I’ve posted here what I believe to be some of the most chilling and frustratingly misogynitic parts of Adrian Chen’s outing of Reddit Violentacrez, known now as Michael Brutsch. Brutsch, creator of several sickening, misognistic, phedophilic content-jammed subreddits, has begged not to be revealed despite the revealing content of many of his reddit posts. Brutsch, as far as I am concerned, is not merely a troll he is a misogynist, a racist, a biggot, the scum of the earth. Honestly, there does not exist a term strong enough to define how negatively I feel about this man. He deserves hell one thousand times over for the content he has defiled the internet with.
To Mr Chen. I want to send a note of thanks for his efforts and his work. I’m sure that among a more sensitive and intelligent community of people, what he’s done is appreciated.
If you are capable of being offended, Brutsch has almost certainly done something that would offend you, then did his best to rub your face in it. His speciality is distributing images of scantily-clad underage girls, but as Violentacrez he also issued an unending fountain of racism, porn, gore, misogyny, incest, and exotic abominations yet unnamed, all on the sprawling online community Reddit. At the time I called Brutsch, his latest project was moderating a new section of Reddit where users posted covert photos they had taken of women in public, usually close-ups of their asses or breasts, for a voyeuristic sexual thrill. It was called “Creepshots.” Now Brutsch was the one feeling exposed and it didn’t suit him very well.
Reddit’s laissez-faire attitude towards offensive speech has led to a vast underbelly that rivals anything on the notorious cesspool 4chan. And with Jailbait, Violentacrez decided to create a safe space for people sexually attracted to underage girls to share their photo stashes. I would call these people pedophiles; the Jailbait subreddit called them “ephebophiles.” Jailbait was the online equivalent of systematized street harassment. Users posted snapshots of tween and teenage girls, often in bikinis and skirts. Many of these were lifted from their Facebook accounts and thrown in front of Jailbait’s 20,000 horny subscribers.
Violentacrez and his fellow moderators worked hard to make sure every girl on jailbait was underage, diligently deleting any photos whose subjects seemed older than 16 or 17. Violentacrez himself posted hundreds of photos. Jailbait became one of Reddit’s most popular subreddits, generating millions of pageviews a month. “Jailbait” was for a time the second biggest search term bringing traffic to Reddit, after “Reddit.” Eventually, Jailbait landed on CNN, where Anderson Cooper called out Reddit for hosting it, and Violentacrez for creating it. The ensuing outcry led Reddit administrators to reluctantly ban Jailbait, and all sexually suggestive content featuring minors.
On the phone, Michael Brutsch insisted he is not a pedophile but was unapologetic about Jailbait. He compared the photos of underage girls he posted to Britney Spears’ sultry “Hit Me Baby One More Time” video. She was 16 at the time, he said—how was that different than what he was doing? Brutsch said he only reposted photos that he’d found elsewhere, mostly on 4chan, and that he promptly removed any outright child porn that was posted.
Having his screenname mangled by Anderson Cooper on CNN for Jailbait was Violentacrez’s biggest moment as a troll, but it wasn’t his first time in the spotlight. Since Brutsch stumbled on Reddit from a link on the internet culture blog Boing Boing in 2007, he has pushed the boundaries of Reddit’s free-speech culture. He has done this mostly through creating offensive subreddits to troll sensitive users. Some of the sections Violentacrez created or moderated were called:
You can look those up on Reddit and visit them if you’d like to ruin your day, but the content is self-explanatory.
Unlike Jailbait, which apparently sprung from a sincere interest, many of Violentacrez’s most offensive subreddits were created just to enrage other Reddit users.
“People take things way too seriously around here,” Violentacrez said. ” I was not surprised by the outrage of the person who made the post, because I see it all the time. What was surprising was the community support for it. Most posts that complain about these things never do very well, and are quickly buried or deleted. I think it’s interesting how many people defend my right to act the way I do, while decrying my posts themselves.”
It was this pattern, repeated to various degrees dozens of times, that made Violentacrez an unlikely hero to many of the white male geeks who make up Reddit’s hard core. They saw Violentacrez as a champion in the fight against the oppressive schoolmarms: “He upheld a certain amount of freedom for the worst of us to ensure freedom for all of us,” wrote one user in a post mourning his departure. Fans followed him wherever he went on the site.
