Sorin, Chair of Rocky Mountain Fur Con, discusses demise of the con.

by Patch O'Furr

Sorin joins me for an interview as a devoted representative of RMFC, even after the con’s sad, surprising end.  It was a happening that had some part in, even if issues were brewing long before and carried forward on their own.  That makes it extra gracious of Sorin to be open and professional about talking.  Questions were prepared to build a formal article, then sent in live chat.  Sorin fielded them on the fly, with power to review before publication to keep his side as intended.  You will see probing opinions from one side, then the other side to make a dialogue.  (-Patch)

Hi Sorin. We’re only talking because of sad circumstances – maybe we can improve that. Can you introduce yourself briefly? What are you like besides having been chair of RMFC?

I’ve been part of the furry fandom since 1996, and have been attending conventions since 1998 starting with Confurence and Anthrocon, later Further Confusion and Rainfurrest. I’ve been a part of Rocky Mountain Fur Con since its inception, first as the Vice-Chair and later stepping into the Chairman position when the previous chair stepped down. I’m a social person and like the furry community for its openness and acceptance.

That is a lot of commitment. I bet these events were pretty personal to you.

They were.

Hopefully other organizing brings a new con.

Sensational news spreads far, and I think the news about RMFC introduced people to internal debates that usually stay behind the scenes. It makes a negative picture. But that’s not fair, because any con exists because of the wider community and a staff of selfless volunteers. Can you talk about the good that RMFC did over the years?

Despite all the unfortunate happenstances that surround RMFC and it’s cancelation, I’m really proud of a lot of things. The fact that, at least for a while, it really helped bring the Colorado furry community together.  The fact that we survived a really rough start to any convention, managing to put on 8 more conventions. The $15,000+ we raised for various charities over many years. And the fact that I had so many dedicated staff members who were putting in long hours trying to keep the convention alive, and who continue to work to help us close down operations as smoothly as possible, despite the end of our organization.

Let’s get into why the con is over. Are you interested in setting the record straight about any topics we can dig into? 

In the end, the convention was canceled because of drastically increased security costs, provoked by threats of violence from many different avenues. With a sudden increase in costs, and the inability to find another venue that could work with us during our dates (or even close to them), there was very little that could be done to salvage the convention.

Cost is a big deal with a nonprofit organization… did the security demand hit you by surprise?

Yes it did. We had been approached by our hotel only 3 weeks before the convention was canceled with the new costs, and that was the first we had heard of them, or even the possibility. We started investigating other venues, which we had hoped to be able to move to, when the issue with the C&D broke.

The story on Dogpatch Press did not contact you for a statement. It was done on the fly with a hot item about the C&D sent to Deo about her speech, and I felt that partly, it spoke for itself about a side. But on your side, what was your gut feeling when it was published?

The sending of the C&D letter is a very hot topic right now, but something that I feel the convention could have worked out – if it had not been a matter of also dealing with a loss of venue, and the increasingly aggressive and violently-worded conflict within the local furry community, and really the community at large. Hindsight being what it is, I can say that the C&D was a mistake, both how it was drafted and the fact that it was drafted at all. It was at the time what the board thought was a reasonable action to a situation and culture we just were not prepared to handle. I can see now that that was not the issue, and the C&D was directed rather hastily at the wrong focus.

Hindsight is 20/20 and it’s hard to be in the middle of a bunch of sides and figure out what to do.

Is it fair to say there were internal problems as much as external?

In hindsight, what we should have done was reach out to people to discuss the matter, rather than seeking any sort of legal means to address the issue. But the Board had been under fire from a lot of different directions. To see someone referring to our convention as Nazi Con and talking about coming to do violence there, someone who was not even registered to attend, really triggered a reaction that was probably not very well thought out.

It’s also fair to say, that yes, there were internal conflicts on how to address issues relating to the convention, and how those issues were to be handled.

