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The Furred Reich: The truth about Nazi furries and the alt-right

People who dress up as animals are adopting Nazi-style iconography and calling themselves “alt-furry”. What’s behind it?

“It’s just a piece of cloth, that’s really what it is.”

Foxler Nightfire is calling me from his home in Fort Collins, Colorado. Over the last few days, the 29-year-old has faced a torrent of online abuse after posting a picture of himself dressed as a fox on the social network Twitter.

Though furries – people who dress up as animals, occasionally for sexual purposes – often face criticism, it is something other than Foxler’s fur-suit (known as a “fursona” – fur persona) that has drawn the internet’s ire. The problem? On his left arm he is wearing a red armband, emblazoned with a white circle, in which sits a black symbol.


Foxler and his armand, via Foxler Nightfire

The accessory looks like a Nazi armband.

“It’s obviously not a swastika,” claims Foxler – who also insists his furry name is a portmanteau of “Fox” and his real surname, “Miller”, not “Hitler”, as many online argue. Foxler says he first began wearing the armband – which features a paw print in place of a swastika – after he dropped out of high school and started playing the online role-playing game Second Life, in which the band was available as a character accessory.

“I didn’t take any consideration because of my lack of World War Two knowledge,” he says. “I don’t think I could ever take it off at this point, it’s so ingrained into my character, my fursona.”

After Foxler’s tweet of his picture went viral, he was quickly branded a “Nazi furry”. He is currently getting “ten notifications every ten seconds” on Twitter, and is attempting to fight back.

He is half-Thai and half-German, and describes his boyfriend as black, noting that his mother is from Singapore. He claims that he in no way identifies with the Nazi Party. “If you want to put a political stance on me I’m kind of right down the centre,” he says. “But because of this huge push of people saying I’m a Nazi and they don’t want me to exist, I started to feel I need to protect my position. You could say that I’m starting to feel a little bit more right [wing].”

Foxler's story sounds very convenient, and I searched his name on Twitter along with the word "Jew" to see if he had made hateful comments. Although I initially found nothing, some other furries - who are against Nazi furries - message me some screenshots of comments they claim Foxler has made on YouTube, in which he says "I hate black people" and "I stand by Hitler". 

Foxler admits he made these comments but tells me he was just "trolling". 

"When people started calling me out few years ago, I started to troll real Nazis and see how would they react to furry that aligns with them," he says over Twitter. "What I got out of it was 'go die you mutt', reason I could never support people like that." I ask him, does he hate black people?

"Their [sic] two parts to that one, in my normal day life not at all," he says."But in my personal sexual life 'I don't like any race', which means I wouldn't sleep with black man [sic]. Now my boyfriend is mix black/asian. I sleep with him just fine, when I was young I use [sic] to be anti-gay. So why the change? It's because he [sic] not a 'human'; to me when I look at him. He [sic] a blue wolf."

When I say I feel misled by the fact that, over the phone, Foxler denied having any Nazi views, he says: "It's hard, we are talking about my whole life story here."

***

But just because Foxler claims not to identify as a “Nazi furry”, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. In 2005, a LiveJournal page was created for those who were both furries and fetishised Nazi uniforms. Since then the group has spread, with illustrations and roleplays across the internet. There is now even an erotic novel, The Furred Reich, available to buy on Amazon.


Illustrations from The Furred Reich, via furredreichblog.com

Yet although all of these furries seem to tick the box labelled “Yep, definitely Nazi, no doubt about it”, many in the community allegedly don’t actually align themselves with Nazi beliefs. “They’re very interested in World War Two history and they like to re-enact,” Foxler claims. “They’re just kinda cosplay in attitude, but when people look at it they don’t see that.”

In fact, the author of The Furred Reich initially refused to identify as a Nazi furry, as he disliked their “incessant apologising” and disclaimers that they aren’t actually Nazis.

It’s worth noting, then, that beneath their costumes, furries are humans – and thus have as diverse a range of opinions as any other subsection of society. Some Nazi furries, therefore, are white-supremacists, and others are simply into kinky costumes. Others, like Foxler, might hide in plain sight by wearing costumes but then deny holding Nazi beliefs. The whole thing, then, is incredibly complex.  

Yet if Nazi furries are sometimes more innocent than their name would make them seem, there is now a new right-wing contender on the block.

