Twitter and the colorful exaggeration of the news in Mexico.

One thing about living here in Mexico is that when it comes to the news we only really get two distorted versions. Here in Veracruz the governor Javier Duarte doesn’t allow official news sources to report the true story about many things that are happening here, so when they do happen, the official newspapers or T.V. reporters leave us pitifully uninformed. Libertad de Prensa or uncensored press here means that we get to see some gruesome photos in the newspaper but if it has anything to do with something that could potentially tarnish the image of a political figure we can never count on the official press to inform us on exactly what happened.

On the other hand we have the reports via independent news sources and media sites such as blogdelnarco (warning! – graphic images) and the likes of Twitter and Facebook, the former being a key in news sharing. Most of the stories that emerge via these sources are usually based on witness accounts and word of mouth, meaning that they could be accurate accounts or as distorted as a chinese whisper.

Of all of these news sources, Twitter is the largest and the quickest at news sharing around here. However, I feel that it’s getting a bit out of control. Yes, unsightly things happen every day here in Mexico but I know that the details of these happenings are sometimes blown way over the top.

A prime example of this was when, last year in the week leading up to the Grito (Mexican Independence), the marines cordoned off a street about 2 blocks from my house. I’m not exactly sure for what purpose they were there, it seems like they were just hanging around waiting for something which never seemed to happen, but I know for a fact that there was no large confrontation. However, I remember looking at Twitter and sure enough, there were reports of a shootings in that very spot that I know never happened because none of the neighbors in the area heard anything.

A few weeks ago, there was a confrontation on the highway between Xalapa and Coatepec. I know about it because I was trying to get to work when they closed down the roads. Anyway it seems that 2 truckloads of narcos from opposing cartels stopped in the middle of the highway and started to shoot at each other. Convenient, I know. Official reports were 2 dead after the marines showed up and sorted this nonsense out. Some reports on Twitter on the other hand reported up to 17 dead and grenades being thrown all over the show. Correct me if I’m wrong, but grenades blow big holes in the ground right? They would also blow cars apart, wouldn’t they? Well when I went through that spot a couple of days later on my way to work I didn’t see any sign of holes being blown in the road by grenades. And witnesses saw 2 trucks being towed away by the marines full of bullet holes. Yes bullet holes, not grenade holes. I’m not sure exactly how many people died in that shootout – probably somewhere between 2 and 17 – but some of the versions reported by Twitter were clear exaggerations in my opinion. I’m not saying that nothing happened – I know it did – but I highly doubt the reports that made it out as if there was a shower of grenades.

So what does this mean? Well these reports we see on Twitter, these reports that are word of mouth in electronic form, are causing a fear to spread. Sure bad things do happen, however most people go on with their day as normal, we just get used to it instead of dwelling on it, however these exaggerations are making the situation out to be worse than it really is. It’s making people more paranoid and the moment that they see police lights flashing anywhere they are back on Twitter tweeting about a shooting which is not actually happening.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be aware of the situation, rather that extra fear is an unnecessary result of new sharing via Twitter. Mexico does need a change, but that change comes from within as well as from the people leading the country and we need a population which is not cowering in fear due to an over exaggeration.

So Twitter, please keep your minions under control and don’t let them report overstatements or we will all go crazy.

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