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Telling the story

An interesting thing happened in the killing of Arturo Beltrán Leyva (one of Mexico’s drug lords), and it had nothing to do with him. It had to do with how his death was reported.

Here is the story by Elisabeth Malkin as it currently exists on the New York Times website: Mexico Deals a Blow to a Cartel but Warns of Continued Drug-Related Violence

It talks about his gruesome record and how special forces surrounded his apartment, etc. It also talks about how his death is perceived.

Mr. Beltrán Leyva’s death is a public relations victory for Mr. Calderón, who is facing criticism from the opposition over what they say is a lack of progress in his crackdown on drugs. Despite thousands of arrests and the capture of several gang leaders, drug violence keeps increasing.

Speaking from Copenhagen, where he is attending the United Nations climate talks, Mr. Calderón called Mr. Beltrán Leyva’s death “a convincing blow against one of the most dangerous criminal organizations in Mexico and on the continent.”

But Attorney General Arturo Chávez Chávez said that violence would continue. “Getting the leader of a cartel is a very strong blow and this will surely force restructuring,” Mr. Chávez Chávez said. “Violence inside the cartel can’t be ruled out until the chain of command is defined.”

Ah, yes, we’ve seen it before. Look — a victory in the drug war! Expect increased violence, but that’s because we’re winning. It’s convincing. It’s victory.

It’s bullshit, but it’s what we’re selling in Mexico.

However, this is not what the original article by Elisabeth Malkin said. There was an earlier version, complete with the same URL on the NYT website. And it had a subtle difference. Here is how that section above read in the original version:

The raid came as skepticism has risen about the success of Calderon’s crackdown on drug trafficking. Despite the arrests and the slaying of drug cartel leaders, the drug-related violence has only increased, as traffickers battle each other and the government.

In the past, the capture or death of a top drug lord has meant only a momentary victory, as the level of violence rises again when other organizations try to move in on territory after one group is weakened.

A little more real. A little less B.S. In fact, a very good and true statement. But perhaps it was a little too real for the editors at the New York Times, so they had the author shift to how increased violence means we’re winning. Or did Calderón himself cause the shift by giving the reporter a quote. It would be interesting to know how it got changed.

I discovered it because a reader sent me the original quote with a link to the article. When I went there, the article had a new title and the quote was gone. But it’s hard to make something disappear completely on the internet.

[Thanks, Daniel]

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18 comments to Telling the story

  • Cannabis

    Shades of Winston revising the historical records for the Ministry of Truth in 1984. When will the Thought Police come and get us for noticing the previous version?

  • claygooding

    Thank you Pete,and Bill Gates. It is only a matter of time,now that governments are considering editing the internet. With the instant debunking of propaganda,you can bet Gil will support internet policing. And these sites will be listed as dangerous to the public,,,stupidity.keep them stupid too keep your job Gil.

  • Ed Dunkle

    Clearly, the Mighty Wurlitzer continues to play.

    And I agree with claygooding. Within ten years the internet will be controlled by governments.

  • And the reality is that as long as drugs are outlawed rather than regulated, the outlaws will be in charge of the drug trade rather than the regulators. Also, killing the head of a cartel is not even a temporary victory because right next door or down the street his rivals will take over where he left off. They’ll move in, start another cartel, or rebuild because with drug money so plentiful, there is no reason not to. It’s like draining the ocean with a coffee carafe: useless and hopeless to drain it that way.

    But it makes the policy makers feel good-in a bloodthirsty way that they are winning a righteous war.

  • Stephen Young

    Anyone have a copy of the print edition to see which version was used there?

  • That would be interesting to find out, Stephen.

    Again, just to caution everyone… I don’t know that this was a forced rewrite of any kind — it could be the author decided to re-write (if so, it was a bad rewrite, IMO), or the editors and the author jointly decided to find a way to cut back on raid details and focus more on political reaction.

    It is interesting, though… when viewed side-by-side, the two articles are rather starkly different. The initial one is that of a war reporter — stark details that make you feel like you were there, along with the truth that nothing has really changed. The re-write is much smoother, more palatable, less disturbing, and more… jingoistic.

  • Servetus

    For some journalists, criminals dying in the drug war is a good thing.

    The problem is that most people killed in the Mexican Drug War probably weren’t criminals before they joined the cartels or somehow involved themselves in the fringes of the drug trade. A number of Mexicans transport and sell drugs not only because it’s very profitable but because NAFTA, the border fence, and stricter enforcement of U.S. immigration laws disrupts many of their traditional, legitimate sources of income. The Mexican Drug War itself has decimated the tourist trade in Mexico, adding to the poverty that invariably fuels the drug business.

    Governments should understand that no victory of any kind has ever emerged from a war on the poor. Too many poor people exist for anyone to eliminate them all using drug wars. The only reasonable option left is to end the war.

  • DdC

    And I agree with claygooding.
    Within ten years the internet will be controlled by governments.

    Sorry to break it too ya, they’ve been trying to censor us for the past ten years. The Ganjawar is an excuse to trade temporary pseudo Liberty for an assemblance of safety. These are bright red flags pointing to Fascists politikans, that keep getting re-elected.

    Making War On Free Speech! S. 486/H.R. 2987 Passes 06/10/00

    Closing Ranks on MAPA/Secret Searches Bill Passes 05/27/00

    The Anti-Meth Bill – Washington Post 06/04/00

    Two provisions that criminalize the dissemination of information about drugs may violate constitutional protections of free speech.

    The first makes it a crime to “directly or indirectly advertise for sale” drugs or drug paraphernalia. When such advertising is in electronic form–such as on a Web page–the government could order the Internet service provider to remove it. But what is “indirect” advertising? The category is so vague as to threaten legitimate speech.

