The internet is filled with strange and unusual content, most of which whips by you at speeds too quick to process. In an attempt to highlight the funny and interesting things we find in far-flung corners of the web, join us… Online™
Furries feel like a community that is particularly unique to the internet. It’s hard to imagine most of us being aware of their existence if it weren’t for the world wide web seeming to bring disparate people together in their shared love of dressing up as cartoon animals. If you spend much time Online, you’re probably aware of some infamous furcons that went horrifically wrong, and maybe you’ve even seen pictures of Foxler, the furry who loves dressing up like Fox Hitler (who also has been charged with child sex crimes). You’ve probably laughed about and/or been repulsed by furries at some point in your time bouncing around the information superhighway: they’re another oddity from Vice videos for you to gawk at from the safe distance of your computer screen.
Of course, furries are people too, and they’re people with a wide range of beliefs, opinions, and behaviors outside of a shared interest in their lifestyle. I had never really put much thought into the fact that there might be antifascist furries to combat the blatantly racist ones I had seen on the internet, until I heard the two-part series “How the Furries Fought the Nazis and Won” by the podcast WORST YEAR EVER. On this podcast, hosts Cody Johnston, Katy Stoll, and Robert Evans explore topics surrounding the 2020 presidential election and all the various ways this will most likely be the Worst Year Ever. In their series on furries, they took a remarkably deep and serious look at the very real problem of Nazis attempting to invade and take over the furry community, while also demonstrating how the furries were able to effectively stamp out the influence of white nationalism in their spaces.
In my casual disregard for furries, I hadn’t realized that a furry convention had been subjected to a chlorine gas attack, which injured a number of attendees at the convention. The perpetrator of the attack was attempting to committ an act of far-right terrorism, and yet I had heard absolutely nothing about the attack before listening to these podcast episodes. A large amount of the reporting on the attack was mostly based around incredulity that furry conventions even exist, and very little care was given to the very real harm that was caused and the motives behind it. In short, furries were considered lesser than and not worth having their pain and endangerment taken seriously.
It’s really no surprise that when mainstream culture is entirely dismissive of furries, some furries are particularly receptive to fascism. When you take young people, especially young men, who feel unaccepted for their self-expression, and drive them to insular internet communities that feel like the only space they can be themselves, they turn out to be prime targets for recruiting by white nationalists. We’ve all known this to be true for 8chan and the more extreme corners of Reddit, but WORST YEAR EVER makes the compelling case that the furry community was the canary in the cole mine for Nazi recruitment before most of us realized how bad the problem really was. But what’s equally compelling is how effectively the furry community has neutered the fascist problem over time. By correctly identifying the root causes of hate and by targeting members of their communities that seem particularly vulnerable, some antifascist furries have been able to walk back people from the brink. The two-episode series has everything you could want: wild anecdotes about furry culture, hard-hitting investigative journalism, and some surprisingly sweet interviews with people who are very, very dedicated to keeping their friends safe. WORST YEAR EVER is the perfect examination of internet culture as a whole, and you can listen to it here.