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马斯克,一名不典型的Twitter典型用户

Elon Musk Is a Typical Twitter User, Except for One Thing
马斯克,一名不典型的Twitter典型用户

In many ways, Elon Musk uses Twitter like the rest of us. He likes to joke around, but isn’t as funny as he thinks he is; he overshares and loves memes; he occasionally goes too far, and gets himself in trouble; he seems to think the platform is unfairly suppressing the views of people with whom he identifies. Thanks to the flattening effects of Twitter, the only real difference between the site’s median user and Musk is about $257 billion and 85.4 million followers. He has more followers than Narendra Modi, the prime minister of the largest democracy on Earth, and fewer than Taylor Swift. No one in the history of the modern world has ever been as wealthy as he is. He also thinks the number 420 is so funny that he seems to have determined the final value of his offer ($54.20 per share) to accommodate its inclusion.

伊隆·马斯克对于Twitter的使用很多时候都跟我们一样。他喜欢开玩笑,但并不像他所以为的那样风趣;他分享欲过强,热衷米姆;他偶尔会玩过头,给自己惹来麻烦;他似乎觉得这个平台不公正地压制了他所认同的群体的观点。多亏了Twitter的扁平化传播效应,该网站普通用户与马斯克的唯一真正差异,就是约2570亿美元的资产以及8540万粉丝。他的粉丝比世界最大民主国家的总理纳伦德拉·莫迪都多,但还不如泰勒·斯威夫特。他是人类现代史上最富有的人。他还认为“420”这个数字很搞笑,以至于他提出的最终报价(平均每股54.20美元,约合人民币355.5元)似乎就是为了把这个数字包括进去。

It’s surprising that Musk would stake so much of his wealth on a site that so many of its users profess to hate. According to filings made with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Musk will personally supply as much as $21 billion in cash to close out the deal, representing about 8 percent of his net worth. If he took that money and set it on fire, he would still be the richest person on the planet. And yet, if you turned the clock back to just 2018, $21 billion would represent 100 percent of Musk’s net worth. The rapid growth of his wealth has coincided with his embrace of the platform as a chaotic communication tool, making the acquisition almost painfully recursive — his billions are tied up with his eccentric persona, and now he is using the billions to wholly own the arena that allows him to bring his unvarnished self to the masses.

马斯克将如此多的个人财富压在一个被无数用户愤怒声讨的网站上,令人颇感意外。根据提交给美国证券交易委员会的文件,马斯克自己将拿出多达约138亿元的现金来完成这笔交易,相当于他资产净值的8%。如果把这笔钱一把火烧了,他还会是全世界最富有的人。然而,如果把时间拨回到2019年,这笔钱就是马斯克资产净值的100%了。他财富的迅速增长,与他将这一平台当做无秩序交流工具的热衷相辅相成,使得这次收购几乎成了一种无限循环——他的亿万身家与其古怪个性密不可分,而现在,他又用自己的亿万身家彻底买下了能将他的真实本性展示给大众的平台。
 

It is in one sense simply another instance of a familiar story: Billionaire buys important vector for public discourse. Perhaps you’ve noticed that it’s been happening a lot lately. In 2013, Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post for the comparatively minuscule sum of $250 million. Five years later, the investment firm controlled by Patrick Soon-Shiong — like Musk, a billionaire businessman from South Africa — bought The Los Angeles Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune for around $500 million. All the while, Laurene Powell Jobs, the billionaire widow of Steve Jobs, has been making media investments of her own, most prominently The Atlantic.

