newscasters in the United States they’re are full of bullshit.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 1 December 2010 8:50 am

    Hold on… are you saying the correspondents are not experts on all things Mexico?

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