1/27/17 – The same day as Deo’s infamous Twitter post about punching Nazis. Hers wasn’t widely seen until April so few may realize the connection.

Is it fair to call this a continuation of the Furry Raiders drama that happened in 2016?

I don’t think it’s that simple, but yes on the surface I think you could say that it was a continuation of the drama that started around the Furry Raiders in 2016.

How much farther would you say issues go back? To 2008? Is the stuff about taxes and Kahuki’s record integral to the story, or did it just generally add a little more negativity to what outsiders saw?

I would say it just added to, and confused the issue.  The stuff about taxes has been overblown and really miscommunicated. As for the issue with Kahuki, I would prefer not to comment on that.  It’s not my place to comment on his past, or anything else outside of the direct operation of the convention, which has not been in his hands for many years.

Let me throw an outside view at you and see what you think. This will be long. I have been closely in touch with locals and done a lot of digging. I have seen a lot of blaming, and people trying to ride this for attention or to push agendas. It’s very divisive.  BUT, personally I sense that there aren’t equal sides between the “AntiFA” (isn’t it more of a leaderless philosophy than a group?) – and the Furry Raiders (a group with active leadership to point out).

Here’s what seems like the possible deep story to me.

  1. Kahuki, the CEO, may have carried lingering resentment over having to step down in 2008.
  2. Scorch enabled that, and both joined sides when there was controversy about them leading MAAAC (the con parent org).
  3. In comes the Furry Raiders in 2016, serving Kahuki’s resentment with a license to troll.
  4. I’ve read Scorch describing a dilemma between banning 150 raiders, or letting a list of 150 complainers stay away. It sounds like a false excuse. Why not ban Foxler and a few key ones? 
  5. Lack of taking control by con leadership let things decay in the community, so objectors felt provoked to push back on their own.
  6. The Raiders escalated with attitude about bringing guns.
  7. It set the stage for Deo’s speech, the C&D letter, and all the rest blowing up, with the cost of security being a death blow. 

Is any of that close to the story?  Were the Furry Raiders threatening the con, and Scorch/Kahuki using them as pawns? Did you want to ban Foxler?

Well let me address your points one at a time:

1) I know Kahuki was upset at having to step down at the time.

2) I’m in the same boat with Scorch as I am with Kahuki.  I did not know his mind and was really too busy trying to deal with the convention to look for any greater machinations. I honestly don’t believe there was any sort of plot or scheme afoot, just some bad decisions made by various members of the board and convention operators, including myself.

3) I really can’t speak to this. I would be lying if I said that I knew any of this to be true.

4) I do feel that Scorch actually believes that banning one group is the same as banning another and was not moving on some sort of agenda. And in the end I don’t feel that banning specific people would have resolved anything. The calls were not to ban the leadership but the Furry Raiders as a whole which then just opens the discussion of who else do we ban just because people don’t like them?

5) If by they, you are referring to the board, I would only say that it’s expensive and difficult for a child project to attempt to take control of a parent organization, even if that were something we were looking to do. If you’re referring to the Raiders, I have to say that I continue to find it rather naive that people would somehow think that it was our responsibility to police the community at large.

6) I agree that the threats of weapons were an escalating factor, but we were unable to confirm that it was anyone associated with the Raiders, and not just someone wanting to escalate things for their amusement. And frankly, all of the groups were responsible for the escalation.

7) The C&D was in response to the escalated violence and the increased security. It was an attempt by the board (and a short-sighted one) to try and show that we were addressing security concerns, in hopes that the hotel would rescind it’s cost requirements.

Would it be fair to say this could have been avoided by dealing more strongly with the Furry Raiders in 2016?

No, I don’t think so.  I feel that anything more we could have done would have set a bad precedent for the convention, and would have led to its demise in the long run anyways.

Richard Spencer: white supremacist and inspiration for headlines and memes when he got punched on 1/20/17, a week before Deo’s twitter post.

