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The top scoring link of today is a self post sparking a discussion of internet privacy and copyright legislation.  The post calls for people to use their democratic power to repeal the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), resist this and other standing laws limiting people’s use of the internet and mobilize as a community to stop laws like SOPA and CISPA from being passed.

As it touches on very current issues, it is not surprising that this link is ranking number one today.  687 redditors had responded at the time of reading, offering users’ opinions on how much regulation the government should be able to impose, plenty of analyses as to what the DMCA entails and its consequences.  Users fall on both sides of the argument of whether the DMCA is necessary and useful, or outdated as the original post suggests.  There is also lots of discussion about reforming the DMCA, what the alternatives would be and users opinions on how to deal with piracy and illegal behaviour online.  All in all an interesting debate is set off by this link!

Today’s second most popular link is a story from The Washington Post reporting on Obama’s economic policies, particularly the Workforce Investment Act.  The article reports on Obama’s claim that his fiscal policies would benefit all Americans, drawing a politically calculated contrast between him and the Republicans.  Accusing his opponents of supporting the rich through tax breaks at the detriment of the less well-off, Obama is reported as saying “I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth”, interpreted as a direct dig at his competitor, Romney.  The article covers the Republicans critical response to this attack, accusing him of deliberately misrepresenting their economic policies and of creating a stagnant economy.

With 2871 comments there was a large and varied response to this early start of political wrangling between the two parties.  Amongst the topics covered – there are too many to examine them all – there is a discussion of political engagement, or the absence of, on the part of the American people, and how this can be put down to a lack of empowerment.  Some commentators discuss the argument brought up that the American populace have no true democratic power.  There is a lot of commentary on the current taxation system, mostly in a critical context, and Romney is roundly abused here.  There is a big debate amongst redditors about socialism, socialized democracy, and what the terms ‘socialism’ and ‘communism’ mean in the US as opposed to Europe.  A lot of interaction amongst users is inspired by this link, stimulating a wide range of debates and discussions.

Coming in third place today is a self post attempting to get people to sign a petition to turn Election Day in the US into a national holiday, in order to increase voter turnout and, as the contributor puts it, to celebrate America’s right to vote by using their electoral power.

Many of the 387 comments point out either that this has been tried in other countries (and US states) and failed, or cite evidence making the same point, that as a tactic to improve voter turnout, it apparently doesn’t work.  Others discuss different techniques that have been or could be used to try and get more people to vote.  Interestingly, despite the fact this link has been upvoted 4736 times to make it third most popular today, only 619 people have signed the petition.


Dominating the top links on r/Politics today is another story about the legalize marijuana movement, this time brought to us in the form of a blog post written by the communications coordinator for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.  The blog reports on a move by over 300 economists, including 3 Nobel Laureates, to open up a serious debate on marijuana prohibition.  It includes the full petition which argues that the tax revenue generated through government regulation would be between $2-6billion.  As well as pointing out this and various other positives, the petition argues that the prohibition policy does more harm than good and, if nothing else, a debate is necessary to discuss the usefulness and consequences of marijuana prohibition.

The 561 comments responding to this article include redditors pointing out previous negative or lack of responses from the government on this issue and advise us not to get too excited.  A debate is sparked about the use of jury nullification, with people discussing the effectiveness of this tactic.  Some redditors share their experiences with the law when caught in possession, which generates predominantly sympathy from other users.  A large number of comments also make fun of and insult politicians because of their refusal to deal with the issue.

The second top scoring link of today is a strikingly socialist-sounding article from The Cagle Post entitled ‘Five reasons why the very rich have NOT earned their money’.  The author argues very strongly that the rich should be paying more in taxes as currently the middle classes work harder and take most of the tax burden.  It seems to be in support of Obama’s Buffett rule (see below post).  Paul Buchheit, the author of this piece, expresses in really strong terms 5 reasons for his belief.  He argues that since 1980, workers productivity has tripled in worth.  In line with this, the top 10% have tripled their share of income while workers’ pay has remained nearly unchanged (taking inflation into account).  He points to the richest members of US society mismanaging banks, corporations and companies at the expenses of the less well off, while still rewarding themselves with huge bonuses.  Buchheit points out how the rich have taken advantage of public research, turning it to their own gain by privately marketing and selling products developed publicly.  Citing data from the Centre on Budget and Policy priorities, he explains how the rich have avoided paying as much tax as they should, calculating that taxes make up 22% of the poorests’ income, whereas the top 1% only pay a total of 10% of their income in taxes.  Finally Buchheit recounts instances of public fraud and deceit on the part of banks and stock exchanges and accuses rich US companies of a sobering amount of environmental and human rights abuses, highlighting their negative contribution to American society.

