Minutemen's move borders on brilliant

If you think The Minutemen, that band of citizens who began trolling for border-jumping Mexicans in Arizona last week, have an effective plan for curbing illegal immigration, you're right.

If you think The Minutemen, that band of citizens who began trolling for border-jumping Mexicans in Arizona last week, have an effective plan for curbing illegal immigration, you're right.

But if you think it involves alerting authorities to foreigners trying to sneak over the border, you're way off.

The plan here is pure hype - a surprisingly simple but incredibly effective truckload of hype.

It all began when Minutemen ringleader Jim Gilchrist started goading the US media weeks ago, telling them he and his pals were tired of insufficient border patrols and were ready to take things into their own hands. He said "thousands" of private citizens would descend on the border just west of Douglas, AZ - one of the easiest spots to cross into the US - to do the job themselves starting April 4.

The image of Rednecks Gone Wild elicited passionate reactions from Americans and Mexicans alike. A number of officials - including President Bush - called the men "vigilantes." Mexican president Vicente Fox called on the US to provide protection for his citizens.

But when Monday came, the "thousands" of Minutemen turned out to be just 200 - fewer than the number of reporters there to cover it. Yet even those 200 turned out to be 199 more than needed.

Gilchrist knowingly exploited the media's bias against southern men driving pickup trucks, and that was all it took. According to the LA Times, increased Mexican border patrols and fear of retribution significantly curbed border jumping last week: from the usual 400 a day to just a few dozen.

"This thing was a dog and pony show designed to bring in the media and get the message out," Gilchrist told the Times, "and it worked."

  • Douglas Quenqua writes PR Play of the Week. He is PRWeek's news editor.

    Ratings:

    1. Clueless

    2. Ill-advised

    3. On the right track

    4. Savvy

    5. Ingenious

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