The popular subreddit r/antiwork is in turmoil after a moderator of the subreddit was interviewed by Fox News host Jessie Watters Wednesday night. The interview, which was done against the advice of other moderators and members of the subreddit, forced r/antiwork to shut down for a period of time to stave off backlash.
The interview consisted of Watters actively attempting to discredit the moderator, Doreen Ford, and the antiwork movement at large.
The interview with Ford was a remote interview on Watters’ new show on Fox, and the segment was titled “Reddit Thread: Work is Pointless, Humiliating”
The anti-work movement has been simmering for years but boiled over during the COVID-19 pandemic amid the Great Resignation and growing labor tensions. The movement centers around abolishing the idea that “work” be associated with productivity and capitalism.
The r/antiwork subreddit, which was founded in 2013, has seen exponential growth in the last year, gaining over 900,000 members in 2021 alone. The subreddit gained virality for stories of worker mistreatment and bosses firing workers via text. The subreddit organized a Black Friday Boycott in 2021 and coordinated fake job applications at Kellogg’s after the company announced it would be hiring over the heads of striking workers.
As with any other Fox interview with a left-leaning subject, the object of the conversation from the start seemed to be Watters discrediting the subject or the movement they represent.
“There are some misconceptions about the movement,” Ford told Watters during the interview. “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.”
Watters then asked what Ford’s idea of a workday was, to which she replied: “Whatever people want.” Watters continued to smirk and laugh throughout the exchange, visibly distressing Ford.
After the interview, the subreddit went offline and users who tried to visit the page were met with a message. “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.)”
Mods claimed they shut the subreddit down because of an influx of Fox News viewers coming into the subreddit. But during the shutdown and subsequent heavy moderation of the subreddit, multiple users claimed that their posts and discussions about the Fox News clip were taken down or suppressed.
u/Kimezukae, another moderator of the subreddit, made a lengthy statement on the subreddit early Thursday morning saying they attempted to implement a “Crowd Control” feature on the subreddit, but decided it was best to close the subreddit for a bit to let the incoming traffic die down. The statement also detailed r/antiwork’s plans to move forward, provide more media transparency, and reevaluate interviews after the Fox News piece.
“We’re going [to] in the short-term future not accept any media interviews and we will ask the community on feedback regarding whether we will accept an interview or what kind of media outlets are outright banned,” it said.
The moderator claims that there are still several interviews that moderators and members of r/antiwork have done that have yet to be published. The New York Times, Fast Company, and Kyodo News in Japan have all interviewed people for stories, according to u/Kimezukae, but all have yet to be published.
The backlash towards the moderators has been swift and scalding on the subreddit after the page was back online. Users have accused the mods of using the subreddit for their own personal gain and have chastised the moderators for speaking for the masses. Some Redditors have called for mods to step down or for the subreddit to be shut down entirely
“I can’t believe how painfully ironic it is that you have some authority and you exerted it incorrectly and then immediately refused to acknowledge it or correct it on this sub which is literally dedicated to holding those who do exactly what you did accountable,” one redditor said in a now-viral post on the sub.
Another poster claims to have offered to put together a PR group for the subreddit, but backed out after getting trolled by members of the sub.
“Everyone likes to think that the mods in this subreddit are ‘firmly and properly disengaged’ from ‘leading’ but last night’s interview told me all I needed to know about how this labor movement is going to be presented if we don’t buckle the fuck up and get some responsible drivers behind the wheel,” their post reads. “I told you guys this was going to happen. I have worked in journalism and PR for years and even when everyone agreed with me, a VERY vocal minority of anarcho-whatever-the-fucks decided that we don’t ‘need’ leadership qualities among the group, we only ‘need’ the group.”
As of now r/antiwork is in an eerily similar place to another loose collective, the Occupy Wall Street movement before it. Occupy similarly imploded due to a lack of leadership. With both vehemently against the bosses it may need to help organize the movement into something lasting, it remains to be seen if a similar fate will befall r/antiwork.