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 The Internet Will Be the Death of Us

弗蘭克·布魯尼(Frank Bruni)自1995年以來一直在《紐約時報》工作。他在2011年成為專欄作家之前,曾任白宮記者、羅馬分社社長和首席餐廳評論家。


Nora Ephron once wrote a brilliant essay about the trajectory of her and many other people’s infatuations with email, from the thrill of discovering this speedy new way of keeping in touch to the hell of not being able to turn it off.

諾拉·埃芙隆(Nora Ephron)曾經寫過一篇精彩的文章,講述她和其他許多人對電子郵件的迷戀,從發現這種快速保持聯繫的新方法時的興奮,到發現無法將其關閉時的恐懼。


I’ve come to feel that way about the whole of the internet.



What a glittering dream of expanded knowledge and enhanced connection it was at the start. What a nightmare of manipulated biases and metastasized hate it has turned into.



Before he allegedly began mailing pipe bombs to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and others, Cesar Sayoc found encouragement online — maybe not in the form of explosives instructions, but in the sense that he could scream his resentments in a theater that did the opposite of repudiating them. It echoed them back. It validated and cultivated them. It took something dark and colored it darker still.

在據稱開始向貝拉克·歐巴馬(Barack Obama)、希拉蕊·柯林頓(Hillary Clinton)和其他人發送簡易炸彈之前,塞薩爾·塞阿克(Cesar Sayoc)在網上發現了鼓勵——也許不是以爆炸物製作說明書的形式,但從某種意義上說,他可以在一個劇場中高聲叫出自己的怨恨,這個劇場完全沒有拒絕它們,而是發出迴響。這是在驗證並培育他們。它接受了一些黑暗的東西,給它們塗上更黑暗的顏色。


“By the time he was arrested in Florida on Friday,” The Times reported, “Sayoc appeared to fit the all-too-familiar profile of a modern extremist, radicalized online and sucked into a vortex of partisan furor.”



Robert Bowers, accused of murdering 11 Jewish Americans in Pittsburgh the morning after Sayoc’s arrest, stoked his madness and nurtured his bloody fantasies in that same online vortex. While Sayoc carved out ugly niches on Facebook and Twitter, Bowers found even safer harbor for his racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic passions on Gab, a two-year-old social network that has served as a nursery for white nationalists. There they congregated, commiserated and riled up one another with an unfiltered efficiency that simply doesn’t exist offline.

在塞阿克被捕後的上午,羅伯特·鮑爾斯(Robert Bowers)被控在匹茲堡謀殺了11名猶太裔美國人,同一個網路漩渦引發了他的瘋狂,並且培養了他的血腥幻想。塞阿克在Facebook和Twitter上營造了自己丑陋的小環境,但鮑爾斯在Gab上為他的種族主義、仇外心理和反猶太主義激情發現了一個更加安全的避風港,這是一個有兩年歷史的社交網路,一度是白人民族主義者的搖籃。他們聚集在那裡,以一種網路之外根本沒有的、赤裸裸的高效率,互訴同情,發洩憤怒。


It was on the internet, with its privacy and anonymity, that Dylann Roof researched white supremacy and formulated his evil conviction that violence was necessary. He then went into a historic church in Charleston, S.C., and fatally shot nine African-American parishioners in June 2015.

有了互聯網的隱私與匿名性,迪蘭·魯夫(Dylann Roof)才得以在互聯網上研究白人至上主義,並制定了他的邪惡信條:暴力是必要的。然後,他於2015年6月進入了南卡羅來納州查爾斯頓一座歷史悠久的教堂,射殺了九名非洲裔美國教民。


It was on the internet — on Facebook, to be exact — that Alek Minassian posted a pledge of allegiance to the “incel rebellion,” which refers to the resentments of “involuntarily celibate” men who can’t interest the women around them in sex. He then used a van to mow down and kill 10 people in Toronto in April.