Violentacrez has historically had a close relationship with Reddit’s staff, a fact far less well-known than his controversial behavior. Violentacrez was a troll, but he was a well-connected troll. He told me he was close with a number of early Reddit employees—many of whom have now moved on—chatting with them on IRC or sometimes even on the phone. A few years ago, while Jailbait was still going strong, Reddit’s administrators gave him a special one-of-a-kind “pimp hat” badge to honor his contributions to the site, which he proudly displayed on his profile. Brutsch said he was even in the final running for a job as a customer support representative at Reddit last year.
During the Jailbait controversy, Erik Martin, the site’s General Manager, reached out to Violentacrez beforehand to warn him that they were going to have to shut down his prized possession, according to a chat conversation Violentacrez leaked at the time.
“Want to give you a heads up,” Martin wrote. “We’re making a policy change regarding jailbait type content. Don’t really have a choice.”
So even as Jailbait flourished and became an ever-more-integral part of Reddit’s traffic and culture—in 2008 it won the most votes in a “subreddit of the year” poll—administrators looked the other way
And sometimes those relationships become more trouble than they’re worth. After the Jailbait controversy, Violentacrez claimed repeatedly on Reddit, he was cut off from administrators who had been burned by the controversy. In fact, when I spoke to him, Brutsch said Reddit admins had been keeping their distance for a while. He suggested that the site wasn’t what it used to be. In recent days, he has been posting less, stirring up less drama.
This is how Violentacrez, Reddit’s creepiest user, also became its most powerful. Sure, he was responsible for the absolute worst stuff on Reddit, and by extension, some of the worst stuff on the internet. But Violentacrez was also seen to be, as Chris Slowe put it to me, “a trustworthy and a positive member of the community.” He moderated more than 400 subreddits and had many high-profile friends, amassed over many years.
So it was no surprise that when news got out earlier this week that I was working on a story that would expose Violentacrez’s real identity, other moderators on Reddit rallied to defend him. The popular politics subreddit led the charge, by banning all Gawker links.
When I called Brutsch that Wednesday afternoon and told him I knew who he was, I was a little taken aback by how calm he remained during our intense but civil hour-long conversation. I had figured that a man whose hobby was saying horrible shit just to screw with people online would rise to some new horrible level when conditions on the ground actually called for it. Instead he pleaded with me in an affectless monotone not to reveal his name.
“My wife is disabled. I got a home and a mortgage, and if this hits the fan, I believe this will affect negatively on my employment,” he said. “I do my job, go home watch TV, and go on the internet. I just like riling people up in my spare time.”
I asked if he regretted anything he had posted, now that he’d be found out. No, he said. “I would stand by exactly what I’ve done.” The problem was, he explained, that if his identity got out, his many enemies would start attaching lies to his name because they simply don’t like his views. They would say he was a child pornographer, when all he had done was spearhead the distribution of thousands of legal photos of underage girls.
Even before I published this article, Reddit had already exploded in outrage. (Gawker sites are now banned from over 60 subreddits, and some pissed off user has signed me up for approximately two dozen mailing lists.) The irony of being upset that a noted custodian of “creepshots” is getting some unwanted attention himself is obvious. Jailbait defenders would often argue that if 14-year-olds didn’t want their bikini pictures to be posted to Reddit, they should not have taken them and uploaded them to their Facebook accounts in the first place. If Brutsch did not want his employers to know that he had become a minor internet celebrity through spending hours every day posting photos of 14-year-olds in bikinis to thousands of people on the internet, he should have stuck to posting cat videos.
Under Reddit logic, outing Violentacrez is worse than anonymously posting creepshots of innocent women, because doing so would undermine Reddit’s role as a safe place for people to anonymously post creepshots of innocent women.
I am OK with that.
user named themanwithnoname wrote, “VA, I don’t know you personally, but I’ve appreciated some of your comments over the years. I hope your life rocks from here out.”
To which Violentacrez replied, under the handle VA_11102012: “I miss posting porn.”
The ban was instigated by a moderator after a journalist, Adrian Chen, apparently threatened to expose the real-life identity of redditor violentacrez, the creator of r/jailbait and r/creepshots. These two sub-forums, or “subreddits” were dedicated to, respectively, sexualised pictures of under-18s and sexualised pictures of women – frequently also under-age – taken in public without their knowledge or consent.
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