从某种意义上说,这不过是亿万富豪收购公共话语重要载体的重演,并非新鲜事。或许你们已经注意到,近来这种情况不断发生。2013年,杰夫·贝佐斯以相对来说微不足道的2.5亿美元收购了《华盛顿邮报》。五年后,和马斯克一样来自南非的亿万富商黄馨祥(Patrick Soon-Shiong)控制的投资公司以大约5亿美元的价格收购了《洛杉矶时报》和《圣地亚哥联合论坛报》。与此同时,身家亿万的史蒂夫·乔布斯遗孀劳琳·鲍威尔·乔布斯也一直在进行媒体投资,其中最著名的一家是《大西洋》。

Whatever you make of all this, each of these publications has an editorial staff with a great degree of independence, constrained by journalistic norms created over decades — and often enforced on Twitter. Twitter, by contrast, is a site where you can log on and say more or less whatever you want, and Musk has said he would like to make it even more that way. He has stated that he disagrees with the current content-moderation policies, which has led to yet another round of the sort of mind-numbing culture-war discourse the site so effectively fosters: Will Musk allow any sort of speech — even Nazis? Why are liberals so afraid of free speech? Back and forth all day like this. But either way, the same fact delights one side and terrifies the other: One guy will get to radically reshape this platform in his own image, and he seems to be doing so mostly for fun, and possibly for profit. The conservative cartoonist Ben Garrison depicted the acquisition like this: Musk as a half-man, half-cat, breaking into Twitter’s bird cage, stroking the bird’s head menacingly and purring: “Pretty bird! I’m gonna teach you to say ‘free speech!’” This is meant to be a positive take on the story.

不管你怎么理解这一切,这些出版物都有一个高度独立的编辑团队,他们受到几十年来形成的新闻规范的约束——而且往往在Twitter上也需要遵守。相比之下,Twitter是一个你可以登录并且多少可以畅所欲言的网站,马斯克曾表示他希望Twitter要更加畅所欲言。他对目前的内容审核政策表达了不满——这再次导致了令人头疼的文化战争讨论,该网站向来擅长促进这样的讨论:马斯克会允许任何形式的言论——甚至是纳粹言论吗?为什么自由主义者如此害怕言论自由?这样的讨论一天到晚来来回回。但不管怎样,同样的事实让一方高兴,也让另一方感到恐惧:一个人将根据自己的形象彻底重塑这个平台,他这么做似乎主要是为了好玩,也可能是为了盈利。保守派漫画家本·加里森这样描述这次收购:他把马斯克描绘成半人半猫的形象,闯进Twitter的鸟笼,气势汹汹地抚摸着鸟的头,呼噜着说:“漂亮的鸟儿!我要教你说‘言论自由!’”而这是还对这个事情的正面解读。

Musk’s acquisition has been more than a little crazy-making on a platform where many users’ chief obsession is the site itself. The text box of Twitter still prompts every user with “What’s happening?” What’s happening, invariably, is that they are looking at Twitter. This simple fact accounts for perhaps 99 percent of the acrimony on there, which is rarely about events in the outside world and frequently about the content of other tweets. Just about everyone who uses Twitter feels that he is being wronged by it somehow, but he can’t stop looking. And one of the perverse facts about it is that the more power and followers one accumulates, the more one risks becoming held forth as an example of all that’s wrong in the world — none more so than the winner of the entire game of global capitalism. No wonder Musk thinks there’s still value to be unlocked: He loves the site, even though his experience with it is most likely horrible.

在一个众多用户的主要关注点是网站本身的平台上,马斯克的收购可谓有点疯狂。Twitter的文本框仍然提示每个用户“有什么新鲜事?”不管有什么新鲜事,他们总是在看Twitter。这个简单的事实可能占了Twitter上99%的尖刻评论,这些评论很少是关于外部世界的事件,经常是关于其他推文的内容。几乎所有使用Twitter的人都觉得自己在某种程度上受了委屈,但就是忍不住要刷下去。与此相关的一个反常事实是,一个人积累的权力和追随者越多,他就越有可能被当作世界上所有错误的典范——尤其是整个全球资本主义游戏的赢家。难怪马斯克认为仍有价值可供释放:他喜欢这个网站,尽管他在上面的体验很可能很糟糕。

