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You have to own your deeds.

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There has been a huge flap over Gawker putting a name to a redditor.  Said redditor was, IMO, no credit to the human race.  Reddit is a huge place, it’s sort of the internet writ small, and Michael Brutsch, in the guise of his reddit handle violentacrez oversaw some of the seamier sides of it.  It was as if he were running the Mos Eisley Cantina… on a franchise model; so you could have tailor made scum and villiany

He didn’t, so it seems, create them, but Conde Nast found that he was good at managing such reddits as Jailbait, Dead Jailbait, Nigger Jailbait, Hitler, Choke a Bitch, Beating Women, Nazi, Pics of Dead Kids,  and I know not what others.  He was lauded for this♠.  Reddit gave him a unique “pimp” badge, to thank him for all the work he did managing the, to understate it, “not safe for work,” side of the house.

What got him into his present troubles, and caused the hullaballoo, was a reddit he was asked to take over (as he’d done so many times before), r/creepshots (it’s gone now, in that iteration,  in lots of ways the seamy sides of reddit are like a hydra; anyone can make a new one when the old one gets shut down).  Creepshots was about revealing photos taken in public places, photos which were then published without the subjects consent.

It wasn’t met with universal approval.  Shit Reddit Says is a subreddit which exists to call out some of the seamier sides of reddit.  They took on r/creepshots, and got the usual response, “it’s not illegal, therefore no one can stop us.”  Which is both true, and false.  Publishing a recognisable image, without a release, is a problematic area.  If it’s done for profit, it’s actionable.  In theory someone could sue Condé Nast arguing that they make money off of reddit, and were/are therefore exploiting the images in places like creepshots for profit.

But it is true that taking such pictures isn’t illegal (creepshots did prohibit “upskirts”, which are illegal in some parts of the US, but not all. I don’t know what jurisdiction Condé Nast uses in its TOS, but that might also have some bearing.  I don’t think  47 USC § 230  applies here).

But something being legal doesn’t mean it’s morally acceptable, and as ‘violentacrez’, Brutsch hadn’t been all that careful about keeping his personal life from his recreational one.  There were photos of him,  and there were people who knew his name.  Adrian Chen found them, put them together, and then called him up, spoke to him, and wrote his piece, among other things pointing out that Brutsch was, in many ways a classic internet troll, “”I do my job, go home watch TV, and go on the internet. I just like riling people up in my spare time.”

When the article came out, a lot of reddit had a very public fit.

See reddit has this idea that being an asshole is an absolute right.  When r/beatingwomen (run by Brutsch) caused a flap you saw things like this, “People are always ready to fight against censorship until they see something they don’t like. Then they become the ones wanting to censor it. “You don’t like it, neither do I, so don’t go there, and don’t be a hypocrite.”

Which is bullshit, but a lot of redditors believe that what they say on reddit ought to be free from accountability, and that any negative comment on the merit of posting something is morally reprehensible..  It ain’t so.  That it’s not so has never stopped anyone (in the US, at least), from decrying, “censorship” when someone chooses to moderate a blog. Boing-boing dropped comments because they had become a cesspit.  When they decided to bring them back they hired a moderator.  That moderator used “disemvowelling” to reduce the impact of nasty/trolling comments.  It’s a controversial technique, because it short circuits part of the classic trolls’ repertoire. 1:  It makes it harder to read (which reduces it’s effect. only someone who really wants to know what was said will go to the work to read it).  2: It gives readers a heads up that something nasty was said.  3:  It calls them out for being assholes.

I think it’s the last that really riles them up.  I think that’s a huge part of what the redditors who are whining about, “they are suppressing my speech” are really upset about.  There are a lot of assholes in the world, and they don’t like being called on it.

Tough shit.  The world is what we make it, and not calling assholes on their shit makes the world a shittier place.

There is more to it than that, of course, but (hard as it may be to believe) I think P.J. O’Rourke, hit this one on the head.

“There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.”

Which doesn’t mean I’m not ambivalent about this.  Brutsch lost his job because of the furor, though he was pretty sure his boss (a payday lender; whom Chen didn’t name in the article he wrote; all he did was put a flesh and blood name and face to the reddit persona), wasn’t going to like what he expected to happen when the piece was published.  On the other hand, Brutsch, and many of his supporters are pretending all of this was harmless; even as Brutsch makes it plain it wasn’t.

In his attempt to fisk the Gawker piece he matter of factly gives the lie to the argument that “no one knew who the women were, so no one got hurt… except Brutsch,”.

“The fact that none of these innocent women were publicly identified, and those who asked for their pictures to be removed had them removed…”

There is some careful parsing.  “none of these innocent women were identified.”  What he means is that part of his job was to make sure the redditors who posted the image didn’t include names.  What caused the initial furor, which got him appointed mod of r/creepshots was a redditor being arrested for posting shots of his students; his high school student, and another redditor recognising the setting.
He also makes a careful bit of linguistic legerdemain in his own defense,

They would say he was a child pornographer, when all he had done was spearhead the distribution of thousands of legal photos of underage girls.

       He says “underage girls” to conflate pictures of high-school girls with children. Very effective.

   He says, “children” as if the act of sexualising adolescents is harmless.  He also, in that first quotation admits the people in /creepshots weren’t completely anonymous (and in r/jailbait they certainly weren’t, since most of those images were taken from facebook/etc.  google and tin-eye, etc. make it pretty easy to track those back to the person), “ those who asked for their pictures to be removed had them removed.”  Now, it’s possible no one but the women who asked to have their images removed recognised themselves.  That no one was ever told by a friend that someone had put their picture up for people to ogle.  But I don’t believe it.

   Why?  Because of the teacher who was arrested for taking illicit photos of his students and posting them to reddit.  That’s a provable case that someone else knew who the subjects of the photos were.  It strains all credulity to think this was the only instance.  It’s also fatuous to think that couldn’t harm the people in those photos.  But the assholes don’t care, not unless it’s illegal.

    Brutsch, and a vocal part of reddit think the law is the only brake on bad behavior.  They are wrong.  They forget there is social pressure, and they ignore the power of it at their peril (see above, re Brutsch’s employer).  And it’s social pressures, not the law, which will make, or not, any social space more pleasant to be in.  If no one calls the assholes out, then the assholes take over.

♠he was dedicated, he was moderating as many as 400 subreddits  at one point.  He claims that in his career he “created or ran” 500.


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