It should come as little surprise that Reddit, the mega-popular message board and self-declared “front page of the Internet,” is now the fourth most popular website in the US, beat only by Google, YouTube, and Facebook. It’s become a perfunctory press tour stop for celebrities and politicians, played a critical role in historical political events, and, much to the dismay of the site’s top brass, has also turned into a hotbed of hatred and bigotry.
As Reddit’s profile and popularity has risen, its management has historically shown a touch-and-go approach to policing certain of its subreddits (member-founded-and-moderated communities, where users gather to discuss anything under the sun)—especially, until recent years, the most toxic among them. In 2011, the site made one of its first major moves to ban a subreddit: /r/jailbait, a community dedicated to exactly what it sounds like. Until that point, /r/jailbait and other controversial subreddits had been allowed to exist under the site’s lassiez faire approach to free speech (even then, it was only removed largely after seeing widespread media attention). But the ban was a tacit acknowledgement by Reddit management that overseeing a website of this magnitude brings innate ethical responsibilities.
It wouldn’t be until the 2015 introduction of an explicit anti-harassment policy, and the subsequent ban of several of the site’s most toxic communities, that Reddit would take a more active role in policing its rampant harassment and hate speech.
Having learned from the imbroglio that followed—and with the site’s policy on what constitutes harassment now explicitly defined—Redditors seeking to engage in hate speech began forming or infiltrating less flagrantly antagonistic niche subbreddits, tiptoeing right up to the line of Terms of Service (TOS)-breaking activity.
This tactical shift dovetailed with the website’s pivotal role in the 2016 US presidential election. The more internet-savvy elements of Trump’s base (and potentially some Russian bots) used the controlled forum format to game the site’s popularity algorithms and amplify the bigoted subtext of Trump’s platform. As Election Day drew nearer and fear-mongering efforts were redoubled, the more volatile enclaves of certain subreddits—particularly /r/The_Donald, a massive subreddit dedicated to Donald Trump—began engaging in real world doxxing and harassment. By now, Reddit had undeniably become a breeding ground for extremism.
After the election, the company found itself mired in a game of subreddit ban whack-a-mole that treated symptoms but never touched the disease. Whenever a subreddit like /r/pizzagate or /r/altright crossed the TOS line and was shut down, the members of each group would simply disperse to cloned or tangential subreddits and spew their hatred anew. Despite pushback from admins and the non-hateful majority of the user base, the latent issue persists to this day.
As there’s nothing worse than heading into your favorite little hyper-specific subreddit only to discover it’s been taken over by posters maligning Muslims or commenters degrading women, I’ve put together a primer on which subreddits are even greater cesspools of white male fragility than the rest of the site, so that you can stay vigilant when venturing in or avoid them altogether.
What is pretends it is: The premiere forum to discuss all things Donald Trump.
What it actually is: The premiere “safe space” on the web that bans any and all users who dare offer anything but total fealty to “God Emperor Trump,” as he’s known in these parts, let alone dissenting opinions. It’s a 24/7 Trump rally that also serves as a “melting pot of frustration and hate.” Though its more overt displays of racism, Islamophobia, and calls for extrajudicial murder of political opponents are less common now, one needn’t dig too far past its front page to find vestiges of election-era toxicity or concerted group efforts to harass people opposed to Trump (and Ariana Grande).
What it pretends it is: The_Donald, but Canadian.
What it really is: Buncha hosers who’re none-to-pleased that they live in a progressive country that doesn’t religiously discriminate as much as its southern neighbor. Eschewing the politeness stereotypical of Canadians, this sub’s users instead spend their time cheering the deaths of those who had the gall to be feminist (or simply not Islamophobic). So full of Canadian pride is this lot that they wish for its downfall and muse about assassinating Justin Trudeau as remedies for the country’s gradual diversification.
What is pretends it is: A place for people from the continent of Europe to discuss all things European.
What is really is: A sanctuary where all the next–level bigots cast out of /r/Europe can, under the banner of free speech, circle-jerk about all the Muslim immigrants coming to rape and kill their beautiful European women.
What it pretends it is: The unpleasant truths the (((mainstream media))) doesn’t want you to see.
What it really is: Yet another place to bash not just Muslims, but all sorts of brown people. /r/UncensoredNews goes above and beyond merely “tolerating” hate speech: They actively court it. And in no uncertain terms, either: see this text post titled, “Here at uncensored news we love racism, bigotry, misogyny, hatred, xenophobia, transphobia, homo phobia etc.“
What it pretends it is: According to the sidebar, “tasteless ‘politically incorrect’ dark, offensive, & twisted humor of all types is welcome here.” Y’know, like dead baby and 9/11 jokes.
