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Editorial: Social Media – Boon and Bane

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The revelation that Russia placed thousands of Facebook ads during the 2016 presidential campaign in Trump’s favor is disturbing on many levels. Leaving all the legal and political aspects of it to the experts, we are still left with the disturbing thought that we’re much more vulnerable to propaganda and radicalization than we thought, both technologically and ideologically.

Did the word “radicalization” grab you? I hope so. In the last two years, some people have come to believe that government’s lies don’t matter, that some neo-Nazis are fine people, that “others” come to the US to undermine democracy, and that news organizations are the enemies of the people. These are radicalization efforts. They’re not caused by social media, but they’re greatly augmented by it because of its pervasive nature. Dog whistles have become bull horns to the masses.

On the other hand, we are also reminded of how “social” social media is: how it inspires us to provide sympathy and aid in times of international crises, and joy in times of achievement and celebration. The collective is powerful, indeed. And on a personal level, sharing and self-expression is truly empowering and liberating on such a big stage. Everyone can have their fifteen minutes of glory.

But social media is also used for bullying, allowing us to give kicks in the gut anonymously to those with greater perceived status or with far lower perceived status. We can stick it to them with impunity, gratifying us in the short term, and depriving us of our humanity in the long term. It’s a major cause of suicides, now having become the 3rd leading cause of death among teens.

But it’s not only teens. It’s us. I see it on social media every day: rants in all caps, snide remarks, and sarcastic asides. We have become unleashed.

Should we then be leashed? Some people think so. There is at least one movement afoot to place regulations on social media, to filter out fake news, and to abolish bullying. That may come in time. But for now, it really comes down to us – thinking critically about what’s being presented to us, and rejecting all forms of intimidation. And not spewing it, ourselves.

Lake Chapala Reporter Returns

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After being on hiatus for a little over a year, the Lake Chapala Reporter has resumed publication with a new look and new vigor to serve the Lake Chapala community. With its focus only on the Lake Chapala area, and without a dependence or slant toward advertisers, this publication strives to be the real voice of the expats who have made this their home.

Our mission is not only to tell the truth, but to dig to find the whole truth. Our community deserves no less.

We Are Guests Here

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Most of us expats are not Mexican citizens, which means we can’t vote, which means politicians can ignore us if they want to. If we make ourselves so disliked that the last thing they want to do is listen to us or talk to us, we will lose our voice and our ability to shape our futures here.

That is why today’s discourteous interaction with the developers of a modern complex was not only embarrassing, but counterproductive. The shoutouts from the back rows, the guffaws, the chronic woe-is-us negativism—the self-righteous belligerence of some in the audience will certainly give pause to other groups contemplating bringing significant issues before us. We just aren’t civil enough—we, ironically, who think we have the advanced civilization. And because of that, we’re losing our voice.

How do I know? Because we’ve lost part of our voice already. Remember the Lake Chapala Society’s Town Meetings? They brought traffic commandants and immigration officials to have some meaningful exchange of information with us. I was there at each one, and I came away incredulous at the rudeness of some members of the audience. They refused to sit down and listen. They came with chips on their shoulders, and were determined that everyone should hear their bellyaching. They ruined it for all of us. The result? No more Town Meetings. And, frankly, it was the one program the Lake Chapala Society had that I thought was relevant to today’s modern expats.

Whether the complex being presented today is a good idea or not is beside the point this evening. These are serious business people with a plan. They presented the plan to the Municipality of Chapala, who gave them the green light. Our job today was to learn. If we want to fight city hall, we should take it up with city hall. I encourage you to start a committee (of courteous people) to talk with city hall. If I were them, I’m not so sure how responsive I’d be, given our inability to be civil. We seem to forget that we are guests here.

Lisa L. Jorgensen
Publisher and Editor

Guadalajara Reporter

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There’s still time for the Guadalajara Reporter to do the right thing: to care about the Lake Chapala area enough to tell its readers the truth, thereby earning some credibility and integrity. The main reason this magazine was named the Lake Chapala Reporter is because it seemed to us that the Guadalajara Reporter wasn’t doing a good job of reporting for this area. And now it’s confirmed.

In the last week, two people have reported going to the Guadalajara Reporter office at the Bugambilia Plaza in Ajijic to ask why it wasn’t publishing anything on the realtor price fixing conviction. They were told by the office administrator there that the realtors have threatened to pull all their advertisements if they do.

So, now we know the extent of the Guadalajara Reporter’s commitment to this community, and the extent of their integrity. And, we also know to what extent the convicted realty organizations (which includes the GIL association) have the best interest of the community in mind.

Have these organizations no shame? Do the right thing, Guadalajara Reporter. The realtors have already lost their souls, but maybe you haven’t—yet. Show a little spine. Start serving this community as a professional newspaper. Report the truth.

Lisa L. Jorgensen, Editor

Muckraking (Is This a Bad Word?)

