Sunday, January 29, 2012

Landscape of Change

Dearth of Journalism
Landscape of Change
The Protection of the Innocent
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            The border conflict that has arisen has proven to be a very divisive affair. The process has played out across a wide swath of territory, but the stewards of truth, the Press, have been missing in action in their responsibility to extract the truth.
            Except for the last two years of the conflict, most American media failed to engage in substantive reporting. Even when Obama traveled to El Paso last year and gave the speech at the Chamizal criticizing those who refused to accept his administration’s position that the border was safer now than a generation ago, the prevailing message was repeated. ‘Those who claim the border is a dangerous place are simply fear mongers and have a political motive’.
            The irony of the moment was that directly behind the president was Juarez where 110,000 homes stand vacant and fully 40% of the businesses are gone. Only FOX and the internet sources of news consistently rejected the rhetoric and pressed for a more accurate assessment of the problem.
            The Pulitzer lost
            At the 2010 Apache (Arizona) public meeting hosted by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a dozen news outlets were present.  Reporters prowled the grounds talking to a few people. 
The reason the meeting was called, the horrific incident that took rancher Rob Krentz’ life, remains a complex international affair that seems to have little hope for resolution.  From the view of locals, little to nothing came from the event, and, in fact, even the much ballyhooed Forward Operating Base (FOB) so much in the discussion is now set to be built where the local effort objected.
The Krentz affair has become a microcosm of the border problem.  From every viewpoint, it appears the American public, who has duties, responsibilities, and investments on the border, are nothing more than a necessary evil of which the federal government must contend.
            The truth, though, continues to be revealed.  A civil conflict approaching the scope of Viet Nam rages. Even the whites of Mexican President Calderon’s eyes are starting to show as he grasps the fact that the cartel power will substantively impact his country’s upcoming elections. 
            A huge, international story has been neglected and minimized.  A valid, significant Pulitzer prize … has been missed.
            Ugly American Actions
            Without surprise, it has been revealed the DOJ will not stand by the letter of insistence of its absence of knowledge in the Fast and Furious Debacle, the unfathomable scheme allowing military weaponry to be smuggled into Mexican cartel hands. 
The report comes on the heels of the growing awareness of a parallel deal run by the same bureaucrats who appear to have supported and co-opted the laundering of cartel monies.  Of course, the feds are denying any such complicity, but such denial is growing wearisome. 
Their track record has simply become too checkered to be taken seriously.  Americans who stand in the hail of the border storm have long lost any expectation the federal actions will be structured on the behalf of their well being.  On the contrary, there always seems to be a political agenda that takes precedence.
The Realizations
The absence of responsible press assistance can be arrayed with clarity in several 2011 developments.  The most horrendous will be the lip service given to the plight of innocent Mexicans who have been the victims of the drug war.  Those stories will find their way into the outlets on starts and stops, but will likely not get too much play until the human and animal right activists develop a profitable niche for their nonprofit activities.  The press will then likely find cause to press the stories of the cartel war atrocities on a regular and expanding basis.
It is interesting to array the events that were revealed and developed by Americans who face the border without a safety net.  A recent example was the GAO disclosure of the Arizona wildfires started by illegals.  The truth of that matter was known from the onset by local citizens. 
Even the Forest Service initially verified the facts, but the matter was discounted and then muzzled by the State Department who determined international relations were more important than truth.  Americans who knew the truth were rewarded by suggestions they were spreading unfair accusations.
The death of Brian Terry prompted the ultimate disclosure of Fast and Furious, but it was American gun store owners who began to worry about their own well being that opened the door to reveal the truth.  Thank goodness, civil servants within ATF came forward and verified the facts. The whole world now knows of the federal actions that were denied with resolute vigor.  Like the truth of the fires, those denials have been disclosed for what they were.
The expansion of the drug war, though, is being dissected into even more incremental revelations.  Perhaps the most significant part of the puzzle has been the disclosure of those conditions that allowed the development of the trade routes that allowed the delivery of drugs and human contraband into the United States.
            Citizen versus State created Ethos 
The smuggling corridors are central to the entire conflict.  Without those trade routes, the drug business would not have grown into the dangerous industry it is.  It wasn’t the government who revealed what and why such smuggling routes were so detrimental to the security of the nation. It was New Mexicans at risk who methodically attempted to describe reasonable logic to sway Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) to modify his legislative insistence for more border wilderness.
Private Americans finally described the characteristics of the corridors that allowed for expansion and control of the smuggling trade.  It was from their work that each and every non-urban corridor can now be described and predicted. It wasn’t their senator who had the moral obligation to ensure their safety and limit any likelihood that their stance was legitimate.
Likewise, it wasn’t the prevailing press, and a huge question must be asked.  What is the structural evolution in the science of journalism that has occurred to create a separate value system, a distinct set of standards, and a common belief system that is dismissive of individual sovereignty?
The problem is Universal
The same question is being asked around the world.  In the UK, the BBC is finally being taken to task by a number of respected authorities.  Their disenchantment on the reliability of that press is being built around the absence of objectivity surrounding the ‘Race to all things Green’, but their most basic question is legitimate, timely, and universal. 
“If we believe in a free country and a free press, why do we have a state (and politically driven and sponsored) broadcasting system?”
We are asking the same question.
The collective reporting on the drug war in Mexico and the implications of its expansion by border smuggling corridors on the American border is a moral and journalistic failure.  It is a contradiction of words over actions and philosophy rather than objectivity.  Until the last two years, it had been a regional skirmish of inconvenience.  It had been controlled and manipulated by voices that had nothing to lose.
Journalistic Science
Scientific journalist, David Whitehouse, is one of the voices starting to rise above the tide.  In recent writings, he has started asking his colleagues where the moral authority in their work has gone.  He is saying things that make sense to those of us who have started bypassing the traditional source of news because we have lost confidence in it.
“Science journalism is not about taking sides,” Mr. Whitehouse remarks.  “It’s about asking serious questions and acting as a legitimate proxy to those who cannot ask the questions.”
Good journalism must ferret out and reveal the true measure of the evidence.  It cannot simply defer to the guidance of prevailing movements. 
“Least of all,” Whitehouse concludes, “can they (journalist of public trust) look to movements for guidance any more than a teacher should ask a first grader how she should be taught to read.”
The War
Meanwhile, the war in Mexico rages.  It rages because the drug cartels continue to grow their business through lucrative trade routes that are protected and expanded by the actions of our government . . . actions that have been implicitly sanctioned and condoned by the press. 
The real problem now facing this country is what to do with Mexico.  That government cannot fix itself.  If the cartels are successful in swaying their 2012 elections, the problem is no longer a police action.  It is what unprotected Americans on our border have been saying . . . it is past time to seek impartiality and make sure the border is protected . . . the principles of journalism and science have betrayed us for too long.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Border Americans are learning a great lesson.  If they cannot trust their leaders . . . they must trust themselves.”

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