Image: Gizmodo

Subreddit of the Day is about celebrating the cool, weird, fun parts of Reddit. Every day the moderators of SROTD pull a subreddit from a large pool of nominees and promote it. In the past few weeks’ they’ve featured subreddits devoted to stuff like drones, fan art, and frustrating gifs that cut off the best part at the end.

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The SROTD is the unofficial gatekeeper of cool on Reddit. While its power to make subreddits mainstream isn’t what once was, it’s still a big deal to be chosen. (The mods are not employed by Reddit or affiliated in any way.)

But SROTD has started using that power to promote some of the worst Reddit has to offer. Like their choice for April 11: a transphobic piece of trash called SwordandSheath. More recently, on Sunday April 24, they promoted another hot steaming pile of excrement, TheRedPill. The Red Pill, or TRP for short, is about helping men be men and is known in polite company as “a complete waste of human experience.” It’s also repeatedly come under fire for promoting rape and violence towards women.

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SROTD’s interview with TRP moderator bsutansalt gives you an idea what we’re dealing with:

“Just look at how it’s open season on men in college, in large part due to the Dear Colleague letter. Another example is the notion of “teach men not to rape”. If that’s an accepted notion, then why not “teach women not to falsely accuse” or “teach blacks not to steal”? If the latter are misogynistic or racist, then logic demands the anti-male version be misandrist/sexist.”

And then there’s this doozie:

“Masculinity is most definitely under attack in western society. The media denigrates men left and right and often we don’t even realize it. An example is the TV trope of the “doofus dad” in commercials and TV shows.”

While the TRP Subreddit of the Day post was written under the name SROTDroid, the architect of the piece was ZadocPaet—the same person who previously promoted the transphobic SwordandSheath subreddit.

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“SROTD’s official goal is to promote well deserving subreddits, [but] it’s secondary role is to allow writers the freedom to be creative and express themselves fully and fearlessly,” SROTD mod jaxspider told Gizmodo.

To further that goal, jaxspider said there’s no oversight over full time SROTD post writers like ZadocPaet. “Writers solely pick what subreddits to feature,” jaxspider said.

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The SROTD team knew how controversial their post would be. They prefaced the post, explaining they “had some questions,” but that “the design [of the interview] is to find out what exactly red pill theory is through conversation, and then to leave any conclusions to you, the readers.”

And herein lies a fundamental problem with SROTD’s policy of zero oversight. The writers of SROTD are learning how to express themselves and how to conduct an interview—hugely important skills for non-fiction writers. Yet they’re doing all of this in a large and popular venue. SROTD has over 100,000 followers, and it’s a popular destination for new redditors. It’s basically a giant recommendation list.

So shouldn’t they have an obligation to not promote subreddits that engage in transphobia and misogyny?

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ZadocPaet eventually responded to the accusations of promoting TRP irresponsibly.

My interview with TRP is no different from reddit allowing WBC [Westboro Baptist Church] to come on and do an AMA not once but twice, and one time with the username that said got sent the CT shooter. They got a ton of publicity, up votes, and even reddit gold. And they got to cherry pick their questions.

Except it is different; WBC actually is a hate group.

The post got 2788 comments before it was shut down:

This thread has now been locked due to a failure to communicate. In other words, you guys couldn’t keep things civil and no intelligent discussion is happening on here today. Signed your friendly female mod.

That ranks it as the most commented post in SROTD’s history. Nine comments were deleted for unknown reasons.

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TRP enthusiasts also jumped into the fray to defend the subreddit and its mods.

The worst part of the entire saga? TheRedPill didn’t need ZadocPaet’s help. It’s currently a larger reddit than SROTD and it’s goddamn notorious throughout Reddit. All ZadocPaet did was give TRP a mouthpiece, and implicitly legitimize it at the same time.

We’ve reached out to Reddit and will update if we here back.

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CORRECTION: The piece originally referred to user jaxspider as an admin. Admins are official employees of Reddit. Jaxspider is the volunteer moderator of SROTD and is not affiliated with Reddit.