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Culture War Roundup for the week of December 5, 2022

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Did anything come of /u/MaxwellHill?

For those unfamiliar, /u/MaxwellHill is a Reddit account that moderated a bunch of big subreddits and posted a lot, many of their posts being highly upvoted and widely seen. In short, it was very influential on Reddit. When Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested, the account suddenly stopped posting (and it hasn't posted since). Some people noticed this, and, speculating that Maxwell herself was behind the account, started looking through its posts. They found some more circumstantial evidence, like a mix of British and American English (Maxwell moved between the two countries), and breaks in posting lasting a few days at a time that lined up with major events in Maxwell's life, during which she would have been distracted or busy. There's much more to it than this; you can read a summary here.

The little media coverage it received at the time was of course entirely dismissive; see for example the article in Vice.

I'm not usually one for conspiracy theories – I think Epstein may well have killed himself, for example – but this one aroused my suspicion at the time, and it's strange how it suddenly fizzled out. The Vice article above mentions private messages exchanged between /u/MaxwellHill and some other moderators (there are screenshots out there, but those are trivial to fake), but if the person behind the account was still there, why did they stop posting, and why haven't they started again after over two years?

If it was Maxwell, why didn't she give the password to someone to make a post and remove any suspicion? "Hi, I'm still here and I'm not Ghislaine Maxwell, but I'm going to abandon this account because of all the harassment I've been receiving." (Whether there was any harassment is irrelevant.) Would she have been prevented from doing this? I assume she was able to communicate with her lawyer, at least.

At the time, it was speculated that Reddit wanted to cover this up, as it would be embarrassing if it was revealed that one of their most influential users was an international child trafficker. Why didn't they just take control of the account and post something? Surely the admins can do this. Or just edit the database manually, as /u/spez infamously did. To me it seems like they wanted to sweep it under the carpet, and they thought any activity would just bring more attention. If this was their strategy, it appears to have worked.

I remember this story vaguely but haven't thought about it since. Alternative unhinged theory explaining this:

At the time, it was speculated that Reddit wanted to cover this up, as it would be embarrassing if it was revealed that one of their most influential users was an international child trafficker.

Much, much more embarrassing: if an international child trafficker used Reddit to recruit underage prostitutes. That's not just a bad story in the press, it's a potentially fatal dagger to the heart of a company cleaning itself up for an IPO. While conspiracy theories around this tended towards the bemused "Oh, isn't that funny, a billionaire hanger-on also just loved karma-whoring on default subs posting Trump Derangement Syndrome bullshit, she's just like the rest of us!" I think a much darker theory makes more sense of why she would spend this much time on this particular project. Theoretical support:

-- Reddit's userbase is majority male, somewhere between 61% and 75% depending which shitty survey you use, but the nested nature of Reddit makes that number play differently. There are tons of subreddits that are supermajority female, though ironically the female focused defaults like twoxchromosomes and actuallesbians probably aren't among them; if I go on /r/thebachelor I'm nearly guaranteed to be talking to actual women. And with 50 million daily active users at last guess, that would give us somewhere between 10 and 15 million female daily users. Age was harder to pin down from casual googling, the numbers all came up weird, and underaged users probably tend to lie about being 18 rather than admit to being 14 anyway. /r/teenagers has ~3,000,000 subs and 6,000 users browsing as of this writing, so that gives us a lower bound, then again who knows how many are real teenagers? We can probably guess that several million teenage girls use Reddit on a daily basis if we assume a kind of bell curve around the ages of users.

-- A well-used reddit account is a great source of credibility. I buy vintage watches off /r/watchexchange in a trusting way that I really wouldn't off any other internet site, even ebay or other retail sites, because I can look at the seller's profile and go through his old comments and determine if he seems "real" in a way I can't anywhere else. I bought a vintage Omega Seamaster as a graduation gift for my wife off /r/watchexchange, and I gave the guy credibility because there were so many comments in /r/dickstretching (or something like that, I might have the name wrong years later) where he talked about trying to lengthen his dick/restore his foreskin. And, look I know GPT has improved since then, but it's tough to fake that kind of weirdness sprinkled in among stuff about watches and sports teams. I know with a great deal of certainty that's a real guy, and the transaction worked out perfectly, great bargain. Because the trust problem can be solved on Reddit in a way that it can't on other transaction sites, I'm more willing to make risky real life transactions with Reddit users than I would be with any other internet population.

