1. Adrien Chen is a piece of work. He was enabled through Gawker to publically dox a private individual. (Yes, ViolentAcres did moderate scuzzy subs.. but that's an issue for the admins if they want that there or not) Adrian's actions had real-world consequences for the person he decided to go after. He also rubbed salt in the wounds when he did it.
2. His quote about how the moderators represent the community again is completely unjustified. This guy is a yellow journalist, and his statements have no merit.
3. Calling Moderating "Emotional Labor" is such a patronizing tone. It's community maintenance. (I'm pretty sure that dang wouldn't consider cleaning up and managing hn as something he does to make people feel better).
Then again, I can't claim to have a problem-free view of how the terminology is applied because, as far as I can tell, it often escapes any formal definition it might have. And the waters get muddier; the more frequently the term is used to not just to apply a kind of accounting to various social/relationship dynamics but to assert an associated injustice, the more the idea that having to do any kind of emotional labor is associated with injustice.
In larger, topic-oriented, and/or highly generalist communities, ones that are looser and more impersonal in general, it's been more as you describe.
There's a difference between handling something professionally, or not endulging in it, and not feeling anything at all.
"Emotional labour is the process of managing feelings and expressions to fulfill the emotional requirements of a job.
More specifically, workers are expected to regulate their emotions during interactions with customers, co-workers and superiors."
The mods are expected to regulate their emotions.
Which makes it emotional labour by default.
By this definition my response to you is emotional labor and you owe me for that.
It's like saying that human resource mangement is here to make the people grow. It's not, growing people is just a side effect.
It's actually gotten me thinking a lot about distributed moderation. Wouldn't it be better if access to any particular medium of communication (a forum, an IRC channel, a mastodon server) was federated? Democratized moderation would mean that people could then subscribe to whichever style of moderation they prefer, and people with unpopular styles of moderation (e.g. "ban everything I don't like", the style of the vast majority of forum moderators) would cease having so much power over mediums of communication.