I’m no economist but this article was clear enough to make me angry at the unfairness of it all.  Its not surprising then that there has been such a large response from Redditors, with over 1550 comments on this link.  People respond with different opinions, most agreeing with the article, some against it.  Not surprisingly, being such a politically charged issue, the comments slide into a political debate about the government, the influence of big business and corporations over the governments fiscal policies and whether the government will ever stand up for the people rather than rich donors and powerful corporations.  There are discussions on economic policy and whether tax breaks for the middle and poorer classes would benefit the economy as a whole.  Overall most of the comments seem to agree with the idea of taxing the rich more and easing the pressure on the less well-off.

Today’s third most popular link is a mildly self-congratulatory article from the Ottowan Globe and Mail, reporting on the influence of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Signed 30 years ago yesterday, the Charter has been proclaimed as the most influential constitutional document for other nations when designing their own laws.  A study undertaken by two US academics has argued that Canada has overtaken the US in exporting constitutional law, causing others to comment on the outdated nature of the US constitution which some argue is not useful or relevant for modern day problems, contrasting it with the Canadian charter.  One commentator is quoted as saying that the Canadian charter enshrines goals and values shared by other countries, such as prohibiting any form of discrimination while protecting individual rights.  The Canadian and US constitutions are compared, with Canada being portrayed in a much more positive light both in terms of its protection of the people and its legislative system.

Many of the 844 comments analyse the claim in the article that the charter is widely admired, with some comments criticizing areas of the Canadian charter.  However, many of the contributions use specific legal cases to back up the claim that it enshrines personal rights and freedom, while still others heavily criticize the US system.  Many of the comments convey a sense of pride in the Canadian charter.

Today’s top scoring link on the r/Politics page is contributed by the Denver Westword Blogs site.  Covering the controversial issue of the legalization of marijuana, it charts the growing support for Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act.  Mason Tvert, member of the Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation group, is featured as the main instigator behind this act, and is quoted throughout the article expressing his enthusiasm and optimism at the broad coalition of support he feels is surrounding the measure.  The blog post reports on the support show from the Denver Republican Assembly as well as Denver and Colorado Democratic Parties.  The whole article is very positive about the future of the amendment (perhaps misleadingly so?) and ends on a high with Tvert reportedly being optimistic about future political support for the legalization of marijuana.

The liberal ideals in this link are arguably compatible with the political leanings of many redditors, Reddit being a largely liberal, or at least anti-conservative, community.  This compatibility and the argument expressed in the content, the legalization of weed, could explain its popularity on the r/politics page today.  Many of the 775 comments reflect the article’s message, with redditors supporting the amendment.  There is a lot of interaction with this link in the form of people discussing the realization of the act, the lobbying process and practical stumbling blocks like opposition from anti-cannabis lobbyists, tobacco companies etc.  Comments also share personal research done by redditors as to different parties’ and individual’s standpoints.  All in all this seems to be an issue redditors are interested in!

Standing at number 2 today is an article published on the Salon website, detailing Romney’s first foray into the general election campaign, with the challenger criticizing Obama on lack of transparency.  The article highlights the irony of this remark considering Romney’s own avoidance of committing himself to any specific policies throughout his campaign trail so far.

The main part of the article is a gleeful recounting of Romney’s embarrassing move on Sunday night.  Giving a speech at a private fundraiser, he outlined specific details about the policies he would follow in office, accidentally spilling all to the reporters listening outside.  The article mentions some of these policies, including his plan to ‘get’ Hispanic voters.  His is reported as admitting his own purposeful lack of transparency to avoid alienating voters, and the article finishes by smugly pointing out that if he wishes to achieve this same strategy he’s accusing Obama of using… maybe he shouldn’t inadvertently announce it to the whole world.

This article seems to be part of a trend I notice growing of political articles on r/Politics poking fun at or criticizing anything Republican, particularly Romney.  However, many of the 889 comments provoked by this link are cynical, supporting the idea that if you want to get public support, dishonesty is the best policy. One redditor posted this contribution which sums up the general feeling nicely.  Thoughtful debates are also generated about the voting demographic in the US, drug prohibition and the political positions of the Left and Right and what they stand for.

The third top scoring link of today is a Reuters article reporting on Obama’s failure to bring the Buffett rule through the Senate.  Defeated with only 51 for, it failed to gain the 60 votes needed to move it to a vote.  In what’s being billed as an ideological tug-of-war, Obama’s legislation (named after the billionaire Warren Buffett) to put a minimum 30% tax on the rich was blocked by Republicans, setting the stage for the debates on tax policy which are predicted to come hard and fast over the next few months.

