Rap Genius Co-Founder Mahbod Maghadam Resigns Over Santa Barbara Shooting Comments

05.27.14 4 years ago 7 Comments

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Like anybody with half a sense of decency, I found the Santa Barbara killings sickening. I’m also of the belief that the more the media sensationalizes every aspect of alleged killer Elliot Rodger, incentive is added for others to act in the same tabloid-catching way. Sympathy’s one thing, but think pieces never seem necessary when events like this occurs. It’s human nature to want more information, but it’s also become human inclination to capitalize on tragedy. CNN, MSNBC and Fox constantly toe line and, if we’re being honest, sometimes cross it.

But in the midst of the constant stream of “why did he do it?” commentary, we do get wind of the occasional story that concerns us as a Hip-Hop community. Rap Genius co-founder Mahbod Moghadam resigning over the annotations of Rodger’s memoir? Oh, yeah. That qualifies.

Per Recode.net:

Rap Genius co-founder Mahbod Moghadam has been fired from the annotation service after posting appalling comments on the memoir of mass murderer Elliot Rodger, who killed six people in a shooting spree earlier this week.

In now-removed annotations on the site on the sick 141-page manifesto, Moghadam added a tasteless series of comments, including “beautifully written” and also “MY GUESS: his sister is smokin hot.”

“Smokin hot”?

I still hold firm in my angsty rally against the annotation website, but this transcends my original complaints. And, no – it doesn’t need to be dissected further than “what the f*ck were they thinking what the f*ck were they thinking what the f*ck were they thinking.” Not even for posting the annotations (which were definitely off-putting), but for placing the rambling diatribes of a madman on a website that also features T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf.

That? That’s the sound of another Rodger finding comfort in Santa Barbara. Maybe we should stop glorifying the entire f*cking thing.

Below, Rap Genius co-founder and CEO Tom Lehman’s statement regarding Mahbod.

A Statement About Mahbod’s Annotations on Elliot Rodger’s Manifesto

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

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