What it really is: Painfully unoriginal memes that lean on hackneyed stereotypes about black people, Muslims, women, and the LGBTQ community, usually with less comedic structure than a Laffy Taffy wrapper, and sometimes with no joke pretense at all.
What it pretends it is: Not your daddy’s “cringe” subreddit. Here, instead of embarrassing conversation screencaps, you’ll find the real cringe, which is… people who advocate for inclusionary, egalitarian, or otherwise progressive stances, apparently.
What it really is: Credit where credit’s due, /r/CringeAnarchy wears its shriveled, black heart on its sleeve—or, rather, in its sidebar. It’s pretty upfront that the sub is no place for “social justice faggots” or “white knights.” The major bee in/r/CringeAnarchy’s bonnet are trans people, whose mere existence is nothing short of a personal attack to the sub’s denizens. It’s a bummer that what was once a pretty good cringe sub has devolved into post like this, this, and this, all from the past month.
What it pretends it is: Top shelf memes too refined and edgy for normies.
What it really is: More racism, largely. To be fair, the sub hasn’t yet entirely been overtaken by bigot refugees from shuttered hate subs, but it’s getting there. Whereas 4chan and its corresponding subreddits remain chaotic neutral, strictly “for the lulz” (does anyone even say that anymore?), and on high alert for legitimate racist ideologies attempting to infiltrate their party, DankMemes is happy to accept any and all shitposts disparaging a minority, as long as it has the ability to “trigger” non-dickheads.
What it pretends it is: A Gaming-oriented subreddit where one can discuss (the lack of) ethics in gaming journalism, named after chief offender Kotaku.com.
What it really is: Another place to shit on the left and propagate racist right-wing rhetoric with verbiage lifted straight from /r/The_Donald and posts that often feature little-to-no discussion of video games. What does defending the Charlottesville Nazi who murdered a woman with his car have to do with review sites being too cozy with game developers? That sounds like the sort of question a cuck libtard would ask.
What it pretends it is: Cringey examples of SJWs overreaching, particularly those originating from Tumblr.
What it really is: A less egregious version of /r/KotakuInAction. While the sub does primarily upvote the more insufferable elements of the left, they’ll also never pass up an opportunity to tear down a straw(wo)man feminist or proclaim that there are only two genders.
/r/PussyPass & /r/PussyPassDenied
What they pretend they are: Exposés on the disparity in how men and women are treated in the eyes of the law and media, and scenes of women who attempt to use their femininity for preferential treatment, who summarily get shut down.
What they really are: After a hostile takeover left the subs rife with full-on Nazi sympathizing and propaganda posts, the original users banded together to return the subs to their original format—using anger-stoking news stories to justify misogyny and gleefully cheer retaliatory violence against women.
What it pretends it is: A collection of activists sharing news about the infringement of “men’s rights,” seeking more parity from the justice system, like 50/50 child custody in divorce cases.
What it really is: Shedding its noble original mission statement, MensRights has devolved into the sort of anti-SJW/feminist/women cesspool that comprises the rest of this list. Posts equivocating away rape, defending rapists, and denying systemic oppression of women are more commonplace than anything else.
What it pretends it is: A subreddit for “men going their own way,” whatever that means.
What it really is: Extra-salty misogyny. You’ll find all the classic hits like “punch feminists,” “wives are money leeches,” and “women who don’t want to fuck you don’t warrant common courtesies” in there, as well as some rare B-sides like “single moms suck” and “baseball knowledge should be a voting prerequisite.”
What it pretends it is: A haven for the the “involuntarily celibate” to commiserate over their perpetual virginity.
What it really is: You’d think that, with /r/incel getting banned for going too far off the virginal reservation with its hatred of women, the nearly identical pluralized version of the sub would dial it back a bit. Unfortunately, despite there being rare earnest words of advice in the sub, the toxicity still burbles to the surface. The virgins here aren’t the harmless sad sack Eeyore-types of /r/ForeverAlone. Instead, they take a more nihilistic approach to their curse, subscribing to the “Black Pill” theory that the universe will always be rigged against certain individuals, so why even bother trying to manipulate women into sex with “Red Pill” tactics?
Follow Justin Caffier on Twitter.