With very different policies on tax and how to tackle the deficit, Reuters reports Republican accusations that Obama is initiating class warfare.  However, the article suggests that Obama’s defeated bill may be reflecting the opinion of the people, as a US poll has reported that 60% of Americans think the wealthy pay too little in tax.

This link obviously touches on controversial ground, incorporating class, the deficit, economic recovery, Republican versus Democratic ideology and the upcoming election amongst the issues covered.  This is reflected in the high number of responses generated, with 1995 comments at the time of reading.  Responses include recalling the tax policies of previous administrations, people’s opinions on whether these were effective or not and what the current policy means for American taxpayers.  There is also criticism of both Republican and Democratic actions about point scoring rather than committing to genuine strategies.

With the r/Politics page being dedicated to US politics, it’s no surprise one of the election runners pops up on the top scoring link.  Mitt Romney’s been causing a stir again, as reported in a news story on the Huffington Post site.  The remark, originally made in January, was rediscovered and aired yesterday by MSNBC.  He’s reported as saying that mothers should be allowed the dignity of work (here defined in opposition to raising children) and that women dependent on the Temporary Assistance for needy Families (TANF) benefit should be required to work in order to qualify for federal support.

What the message seems to imply, either consciously or not, is that for those families qualifying for TANF, raising children is not considered work, whereas for those in an independent economic situation… it is.  The latter being a view apparently held by Ann Romney herself.

This effort to increase the amount of hours worked by women in order to qualify for the benefit has been described by some as ‘heartless’ (watch the video clip here) but Romney supports increased federal assistance for child care to allow women this ‘dignity’.

Clearly Republican in nature, this article generated 1708 comments at the time of reading.  The responses included a mixture of support and criticism for Romney’s stance, (noticeably the latter) mainly in response to the implicit message outlined above as to the value of childcare in the home.  There were also a small amount of thoughtful comments assessing Democrat and Republican policy.

The article generated many heated and emotional responses, including people recounting personal experience in their comments, and expressing their different interpretations of Romney’s opinion and its consequences for ordinary Americans, predominantly in a negative vein.

The second highest scoring link upvoted on Reddit is another news article, from Salon, telling us that teen pregnancies in the US have fallen to a record low.  The gist of the article is scorning complaints on the part of the right wing group Concerned Women for America (CWA) that the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), who published the report, did not place enough stress on abstinence from sex as a reason for this fall, instead focussing on use of contraception as the main cause.  Although the CDC did in fact recognise abstinence as a possible factor, a spokeswoman for CWA complained that the effectiveness of abstinence education is not mentioned, whereas she stresses its success.

This article is very left-leaning in content and response.  It seems to have been set up as an opportunity to have a grumble at conservative Pro-life and abstinence policies.  The comments reflect this, with the majority of the 1355 responses criticising the idea of abstinence, the religious ideals behind it and the pressure put specifically on teenagers not to have sex.  Aside from this, a number of the comments are light-hearted jokes, mostly in response to the (slightly unfortunate) titling of the link as ‘Teen births are down’.

Coming in third place today is a self post from a redditor publicising a petition to the White House to double NASA’s annual budget. Interesting to note it being upvoted to third (at the time of reading) when the content is so simple and arguably uncontroversial, especially compared with the above links.

Although only receiving a fraction of the comments of top scoring 1 and 2, with 481 comments, there is a lot of interaction and engagement with this link, maybe explaining its popularity.  While some comments simply support or oppose the idea of doubling NASA’s budget from 0.5 to 1% (see the full petition here) other dialogues are opened up asking questions about the process of getting a petition into government, and some delve deeper into the democratic process itself.  Still others discuss the future of NASA and its importance for the human race, for example when considering colonization of other planets in the future. A lot of interesting responses here!

So (now I’ve got to grips with the simpler side of blogging!) I’ve set up this blog as a platform for my thoughts, observations and summaries of the top scoring links on the Reddit site.  I’m curious as to what it is that causes the popularity and interaction (through comments and the like) of the most popular links on Reddit.

For this little mini-project I’ll summarise the main content of the three top links of the day (at the time of viewing) on the Reddit politics page, a Reddit community of over 1,300,000 subscribers.  I’ll look at the content, format and ideology of the link and the multitude of comments, opinions and emotions generated through interaction with the post. My aim is to find out what makes a link popular, why it’s been upvoted onto the top 3, and to identify any trends of topics discussed within the r/Politics community.

Hello world!

Tentatively dipping my toe into the big wide sea that is blogging… at the moment fascinated and confused by all the ripples (read: instructions. Noideawhati’msupposedtodoo!)

Just going to take a deep breathe and dive in…