Daniel Hernandez wrote an article for Extra! last year (6/09) about the tendency of U.S. corporate media to treat Mexican violence as a phenomenon that threatens to “spill over” into the U.S.–as in New York Times headlines like “Drug Cartel Violence Spills Over From Mexico, Alarming U.S.” (3/23/09) and “Wave of Drug Violence Is Creeping Into Arizona From Mexico, Officials Say” (2/24/09). Hernandez’s article, “Does Violence ‘Spill Over’ or Come Home to Roost?,” questioned this framing of the story:
It is a treatment of Mexico’s crisis as something foreign, unknown and dangerous, as opposed to a threat affecting an intimately close neighbor–and, in many respects, a crisis that is at least partly a product of American policies.
A new report from Mayors Against Illegal Guns (9/10) underscores how this “spill over” metaphor distorts reality:
In recent years, the escalating drug cartel violence in Mexico has claimed tens of thousands of lives, fueled in part by thousands of guns illegally trafficked from the United States. In fact, 90 percent of guns recovered and traced from Mexican crime scenes originated from gun dealers in the United States.
Most of the guns come from Texas, California and Arizona, the report finds–with Texas, Arizona and New Mexico supplying disproportionate numbers in comparison to their populations.
An imaginary crime wave supposedly caused by unauthorized immigration from Mexico has been frequently offered by pundits as a rationalization for Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant law (Extra!, 7/10). It would be more helpful for media observers to call attention to the actual assistance U.S. gun dealers are providing to violent criminals on the other side of the border.