Call for help with the Fullerton Murder story; and The Furry Code Of Silence.
by Patch O'Furr
Furry reached new heights in 2016. Disney came to our party. There was a low point of a chemical attack on Midwest FurFest that turned into a high quality Vice News story. Notice the title, “CSI Fur Fest” – I’d like to think it was chosen to make up for the other CSI, who did us a disservice. But this time “the media” earned a nomination for a 2016 Ursa Major award.
It was cool that Vice did that story. The media was on our side. That’s the theme of this post.
In 2017, there was the unreal experience of Furry Nazis grabbing the wheel for a minute and making us swerve into no-man’s land. Maybe we’re getting back on track, but don’t relax. Those headlines were rough, but rougher ones are coming.
Look at California, where you might say Furry Fandom really got started. In SoCal, the Skiltaire House is where you can hang out with the founders of the first convention and have a friendly night of fursuiting or watching animation. That’s where Jennifer Yost was known as a mom to others, including her daughter Daydreamer Fox. They went together.
One day in the fall of 2016, Daydreamer went missing. The Skiltaire put out an alert. I shared it and got contact from a reporter. Then Daydreamer was found. It wasn’t a missing person alert any more. The Yost parents and a family friend were dead and two other kids were orphaned.
Two furries were arrested for triple murder.
It was crazy. That isn’t something we do. I legitimately cried.
A lot of furs felt the same way. I put out a statement for them. Scott, the reporter from the OC Register, helped send it up the chain to national news. It was carefully meant to tell what furs were feeling with no gory details, to reduce using them for attention. Some trashy blogs tried and got criticism instead of clicks. I jumped into the comments and the regular public supported me. Scott took my suggestions and quoted people I referred to him. Tips came in and rumors were abated. We turned down subsequent interviews. Out of many sources, Rolling Stone did a surprisingly good job.
There’s a trial soon and the news is going to bring all that attention back.
There will be clickbait from hacks who want traffic. Professionals will try to tell a deep story about regular humans and a hobby they love. Hobbyists and regular people will dig into the topic to figure things out.
2017’s news brought such a regular person to the fandom. Boozy Barrister was looking at legal issues of subcultures. He found the RMFC story right when it came out and put it on his blog. It was like opening a can of tuna for the neighborhood cats. Suddenly he was adopted by the fandom. He’s a face for the theme of this post.
Good writing helps – will there be a story like Vice’s?
With all the attention coming for the trial, furries know it’s a bad story. They know the vultures will circle around, and every vulture can pretend to be a helper. Uncle Kage might tell you to avoid them all. That’s a theme since before furries were on CSI.
That isn’t my theme. I started this blog because so many stories were untold. Regular news doesn’t know how to get it right. So I got into writing about it like others teach themselves to draw or make fursuits. I’m too yappy to stop. Now I get asked for help. So let me tell you who asked about this.
The Atlantic wants to cover the story.
That magazine is one of my inspirations (like writing by Eric Schlosser). They do quality long-form stuff unlike fast news that can be shallow. One way they can set theirs apart is by adding more quality with exclusive info. That means talking to furries who were close to the story.
Sanjiv B. is the writer. He specializes in writing about subculture. I’d like to help Sanjiv. He’s run into a “furry code of silence.”
I think a Code of Silence was part of why RMFC died. It involved the leadership and questionable decisions when things went out of control. Privacy is good, but silence can be harmful.
The family’s privacy is more important than fandom public image, but it’s impossible to deny this is a furry story. It’s as if a crime happened at a company or school and they put that in the headline. I don’t think it would be fair to exclude that aspect.
There are a lot of unanswered questions. Respectful coverage could dispel mystery and judgements to help others.
What Sanjiv is looking for:
“My hope is that this is an opportunity to present the furry world as everyday people, full of complexities and contradictions, and prone sometimes to tragedies like this one. If anything, perhaps some misunderstandings about furry culture can be addressed along the way.
