A specter is haunting Reddit: The specter of SJWs.

Almost overnight, the venture-backed link-sharing behemoth has been plunged into a bizarre, wide-ranging conspiracy scare—complete with accusations of shady cabals, corruption, radical feminist infiltration, and scheming of all sorts—that makes PrisonPlanet.com look like BuzzFeed. It is one of the least sane things I have read on this internet, and I've spent the last day trying to untangle it.

Reddit and the huge community that calls the site home have always been wary of meddling from outsiders attempting to game the system—whether it's webmasters or promoters looking for a traffic boost, or ideologues trying to push an agenda. Is an article being upvoted because it's good, or because some hidden force has decided to promote it? Were you banned because you broke the rules, or because you expressed the wrong opinion?

This is a real and common concern for virtual villages everywhere, but because Reddit happens to have a large population of teenaged racists, basement-bound reactionaries, and general morons, it's not uncommon for that wariness to spill into outright conspiracy theory—and consequent message board drama.

The latest set of conspiracy theories is rippling across Reddit, creating a minor schism between the site and its farthest right fans. In essence, the story holds that feminists have consolidated control of "moderator" positions across the site, and are censoring discussions to fit their worldview. If you're a Reddit zealot, this is as frightening as your life can get.

While it's true that small cliques of users have subverted the democratic functions of community sites in the past—Digg is a notorious example—there's very little evidence for this theory. As one Redditor puts it,

But as for my question of why SJW stuff would be on the agenda for Conde Nast, and then pushed down to the mods, beyond the fact that it has been their agenda in the past through print media, I still don't fully understand other than it being understood as feminism being used as yet another tool of the elites to cause infighting amongst the plebs.

This here might be just another ephemeral Reddit loon, were it not for the fact that the people speaking out against the "conspiracy" are being banned by the site. A coverup? A thread with this rambling title currently has almost 4,000 upvotes:

Guy exposed a cabal of users taking over reddit yesterday, spawned a watchdog subreddit of 2500 subscribers overnight, was then banned by reddit's admins, all the subreddit's mods then banned, admins won't say why, and now they're handing the subreddit to the corrupt cabal of users who were exposed.

According to a user going by "metaredditcancer," the Reddit "cabal" has been working for years, under direction of a subreddit called "ShitRedditSays"—a Reddit community dedicated to identifying the site's most reactionary posts and comments and gleefully mocking them:

The worst thing about Shitredditsays, however, isn't that they have their own shitty subreddit that makes zero sense to the outside world and to those who are sane and don't believe in the views of social justice warriors and radical feminists. The worst thing about SRS is that they and their friends from other like-minded subreddits on reddit - with the cooperation and unspoken support of a few reddit administrators - have managed to turn reddit into Digg 2.0 where a clique of users who are chummy and friendly with each other have managed to take over a very large portion of this website. The users who have turned reddit into Digg 2.0 and who threaten to ruin the site are what I and some others who understand the situation have come to know as and refer to as "metareddit cancer." I have taken it upon myself to go ahead and create the subreddit/r/metaredditcancer to act as a watchdog that chronicles everything that this cabal of reddit users are doing to turn reddit into Digg 2.0 and - in particular - to turn the site into a place run by social justice warrior and feminist moderators who tolerate no deviation from their beliefs in the numerous subreddits that they have come to control as moderators.

ShitRedditSays' dedication to making fun of Reddit makes it just like the rest of the internet—but if you're onboard with metaredditcancer, you believe there's more afoot here, a political plot to subvert the entire website. It's hard to read something this crazy without slowly becoming crazy yourself, but the Reddit Cabal Conspiracy has a few main components:

Reddit has been infiltrated by a "cabal" of "social justice warrior" (SJW) moderators

The perpetual bogey(wo)man of the right wing internet fringe is the SJW, a nonsense composite character of vaguely progressive ideals that's seen as a threat to the free practice of cherished internet traditions like hate-mongering and jerking off to Tomb Raider fan art. Reddit's conspiracy theorists allege that a group of "SJWs" have become moderators across a constellation of subreddits, in order to...push a progressive agenda? Block people? Do something sinister? I don't know.

The SJW agenda is being pushed on some of Reddit's most popular sections

The SJW Cabal includes moderators of popular Reddit destinations like "World News" and "Explain Like I'm 5." No matter how much conspiracy theorists try to explain why anyone would bother doing this, it still ends up sounding like this:

They organize subreddit request attempts in private subreddits where they plan out their agenda and they do the same in their internet relay chat rooms as well. I can say with total confidence that there is no other reddit clique and group operating on this website that looks to take over and control as many subreddits as they can in a clear and indisputable attempt to control the flow of conversation so that conversations in any given subreddit always lean and kowtow to radical feminism and a perverted form of social justice. NO OTHER GROUP EXISTS that is looking to take over as much of this site as possible.

The SJWs have teamed up with The Gays to form this Cabal

From a 1,700 word description of the Cabal's plot (which has received many thousands of upvotes in support):

Maybe the worst example of their way of worming into moderator positions and destroying subreddits is that of /r/LGBT and how 2 transsexual radfem SRS trolls - one of which has become infamous on reddit and other chan websites - managed to take control of the subreddit in 2012 and then acted like dictators and abused their power so badly that reddit's administrators had to be called into the drama.

Conde Nast is in on it, too

Reddit user IceDagger316 is cracking the case:

Advance Publications (reddit's majority shareholder and parent company of former sole owner Condé Nast, bastion of such weighty, free thinking publications as Vogue, Details, Glamour, Vanity Fair, and W, whose president sits on reddit's board) has a social agenda to push. The admins are under orders to "encourage" the hivemind of the SJW/SRS subs by the majority shareholder, represented by one person on the board. Hell, they may not even need to be encouraged to do so. They may know the agenda by heart and support it wholly.

There's an anti-semitic angle here, of course

From a discussion of this batshit convention on 8chan, which generally makes Reddit look like Plato's academy:

Some Redditors are so alarmed, they're leaving for another site

Voat.co, which is pretty much just a functional clone of Reddit, is the destination of choice for users who fear the vast Zionist-SJW specter. Many have made the jump already—though I noticed one Redditor say he'd stick around for the /r/CoonTown subreddit, a white supremacist and general racism discussion zone.

This is fucking crazy of course, but it sort of matters

There was a time when the fringe truly existed on the fringes of society, where they could be insulated from the non-fringe and egg each other on into new and more brazen forms of fringedom. But today, conspiracies as manifestly deranged as this one rocket in popularity, empowered by the simple software behind sites like Reddit and 8chan. There have always and will always be right-wing lunatics who think creeping "transexual feminism" is an existential threat; but now those same people share real estate with all the rest of us. They are just one click away.

Image by Jim Cooke