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Muck

Muck

A leader in our real estate comunity (whom we understand will issue a press release soon), has called the Lake Chapala Reporter a “muckraking publication” this week because we reported the May, 2014 ruling that found many of the top Lake Chapala real estate agencies and brokers guilty of price fixing. We looked up the term. 

From Wikipedia:

“The term muckraker refers to reform-minded journalists who wrote largely for all popular magazines and continued a tradition of investigative journalism reporting; muckrakers often worked to expose social ills and corporate and political corruption. Muckraking magazines—notably McClure’s of publisher S. S. McClure—took on corporate monopolies and crooked political machines while raising public awareness of chronic urban poverty, unsafe working conditions, and social issues like child labor.

The muckrakers are most commonly associated with the Progressive Era period of American history. The journalistic movement emerged in the United States after 1900 and continued to be influential until World War I, when the movement came to an end through a combination of advertising boycotts, dirty tricks and patriotism.[1]

Before World War I, the term “muckraker” was used to refer in a general sense to a writer who investigates and publishes truthful reports to perform an auditing or watchdog function. In contemporary use, the term describes either a journalist who writes in the adversarial or alternative tradition, or a non-journalist whose purpose in publication is to advocate reform and change.[2] Investigative journalists view the muckrakers as early influences and a continuation of watchdog journalism.”

Our position is that if no one is willing to report abuses, we all suffer the consequences. And so far, the local press hasn’t done it. Now the muck is pretty deep, so someone has to rake it. Let’s clean up Lake Chapala.

Editorial

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The news that Lake Chapala’s most visible businesses, its real estate agencies and brokers, have been found guilty of price fixing (see this month’s lead story) by Mexico’s commission on economic competition (similar to the US’s Anti-Trust Commission), should give us all a long, deep pause. Our largest real estate agencies and individual brokers (most of whom are still doing business here) were found to have cheated their own community residents of millions of pesos between 2003 and 2008. Read that sentence again.

Not one of those charged and penalized (in May, 2014) have offered an explanation or a statement to the press, much less an apology for the damage they have done. In fact, at least one of the agencies has actually denied the guilty ruling to others.

In its ruling, the commission stated that the financial damage was far more than it had the authority to penalize. Even so, as serious as it is, the damage is not just financial. An essential trust has been broken in the community, and that affects all of us at an especially vulnerable economic time.

By not providing statements, those charged may be hoping to avoid scrutiny by the press, which is largely supported by real estate advertising. There could not be a clearer example of how the press becomes beholden to its advertisers. The Ojo del Lago is not likely to report this ruling, since it’s owned by Chapala Realty, one of those charged. And its Chapala.com web board will certainly not allow discussion of this issue, either. The Guadalajara Reporter accepts real estate advertising, and has soft-pedaled the issue of real estate price-fixing in the past. We expect that it is likely to do nothing or the same again. Our community deserves better than this.      

The Lake Chapala Reporter (which does not accept local advertising) calls on each of the guilty associations, agencies, and brokers to submit a statement to this magazine for publication. All submitted statements will be published unedited and in their entirety. The Lake Chapala Reporter also calls on every business and resident in the community to insist that each of those charged either provide a statement or resign their post. Our community deserves leadership that is committed to openness.

Lisa L. Jorgensen
Owner, publisher, editor

Editor’s Note

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The horrifying news that a Canadian couple living in La Floresta was murdered last Saturday night has spread throughout the expat community and struck fear into the hearts of many. We had hoped that Lakeside’s violence was in the past. As stunned as we were in May of 2012 when drug cartels killed 18 Mexicans here, we at least knew that expats weren’t being targeted. And, as scary as home robberies are, we’ve assumed that no one would actually want to hurt expats. We’ve assumed that robbers just want the loot.

So, this is a triple-whammy. We will miss Nina’s and Eduardo’s smiling faces. And now we know that expats can be targeted, and that robberies can involve physical violence, too.

Why did this happen? And, how likely is it that someone else will be targeted? We won’t know for sure until the investigation is done, of course. We’re told that the motive was probably robbery because the house was ransacked and the vehicles taken. But why the violence? The robbers could have taken what they wanted (except for the vehicles) while the couple was out of the house earlier in the evening.

One clue that could be significant is that, according to a source close to the scene, the couple had had recently complained to a neighbor whose contractors had been playing loud music. The neighbor fired the contractors, as a result. Revenge could explain the violence as well as the robbery.

The vehicles will probably turn up sooner or later, and will probably have fingerprints on them, and possibly blood. There is a reasonable chance that the perpetrators will be identified and caught. 

But will this happen again to someone else? All things considered, it’s not as likely as it might seem. There were probably very specific circumstances that led to the murders in this case. But, whatever comfort we can take from that, it will never bring Nina and Eduardo back. May they rest in peace. And we will never feel quite as secure as we did. May we all rest in peace. 

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