Tag Archives: anarchism

The end of a chapter.

Ever since 2010 I’ve been one of the moderators in reddit’s /r/anarchism. Due to the nature of reddit, I was also one of the most “untouchable” ones, meaning that I couldn’t be demodded by almost nobody else, except one other person above me. I got so high up this technological hierarchy of sorts, because I was one of the most known and suggested people around¬† the Great Shitstorm of 2010 and was simply the second one who was added.

I’ve been planning to demod myself since the start of 2011, both for my own emotional calm (since we seem to be having persistent drama around /r/@) and to allow others to step up without me being seen as a “leader”. Unfortunately I felt compelled to stay for various reasons, primarily the common unilateral actions from other mods and the heavy-handed and ban-happy rhetoric that I saw many people asking for.

Today however it was suggested to me by another mod that we both stand down and I guess it just clicked. It’s been long enough, I have implemented two succesful initiatives in /r/anarchism: the tendency icons and the Confederation of Anarchist Reddits so I think my tenure has been succesful. There’s also no drama or shitstorm currently unfolding, so my stepping down won’t be spinned into something it’s not.

I won’t be leaving the decision-making process or the community of course, but I’ll be doing it on the same equal footing as the rest of the “plebs”. And we’ll see how it goes.

One part of my mind is very wary that the banhappy crowd will take over and democratic decision making will go the way of the Dodo, as already a lot of decisions are being taken in a knee-jerk reaction rather than through consensus or democratic agreement. Another part, fully expects that I will be banned on some flimsy excuse by the few mods that openly hate me (because I reverse unilateral actions too much and thus I am a “reactionary liberal”).

It was good while it lasted folks. ūüôā

Introducing the Confederation of Anarchist Reddits

Exciting A Black flag and the 8 tendencies of anarchism in the form of bi-coloured stars, surrounding the all-black "Anarchism without Adjectives" star. Below it "reddit" is written.news everyone!

We implemented a new initiative yesterday at /r/Anarchism, meant to promote solidarity between the various disconnected anarchism subreddits: The Confederation of Anarchist Reddits.

The idea is very simple: Using Reddit’s built-in functionality to combine multiple subreddits on the same page, we create an aggregated page including all the known Anarchist subreddits. This means that someone can simply visit that page and get an overview of news from all subreddits, even if not subscribed to each individual one. Then we put a nice link on the header of each reddit (although that’s optional) which is meant to grab people’s attention and get them to visit the aggregated page.

In the end, we’ve settled to the following look:

And clicking on the link, takes you to this page.

As you can see if you visit it, you see the latest posts coming up in all the subreddits as well as a list of the subreddits in the confederation on the sidebar. Now people can simply open new browser tabs for each article of interest and vote on everything discussed in all the anarchist reddits.

Now you might ask, what’s the point? Doesn’t every individual user have the capacity to fine tune their subscriptions to any subreddits they want? Well, yes they do, but the confederation is there to serve a slightly different purpose. The benefits I see coming from it are the following

  • It allows new people to discover the anarchist community of reddit at one-stop and also provides them with a launching pad into reddit they can bookmark and visit. It also saves someone from subscribing to a dozen low-traffic reddits they’re only marginally interested in, and cluttering up their subscription list.
  • Because of the above benefit, people who wouldn’t otherwise subscribe to a dozen different anarchist subreddits, can now still be exposed to them via the aggregated page and ideas/news which they might otherwise miss, might grab their attention. Hopefully, this will lead to a sort of “cross-pollination” of ideas between the various subreddits.
  • Because of the common link and the implicit sending of traffic towards the smaller subreddits, I hope that solidarity will be improved in between the various fragmented communities. In the end, we’re all part of the same movement and significantly outnumbered so it pays to remind and reinforce our common ideological bonds.
  • It allows each subreddit to tailor its moderation policies to suits its own style. You see we have various perspectives on how a reddit needs to deal with anything from Trolls to Fascist Agitators to MRAs. In fact, the difference of opinion on the moderation policies were the primary reason for /r/Anarchism’s Great ShitStorm of 2010. So /r/anarchism has now settled in a somewhat active moderation against oppressive speech. However, many other people don’t feel the same way and a few have gone ahead an opened reddits which follow their own perspective. From janitorial moderation of /r/anarchist, to no moderation of /r/blackflag.
    Unfortunately, because /r/anarchism is the largest and most visible subreddit of them all1 many people argue for their own preferred style of (non-)moderation in /r/anarchism still and refuse to simply move to another anarchist reddit because /r/anarchism is the most big and active one. And that makes sense, as it’s almost as a voluntary ostracism to remove yourself like so.
    The confederation aims to bring the best of both worlds. Now each subreddit can choose the moderation style they prefer best and at the same time get the benefit of the larger community which uses the confederation aggregation as their starting point in reddit’s anarchist community. This means that even if what someone thinks is a perfectly legitimate post about “National Anarchism” was removed from /r/anarchism outright, they can still visit /r/blackflag and post it there. They will probably still get downvoted into oblivion now that the larger anarchist community can see such the post of course, but at least they will have less a reason to troll and complain that those nasty “authoritarians” of /r/anarchism censor them.
  • In the same vein, people who are not interested in reddits which do not moderate, retain the capacity to personally customize the aggregation so as to remove loosely moderated reddits altogether. So if /r/anarchist starts getting flooded by Men’s Rights, eventually many anarchists will simply remove the reddit from view and in a way, “organically” ostracize it from their collective attention.
  • It will allow smaller subreddits to gain some instant traction since their new posts will appear automatically at the view people who are using the confederation. So if Bob creates a niche subreddit about guerrilla gardening for example,¬† they can still take advantage of the larger anarchist community, even if their post introducing people to it is downvoted into oblivion. Even if they don’t advertise at all and merely start posting interesting articles.
  • It naturally presents a core point in action, to outsiders to anarchism: that is the principle of federation between anarchist communities, thus showing how we value both communities of a common mind, and expression of individuality between communities.

These are just the initial benefits I can see coming from it. I’m excited to see how it will morph and develop in the future. I’ve already informed the community and most other subreddits I initially added and reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, even from critics of /r/anarchism’s moderation.

What do you think of it?

  1. To the point that we’re the 9th link in google for the search term “anarchism” []

How did /r/anarchists started becoming interested in Anarchism?

