The Confederate fursuit incident shows how you can’t be a troll and a victim at the same time.
by Patch O'Furr
The infamous Confederate fursuit got a lot of views on social media. The issue started with complaints during Anthrocon and Midwest Furfest in 2015. By no coincidence, the symbol was pushed on the fandom at the same time as racist mass murder by Dylann Roof led to taking down Confederate flags across the USA. Then in 2017, during a huge amount of positive news about Anthrocon, the issue bubbled up again like a turd in a punchbowl.
The fursuiter is Magnus Diridian, AKA Rob Shokawsky. He was previously known for causing disturbances by copying the fursuit of Lemonade Coyote to exploit his death for attention. For several years, Magnus was reputedly banned from MWFF and Anthrocon. He came back to troll with the Confederate fursuit and a Trump sign that violated AC’s Code of Conduct:
Any action or behavior that causes significant interference with convention operations, excessive discomfort to other attendees, or adversely affects Anthrocon’s relationship with its guests, its venues or the public is strictly forbidden and may result in permanent suspension of membership.
Harassment includes … Conduct, dress, or speech that targets, threatens, intimidates, or is otherwise intended to cause distress to other attendees, or to members of protected classes (such as those based on race, age, religion, national origin, disability, gender, or sexual identity).
Magnus chose to bring that suit even though he has many others. There’s no pretending that it was anything but forcing politics on others, since he admits he did it because of “attack” on the flag. According to his helper, he was even “ghosting” the con to do it. He could have attended like anyone else if he didn’t set out to cause entirely predictable negativity. To be perfectly clear, Magnus was an antagonistic outsider who did not register or support Anthrocon.
As clear as the problem was, it got muddied by misunderstanding. There was a post by another blogger who I like:
“I am glad that everyone had a blast at Anthrocon 2017. I could not go, but I did follow the con as closely as I could…and, there is something that has been weighing heavily on my mind… Why am I angry? Because I realize that we (as a people and fandom) or more oppressed than ever before. But, not by the public… but by our own f***ing community!!! It’s because we are not allowed to have an unpopular opinion…”
The blogger offered understanding for why people don’t like the Confederate Flag, but believed that it was part of some people’s cultural heritage and pride. “It does NOT automatically make you a racist of any kind… or a bigot.” They continued:
“This guy was doing NOTHING to harm anyone. Like people that protest on the sides of the roads, he was not attacking anyone directly, physically… he was not being violent in any way, shape, or form. He was making a ‘statement’, he was showing what he believed in. And guess what? THAT IS NOT WRONG!!! It is freedom of speech, it is freedom of expression… and as a human, he has the right to do that. As a Furry, he had the right to be there at that convention, same as anyone else.”
Their conclusion said:
“It seems pretty bad that we claim that we are an open, loving, and understanding fandom- yet we shun people because they believe differently than we do. (…) People can not even be themselves anymore without offending someone, and it’s sad. (…) I will not censor myself for the sake of delicate sensibilities… I will not censor myself because some people wanna pick and choose what it means to have freedom of speech and expression, and I will NOT censor myself for people that think that everyone else is in the wrong if they do not believe the same things… and that punishment should be reserved only for the ones with the unpopular opinion. That makes YOU the close-minded one if you think that way.”
I left this reply anonymously so it could speak for itself:
“Magnus had already been banned from the con for provoking others. When he came back, instead of getting along he decided to provoke. He knew he was doing something wrong.
Cons are private events that happen by the goodwill of everyone involved, and if you go you’re something of a guest. That wasn’t being a good guest. Of course in the USA we have freedom of speech – but the most simple meaning of freedom of speech is that the government can’t arrest you. A con isn’t the government, or public property – it’s a private event, and the con organizers have freedom to make their rules. If they say their con is a place to have fun and be positive, and you can’t go to be negative and upset others, it’s their rules and they can ask you to leave. Same as if Magnus was in your house and you told him to leave. His freedom of speech isn’t taken away – he can do what he wants at his own con, or on a public street somewhere else.
Unfortunately it was provocative because that flag can never be separated from history of slavery, no more than a swastika can be separate in Germany’s (and it’s even illegal there). If you get familiar with the history of slavery, you can find that there was a huge propaganda campaign to try erasing that – they lied about what it meant and who was involved and what they did. The “heritage” story was invented much after the civil war and it is dishonest. That went together with racism of the 20th century, and new laws they made to make it worse, all the way into the Jim Crow era and the 1960’s.
We’re still undoing what they did wrong. Only this year, we learned that Emmett Till, the kid who was murdered for supposedly whistling at a white woman, never did that. We only know because the woman confessed in her 80’s. The KKK uses the confederate flag as their symbol and that should tell you everything about what’s wrong. They lost that war and it’s time to let it die.”
The Confederate flag is a symbol of racism:  A historian from the Museum of the Confederacy says the Confederate flag can never be separated from defense of slavery.  The flag wasn’t politically resurrected until the mid-20th century as backlash against desegregation.  There is a “150-year-old propaganda campaign designed to erase slavery as the cause of the war and whitewash the Confederate cause as a noble one.”  Besides flags, monuments for Confederate propaganda were built generations after the war.  Removing these monuments is like taking down statues of Stalin.  As recently as 7/8/17, the KKK rallied for the monuments with Confederate flags.
