是ou know the internet, 正确的? The greatest unregulated mass experiment on humanity in history? I think it’s time we pulled the plug. Tell everyone it was a nice idea, we gave it a good run but the results are in and – no. Turns out we are best off without a window into the collective soul after all.
And so to How to Hire a Hitman (渠道 4), a two-part investigation by the radio presenter and true-crime vlogger Yinka Bokinni into how easy it is to hire a contract killer on the dark web. She begins by scrolling through the results of a hack into Besa Mafia’s site which, for suitable remuneration in bitcoin, offers services from arson to sniper shootings to be carried out by Albanian gangsters. It uncovers thousands of emails arranging hundreds of hits. “Is murder for hire really just a click away?” Bokinni asks, promising a level of sensationalism that luckily the programme doesn’t follow through on. “If so – are any of us safe?” Dun-dun-Duuun!
It’s a hard programme to discuss without spoilers – even if the twist in the first episode is one sceptics will see coming a mile off. I have no wish to ruin it for those who, like me, believe anything they are told about the limitless horrors of the interwebular world – so look away now if you don’t want to know more.
Murder is not really just a click away. Not on the Besa Mafia site at least, which is in fact a scam run by a mysterious figure known only as Yura. You pay your bitcoin and don’t get your choice. The assassins go to the wrong place, get held up in traffic or have to abort the mission for equally bathetic reasons while Yura upsells you more deals. You have almost got to respect the hustle.
Except that the hustle does involve hundreds of people who want hundreds of others killed. Stepmothers, exes, wives, husbands, lovers and lovers’ spouses were all popular targets for those seeking revenge, sex or money. There is nothing new under the sun, but there does seem to be so much more of it now, does there not?
The most chilling fact about hitman sites (scam or not) 是, 当然, that they are sought out by ordinary people. People who would once have been entirely unable to reach out to the underworld and outsource their murderous impulses now, 至少, feel that it is within their reach. That the unthinkable is no longer unthinkable but in the realms of the achievable. When the great cyber experiment comes to an end and future generations can compare the stats, we will be able to see if this leads to more or less murder overall. Future generations will have an awful lot of dark datasets to go through.
Bokinni is an energetic and engaging presenter and How to Hire a Hitman is a programme that covers a lot of ground. Bokinni traces the story of a preacher’s wife, Amy Allwine, who – based on what seems an unbelievable mix of naivety and incompetence by the FBI, who were made aware of a hit on her being planned on the dark web six months before she died – was shot dead in her home. It wasn’t long before the local police turned up evidence of her apparently devoted husband Stephen’s use of escorts, his multiple affairs and a bitcoin payment to Besa Mafia. It was enough to convince a jury that he had eventually got frustrated by Besa Mafia’s lack of action and pulled the trigger himself. He was convicted of first-degree murder.
The second part of the double bill has Bokinni track down other potential targets after the FBI seems unwilling to get involved. It is not often that I am left fearing for a presenter’s mental health (I assume her physical safety was ensured throughout) but her numerous references to her conscience and unhappiness at knowing what may be out there made me hope that some proper, post-wrap therapy sessions were provided.
The panoply of ways on display in which the human race is utter garbage is quite something. If I found myself wishing Bokinni would give a little more time to reflect on the facilitation and normalisation of crime – which she does touch on, along with the possible “radicalising” role of figures such as Yura, as they feed clients’ feelings back to them in pursuit of further payments – I equally found myself glad she didn’t. When you stare into the abyss of the dark web, it will look back.