Redditors with absolute powers
I'm talking about Reddit moderators. Though their power is a despot in a teapot, these are as close to "divine beings" with absolute power as we have. Even police officers – who in the US can kill people at random, or throw flash grenades into children's cribs – even they face inconvenience. They might hear a reprimand from their boss, their department might face a lawsuit, there may be media attention. There might even be a grand jury, though almost never an indictment.
In a virtual community though, there are no consequences for a mod, and a permanent ban is as close as it gets to death. Moderators give them out liberally. The bans can be bypassed: you can create a new account, but doing this with a purpose to bypass a ban violates terms of service, and can lead to a site-wide ban. While violating terms is not a crime, bypassing technical barriers might be.
In addition to that, I like my existing account. Therefore, I don't bypass bans.
... but I do not avoid them either.
My experiment, such as it is, consists of how many bans I can collect by simply going about my ways, communicating like a reasonable – but sometimes passionate – person. One goal is to see just how much of the site I can continue to use if I keep this up for, say, 10 years.
The unwise things I do are a bit Rorschach-like:
- I respond to moderators when I disagree with their actions or opinions.
- I do not go out of my way to supplicate in responses to moderators.
- I try to treat moderators as equals, hoping they will treat me the same.
They virtually always follow subjective logic. The outcome is a ban, and an excuse that makes it sound objective.
So far I've been banned by the following subreddits:
Disagreement with another poster in comments led to harsh words. Mod gave out a warning expecting submission. I defended myself. Permanently banned.
I stated a non-aggressive opinion about an aspect of World of Warcraft. Another person attacked me for it. I responded in kind. Permanently banned by an abusive mod with no warning.
When I complained about the ban, I was taunted by the mod in private messages of the form: "Aww, show me on this doll where the bad mod hurt you."
At some point, this mod had been removed from /r/wow. In an exchange about a year after the ban, the mod freely admitted sadistic motivations are normal for her.
Also about that time, a main mod offered to unban me. The offer was conditional on a statement of submission, i.e. unequal groveling. I respectfully declined. I remain banned therefore.
I expressed a negative opinion of the GCC C++ compiler. Another commenter somewhat savagely attacked me for it. I responded in similar measure. Permanently banned with no mod warning.
A small subreddit inhabited by funky "spiritual" types. One of the moderators expressed an opinion which was particularly unreasonable. I engaged in disagreement. After some back and forth, she flashed her moderator credentials. I did not withdraw disagreement. Permanently banned.
Raised issue with other mods. They did not try to be impartial and responded like a clique. I had to block them individually because they kept harassing me in private messages.
I posted a topic to ask what prevents US phone companies from blocking scam calls from faked numbers which are common in the US. Unlike in other countries I've lived, in the US, multiple scam calls per day are usual. Mod #1 removed my topic claiming "it's not the phone company's job" and claiming my question is loaded. I was confused by this and wrote to mods about the removal. Received a private response from Mod #2 who suggested I post a reworded topic. I made my best effort to reword. Both topics were upvoted by subreddit participants. I disagreed with Mod #1.
Permanently banned by Mod #1 for bypassing removal (even though my second post was on suggestion of Mod #2). I wrote to mod team pointing out unfair ban. Was offered opportunities to show unconditional submission. I gave deference to their views (it's their subreddit, I respect their interpretation of their rules), but I argued reasonably without groveling. Ban upheld.
So it's not that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Instead, absolute power offers a choice:
One can be aware of one's power to harm other people while being numb to their pain. One therefore serves the community and restrains use of power to what is necessary. Do not punish disagreement. Judge dispassionately. Do not mix mod credentials and personal opinions. Follow procedure. Offer a warning before a ban.
One can exploit being numb to other people's pain and simply use power to serve oneself.
Supplicate and submit. The person may use language such as "rules" and "community", but what they're really after is for you to make them feel right. You can do that and be on their good side. However, it enables them.
Disengage. I do not mean reply in a way that shows you're disengaging. Any little peep from you that is not groveling and submission will result in a ban. If you do not reply at all, you can postpone this until the next time the mod disagrees with you on something. This is a lesser form of enabling.
Respond in a way where you do not grovel and submit. This results in a ban. However, it does not enable.