In the end, this is a story about a brutal triple homicide, and that’s my focus. It so happens that the people concerned are longtime furries and the fandom was an important part of their lives, so I do need the help of the community. I want to understand the relationships, the characters involved, what their lives were like and how it seems a few young people in Orange County went down such a very dark road. The goal is to portray everyone concerned as a fully human and understandable, not as a cliche or stereotype. Naturally, I want to speak to anyone who know those involved in any capacity, the closer the better. There has to be something we can learn from this.
How Sanjiv ran into a Code of Silence:
“I’ve been quite angrily rebuffed a couple of times. It’s taken me by surprise how some people have responded. In one case I was told of a good person to talk to, but their first response was to threaten to sue me in all caps! I understand that there is skepticism of the media, and with good reason, but I’m not “the media” as a whole, I’m just a writer in LA, and I feel I’ve been prejudged by people who have already made their minds up – which is something furries complain about all the time I’m sure. It’s a little demoralizing! I’ve no intention of misrepresenting anyone. And I can offer reassurances about quote accuracy, going on/off the record, concealing identities if absolutely necessary etc. I get why some groups have a code of silence, like gangs or cults, but furries though? I thought you guys were friendly!
Honestly, my hope was always to make enough friends in the furry world that we could just hang, you know? I want to be familiar enough with the fandom that I can come to events and it not be a big deal. That’s how I think we can really do this story justice and tell it fairly. It would be easy to write sensationalist rubbish, I could have done it already if that’s what I was here for. I’m not. I’m trying to put in the time and effort to really get to the bottom of this. Surely that’s what furries want journalists to do.
I have until early June to get a proper insight. Any help you can give me is much appreciated.”
Reach Sanjiv here. Telegram: @sanjivbee – Email: email@example.com – facebook.com/sanjiv.bhattacharya
If you can help him, please consider it. I think this is a story that deserves to be told right.
The thing about trust is that it must be earned. What reason do we have to to take him at his word that he will report on us fairly when he responds to out hesitance by comparing us to gangs and cults?
And who is this Sanjiv B, anyway? You and his website claim he writes about “subcultures”, but he doesn’t give us any example of such on his website. What he does provide for us is a link to the first two parts of a documentary on his search for Warren Jeffs, who was at the time the president of the FDLS church and on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. Definitely something easy to sensationalize, right? Let’s watch:
Sanjiv VO: I quickly realized that this was a very different town to any other in America.
[cue creepy music]
Sanjiv: “All the girls are dressed like Little House on the Prairie, all that’s missing are the covered wagons!”
Hmm. Doesn’t look good. Sanjiv, can you try to give us something more substantial than insults to convince us we should trust you?
Whoa, give the guy a chance to try… The amount of paranoia I’m hearing about seems to aggressively take umbrage. I don’t know of any outlets that I already considered a better source than the Atlantic for a long form piece – I read them.
He can’t show stuff he hasn’t been allowed to write yet, and can’t show trust if people won’t even allow introductions. A journalist has to start somewhere and he already put lots of effort into trying beyond what a hack would do. There are deadlines but he isn’t rushing in without prep before even getting started.
Think of it this way – he has a lot of other high profile writing. If he was out to do harm, isn’t it a lot of effort to pick such a small group when there’s bigger fish to fry? He wrote a book about mormon polygamy and Warren Jeffs IS a creepy guy. Gangs and cults do “code of silence” (who else? I bet he has experience with it for his book), and he said he WASN’T expecting that, not that he thought there was some other point of comparison. (I agreed enough to put it in the headline.) If you start an interview and it feels wrong, you can cut him off, and I think a good way not to be embarrassed is don’t be embarrassing.
Vanity Fair was the outlet that hosted shitty writing and that guy went digging to find the worst example of furries he could. Here Sanjiv is sharing his site and facebook and being open, and asking for people to come to him and help tell the true story, and he’s local to LA. I don’t think it’s fair to ask more from a guy who’s trying. Maybe if there was a well established journalist in LA who also happened to be a furry, but how many of those are there?
Allright I gave you an earful… but it is a truly sensitive topic. I just hope people consider that it’s good to see work like Vice did.
I contacted Mr. Bhattacharya directly with my concerns.
