Press in general likes to sensationalise, and in addition our Western press has bias tilted towards dormant racism. It often pops up its sleepy head when it comes to reporting on the behaviour of so-called developing countries (so-called because there’s not much to be proud of when using ‘our’ development model as a guiding principle). And of course, there is much to be criticised about these countries, but the same can definitely be said about our so-called developed world!
Mexico certainly copped a beating in our media reporting on her reactions to the swine flu outbreak in her borders, but it seems in hindsight that much of it was unfair (and of course never set straight). Below is an excerpt from a post by Tyler Cowen on the Marginal Revolution blog, which to me seems to rebalance the picture a bit:
I hesitate to speak too soon but I’m actually somewhat impressed by how the Mexican government, at least at the national level, has responded. There have been many failures of Mexican health care systems at local levels but keep a few things in mind: a) some of the problems lie with citizens who won’t go see doctors, or who won’t go see non-shaman doctors, b) too many Mexicans self-administer antibiotics, and c) when there is so much air pollution it is harder to discover flu cases, especially in the midst of flu season there. Nonetheless Mexican reporting systems seem to have discovered an unusual flu fairly promptly.
Once the national government discovered what is going on, they acted decisively and without undue panic. There has been very little denial, a common feature in the early stages of health crises (how long was it until the U.S. government acknowledged AIDS?).
And I like to add that the number of new swine flu cases in Mexico has been dropping rapidly since Cowen wrote his post, so much so that public spaces are open again and – that press reporting has ceased. It does not make the news when a health system is working well.
Unlike Cowen, I do think that the Mexican federal government was treated like that of a so-called banana republic or a basket case. Our press certainly gave us the impression that we will do a much better job – especially with our officials being presented as a contrast to Mexico’s media image, with statements and examples supposedly demonstrating just how well prepared we are; I would be surprised if that would have been any different in the US or Canada).
So, let’s be aware: this whole episode just shows once again how important it is to take press reports with a pound of salt.