Rap Genius Co-founder Resigns After Disturbing Comments on Elliot Rodger’s Manifesto

RodgerWhen human beings do unspeakable things to their fellow man, society’s need to understand why such things happen often leads to mass speculation and a sort of fascination with the persons who commit these violent acts. As such, manifestos, journals, and other windows into the minds of such people are often widely shared and discussed. The manifesto of Elliot Rodger — who murdered six people in a shooting rampage near Santa Barbara, CA on Friday — is no exception.

Mahbod Moghadam, co-founder of annotation website Rap Genius, felt compelled to not only read Roger’s hate-filled manifesto, but to use his company’s website to leave comments and notes about the parts of the text he found most interesting. Most unfortunately, those comments were, for the most part, insensitive at best and deeply disturbing at worst.

Here, via ValleyWag, are a few screenshots of some of his comments. The original text appears in yellow, while Moghadam’s responses appear in white:

Rap Genius Cofounder Resigns Over Comments On Elliot Rodger Manifesto

As we said, inappropriate doesn’t even begin to cover it. When asked about his actions, Moghadam explained himself this way:

“I was fascinated by the fact that a text was associated with such a heartbreaking crime, especially since Elliot is talking about my neighborhood growing up…I got carried away with making the annotations and making any comment about his sister was in horrible taste, thankfully the rap genius community edits out my poor judgement, I am very sorry for writing it.”

Now, Moghadam has resigned from both his position at Rap Genius and also its board of directors. The company released the following statement about his resignation:

Yesterday the Rap Genius community annotated Elliot Rodger’s manifesto on News Genius. Because this tragedy is still so raw, there was internal debate as to whether this document belonged on the site at all. Ultimately we decided that it was worthy of close reading – understanding the psychology of people who do horrible things can help us to better understand our society and ourselves.

The current version of the annotated document is far from great, but the hope is that the annotations will improve over time as the story unfolds and it will eventually be a good resource for people looking to understand this tragedy.

Almost all the annotations were at least attempting a close reading – they were genuinely, though imperfectly, trying to add context to the text and make it easier to understand.

However, Mahbod Moghadam, one of my co-founders, annotated the piece with annotations that not only didn’t attempt to enhance anyone’s understanding of the text, but went beyond that into gleeful insensitivity and misogyny. All of which is contrary to everything we’re trying to accomplish at Rap Genius.

Were Mahbod’s annotations posted by a new Rap Genius user, it would be up to our community leaders, who set the tone of the site and our approach to annotation, to delete them and explain to the new user why they were unacceptable.

Were Mahbod’s annotations posted by a Rap Genius moderator, that person would cease to be an effective community leader and would have to step down.

And Mahbod, our original community leader, is no exception. In light of this, Mahbod has resigned – both in his capacity as an employee of the company, and as a member of our board of directors, effective immediately.

Mahbod is my friend. He’s a brilliant, creative, complicated person with a ton of love in his heart. Without Mahbod Rap Genius would not exist, and I am grateful for all he has done to help Rap Genius succeed. But I cannot let him compromise the Rap Genius mission – a mission that remains almost as delicate and inchoate as it was when we three founders decided to devote our lives to it almost 5 years ago.

Tom Lehman
Co-Founder & CEO

After the news of his resignation broke, Moghadam tweeted this short, but remorseful statement: