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You might think that the extent of Taco Bell’s drama is its recent nationwide tortilla shortage, but you’d be wrong: Infighting on the fast food chain’s subreddit is cracking the community apart, right at the soft curve in its Doritos Locos Taco shell.
Until recently, r/TacoBell was the go-to place on Reddit to discuss such things as what the brand’s current Facebook picture really means or the best dollar menu hacks, and to share memes and shitposts—like the dude who ruined a perfectly good potato soft taco by spraying it with Baja Blast. It’s a very active group, with more than 42,000 members and a constant stream of new posts. But as you’ll know if you’ve ever been in any online community, forums need a little moderation to keep flame wars at bay.
One of those moderators at r/TacoBell was TacoBellBlake, who seems to be one of the brand’s biggest supporters—not just on Reddit, but on the whole internet. (That’s a big claim, by the way, given that people show off Taco Bell knuckle tats and exchange vows in Taco Bell-branded weddings.) But Blake was a person who had not only the foresight to register LivingMas.com, but also the energy to turn it into his very own Taco Bell news aggregator (“Not affiliated with Taco Bell or YUM! Brands,” says his Reddit bio). His “Taco Bell Resumé” includes “8 months working at a Taco Bell (in between jobs)” and a “cameo in the famous ‘senior pictures at Taco Bell’ (the guy taking the order).” Basically, if there’s anyone who should run a Taco Bell fan forum, it should be him, right?
But earlier this week, Blake was booted from his role on r/TacoBell by another moderator, after banning a user who Blake claimed used “angry language” against him. Now, r/TacoBell is a source of dissent, with moderators censoring posts discussing the controversy: one titled “Are we not allowed to discuss the on goings of our community?,” for example, has been locked, and its content removed. As Blake wrote in a comment today, “Any comment or post with r/LivingMas, LivingMas, LivingMore, Blake, B L A, or the word “mod” automatically gets removed.” In response to the current “power trip,” members have cast off to other parts of the fast food Redditsphere; ex-TacoBellers have come together on r/LivingMas, where a top post suggests reporting the other moderator to Reddit as “justice” for Blake.
They’ve even taken the story to r/SubredditDrama, where the insular beefs of niche communities are aired to the broader public. While the responses from people outside the Taco Bell scene show a well-justified confusion (“Why is there fucking drama on a subreddit about a fast food place?,” says one comment), responses from people in it are heartening proof of, well, food’s ability to bring people together—even if that kinship starts over conversations about Cheesy Gordita Crunches and Reaper Sauce.
To them, calling r/TacoBell simply a “subreddit about a fast food place” might seem a little dismissive. Everyone is trying to find their people, and r/TacoBell became a place to find other people who just got it. As one user commented, the community was important: “Everyone is really friendly, and we all get hyped together about new items, and new possible combinations or additions we can make with the new things they introduce.” That’s why it sucked so much for some of them to see it descend into this chamber of drama. “One of my favorite subreddits, destroyed overnight, and the mods are just like ‘lol it’s just fast food’ and clearly don’t even understand the community they’re moderating or how great it was,” wrote another user.
After all, even if you can’t hang with your internet friends IRL, there’s always comfort in knowing that someone, somewhere, might be in a drive-thru ordering a Double Chalupa—when really you both know, it’s more beloved as the “beef canoe.”