UPDATED: Too Furry To Fail – Toxic Popularity

(This blog has been updated to reflect Timburrs’ statement; jump to the end for the addendum)

It’s been a while, and damn, it’s a shame that so much of my post history is filled with criticism of the community I feel most part of. But sometimes it has to happen that way, and, well… this is better for writing long-form posts than Twitter.

I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t want to read about more furry drama meta, because to be honest I’m tired of it myself. The idea of ‘can’t we all just get along?’, while simplistic, is definitely pervasive. But what’s more important than idle pleasantries that literally don’t solve anything except to those who prefer to just put new newspapers over old puppy turds, is actually stopping behaviours that cause such contention and rifts in the first place.

anime thats enough

Don’t underestimate me, I will double chibi punch your ass. Or your face, whichever I reach first

Ugh, what happened now?

Well, it’s less ‘now’ than a culmination of stuff since my last blog post, which was about the dangers of toxicity in furry self-identification in defence of abusers. Having been both adjacent to and within various conflicts since then… I have some feelings.

Let’s recap some of the severe (and ongoing/recurring) stuff (CW for pretty much all of this stuff given the contexts):

-KerotheWolf and many others are ousted as a part of a big zoosadist ring.
-Viro, co-host of the Feral Attraction podcast, is uncovered as a serial abuser.
-PKrussl, YouTuber, is discovered to curated a list of cub porn artists on his InkBunny. This is after his defense of using the n-word ‘as a meme’ and temporarily defending Kero.
-2 Gryphon is still a bitter, unapologetic racist.
-Growly, convicted sex offender, is under fire for being allowed to run kids’ events at conventions.
-TheCoffeeSnolf makes several transphobic tweets, initially doubles down.
-AlbinoKitsune is named as a horrific abuser.
-Dojo the Dingo, apparently incensed by Furry’s ‘authoritarian leftism’, quits the fandom.
-Timburrs, a red panda cosplayer, is found to have commissioned explicit cub art.
-DogPatch Press dismisses the severity of Timburrs’ taste, reposts an article in defense of ‘problematic kinks’, blocks a ton of furries, vows to quit exposure/serious pieces, makes veiled threats against a trans woman in a male prison, and assorted other things.

It’s been fun times.

I know there’s more. Not only are you not likely to want to read it, I don’t have the energy to look it all up.

Yang shakehead

Disappointing the shit out of me on a weekly basis

(Also, the image content here from this point will be entirely Yang gifs, fight me if you dare)

So, uh, that’s a lot of tea there, you gonna drink it all by yourself?

I am not. My bladder won’t take it. I’m not even going to extrapolate on all of these, mainly because a good few of them have already come to a sort of of conclusion even if, distressingly, most the people are still around. CoffeeSnolf made some kind of apology, Kero and Dojo quit Twitter, Viro seems to have absconded, AlbinoKitsune is being exposed but there’s a nasty legal situation about to unfold, and nobody except alt-right trolls take 2 seriously anymore.

The problem comes, and I’ve talked about this previously, where someone’s egregious behaviour blows up for a week or two, then they seem to shift right back into their position of popularity, or somehow become even more overblown than they were before. And the ways in which this happens is an interaction between a phenomenon of social media and the consumer mentality of a silent majority of furries, which can be very insidious when taken advantage of by people who don’t want to take responsibility for their actions.

How does this dynamic work?

It’s a running joke that problematic popufurs will have a controversy pop up, take a two-week break and reappear with a new video or whatever, and everything goes back to how it was without the resolution of any of the behaviours they were initially called out on. Part of this relies on social media’s inherent mechanics. It’s designed, first and foremost, to keep you addicted. It’s also designed to bring you a maximum amount of content as efficiently as possible. For a fandom which, by and large, has a very short attention span, this creates an opportunity for stuff to slip by in numerous ways, notwithstanding people’s ability to curate their feeds in the first place.

So even from the very beginning, you’ll have people who:
-don’t see the information
-are far enough removed to not know how to act either way (“not my business”)
-see it later, when the outrage isn’t as palpable, and the impetus to act isn’t as urgent
-don’t care, or just enjoy watching the firefight

This is part of the reason why controversies can seem so vehement at the time they break, because getting people to act on anything that doesn’t directly benefit them or offer a quick return of investment is often extraordinarily difficult and requires a lot of energy. Try selling a book to see what I mean.

