Justice

This Crazy Viral Craigslist Ad Has an Even Scarier Story Behind It

April 20th 2016

By:
Lucy Tiven

On Tuesday, a fake Craigslist post went viral online: The post claimed to be from a Los Angeles mother seeking a women's studies tutor for her son. But when Slate reporter Ruth Graham did a little digging, she uncovered something beyond just a young man disinterested in reading about feminism.

The Craigslist post described a 22-year-old UCLA student who was flunking a feminist studies course. After Graham reached out to the "mother" and the UCLA professor who allegedly taught the course, she determined that the author of the post was actually 27-year-old Nader Modgeddi, who has previously been accused of serially harassing and threatening women online.

ATTN: reached out to Modgeddi over the phone about his intentions in placing the ad. He told ATTN: that the post was intended as a “social experiment” crafted to tap into a certain “type of anger,” and he emphasized that he did not intend to meet up with any respondents in person.

"Did I choose my words in this scenario in a way because I knew that description — and the way it was formatted — was going to hit some kind of nerve with a lot of people who identify with that label? Yes,” he told ATTN:.

Modgeddi expanded that he didn't solely set out to expose his belief that feminism "can be stereotypical and can alienate young men from this sort of idea,” but he did want to “stir the pot.”

“Was I really looking to push peoples’ buttons? Yes," he told ATTN:. "I think I would be lying if I was to say this was 100 percent a social experiment that I researched extensively."

The backstory.

"My son, Nate, is 22 and a student at UCLA," the initial Craigslist post (which has since been deleted) asserted.

It continued, "He's a very typical young man his age - finds the whole idea of feminism and gender studies boring and uninteresting."

The Craigslist ad was picked up by Jezebel in a piece titled "Someone Teach This Lady's Nightmare Garbage Son About Feminism Before He Flunks College," written by reporter Anna Merlan. Merlan, along with other journalists and commenters, pointed out that the ad painted a disturbing picture of the way young men are often raised and educated to think about feminism.

On Wednesday, Graham published a piece on Slate revealing the author's identity, and the piece received an outpouring of responses from readers.

“I wasn't anticipating getting such a high volume response," Modgeddi told ATTN:. "But I knew if it was presented to someone that does identify with that label [it might], especially if they are in groups of people." In particular, he aimed to incite a response among younger feminists.

“I assume them to be younger, sort of like the people who say 'we're intersectional feminists or whatnot,’" he said. "People who are more concerned with race and social class and all of those areas."

Modgeddi's history of online harassment.

As Slate pointed out, Modgeddi has a history of harassing women online. In a 2014 column in the Guardian, feminist activist Caitlin Roper wrote:

"The man who targeted me has been identified. His name is Nader, he is 25 and lives in California. He has been linked to at least eight different twitter accounts he uses to abuse women. In fact, the first rape threats he sent me came from the fake account he had created of yet another feminist campaigner he had been targeting.

"He is so brazen about his incitement to rape me, so sure of his invulnerability, that he barely even tried to conceal his real identity. Unfortunately for him, in the course of harassing countless women he left a trail leading to his name, image, phone number, email address, Facebook page and pictures of him exposing his erect penis."

Modgeddi is also listed on the anti-harassment Tumblr site Male Violence. “Nader Modgeddi is a student at Penn State University who harasses Women on social media,” the site reported.

Modgeddi spoke to ATTN: about Roper’s allegations, and he believes the story was sensationalized. When asked why he thought a serious crime was an acceptable threat, he admitted to ATTN: that he dealt with her “disrespectfully."

However, he maintained that the threat itself wasn't "logical," because it would not be logistically possible for him to actually sexually assault her due to their respective locations — he lives in Los Angeles and she lives in Australia. He also clarified that he did not threaten to rape her, but rather, said that she and her followers deserved to be sexually assaulted.

“Do I have regrets about the way I approached the situation? Yes,” he asserted.

Roper Harassment

"I handled it poorly. I used an avenue which was not professional," he said. He also speculated that Roper — who he called “rape bait” on Twitter — was offended due to his own assumptions about her personal history.

“Maybe Miss Roper had a history of sexual abuse," he said. "And that set of tweets really impacted her in a way that a lot of women who read what I had told her would not be impacted the same way.”

“I’ve never been someone who has had to deal with any of those sort of issues in life," he added. "I’ve never been a victim of those types of crimes. I can't claim to know or relate to people who have been victims of rape or sexual assault.”

He told ATTN: that he has attempted to choose his words more wisely since then.

"I make it a priority to avoid that sort of vitriol because words do matter, and as I become older I've understood that," he said. "It's frowned upon, especially now. Especially among that group of people; it's not well received.”

Still, many readers were not amused by Modgeddi's fake Craigslist post, and the ad has been interpreted as an attempt to harass a woman or women in person. New York Times reporter Amanda Hess tweeted:

In 2014, Roper wrote that "copies of Nader’s threats and his personal information have been supplied to the LAPD, to the school he lists on his social media pages, and to Australian police. I am also aware of complaints against him from women in Sweden and the U.K. This has not stopped him."

Modgeddi, for his part, said he has apologized to Roper, and he stressed that he did not aim to lure a woman to meet up with him in person with the Craigslist ad.

“I hope people don't define me by one set of tweets from almost two years ago,” he said. He also claimed not to have had any negative experiences with feminists, except those he encountered online. (Yet, he repeatedly dodged ATTN:'s questions about how he feels about feminists or if he identifies as one.)

Modgeddi told ATTN: that he was at no point contacted by law enforcement in Los Angeles or abroad about sexual harassment allegations.

[H/T Slate]