For years, I've turned a blind eye to crazy internet bloggers in the name of free speech, but no more. I draw the line with a thread entitled "The Philosophy of Rape" that appeared on Reddit last week, advocating for rape as a way to "keep women in check." Since the posting, the user, also named PhilosophyofRape, responsible for the content has generated multiple posts in a sickening attempt to justify the practice and cite rape as a pleasurable experience. Of all the disgusting and offensive things I've seen on the Internet, this may take the cake.
In an effort not to get bogged down by the rants of a lunatic, I'll cite only two quotes from the subreddit's initial post. First, PhilosophyofRape argues that "it’s not only morally justifiable to rape such a woman [presumably referring to the "sluts", "feminists", and "sexually liberated" women the user discusses throughout], it’s [also] brave." PhilosophyofRape then goes on to claim that women must be raped "for the good of society," and that the subreddit "will teach how to do it safely."
You get the gist. The words are nauseatingly terrifying. The good news is that Internet users aren't afraid to call him out on it. Over the past week, the subreddit has been inundated with angry commenters fighting back against the author's content and asking that the site be shut down. The response on Twitter has been no different:
Fortunately, Reddit responded to the backlash by removing the subreddit, but not after it had already been up for a full eight days. Which begs the question, why was this thread not shut down immediately? I understand that the nature of sites like Reddit, which pride themselves on user-generated content, inherently conflicts with censorship, but this kind of online behavior is unacceptable. The arbiter of The Philosophy of Rape is guilty of nothing short of hate speech, promotion of rape culture, and several admissions of criminal conduct (the user claims to have "corrected" seven women and trained a man to "correct" another).
Last time I checked, at least one, if not all of these, aren't covered by the First Amendment. Even Reddit takes note of this in the official policy listed on its site, which states, "Submissions not dealing with the first amendment or related issues should be posted elsewhere. Please keep discussions civil and topical." It's painfully clear from PhilosophyofRape's initial post that the discussion was neither. It's disappointing, then, that Reddit was not more timely in removing the content.
More disappointing still is the fact that individuals feel licensed to publish these sorts of repellant diatribes behind the safety of a computer. And since we can't even be sure that these are just words or someone's idea of a sick joke, content along the lines of that promulgated by PhilosophyofRape need always be treated with the upmost caution. Unfortunately for Reddit, the site's moderators could have stood to be far more cautious, proving that the beauty of sites with user-generated content is often its downfall.
But we as viewers play a role in this conversation as well. Although we have no control over whether or not this content is posted or removed, we still have voices that are capable of speaking out against hateful Internet speech. And lucky for us, we live in a country where these voices can affect change, as is evidenced by Reddit's eventual removal of The Philosophy of Rape thread. While this recent subreddit is perhaps one of the worst things to hit the Internet in a long while, therefore, it's only a matter of time before something similar surfaces in the future, and when it does, I encourage us all to have our voices at the ready.