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Drunk with power?

7 February 2011

With all due respect,  Gancho or Aguachile, the two guys who I consider the best English-language commentators on Mexican political events, have fallen down on the job.  Dudes, what did you spike your Kool-aid with?  Both seem to forget they’re alternative media people, and shouldn’t be praising the “mainstream press” for trying to shape the news to comfort-fit the powerful.

Carmen Aristegui — well known internationally from CNN was unceremoniously dumped by MVS Communicaciones (owner of two of the largest radio chains in Mexico) for suggesting that it might be time for Felipe Calderón — or, rather, the Office of the Presidency — to… er.. scotch the rumors of the current resident of Los Pinos’ over-indulgence in intoxicating beverages.

When PT (Workers’ Party) and PRD “radicals” (to use Agachile’s description) raised a banner with the provocative phrase “You wouldn’t let a drunk drive your car, why do you let one drive the country?” (similar to the “if you drink, don’t govern” stickers alluding to the Governor of Jalisco’s alleged alcoholism praised by Aguachile back in October),  the “mainstream media” was forced to confront a question about Calderón that has been raised by the alternative media and the left, and in internet chat rooms   at least since 2006, when he was a candidate for President.

Running “Felipe Calderon Borracho” and “Felipe Calderon Alcoholico” through search engines turned up several mentions over the last few years, mostly from the left, and backers of Andres Manuel López Obrador’s “Legitimate Presidency” (although López Obrador himself says that Calderón is an inept usurper, but not a drunk).  Even Brozo — who, unlike right-wing TV pundits in the U.S., makes no bones about being a clown — has alluded to the story in past years.  Questions about Calderón’s sobriety surfaced again in October 2009, after a speech in Guatemala, and in April of last year, when Contralinea uncovered seemingly excessive spending on alcoholic beverages by federal departments (including the Office of the President).

Although the accusations may be as baseless as, say, U.S. reports that suggest President Obama was not born in Hawai’i, it would hardly indicate a free and open press if reporters were compelled to ignore the issue completely.  Ms. Aristgui, in reporting on the banner incident, only said what several reporters suggested Obama (then a candidate for president) do:  address the rumor.

Gancho translates the respected news commentator’s remarks as:

Does the president have problems with alcohol or not? The Presidency of the Republic itself really should give a concise, formal answer regarding this. There is nothing offensive when someone, if this were the case, goes through a problem of this sort, alcoholism is a health problem, very well studied, very well known…

Even if, as Gancho say, Arestigui went “on and on she goes, hitting the same notes,” there is nothing inherently untruthful or irresponsible about asking for the question to be answered. Aristigui said she has no idea if Calderón drinks, or how much he drinks, but then again, plenty of talking heads and “pundits” in the United States (from all political persuasions) saw fit to ask questions about Bill Clinton’s sex life a few years back, and Italian reporters would be remiss not to ask about the impact of rumors about Silvio Berlisconi’s private behavior on his ability to carry out his official duties.

MVS claims they fired Aristigui for giving “validity to an assumption, transgressing our code of ethics, and in [her] refusing to offer a public apology, as requested by the company,” although this seems to be the first anyone has heard of such a “code of ethics” (public rumors being discussed before without consequences, or demands for apologies). Los Pinos denies having pressured MVS into taking action, which — naturally — means the Office of the Presidency, even if lying through their teeth, is at least addressing another rumor in a forthright manner.

Lorena Aguilar Aguilar writes in Kaosenlared (my translation):

… the issue goes beyond censoring a critical and truthful journalist:  as a society we must defend our right to free information, a universal right universal being violated in Mexico today. Cases like Aristegui’s … are proof that in our country we do not enjoy real freedom of expression.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. 8 February 2011 7:12 am

    For the record: I spike my Kool-Aid with Herradura reposado.

    Diverging interpretation noted, and respected. However, on this one I really do not see any reason to change my mind here. Emilio González Márquez was caught on tape dead drunk, telling his critics to go fuck their mothers. Most recently, ahead of a huge student demonstration, he showed up totally newcastled at the home of the ex-rector of the university. This is more tangible than internet rumors, chat rooms, and brozo jokes.

    As I noted, I do not think she deserved to be fired for this. But I stick with what I said: I don’t think the president should be forced to address rumors that at this points to me seems not to be very tangible. If the president was, say, Lula da Silva of Brazil, should he have to officially declare he was not a drunk just because some rightwing detractors and internet chat rooms suggested he was? As it were, they have long been suggesting he is, in Churchill’s words, no enemy of the bottle. I don’t think he should have to go out and publicly deny these rumors: It is a question of, for lack of better word, dignity.

    And speaking of dignity: It is certainly not what the PT-PRD idiots who interrupt the congress sessions at their whim possess too much of. The session was later in the day to vote over legislation condemning human trafficking, when Noroña and his ilk hang up their banner. I wonder, do even their most ardent backers find it worth it to postpone important national legislation for the protection of women and children, in order to polarize the debate even further with a hitherto unsubstantiated rumor?



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  3. Rumor control « The Mex Files
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