Anarchists on march 3/14 (LOC)
Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

I thought I’d point out a discussion going on in /r/anarchism where various subscribers explain what made them turn to this political theory. We’ve done one of these before, but it’s always interesting to see new stories.

This time we have more people who got radicalized by state violence.

Mayniac182:

I’ve said this quite a bit recently, but: police brutality. It was seeing students get beaten at the London protests that made me question the role of police, as well as realising how much money is spent protecting politicians who are no different than the ordinary person.

A lot of other expressed something similar to my coming out story, in that they were always ideologically anarchists but didn’t know it until they discovered the theory.

Nebula42:

It’s a bit complex but when I was younger my best friends were people of color but something bothered me. Their parents worked much harder than mine and longer yet they were poorer. It struck me as not equal and unfair so I sorta developed a rudimentary socialist idea from early on. Obviously I was a kid so it wasn’t anything impressive. I was pretty much a social democrat (although I labeled myself a liberal at the time). Around 2007 I became increasingly aware of how oppressive the government can be and sorta had a 2 month flirtation with Ron Paul until I realized that the ideology is tyrannical in it’s own sense. I wanted something that was anti government and anti capitalist to fit in with my views of inequality. Someone told me I was an anarchist around 2009ish and decided to explore it more. Read the philosophers..etc and pretty much had the same ideas that I developed on my own except a lot more refined. So here I am today!

And then others were affected by culture

Nondualbliss:

I’d say it was a combination of exposure to punk rock and academia. As a teenager, I was into Bad Religion and Propagandhi. I gravitated into more underground punk stuff that leaned quite left. Then majored in Sociology and learned about inequality on a global scale and read a lot of Marxist theory. Then a band I liked – Stanford Prison Experiment – included a 30 minute lecture by Noam Chomsky at the end of one of their albums, which lead me to his writings. For the past 15 years now, I’ve been reading up on Anarchist thought.

Apropos Chomsky; there’s quite a lot of people who were converted by Chomsky in there as well. Just shows how effective a popular anti-authoritarian/anti-imperialist face can be, even if they otherwise espouse some very contentious positions.

Authority from your enemies does not justify Authority coming from you.

Predictably, my last piece got the attention of the Angry Marxists who reacted with a focused polemic on myself, trying desperately to paint me as the enemy because I oppose their tactics. Given that they consider their own tactics as the¬† only means to freedom for the oppressed, naturally they would call me a “liberal counterrevolutionary”.

There’s so much disingenuousness with this piece that it becomes humorous. From calling me the “chief moderator” of /r/anarchism1, to claiming that their group knew “what needed to be done to fix /r/anarchism for the marginalized groups”2, to claiming that now that they are gone, /r/anarchism has discussions on if marginalized groups are human3, to linking to my own post about questionable tactics and claiming that I “defend the rights of fascists”4

But I’m not doing to go into so much trouble in deconstructing their usual dishonest interpretations as I do have a salient point to make, which they brought up by saying the following.

‚ÄúBanning,‚ÄĚ so his argument goes, its malignant subtext brought clearly to the foreground, ‚Äúis authoritarian. Let us ignore the authoritarian violence that oppressed people face every day and the million ways in which they are pushed further out into the cold by the strong arm of privilege.

This is a prime example of everything that is and was wrong with these people and why I was calling them authoritarian when they proclaimed themselves as “anarchists”. They consider that because authoritarian violence is being used against oppressed people every day, this somehow justifies authoritarian violence (or other means) from our side as well but not only does this not follow, but it goes against everything anarchism is about! Just because your opponent using some specific means, does not justify those means! This catastrophic flaw in their reasoning is exemplified with the very next phrase.

Authority is only unacceptable when it is turned against the oppressor

They attribute this as a quote, one assumes to me, which only further proves my point about their egregious dishonesty, given that I’ve never uttered any such thing. It’s obvious that they have completely misunderstood what I’m saying and put their own words into my mouth to prove their point, but in the process they only manage to betray their own ideological mistakes.

Authoritarianism is unacceptable always. Not only when it’s turned against the oppressors, or the oppressed. The fact that I would have to state this clearly to someone who self-identified as an anarchist for 10 years just shows that someone was very confused for a long time.

You will not dismantle authoritarianism with more authoritarianism, any more than you would oppress towards freedom!

I hate to repeat myself but “This is Anarchism 101 people!“. Your tactics colour your end results. If your tactics are authoritarian, then naturally the end result will not be anarchism. It might be state “socialism” that would oppress the whole working class on behalf of a new bureaucratic ruling class, or something else to that extent. If your tactics are all about violence and killing those you deem to be your enemies, then your end result will be a violent society (will it be socialistic? Who knows. Perhaps in name but probably it would end up as simple warlordism).

It is no wonder than a self proclaimed “anarchist” who loved to advocate authoritarianism and unchecked violence as the solution to oppression, would end up having an eventual break with anarchism. No shit. They never understood anarchism to begin with5! How some can go for 10 years calling themselves anarchist and never understanding (never mind advocating) actual anarchism is beyond me.

It is precisely because these people have a complete misunderstanding of what fighting against oppression requires that points out the bankruptcy of their ideology. When you have declared that the only possible solution is to kill your opposition, anyone who would check yours tactics is an opponent and needs to be killed (which is incidentally why the Angry Marxists are chock full of violent rhetoric). When you have declared that the only possible solution is to oppress the “reactionaries”, anyone who disagrees with this tactic is a reactionary that needs to be oppressed. It’s a self-perpetuating circle, with those who self-proclaim themselves the most radical at the top, controling the state violence and labeling people as counter-revolutionaty deserving a bad end. In sort, soon enough you’ll be repeating the Soviet Union purges of the early 20th century.

And this is why Anarchism gets so much hatred from the Angry Marxists and other Authoritarians like them. Because even though we agree on the end result and we are struggling to bring about the liberation of all oppressed classes (by the classes themselves), we do not support the same tactics. And not supporting the same tactics for an Angry Marxist is the pinnacle of betrayal. For the Angry Marxist’s tactics have been declared the only liberatory ones, therefore not following those tactics is not liberatory, therefore you are supporting the continued oppression, therefore you are a reactionary, therefore you need to be “shot in the neck and thrown in a ditch”.