Anyway, he certainly has the chance to try–in fact, he has tried, and as he’s said he got rebuked. Then he came to you and compared us to gangs and cults. If that’s how he responds to well-earned hesitance…well, I don’t trust him. Maybe if I’d seen him cover similar situations in the past (both you and he have so far refused to tell me what other subcultures he’s covered).
You’re right, this is most definitely a sensitive topic. So sensitive that anyone he talks to that gives him otherwise-unpublished info has a high chance of being recognized by non-furry friends and family who read it, “name changed to protect identity” or not.
He doesn’t seem to understand what he’s asking for, which I think is a pretty big red flag that it shouldn’t be given to him.
I don’t see him comparing us to gangs and cults – I do see him comparing an unexpected code of silence to situations where it’s expected, the same as I would. I already characterized Colorado stuff as cult-like weeks ago.
Mormon polygamists count as a subculture, right? I checked his site and not long ago he did one about white nationalists. There’s more about islamic punk, but, I don’t speak for him, I was only citing his bio that says he writes about fringe groups and subcultures. I don’t expect his bio is made-up with a long professional history.
I saw Sanjiv point out elsewhere that polygymy was a felony when he wrote about it, but people trusted him with their info. He might not know if someone’s casual hobby of liking animal-people art should be kept away from their family – isn’t it up to people to tell him? He’s not psychic! He has been very professional about talking to me though.
Well, as I’ve said, I’ve asked him directly–twice now, as he side-stepped the first time, though I might not have been as clear as I wanted initially–but I don’t think, if his history amounts to talking about white nationalists and cults as “subcultures”, it lends much to his resume when trying to talk about a genre/fetish subculture. This is what he said the first time:
“If you’re receptive to any of this, then I can tell you how trust can be earned in this process. It begins by talking and more importantly listening.”
Wow. That’s definitely a totally original and unique idea that we’ve never tried before and so of course it can never have bit us in the ass.
Furries don’t have a code of silence just because one guy who has been, from what I’ve seen of him, insulting and condescending when met with answers he doesn’t like doesn’t get an exclusive interview from somebody about their dead friends. Knowing the impact your words can have, and using that to pick and choose who you talk to–and if you personally should talk to media at all–isn’t some sinister or unreasonable transgression.
For all I know he could come across just as rude and entitled as he’s come across in this article and to me personally, and the people he spoke to rightfully noped the fuck out.
I’ve seen attempts to gather witnesses for other cases be so frustrated by pre judgement that people who believed they were doing the right thing were actually assisting the kind of messed up abuse they claimed to be against. In this case, I can sense frustration being generated for Sanjiv by criticizing him without pointing out anything wrong with work he has already published. He has a lot of it. You asked what he wrote about subculture, I pointed out 3 examples but you didn’t like those. OK, what has his work done wrong? You mentioned the opening of the mormon documentary having scary music. Isn’t that judging a book by its cover? From what I can tell, his book looks well researched and has good reviews.
OK, you don’t like him. Let’s put it aside, if people aren’t talking to him it’s pointless to go on anyways.
The reasons I’m hearing from people directly involved for not talking about this are 1). they don’t want kids of the family to be harmed, 2). they don’t believe furry should have anything to do with this, and if it does that’s totally sensational.
Both seem short sighted at best and I couldn’t disagree more.
1) There aren’t just a couple of kids involved. 2 young people are in jail too. What led them there? How could this possibly have been prevented? Could we stop a “next time” by learning about it? What is the impact of an already very public tragedy, and are there special ways it plays out in this subculture? Isn’t hiding the truth harmful? So many questions.
2) Is truth sensational? The people in this story came together because of furry fandom – there’s no story without that. I don’t see how saying anything less could possibly tell the real story or uncover motivations. Also if people shouldn’t have to hide that they hang out at furry cons sometimes, make it the problem of people who don’t understand. More understanding reduces support for jerks. I found very good support in public when the story was first known, every time I commented to someone who was being insulting, they stopped and random public people took my side. One guy was talking about gross subhuman furries, he stopped when I said “if your family has a tragedy you’ll wish they get support like we give”.
It depends on the telling of the story. Like telling it with sympathy up front and mentioning the stigma that’s lessening over time. The Vice story mentions that. Sensational would be a story without human motivations, just caricatures – the way it might go if nobody understands how people were related to each other. I think it will be a shame if things are withheld and it makes the story worse than it could be.
