A meme has been floating around certain corners of the internet.
“WHO WOULD WIN?” it reads in stark black capital letters above two photos. One image depicts a “leftist dad,” a man in a yellow parka holding a protest sign that declares his commitment to “pry” guns from their owners’ lifeless hands. The second depicts a grown man wearing a head-to-toe fox fursuit, cradling a sizable automatic weapon.
The gun-happy furry, the meme implies, would come out victorious.
Like America at large, furry culture is a community divided. Just as the so-called “alt-right” has gained momentum in human circles since the election of President Donald Trump, groups who refer to themselves as the Fur Right and Alt-Furries have reared their heads in furry circles, affixing white supremacist and ultra-conservative views to the furry bottom line of “must love dogs.”
“Trump’s election has for sure surged the influx of alt-right furries in the fandom,” Ayala the Deer, an asexual artist, writer and fursuiter who does not identify as Fur Right, told HuffPost. “There have always been alt-right furs, they’re just more vocal now due to the election. Any fandom that’s as open as us are always going to have bad eggs. We accept everyone and anyone, which is a good and very bad thing.”
It’s easy to misconstrue the world of furries. Although the most notorious faction indulges its animal urges with kink and deviant sex (see: the “Fur and Loathing” episode of “CSI”), many furries are simply fans of anthropomorphized animals in art and fan-fiction. They embrace alter egos called “fursonas” at community meet-ups as an expression of inclusivity ― sometimes in costume, or fur suits, sometimes not.
“To me, being a furry means escapism,” an individual who goes by the Twitter handle Red Kangaroo told HuffPost. “I love how this community offers a way to escape the real world for a little while, while also being a family, non-judgmental place to express yourself. I believe they go hand-in-hand.”
However, the vocal subgroup of Alt-Furries has been hard at work asserting their space within the movement of late, and it’s this very spirit of inclusivity they wish to expunge.
“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,” the unnamed author of Nazi furry erotica “The Furred Reich” told The New Statesman, which has been doggedly covering the Alt-Furry scene for years.
The core furry community, then, finds itself in quite the bind: Can a group founded upon the idea of consummate tolerance embrace a clique that’s so staunchly intolerant?
For the opposing furries leading an outright fight against the alt-right, the answer is no. Dogpatch Press, a furry news source offering “fluff pieces every week day,” often rails against Alt-Furries and their attempts at indoctrination. In February, a Dogpatch writer with the fursona Patch O’Furr published a “deep dive into the Altfurry mission to ‘redpill’ fandom with hate,” warning readers about the #AltFurry mission to indoctrinate members of the fandom and spread its white supremacist teachings.
According to O’Furr, furry fandom is a perfect venue for alt-right recruiters. Just as Pepe the Frog (RIP) served as a seemingly harmless, comedic package through which to promulgate racist, misogynist and xenophobic beliefs, fursonas can act as effective, hirsute fronts for extreme views. As Furry fandom member Deo elaborated in a Medium post, furry communities ― often populated by “socially awkward internet nerds” ― are prime targets for alt-right trolls, who target young people, outsiders and insecure, white men.
“This fandom consists of people looking to belong,” Ayala the Deer put it. “Many of the furry raiders will entice people to join their ranks with gifts like artwork. Some people might not even understand what their true agenda is, and will gladly join, finding a place to belong.”
To combat the burgeoning movement, DogPatch suggests downloading @AltFurryBlocker, a CVS file that will remove all Fur Right content from your furry feed. There is also a devoted subculture called Antifa Furries for those “willing to do whatever is necessary to stomp out fascism.”
For those interested in the digital domains in which the Alt-Furries dwell, Twitter accounts Fur Right Discord (created in May 2017) and Fire and #AltFurry (created in 2011) are good places to start. The feeds are full of Parkland conspiracies, Alex Jones quotes, Hitler memes and, of course, some furry thirst traps.
On blogs and in tweets, Fur-Righters often refer to Dogpatch and its ilk as “SJWs” ― or social justice warriors ― echoing the tirades of their human counterparts. Progressive furries are poisoning the movement with their liberal ideology, the more extreme-conservative furries claim.
O’Furr maintains that the total number of alt-right furries is quite small. In an email to HuffPost, he estimated that there are no more than 200 to 300 users across chat groups and Twitter networks who constitute steady supporters of the Alt Furry community. (In contrast, he guessed that approximately one million individuals around the world identify as furries, a figure repeated on Reddit.)
“Alt-right furries are a tiny splinter off the fringe,” he explained. “The perception of a threat comes from how they strategically swarm on each other’s activity to target people.”
Yet the furry fury found online has crossed the threshold into the real world. Last year’s Rocky Mountain Fur Con (RMFC), a massive furry convention, was cancelled after an alleged neo-Nazi tweeted about a plan to bring a gun to the event. A statement released by the RMFC subsequently accused the Alt-Furry community of promoting violence, noting that the security required to ensure safety at the event would be too expensive.
“I’m just sad, that the fandom can contain such hate,” Ayala the Deer told HuffPost, referring to the RMFC incident. “This fandom is about love and being who you are, expressing yourself, and love of all things art. I hate that Nazis are infiltrating it, and I want people to be able to be themselves without fear.”
But Twitter is the battleground upon which most skirmishes play out. There, furry Twitter users on both ends of the political spectrum struggle to keep the other side from sullying their ideology with doctored photos and #fakenews. The furriverse even has its very own Russia conspiracy.