It is for this reason that they misunderstand the anarchist call for appropriate tactics as a “constant call to restrain ourselves, to hold back, to wait, to watch our tone, to focus on the ballot, to put aside any thought of revolution.” It is easy to use rhetoric like¬† this but it is untrue. Nobody wants to police your tone or make you hold back, but people are pointing out that your tactics are flawed. They will not bring about the end of oppression, they will reinforce it. They will not bring about the end of violence, they will perpetuate it. If I say to an anarchist “Don’t kill that politician, it will not bring about a revolution”, it is not the same as telling them to “put aside any thought of revolution”, anyone with a modicum of integrity can see the difference in these two sentences. But for some reason, dogmatic authoritarians seem incapable of making the distinction.

Anarchists do not want to police your tone, or focus on the ballot, or make you wait until after the revolution or any such nonsense (in fact, it is Marxist who have a history of making these requests), but they do ask that you consider using tactics that are compatible with Anarchism to achieve your goals. Authoritarians like the Angry Marxists think that they need to oppress in order not to be oppressed, and naturally they find the anarchists against them. They then use this as proof to claim that they prevented from throwing off their own oppression, when in reality it is just opposition to them oppressing others.

  1. Blatantly untrue. I exercise as much, if not less, power than the other mods and I limit it to what mandates I have receive []
  2. completely ignoring all the other members of marginalized groups that outright and strongly contradicted them in larger numbers []
  3. Blatant lie. We have no such arguments in /r/anarchism, nor had we ever. While nobody can prevent an obscure discussion between two people in some deep thread that nobody noticed, this is far from saying that “entrenching the rights of misogynist men, capitalists, homophobes, cissupremacists, and racists there, turning it into a place where the voices of the oppressed are always being overpowered by the same tired arguments about whether or not we are human“. This is just a complete and outright lie, which is unfortunately quite common from this group []
  4. which even a cursory reading would show that is about tactics and means, and not “rights”. []
  5. Btw, I love how they say that they don’t have a problem with all Anarchists and they have some Anarchist friends. Reminds me of the “I have a black friend” argument in all its cringeworthiness. []

The /r/anarchism ShitStorm flares up again: Round Three

The Sacred Chao
Image via Wikipedia

A few days ago, I wrote about the drama that was transpiring in /r/anarchism. Back then I wrote that we had reached a unsteady compromise and I expressed cautious optimist for the future. Well, I’m sad to say that things didn’t turn out the way I planned and the third wave of the shitstorm was soon upon us. I will attempt to explain how we reached this point.

QueerCoup and Db0 bash heads.

At the end of my last post, I mentioned that we had reached a more cooperative attitude with QueerCoup (QC from now on) but this was quite a premature statement. Just one day later, they made a very aggressive post about me, which was quite a surprise to tell you the truth. Soon after, they stepped down as a mod as well and took a less active part in the subreddit.

While QueerCoup was mostly inactive, other people started becoming more active, such as mapthon and thepinkmask who had very strong feminist tendencies. At some point QC returned and made a post praising them, while condemning what they perceived as a majoritarian push by me. However the wording of the post was such that it insulted a female mod that was before, which led to a heated argument between myself and QC again, and finally a call out. While the argument in the end was put down to a bad wording and a misunderstanding, the bad blood between us seems to have been cemented for now and snipes against each other would continue to this day.

Why are they here?

A very common occurance while the above was happening, was people requesting mods to be demodded, or people to be removed from /r/metanarchism. Usually the mods were asked to be removed for not being modded according to the process. People were particularly asking for mods ptimb and enkiam to be removed, which eventually led the former to delete their account altogether. On the other hand, many requested that humanerror and ASDFOKJOI3123 to be removed from the /r/metanarchism approved submitters list, which due to its private nature, would block them from seeing and participating in it.

Tensions flared when enkiam removed around 5 people unilateraly from /r/metanarchism’s approved submitter list and then posted about it. They were quickly restored by other mods, and only two ended up being removed after discussion, but it added to the distrust of enkiam’s power, leading to yet another post calling for him to be demodded. In fact, the curious fact was how the top mods of /r/anarchism (i.e. those who cannot be demodded by others easily), skobrin and dbzer0, were being “pulled” by both sides to act. On one side we were asked to act to demod mods like enkiam while on the other we were asked to start being more active with our mod powers. Skobrin remained largely inactive except removing the most egregious comments, while I tried to receive a clear democratic decision behind my actions.

On the other hand, the process for calling out abusive and oppressive behaviour on the main sub went better, and various elements such as unrepentant MRA derailers and known fascists were banned through a democratic process. A lot of other meta posts were being discussed, such as the header icon and the sidebar policies. Things seemed to be calming down again, but this wouldn’t last.

Welcome to Operation Mindfuck

After someone fraudulently accused the redditor R_A_W of being a stormfront entryist, the pinkmask suggested that this might all be an elaborate trolling attempt in order to see FUD and set anarchists against each other. Given the username of R_A_W as well as some others who used words like “Fnord” in their names taking part in these discussions, a Discordian Operation Mindfuck was suspected and an unconventional solution suggested. However, soon after a discordian was outright banned for their offensive username, an insidious subversion attempt came to the spotlight.

It became obvious that we were being targetted, and it’s not at all a big jump to assume that this further aggravated what followed.

The mother of all ShitStorms

There wasn’t one event that sparked the biggest one of all, but rather a lot of small things coincided to prepare the ground for a lot of lulz at /r/anarchism’s expense all over reddit. I’ll try to present them as accurately and objectively¬† as I can.

One vital catalyst to the whole issue, was the implementation of the suggestion to make our spam filter public (which includes the deleted posts). I eventually hacked around borrowed code and made our mod actions transparent.

At around the same time, littlepinklies, posted in /r/mensrights to show her support, which drew a lot of visitors from that subreddit, which didn’t go unnoticed by anarchists and happened to coincide with this post by keteht, which sparked a lot of discussion on the actions of the mods in the main reddit and due to the MRA crowd being there, the discussion was skewed heavily towards unmoderation. Further aggravating the issue was the attempted privcheck from keteht which drew a hostile reaction from QC and another call-out for them in /r/metanarchism. Keteht requested to be allowed to see what was being said about his family, but was refused entry by enkiam (eventually overriden by others mods).

