what the newsman gives us

“The least sophisticated reader, whenever he takes an old book in his hands, knows in advance that he is entering a world where even the most familiar words will not mean quite what they do today. This is the unsophisticated
reader’s historical intuition.” – Lidiia Ginzburg, On Psychological Prose

The least sophisticated reader has all the advantages against today’s sophisticated news reporter. The news can be described as that discourse that does its best to eliminate the reader’s historical intuition. Some news items really make this clear. Take, for example, this platitudinizing item in the New Yorker today, which begins on a note of unconscious propaganda that it sustains to the last sentence: “On Saturday, Mexican authorities arrested Joaquín (El Chapo)Guzmán Loera, who was the leader of the Sinaloa cartel, acriminal organization responsible for violence and drug trafficking."  This seemingly bland announcement ends by associating El Chapo’s “organization” – of which he is supposedly the leader – with violence and drug trafficking – thus distinguishing him from the unnamed Mexican authorities. This is very sweet. Another way of this release could be written is: Mexican authorities, who have been complicit in the violence and drug trafficking associated with so called cartels, arrested the man who they helped escape from prison the last time they arrested him.” In fact, a glance at Anabel Hernandez’s Narcoland, which has an exhaustive chapter about Guzman, his previous arrest, his first confession (which named the people in power he was paying off), and the threat he received from “Mexican authorities” to change it (which he did), and what it means to be a “leader” of a cartel, would actually help the unsophisticated reader to know what is going on – what these words like “criminal” and “violence” really mean.
But that of course is not the point of this little news item.  Its point is to operate as both an establishment mouthpiece, destroying any alternative reading of this event, and to keep the system of selling drugs, putting dirty money into the system (that money, after all, has been truly vital to parts of the American economy – what would Miami be without it?) and police and military arrests going. It benefits everyone except that majority of people.
Arresting Guzmán was an inarguably worthwhile goal, but there is concern about how much his absence will affect the organization’s operation. “There are a couple of senior guys in the Sinaloa cartel—one called El Mayo and another one called El Azul—who are still functioning,” Finnegan says.
Yes, one wouldn’t want to call the goal into question. One wouldn’t even want to think that an argument could be made that the goal, that all the goals in this context, are dirty and worthless, from the, well, human point of view. What we need is the elite point of view here, the only point of view that counts, that has “worth” – and from this point of view, guys “function”. We get a nice, faux insider sense from knowing these guys are called El Mayo and El Azul. And faux insiderdom is what the newsman can give us, in exchange for destroying our historic intuition.

It is, inarguably, a shitty exchange. 


Joe Miller said…
Can you recommend any sources on the Colombian cartels?