-- As a sub-conclusion from the above, Reddit is the best dating app on the internet. it is astonishingly easy to get laid on Reddit if you try.* Because reddit allows you to very easily produce a curated and credible profile. Make a new account where you only comment in fitness subs, high-status hobby subs, subs for female interests, probably not dickstretching, get above 1k comment karma. Tell the truth, but only the truth that shows your good sides, stay positive, probably don't do culture war stuff. Now you can use this account to message women on r4r subs, or start pm convos with women on associated interest subs and see where they go. They look at your profile, they see your post in /r/weightroom about your recent Smolov Jr for OHP run, they see you post in /r/longboys about your rescue greyhound, in /r/books about your thoughts on The Committed, you seem like a real well-rounded person in a way that can't be achieved on any other dating app.**

-- Reddit already has a sex worker problem. /r/gonewild girls probably don't stop at pics for the right fees, and I'd imagine the subreddits just go down like nesting dolls from there. I'm not that familiar with this end of reddit and idk how to find out about it, anyone here know more on the topic? But I'd guess that there are escorts on the site, and reddit doesn't really age verify so...

-- The MaxwellHill account accumulated millions in karma from posting banal articles in default subs. The kind of milquetoast blue tribe stuff that gets upvotes, but that I can't imagine why one would bother doing it over and over. Unless one is collecting karma. Probably because the user is a weird basement autist, possibly because the user was trying to accumulate massive karma as massive credibility.

So, unhinged conspiracy theory concluded from the above: Ghislaine Maxwell used her Reddit account to recruit young girls into the Epstein scheme. Or at least attempted to, it would probably be just as damaging to reddit to have evidence she tried as to have evidence she succeeded. Slide into their PMs about a comment they made in /r/environment, after a bit drop that she is actually on the board of several environmental charities (Maxwell was) and would love to fly a bright young girl like you out for a conference, we love to hear young voices, oh don't worry we can pay for everything, we can even get you a job...

Reddit is letting the story die silently, wisely, rather than offering anything to address it such that problems might result with the story given.

*YMMV, and before anyone asks, No, absolutely not, I have no idea how this would project downward to underage girls. But I see no principled reason to think it wouldn't.

**Insta, TikTok et al can achieve something similar, but only via photos/videos, and they're known to be more curated and fake, so less credible. Reddit is known, even amongst its own users, as a dirty little secret and thus the "real" you. Twitter could probably achieve something similar, but while I'm not a power user I feel like it's harder to navigate Twitter in such a way as to produce the same effect, and it typically is less pseudonymous. Regardless, none would offer Maxwell the mix of normal pseudonymity and extensive credibility that Reddit can give. A well used Reddit account is unique in giving something approaching old-style bluecheck credibility without ever posting your real name or face.

I bought a vintage Omega Seamaster as a graduation gift for my wife off /r/watchexchange, and I gave the guy credibility because there were so many comments in /r/dickstretching (or something like that, I might have the name wrong years later) where he talked about trying to lengthen his dick/restore his foreskin.

I know it's irrational, but I don't think I'd want to wear a watch acquired under those circumstances. (whereas I probably wouldn't have an issue with a used watch of unknown provenance, if thoroughly cleaned) Just as I wouldn't want the watch from Pulp Fiction, no matter how well-sanitized.

Does your wife know?

...is anyone else imagining an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry buys a watch like this for a friend's wife's birthday but doesn't initially let on where he got it, only to have the whole thing blow up in his face in a busy restaurant in the middle of the birthday dinner? "What kind of a sick man buys a watch from a dick-stretcher, Larry?!"

...is anyone else imagining an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry buys a watch like this for a friend's wife's birthday but doesn't initially let on where he got it, only to have the whole thing blow up in his face in a busy restaurant in the middle of the birthday dinner? "What kind of a sick man buys a watch from a dick-stretcher, Larry?!"

[Scene: Larry, Jeff, and Susie are getting cocktails at the bar before Ted Danson's wife, Mary's 70th birthday party.]

Susie: This is a big birthday for her, you better have gotten her a good gift Larry.

Larry: What are you picking on me for? I get great gifts.

Susie: You're always cheap, you get cheap gifts.

Larry: I get great gifts! And anyway, I got her a very nice gift! She said to me the other day she always wanted a Rolex watch, well I got her a Rolex.

Jeff: You got her a Rolex! What, are you sleeping with her? Are you having an affair with Ted's wife?

Larry: No, I'm not having an affair!

Susie: You bought her a Rolex. Why would you buy her a Rolex if you weren't having an affair?

Larry: Oh, first I'm cheap, now I'm having an affair. Well, I'll have you know, I got a really good deal on the Rolex, it wasn't that expensive. I got a good deal, we're not having an affair.

Jeff: Now I know you're lying. You're having an affair, Larry, Rolexes don't go on sale. There is no deal, you're lying.

Larry: No, it wasn't on sale. I bought it online, used. It was a good deal, I got a discount.

Susie: What discount. They're just as expensive at the dealer used you lying sack of shit. Ted's gonna kill you when he finds out.

Larry: Look, I didn't get it from a dealer, I bought it from a, from a guy on Reddit. I trusted him so I bought it from him.