And because Musk is the single wealthiest person on the planet, it’s easy for many to believe that the deal is not about a desire to refurbish and renew “the digital town square” but something more nefarious or stupid. Some — including the second wealthiest man on the planet, Jeff Bezos — have speculated that Tesla’s exposure to the Chinese market will in fact make it more susceptible to censorship under Musk’s ownership. Others have fretted about his now owning journalists’ D.M.s; some think that’s hilarious. There are some who fear that he’s going to bring back former President Donald Trump, another billionaire power user of the platform; plenty of others find that idea exhilarating. He’s stated a desire to rein in bot accounts, which probably seem like a bigger problem to you when you have 85.4 million followers and tweet about crypto and stock prices and the numbers 420 and 69. On Monday, people kept posting unflattering pictures of him — from his PayPal days, or standing next to Ghislaine Maxwell — joking it’ll be the last day they can get away with it.

由于马斯克是地球上最富有的人,很多人很容易认为,这笔交易不是为了翻新和更新“数字城市广场”,而是为了更邪恶或更愚蠢的目的。一些人——包括地球上第二富有的人杰夫·贝佐斯——推测,Twitter归马斯克所有后,特斯拉在中国市场的存在实际上使它更容易受到审查。还有人担心他现在掌握了新闻记者的私信;有些人认为这很滑稽。有些人担心他会让前总统唐纳德·特朗普回来,后者是该平台的另一位超级富豪用户;也有很多人觉得这个想法令人振奋。他表示希望控制机器人水军,当你有8540万粉丝,并发布有关加密货币、股票价格以及数字420和69的推特时,这对你来说可能是一个更大的问题。周一,人们不断上传他的丑照——他在PayPal的时候或者与格希莱恩·麦克斯维尔的合影——开玩笑说这是这种照片能够不被删除的最后一天。

And this is what’s so unsettling about his acquisition: the strong sense that — even at its most anodyne — it’s an act of vanity, a means of improving the personal experience of one user of the agora. And there’s something to it. Musk oozes with a desperation to be thought of as funny, an ailment no amount of money can fix and perhaps his most relatable quality. His outing on “Saturday Night Live” was borderline painful to watch, even by contemporary “S.N.L.” standards — in particular his monologue, which was full of fascinating be-nice-to-me defense mechanisms: an announcement that he was the first host with Asperger’s syndrome; an appearance by his mother, who hugged him and told him she loved him; and a declaration of his vision for the future: “I believe in a renewable-energy future; I believe that humanity must become a multiplanetary, spacefaring civilization.”

而这正是他的收购令人不安的地方:人们强烈感觉到——即使在最平静的时候——这是一种虚荣的行为,只是为了改善整个广场上一个用户的个人体验。这是有道理的。马斯克浑身散发着一种希望别人认为他很有趣的欲望,这是一种多少钱也治不好的病,也许是他最让人产生共鸣的品质。他在《周六夜现场》(Saturday Night Live)上的表现近乎简直让人不忍卒睹——即使以当代《周六夜现场》的标准也是如此——尤其是他的独白,充满了令人侧目的“求别黑”式防御机制:他宣布自己是第一个患有阿斯伯格综合征的主持人;他的母亲出现在台上,拥抱他,告诉他自己爱他;他还做了对未来愿景的声明:“我相信可再生能源的未来;我相信人类必须成为多行星太空文明。”

He paused after that part: “Those seem like exciting goals, don’t they? Now I think if I just posted that on Twitter, I’d be fine. But I also write things like ‘69 days after 4/20 again haha’ ” — an actual post from June 28, 2020, which was indeed 69 days after April 20 — “I don’t know, I thought it was funny. That’s why I wrote ‘haha’ at the end. Look, I know I sometimes say or post strange things, but that’s just how my brain works. To anyone I’ve offended, I just want to say: I reinvented electric cars and I’m sending people to Mars in a rocket ship. Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?”