Because of the post by keteht which was surprisingly active for /r/anarchism’s standards, a new post was raised calling for a¬† “referendum”. Unfortunately, it was formed in entirely the wrong way1. This post was quickly followed by two crossposts in /r/mensrights, the biggest of which was this.

These actions made the moderator enkiam believe that there was an organized reactionary attempt and he made the unfortunate decision to delete the referendum post, as well as the satelite metathreads that spawned around it. However, due to the newly implemented transparency of the spam filter, these actions were now painfully visible and reddit at large picked up on that, and descended on /r/anarchism to call everyone a hypocrite. The referendum post is upvoted to the stratosphere and any opposing comment, especially from radical feminists and mods is quickly downvoted to oblivion.

The cross-posts from reddit at large come in rapid succession. We’re linked from /r/funny, /r/bestof, /r/reddit.com and others, which are some of the most populated places, quickly overwhelming the actual anarchists the frequent /r/anarchism. At the end of the day, /r/anarchism achieves 10 times the number of normal unique visitors, primarily at the referendum post and the next day 5 times as many.

The external visitors heavily upvote the referendum and this is then used as stepping stone from other regulars to ask how a complete unmoderation might happen. Others point how the results is not an accurate repressentation of /r/anarchism’s crowd given how many people arrived from outside and what kind of people they are.

A lot of mods are harassed to step down while this goes on, while a few others leave in disgust or despair when they notice the actions of enkiam. defectedyouth in particular, re-approves the referendum and other mods quickly approve the rest. Reaction against enkiam reaches a fever pitch which eventually makes him declare his resolution. Dbzer0 in the end, requests that he step down which further draws the ire of QC and the /r/anarchocommunism crowd, which declare this an act of cowardice and treason. Other mods voice their their agreement for enkiam stepping down.

Enkiam in the end is gone, as the visitors start dispersing, and so the anarchists voices can once again be heard. For example, a gloating thread for enkiam’s departure is quickly posted but doesn’t draw nearly as much support as one would expect and the OP is quickly reminded that gloating is not at all appropriate in this situation.

As the dust settles, the mods who are left take an unofficial stance to wait and see what the actual community wants, before taking anything more than a janitorial action. A lot of valuable regulars have already left, griffjam, voltairine, zhouligong, ptimb and others, while many who remain become more inactive or take a break. A lot are worrying about how much the reactionary elements will stick around and continue pushing for anti-feminist agendas and how that will affect a community that is split between trying to be inclusive and trying to retain its libertarian character.

  1. In reddit, when one wants to call a vote, they shoudn’t ask people to upvote the topic itself as a form of vote. Doing it this way means that a lot of quick downvotes will hide the topic altogether, stopping the discussion, while a lot of people upvote such topics just to preserve the discussion []

I Survived /r/anarchism's ShitStorm of 2010 and I Didn't Even Get a Lousy T-Shirt.

the calm before the shit storm.
Image by dearsomeone via Flickr

Anyone looking in on the subreddit of anarchism, would think that all-out-war is breaking out. Call-outs from people against the mods and call-out from mods against each other. Reactionary downvote brigades and sarcastic trolls. Posts about rules and posts against rules. And all the sideline, statists, Men’s Rights Activists and (right-)libertarians having the schadenfreude of their life.

Obviously anarchism can’t work right?

Well yes it can, but before we go into that, let me present the history of these events in as much an objective way I can (I will try to put in some links later).

The origins.

Until one point, we had the unwritten policy of simply modding anyone who is a contributing member of the community. This had been setup by one of the early mods, joeldavis, and it was an interesting alternative to the classic oligarchical mod structures of most other subreddits. It wasn’t perfect but it was good. At this point, there was a general agreement that mod’s only rule was to prevent the spam filter from catching legitimate posts and to check each other’s power.

The Failsafe mod

Given the way that moderation was implemented, any mod could de-mod any other mod, which presented the threat that a malicious person might masquerade themselves as a contributing member long enough to get modded up, and then quickly de-mod everyone else and destroy the reddit. To avoid this, we decided to elect a failsafe moderator who would be the owner of the subreddit and could not be demodded in this way. The candidate was chosen to be Veganbikepunk, the original creator of the subreddit.

Then reddit changed the code so that latter mods could not de-mod their seniors. This made things safer but ultimately more hierarchical unfortunately. This is isn’t so much related but a reason to understand why things progressed the way they did.

Showing our feminist colours.

I don’t remember exactly how it started, but at one point we started modifying the header icon of the reddit to point out our solidarity with other movements, such as radical feminism or queer anarchism. This was opposed by very few mods (particularly a few who were leaning more towards the propertarian values) and quite a few subscribers of the subreddit. Discussions heated up on this issue but most of the regulars agreed that pointing out this solidarity is important.

Unwelcome elements

A few misogynistic and white-supremacy¬† advocates started appearing in the reddit and posting, well, misogynistic and white-supremacy shit. Many correlated this to the recent change of the header icon, particularly since many of those elements were posting especially against this change. As one mod put it (paraphrase), “feminism made the reactionaries come out of the woodwork.”

This led to outrage from many members of the reddit, who felt that this community should not tolerate such speech which was reinforcing oppression of marginalized classes. This was usually called the “No Platform” position. Many of the old school mods (including myself) suggested that the organic moderation of the community via voting on the comments and their posts was enough to counter such elements and no further action was needed.

Others posted that the organic moderation was subverted via external reactionary brigades1 and thus, stronger action was required to combat this phenomena and preserve /r/anarchism as an anarchist community.

The Banhammer falls.

As this dicussion was raging, a mod called bmoseley07 (who has since deleted his account) went ahead and banned one of the most egregious scum. A person called Zamato Elite. This is pretty much the point where all shit hit the fan. The ban was quickly reversed by other mods, only to be redone and undone again and again.

The mod discussion pretty much exploded, and two sides quickly formed an polarized in the debate. On one side was the argument that banning is not inherently authoritarian when it combats oppressive actions and speech and that /r/anarchism should be a safe space for oppressed classes. The other side was arguing that free speech is not inherently oppressive, and especially not when it can be countered with other means such as downvoting, and that the problem with those reactionary elements is transient and they will leave discouraged when their comments are consistently downvoted.

Disclaimer: I was on the latter group. At that point, I didn’t believe that the issue was as big as it was made out to be, and certainly not requiring a banhammer.