Yang Face change

Haha, ugh

This puts whistleblowers/survivors/critics at an immediate disadvantage. Where close friends and those familiar with detrimental circumstances will see a need for empathy and support, there is a big enough crowd who are there just to be furries to obscure them, like a fog, and your boring or uncomfortable-to-read real world problems are not for consideration when there’s so much delicious fursuit ass to scroll through.

And that brings about the bigger issue at large, one that probably overrides all of these: when fans are so invested in a content creator or friend that defending their indulgence is the absolute top priority. You’ll come across threads of immediate apologism and logically incoherent justifications: “they couldn’t have hurt you because I like the content they produce and they seem nice”, and “where’s the proof, innocent until proven guilty”, down to outright baseless ad hominem attacks on the person speaking out. Because to some, bringing down fandom content is the worst thing you can do.

“These comments aren’t really about the issues themselves. They’re protecting the art, or creator. It’s a protest against the need for greater awareness in relation to the fandom, and a reluctance to give up a portion of the fan’s self-designation of what they consider makes them, or the creator, a furry. Especially where a prominent figure may have been crucial to some young fur’s awakening and fandom identity, the grip can be incredibly tight. In this view, the understanding is that furry creators cannot be bad people, but speaking out against other furries makes you a bad furry.”
Toxic Avengers- The Double-Edged Sword of Fandom Self-Identification

Yang guns gif

Can’t shoot the messenger if I’m already dead inside

Some creators know this and take advantage of it with sickening precision. The more they distance themselves from issues people don’t like talking about, the greater their appeal to the consumer-driven fandom members who just want their fix. As a bonus, the longer they go without talking, the more negatively the people who perpetuate the callouts appear, because to all intents and purposes it looks like the ones being most disruptive to people’s fandom experience are those trying to get rid of the problem, and not the ones causing it in the first place. There’ll even be conflation between the problem (such as abuse) and those calling them out for this very reason, because people don’t want to be subjected to things that make them uncomfortable. For those who actually need the support (Newsflash: that does NOT include your favourite bigoted YouTuber), this is heartbreaking.

This code-switching/tacit manipulation is evident after these controversies time and again. Most recently, for example, in the overt tactics by Patch, who no longer does serious fandom exposé pieces, but despite losing over a thousand followers, has gone back to placating weird news posts and meme sharing, so is slowly regaining ground on what he lost. Which would be fine, if he (or anyone else in a similar situation) actually gave any indication of changing the attitude that forced him to this constructed superficiality in the first place.

If the fickle nature of the fandom is demonstrated anywhere, it’s here, where two people embroiled in the same controversy were treated with very different responses. This is, in part, due to the media each created, and hence the audiences they gathered. Timburrs bought the art, but is absolved or ignored because of his predominant content and who that appeals to. I’ll just paste my Tweet thread in here because I’m hungry and my back hurts.

So you see the underhanded interplay between the privilege of audience separation and the advantage of a platform that allows the overwhelming majority of followers to keep sharing content and amassing a greater voice. It can make legitimate and necessary callouts seem like pissing in the wind, and drive conscientious people into smaller circles away from atmospheres they’re continually disappointed by. The reason Kero ended up leaving is because new evidence of the zoosadism leaks kept coming out, keeping the situation in recent memory so he couldn’t escape it. With Dojo, the issue was literally his own behaviour, so he was always creating content that lead to his own downfall. If, like Timburrs or other furries with reprehensible habits such as racism, transphobia, arrogance, or harrassment/doxxing tendencies, there’s enough neutral-positive fandom relevant content to outweigh your bullshit, you’ll always edge on the side of growth. And that… really sucks.

Yang red eyes

TFW you’re tagged into a thread alongside someone you have deep issues with

OwO *notices your value*

Analysing the differences in fandom portrayal is important in assessing the impact controversies have. Artists can still make a living if enough people give their behaviour a free pass, and fursuiters can still sop up a great deal of attention. When someone who has neither of these (in a way- despite what we often encourage, there is a marked difference in appreciation based on fursuit appearance) faces scrutiny, they’re often perceived as less valuable even at the beginning. But the severity of what they do has an effect too, even if it’s mitigated by bappy wappy fluffy noseboops and puff paw crotch shots.