The fandom has had a rocky road with the media, which has been getting a lot better, but yeah, it can take a lot of work (and luck) to get folks to open up. Like Equivamp said, it helps to offer examples of your work, but this doesn’t always set the image either. There were a group of documentary guys who wanted to do a piece on the fandom, purely as a geek thing, but their past productions included stuff on adult topics – it look them a *lot* of time to finally break through the fandom wall. The documentary turned out great! (Fanboy Confessional.)
So it’ll take time and work. Offer examples of your work, offer anonymity, explain the audience that you’re trying to appeal to, be honest about what you think you know or don’t know, and ask about the kind of people you’re hoping to talk to. Furries are so diverse in their take on the fandom, try to narrow it down. Someone who’s been in the fandom a while? Young? Old? Local to some area? And so on.
Thanks Dronon, I appreciate the advice and your spirit of generosity. Let me try to do as you say.
I’ve been reaching out to people through Facebook mostly, and I’ve interviewed several people, either on Telegraph, on the phone (rare) or DMing on Twitter. Confidentiality bars me from saying who of course, but progress has been made, and it has drawn me deeper into the story with every step. But I have met with opposition which typically takes the form of a general skepticism of media – which I absolutely understand. That’s why I reached out to Patch for help. I’m sorry that Equivamp has taken such offence, but I don’t mean to insult anyone or give offence, far from it. I understand the sensitivity of this story.
I’m interested in speaking with people who had direct knowledge of the individuals involved, the closer the better. The goal is to present everyone concerned as full and complex human beings, whose lives we can empathize with. A tall order, but worth pursuing I believe. Something terrible happened here, but if we know the people concerned and the relationships between them, I think it can be understood, and some good may come from that. Of course I will promote the GoFundMe page to support the children.
It’s hard to show you samples of my work that will work as a true parallel – every piece, every title, is different. But here are a couple that may have some resonance.
The Marysville school shooting devastated two communities, one of them tribal, and I went to investigate the aftermath. I had long conversations with the head of the International Trauma Center there about grief, shock, and the way that communities respond to shattering events like these, how they can best heal and some of the challenges that come up. We were focussed particularly on the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, but the principles may apply here too.
This is a much older piece, but I thought it might have some resonance, particularly as regards fandom. Jackson’s diehard fans were a wary bunch at first – they thought the media was out to mock and ridicule them. And certainly a lot of pieces at this time were doing exactly that. It made it very difficult for me to report the story – people were suspicious, with good reason. Instead, I found them to be very sympathetic characters. I got a lot of mail after this piece from fans who were happy that at last they’d been treated with respect.
This is a piece about white nationalism in LA. As you can imagine they were very wary of meeting a dark-skinned journalist from the “liberal media”. After this piece came out of course plenty of racist trolls attacked me on Twitter for my bias and lies, but the truth was, everyone I’d interviewed in this story found it fair and told me so in writing. Identities were protected, there was a lot of off the record stuff. I keep my promises, even if you want to expel me from your country!
Some technical things:
– Anonymity – if you feel you need it, then of course. I have offered anonymity to several people already. And by anonymity I don’t just mean a pseudonym, but also being careful with other identifying information. Every situation is different, but it’s a conversation I’m accustomed to, having written a book about polygamists who were running a real risk of arrest or losing their famlies or jobs, if they were to be exposed.
– On the Record / Off the Record – I record all interviews and I’m happy for you to record too. The recordings are only for accuracy, never for broadcast. All quotes are checked. And off the record means off the record ie. it won’t be used in the piece or shared with anyone else, it’s just for my information. It’s essential to establish some boundaries so that we can speak freely and easily without feeling constantly under the microscope.
– Interviews – I prefer to meet people face to face whenever possible. It’s the best way to communicate, and get a feel for people. I’m happy to come to you (if possible… I live in LA). Sometimes the phone or Skype is easier, particularly with painful subject matter. This is an emotional story and it’s important to convey emotion. Messaging or chatting is a last resort since sometimes intent and meaning can be misinterpreted (as I think I’ve discovered on this page!)