“There is not one thing that people refer to when they say ‘#AltFurry’,” says Qu Qu, a man in his late twenties who identifies as a “Pooka” (a shapeshifter) and considers himself leader of the alt-furry movement.

Over the last week, #AltFurry has gained attention on Twitter after Foxler used the hashtag to thank the group for supporting him. Qu Qu says that the origins of the term “alt-furry” are confused, and to avoid it being co-opted or used wrongly, he decided to turn it into an “explicitly right-wing movement”.

“I rule with an iron fist and crush dissenters beneath my footpaws,” he tells me over Twitter’s direct messaging service.

Alt-furries have now been rejected by Richard Spencer, a white supremacist and founder of the alt-right. Yet although many #AltFurries do hold extreme right-wing views (Qu Qu often retweets anti-semtic jokes) the movement should not simply be defined as “the furry branch of the alt-right”. More accurately, it is “the alt-right branch of furries” – in that its right-wing doctrine is designed with the furry community in mind.

“Progressives enjoy shrinking the Overton window until the window of acceptable discourse is but an inch wide,” says Qu Qu, who calls himself politically “grey” but has become more right-wing because of this. “Anything that falls outside the acceptable window of discourse becomes labelled ‘alt’, ‘extreme’, or ‘radical’.”

The movement, he says, is about standing up for furries, and forming a right wing within a traditionally very liberal group. “We would more accurately be described as a furry supremacy movement, although many of us believe that there is a place for furries within Richard Spencer’s ethnostate.”


Foxler in costume, via Foxler Nightfire

Just like Nazi furries, then, many alt-furries hold differing beliefs, and, from the outside, it feels incredibly confusing. For many it seems to be a place to fight for furry “supremacy” or purge the furry community of those who are seen as too liberal and free. For others, the movement is a place for people who are both alt-right and furries, like the author of The Furred Reich, who is an American man in his twenties. “I consider myself in the alt-right,” he tells me over Twitter. “Although a lot of people in the alt-right don't want me around because I wrote erotic furry literature. Many in the alt-right think I am a ‘degenerate’, although that isn’t true at all.” The author was approached by the alt-furry movement and decided to join.

“The furry ‘community’ is a fandom that has been overrun by liberal ‘tolerance’ and ‘acceptance’ and as a result it's become sanctuary to hardcore paedophiles and people with serious mental problems,” he claims. “The furry fandom needs to become more vigilant, and having a right wing is a big part of that.”

A furry who wished to be identified only as “Mink” agrees. He tells me that the #AltFurry movement is about “bringing a new line of hope within the degenerate filth that is the furry fandom”. They want to “cleanse” furries to be less “heretical” and “degenerate” and thus “bring furs into a new light”.

“The only degeneracy that will be acceptable is getting gay married someday,” he adds, though other alt-furries can be homophobic. “But that isn't the only thing we are fighting for, we are fighting against systemic speciesist oppression.”

Unlike the internet assumes, then, alt-furries aren’t always furries with an alt-right white supremacist agenda (though, like The Furred Reich author, some align with this), but are more focused on purging parts of their own community. If you had to sum it up in one sentence, it would be: Make Furries Great Again.

So are alt-furries and Nazi furries anything to be afraid of? The fact remains that this is all a bit silly. There is undoubtedly a heavy undercurrent of irony in the whole thing, which is more about using meme culture to mock social justice movements than starting a new world order.

“You can’t easily tell how many layers of irony we are on,” says Qu Qu. “This is by design, and you will start to see more and more political movements which bury themselves beneath layers of irony and yet still manage to get things done.

“I can assure you though; we are on more layers than just five or six right now, my dude.”

This article was updated to include new information unearthed after publication.

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.

Artie Limmer/Texas Tech University
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Meet the evangelical Christian persuading believers that climate change is real

Katharine Hayhoe's Canadian missionary parents told her science and God were compatible. Then she moved to Texas. 

During Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, alarm rose with each mention of climate change. Denial, dismissal and repeated chants of “hoax” left no doubt as to his position.

Now President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement has been seen as a seminal moment in the fight against climate change - one which many fear could lose the battle ahead of humanity.

But one scientist has been fighting a war of her own on the ground, against those who typically doubt the facts about global warming more than most - the evangelical Christian population of America.

And to make matters even more unusual, Katharine Hayhoe herself is an evangelical Christian who lives in the indisputably "bible belt" of Lubbock, Texas.