Things went pretty much downhill from here. Quickly other people were nominated for banning and some did it with very little input from others, further aggravating the other side, who then undid any changes. Insults from both sides were common with one side being labeled “vanguardists” and other being the “manarchists”. Meta discussions on mod abuses raged and many people started posting articles explain why moderation is not inherently authoritarian.

It’s important to note that while this was happening, no mod actually de-modded another one who opposed them. Many people who look in from the outside, think that this actually happened, but this is not true. Even the most radical elements of each camp avoided this.

Guidelining

As things seemed to be devolving into an all out mod-edit-wars, a few people tried to come up with some common ground solutions. The first such attempt was QueerCoup’s Banning Procedure, which was a draft that was continuously updated with input from the community. It didn’t treat banning as taboo, but it also stipulated that it must be the last course of action after all other options have been exhausted. It also required a lot of agreement from the mods and gave a chance to people being targeted to avoid it.

Unfortunately, since many still felt that banning was bad in all cases, this procedure didn’t gain much traction. Some opposed it out of principle. The mod wars continued.

Seeing this, dbzer0 (that is me, in case you forgot) drafted a different policy which basically took the events that were already happening and used them as a basis for a policy. This would allow people who could compromise just a little to work with each other in a more organic way and make mod actions resemble a more direct action.This was met with more support and with the unsaid consent of most mods, since hey, this policy just allowed them to do what they were doing anyway.

Speaking for myself, I had started to accept than banning might be acceptable in some circumstances, in order to preserve the inclusive space of /r/anarchism. I was still very much for free speech and (perma)banning only as a last resort, and against making /r/anarchism a safe space (i.e. a place where no opposing views are requested).

The Purge

As dbzer0’s guidelines started to get traction, the unthinkable happened. Someone de-modded everyone (we had upwards of 50 mods at that point), including themselves, and left veganbikepunk as the only moderator of /r/anarchism. This was quickly identified to be the user idonthack who used to be the most senior after VBP. idonthack was a vocal proponent of the no-banning policies and I assume he did it because the accepted rules seemed to be moving in the opposite direction. He never did account for himself on this (quite authoritarian) act, so I can’t really say much more about that.

This was since known as the Great Mod Purge of 2010. It frustrated both sides, including the only mod left, VBP, who quickly found himself to be the centre of attention.

At this point, I used this release from my “duties” to take a break from the drama in /r/anarchism and go do something relaxing. As such, my knowledge of the events following this, until the last week are a bit sketchy, so If I’m getting something wrong, please correct me.

The Bro-Trolls come, a Monarch Falls.

Even though VBP had stated that he was not going to take any action until a community decision on moderation was reached, he was the de-facto monarch of the sub. He also quickly banned two of the most egregious scum, Zamato Elite and Godspiral.

Around this time, a new reddit was created, pretty much by the pro-ban group of /r/anarchism. This was /r/anarchocommunism and from what I know, it was used as a launch group for a coordinated trolling assault on /r/anarchism. It wasn’t created for this reason, but this happened because of VBP “fatal” mistake.

He banned longtime.

Longtime was one of the most outspoken radical feminists of /r/anarchism. She routinely called out the casual sexism of many members and was particularly fond of using irony and sarcasm as weapons and turning the words of people against them. This had the effect of making her both receive a lot of flak by the people she assaulted in this way, and to also make her a sort of an icon for people fighting against accepted sexism in /r/anarchism. A favourite tactic of longtime was to write a comment in ALL CAPS and exaggerating the sexism or derailment in the comment she was replying to and thus shaming them into submission (imho good) or angering them enough to lash out (imho bad). This will become important in a sec.

After the mod purge, the efforts of the radical feminists were effectively countered. They could no do anything else except use the voting mechanism of reddit and their comments. For longtime, this further drove her to intensify her campaign of ALL CAPS (at this point she was making practically only ALL CAPS comments) as it was one of the few weapons left to their side, until more mods were added.

Unfortunately, VBP who had never been the most active redditor, was not aware of longtime’s style, so he saw one such ironically sexist comment and did a knee-jerk reaction, banning longtime. He was quickly explained the situation and reversed the ban within one hour, but the damage was already done. Longtime left in disgust and soon after deleted her account. This was the catalyst for the Bro-Troll brigade.

The Bro-Trolls were ironic names of historical male anarchists, where part of their name was replaced by “Bro” (“Bropotkin”, “Brahkunin” and so on) , thus signifying the “manarchism” in the politics of /r/anarchism. These people, apart from continuing in the proud tradition of longtime’s ALL CAP sarcastic sexism, started a systematic campaign against VBP. Unfortunately VBP reaction badly to it, quickly making some comments that were uncalled for (such as calling a member of the forum by their real name) and getting defensive.

While this was happening, QueerCoup  started drafting a modding policy, so we can get more mods on the reddit again and then start building the policies of the subreddit. Many others were at the same time requesting that no mods would be added and that we go completely unmoderated, but the rampart sexism that was rising up on the sub convinced many of us that such an option would be unacceptable for an inclusive space.

It was at this point that I started becoming more active again in the sub.

After about a week of harassment, and as the campaign against VBP escalated, he was asked to step down and so he did, leaving skobrin in his place. Frustratingly for many, skobrin wasn’t really active at that time so no further action was taken in the next few days, until he came back and modded dbzer0 and griffjam, who were some of the most supported mods in the new modding suggestions thread.

The meta is diverted.

As you can imagine, the meta discussions in the reddit were intense and drowning all other submissions. As my first act as a mod, I decided to try and work with this by creating a dedicated area for meta discussion which would both facilitate more of it and allow the main reddit to concentrate on actual posts and news about anarchism. This was not a mandatory move however, so anyone who wished could still post their meta topics in the main sub. Many people did find the idea good enough and started using it voluntarily.

At the start, /r/metanarchism was set to restricted mode, which meant that anyone could see, vote and comment on articles, but only the approved members could submit new ones. Soon however, the Bro-Trolls (which had reduced their posting by then) along with a few new accounts started trolling this area as well, so in an attempt to maintain discussion, I switched the security to private, which meant that one approved members could see it. Of course, since it is very easy to be approved, I didn’t consider this an issue, but apparently some did.

The same afternoon, QueerCoup denounced this action and the subreddit and called dbzer0, skobrin and VBP out for de-modding. And this pretty much started the second round of shit-flinging.