Thank you for giving this your consideration. I hope to hear from you.
I read the first piece and it was quite a story. That gives me confidence about putting out a call.
Sanjiv, thank you for this follow-up. I only read the first of the articles you provided, but I think it’s all I need–it’s more than enough to convince me that you’re capable of handling this story the way it deserves, and I sincerely hope that the initial comments about codes of silence were just a bad first impression. I look forward to reading it.
Thank you Equivamp, I appreciate your good faith, it means a lot.
I think this is a bad idea. I understand how it can sound like a good idea, but the public at large isn’t subtle. If they read extensive research in relation to a horrible crime they aren’t going to remember the details, only the fact that furries were a somewhat reclusive group which was brought to the spotlight by a daughter murdering her parents. And that is the best case scenario. For the worst case look no further than what happened in the anime fandom:
“The media called him “The Otaku Murderer”. His killings caused a moral panic against otaku, accusing anime and horror films of making him a murderer. These reports were disputed. In Eiji Otsuka’s book on the crime, he argued that Miyazaki’s collection of pornography was probably added or amended by a photographer in order to highlight his perversity. Another critic, Fumiya Ichihashi, suspected the released information was playing up to public stereotypes and fears about otaku, as the police knew they would help cement a conviction.”
Admittedly his crime was much more extreme, but the kind of lawyers who are likely to get involved into cases like these will grasp at any straw the media offer them in order to cause a sensation. The less furries get mentioned in relation to this episode the better.
I don’t like how the guy uses the term “Code of Silence” either and I find it highly disrespectful of the furry community. As you know I’m from Italy and my country has a long story of problems with organized crime and corruption. “Code of Silence” is a concept taken very seriously here. It means that when somebody associated with the mafia or otherwise very powerful is convicted for a big crime all his relatives and associates will cry outrage and swear on their life that he’s the most honest person in the world – and those who don’t do so might happen to end up with broken legs or a bullet in the back. It means the community is expected to blindly cover up.
But in this case nobody is denying that the murders took place or trying to hide or excuse the culprits. Ordinary furries just want no association with what happened, which seems sensible given that the murders have nothing to do with fandom dynamics. The RMFC situation is quite different because in that case some people have been actively hiding things and covering up or excusing harmful behaviors, and there ARE toxic fandom dynamics involved in that case.
(Important detail, daughter wasn’t charged.)
I don’t see a comparison with the horrible Japanese story. I did a quick search and didn’t see anyone else connecting it with anime or fandom at all apart from itself. I would just say it’s a separate culture.
There already was some attempt to play up the weirdness of this and as far as I can tell it didn’t play at all. People were in a group but the group didn’t make people do anything. Trashy blogs couldn’t even force the slightest hint of a connection there, all they could do was mention the name furry.
I get what you’re saying about the “Code of silence” term. I think it isn’t nearly as serious here and a disrespectful meaning is surely unintentional towards you outside the US.
Are you sure the murders have nothing to do with fandom dynamics? Isn’t that a leap to conclusions? I mean, again I wouldn’t imply that the group influenced from within – it could mean lonely people are attracted in from without, bringing their problems with them. Seems like a question we’ll never know if it isn’t asked.
I don’t think turning backs on the story is as bad as covering things up but I think it could be a mistake and a loss not to tell the real story. It’s not really up to me though, and I’m glad to hear these opinions.
The murder had to do, from what I can tell, with a male trying to get with a younger female and their parents telling the male to take a hike.
In a fit of short sightedness the male killed the parents for restraining him from engaging with her.
Crimes revolving around tragically blind love are not uncommon. In fact, the first suspect of any murder is the ones closest to them.
Therefore in most people’s mind the furry aspect really doesn’t have much relevance to the event itself. The only thing the furry aspect gives it is some grain of pseudo-celebrity that is more likely to lure an audience of a paper.
I guess one question would be. If these folks were non-furrys, how would the paper approach the situation? If it is different, then why?
I think the people one would want to get into contact would be the same as any other. The friends and family closest to the situation, whom may not even be furries or rummage furry forums like the perp and victims in this case.
Let me point out something.
