Moderator fired from anti-work subreddit after disastrous Fox News interview

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The popular Reddit forum r/antiwork, which focuses on ways to reform exploitative labour systems and in which users commiserate over pandemic working conditions, has removed a moderator following a contentious Fox News interview.

Moderator “Abolishwork”, real name Doreen Ford, appeared on Jesse Watters’ show on Fox News earlier this week.

In the aftermath of the testy exchange in which the host was openly contemptuous about the movement, the forum went private.

A statement from the forum posted on Reddit on Thursday reads: “Regarding Abolishwork, we are planning to remove her from her moderation duties and have contacted the admins for the removal of her as a mod. We thank her for building up the anti-work movement, but regarding the past incidents, we decided as a majority to remove her.”

r/antiwork has been around since 2013, but has surged in popularity during the strains of the pandemic. The community, whose slogan is “Unemployment for all, not just the rich!” has more than 1.7 million users, and was the fastest-growing non-default reddit across the site as of 26 January.

In their conversation on Fox News, Mr Watters was dismissive of the concept and laughed out loud when Ms Ford said she was a dog walker who works about 25 hours a week and aspires to teach philosophy.

“There are some misconceptions about the movement,” Ms Ford told Mr Watters. “We want to still put in effort. We want to put in labor, but we don’t want to necessarily be in a position where we feel trapped.

“I think laziness is a virtue in a society where people constantly want you to be productive 24/7. And it’s good to have rest.”

Mr Watters then asked what Ms Ford considered a solid work day, and she replied: “Whatever people want”.

The Fox anchor then laughed in the segment titled “The War Against Working”. He said: “I would love to take your class. Not everything is free, but it is a free country.”

After the interview the /r/antiwork subreddit was made private with a message reading: “We’re closed while we deal with the clean-up from ongoing brigading, and will be back soon. (You don’t need to request to join. We’ll be back real soon. I promise.)”

Brigading refers to a coordinated effort from one group to disrupt another’s work on the site.

Ms Ford was lambasted by users on the site.

“You literally made this sub look so bad and then doubled down off camera,” user Meteos_Shiny_Hair wrote.

User corkythecactus posted that it was an “extremely poor decision” to participate in the interview and “I don’t think you realize how much damage you’ve done.

“We can’t afford to half ass our opportunities to spread our message,” the user continued. “We need someone who is prepared to deliver convincing talking points eloquently to a hostile audience. Someone who is trained, passionate, and has plenty of energy. Not just any random moderator who’s willing to go on tv.”

Ms Ford tried to defend herself on the site, writing: “I had done interviews before but never live and I underestimated how different it was. I won’t be making that mistake again.”

She had given an interview in November to The Independent but declined to comment following the subreddit drama this week.

On Thursday morning, the page appeared to be back online and public with an extensive statement outlining what steps would be taken following the Fox News interview - particularly more transparency and controls. That statement, unspurprisingly, launched a new wave of discourse - and criticism.

“People have come to r/antiwork from all walks of life, and with different ideas of what “anti-work” means. The most radical ideas (Work should be an option to increase wealth, not a requirement for survival) only represent a minority of the spectrum, while active work reform, worker respect and dignity, and redistribution of stake control via unionizing are by far the majority goals,” user Killians1978 posted Thursday.

“They’re also the first steps in any more radical changes. In the interest of serving these goals, the mods have routinely failed to recognize this and have stubbornly clung to their radical, anarchist views, all while enjoying the clout of modding for a nearly two million member sub.”

Another user, however, was more positive about the entire debacle.

“Let’s be realistic, this drove traffic to the sub,” wrote Gette_M_Rue, adding that “it wasn’t good publicity, but it wasn’t really bad either. It’s an opportunity, present information and arguments that better represent the movement, don’t just hide under a rock, that wastes the audience that the interview sent to this sub.”

Ms Ford, a 30-year-old dogwalker in Boston who has also gone back to college, told The Independent in November that antiwork “attracts all kinds of people in all sorts of ways for all different kinds of reasons – maybe their relationships to themselves, with work ... a lot of people derive their life’s meaning from their work, from their jobs.

“So people think, ‘Oh, if I don’t have a job, I’m not a human being.’ That’s a bit of an extreme, but some people really do feel like that – or they feel they’re less of a person because they don’t have a job. They struggle with purpose or meaning in their life ... and I think that’s something the anti-work movement can really speak to: It’s not the only thing.

“And I think anti-work is a philosophy that is a radical one, that tries to strike at the systemic issues within capitalism – but I think that intuitive thing, where a lot of people are trying to do work-life balance, a lot of people are quitting their jobs, a lot of people are fed up with how their companies may been handling Covid and stuff like that” are contributing to the swell in online anti-work engagement, she said.