The atmospheric scientist has been named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people and one of Politico’s 50 thinkers transforming American politics. Now she is using her considerable heft to speak to those who are hardest to convince that there is a manmade problem that threatens the Earth’s future.

I meet her at the science and music festival Starmus in Trondheim, Norway, where she is to address the attendees on Thursday in a talk entitled "Climate Change: Facts and Fictions".

Hayhoe was born in Canada, to missionary parents. Her father, a former science educator, showed her that there was no conflict between the ideas of God and science. However, it was something of a surprise to her when she discovered her pastor husband, whom she married in 2000, did not feel the same about climate change. It took her two years to convince him.

What started as a conversation became an organised project when she moved to America's South in the mid 2000s. 

“Moving to Lubbock was a culture shock," she tells me. "When I moved there I wasn’t doing much outreach, but it moved me in that direction.

“Lubbock is very conservative. It’s small and isolated.

“I would say the majority of people in Lubbock are either dismissive or doubtful about climate change. I was surrounded by people - neighbours, parents of friends, people at church, colleagues down the hall in the university - who weren’t convinced.”

So Hayhoe, who works as an associate professor and director of the Climate Science Centre at Texas Tech University, set to work. She began to collect the responses she was seeing to the climate change discussion and prepare her counter-argument.

“When I talk to people who are doubtful, I try to connect with the values they already have," she says. “The greatest myth is the myth of complacency - that ‘it doesn’t really matter to me’.

"But I would say that the second most insidious myth is that you only care about this issue if you’re a certain type of person. If you’re a green person, or a liberal person, or a granola person."

The stereotypes mean that people outside that demographic feel "I can't be that kind of person because that's not who I am", as she puts it.

Hayhoe convinced her husband using data, but rather than repeating a formula, she tries to find out what will resonate with different people: "For many groups, faith is a core value that people share.”

Whether she’s speaking to city planners, water company managers, school kids or Bible believers, Hayhoe says her hook is not the facts, but the feelings.

“I recently talked to arborists," she says. "For them, trees and plants are important, so I connect with them on that, and say ‘because we care about trees, or because we care about water or what the Bible says then let me share with you from the heart why I can about these issues because it affects something that you already care about’.

“My angle is to show people that they don’t need to be a different person at all - exactly who they already are is the kind of person who can care about climate change.”

Hayhoe came to public attention in the United States after appearing in a Showtime series on climate change. She has appeared on panels with Barack Obama and Leonardo DiCaprio, and launched a web series. As well as plaudits, this level of fame has also earned her daily threats and online abuse. 

“My critics think they’re coming from a position of religion, but they aren’t," she says. "They’re actually coming from a very specific political ideology which believes that the government should not have control over people’s lives in any way shape or form - very libertarian, free market, free economy, Tea Party."

She believes that in the United States, faith and politics has been conflated to the point "people can no longer tell the difference". 

“Now it’s conservatism that informs religion," she elaborates. "If the two are in conflict - like the Bible says God has given us responsibility over everything on this earth - then people say ‘oh, we can’t affect something as big as this Earth, God will take care of it anyway’."

Around half of those who attack her on social media identify themselves as Christians, she notes, but almost all call themselves conservatives. 

As a scientist, she’s been preparing data herself - naturally - on her online attackers, with depressingly familiar results.

“As soon as you stick your head out of the trench, you get it. There have been papers published showing that white men disproportionately form up that small group of dismissives. They’re almost all men. When I track my social media comments, I would say that 99.5 per cent of them are white men.

“Out of 1,000 negative comments, I have maybe five from women.”

After the climate change argument moved up a gear - following the Paris withdrawal - Hayhoe admits that she and her fellow scientists are concerned, although she pays tribute to the businesses, cities and states from the US that have committed to following the Paris agreement themselves.

On the subject of the chief white male denier, Trump himself, Hayhoe says she has a discussion point which she feels may convince him to think carefully about his role in the fight against global warming’s impact on humanity.

“I would attempt to connect with the values that he has and show him how acting on this would be in his best interests," she says.

“One guess would be ‘what do you want your legacy to be? What do you want to be known as, the man who destroyed the world, or the man who saved it?’”

Katharine Hayhoe is speaking at Starmus on Thursday June 22. For more details, visit Starmus.

Kirstie McCrum is a freelance journalist. Follow her @kirstiemccrum.

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