Of Richard Lewis: Ban the man, not the content

Fresh off the press, and for once not by Richard Lewis - the latest polarising topic under scrutiny by the LoL community is Lewis' complete ban - including his content - from the LoL subreddit.

Fresh off the press, and for once not by Richard Lewis – the latest polarising topic under scrutiny by the LoL community is Lewis’ complete ban – including his content – from the LoL subreddit.

The team of /r/leagueoflegends moderators released a statement on the subreddit, detailing their reasoning behind the ban. In this piece I will be analysing their statement, as well as Lewis’ conduct. 

Firstly, Lewis is accused of “sustained abusive behaviour.” He was allegedly given 2 warnings, a temporary ban from the subreddit, and another warning before being permanently banned. Fair enough. His toxicity in his debates with redditors on the medium is well-documented, and if he truly did receive this amount of warning, he can hardly complain about his permanent ban from posting on the site.

Of course, despite Lewis being notably aggressive to people on Reddit, we must take the time to step back and ask ourselves: Lewis isn’t the only person on Reddit ever to be aggressive – has he really surpassed Reddit’s benchmark in terms of perceived toxicity? Or is it just that his aggressive posts garner particular attention due to his fame?

That said, I cannot comment on Lewis’ behaviour outside of the public section of Reddit. “Sustained abusive behaviour” includes communications with other members and moderators via private messaging. So, while there are points that can be made against the banning of his account, there is enough known that we can at least understand the decision, even if some may disagree with it.

The next step taken by the Reddit moderation group, however, is a lot more controversial. The ban of any content created by him is due in a large way to what the moderation team describes as “using twitter to send brigades to the subreddit to disrupt and cheat the vote system by downvoting negative views of Richard and upvoting positive views.”

This is a questionable claim at best. Yes, Lewis regularly posted critical remarks about reddit activity, and linked to them from his twitter account. However he never implored his followers to take any action based upon his stances. Of course, it would be naive to suggest that his tweets did not result in his views getting upvoted, and opposing views downvoted. But there is no clear intention to manipulate the votes for any form of personal gain, or for any reason. 

This statement appears to be an attempt by the moderation team to use the emotions stirred up by the recent vote-manipulation fiasco (read more about it here). Commenting about reddit activity on social media is not exclusive to Richard Lewis. While the post with regards to xj9’s permanent LoL ban staying implemented was in full flight, youtuber, streamer, and Gravity coach Nick “Last Shadow” De Cesare posted a tirade about those criticising xj9. No doubt this influenced voting too, but this sort of commentary has been replicated in many situations by many LoL figures without them being reprimanded in nearly the same fashion as Lewis. In fact, in light of the very topic of Lewis’ ban, many prominent figures in the LoL scene commented on twitter. Are they all on thin ice too? No, they are not. As it should be.

Reddit is its own entity. So is twitter. Why should Lewis – or anyone else, for that matter – not be allowed to comment on the happenings from one of them, on the other? The standard argument is that his comments on the one drastically effect happenings on the other, resulting in certain people getting downvoted for disagreeing with Lewis’ opinion. So what? Newsflash: the world is an unfair place. Some people have more fame, more money, more intelligence, better looks. Deal with it. Just because Lewis’ opinions on twitter are seen by a large group of people, doesn’t mean he should be accused of purposefully trying to manipulate the happenings on Reddit. In fact, he has taken to twitter to intentionally free himself of Reddit’s context; to then accuse the man’s criticism of having some deep, dark intentions of manipulating the upvote and downvote numbers on reddit posts an comments is unfounded. Reddit have coined their own term for what happens in these scenarios – ‘circlejerking’. Redditors have a habit of latching themselves to opinions that seem to be popular – either through following the lead of other posters in threads, or by hearing what prominent figures believe. You can’t blame Lewis for the actions of those who go upon their own metaphorical vigilante missions, attempting to fight for Lewis’ opinions. 

In fact, if one wants to be as pedantic as the moderators are being, one could accuse LCS players of attempting to boost the number of upvotes threads get, by posting in them. A post in which someone such as Dyrus comments, will undoubtedly get more attention than an identical post in which he did not.

The last point that the moderators make is that he harassed individual redditors and moderators. I have no knowledge from which to make any decisive comment on this, but my intuition tells me that this probably at least some truth to this. Lewis’ disdain for the moderators of the LoL subreddit, as well as the redditors more vocally opposed to him, has been well documented – not only by others, but also by himself. It is incredibly likely that he got into some form of heated interaction with moderators and posters that he took issue with.

However, this is irrelevant to the banning of his content. He was already permanently banned from the subreddit, and so his personal interactions with the people of the subreddit were no longer relevant. It does not make any sense that his interactions with redditors and moderators have anything to do with the banning of his content. Including this as part of the reason that his content has been banned screams of “We don’t like you. You’re nasty to us, so we’re going to be nasty to you.” An eye for an eye, one might say, but it is not within the jurisdiction of the moderation team to reciprocate in such a way.

Richard Lewis is an incredibly polarising figure. Personally, while I greatly enjoy his articles , I have never enjoyed how he holds himself in social media. As an up-and-coming journalist, I respect his ability and his drive, but dislike his lack of professionalism. However, when it comes to matters such as this, we must take our personal feelings out of the equation. So, too, must the Reddit moderators. There is not sufficient logic nor evidence to ban Lewis’ content. By all means, there is a degree of logic for upholding his permanent ban from posting on the subreddit. The ban of his content, however, appears to be nothing more than a petty bid for revenge.