Monday, September 24, 2007

Spreading more disinformation about Costa Rica

Sometimes I think I will delete that "news bar" (see lower right on this page) because of the absolute nonsense I read in it. For example, the Ireland On-line website made quite a big deal about Mel Gibson purchasing a property in Guanacaste, as he is apparently "ignoring kidnap warnings." Because, you see, the U.S. State Department apparently put out a warning that "...all American visitors there are 'potential targets for criminals and kidnappers' and should never travel alone."

Funny thing is, I looked up the State Department's travel site, and there are NO travel warnings currently issued for Costa Rica. Which makes sense, because, although we certainly have our share of crime, most of it is petty thievery or breaking-and-entering. Kidnappings are usually politically motivated here; I've never heard of some random person, some "Hollywood star," or even some wealthy bazillionaire being kidnapped for money. Not in this country. Now, if you actually take the time to read the consular information sheet for Costa Rica, as I did but apparently as the writer for Ireland On-line did not, you will see that it in fact states Americans are "potential targets for criminals, primarily thieves looking for cash, jewelry, credit cards, electronic items and passports. U.S. citizens are encouraged to exercise the same level of caution they would in major cities or tourist areas throughout the world. Local law enforcement agencies have limited capabilities and do not act according to U.S. standards." Notice there is no mention of kidnapping here, either. Or "bandit territory," which Ireland On-line put in quotation marks, leading the reader to believe that they took this information from the U.S. State Department's website as well.

To think that people will read this and say, "Gee, that sounds scary, I'm certainly not going to Guanacaste!" is pathetic, really. Guanacaste is known as Costa Rica's "Gold Coast," and that's for a good reason. Upscale development has been happening there for years. It is a beautiful area, with wonderful, helpful people. Not like the Central Valley, which I personally am sick to death of. And, personally, I'd feel a lot safer in the boonies of Guanacaste than I do any day of the week on the streets of San Jose or even Escazu. Our friends spent a week there for their honeymoon. They had planned only to make it their "home base," but once they got there, decided to stay at the same hotel the whole week.

Why can't so-called journalists get their freaking facts straight? As someone I truly can't stand says, "Gimme a break."

P.S. I have, it seems, come across the article from which this nonsense originated. The U.K.'s own "Daily Star," known worldwide as a paragon of fine journalistic traditions, first published this bullcrap, which was then plagiarized by Ireland On-line. I think the fact that the word "news" is in quotes on the button below the article says it all (i.e., More 'News' Here -- ha ha, "news," that's a good one!).

P.P.S. Apparently, I was too hasty in pointing the finger squarely at "news" source The Daily Star. The internet, it seems, has made it easy to plagiarize the work of others while giving no one credit, nor taking any precautions for the accuracy of the information given (i.e., fact checking). Journalism 101, people. Try a Google search for "bandit territory" and "Costa Rica" and see that you'll basically get a whole bunch of pages repeating exactly the same thing, word for word. Pathetic.

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