Idea: if you still fly the Confederate Flag, you're not allowed to use any technology or medicine invented later than 1865— Megan Amram (@meganamram) June 19, 2015
My comment never asked the blogger to take down their post or censor themselves. However, they gave consideration and decided to take it down on their own. It was replaced with a new post:
I was NOT aware that he was there, deliberately provoking people… I also was not aware of Anthrocon’s policy on political propoganda which is stated in their ToS. So while I still do not feel he should have been escorted out… I do understand the decision. A friend made a point when she said that Anthrocon is huge and gets a lot of press coverage… and he is def the type of person we do not want to be represented by. HOWEVER… this does not change my feelings of how people (the world) now treats people with the unpopular opinion. This does not change how I feel about how everything now seems to cater to those of delicate sensibilities, and it is just not realistic how we baby our population. But this is, in itself, just an opinion… and I do not expect everyone to like what I say or even agree.
Unpopular opinions often deserve care and majority opinions aren’t always right. There are plenty of places to debate those online or in public. Are cons the place for it? Anthrocon says: “The primary purpose of Anthrocon is for our attendees to have fun.” The con didn’t go to Magnus’s home and tell him how to think. He went out of his way to get in other people’s faces with politics that interfered with the con’s purpose.
Let me add that the blogger is nice and sincere. (They can stay unlinked here unless they want to comment.) It can be hard to pass info without sounding like a lecture, especially with a lot of young people in this fandom, but I’m not writing to focus on that blogger. This is about Magnus and the line between opinion and truth, and trolling vs. honest speech.
A “FURRY RAIDERS” TROLLING PROJECT
Speaking as a furry who does bold speech (in a place I built for it), and speaking about young people, there’s even more to this story. It’s a situation built for sleazy chickenhawks to swoop in and exploit. That’s the purpose of groups like the Furry Raiders and their leader Foxler.
By no coincidence, Magnus Diridian’s roommate Ricardo Nightwing is a Furry Raider. He assisted with the incident at Anthrocon. Afterwards, pictures of Magnus were proudly posted in the Furry Raiders Facebook group where they mocked protest of Confederate flags. That’s the purpose of the whole thing. Call it indoctrination especially for their young, gullible members.
The video they’re mocking has a woman protesting Confederate flags on a car at a festival. (For context they never bothered to learn: it was in Canada, where supposed American heritage isn’t entitled to a place, and she was staff.) Notice the dishonest trick of connecting an extreme example of a “triggered SJW” with reactions the Furry Raiders provoke themselves. They aren’t the same thing… again, it comes down to context. The video shows a woman coming to a festival and complaining, but Magnus and Foxler go to furry cons to push their behavior on others.
Apparently it’s OK when they do it.
That sleight-of-hand with context is meant to build an “SJW” strawman/boogeyman. In the Facebook thread, Foxler poses as victim of “same people that tell me to remove my paw print armband”. But Foxler set out to provoke by trolling events with unmistakable Nazi iconography. His ref sheet was tagged “nazi“, and he made public comments like “I stand by Hitler” and signed his comments “Hitler of Furry Fandom”. To pose as a victim, he later flipped the story to pretend the name was just “Fox Miller” and he didn’t know what Nazis were.
There’s a simple name for this goalpost-shifting, context-erasing manipulation: Two-faced lying. If you see it happen, remember that you can’t be a troll and a victim at the same time.
The Furry Raiders “mission” claims to “build a stronger community with projects that challenge social obstacles”. Here, their obstacle is people who aren’t cool with racism. But there was a rare moment of clarity for the Furry Raiders. Magnus’ helper dropped the fake “community” pose, leaving just “you can’t stop us:”
MYTHS VS. THE TRUTH
For even more evidence of how poorly informed the myths about “SJW’s” are, see the facebook comment “Watch SJW’s try to ban this movie next”. Cry Baby is a movie by John Waters, a super fabulous gay man who also made the movie Hairspray about race integration. Ban him? I’m fan enough to have gotten him invited to furry events. (See what I mean about myths?)
Confederate flaggers are “a ghetto of stupidity” – John Waters, maker of Cry Baby
This doesn’t have two sides when “SJW” myths are getting trumped up by trolls. There are just reasonable complaints about negative symbols. Again, I never asked the blogger defending Magnus to take anything down. Magnus didn’t have his fursuit taken away. This isn’t about taking away rights or never letting go of problems. We’re discussing misinformation and trolling vs. the truth.
The truth is: negative symbols are being pushed for shock by posers who don’t care about this community. Everyone deserves more honesty about that. The trolls believe they can’t be stopped, but everyone can point out dishonesty, stop defending them, and demand better.
Furries revere free expression. Let’s conclude with an example of standing for it in a mature, honest, positive way: In 2015, the Vermont Furs were banned from costuming at a public festival because of a law against masks. So they got support from the ACLU and local news, went to their city council and got the laws changed. The law still regulates masked KKK activity, but now it allows peaceful expression too. Sounds ideal to me, and what reasonable furries want.
- Vermont town selectively bans fursuiters: Prejudice complaint and update (Dogpatch Press)
- Free to Be Furry? Group Fights to Wear Animal Costumes in Burlington. (Seven Days Vermont)
- An Update from the ACLU – and We did it! (Vermont Furs)
- With Furries And Free Speech In Mind, Burlington Redrafts Anti-Mask Ordinance (Vermont Public Radio)
UPDATE – Ricardo Nightwing posted a response vid (I left further response to it in the comments on Youtube.) Ricardo also posted about leaving the Furry Raiders, and I think we can all relate to going through a process of change and maturity in life.
Responses by the Furry Raiders have included more flags and telling me: “there’s always a burning oven ready for you.”
Furries: "people who do that are being despicable losers"— Dogpatch Press (@DogpatchPress) July 12, 2017
Loser: "We'll never stop"
Furries: "We know"
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