What if…and “Mexican Cartels Targeting Bloggers”

Xeni Jardin (@xenijardin) of BoingBoing (@BoingBoing) has been doing an excellent job covering the recent increase in violence by the Mexican drug cartels. Recently, she has posted a new series of articles about the Cartels’ targeting of bloggers and social network users.

Historially, the cartels targeted law enforcement officers, government employees, and traditional journalists (radio, tv, newspapers) who publicized stories of cartel violence. Typically, civilians could keep their head down and remain relatively safe. This is no longer the case.

This change in tactics began earlier this month when two tortured bodies were found hanging from a bridge along with posters warning that users of certain websites that denounced cartel violence would be targeted. The posters indicated that the violent Zetas were responsible, but that has not been confirmed. Not two weeks later, a decapitated woman’s body was found with a similar note threatening “internet snitches.”

Today, Xeni posted about a possible cartel phishing scam. Fliers have been circulating, asking people to submit tips about the cartels. But tipsters were supposed to submit to a hotmail address–a service not used by the Mexican government for official communication.

Traditional media outlets in Mexico have all but ceased to talk about cartel violence. In order to get news about violence or areas to avoid, people were increasingly turning to the internet. Such sites no longer appear safe. It would appear as if the cartels want no one to talk about them–to become a boogeyman, or a real life “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.” As the violence increases, the idea that everyone will (out of fear) turn a blind eye to it is indeed a frightening concept.

If this were a comic book or an action movie, a hero or group of heroes would arrive to end the cartels once and for all. Sadly, this is not the case. Even if one cartel was eliminated, the power vacuum would attract rival cartels, and violence would spike as they fight for new territory. Instead, shocking levels and types of violence are becoming commonplace in Mexico. What if the gangs become invisible?

Most of my “what if” posts end with story ideas based on real events. I had planned to write a series of prompts about a city plagued with truly invisible criminals–violent spirits or ghosts. I was going to ask how terrifying it might be like to live with them, and how one would combat them, if possible. But the more I thought about it, the less I wanted to write that. It seemed cruel to those who really suffer from the cartels. So yes, there are stories that can be told from these incidents. But we should instead stick to the facts and spread the word about Mexico–because many Mexicans cannot. Applaud Xeni Jardin for her efforts, follow her twitter account, and check in on BoingBoing. Pay attention to this unfolding tragedy.