There’s an old adage on the Internet: “Don’t feed the trolls.”
The reasoning for such an argument is kind of a proof by induction if you squint hard enough at its structure: If you don’t feed the trolls, they’ll have to look elsewhere to get the engagement they crave. If you iterate the advice and nobody feeds the trolls, they’ll starve.
This doesn’t work in practice.
Saying “Don’t feed the trolls” really means “Let someone else be their victim” when you consider that we’ll never get to 100% universal troll-starving coverage.
And when you understand that nuance, why wouldn’t I engage with the trolls? I’m far less susceptible to bullying than the people they would otherwise target. If their attention is focused on me, that’s less energy they can direct at marginalized people.
Why are we talking about this today?
Over the past few months, I’ve received a lot of comments and tweets from people who are–to put it mildly–not acting in good faith. Some were obviously trying to provoke a response, others were genuinely angry and hateful. Some of them even included threats (which led to a handful of their Twitter accounts getting suspended; gg).
There are a lot of wrong ways to handle this kind of behavior. I don’t claim to know what “the right ways” are, but there are two candidates that I think are worth considering for anyone in this situation:
- Don’t feed the trolls. Despite it being effectively a form of kicking the can down the road, this is still a valid response (especially for marginalized people). After all: Why waste valuable time, energy, and emotional bandwidth on assholes?
- Meticulously document and speak out about their misconduct. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. People who are jerks online rely on their anonymity to protect them from accountability. Hate groups are known to operate loosely and coordinate their harassment campaigns on back-channels (e.g. Discord servers or private Telegram groups). When they over-extend, they risk their operation.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the more problematic hate messages I’ve received since I started this blog.
There’s a lot to unpack in this one.
Let’s start with the name: Getout. Regardless of the rest of the contents of their comment, they’re opening with a demand. And naturally they meander through milquetoast arguments before settling on “Do what I say, or we’ll kick your 30+ year old boomer ass out of the fandom”. Takeaway: The author’s intent is to bully.
The arguments they make are similarly silly:
- “I don’t know what rock you’ve been living under, but it’s pretty well established by this point that feral yiff is not ok.”
- a.k.a. “Everyone agrees with my opinion.” Cough.
- “FurryLife Online banned it”
- The same website also making a policy that art depicting overweight characters be classified as mature/adult just on the off-chance that someone might have a fat fetish and find such art arousing. (Bye-bye, Clawhauser!) I wouldn’t extrapolate from one website’s policies to make a universal claim about ethics.
- Little known fact: I actually voted in favor of FLO banning feral yiff. (You can ask Venthas if you don’t believe me.)
- My reason for voting this way was simple: There’s already another venue where that content is accepted, so why have it here?
- “…and in doing so has attracted top talent like Deo and Beta.”
- “Posts on Twitter telling feral furs to fuck off get thousands of likes, mostly by younger furs (but not necessarily minors) who are the future of the fandom.”
- How many likes does the average Donald Trump tweet get? Tweet popularity is not a reliable measure of social merit.
- I like how this person acknowledges that most of the people who agree with their shit takes are younger furs. Wanna take a guess who’s the exception to this rule?
- “Feral is zoo, and feral furs are not welcome in the furry community.”
- Let’s revisit this claim in a moment.
It’s tempting to take this email on face value, but there’s a subtle detail that a lot of people won’t notice: The IP address this was sent from resolves to a Verizon Wireless device in Valrico, FL, which is in the Tampa region of Florida.
There’s two things you need to know about Tampa-area Furries:
- A lot of them are alt-furry (white supremacists, fascists, Trump supporters, gun nuts, etc.)–which has been embraced the former Burned Furs.
- A lot of them are zoophiles, to boot.
When you consider the way this comment is framed and where it was sent from, it’s pretty clearly an attempt to cause a conflict between older furries and younger furries.
Verdict: This message is inauthentic, and an attempt at Internet trolling (as evidenced by calling me a “boomer” for being 30+).
I said we’d revisit the last claim in a moment, but first let’s look at another hate comment I got.
The Zealous Zoophile
This one isn’t funny.
Ordinon / OrdyPaws (real name: Matt Pembroke of MagicFund) is an animal sexual abuser that hides behind the furry fandom to gain access to potential co-conspirators.
In this incoherent comment, Pembroke argues that, according to his religious textbook, raping an animal is morally equivalent to having consensual gay sex.
As much as I’m loathe to give sexual abusers any time on my blog, I want you to notice something very important about the opinions and beliefs of zoophiles like Pembroke: They fundamentally believe that consent is irrelevant.
Beyond that, there’s not much to say about this comment: It’s a patently stupid thing to say, and the person who wrote it is clearly not mentally well.
Update (2020-09-16): Since publishing this, I’ve been informed that some of them acually attack this problem differently: They claim that animals can consent. However, this is not a view consistent with modern scientific literature. (If anyone reading this disagrees, argue that point with scientists and leave me out of it.)
Okay, now let’s revisit that claim from “Getout” above.
In response to a blog post that delineates feral art versus zoophile content, they remarked, “Feral is zoo, and feral furs are not welcome in the furry community.”
Yet, as evidenced by Matt Pembroke’s vitriol above, actual zoophiles are very emotionally invested in disqualifying consent as a metric for acceptability. Very curious!
Consent is More Important Than Superficial Optics
I’m going to reaffirm what I wrote previously:
Feral characters with human sentience are still furry, even if you can superficially relate feral furry art to the kind of content that animal abusers might seek.
The important thing with sex (and, consequently, porn) is consent.
Zoophilia is wrong because animals cannot consent to sex. Zoophiles like Pembroke have shown their hand in wanting this to not be the talking point we use when we discuss their atrocities. We shouldn’t give them what they want.
If your fursona walks on four legs, but is capable of human speech and has the intelligence, age, and emotional maturity of a human adult, I don’t care that they’re depicted on four legs: They’re still anthropomorphic and therefore furry, and any adult artworks depicting your fursona is categorically not zoo.
Attempting to judge art based on what some as-of-yet-unknown “other people” might find arousing, or what their motives might be in seeking it out, rather than its own merits is as dangerous as it is foolish.
There are way too many paraphilias to make this sustainable practice!
Even if I charitably grant the assertion that the majority of younger furs agree with the troll comment above, that doesn’t mean they’ve all sat down and thought through it carefully yet.
That being said, if anyone really wants to try to “kick [my] 30+ year old boomer ass out of the fandom”, good luck with that.
I was going to also include some hate I’ve gotten from Twitter in this post, but the accounts that posted it have since been suspended, so they’re kind of a moot point now.