The Nation of Reddit
From Redditor yishan:
“…we consider ourselves not just a company running a website where one can post links and discuss them, but the government of a new type of community. The role and responsibility of a government differs from that of a private corporation, in that it exercises restraint in the usage of its powers.”
Shh. I won’t say anything right away. Just let those words tromp around in your mind for a few moments. Let the hubris of them get mud all over the carpet and sticky Cheetos fingerprints on the door frames…
Okay. Here goes…
In a blog post entitled Every Man is Responsible for His Own Soul, paraphrasing a line from Shakespeare’s Henry V, Redditor yishan explains why Reddit removed a subreddit called TheFappening, making sure to point out that the decision was not based on the content of the thread, which unambiguously refers to masturbating while viewing stolen nude photos of the female celebrities, who were victims of the recent hacking.
In case anyone is confused as to exactly how self-aggrandized social media site owners can be, the managers at Reddit, it seems, perceive their enterprise to be a new form of government. The Nation of Reddit, if you will, founded not so much on ideas or achieved by blood or steel, not by men (or women) who signed their names to a declaration and risked their lives, but by avatars who speak with the courage of anonymity and wring their virtual hands over the moral implications of profiting from exploitative jerking off. What exactly will the flag of this new sovereign society look like? Crossed swords, I suppose.
Though Reddit is a young nation, Ambassador yishan, exhibits the diplomatic nuance of a veteran stuffed suit when he proclaims, “Virtuous behavior is only virtuous if it is not arrived at by compulsion. This is a central idea of the community we are trying to create.” Once again, perhaps we should pause and just let the big idea resonate for a moment…
Right. Moving on…
It’s true, of course. Virtuous behavior can only be called virtuous when it is altruistic. But failing that, sometimes we have to tell the assholes to knock it the hell off. You know the ones — the guys who stand up and go for the luggage compartment while the plane is still taxiing. Yeah, even in the freest of countries, that clown has to be told to sit back the fuck down in case the pilot has to step on the breaks and thus turns him into a 180-pound idiot projectile. In a similar way, The Nation of Reddit could certainly choose to support free expression, even of the most puerile gibberish, while drawing a fairly clear line that it will make every effort to avoid benefiting from someone else’s misery. Professional news organizations draw lines between coverage and exploitation all the time, and free speech manages to survive, but I guess that’s elitist.
As pointed out in this excellent piece by Ellen Seidler, The Nation of Reddit is actually a satellite state of the empire CondeNast Publications, and its wealth, like most web nations, comes from tourism (i.e. advertising). As such, stolen celebrity nude pictures unquestionably bring the visitors in profitable numbers, but apparently, the government of Reddit feels it would be morally objectionable to refuse this windfall, which is nothing more than a byproduct of its absolute defense of free expression. But as Seidler also points out, non-celebrities, usually women, who don’t have the resources of movie stars are frequent, un-reported victims of misappropriation of their images that are then exploited by stateless nations like Reddit and the rogue 4Chan.
The actual quote from Henry V comes in the scene when Harry walks cloaked in disguise among his men on the night before the battle at Agincourt. A soldier, Williams, opines that the virtue of the war and the inherent sinfulness of death in battle is the sole moral responsibility of the king. But within in the ensuing monologue, Harry replies, “Every subject’s duty is the king’s; but each man’s soul’s his own.” It is poetry, but it is also a poor reference for a modern, free, and democratic society far removed from ancient monarchy. Because our more enlightened view is that we do blame the leadership and not the soldier for entering into a bad war. And we do hold business owners, the ones who make the real money, responsible for the manner in which they earn their revenues.
But here’s the main message we might send The Nation of Reddit: If you’re apologizing for shutting down a thread called TheFappening, at least spare the world your ideological bullshit as if we’re supposed to think you’re doing something important.
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