In general terms, the more superficial your content, the less you stand to lose, if you play your cards right.

This is not an instruction manual.

So a big part of the context of the Timburrs/DogPatch debacle was Patch’s reference to Timburrs as a ‘low value target’ with regards to his cub porn. This was after Patch had greatly magnified the exposure of PKrussl as a cp hoarder, and appeared incredibly disingenuous. Why was one target with a platform more significant than another target with a (albeit slightly different) platform?

Honestly, I don’t see a difference. There is no ‘low-value target’ when it comes to purchasing pornographic material of an underage character. This metric is bullshit, especially where even a single piece by a prominent furry puts a cute, ‘appealing’ face on child pornography portrayal. It’s deeply irresponsible.

As if it should matter less because it’s somehow just one person.

Tell that to a CSA survivor.

One abuser, in whatever form, is always too many.

Allegations came later that Patch would pick battles and articles based on what would advantage him and not disrupt his own personal circle and… that’s something I’ve seen a lot of furries do, and it’s especially more prevalent the higher their metrics.

(Disclosure: I was blocked by Patch and lumped in with people he described as ‘trolls and harassers’, if that gives you any indication of the response he’s given so far. And yes, I am disappointed.)

I’ve seen one defence of the ‘low-value target’ attribution that, while not explicitly defending the act or Patch’s words, stated ‘it was better to focus on sites that host the content instead of individual consumers, otherwise there would be thousands of callouts’. And that… didn’t sit right. Because not only did it negate the need for specific examples to be made when something could, and actually did, appear, it also infers that these thousands of cub porn supporters are somehow passive in it all, that they’d disperse or stop as soon as their content was no longer easily hosted. That’s not how internet media, learning, or community rehabilitation work.

Even if you meet this entire debate with doubts about the significance of cub porn, you should understand it is absolutely considered illegal, regardless of your sensibilities.

Yang Nevermore

Me, forcing my followers to read another irate Twitter rant

True, yes, going through a cub artists’ entire follower list to find every single furry and making individual tags is not practical, but when you have specific evidence of someone who attracts an audience of a (potentially) similarly vulnerable age group, there’s still a duty of care to take as much action as you would anywhere else. Arguably, that takes far less energy as it comes up than trying to build a grassroots campaign to unseat entire websites with artists who are already financially and/or through exposure assisting them.

But this brings us back to the comfortable apathy most furries wallow in like a chicken in a dust bath. Some common threads:

“If it doesn’t affect me, why should I care?” The most self-involved and insular take. Because perhaps if you want to stop this ‘drama’ shit you claim to hate so much, you should be choosier about who you extol the virtues of so they don’t become such a contentious figurehead. If you put as much effort into caring as you did into not caring, everything would be several magnitudes more enjoyable for everyone.
“I follow them, but I don’t support them.” Supposedly appeasing, but ultimately apathetic, and usually covering up a Fear Of Missing Out. Hate to break it to you, but to anyone except yourself, this makes absolutely zero fucking difference. To the person you supposedly ‘don’t support’, you add to their numbers and boost confidence in their voice that they likely don’t deserve. To your followers, who have an issue with whoever it is, you look like a supporter. Seriously, it is better for your own well-being and that of those around you not to hate-follow or keep tabs on ‘drama’.
“I separate art from artist.” Good job on your privilege. You’ve outright stated that: none of what they do effects you; you don’t care that it effects anyone else; and you’re willing to contribute to them as long as you get something out of it. All of these attitudes are selfish, but this is the one that tries to keep your foot in both camps to appease everyone but really only benefits you and the person in power. It does nothing to reset the status quo and just makes you look insincere.
“I’m not making any decisions until I see proof.” Apathy isn’t a good look on you, and you have no idea of the damage you do by making such demands. You are declaring that someone’s personal story isn’t enough for you to believe. Granted, if this is a stranger online you’ve never seen before, there’s no trust dynamic, buta significant proportion of the time (where furry is concerned at least) you also haven’t met the person you’re defending. Even when fans of various figures above were presented with direct evidence they still denied it, and you’re just adding to the circlejerk of wilful ignorance by not making an informed judgement based on your own disposition.

