Texan fired after outing as Reddit troll

Fort Worth Star-TelegramOctober 16, 2012 

Michael Brutsch's life will never be the same.

Last Friday, the married, 49-year-old computer programmer from Arlington was publicly outed as the moderator of two controversial online forums, Jailbait and Creepshots, that allegedly shared photos of scantily clad, underage girls, some said to have been taken from Facebook pages without permission. The forums have since been deleted.

The chunky, goateed Air Force veteran then received a weekend phone call telling him that he had been fired from his job of eight years at First Cash Financial Services, a pawn and payday loan corporation based in Arlington, he said on the popular online forum Reddit.

First Cash confirmed the sacking.

"Michael Brutsch is no longer employed by our company," the publicly traded pawn chain said Tuesday in an emailed statement. "We are just as shocked as the rest of the community by his personal online activities. We do not endorse or condone in any way the personal expressions, opinions and activities of Mr. Brutsch. It is disturbing and reprehensible."

Brutsch, whose resume cites work experience at EDS and a VA hospital, defended himself and his right to free speech following the expose on Gawker, a widely read news and gossip site.

"I can honestly say that there is no way anyone could find one single picture of an underage naked girl on my computers," he said Tuesday in an online post signed "mbrustsch." "I worked 10 hours a day, and spent every other moment at home with my wife. I don't need to 'convince' anyone of something that never happened."

Like other Redditors, and many other posters on the web, Brutsch did not use his real name. But Gawker's Adrian Chen learned his identity and called him up last week for an interview.

Bristling over the outing, Brutsch announced that he was collecting donations via PayPal to help pay for health insurance for his family, including his disabled wife. It's not known how much he has raised, but his appeal elicited sympathetic postings.

Brutsch did not respond to email and voicemail requests from the Star-Telegram to comment for this article but said in a post that he was preparing to speak with CNN.

His story has gone viral, with various accounts published by the Huffington Post, Slate, Salon, The Atlantic and the British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, among a host of others.

Chen asserts that Brutsch, under his online identity Violentacrez, became the web's biggest "troll" -- a person who posts anonymous and sometimes hateful comments.

Violentacrez, pronounced, "violent acres," posted "an unending fountain of racism, porn, gore, misogyny (and) incest" on the sprawling community site Reddit, Chen wrote. In addition, he created or moderated pages called Chokeabitch, Rapebait, Jewmerica and one that used a racial slur in reference to underage black girls.

"Jailbait was the online equivalent of systematized street harassment," Chen wrote. "Users posted snapshots of tween and teenage girls, often in bikinis and skirts. Many of these were lifted from their Facebook accounts and thrown in front of Jailbait's 20,000 horny subscribers."

The shared photo site was found on a branch, or "subreddit," of the parent site, which until recently gave Brutsch wide berth, Chen wrote.

In, 2008, Jailbait, moderated by "Violentacrez," won the most votes on Reddit as subreddit of the year, he said.

"We just stayed out of there and let him do his thing, and we knew at least he was getting rid of a lot of stuff that wasn't particularly legal," Chen quoted Chris Slowe, Reddit's former head programmer, as saying, "I know I didn't want it to be my job."

As Brutsch's following as Violentacrez grew, he began selling T-shirts with a zombie-like logo. He created a subreddit called Violentacrez.

Last year, a site called Daily Dot called him the most important "Redditor" of the year.

All this added up, Chen said, to Brutsch/Violentacrez becoming "the most influential user of one of the most influential websites on the internet."

This week, a chastened Brutsch issued a public warning about winning such notoriety using a cloaked identity, which can be pierced.

"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be," the Arlington resident told Reddit followers.

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/10/16/4340061/arlington-resident-fired-after.html#storylink=cpy

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