Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Adrian Chen Is A Piece of Garbage….and So is Violentacruz

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you have no idea what I’m talking about (hi Mom). Let me set the scene from the point of view of an interested bystander.

There’s this online community that I’ve grown quite fond of called Reddit. They refer to themselves as the “front page of the internet” and essentially, Reddit is a place where people can post news articles, pictures of cats, naked photos, and funny videos and discuss them. To the media, it’s a breeding ground for pedophiles and racists. I’ll admit that the anonymity that the internet, and especially Reddit, provide can bring out the dark side of people. But Reddit is also the community where I participated in a “Just for the hell of it” Summer Secret Santa exchange where I sent an awesome Zombie Whiskey Decantur to someone I’ve never met in Texas and received some awesome books from a stranger in return. It’s a community that has a whole page dedicated to people who have fallen on hard times or maybe just having a shitty day saying “You know, I could really use a pizza.” and about 75% of the time, someone comes through and has a pizza sent to their house. As much as there is terrible stuff being posted in some of these “subreddits” as they are called, there’s some amazing things that happen on Reddit as well. It’s a community I’m proud to be a member of.

So there’s this guy, Violentacruz. He’s what’s called a troll. He makes posts and creates communities specifically to offend people. He’s most well known for /r/creepshots (where people can post pictures of attractive women’s bodies, which are taken in secret), /r/jailbait (self-explanatory), /r/hitler, and the list goes on and on and gets much grosser. He’s the epitome of the negative side of the internet.

Then there’s Adrian Chen, a blogger for the website Gawker. Adrian takes exception to the disgusting stuff that VA (the troll) is doing. Reddit, being a staunch supporter of people’s right to free speech, has a policy of allowing any content that is not illegal. Hell, there are even subreddits to discuss marijuana use and file sharing, which are illegal, but discussion of these topics are not. As the content being posted in these groups are not illegal, Reddit does not intervene, as they would have in the case of something like child pornography. So Chen decides to take matters into his own hands. He is writing an expose on VA. As a part of the expose, he contacts people who know VA, is able to learn his identity, where he works, his personal information, etc. (in the hacker community, this is called doxxing) and considers this to be pertinent information to his story about the internet’s biggest troll. He includes this man’s real name, picture, etc in his story. The result: VA, who in real life is a father with a disabled wife, loses his job.

I had to think really long and hard about my opinions on this. I’m a big fan of free speech. I think it’s the most important thing in the world and sometimes it’s a hard thing to advocate for. My prime example is the Westboro Baptist Church. These people are the worst. They are scum and they are media whores. But I would oppose any legislation that attempted to stop them from saying whatever they choose to in public or private. If I fight to take away their right to say such hateful things, then I’m also fighting against my right to oppose them publicly. But for dumb people, that’s where it gets sticky. That’s where people who have the intellectual level of say, a dead clam, would say “So you support the WBC?”

I ran into this same quagmire on this issue. I don’t support the subreddits that VA created and moderated and possibly even posted in. But the glory of Reddit is, I don’t have to subscribe to them. I don’t ever have to see them if I don’t want to. Beyond that, the reality is that only certain subreddits appear by default and anyone who wants to discuss how awesome Hitler was or look at blurry cellphone shots of some girl in yoga pants on the bus really has to seek the appropriate subreddit. What I do support is their right to exist, being properly monitored for any sort of illegal behavior (posting of child pornography, etc.).

What I can’t abide (without fighting someone’s right to free press) is a blogger who ruins someone’s life in order to drive traffic to their website (a website I might add, which has a section devoted to celebrity upskirt photos. Hypocrisy, thy name is Gawker). If Adrian Chen was the vigilante that I think he’s trying to portray himself as, why not go to the police if he thought something illegal was being done? How effective was ruining this guy’s life as a part of his story? The expose that he wrote would’ve brought the problem to light just as easily without ever giving out any of this guy’s personal information. But it probably wouldn’t have hit national news levels unless it was something extreme. To me, Chen is just as much a troll as VA. He used the internet to get a rise out of people and he wrecked a real human beings life as well.

The reason that I’m harder on Chen then I am VA is pretty simple. Chen claims to be better. VA is unapologetic for his gross ways. He’s like “Look, I like offending people. Deal with it.” He’s not out there pretending he’s some free speech advocate or that there’s a nobility to posting pictures of dead children. He knows who he is. Chen is pretending to be Batman. I find that insulting to Batman and anyone who knows me knows, you don’t…insult…Batman.

There’s also a bigger issue at play. Anyone who is advocating for what Chen did has to understand that, unless they are going to hypocrites, they’ll have to advocate for some other things that could occur as well. If some right wing Christian blogger decides to doxx a bunch of gay kids who are using their Reddit anonymity to find support as they work up the courage to come out of the closet and decides to post their names and addresses as a statement of moral opposition to their homosexual lifestyles, people who support Chen have to support that as well. I’m not going to be one of them and since I try not to be a hypocrite as often as possible, I won’t be lining up behind Chen.

Free speech is a beautiful thing and the internet is the most amazing invention that our generation has ever known. Obviously, people are going to take advantage of that for evil and that’s going to get press. I urge you to investigate further, to see Reddit for the community of charitable, hilarious, and creative people that they are and enjoy some cat pictures while you’re at it. There are dark and seedy sides to Reddit, but you don’t have to go there unless you want to. If you want to, more power to you. Just don’t do anything illegal and don’t support whores like Adrian Chen and trolls like Violentacruz.

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