The 25 year old Felix was reputed to be a lonely guy making advances on the 17 year old Yost daughter, and the parents forbade that.
He didn’t pull the trigger. Another 21 year old furry is accused of that. How did that happen if this has nothing to do with the social group?
Felix also told another furry about planning it before it happened. There’s an assumption here that he was motivated by love, and not perhaps an idea of rescue or obligation or another kind of pact. There’s another assumption that plans were based on Felix’s motive without input from anyone else.
When assumptions about the story turn out to be wrong, isn’t it helpful to have a professional writer asking questions that don’t have answers yet?
Ah, didn’t know the daughter wasn’t charged, thank you for the clarification.
You’re right I’m probably jumping to conclusions by saying fandom dynamics aren’t involved, but I should clarify what I mean by that. From what has been reported so far it seems that this murder had personal motivations which could have played out regardless of which communities the various people were involved with. All nerdy communities tend to attract unstable people and had the alleged murderers been gamers or LARPers things could have played out exactly the same way. There seems to be nothing distinctively furry about the story, which is why I belive their involvement with the community shouldn’t be stressed too much.
If for example somebody had been murdered out of hatred against furries, or if somebody had murdered relatives for opposing his involvement in the fandom, then I’d say furry fandom dynamics played a large role in the matter and the furry community should definitely step forward to clear things up.
I’m not doubting Sanjiv’s good faith now that he has shown more extensive references here in the comments, basically I’m just worried that we are attracting attention for the wrong reasons.
I think just the appearance of a pact made between furries against people acting as supportive furry-parents gives a dimension to this story that can’t be left out and may be the most important part. I agree it could have been the same if they were gamers or something else and would say that would be an important part of those stories too.
Think of it this way – I’m told there is data that a significant amount of furries find dating relationships inside the group. (I saw a number of 80% of same sex partnerships, although I’m on mobile and can’t go digging to cite it right now.) I’ll bet that makes a much stronger social grouping than for other groups (do 80% of gamers date other gamers?) It makes the nature of the community important here. I dont think that necessarily implies just one guy’s personal feelings either. Motive hasn’t been established at all, only guesses, and it could be a lot different than assumed.
The motivation of “somebody had been murdered out of hatred against furries” would be sympathetic. What if the motive isn’t so sympathetic? Isn’t it biased to minimize fandom involvement if the truth could be less than favorable?
That’s not what I’m suggesting, hence my second and not nearly as sympathetic example (“somebody had murdered relatives for opposing his involvement in the fandom” after taking the typical fursecution clichè too seriously). Furries doing bad things using the fandom as an excuse warrant some self analysis by part of the community; people doing bad things and also being furries on the side don’t in my opinion. It’s no different than being interviewed because a neighbor you barely knew turns out to be a drug dealer or something.
For another example take this horrific case discovered a couple months ago:
So here’s a fursuiter and other alleged furries sexually abusing a child at a “furry party”. Private furmeets and furry parties are common in the community, sexual exploration is a relevant part of the furry experience, and things such as cub porn exist. Did the nature of the community play a role in that case then? The trial might conclude it did, who knows. But I’d rather see counterpoints made if and when it actually happens rather than preemptively.
(Keep in mind I don’t know much about the process of investigative journalism, so I may just be taking it all from the wrong angle.)
I don’t think there needs to be an overt motive (like using the fandom as an excuse) to include a furry dimension of a story, or even feature it as the most important part.
Consider if it wasn’t important, and you could have, say, the President of the US be a furry but it’s not supposed to be a topic because it has nothing to do with his job. But identity is important, even in the sense of dispelling rumors like “Obama was a Muslim born in Kenya” to make it more important to judge people by their character. Or asking why there’s never been an atheist president to criticize the extent of separation of church and state. Or pointing out that Franklin D. Roosevelt’s crippling illness was kept from public view, like disability activists do. Or talking about the amount of billionaires in Trump’s cabinet as a point by itself of not representing the common citizen.
