He's been called one of the Internet's biggest trolls, responsible for disseminating offensive and, at times, questionably legal content via popular social news site Reddit. But 49-year-old Texas resident Michael Brutsch now says he's says he's "sorry" for the years he spent posting controversial content online.
Brutsch, who until recently went by the Reddit username Violentacrez, sat down with Drew Griffin of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 on Thursday evening in the wake of an exposé by Gawker that linked Brutsch's Internet habits with his real name and recently cost him his job.
"All I can say is that [...] I'm sorry," said Brutsch, a married man and a grandfather. "I have made mistakes."
But he didn't take full responsibility for his actions during his interview with Griffin. He also blamed the culture on Reddit for fostering his penchant for posting offensive material.
"Reddit encouraged and enabled this sort of behavior, and I shouldn't have been a part of it," he said. "Nobody on Reddit really had anything to say about it at all. Since then, I have come to understand that there are situations where [...] things are inappropriate."
Before his identity was exposed, Brutsch was a prolific Redditor. He established and presided over a plethora of subreddits (forums where users post, vote and comment on links about a particular topic). Brutsch told Griffin that he "started out posting […] mostly softcore porn" and eventually created over 600 pages. Among the most contentious were r/rape (for rape jokes), r/pregnant (for photos of pregnant women) and r/jailbait (for suggestive photos of teens).
"There are hot-button topics that you can make a comment about and just enrage people," Brutsch told Griffin. "Sadly for me, I enjoyed doing that. [...] Apparently I have a gift for pushing buttons."
While the content on his subreddits may have toed the line of legality, and certainly offended many users (both on and off Reddit), Brutsch had almost complete control over his pages. Gawker's Adrien Chen describes Brutsch's curatorship of some of the site's more unsavory forms:
Violentacrez's privileged position came from the fact that for years he had helped administrators deal with the massive seedy side of Reddit, acting almost as an unpaid staff member. Reddit administrators essentially handed off the oversight of the site's NSFW side to Violentacrez.
As a reward for creating the r/jailbait forum, Brutsch received from Reddit a gold-plated bobblehead doll in the shape of an alien, the site's official emblem. Brutsch brought the token with him to the interview and displayed it for Griffin. (The r/jailbait forum was shut down shortly after Anderson Cooper aired a report on the subreddit in 2011.)
"I am to some degree apologizing for what I did," Brutsch told Griffin. "Again, I was playing to an audience of college kids. And you know, when two years ago, when all of this was at its height, the audience was appreciative and supportive of the sort of gallows humor that I put out there."
Anderson Cooper, commenting on the interview to Griffin, made no secret of his disgust for Brutsch, calling him "a guy sitting in his lonely little room, typing on a keyboard, interacting with people he didn't know."
Watch the video (above) for part one of Drew Griffin's interview with Michael Brutsch. Visit CNN to view part two of the video.