Spotlight Fallacy and Crime in Mexico


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In a column I wrote in August of 2005, titled, Kidnapping Americans in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, I said this about the American press and their coverage of the events then taking place in the border city:

"The “Spotlight Fallacy” is simply this: “This line of reasoning is fallacious since the mere fact that someone or something attracts the most attention or coverage in the media does not mean that it automatically represents the whole population. For example, suppose a mass murderer from Old Town, Maine received a great deal of attention in the media. It would hardly follow that everyone from the town is a mass murderer. The Spotlight fallacy derives its name from the fact that receiving a great deal of attention or coverage is often referred to as being in the spotlight. ”[i]

Once again, the American press, this time NPR News[ii], is spotlighting the events now taking place in Michoacan.

In the article, Mexico's Drug Wars Leave Rising Death Toll, author Lourdes Garcia-Navarro writes:

"Mexican and U. S. officials are meeting Thursday in Laredo, Texas, to discuss concerns about growing drug violence in Mexico. U. S. Ambassador Tony Garza has advised U. S. citizens to exercise extreme caution when traveling in Mexico because of “the rising level of brutal violence. ""[iii]

The author goes on to mention the hideous fact the level of violence is becoming even more brutal:

"More than 1,500 people have died in narcotics-related killings this year alone. In recent months, dozens of people have been beheaded and tortured as cartels across Mexico fight for the lucrative drug-trafficking routes into the United States. "[iv]

I chose to bring this issue of Crime in Mexico back to my column writing because it is once again affecting the decisions of potential expats and in some cases tourists to come to Mexico for retirement or even a visit. I understand Americans being afraid of coming here when the American press spends an unbalanced amount of time and print in spotlighting these events without reporting the “rest of the story. "

When I wrote my article on the kidnapping of Americans in Nuevo Laredo, I contacted one of the authors of the Texas press who had written the article. Living in Mexico City, the most crime-ridden city in the country, she agreed with me that much of her article and what she had contributed to the reporting of this news had been horribly twisted out of context. She told me that her reporting had been spotlighted to create the impression that, “We American expats have to dodge bullets every time we walk out our front doors. "

As an American expat living in Mexico now for more than three years, let me just say: We are not having to dodge bullets each time we leave the house nor are we in danger of having our heads whacked off by murderous drug lords.

Look, I get that Americans considering coming to Mexico to visit or expatriate are at the mercy of a press in America that has for all practical purposes gone a bit loony. I realize that if you had to depend on the press for whether not it is safe to venture out of your house then you would never walk out the front door. You would, in fact, think that to live in the United States was the most dangerous place on the earth from what the press reports each day.

In the May of 2006, the American press reported more than ten events that ranged from parents offering their adolescent children heroine to some guy in Oklahoma plotting and partial carrying out the cannibalistic murder of his ten year-old neighbor. Another guy in Pennsylvania got mad at his brother so he beat him to death with a tire iron then chopped him up and threw the body parts out the car window all over the county.

You would think, as do many Latinos and Europeans, that America is not the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, but rather the Land of the Mass Murderers and the home of the Serial Killers. [v]

And why does the rest of the world see America in this light? Partly it is due to the spotlight fallacy in which the whole is judged according to the few who are spotlighted by the press. Partly it is because it is true.

America is a violent place.

But, not all of America is a violent place.

Do you get that?

Saying that the drug-trafficking violence happening in one part of the country (and it is horribly violent and brutal) makes all of Mexico a dangerous place to live or visit is like saying that when the last L. A. riots occurred then no one should have come to visit or live in Kansas City. Statistically, roaming the streets of south L. A. is far more dangerous than it is walking down the street in Overland Park, Kansas. The truth is that you are more likely to become a homicide statistic in America than you are in Mexico.

Read this quote from our book, GUANAJUATO, MÉXICO Your Expat, Study Abroad, and Vacation Survival Manual in The Land of Frogs:[vi]

"In the year 2003, in Mexico, there were 13 murders for every 100,000 inhabitants in the entire country. In that same year, in the United States, that was the same homicide statistic for the state of Louisiana. These stats come from the FBI Uniform Crime Reports for the year 2003. “Another conclusion that can be drawn from the State Department report, which some in the U. S. government might find shocking, is that Mexico appears to be a safer place to be for U. S. citizens than their own homeland. The State Department figures show that a total of 77 U. S. citizens were murdered in Mexico during the two-year period ending Dec. 31, 2004. That’s for the whole country. By comparison, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, in 2003 alone, 109 people were murdered in the mid-sized city of Milwaukee. In Washington, D. C. , where State Department officials cook up their policies, a total of 248 people were murdered in 2003, the FBI report shows. New York City weighed in with 597 murders that year. " —Bill Conroy NarcoNews. ""[vii]

Murder is horrible but somehow we are even more repulsed when the murder victim's heads are removed and displayed for the entire world to see. The drug lords who are killing those associated with the drug trade, have learned well from the Islamic terrorist how the terror effect is effectively achieved in chopping someone's head off and throwing them onto a dance floor—which happened recently in Mexico.

Three points Americans seem never to notice:

1. The beheadings in Mexico are those who have associations with the drug trade. They are not innocent American expats or tourists.

2. Americans forget their own violent history with organized crime and those murdered by Mob Bosses for much of the same reasons Mexican Mobsters are murdering those who worked for them: botched deals, cheating their bosses, suspected of ratting to the feds—cops who have the gall to confront them.

3. The drug trafficking violence is the competing for the profitable drug market driven directly by thousands of American drug addiction. Americans never want to acknowledge their part in all of this mess. If Americans didn't provide the demand then there would be no drug traffic marketing. But, somehow, it is all Mexico's fault and Americans are innocent victims. The criminals in Mexico would not be wasting their time if there weren't money to be made off Americans addicts.

If statistics mean anything, let me leave you with this one. This is from the book, THE PLAIN TRUTH ABOUT LIVING IN MEXICO:

" Americans must take a long, hard look at the so-called dangers in Mexico. For example, Mexico is not one of the most dangerous countries in the world. According to online almanac website,, the United States of America is in the top 16[viii] most dangerous countries in which to live. Mexico is not even on the list. "[ix]


[i] Kidnapping Americans in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico;


[iii] IBID

[iv] IBID

[v] The fact is that America breeds about 75% of the world's Serial Killers according to the FBI.

[vi] GUANAJUATO, MÉXICO Your Expat, Study Abroad, and Vacation Survival Manual in The Land of Frogs.

Copyright © 2006 Doug & Cindi Bower; All rights reserved; Universal Publishers; Boca Raton, Florida


  • 2006

    [vii] IBID

    [viii] It is now # 12.

    [ix] THE PLAIN TRUTH ABOUT LIVING IN MEXICO Copyright © 2006 Doug & Cindi Bower; All rights reserved.

    Universal Publishers Boca Raton, Florida USA

  • 2005


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    Expatriates Doug and Cindi Bower have successfully expatriated to Mexico, learning through trial and error how to do it from the conception of the initial idea to driving up to their new home in another country. Now the potential expatriate can benefit from their more than three years of pre-expat research to their more than three years of actually living in Mexico.

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