Anyways, I think this story is way more than “furries doing bad things”. It’s furries who met through fandom and knew each other that way specifically – not just 2, but 6 people with some level of involvement. It’s a dating issue (there’s frequent forum topics of lonely people asking about dating inside the fandom.) There’s acceptance by parents (how many parents take their kids to furry meets enough to become considered like moms? I’ve been told that their family home was considered a second home to some.) It seems like a story that wouldn’t happen without a core fandom aspect.
Comparing to being interviewed because a neighbor you barely knew turns out to be a drug dealer… I think that a common enough part of such stories that you get the cliche of “he seemed so nice”. In this case, it’s like a story that happened between houses where people did know each other. So people are withholding info because they’re sensitive about protecting friends.
The sex abuse story is a furry story too. I haven’t looked into it since it seems well handled with few unanswered questions at the moment, and crime professionals can do a better job of investigating than a hobbyist.
My apologies for the Code of Silence thing, it was a glib way of making a fairly simple point, and I can see that the analogy doesn’t quite fit. Of course there’s no cover-up or anything like that, I didn’t mean to suggest there was.
I probably overreacted a bit too, sorry if the tone of my comment was harsh. As noted above I’m just worried about the furry community attracting attention for the wrong reasons, because I’ve seen that happen a lot of times. Your previous articles you linked are very fair though, so I wish you good luck with your research.
Thank you Scale, much appreciated!
“I want to be familiar enough with the fandom that I can come to events and it not be a big deal.”
Yeah, I can’t see that happening. Because everyone will know what brought you there: a tragedy that nobody wants to talk about and everyone would rather forget. You’re not there because you’re curious about the fandom, at least that is not how people will see it. The only reason is because something horrible happened. And when it comes to this fandom, we want people to see the good and not have a negative cloud hanging over the story because will ignore everything else
That’s what journalists DO. Of course he’s not just trying to poke us with a stick to stir up negativity. It has to do with the setting and the actual people involved, there’s no story if he doesn’t learn about that.
Or should there be no reporting about very public crimes? When there are arrests and criminal proceedings, they’re in a spotlight by design. That’s how we don’t have secret kangaroo courts and summary judgement. It’s really fundamental to a healthy democracy.
If these things DON’T get reported, then the court of public opinion relies on assumptions and rumors. Should we prefer rumors to professional investigation? Whenever I hear complaints about “the media” and “sensationalism” as if those are one and the same, I hear a really regrettable and harmful form of anti-intellectualism.
If a story is horrible, that makes it even more important to have a pro. News media doesn’t exist to tell the good parts, that’s for advertising or propaganda or sermons. They’re there to tell truth and portray people involved as human, not caricatures.
Holding high standards is great, but clinging desperately to “let’s protect our in-group” is what cults do. Wanting to forget rather than hearing a true story, and expecting people will “ignore everything else” and fearing it will cause a negative cloud is a regrettable way to look at this. It’s very Hobbesian (as if people should be considered inherently bad and selfish.) But I’m not part of a subculture that’s too self-absorbed to ask questions, or a society that’s too dumb to learn from a story.
When I first put out a statement about this, I got to see first-hand how it went up the chain to be quoted in national news and have the public talk about it. I got into the comments and experienced the opposite of people judging this group. Every time I commented to someone who was trash talking, they stopped and regular people backed me up. There were rumors flying around, for example about the private facebook “confession”, and the attention got rid of some of them.
It makes things worse if there’s attention on the upcoming trial, but you prevent sharing info to abate rumors and judgement.
I think Sanjiv is being curious, and if he’s a stranger now, that’s a reason to help him out or at least allow him a little credit for what he does. Lots of members of this “open” fandom join with guidance, it would be terrible if artists or costume makers got judged as much as this kind of writer. I think his previous articles show he will do a good job. http://sanjivb.com/article/how-to-memorialize-a-school-shooting/
You’re right in a way. I’m not interested in going to furry events because I’m curious about the fandom. My interest is in the horrible thing that happened.
I can understand why people want to forget it, but that doesn’t mean we should. And there are some people that never will. I’d like to find out everything I can about it, and understand it as best I can. My hope remains that the furry fandom will share that goal and we can work towards it together. I certainly can’t do this without the help of people in the fandom.
This just isn’t about the reputation of the fandom. It’s such a shame to me that that’s getting in the way of trying to find some answers about this tragedy.
