The Internet meme below has recently popped up in my Facebook feed. As you can see, it shows a fence, topped with what looks like razor-wire, identified as “Mexico’s Southern Border”.
The point the meme is trying to make (in mostly fluent English) is that Americans should not be demonized for wanting a big-ass wall on the border with Mexico – the kind of wall that Donald Trump can’t stop talking about – since Mexico protects its own southern border with a “full border fenceline” complete with “barbed wire, armed guards, and towers”. In other words, the fence in the photo.
I can’t say I’m familiar with the Mexican-Guatemalan border, but the photo didn’t quite look right to me. You might expect a lusher, tropical look to the surroundings. But, what do I know?
So, I Googled the meme. What I found was an article on Snopes.com, the web site dedicated to fact-checking various dubious political claims. (Conservatives love to trash Snopes as being, from their point of view, liberally biased. I don’t know, maybe it is, though that doesn’t make it wrong.)
Snopes had not fact-checked this particular meme, but a similar one featuring a photo of a different kind of border barrier.
Now, this photo is instantly recognizable as fake, in the sense that the fence is stretching across a parched, desert landscape, nowhere near the verdant Eden of Guatemala.
The ironic thing about this meme is that the “gigantic WALL” allegedly built by Mexico on its southern border – a formidable wall that the US should get off its ass and start building – is actually a section of the border fence the US has already built along the Mexican border.
(A murky detail about this meme: it was supposedly posted on the Facebook page of a “group” called “Americans for Common Sense”, which appears to me to be decidedly liberal-leaning. Also, the meme is no longer to be found on that Facebook page. Was someone punked?)
Anyway, to return to the first meme, it turns out someone on Facebook did some fact-checking of their own and identified the photo as originating from a Chinese manufacturer of wire-mesh fences.
Wire-mesh fences for prisons. Heavily guarded prisons. Let’s be honest, how unassailable would a wire-mesh fence like that be on the lesser-observed stretches of the Guatemalan border? With a decent pair of bolt cutters, you’d be through that thing in a Tijuana minute.
So, according the meme, America should follow Mexico’s example and secure its border by, if nothing else, erecting a mickey-mouse wire-mesh fence. Made in China, no less.
Now, you may argue that the real point of the meme is that Mexico has stricter immigration polices than America does (I don’t know), and this fact is represented by a photo of a fence, some fence, any fence.
Or the creator of the meme may be trying to highlight that Mexico has taken the issue seriously enough to at least build some kind of physical barrier along its entire southern border, though sadly you can’t find a decent enough photo of the actual fence to illustrate that point. At least they have a fence.
I’m not even sure that’s true. According to Wikipedia, Mexico has ten formal border crossings with Guatemala and 370 informal ones. In order to better stem the flow of illegal migrants, it seems Mexico is currently upgrading some of the informal border crossings to formal ones. There is no mention of a fence. Nada. A map published in the Economist last December did show a “fence” on Mexico’s southern border, but as one being “planned”, not “begun”.
So, I suspect that the US southern border really isn’t really less protected than Mexico’s.
Well, no, actually it was a pathetic try, but that doesn't stop it from being passed around constantly on the net. Of course, it doesn't.
|The real Mexican-Guatemalan border.|
Photo: Fernando Reyes