The Mexican Trascendidos: Hidden Dynamics of Power

Daniel Soto Morfín

The recent release of classified U.S. government documents by Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden have helped shape the public perception of “the leak” as an act of resistance against the control of the State. This perspective obscures the multiple layers present in the filtration of information and the way multiple actors, including governments and politicians, use them as tools of control and exercise of power.

Looking into the journalistic practice of the trascendidos, a genre of political columns published every day in the main national newspapers in Mexico, this paper seeks to answer what happens when the information revealed, rather than illuminate, obscures the process of politics. In Spanish, trascender refers to the act of getting to know something that was hidden. However, he trascendidos, a mix of political gossip, anonymous opinion and unconfirmed events, operate with a double standard: they obscure the origins of the information while they intend to illuminate the processes of politics.

Through a historic and content analysis, which looks into the form and style of the trascendidos, this paper explores the ramifications of these columns. What sort of democratic deliberation this genre enables or inhibits? I argue that the trascendidos, a heritage of the authoritarian past of Mexico, while trying to empower citizens through the disclosure of information, also legitimize the hidden interests of the elites. In this regard, this paper is an inquiry about news formats and journalists’ practices but also about media and democracy. It intends to show that, besides the unveiled information, leaks reveal the dynamic of power structures.