    The other provision makes it a felony to distribute information about the manufacturing of controlled substances intending that the information will be used to commit a crime or knowing that a recipient means to misuse it. This section, modeled on legislation prohibiting the distribution of bomb-making information, also seems overly broad, no matter how well-intentioned.

    What the WHO doesn’t want you to know about cannabis 07/08/01

    Bad research makes headlines

  • truthtechnician

    Excellent work uncovering these two versions, Pete. I’d be very interested to know who chose to revise this and why.

  • Freedom

    Thanks Pete.

    Hell if death and carage is proof of victory the yshould just start dropping tactical nukes. All the death caused by that would be a huge victory huh?

    Clay, I exspect government cencorship of the internet much much sooner, say a year or so but, only if we let them.

  • kaptinemo

    The practice of ‘spiking’ a story – or modifying it to suit editorial preferences – is as old as news reporting itself. Corporate controllers of media have their agendas, and those agendas are reflected both in the hiring of staffing and what that staff is allowed to write about.

    This should surprise no one, especially in an age of cut-and-paste journalism. There aren’t very many ‘muckrakers’ on the level of Thomas Nast, Drew Pearson, Jack Anderson, etc. anymore. Most journalism majors aren’t interested in investigation, but investment. As in investing in their careers via fellating the Investor Class. They’re not about to rock the boat. Our ‘friend’ Mr. Halsey’s a perfect example of that.

    Two good examples of good old-fashioned investigatory journalism still extant are Al Giordano and Greg Palast who I read as often as I can. They’re not afraid to go, editorial rake in hand, looking for some very nasty muck to turn over.

    Mr. Giordano has been covering news stories like the crashed CIA plane in Mexico loaded with tons of cocaine that had been previously used in ‘special rendition’ flights to ‘black prisons’ where terror suspects have been tortured with US approval.

    Likewise, Mr. Palast’s articles and books are real eye-openers as to what’s been going on behind the scenes in the corp-rat/government world. They’re definitely worth a look-see.

    And I wouldn’t have known about either of them had it not been for the ‘Net. Corp-rat media isn’t gonna tell you this stuff…

  • revolution-starter

    The more I see on this the sicker it is, 400 special forces troops killing 2 guys is a victory? Killing a private citizen that government regulations gave power to a victory? This is an absolute disgrace, and a detestable use of power how can anyone think that this is justifiable and even a remotely good idea?
    keep fueling the fire…
    Revolution-starter

  • DdC

    Greg Palast shows up on Democracy Now occassionally, with his Indiana Jones hat. He does cut through the BS. I enjoyed his interview about Oil Dollars. These are favs among many still pushing for real journalism. Not a lot of mainstream airtime.

    Michael Parenti

    Norman Soloman

    Noam Chomsky

    Reefer Madness by Eric Schlosser

    Freedom Watch with Judge Napolitano on Fox by Barry Cooper
    I appear for an interview on the Fox News show Freedom Watch with Judge Napolitano.

  • Chris

    I’ve been posting a topic on some private forms about Tijuana. Several people who live there have been posting, saying how “I don’t know what it’s like to live there” etc and defending the use of force against the cartels (basically they all agree to just kill everyone involved in drug trafficking). Other people reading the thread are interpreting this as credibility for their ideas, simply because they live there. Their biggest wish is to have the cartels removed from Mexico, but due to their blind anger and emotion, they won’t consider the logical alternative that legalizing drugs in the united states will stop the cartel’s source of money. I tell them alternatives, look at other south american countries that have fought the drug war, and they call me a “pot addict” and dismiss anything I say because it’s not asking for the only think they can think of to do. It’s stupid.

  • claygooding

    At what point does the “drug war” in Mexico become a revolution? Will the cartels be remembered as terrorists or patriots? History is written by the victors.
    All revolts throughout history has been the havenots taking it from the haves.
    And where will that leave the US,after paying 1.4 billion to Mexico to kill these people?
    And if Calderon wins or chases the cartels out of Mexico,what will the northern part of Mexico use for money?
    Just as the world banks were kept solvent with drug money,Northern Mexico’s economy,therefore,Mexico’s economy rides on pot.
    Who will have too help them feed their population and help them restructure their economy?
    The smart thing would be for the cartels to relocate to a country that has had all the United States and the DEA
    they will take and open up Cancundam.
    With all the entertainment that Mexico has too offer,added to tourist packages of every illicit drug on the market,the prescription drugs available through Mexico’s doctors at cheaper prices,they could build a Shangri-La.

  • Tim

    Yep, I’ve seen this happen. What likely happened is that a Mexican official saw the first version, called her editor, and offered a Calderon quote. Presstitution at its finest.

  • kaptinemo

    Well, the narcos have already made a ‘press release’ of their own, killing some of the family members of the Mex marine killed in the raid. That in an of itself should say something about their reach and capabilities.

    Desertions in the Mex military are already at a new height.This is only going to make that worse.

    But I guess so long as it’s just poor, desperate ‘Messikins’ who get whacked, the predominantly ‘rabiblancos’ in their ivory towers in Warshington won’t care.

    (Warning: the next link is to DEA. Proceed at your own risk!) And the DEA has the nerve to crow that they’re ‘winning’. Disgusting.

  • DdC

    HIT MEN KILL MEXICAN HERO’S FAMILY
    The brazen murder of several family members of a Mexican Naval hero threatens to start a dangerous new chapter in the country’s drug war, in which cartels increasingly resort to terror tactics to try to force the government to back off.