Jeff: You trusted some guy on Reddit? Why would you trust him? He could be selling you anything.

Larry: Jeff, I knew I could trust him. I went through his profile and he posted things nobody would post if they were running a scam. He was posting about, about dickstretching

Susie: Dickstretching? I should have known you sick fuck with your sick fuck friends.

Jeff: Why would that make you trust him?

Larry: Well who would post that if they weren't a real person, it's too weird. He spent all that time writing about stretching out his dick, you wouldn't do that just to sell a fake Rolex.

Susie: You sick fuck! I should have known. You can't give Mary a dick stretcher's Rolex! That's disgusting.

Larry: What's disgusting? It's not like he stretched his dick with the Rolex.

Jeff: It was probably on his wrist when he was stretching.

Susie: It was on his wrist! When he was dickstretching! You sick fuck. And I knew you were cheap! You got her a disgusting dickstretcher Rolex. Ted's gonna kill you when he finds out you bought his wife a dickstretcher Rolex.

[Ted Danson enters from behind Larry]

Larry: Oh now I'm cheap again. I got her a Rolex!

Ted: You got my wife a Rolex! Are you having an affair?!

Susie: No he's not having an affair he's a sick fuck!

Larry: No, we're not having an affair, she said she always wanted a Rolex, so I got her a nice birthday gift. It's a big birthday!

Ted: You can't give her a Rolex! It's too expensive! You don't give a friend's wife a watch like that!

Jeff: Wait 'til you hear why it was cheap! He got her a dickstretcher Rolex.

Ted: A what? Larry, what is he talking about?

Larry: Look, I bought it from a guy on Reddit, he also goes on /r/dickstretching. To stretch his dick, make it longer. I got a really good price, so really, it's fine, it's not too big a gift. I got, ya know, I got the dickstretcher discount. So it's all good.

Susie: Dickstretcher discount...You sick fuck. [Hits Jeff] You and your sick fuck friends.

Ted: You can't give her that watch. You don't understand, she has always said she wanted a Rolex, but I don't like them. I got her a watch too, a really nice Grand Seiko, you can't upstage me with your dickstretcher Rolex.

Jeff: You got her a Seiko?! Instead of a Rolex?! What were you thinking?

Ted: Hey! Hey! It's a Grand Seiko! It was probably more expensive than that disgusting Rolex!

Larry: What? It's not disgusting, I cleaned it.

Susie: The fact that you think that isn't disgusting is disgusting. He stretched his dick with that watch.

Larry: Not with the watch! He stretched his dick with the watch on, at worst. Probably on his other hand! He probably stretched his dick with his right hand, and had the watch on his left wrist. So really, it was just in the room.

Ted: That's disgusting Larry. That's my wife. You're trying to give my wife a dickstretcher watch.

Jeff: You have to get that watch back. If you get her a Rolex when Ted got her a Seiko, people are gonna think you're having an affair.

Ted: Hey! I told you, it's a Grand Seiko.

Susie: Nobody cares Ted, it's still a Seiko. Larry's is a Rolex, even if it is a perverted Rolex. For her 70th birthday, a Seiko? You're both cheap fucks.

Ted: She's right Larry, you have to get that Rolex back. It would be embarrassing.

Larry: What? Then I have no gift for her? Everyone will think I'm cheap.

Susie: It's better than people knowing you're a pervert. Which is what I'll tell them if you don't take it back. You sick fuck. Dickstretching.

[Theme Music]

Compare to the scene in my home.

Mrs. FiveHour: [Opens box] OH MY GOD AN OMEGA! OH MY GOD! IT'S LIKE EXACTLY THE ONE DON DRAPER WEARS! HOW MUCH DID YOU PAY FOR THIS! WHERE DID YOU GET IT?!

Me: I got a really good deal on it! I got in on Reddit. I got a great price on it, actually. I was worried it was fake or something, but I went through the guy's profile and he seemed real.

Mrs: FiveHour: That's hilarious. How could you tell he was real?

Me: He posted a lot in weird subreddits like /r/dickstretching. You know, for restoring your foreskin and shit like that.

Mrs. FiveHour: Wild. Oh my God this is so pretty, I love it. I can't wait to get it sized down.

...

Mrs. FiveHour: Dickstretching? Well, whatever.

But we're freaks. We barely buy new shoes. Disgust reactions about things like that seem odd to me.

8/10 solid effort, but Larry would say "penis" instead of "dick". I suspect he's never said "dick" at all.

I was disappointed with it by the midway point. It's funny picturing it in my head, but it's really just the delivery I'm imagining from the actor.

Still, an impressive job. I think it's really solid until Ted's entry. (I thought of adding just 1 or 2 more "show" quotes to my OP, but gave up after a few attempts that weren't quite landing.)