正是在互聯網上——確切地說是在Facebook上——阿利克·米納西安(Alek Minassian)宣布效忠「非自願處男的起義」(incel rebellion),這是「非自願禁慾」男人的怨恨,他們無法令周圍的女性對他們產生性方面的興趣。然後,他在四月開著一輛廂型車,在多倫多撞倒並殺死了10人。


Enclaves of the internet warped the worldviews of all of these men, convincing them of the primacy and purity of their rage. Most of us had never heard the term “incel” before the Toronto massacre. But it was the indelible centerpiece of Minassian’s life.



Most of us were unfamiliar with HIAS, the shorthand for a Jewish group that resettles refugees. But those initials dominated Bowers’s anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. And that reflects the internet’s power to cast rogue grievances as legitimate obsessions and give prejudices the shimmer of ideals.



Technology has always been a coin with two sides: potential and peril. That’s what Mary Shelley explored in “Frankenstein,” which is celebrating its 200th birthday this year, and it has been the main theme of science fiction ever since.

科技一直是一枚具有潛力和危險兩面性的硬幣。這就是瑪麗·雪萊(Mary Shelley)在今年迎來200週年的小說《弗蘭肯斯坦》(Frankenstein)中所探討的,自該書出版以來,這種兩面性一直是科幻小說的主題。


The internet is the technology paradox writ more monstrous than ever. It’s a nonpareil tool for learning, roving and constructive community-building. But it’s unrivaled, too, in the spread of lies, narrowing of interests and erosion of common cause. It’s a glorious buffet, but it pushes individual users toward only the red meat or just the kale. We’re ridiculously overfed and ruinously undernourished.



It creates terrorists. But well shy of that, it sows enmity by jumbling together information and misinformation to a point where there’s no discerning the real from the Russian.



Don’t take it from me. Take it from a Silicon Valley giant whose wares depend on our internet addiction. Speaking at a conference in Brussels, Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, warned, “Platforms and algorithms that promised to improve our lives can actually magnify our worst human tendencies.”

不要把它從我手中拿走。把它從矽谷巨頭手裡拿走吧,他們的產品完全依賴於我們的網路成癮。蘋果首席執行官蒂姆·庫克(Tim Cook)在布魯塞爾的一次會議上發表講話時警告稱,「承諾改善我們生活的平台和算法,實際上可以放大我們人性中最惡劣的傾向。」


“Rogue actors and even governments have taken advantage of user trust to deepen divisions, incite violence and even undermine our shared sense of what is true and what is false,” he added.



This was a week ago — before Sayoc’s arrest, before Bowers’s rampage, before Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right populist, won Brazil’s presidential election. As The Times reported, pro-Bolsonaro forces apparently tried to hurt his opponents and help him by flooding WhatsApp, the messaging application owned by Facebook, “with a deluge of political content that gave wrong information on voting locations and times.”

這發生在一個星期前——在塞阿克被逮捕之前,在鮑爾斯肆意撞人之前,在極右翼民粹主義者雅伊爾·博爾索納羅(Jair Bolsonaro)贏得巴西總統選舉之前。正如《時報》報導的那樣,支持博爾索納羅的力量使用Facebook旗下的消息應用程序WhatsApp,「發送大量政治內容,提供關於投票地點和時間的錯誤信息,」以此來傷害對手並幫助他。


That same Times article noted that a search for the word “Jews” on the photo-sharing site Instagram on Monday led to 11,696 posts with the hashtag “#jewsdid911,” insanely blaming them for the attacks that brought down the World Trade Center, along with similarly grotesque images and videos that demonized Jews. Anti-Semitism may be ancient, but this delivery system for it is entirely modern.



And utterly terrifying. I don’t know exactly how we square free speech and free expression — which are paramount — with a better policing of the internet, but I’m certain that we need to approach that challenge with more urgency than we have mustered so far. Democracy is at stake. So are lives.





興大附中 - 劉帷凱