New Yorker Writer Dismisses Top Cartel Books, Author Fights Back

Mexico Fights Cartels
REUTERS/Eliana Aponte

A writer for The New Yorker has managed to insult four of the top authors on the subject of Mexican drug cartels and it only took four sentences to do so.

Calling their work “flyover books with little fist-hand reporting”, Dan Slater from The New Yorker claims that authors Anabel Hernandez, Michael Deibert, Malcolm Beith and Ioan Grillo  work has little substance.

The criticism comes not at the hand of a cartel expert or some academic researcher but by a man whose claim to fame is writing a book about online dating.

The insults were published in The New Yorker writer’s piece “The Missing Story of The Drug War” where he rightfully praises Mathew Heinemann’s documentary “Cartel Land” but then dismisses the work of those four authors claiming their reporting is inconsequential.

“They tend to treat the rising and falling cartels as historically important entities whose backgrounds, victories, defeats, escapes, murders and betrayals must be catalogued in order to understand where the war is leading,” Slater said. “This guy killed that guy, and then that guy’s brother took revenge, and there’s no end in sight.

Slater manages to display his ignorance of cartel violence by talking at large about various Hollywood movies that deal with cartels. These movies are, in fact, works of fiction.

In a country where the might of drug cartels rivals that of the Mexican government, and news outlets have gone silent for the most part, the books published by Hernandez, Deibert, Beith and Grillo help give historical context to the daily chapters of shootouts, murders, executions, torture and kidnappings that continue to plague Mexico.

Deibert spoke with Breitbart Texas about what he perceived as the obvious ignorance displayed by Slater. Deibert provided this outlet with a rebuttal letter that he sent to The New Yorker and also published in his personal website.

In Deibert’s letter, the author speaks about his work in Mexico along with the work of his colleagues including the many threats that Anabel Hernandez has been subjected to because of her work. In a masterful comeback, Deibert further invites Slater to leave the Connecticut suburbs and to go to Mexico as real investigative journalists have done.

Deibert also provides a letter where Slater is actually asking for a copy of his book “In the Shadow of Saint Death: The Gulf Cartel and the Price of America’s Drug War in Mexico.” Slater stated that he is interested in a section of the book regarding an interview with a former Zeta hitman.

That section in Deibert’s book is actually an interview that this reporter did years ago, which you can read here, however based on Slater’s assessment that interview would likely be considered flyover and with little firsthand reporting.

The following is Michael Deibert’s full response to the New Yorker:

To Michael Agger, Cultural Editor at the New Yorker:

In his recent article, “The Missing Story of the Drug War,” Dan Slater characterizes accounts exploring Mexico’s drug trade by Ioan Grillo, Malcolm Beith, Anabel Hernández and myself as “flyover books with little firsthand reporting.”

This is false.

Mr. Grillo and Mr. Beith both lived in Mexico for a number of years while working on their books on the Mexican cartels (Mr. Grillo still lives there), and Anabel Hernández is a respected Mexican journalist who has lived under great threat to her life for many years for her role in exposing the nexus between political power and the drug trade in Mexico, with her house invaded by armed men only last year, and her father kidnapped and killed in 2000.

As for myself, I spent several years working on my book on Mexico’s Gulf Cartel, both in areas of Mexico such as Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Chihuahua and Mexico City, and also in Guatemala and Colombia.

Though I never encountered Mr. Slater in any of above places mentioned (his own book, I now discover, focuses on the twilight struggle of online dating), his name vaguely rang a bell. I realize now it was because he sent the following email to my publisher, Lyons Press, on the publication of my book, In the Shadow of Saint Death: The Gulf Cartel and the Price of America’s Drug War in Mexico, last year:

From: Dan Slater []

Sent: Wednesday, September 03, 2014 9:45 AM

To: GPP-Publicity

Subject: Review Copy Request: “In the Shadow of Saint Death”

Dear Sharon,

 I’m a former Wall Street Journal reporter, current freelance writer, author of a recent book called “Love in the Time of Algorithms” (Penguin).

I’m working on my second book, about the life of a former hit man for the Zetas. I’d love to cite Michael Deibert’s book in my book, and I was wondering if it’d be possible to get a review copy of “In the Shadow of Saint Death.” If so, I’d be hugely appreciative.

My address:

Dan Slater

[xxxxx] Road

Easton, Connecticut 06612

Though in his article Mr. Slater dismisses the idea that “the drug war is…a problem of hypocrisy and delusion in the United States, and of tumult in Mexico,” I would strongly recommend that he leave the Connecticut suburbs behind and immerse himself on the ground in Mexico itself, as Mr. Grillo, Mr. Beith, Ms. Hernández and I (not to mention Mexico’s own heroic journalists) have done. There he will see first-hand the stark reality of the tragedy that U.S. practices connected to narcotics, firearms, money laundering and the private prison industry have helped bring about. He just might learn something. The people of Mexico certainly deserve more in-depth coverage of their travails than can be provided by a journalist sitting comfortably behind his desk 2,000 miles away.

Saludos cordiales,


Ildefonso Ortiz is an award winning journalist with Breitbart Texas you can follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.