Reddit is one of those Internet things that I was vaguely aware of and kinda/sorta knew what it was, but had not to my knowledge ever visited. Which is not to say I haven’t stumbled across it at some point, as it has forums on topics – politics and atheism are two - I’m interested in. It also has a significant underbelly, a demimonde of porn-y, largely anonymous/pseudonymous forums (subreddits) dedicated to things like provocative pictures of underage girls.
Gawker is one of those Internet things that I was vaguely aware of and kinda/sorta knew what it was, but had not to my knowledge ever visited. Which is not to say I haven’t stumbled across it at some points, as I am certainly not averse to reading those who dish celebrity dirt, and clicking through to find out the skinny on the TomKat divorce or pictures of Anne Hathaway’s wedding.
Bottom line: neither site is in my usual consciousness, or on my Favorites list.
Nonetheless, I’ve been reading with interest about the outing of one Redditor “Violentacrez", who moderated a number of the sketchier forums on Reddit.
Michael “Violentacez” Brutsch’s explanation of what he was up to:
"I do my job, go home watch TV, and go on the internet. I just like riling people up in my spare time." (Source: Huffington Post.)
I apparently have a different idea of “riling people up” than Brutsch does.
To me, “riling people up” might involve, say, throwing it out there that the Red Sox should go after A-Rod, now that the Yankees don’t seem to have much use for him, and agree to pick up all of the considerable swag-bag of a contract he has left. “Riling people up” might be claiming that Jim Lehrer did such a bang-up job with the first presidential debate that he and his descendants should moderate all such debates in perpetuity. “Riling people up” might be suggesting that Alzheimer’s patients be shipped to the Philippines where their care will be cheaper and, what the hell, they don’t know where they are, anyway. (This last idea, by the way, was actually put forth by a relatively well-known business consultant at a dinner I attended a couple of years ago. He also suggested that it would be no big deal if all the polar bears disappeared. Too bad they can’t be shipped off to the Philippines, too.)
But “riling people up” has a different meaning for Brutsch:
In a phone conversation, Brutsch admitted to being the Reddit user named Violentacrez, who created or moderated sections dedicated to pornographic and violent images, including subreddits called r/rapebait, r/incest, r/picsofdeadkids, r/jailbait, and r/chokeabitch. (Source: Huff Po, again.)
He’s also the man behind r/creepshots, “a space dedicated to pictures of women unaware that their photographs had been taken.”
Anyway, Gawker journalist Adrian Chen sleuthed out just who “Violentacrez” is in real life. And let the world know, ignoring Brutsch’s pleas that being doxxed would lead to him losing his job.
Which is, indeed, what happened, and Brutsch has been fired from his job as a techie for a “financial services firm” that does payday and pawn loans. Even payday loan outfits have standards. Who’da thunk it? (I’m wondering what grounds they fired him on? Was Brutsch redditing on the job? Is it possible that a payday loan company has a code of conduct that got violated?)
So much for “on the Internet, know one knows you’re a dog.”
If someone wants to find out, they can figure out what breed you are and when you got your distemper shot.
Now Brutsch finds himself in one big, ugly soup:
"Nothing like living in the US with a disabled wife and no health insurance," Brutsch wrote on Reddit after he lost his job. “I'm eligible [for insurance], but COBRA is very expensive. Who can afford to pay 5 times as much for insurance at the very moment they lose their income? Only rich folks can afford COBRA. I have maybe 3 weeks pay in the bank. I just hope I can hold out a month. My wife hasn't been able to work for over a year, and our savings will last about 3 weeks, not considering the current lack of health insurance.”
Brutsch is looking for his fans – who are moaning about “free speech” violations - to provide financial support through a Pay Pal account he’s set up. I’m sure that he’ll bring in some money, but once this dies down, I don’t imagine it will be anywhere the equivalent of a regular pay check.
Although Brutsch sounds like a complete and utter turd – somewhere I read that he’d even bragged about having oral sex with his 19 year-old stepdaughter (“nothing like living in the US with a disabled wife” who now knows you went way, way, way over the line with her child) – I do have a tiny bit of sympathy for him. He’s 49 and, unless some porn site snaps him up, he’s pretty much got to be unemployable from here on out. Maybe if Chen had just confronted Brutsch and told him he wouldn’t out him if he quit as a redditor and got some much needed counseling…
But, of course, under those circumstances, there would no doubt be someone else willing to take his place.
Now, at least, when someone wants to step in and take up the slack on r/picsodeadkids and r/chokeabitch they might pause and consider that they could end up, if not on the cover of Rolling Stone, then at least on the front page of the Huffington Post. And find themselves losing their livelihood and jeopardizing whatever relationships they had with their fellow human beings.
Personally, I’m not completely wild about all the anonymity on the ‘net.
I read way too many online comments that are uncivil in so many ways: misogynist, racist, homophobic, generally demonizing of anyone who doesn’t agree with them, fact-free, and all-round cretinous.
Truly, I wish that all online forums would have two comment streams, one for those who wanted to maintain civility (used by those using their real names, or with a pseudonym if they feel the need for self-protection/privacy), and another for those who just want to sling any bit of craziness that pops into their head.
I do understand why anonymity is important.
If I worked for the Koch brothers, or developer David Siegel, or any of the other CEO’s – who sent out pro-Romney materials to their employees - I might have a genuine fear that a letter to the editor of the local paper extolling the virtues of Joe Biden might get me fired. Maybe someone who worked in an environment that was mostly liberals who went around tearing their hair out every time a Republican gets elected, might not want the local news showing them canvassing door to door for the local Tea Party favorite.
I can imagine plenty of circumstances in which people would want to keep their private (and political) lives private.
But when the private lives go so far over the line (r/chokeabitch?) of common decency, maybe they forfeit their claim on some of that privacy.
All I know is that, today, Michael Brutsch is one sorry-ass, unemployed dude who has no one to blame but himself.