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Culture War Roundup for the week of April 24, 2023

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The problem with Reddit's business model is that it relies on massive amounts of volunteer labor (subreddit moderators). Moderators are unpaid, so these positions will be filled by people who value power and status over money, i.e. progressive activists.

In theory, this is solved by people who don't like the mods of one subreddit making their own subreddit with their own mods. In practice, mods of the largest subreddits, being progressive activists, will demand that site ownership take down dissenting subreddits. Site ownership can't afford to piss off the moderator class too much, because then they lose their massive source of unpaid labor, as very nearly happened before. This inevitably degenerates into the situation we find ourselves in now, where major subreddits simply lock any potentially controversial thread and ban anyone who complains about it.

The problem with Reddit's business model is that it relies on massive amounts of volunteer labor (subreddit moderators). Moderators are unpaid, so these positions will be filled by people who value power and status over money, i.e. progressive activists.

How exactly do you know their political alignment and level of engagement?

For reddit, the answer is "looking at who the mods are, and what their political alignment seems to be".

It's commonly accepted on reddit that the same handful of moderators moderates most of the large subs. However, I did realize I haven't verified that myself, so I hacked together a quick script to do so.

For reference, reddit proudly lists what their top communities are, and how many subscribers each one has. If you navigate to that page, you can then go through and look, for each community, at who the moderators for that community are. For example, for /r/funny, the url would be /r/funny/about/moderators, or, if you want to scrape the data, /r/funny/about/moderators.json.

So by navigating to the top communities page and then running this janky little snippet in the javascript console, you can reproduce these results.

Looking at the top 10 (non-bot) mods by number of subreddits modded, I see:

So that's 2 / 10 most visible mods that moderate extensively on the basis of their own personal politics.

That's actually not nearly as bad as I thought. Interesting.

I guess the problem with reddit is the redditors.

You don't need half of the battalion to be commissars. All the political actors here lean the same way. That's enough to push the discourse in a certain direction by only allowing the extremes of one side.

This, so much. This is how it works everywhere. In academia, everyone is broadly leftish but mostly apolitical. A small minority of far-left is not only tolerated & rarely challenged, but is allowed & financed to actively proselytise. Anything remotely right is ostracised or at best tolerated as long as its just talk among colleagues. If you try to point this out, you will be reminded "well, the last inequality retreat was very badly attended, so clearly we need to Do Better". The fact that this inequality retreat was actively financed by the university, mostly peddles extremely shoddy science that wouldn't be tolerated otherwise and that there is absolutely nothing remotely comparable that the average person would consider right does not even occur to them.

It's the same on reddit; I'm fairly confident that a) the great majority of the other mods, if not all of them, are still broadly left-leaning b) critically, the non-political mods almost never challenge the political mods, and almost all political mod actions are broadly the left cracking down on the right, never the other way around.