As for if I wanted to ban Foxler, I really have not given it much thought. I did not think it would actually resolve anything, since the people that wanted him banned would focus on another target, and beyond that I was so busy trying to keep the convention together that I really did not give it more thought than that.

How malicious was it of the Raiders to do that room block takeover in 2016… and didn’t all the community reaction just follow that?

I can’t speak to how malicious it was of the Raiders to take a portion of the block, and had they held it, there might have been more of an argument for banning them. The fact of the matter is though, that they replied to our request to release rooms, and did so. The fact that there were less rooms to be rented at that hotel was not the fault of the Raiders or anyone else, just of the smaller venue. Do I agree with what the Raiders did? No, though I won’t lie and say I knew it to be malicious or not, because I don’t.

How would you characterize the Furry Raiders now?

I really try not to think about them, or interact with them or their members right now. I think that whatever it was they set out to do originally has been corrupted by a handful of bad apples, and if they really wanted to do something for the community, they would bow out gracefully.

If people feel they are a threat, are people being oversensitive? Or could we say the room block takeover can be considered a threat? Wouldn’t the con suffer or die if rooms were reserved, but then released too late for people to make travel plans?

I think they are giving the Raiders to much credit to call them a threat. That being said, people have a right to believe what they want. As far as conventions are concerned, yes it would be a threat if they had done that, and if they had refused to release a large portion of the block then we would be having a very different conversation.

In your final statement, did you have a certain focus in mind for the “against one another” part: “This cost increase stemmed directly from the very public threats of violence against one another by members of this community, as well as the negative backlash from misinformation spread about the convention, its staff and attendees”. Does that apply to the Raiders or you just don’t know?

It was simply attempting to convey that that cost increase and in the end the cancellation of the convention were the result of people using the internet to threaten and attack using the web’s anonymity. It was not directed at just the Raiders, or the AntiFA, but everyone who felt that the convention was a good platform for attacking people.

Thanks, I think it mostly speaks for itself then.

The way the story came out on Dogpatch Press, then blew up all over, it seemed to work like a little nudge that caused a big topple. It made me sense long-ongoing issues I had no idea about before the con cancelation 12 hours later.  Is there some good in blowing up the con to make a clean slate?  (Not forgetting this is most of all about the dealers, artists, and community who didn’t deserve this.)

There probably is, though this is not how I would have liked the convention to close up shop. It’s very hurtful to all the people who put so much time and energy into helping it grow.

Theme for the canceled RMFC 2017.

Have you followed the mainstream media notice about this?

I have a little.  I’ve spoken to a few of the media outlets too.

Who told the story the worst? What’s the best thing you want to happen to counter balance it?

I’m not sure I want to critique any media outlet by name, especially in print. I will say that most of the mainstream news outlets that have actually approached us and spoken to myself, or my Marketing Director have given an overall fair portrayal of the convention and it’s closing, at least on a very surface level.

I’d love to ask more about where do we go from here to make things positive. First – let me throw a curve ball.

I have seen a mainstream topic about punching nazis, where some argue there’s a place for civil-disobedience to oppose actual ones like Richard Spencer. (That doesn’t mean violence without consequences, necessarily, but that the social order isn’t enabling nonviolent opposition to do enough). In other words, fighting nazis after they get violent isn’t enough, and being passive might invite them to get bolder.

Also, actual, real nazis are now watching this story, and I don’t think it’s good. Remember some of the very worst stories about Furries (Vanity Fair, CSI etc.) – even when they made furries look terrible, it inspired some people to become furries.  Any attention can make the distance shrink a little. 

What should we do about this situation as a community?

I think that we as a community need to do more to try and understand each other. Understanding does not mean agreement, or even all believing the same thing. Right now, people are so loudly opposed that they have not even thought to stop and try to understand each other. I’m not saying anyone is right or wrong, but the Furry community started out as a place where acceptance was it’s defining factor, and the beginning of acceptance is understanding.

