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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.

Flickr: B.S.Wise/YouTube
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Extremist ads and LGBT videos: do we want YouTube to be a censor, or not?

Is the video-sharing platform a morally irresponsible slacker for putting ads next to extremist content - or an evil, tyrannical censor for restricting access to LGBT videos?

YouTube is having a bad week. The Google-owned video-sharing platform has hit the headlines twice over complaints that it 1) is not censoring things enough, and 2) is censoring things too much.

On the one hand, big brands including Marks & Spencer, HSBC, and RBS have suspended their advertisements from the site after a Times investigation found ads from leading companies – and even the UK government – were shown alongside extremist videos. On the other, YouTubers are tweeting #YouTubeIsOverParty after it emerged that YouTube’s “restricted mode” (an opt-in setting that filters out “potentially objectionable content”) removes content with LGBT themes.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a social media giant be criticised for being a lax, morally irresponsible slacker and an evil, tyrannical censor and in the same week. Last month, Facebook were criticised for both failing to remove a group called “hot xxxx schoolgirls” and for removing a nude oil painting by an acclaimed artist.

That is not to say these things are equivalent. Quite obviously child abuse imagery is more troubling than a nude oil painting, and videos entitled “Jewish People Admit Organising White Genocide” are endlessly more problematic than those called “GAY flag and me petting my cat” (a highly important piece of content). I am not trying to claim that ~everything is relative~ and ~everyone deserves a voice~. Content that breaks the law must be removed and LGBT content must not. Yet these conflicting stories highlight the same underlying problem: it is a very bad idea to trust a large multibillion pound company to be the arbiter of what is or isn’t acceptable.

This isn’t because YouTube have some strange agenda where it can’t get enough of extremists and hate the LGBT community. In reality, the company’s “restricted mode” also affects Paul Joseph Watson, a controversial YouTuber whose pro-Trump conspiracy theory content includes videos titled “Islam is NOT a Religion of Peace” and “A Vote For Hillary is a Vote For World War 3”, as well as an interview entitled “Chuck Johnson: Muslim Migrants Will Cause Collapse of Europe”. The issue is that if YouTube did have this agenda, it would have complete control over what it wanted the world to see – and not only are we are willingly handing them this power, we are begging them to use it.

Moral panics are the most common justification for extreme censorship and surveillance methods. “Catching terrorists” and “stopping child abusers” are two of the greatest arguments for the dystopian surveillance measures in Theresa May’s Investigatory Powers Act and Digital Economy Bill. Yet in reality, last month the FBI let a child pornographer go free because they didn’t want to tell a court the surveillance methods they used to catch him. This begs the question: what is the surveillance really for? The same is true of censorship. When we insist that YouTube stop this and that, we are asking it to take complete control – why do we trust that this will reflect our own moral sensibilities? Why do we think it won't use this for its own benefit?

Obviously extremist content needs to be removed from YouTube, but why should YouTube be the one to do it? If a book publisher released A Very Racist Book For Racists, we wouldn’t trust them to pull it off the shelves themselves. We have laws (such as the Racial and Religious Hatred Act) that ban hate speech, and we have law enforcement bodies to impose them. On the whole, we don’t trust giant commercial companies to rule over what it is and isn’t acceptable to say, because oh, hello, yes, dystopia.

In the past, public speech was made up of hundreds of book publishers, TV stations, film-makers, and pamphleteers, and no one person or company had the power to censor everything. A book that didn’t fly at one publisher could go to another, and a documentary that the BBC didn’t like could find a home on Channel 4. Why are we happy for essentially two companies – Facebook and Google – to take this power? Why are we demanding that they use it? Why are we giving them justification to use it more, and more, and more?

In response to last week’s criticism about extremist videos on the YouTube, Google UK managing director Ronan Harris said that in 2016 Google removed nearly 2 billion ads, banned over 100,000 publishers, and prevented ads from showing on over 300 million YouTube videos. We are supposed to consider this a good thing. Why? We don't know what these adverts were for. We don't know if they were actually offensive. We don't know why they were banned. 

As it happens, YouTube has responded well to the criticism. In a statement yesterday, Google's EMEA President, Matt Brittin, apologised to advertisers and promised improvements, and in a blog this morning, Google said it is already "ramping up changes". A YouTube spokesperson also tweeted that the platform is "looking into" concerns about LGBT content being restricted. But people want more. The Guardian reported that Brittin declined three times to answer whether Google would go beyond allowing users to flag offensive material. Setting aside Brexit, wouldn't you rather it was up to us as a collective to flag offensive content and come together to make these decisions? Why is it preferable that one company takes a job that was previously trusted to the government? 

Editor’s Note, 22 March: This article has been updated to clarify Paul Joseph Watson’s YouTube content.

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