Everybody points and laughs

dbzer0, skobring and VBP are called out by QueerCoup, QueerCoup and enkiam is called out by hummanerror and anarchoal, chromalux and reqem is called out by VBP, the classic reactionaries from MRA and whatnot are called out by QueerCoup. Mod and ban guidelines are challenged. And as if on queue, everyone else chimes in to informs us how this is proof that anarchism can’t work,

At this moment, the debate is still raging but at a less intense level. QueerCoup and myself have achieved more cooperative attitude (I’d like to think). We seem to be cautiously moving towards an commonly accepted modding policy that will be very similar to my “Direct Action” proposal. We’ve had a vote and a compromise and those seem to have been well received.

Most of the current drama revolves around QueerCoup being a mod after his position was blocked by other members of the reddit. There’s also some bad blood between the regulars of the subreddit which will take a long time to heal (if ever). The also the issue of the visibility of /r/metanarchism. Mods, as of now, are treading very carefully to avoid being seen as abusing their power or supporting sexism and I’m fairly certain that we will soon reach an understanding and a new balance. Of course, I could be wrong, and things will explode yet again in a third round of drama. Time will tell.

So now you know what’s been going on. I hope I gave you a perspective that shows how the drama is not at all illegitimate and that this is a discussion that needs to happen to allow the subreddit to grow beyond the casual sexism that permeates reddit as a whole. In a future post, I will expand more on why dissent is not necessarily a sign of an unhealthy community.

  1. We do have proof that white-supremacy groups like stormfront have had organized plans to make their position heard, by collectively voting on their positions. People from other subreddits such as /r/mensrights also often request help from their group when they are downvoted and confronted []

How should anarchists deal with unwelcome elements in an online community?

A recent controversy has exploded in /r/anarchism where the issue of how to deal with white-nationalists, misogynists and other assorted scum has been raised, and particularly, if banning is an appropriate reaction. This is a question that has been asked a few times before but the can of worms was ultimately opened when one of the mods went ahead and banned one of the latest and most egregious samples of bottom-feeding scum.

The reaction was immediate, both from those congratulating the act, and those condemning it. At the start I expressed my cautious criticism as I have always been against bannination from fora and even from my own site and thus I didn’t like this turn of events which happened all of a sudden, but I was willing to let this direct action stand until I knew how the community at large felt. Of course I continued to post on my perspective on why this banning is unnecessary and/or harmful.

The subsequent figurative shitstorm allowed a lot of opportunity to discuss the issue. So I’m going to put forth some of the arguments for and against it as plainly as possible, provide my own perspective and hopefully we can discover some interesting insights and solutions.

  1. For now, lets consider /r/anarchism as a community (although there are many perspectives under which this is not the case). Lets also further consider that it’s a community for anarchists and similar minded people (again, perspectives diverge on this. More on this later)
  2. Now as a community for anarchists, it is to be expected that it should be an area where anarchists feel welcome and not assaulted for their beliefs.
    1. Point 2 can be reached organically, by making sure that discussion stays on the topic of anarchism, which is naturally libertarian socialist for everyone but a small and vocal minority on the internets. This means that the area is going to attract anarchists who are going to speak about and defend anarchism, as well as its cousin tactics of feminism, anti-racism and anti-fascism.
      1. The organic way runs always the danger of being abused by having a lot of non-anarchist “anarchists” (i.e. national “anarchists” or “anarcho”-capitalists) join the area and try to takeover with their version of it, by driving all the anarchists away.
    2. Point 2 can also be reached via a top-down method where anarchists have control of the moderator duties of the community and make sure that such unwelcome elements stay away through banning them, deleting their comments and posts etc.
      1. This assumes that it is indeed anarchists at the helm and it opens the possibility that their ranks will be infiltrated by non-anarchists using the correct rhetoric and then using their power to  to push forth a different perspective
        1. This can be countered by the ones in the moderator list making sure that the ones with power are “true anarchists”, which starts to have serious overhead issues as infighting starts to occur as accusations of leniency, weakness, betrayal and so on start to be flung around. For how extreme such a “solution” can get, I can only point out to the Russian Revolution and how many purges within their leadership they had, in increasing brutality.
        2. The above can also be countered by having the selection of the mod happen via democratic means, such as that even if quite a bit of, say, national “anarchists” managed to sneak into power, they would be able to move the theme of the community to white nationalism as the community would reject it
          1. Of course, this again encounters the flaws of 2.1.1 above, where the community might be already having a large percentage of non-anarchists who will support such a change of paradigm.
      2. This also creates the issue of an unaccountable oligarchy at the top. It is simply the case of the ones on the top being responsible for selecting which ones join them. It doesn’t matter how good intentions they have, or how pure they consider themselves, we already know that power corrupts so what will happen is that the oligarchy at the top, will slowly evolve more and more authoritarian, trusting on it (flawed) judgement to “protect the community” while being certain it’s always on the right. This can be further inflamed as more liberal members of the oligarchy are slowly driven away, either in disgust (as has started happening already in /r/anarchism) or by accusations of being soft on oppressors or providing a “platform for fascists”.
        1. The above can be countered by adding democratic accountability to the selection of the mods. This in turns opens up the issue 2.1.1
        2. The above can be countered by mods making sure each other walks the straight and narrow path of anarchism. That their fellow mods do not violate their principles.
        3. The above can also be countered by having some kind of policies or “constitution” which defines what actions the mods can take.
          1. One problem with this, is that this policy in turn needs to be decided by someone. If this someone is only the mod oligarchy, then it will not necessarily avoid the issue if the mods already have an authoritarian trend.
          2. If the ones deciding on the policy are the whole community instead, then this again falls into the problem in 2.1.1
          3. Another issue to consider is on whether this policy will be open to changes in the future, or it it will be set in stone. If it’s open to changes, then at any point in the future it can be affected by 2.1.1 or 2.2.2.2
  3. As a community, we have some bottom-up moderation tools made available by the platform we use: Reddit. Namely downvoting comments and posts. This has two significant effects. When a comment is downvoted enough (a total -5 cumulative vote), then it gets “burried”, which means it’s not shown by default unless it is expanded explicitly. A person who’s comments are consistently downvoted, starts having timing restrictions in posting. They cannot post more than once per 10 minutes. From personal experience I can explain that this can be very frustrating when you’re having an argument.
    1. The possible problem is that the voting system can be played. In a healthy anarchistic community, a sexist comment would be downvoted to oblivion and a consistent sexist would find it hard to keep posting or gain any visibility. However, given the way reddit functions, anyone registered in reddit can come to /r/anarchism and upvote any comment. This means that a sexist could theoretically call in a so called “upvote brigade” (say from /r/mensrights) which will proceed to upvote his comments to visibility
      1. The issue with this tactic is that it’s not efficient. One can only call for such upvote brigades when there’s some significance to their comments or some outrage to be caused. Fortunately, even the people in /r/mensrights do not want to be someone personal army and one can only ask for this favour so many times before they are ignored. This means that it’s unlikely that more than a few comments can gain visibility through this method and eventually the anti-sexist sentiments from the community will return them to minus
      2. It is possible to consider that someone will find a persistent “personal army”, or perhaps an invasion” will be attempted (as has been called for in the past by both national “anarchists” and by “anarcho”-capitalists). However they are unlikely to succeed as anarchists are already entrenched and all we need to do is weather a short-term influx of non-anarchists. Once no visible success is achieved, such “invasions” simply lose wind, especially given how little one can gain from taking over a community such as /r/anarchism.
        1. Perhaps one can consider that if /r/anarchism grows to sufficient size (and I consider our >10k subscribers and number of comments/posts we have have quite succesful) it will attract the attention of such organized elements, which will then attempt to take it over for propaganda purposes, much like it has happened with the Tea Party movement. However the fact that we have grown large by being a community of anarchists until then and managed to avoid such takeovers, means that it’s unlikely that we’ll be more vulnerable when we’re an even bigger society of anarchists.
    2. Another issue is that it’s possible that community moderation might not be enough to hide the most egregiously abusive comments and posts. Comments which might alienate oppressed people we would like to attract to anarchism, such as women, PoC etc. After all, they wouldn’t want to be in a community where white power apologists, holocaust deniers, misogynists and so on are seen to be accepted member and/or posters. This is because non-anarchists lurkers and even non-subscribers can vote comments up or down.
      1. One counter-argument is that people should understand the nature of this website and how voting works. An upvoted post in a deep thread does not necessarily mean that such an opinion is supported by the community. One needs to get a thicker skin and be able to ignore outright trollish comments, meant explicitly to alienate them
        1. On the other hand oppressed people shouldn’t be forced to tolerate abuse and they have every right to claim that a community where they are expected to swallow their anger is not worth it.
          1. The above argument is caused by a misunderstanding. When a “thicker skin” is mentioned, it is not a call for silence. This is not akin to saying “can’t you take a joke woman?”. Someone abused in such way has every right to be outraged and answer back in anger and/or act accordingly and they will find support in the other members of the reddit who will do the same. Rather, the thick skin refers to the idea that one should not give up on the community because the occasional troll make a nasty comment. Figuratively skewer it and move on.