这之后他顿了顿,说:“这些都是激动人心的目标,不是吗?我觉得我要是把这些发推上,应该不会有什么麻烦。但是我同时也会发‘又到了4/20后的第69天了哈哈’——我也说不好,我觉得挺好笑的。这就是为什么在最后有个‘哈哈’。是这样,我知道有时我会说、会发一些奇怪的东西,但是我的脑子就这样。如果有谁觉得被冒犯了,我想说:我重新发明了电动车,我要用飞船把人送上火星。你觉得我会是那种普通正常的人吗?”

Never before has the Twitter-user mentality been so neatly summarized: I know you may not like my jokes, but what you have to understand is that I’m actually cool. The capital markets have rewarded Musk richly for all of that; Twitter, home of the guillotine meme, has not — or at least not uniformly. But because of the former, any frustration Musk may have with the latter can potentially reshape the closest thing we have to a digital town square. It’s not clear that there’s anything to mourn in this changing of the guard, except perhaps for the fact that it can happen at all.

Twitter用户心态从未得到如此清晰的总结:我知道你们可能不喜欢我的笑话,但你们必须得明白,我其实还是很酷的。资本市场对马斯克的这一点给出了丰厚的回报;作为“断头台米姆”的发源地,Twitter却没有给他——至少没有给出一致的回报。然而由于前者,马斯克对后者的一切不满,都有可能重塑Twitter——它是我们能找到的最接近数字城市广场的地方了。我们暂时不知道这次易主是否有什么需要哀叹的地方,除了这样的事居然能发生这一点本身。

This is what’s so dizzying about living in a society with individuals who control so much wealth: Their whims can be made into reality with startling ease — and their whims can be shaped by the same dumb websites we all use to waste company time. It’s not as if Twitter was run like a kibbutz beforehand, but it responded to a diverse web of stakeholders: Wall Street, customers, users, the press, governments, etc. And now, one $44 billion lark later, it will respond to one man whose frankly complex relationship to the site’s services is apparent to anyone who cares to look.

此事也体现了在一个人能控制如此巨量财富的社会里生活,是一种怎样令人目眩的体验:他们的突发奇想可以轻而易举地变为现实——我们都在把上班时间浪费在这个愚蠢的网站上,但他们的突发奇想可以重塑这个网站。此前的Twitter是以一种基布兹(以色列的一种常见的集体社区体制——译注)的方式运转的,但是需要对一个多元的利益相关群体负责:华尔街、顾客、用户、媒体、政府等等。然而现在,经过一场价值440亿美元的玩笑,它需要受一个人左右,而任何有留意的人都看到了,此人和这个网站的服务保持了一种显然很复杂的关系。

If his experiences as a user should presumably shape his approach to governing the platform, his experience as the visionary behind enormous real-world projects may not prepare him for the complexities of managing something as amorphous as Twitter: a pulsating and frequently unpleasant conversation among hundreds of millions of people who have no real reason to be talking to one another; a place for screwing around that has also helped reshape several industries and institutions; a for-profit platform that makes its money selling ads, but that is mostly experienced as a way to tell jokes and share links; and above all, a service that a small but influential subset of humanity has allowed to colonize their free time and minds to a great degree over the last decade, with profound and unpredictable results. He may soon discover that Twitter is not rocket science — it’s harder.

如果说他作为一个用户在这里的体验会决定他管理这里的方式,那么他作为宏大真实世界工程的构想者所得到的经验,不见得能应用到对Twitter这样一个杂乱无章的地方的艰巨管理中:这里有几亿人进行着一时兴起的、往往令人不快的交谈,而这些人本身并没有什么交谈的必要;这里是个胡闹的地方,但又重塑了许多产业和惯例;这是个通过出售广告赚钱的盈利平台,但大多数人只是把它当做一个讲笑话和分享链接的地方;过去十年里,这项服务让人类中的一小撮极具影响力的人把自己的相当一部分闲余时间和思绪交了出来,产生了深远的、难以预料的结果。他也许很快会发现,Twitter不是什么高深科学——它比科学难得多。
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