Thanks for responding,
This is very old news by now. I believe we spoke to you when you visited CaliFur. We spent a lot of time talking about the fandom, and a little about the event and the people involved. This was not a “code of silence” thing, we really didn’t now any of the people involved intimately, nor did most of the local fandom. We could introduce you to anyone closer to the family because we really didn’t know them personally. I still don’t understand just what you had hopes to find out to make your article interesting.
Would you have considered doing a similar article about such a tragedy involved in a church group. (not a cult, just a regular Christian church community) I doubt that would have been “interesting” enough.
Now, after the trial has happened, we see allegations for “child abuse” by the victims. Of course, that is OK because it’s one of the crimes that is punishable by lynch-mod executions. We never heard ANYTHING about the parents involved abusing their daughter… until this happened.
Would that have been part of your story? (if it had been an issue back when it happened) I believe this would definitely been bad for the fandom.
Well, we tried to give you an introduction to our community (which you claimed you were interested in), and everything else you asked us about we were unable to help you with, since we really didn’t know anyone well enough.
So, can we agree that in pour case, there was no “code of silence” involved?
Hi Sy 🙂 Yeah the article is 2 years old, not sure if Sanjiv is reading.
I talked to him a lot and did hear of shabby treatment… people would threaten to sue him for mere professional investigating, with what I believe were good intentions for a high-quality long-form magazine style piece. It could have matched some of his other high-quality work that wasn’t sensational at all, and I think a shooting at a church could have made the same kind of interesting human story. He definitely was very professional with me.
The abuse allegations did come up at trial right? The only source was the one witness accusing her stepfather who was dead so we could never know if there was more going on than her word. I have doubts and would report it that way… something alleged and part of the trial but not proven. It’s a tricky one but I think relevant because if it had any substance it could explain a lot of motive to something that just makes little sense.
I think you guys at the Skiltaire did good work to assist and none of the issue would be about that.
Sanjiv’s “code of silence” comment was offhand and not meant to be a charge leveled at the community in a substantial way, I think. It was based on bad experience though. Personally I’m very sympathetic to that because over and over, I keep having to explain to kids that media literacy and reporting matters a ton, and PBS/NPR are not the same as the National Enquirer, and it’s incredibly damaging to an informed community to act like they are.
I hate that, and that’s why I chose to run with the “Code of silence” headline. Count that as my own opinion in response to people clamming up about a story that I think still hasn’t been reported thoroughly, to everyone’s loss. We could use more understanding about it for the next time a tragedy comes out of the network of relationships made by this fandom.
Hi Sy, and Patch!
Hope you’re well. I do appreciate the efforts that both of you have made to introduce me to the furry fandom, and get me closer to this story. I think I mentioned higher in the comments that “code of silence” may have been a glib way of putting things, and it certainly doesn’t apply to you two!
This isn’t old news at all – in fact, i’m working actively on this story as we speak, and I know a lot lot more than I did then, thanks to the trial in part.
To your points: Unfortunately I did hear from several furries that their chief concern in talking to me wasn’t so much the story being “bad for the fandom”, but in the backlash they’d receive within the fandom for speaking to a member of the media. I won’t name the names of those who told me this, they insisted on anonymity (obviously), but that’s what I was referring to.
Also – several of those who were closest to the people concerned in this story continue to justify their silence with a generalized suspicion and loathing of all media. Why they seem unmoved by the importance of telling this story fully and truthfully, for the sake of the victims in the crime as much as anyone else, I don’t understand. To my ears, their silence is deafening.
Anyway, work continues! My hope is that the furry fandom will embrace the story I’m writing – you’ll see that my intentions are as sound as I feel they’ve been. Roll on 2020! I believe it!
Hope you’re both well, and thanks again for helping me when you could.
You perfectly summed up the reasons why I ran with the “Code of Silence” headline here, and why I feel media literacy is so needed for those furries who feel like they should have a problem with the media — rather than the stories the media tells.
Their silence is deafening to me as well. Thank you for continuing to work on this, I believe you’re an ally to the furry fandom, and I’m greatly anticipating more info about it.