People in our community are too quick to hate and judge, and too slow to try and understand. The loudest among us set the tone for our community, our politics and our social decisions. I’m not arguing for the Raiders, or the AntiFA’s or any other group that pops up. I’m just arguing against these snap judgements, attacks and creation of slander just to set someone else apart.

Definitely agree about acceptance. I notice though, you commented up there about the Raiders, “if they really wanted to do something for the community they would bow out gracefully.”

By that I mean that I don’t think they can fix their image anymore than RMFC could.  It’s time to let the community move on, and if they actually have good intentions, let those that want to do good go regroup later.

I don’t think I can ask anything more of you, except let’s get back to the positive stuff.  Is there anything you can say for the dealers, artists, and community who don’t have a convention right now?

I would say that I’m sorry. I’m sorry that the state of the convention had to come to this, and I’m sorry that social politics caused the end of what was once a great staple of the Colorado Furry Community. Despite all the allegations flying around regarding the convention, in the end, we all tried to do our best to make a great con, to operate legally, and did so with very little resources, volunteering our time with very little to show for it but the convention.

Thanks a ton for putting so much effort into this.

Thank you for taking the time to speak to me about it.

Credit is due to Sorin about info in the previous Dogpatch Press article, where we confirmed that the C&D letter was official.  We don’t want to overstate his personal approval apart from RMFC, and apologize for that impression. 

UPDATE: One lawyer’s opinion.

Here’s perspective from around the community that contributed to questions.

  • Deleted FA journal by board member Scorch (archived): “In mid February 2017; a MAAC board meeting was scheduled for the specific reasons of discussing what we should do about other people who decided to have a problem with the furry raiders including their petition to boycott RMFC if we refuse to ban 160+ furry raiders who are people who actually do help and support the furry community… This was primarily a discussion of our commercial concerns of judging the pros and cons such as: Ban 150+ Raiders and set this precedent of banning an entire class of furs because other furs decided to have a problem with them. Or simply not worry about 150+ furs on the petition (decided to have a problem) who would merely boycott (stay away from) RMFC. It was decided to simply allow the people who decided to have a problem to simply stay away”
  • DrummingRaccoon on FA: “Hitler would be super proud of you Nazi fur guys, carrying on his legacy by dressing up in animal costumes with your little red arm bands and marching around a hotel lobby surrounded by hundreds of gays, trans folks and people of color that you totally have to coexist with now… I know for a fact now that there are some of you extremely self-contradicting furs out there who actually take the National Socialism thing for real.”

“I commented on a friend’s post regarding the RMFC drama saying something basically like “Fuck yeah, punch the Nazis!” and then a handful of these motherfuckers came out of the woodwork posting pictures of their guns saying ‘THIS WHAT YEW GON GET IF YOU ASSAULT ME, YOU SUBHUMAN ANTIFA COMMIE FUCK.’ … Their Facebook posts got deleted, but I still remember a few of their names. What we need to be concerned about is that real Neo-Nazis have taken notice of this shit now…”

  • FA journal: Rocky Mountain Fur Con 2017 Canceled, by ColoradoFurs – Comment by LucanShepherd to Scorch: “Deo and her actions are not the only influence on the sequence of events. The Raiders and upset Colorado locals and other people were involved. Both before and after Deo had any involvement… Yet you continually defend the Raiders.”

Comment by Fyzgal to Scorch: “so you’re literally trying to say it had NOTHING to do with a NeoNazi organization member threatening to conceal carry weapon to the hotel when it doesn’t allow it?”

Comment by Turgius to Scorch: “Perhaps some of this mess can be cleared up if you or others on the board can release documentation of the hotel’s requirement for the increased security and associated costs as well as the convention’s good faith effort to negotiate it. I imagine the DPD would have provided a verifiable invoice for their off duty services. Perhaps more transparency regarding what happened can help resolve this situation rather than accusations from either side.”

More to the story about blaming DeoA false rumor about RMFC is repeating history from the Burned Furs.

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