Why is this called 'virtual kidnapping'?

'Virtual kidnapping,' is the name being given to Mexico’s latest crime craze

The crime itself is horrific -- beyond comprehension in its cruelty -- so there's some hesitancy to complain about semantics. But this is a technology column and the underlying issue -- society's tendency to blame modern-day bad deeds on technology instead of the bad-deed doers -- is an important one.

Here's an excerpt from a story headlined "'Virtual Kidnappings Exploit Very Real Fears," in last Tuesday's New York Times:

"The phone call begins with the cries of an anguished child calling for a parent: 'Mama! Papa!' ... The youngster's sobs are quickly replaced by a husky male voice that means business. 'We've got your child,' he says in rapid-fire Spanish, usually adding an expletive for effect and then rattling off a list of demands that might include cash or jewels dropped off at a certain street corner or a sizable deposit made to a local bank. ... This is 'virtual kidnapping,' the name being given to Mexico's latest crime craze, one that has capitalized on the raw nerves of a country that has been terrorized by the real thing for years."

The word virtual, of course, has come to take on several meanings in the technology world, but perhaps the one most commonly understood by your average newspaper reader is "on the Internet." Second Life is a virtual world (perhaps there are virtual kidnappings there). Those people you know only on MySpace are your virtual friends. Last week's Interop conference in Las Vegas was dominated by talk of virtualization.

None of which has anything whatsoever to do with what's been happening to those terrified parents in Mexico.

So back to the question in this column's headline: Why call this crime "virtual kidnapping."

I'll tell you why: Someone somewhere along the line -- probably a fellow journalist -- decided that "fake kidnapping" or "phone kidnapping," both of which are not only more precise but better convey what actually happens, suffer from not being very "sexy" . . . especially when compared to something as hip, here and now as "virtual kidnapping."

And while we're parsing: The nonkidnappings didn't "virtually" happen -- as in "virtually everyone likes ice cream," or "the planes virtually collided" -- they didn't come close to happening in any way, shape or form.

How many readers do you suppose presumed they were about to read a story involving kidnapping and the Internet? . . . Just about all of them, I'd say.

Labels matter.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Paul McNamara

Network World
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?