I hope you’re still with me after all those numbers and indents.The reason I chose this format is just so that I can refer to specific arguments and counter arguments by their number. The above are, from my understanding, the core arguments having to do with the reasons for banning.

Proponents of banning as a legitimate tactic commonly seem to reject democratic or crowdsourced solutions. We are very often informed that democracy does not work, that lurkers shouldn’t count, that there’s only a few anarchists in /r/anarchism and so on. I find such arguments disheartening and wrong. The reason is that open online communities such as a subreddit can easily serve as a “petri dish” for the ideas of anarchism. If we can’t stick to our principles here, how can we ever convince others that we can stick to our principles in a real life scenario?

Consider a possible revolutionary situation. Your real life community is not going to be comprised 100% of anarchists. not even close. In fact, it’s very likely that there’s going to be very few conscious anarchists while the vast majority of people follow anarchistic principles (direct action and mutual aid)to some extent. Even if you collectively start progressing to an anarchist society, there’s always going to be elements advocating a return to the old ways or to something worse, like fascism. What are you going to do with someone suggesting that a strong leader takes control? What about free markets? Are you going to silence them or exile them and how? Will you declare that since this is an anarchist revolution, only anarchist deserve to be in the democratic decision making? Or will you request the leadership in order to guide society on the right path.

People online love to sarcastically point out how little an online forum has to do with reality but fail to understand the impression they give to anyone outside looking in. The first thing they see anarchists doing, is fall back to the same old methods. Use central power to control. Sure you may think that they don’t count, but how the hell else are we even going to convince others that we have a superior solution to what they already do? If your solution for an Internet forum is to use central mod power to ban racism, sexism and fascism, then why shouldn’t a statist believe that the central power of the state can do likewise?

Yes, the Internet does put limits on the actions we can follow, which is why it’s even more important that we stick to decentralized, bottom-up solutions when possible. If we can do it on the internet, imagine how well it will work in the real world, where accountability and peer pressure exists.

A recent controversy has exploded in /r/anarchism where the issue of how to deal with white-nationalists, misogynists and other assorted scum has been raised, and particularly, if banning is an appropriate reaction. This is a question that has been asked a few times before but the can of worms was ultimately opened when one of the mods went ahead and banned one of the latest and most egregious samples of bottom-feeding scum.

The reaction was immediate, both from those congragulating the act, and those condemning it. At the start I expressed my cautious criticism as I have always been against bannination from fora and even from my own site and thus I didn’t like this turn of events which happened all of a sudden, but I was willing to let this direct action stand until I knew how the community at large felt. Of course I continued to post on my perspective on why this banning is unnecessary and/or harmful.

The subsequent figurative shitstorm allowed a lot of opportunity to discuss the issue. So I’m going to put forth some of the arguments for and against it as plainly as possible, provide my own perspective and hopefully we can discover some interesting insights and solutions.

