“Back in the day, I created a Reddit called /r/rape, for rape jokes.”
This troubling sentence comes from infamous Reddit troll Violentacrez, revealed by Gawker last week as 49-year-old Michael Brutsch of Texas, who appeared on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” on Thursday to tell his side of the story.
As Violentacrez, Brutsch became a Reddit celebrity for his creation of the popular social news website’s most controversial — many would say disgusting — communities, called “subreddits.” The most famous of those, “Jailbait,” which featured suggestive photos of underage girls, was called out by Cooper last year, and subsequently banned by Reddit’s mostly hands-off administrators.
Before it was banned, however, “Jailbait” brought in hundreds of thousands of pageviews for Reddit. The site’s administrators even gave Brutsch a “pimp hat” badge for his profile page. And one year, he won a gold Reddit bobblehead doll after the site’s users voted “Jailbait” the “Worst Reddit.”
But that was then. Now, Brutsch, who lost his job at a financial company after Gawker outed his identity, says he is sorry for what he posted — kind of.
“Well, I am to some degree apologizing for what I did,” Brutsch told CNN. “Again, I was playing to an audience of college kids. And you know, when two years ago, when all of this was at its height, the audience was appreciative and supportive of the sort of gallows humor that I put out there.”
Brutsch says Reddit’s system of “karma” — valueless points received for having posts or comments “upvoted” by other users — played a large part in his quest for the obscene. “Honestly, the biggest thrill I got was those meaningless Internet points,” he said during the interview. He added that “Reddit encouraged and enabled this kind of behavior.”
The Gawker piece, written and reported by Adrian Chen, has caused a firestorm of debate across the Web over free speech, online privacy, and Reddit’s role as one of the Web’s most influential sites. While many so-called redditors initially defended Brutsch’s right to anonymously post vile content on the site, with many subreddits even banning links to Chen’s article in protest, the tide appears to have turned.
“Your problem is that you just don’t know when to quit,” wrote reddit user ArtisticProgrammer, in response to a recent defensive comment by Brutsch. “If you had any intelligence at all, you would have been contrite, and unequivocally apologized for the hurt you caused people.”
Watch Brutsch’s interview with CNN below: