Before accused Charleston mass-shooter Dylann Roof was even in police custody, one of Reddit’s most popular racism forums (there are many) was praising his slaughter and encouraging more.
Only the week before, the “internet’s front page” collectively threw itself to the ground and screamed, crying censorship and betrayal after new rules banned a community dedicated to the mocking of fat people. This—the inability to band together and jeer at someone’s gut—was beyond the free speech rubicon. But as /r/FatPeopleHate was silenced, the site’s premier white supremacy hub became more active than ever: /r/CoonTown today boasts over 15,000 subscribers and an untold number of lurkers.
The existence of that section, a demagogic turd wrapped in a waffle of hate, is sacrosanct to the techno-libertarian dunces that constitute the salt of Reddit—to curtail hate speech, revenge porn and general word-horror would be the the first step towards the police state. Reddit exists on a perpetual slippery slope. So when Reddit CEO Ellen Pao (who has the misfortune of being an Asian woman who recently fought a former employer over gender discrimination) declared that “we’re banning behavior, not ideas,” Reddit’s deeply anarcho-conservative user base—a community that enjoys more unmoderated freedom than anywhere this side of 4chan— still took it as a declaration of war.
But why feel threatened? The site is in practice still as free to luxuriate in its terribleness as ever, though it wasn’t until last week’s racist massacre that Reddit’s unwillingness to moderate itself seemed so dangerous. Immediately after the attack, comments like this flooded /r/Coontown:
Any time niggers are goodified whether it’s by Ebola in Apefrica, or by a shooter in church it’s good news. Never feel sorry for a nigger, as the life of a nigger has no more value than the life of a flea or a tick. Niggers are a plague on human civilization and, the less niggers there are, the better.
The niggers being goodified is good, but what is GREAT is that episodes like this will help expedite a race war. Only then will a great culling of the leaching herd will be accomplished
I have to say it was a great bit of news this morning to see 9 niggers get good.
“Good” or “goodified” is a common white supremacist slang term for the murder of black people.
Even Reddit racists who tried, feebly, to caution against explicit calls for violence were ignored:
I hate niggers, therefore I don’t care if a nigger lives or not.
niggers kill innocent people everyday, when a human decides to give them a taste of their own medicine, I don’t mind.
It’s a shame the shooter wasn’t outside the Baltimore CVS last month instead.
We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.
These sites aren’t just racist fantasy talk or sick ideation. Roof says plainly what Reddit and its corporate leadership is too craven to admit: it’s so easy to take hateful, violent words on the internet and turn them into hateful, violent actions off the internet. So why give violent hate speech a home on Reddit, a website so mainstream and prominent that Channing Tatum and Barack Obama turn to it as a PR platform? Deleting /r/Coontown and its ilk (let’s not forget about /r/GasTheKikes!) wouldn’t threaten “free speech” across the internet—Coontown users are free to resettle at one of the countless other racist shithole forums on the web.
This isn’t a question of somehow banning racism on the internet (as if that were even possible!) but of making it easier and more comfortable to participate in racism on the internet. No one is proposing the criminalization of white supremacy, nor the trampling of the 1st Amendment—only the idea that an enormously popular Conde Nast-affiliated website should maybe reconsider offering it shelter. What’s to fear, the slippery slope? The notion that if Reddit disallows a section for white supremacists, it might go after its many anti-semites, Islamophobes, and creepshot masturbators, next? We should be so lucky as to tumble down that slope.
Neither outspoken Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian nor Reddit’s corporate press team responded when asked for comment.