  1. For now, lets consider /r/anarchism as a community (although there are many perspectives under which this is not the case). Lets also further consider that it’s a community for anarchists and similar minded people (again, perspectives diverge on this. More on this later)
  2. Now as a community for anarchists, it is to be expected that it should be an area where anarchists feel welcome and not assaulted for their beliefs.
    1. Point 2 can be reached organically, by making sure that discussion stays on the topic of anarchism, which is naturally libertarian socialist for everyone but a small and vocal minority on the internets. This means that the area is going to attract anarchists who are going to speak about and defend anarchism, as well as its cousin tactics of feminism, anti-racism and anti-fascism.
      1. The organic way runs always the danger of being abused by having a lot of non-anarchist “anarchists” (i.e. national “anarchists” or “anarcho”-capitalists) join the area and try to takeover with their version of it, by driving all the anarchists away.
    2. Point 2 can also be reached via a top-down method where anarchists have control of the moderator duties of the community and make sure that such unwelcome elements stay away through banning them, deleting their comments and posts etc.
      1. This assumes that it is indeed anarchists at the helm and it opens the possibility that their ranks will be infiltrated by non-anarchists using the correct rhetoric and then using their power to  to push forth a different perspective
        1. This can be countered by the ones in the moderator list making sure that the ones with power are “true anarchists”, which starts to have serious overhead issues as infighting starts to occur as accusations of leniency, weakness, betrayal and so on start to be flinged around. For how extreme such a “solution” can get, I can only point out to the Russian Revolution and how many purges within their leadership they had, in increasing brutality.
        2. The above can also be countered by having the selection of the mod happen via democratic means, such as that even if quite a bit of, say, national “anarchists” managed to sneak into power, they would be able to move the theme of the community to white nationalism as the community would reject it
          1. Of course, this again encounters the flaws of 2.1.1 above, where the community might be already having a large percentage of non-anarchists who will support such a change of paradigm.
      2. This also creates the issue of an unaccountable oligarchy at the top. It is simply the case of the ones on the top being responsible for selecting which ones join them. It doesn’t matter how good intentions they have, or how pure they consider themselves, we already know that power corrupts so what will happen is that the oligarchy at the top, will slowly evolve more and more authoritarian, trusting on it (flawed) judgement to “protect the community” while being certain it’s always on the right. This can be further inflamed as more liberal members of the oligarchy are slowly driven away, either in disgust (as has started happening already in /r/anarchism) or by accusations of being soft on oppressors or providing a “platform for fascists”.
        1. The above can be countered by adding democratic accountability to the selection of the mods. This in turns opens up the issue 2.1.1
        2. The above can be countered by mods making sure each other walks the straight and narrow path of anarchism. That their fellow mods do not violate their principles.
        3. The above can also be countered by having some kind of policies or “constitution” which defines what actions the mods can take.
          1. One problem with this, is that this policy in turn needs to be decided by someone. If this someone is only the mod oligarchy, then it will not necessarily avoid the issue if the mods already have an authoritarian trend.
          2. If the ones deciding on the policy are the whole community instead, then this again falls into the problem in 2.1.1
          3. Another issue to consider is on whether this policy will be open to changes in the future, or it it will be set in stone. If it’s open to changes, then at any point in the future it can be affected by 2.1.1 or 2.2.2.2
  3. As a community, we have some bottom-up moderation tools made available by the platform we use: Reddit. Namely downvoting comments and posts. This has two significant effects. When a comment is downvoted enough (a total -5 cumulative vote), then it gets “burried”, which means it’s not shown by default unless it is expanded explicitly. A person who’s comments are consistently downvoted, starts having timing restrictions in posting. They cannot post more than once per 10 minutes. From personal experience I can explain that this can be very frustrating when you’re having an argument.
    1. The possible problem is that the voting system can be played. In a healthy anarchistic community, a sexist comment would be downvoted to oblivion and a consistent sexist would find it hard to keep posting or gain any visibility. However, given the way reddit functions, anyone registered in reddit can come to /r/anarchism and upvote any comment. This means that a sexist could theoretically call in a so called “upvote brigade” (say from /r/mensrights) which will proceed to upvote his comments to visibility
      1. The issue with this tactic is that it’s not efficient. One can only call for such upvote brigades when there’s some significance to their comments or some outrage to be caused. Fortunately, even the people in /r/mensrights do not want to be someone personal army and one can only ask for this favour so many times before they are ignored. This means that it’s unlikely that more than a few comments can gain visibility through this method and eventually the anti-sexist sentiments from the community will return them to minus
      2. It is possible to consider that someone will find a persistent “personal army”, or perhaps an invasion” will be attempted (as has been called for in the past by both national “anarchists” and by “anarcho”-capitalists). However they are unlikely to succeed as anarchists are already entrenched and all we need to do is weather a short-term influx of non-anarchists. Once no visible success is achieved, such “invasions” simply lose wind, especially given how little one can gain from taking over a community such as /r/anarchism.
        1. Perhaps one can consider that if /r/anarchism grows to sufficient size (and I consider our 10k subscribers and

Insurgency – what and how? A reply.

It seems someone wrote a reply to my post about anarchists using questionable tactics in stuggle, but reading through it, I fail to see the actual argument or even refutation of the points I made. Instead I see some general declaration of what states do in order to control, and how fascism has not gone away.

What I do not see is any counter to my point that using tactics compatible with fascism, will not bring about anarchism, that fighting fire with fire, in short, does not work. Then is the suggestion for this “insurgency”.

The second effective tactic is insurgency. This is perhaps the only option available to us. While from an idealist perspective, I applaud devZero’s essay as well-reasoned, from the realist perspective I must choose insurgency as more practical. As capitalism continues to crumble, something most assuredly will take its place. For the first time in history, and the globalists are correct on this point, virtually all of mankind is following the same playbook — capitalistic, economic progress. AKA “growing economies” at any cost, human or environmental. A paradigm shift is coming, whether we like it or not.

Yeah, ok, a paradigm shift is coming, but what is this insurgency you’re talking about supposed to work? You can’t just throw the word out and assume that everyone knows what you’re talking about. How does this counter at all my suggestion not to use the tactics of fascists?

Perhaps there is a misunderstanding here. Perhaps jamon assumed that I was suggesting some kind of Ghandian pacifist resistance and my call against questionable tactics was a call against all forms violence. This is not true. I am not a pacifist and nor do I believe that it was Ghandi’s or MLK’s movement by itself the cause for change. What I do say is that there’s some ways violence is warranted (eg self-defence) and some ways it isn’t (eg murdering politicians).

This of course means that insurrection is a valid tactic, as long of course as we even know what “insurgency” is. Just saying the word is meaningless. And it’s the tactics that will bring about this insurgency that need to be judged according to the ethical guideline I proposed.