Yang Rage

Guess how I feel about these responses

Okay, fine, whatever, people suck. What do we do?

The draw of popularity can be as corrosive as it is seductive, but it doesn’t have to be. A lot of it depends on the personality of the… personality, I guess. Someone who is afraid to ever be wrong won’t want to correct their behaviour, or will issue a performative apology (‘sorry IF you MAY HAVE BEEN offended’ is not a real apology, FYI) and go back to whatever they were doing behind the scenes. But people who are legitimately invested in the good of the community and themselves should be willing to take a long, hard look into their follow-me fursuit eyes and try to improve. These are the people worth celebrating and communicating with.

A lot of furry idolatry comes from preconceptions about the people who make and share our content. We’re not used to furry being accessible in the outside world, so we project things we want to see in others onto them, sometimes before we even know them. I’m guilty of this, and it can be dangerous when we get too far into that habit of assuming everyone is a friend or above reproach just because they’re furry. A little bit of distance and rationalisation goes a long way, without going so far as to mistrust everyone until they prove themselves to you in some way. I’m lucky to be followed by some awesome people but I can’t assume they’re my friends just for that alone and, more importantly, nobody in this community should be treated as a jumping off point for your own career if you do find yourself with someone awesome underneath your follower list. You are not entitled to someone else’s time, friendship, or investment. The moment you think of this more as a community and less like a hierarchy of networking opportunities, the easier it becomes to actually enjoy yourself and simultaneously see where we need to patch things up.

Despite the amount of callouts I read, share, support, and sometimes generate, I am more invested in the fandom than I ever have been, and have some incredible friendships that I hope never to lose. If I considered this either casually or as a mercenary means of furthering only myself, everyone would be seen as competition, and overall it’d just be a miserable experience led by jealousy and opportunism.

As part of this, as much as genuine callouts are bona fide warnings, they should equally be considered opportunities for the targets to change. While evidence of a long history of abuse isn’t likely to manifest a sudden renaissance, there are times it should be viable to impel a change first, and then strike them out if there’s no sign of that happening.

To that end…

If you’re fortunate enough to be popular already, please remember that we are all fallible, that taking a learning opportunity and sincerely apologising only makes you better overall, even if it takes a while to come to terms with what happens.

Remember that there’s a difference between someone who talks, and someone who communicates. A talker is someone focused on themselves, their conversation, their story alone. A communicator is exchanging ideas. It’s about the group, the space, and the parity of those around you. If you find yourself in a lot of arguments, you may discover that what you’re putting across may be less about everyone than you think. It’s important to remember you are only one of many millions of people, despite how many names are on your social media list.

We are all in a position to be examples of what we want to see in our own spaces, and in the wider world around us.

Why wouldn’t you choose, above everything else, to be better?

Yang Ruby

It takes time, but it’s so much more worth it. Trust me.

UPDATE: I know I’m not a news site, so I don’t necessarily need retractions or anything like that, but I felt this was important to add (Caution if you click through to the comments, as there’s a lot of cub art apologia here)

This is actually a very good statement and a relief to see Timburrs taking accountability where his platform could afford him not to and still enjoy a place of relative security and appreciation within the fandom. The fact that he felt strongly enough to say anything and denounce the art itself as from coming from a place of ignorance and/or self-exploration is hopeful.

What’s slightly less hopeful is the amount of people denying there should have been a need for him to apologise. This sadly ties back into the issue of idolatry where fans have this image of you and only want to be nice to and about you, even if you yourself admit you did wrong. Timburrs put himself out there to explain his feelings and I have bolstered respect to him for doing that given the initial reaction and continuing ripples of controversy that still spread over the pages every now and again. But to have someone, even an idol, open up and explain a mistake or make a heartfelt apology, there are still too many people obsessed with making sure their pedestal isn’t unbalanced, when communicating honesty in the first place actually effects it very little in the long-term.

Don’t shame someone for apologising, especially if you admire them. It makes them less likely to apologise in future.

Here’s hoping some of the younger furries (fuck it, even the older ones) will learn by Timburrs’ example.

Yang shrug

Nobody’s perfect, but each of us is the best places to start.

Thanks, mate.