On Monday, New Statesman published a story called “Forget Facebook, Russian agents have been pretending to be furries on Tumblr.” According to the article, a number of Tumblr accounts now attributed to Russian state actors frequented furry forums and engaged with other furries.
“I have spoken to members of the furry community since the piece who have expressed that they have been deeply concerned about far-right infiltration,” Mic Wright, the journalist behind the piece, wrote HuffPost in an email. “I’ve also received the usual angry tweets from some furries ... but I have muted those people.”
“Russia’s been reduced to impersonating furry Tumblrs,” feminist gamer and novelist @TempoWrites tweeted in response. ”This undermines ‘Alt-Furry’s’ claim to be an organic movement from within furry. Their racist/sexist/anti-LGBT messages sync up perfectly with Russian ops. Any furries in these hate groups are dupes.”
The furries behind the Fire and #AltFurry Twitter account toyed with the revelation by adding “That’s why we need Alt Furry,” in Russian, to their bio.
Since the news broke, Dogpatch has supported the theory that the Fur Right is, in part, a facet of Russian propaganda. “It wouldn’t be surprising if there’s shorter distance between [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and Foxler than we think,” Dogpatch tweeted on Monday.
The tweet references Lee Miller, aka Foxler Nightfire, a fursona who often dons a red armband marked by a pawprint, a symbol known in the community as a “pawstika.” Despite what you might be thinking, Foxler insists there is a world of difference between a “pawstika” and a swastika.
“I see the armband as a symbol of furriness,” he told Rolling Stone. “It’s not a tool or device to promote Nazism. It’s a roleplaying tool. Anything in the furry community is just created out of fantasy and taking it seriously is just asinine.”
Foxler, who has admitted to saying “I stand by Hitler” on YouTube, claims that he in no way identifies with the Nazi party. Overall, he refers to his occasional anti-Semitic and racial slurs as nothing more than “trolling.”
Operating in the intentionally confusing space between serious commentary and deliberately provocative piscary is a go-to move for members of the Fur Right. “Stand up to preserve furry culture and identity,” Foxler tweeted in February, alongside a drawing of a SJW furry going down on an Alt Furry with a pawstika armband.
Coating bigotry in layers of irony and absurdity is nothing new. In fact, it’s a move straight out of the playbook for the white supremacist website The Daily Stormer. “Most people are not comfortable with material that comes across as vitriolic, raging, non-ironic hatred,” it reads. “The undoctrinated should not be able to tell if we are joking or not.”
The Fur Right often leans into this joking-not-joking posture by sharing furry memes that advocate against species mixing. “You can’t easily tell how many layers of irony we are on,” an alt furry leader named Qu Qu told The New Statesman.
The ambiguous stance intentionally casts any sincere outrage as a wild overreaction to what individuals like Qu Qu vow is just a little, harmless trolling. For non-furries who want to dip their toes into ultra-conservative ideology without having to take full ownership or responsibility, the memes are a safe experiment.
But wait, just when you thought things couldn’t get any hairier, there is one more furry faction that would like to insert itself into the conversation: The actual Nazi Furs.
Contrary to what you might presume, the Nazi Furs are neither neo-Nazis who are furries nor members of the “alt-right” in any respect. (No, furzis of Second Life, they’re not with you either.) Rather, the LiveJournal community is made up of a bunch of self-proclaimed history nerds ― many of whom identify gay or trans ― who simply love the World War II era and want to role-play as “the bad guys.” Yes, they wear “pawstika” armbands, and take credit for inventing the very symbol Foxler employs.
But, according to the Nazi Furs, they mean no harm. And they don’t count Foxler among their ranks.
“We created that image not as a means of spreading hatred,” the Nazi Furs explain in a 2017 post, “or to symbolize intolerance, but in a spirit of understanding that images like the swastica [sic] could potentially cause emotional distress to some people.”
In fact, the furry community hopes that its Nazi cosplaying inspires others to reject Nazism today. “If you take anything away from our group,” they write, “let it be a reminder of our origins as nerdy nerds pouring [sic] over history books, saturating ourselves in history to better understand what happened in the 1930s and 40s. Take a look at our current situation we find ourselves in and ask yourselves if we are all doomed to repeat our past mistakes. Then focus your rage and disapproval in a productive manner. Get out there and vote the real racist out of office.”
Trump’s inauguration hasn’t just overhauled the political landscape for humans, it’s altered the stakes for faux wildlife, as well. What was once a community united by ideals of acceptance and radical inclusivity has been split into warring factions that obsess over the same hot button controversies and conspiracies as the culture at large.
Looking forward, the core furry community remains optimistic. “My hope is that while we can’t get rid of alt-right necessarily, we can try to push out the more harmful and dangerous members of those groups and try to better the community as a whole,” Ritz, an artist, paralegal and “dino enthusiast” told HuffPost.
“The furry fandom will always be inclusive and have a strong sense of unity and family, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept those toxic people just to maintain it,” Ritz said.
In a way, the furry realm is but a fuzzy microcosm of the world beyond it, where Twitter is still an echo chamber, memes gain power beyond comprehension and mutual understanding feels more like a far-fetched fantasy than a talking fox in a “pawstika” armband.
When the Nazi Furs provide a voice of reason, you know things have gotten weird.
UPDATE: Foxler Nightfire uploaded the following video in response to this story.
This article has been further updated to include comment from a furry who identifies as Patch O’Furr.