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What is the problem with Reddit? There is a problem, and you know there is a problem—yet you cannot quite put your finger on it. I used Reddit once, for work—I posted a thread about an article, but nobody responded to it; so I gave up.

I wanted to find out whether a scene in the film Apollo 13 where the mission commander’s wife loses her wedding ring down the drain in her motel just before the launch actually happened. Really, I knew it happened because people find it hard to invent events like that, for the very reason that it seems too pat—too “unrealistic”, so must be excluded or cannot be imagined. Here are the responses that my search engine brought up from Reddit:

Not helpful as far as my question went, though I could have inferred that it was so from the way Reddit answered this question. Really, the first response shows the problem: it is too pat for Reddit—if you are on Reddit you are too sophisticated for that. If read flat the response is true: Apollo 13 is partly about not losing your wedding ring down a drain; however, it is notable that the accent in the response is on moralism—“You shouldn’t lose your wedding ring <<be a bad person>> or bad things will happen to you.” Another way to look at it, without the moralism, would be to say that to lose your wedding ring before a space launch for your husband is an omen—a warning. Indeed, Lovell’s wife had also had—as depicted in the movie—a dream that Lovell was sucked out of his capsule three days before the launch.

The second response from bch182 (bitch 182, in fact) reveals a little more as regards the problem with Reddit. The focus is shifted away to an expensive and fashionable Omega watch that the astronauts utilised in the jerry-rigged procedure they used to rescue themselves. This carries the original post’s ambivalence further and to a greater depth.

The problem with Redditors is that they cannot deal with the profundity and beauty that constitutes reality; so they cannot accept the imperilled astronaut’s wife could lose her wedding ring the day before the launch—and that this portends what will unfold in space. Instead they revert to mutters about “the science”, how to think that way is not scientific—or divert to a non-conversation about an expensive watch. “So, yeah, really it’s all totally about jewellery—or whatever.” They like the watch because the watch is a high-status technological artefact connected to science and rationality and so moves them away from omens and portents—anything “icky” like that.

Redditors do not find omens “icky” due to their immoral lives, though their lives are decadent. On the contrary, they are very up on their morals—on their right and wrong—and so they want to know “the moral” of Apollo 13; and many are like this beyond Reddit. “What’s the teachable moment here?” In fact, this moralism—as with their infatuation with science and their snark (a repulsive word for repulsive behaviour)—constitutes the armour they have constructed to push out the profound beauty found in reality that would annihilate their social pose if they let it in.

They fear to lose control, they are all about control; and that is why they love morals—they fear to be overwhelmed by the beauty, so that they would be caught out or humiliated in public (if, say, they started to cry at the beauty); hence the social pose is paramount—the worst thing imaginable is if everyone laughed at you; so sophistication, even pseudo-sophistication, is key—the Omega watch. Such people dislike the idea of God (Alpha)—as imagined as an omnipotent and omniscient man—because they are full of pretence and so the worst thing they can imagine is someone who could see through everything they do.

The core problem at the heart of Apollo 13, if you remember the events depicted, is that mission commander Jim Lovell had his crew changed at the last moment; one crew member, designated to solo pilot the capsule while the others were on the Moon, who had not had the measles was exposed to an infected person and so a NASA doctor insisted that he be scrubbed from the mission and replaced by a more inexperienced astronaut, since it was an unacceptable risk to have the capsule’s pilot alone with a fever while the others were on the Moon—yet Lovell trusted the scrubbed astronaut and it was all very last minute, he was not satisfied.

Really, Lovell should have held out for the crew mate he preferred—even if it meant he was pushed back to a later mission. In the film—and this may be fictionalised—Lovell is depicted as being anxious that the Apollo program might be canned due to budgetary concerns and that he is at the end of his natural life as an astronaut; ergo, Apollo 13 is his only shot at the Moon—if he holds out for the crew mate potentially infected with measles he will lose his shot at the Moon.

As it turns out, Lovell’s accusation in the film that “this is flight surgeon horseshit” as regards the measles is justified in the end—his crew mate, left on Earth, turns out to be fine; and so he helps solve the problems with Apollo 13 in a simulator. Per Inferno, betrayal—lack of loyalty—is the worst sin: Lovell should have held out for his preferred crew mate—possibly the flight surgeon would have been overruled if he was stubborn enough—and retained the integrity of the team he led; failure to do so leads to disaster (“No it didn’t, it was because there was a fault when they stirred the cryo tank!”)—and Lovell failed to do so because he was motivated by self-seeking. Yet that is not a moral exactly, just reality.


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