My initial reaction:
Ever since taking over as Reddit’s “interim CEO” in January, the site’s users have been up in arms over Ellen Pao’s heavy-handed changes to policy, particularly in the area of what amounts to “harassment”.
As I reported previously, this strangely-formed policy led to a series of ridiculous events, such as shutting down a forum about whale-watching because its title was confused with fat-shaming forums. Meanwhile, exceptionally vile forums were left entirely alone, such as the dedicatedly-racist /r/coontown. It seemed as though the worst elements of Tumblr’s own infamous “slacktivism” had taken root on what many call “the front page of the Internet”.
Then there was the disastrous “Ask Me Anything” session with Jesse Jackson. On Reddit, AMAs are far and away the most uplifting and unique experience, live question-and-answer sessions with interesting people (not just celebs, but Nobel laureates and such too). But Jackson began responding to questions with nonsense and even quips which would be racist coming out of a white person’s mouth, such as “we (blacks) are very athletic”.
Jackson apparently complained to management (of which there are few at Reddit’s 60-employee company, meaning Pao was almost certainly in the loop), and the person who managed all the heavy-lifting to make AMAs happen was immediately terminated.
Problem: when I say “heavy-lifting”, I mean she did about 90% of everything involved in getting people to agree to AMAs in the first place, setting up the system for their ease, taking care of any concerns — this firing was like draining all the lubricant from a finely-tuned engine, then cranking it over like nothing had changed.
This time, Reddit’s moderators joined the masses with pitchforks and torches in hand.
Reddit forums, known as “subreddits”, began going private. Traffic to the most popular forums was instantly killed. More and more subreddits joined, and the Twitter hashtag #RedditRevolt exploded with commentary… almost all of it negative towards Pao. The site began “going dark”, like in one of those movies where a city gets hit with an EMP bomb and you see it black out block-by-block.
All of this began making the news when an existing petition to oust the hated Chairman, which had not gained a lot of traction to this point, suddenly soared to 50,000 signatures… then 100,000. Then 200,000.
The petition’s public repudiation pegged Pao perfectly.
Reddit’s business has not been doing terribly well, and now it was hemorrhaging users to upstart competitor Voat… which was overrun with so many new accounts that its founder had to seek emergency venture capital to buy new servers to handle the load. But until today, all that had come out from Reddit were some apologies and promises to “do better”, which fell largely on deaf ears since this sort of speech had been made many times before.
Moderators, in particular, weren’t having any of it, as they had repeatedly demanded better tools to do their jobs and been given nothing but lip service for years. Now, they demanded, either they would have those tools in the next few months, or they would shut their subreddits down again — and keep them that way until they got what they wanted. Meanwhile, they re-opened for business, having made their points.
I should also note that the AMA firing wasn’t the only outrage — another well-liked admin, who had finally recovered from a bout of leukemia, had a personal sit-down with Pao about his ability to work. He assured her that he could do the job, and they agreed (according to him) that his doctor would confirm or deny that issue for a final decision.
Then Pao fired him anyways, citing an inability to work that hadn’t yet been demonstrated. Reddit DID cover a year’s worth of insurance for him as severance pay, but it was still a betrayal and loss of a job which Pao was already going to force him to move to San Francisco in order to keep. This last part had actually cost Reddit about a third of its employees the previous year, as the company’s staff had been doing a lot of its work remotely. Now, “Chairman Pao” demanded, it was either move to Frisco or lose your job.
THANKS, PAOBAMA. Okay, that was a dumb one on my part. >_>
Still, it was a surprise when Ellen Pao actually resigned today.
Of course, the New York Times is busily lauding her as a hero in the fight against online bullying and harassment, firmly blaming what even they call an “ouster” on white male anger.
Ellen Pao became a hero to many when she took on the entrenched sexist culture of Silicon Valley. But sentiment is a fickle thing, and late Friday the entrepreneur fell victim to a shrill crowd demanding her ouster as chief executive of the popular social media site Reddit.
Ms. Pao’s abrupt downfall in the face of a torrent of sexist and racist attacks, many of them on Reddit itself, is likely to renew charges that bullying, harrassment and ugly behavior are out of control on the web — and that Silicon Valley’s well-publicized lack of interest in hiring anyone who is not male and white is contributing to the problem.
While it’s true Pao was subjected to a slew of hateful material as the NYT states, it was also in direct response to her censoring of various popular sites (see: /r/whalewatching above). Prior to that, there was little concern evinced about her one way or the other. Nor was this what pushed Pao out at all, since in fact she rode that tide of hatred to obtain a bevy of defenders (such as, for example, the NYT). She had in fact publicly declared that these people did not bother her, being “a small vocal minority” of Reddit users.
They even brought up her failed sex-discrimination lawsuit against a former employer, which bombed for lack of any supporting evidence, portraying it as a win for supposedly exposing a “community that casually tolerated an atmosphere where male aggression was prized and women always seemed to be relegated to secondary roles”.
And guess which articles the Times’ reporters, Mike Isaac and David Streitfeld, reference for readers interested in the facts of that case? Two, both from the NYT, and both penned by David Streitfeld.
It’s clear that the Times is either ignorant of, or deliberately excluding, key facts on this story in order to push yet another “victimhood” narrative whereby the evil certain women do is irrelevant because reasons.
Meanwhile, Twitter hashtag #GamerGate is similarly gleeful, as the movement and its own subreddit /r/KotakuInAction had been strongly supportive of the revolution from its inception. No doubt, various non-journalists in the mainstream media will report this to be proof positive that the #RedditRevolt is nothing more than hateful white male throwbacks to the 1950s.
EDIT: Well, that didn’t take long at all!
The salt must flow, as they say.