In the wake of ongoing extreme violence and vicious attacks in Mexico, including the slaughter of innocent U.S. citizens this week, cable news networks spent more airtime breathlessly covering the plight of the failed states in the Middle East than on the failed state that shares nearly 2,000 miles of the U.S. border.
Just miles away from U.S. territory, drug cartels have claimed de facto control of parts of Mexico. In October, drug cartels outgunned the Mexican military in the city of Culiacan, ultimately seizing the major regional capital city in broad daylight as state officials were forced to retreat. “There is now no doubt about who is in control of Sinaloa, let alone the rest of the country,” writes Federalist Political Editor John Davidson.
On Tuesday night, following Monday’s slaughter of American women and children, more murders and bus burnings were unleashed on the city of Juarez by a group identifying themselves as “La Empresa” or “The Business” cartel. The mayor of Juarez said the chaos was the cartel’s response to police arresting suspects involved in an ongoing drug turf war.
But to an average spectator of cable news networks like CNN and MSNBC, the seemingly most pressing issue in American foreign policy at the moment would not be Los Zetas or the Sinaloa Cartel, but relationships with countries half a world away in the Middle East. Producers and anchors at CNN and MSNBC have spent more minutes discussing never-ending wars and victims like the Kurds with little strategic importance to the United States than they have the victims of the violence unfolding close to home.
In a search of network transcripts covering the two days following President Trump’s announcement he had ordered the withdrawal of U.S. forces from northern Syria, hosts and guests on MSNBC mentioned the word “Kurds” 219 times. CNN mentioned “Kurds” 311 times in the same time period.
In a search for a combination of the words “Mexico” and “killed” in the last 36 hours, after the Mexican cartel’s slaughter of 9 U.S. citizens on Monday, MSNBC mentioned the combination of words 23 times, and CNN said them 47 times.
It’s not just the news channels. Even Americans who get their only news from the new class of hyper-political late-night hosts like John Oliver, Jimmy Kimmel, and Trevor Noah might think Turkey is our next-door neighbor if they were to judge by the amount of mentions the Kurds received on late night.
Here’s a sample of this dichotomy in coverage. CNN anchor Jake Tapper allotted the last three minutes of his show on Tuesday, the day the cartel’s massacre of the family from LaMora was first reported, to discussing the murders. The short report was sure to discuss the family’s Mormon affiliation and their run in with an “armed group,” but did not mention any of the escalating, ongoing violence across Mexico predating the attack. The word “cartel” was not mentioned once.
On the day Trump announced a withdrawal of troops from Syria, the first sentence of “The Lead with Jake Tapper” included “abandoning U.S. allies in Syria.” The show went on to dedicate a full 8-minute segment with a panel discussion on the topic. A search of the show’s transcript shows the word “Syria” mentioned 15 times and the word “Kurds” mentioned 21 times.
Tapper’s show is just one example of how the media in general, but especially cable news networks, light up on stories that fit their preferred narrative (that Trump is bad). When that narrative is busted, like a story corroborating Trump’s concerns about the border or his description of Mexican gangs as “animals,” it gets a once-over at the end of the hour, if any coverage at all.