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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.

KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images
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Apple-cervix ears and spinach-vein hearts: Will humans soon be “biohacked”?

Leafy greens could save your life – and not just if you eat them.

You are what you eat, and now bioengineers are repurposing culinary staples as “ghost bodies” – scaffolding on which human tissues can be grown. Nicknamed “biohacking”, this manipulation of vegetation has potentially meaty consequences for both regenerative medicine and cosmetic body modification.

A recent study, published in Biomaterials journal, details the innovative use of spinach leaves as vascular scaffolds. The branching network of plant vasculature is similar to our human system for transporting blood, and now this resemblance has been put to likely life-saving use. Prior to this, there have been no ways of reproducing the smallest veins in the human body, which are less than 10 micrometres in diameter.

The team of researchers responsible for desecrating Popeye’s favourite food is led by bioengineering professor Glenn Gaudette and PhD student Joshua Gershlak at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). They were discussing the dearth of organ donors over lunch when they were inspired to use their lunch to help solve the problem.

In 2015 the NHS released figures showing that in the last decade over 6000 people, including 270 children, had died while waiting for an organ transplant. Hearts, in particular, are in short supply as it is so far impossible to perfectly recreate a human heart. After a heart attack, often there is a portion of tissue that no longer beats, and so cannot push blood around the body. A major obstacle to resolving this is the inability to engineer dense heart muscle, peppered with enough capillaries. There must be adequate flow of oxygenated blood to every cell in order to avoid tissue death.

However, the scientists had an ingenious thought – each thin, flat spinach leaf already came equipped with its own microscopic system of channels. If these leaves were stacked together, the resulting hunk of human muscle would be dense and veiny. Cautiously, the team lined the cellulose matrix with cardiac muscle cells and monitored their progress. After five days they were amazed to note that the cells had begun to contract – like a beating heart. Microbeads, roughly the same size as blood cells, were pumped through the veins successfully.

Although the leafy engineering was a success, scientists are currently unaware of how to proceed with grafting their artificial channels into a real vasculatory system, not least because of the potential for rejection. Additionally, there is the worry that the detergents used to strip the rigid protein matrix from the rest of the leaf (in order for human endothelial cells to be seeded onto this “cellulose scaffolding”) may ruin the viability of the cells. Luckily, cellulose is known to be “biocompatible”, meaning your body is unlikely to reject it if it is properly buried under your skin.

Elsa Sotiriadis, Programme Director at RebelBio & SOSventures, told me: “cellulose is a promising, widely abundant scaffolding material, as it is renewable, inexpensive and biodegradable”, adding that “once major hurdles - like heat-induced decomposition and undesirable consistency at high concentrations - are overcome, it could rapidly transform 3D-bioprinting”. 

This is only the most recent instance of “bio-hacking”, the attempt to fuse plant and human biology. Last year scientists at the Pelling Laboratory for Biophysical Manipulation at the University of Ottawa used the same “scrubbing” process to separate the cellulose from a slice of Macintosh red apple and repopulate it with “HeLa” cervix cells. The human ear made from a garden variety piece of fruit and some cervix was intended as a powerful artistic statement, playing on the 1997 story of the human ear successfully grafted onto the back of a live mouse. In contrast to the WPI researchers, whose focus is on advancing regenerative medicine – the idea that artificial body parts may replace malfunctioning organic ones – Andrew Pelling, head of the Pelling Laboratory, is more interested in possible cosmetic applications and the idea of biohacking as simply an extension of existing methods of modification such as tattooing.

Speaking to WIRED, Pelling said: “If you need an implant - an ear, a nose - why should that aesthetic be dictated by the company that's created it? Why shouldn't you control the appearance, by doing it yourself or commissioning someone to make an organ?

The public health agency in Canada, which is unusually open to Pelling’s “augmented biology”, has supported his company selling modified body parts. Most significantly, the resources needed for this kind of biohacking – primarily physical, rather than pharmacological or genetic – are abundant and cheap. There are countless different forms of plant life to bend to our body ideals – parsley, wormwood, and peanut hairy roots have already been trialled, and the WPI team are already considering the similarities between broccoli and human lungs. As Pelling demonstrated by obtaining his equipment via dumpster-diving and then open-sourcing the instructions on how to assemble everything correctly, the hardware and recipes are also freely available.

Biohacking is gaining popularity among bioengineers, especially because of the possibility for even wackier uses. In his interview with WIRED, Pelling was excited about the possibility of using plants to make us sexier, wondering whether we could “build an erogenous interaction using materials that have textures you find pleasing [to change how our skin feels]? We're looking at asparagus, fennel, mushroom...” If he has his way, one day soon the saying “you are what you eat” could have an entirely different meaning.

Anjuli R. K. Shere is a 2016/17 Wellcome Scholar and science intern at the New Statesman

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