How I Ended Up in the Alt-Lite, and How I Got Out

by Patch O'Furr

From wikipedia:

The alt-right, or alternative right, is a loosely-connected grouping of white supremacists, neo-Confederates, neo-Nazis, neo-fascists, and other far-right fringe hate groups.

The “alt-lite” is frequently contrasted with and compared to the political alt-right, with which it shares some features, but the alt-lite remains distinct from the alt-right in that it claims to reject identity politics—including the white nationalism and racialism of the alt-right—though they share other key features and beliefs.

Learn more from the Anti-Defamation League – From Alt Right to Alt Lite: Naming the Hate.

Below is a guest story sent in by an unnamed furry, shared for awareness about how hate groups gain influence in a subculture like furry fandom.

– Patch

A springboard into the alt-right.

Reading your article: (A deep dive into the Altfurry mission to “redpill” fandom with hate) motivated me to speak up on a similar topic. There’s a bigger number of “conservative” furries, and their less vocal communities, which often serve as a springboard into the alt-right. Those groups often distance themselves from the altfurs because they genuinely don’t like (some) extremist viewpoints of the altfurs (to a degree). But despite that, the membership gets caught in an echo chamber that slowly pushes them towards more and more extreme views.

This is a ground level report. My experience wasn’t in actual altfurry, but I ended up within circles that shared similar sentiment and beliefs about the SJWs, trans people, Jews, “globalists and leftists”, and similar. People often believe that they would manage to spot those and avoid them, but that isn’t true. I did, but still ended up as an active member. Many in those groups don’t fall into the “stereotypical” picture of the alt right. There are often liberally inclined people, gay people, or even trans people. That often conceals the much more extreme members, and makes it seem as a “neutral” place, and sometimes it’s easy to disregard the extreme members.

But constant bashing on certain topics from extreme members and tons of “information” that get dumped onto you, with lack of proper opposition (more vocal people against it get kicked out), slowly distorts perception. Many people stay “moderate” right, but I have seen many pushed into extreme beliefs.

It took me some important self realizations to finally get away out of that cursed echo chamber. I believe it’s important to demystify it and make the community aware of how easy it is to end up, or get pushed into such groups.

It takes time and support to get rid of distorted views.

Before everything, I’m asking for a bit of understanding. I’m not writing to argue, defend or excuse anything, but to give insight in how things like this can happen. I’m still neutral/ambivalent to some things because of how long I’ve been exposed, but I’m trying to get rid of them. Being surrounded by people like those distorted my views. It takes time and support to get rid of them, and it’s been just a couple of months for me, after being in it for a few years.

Compared to your article about alt-furry, my experience was much more grounded, and the groups I was a part of didn’t have that recruiting. I even met some higher ranking members in them personally, and they have shown me what is going on in the upper hierarchy. The groups acted more as a “safe space” for members, rather than a recruiting ground. Some were just alt-lite, and some were alt-lite furries, or had hidden/separate channels for furries. They had a better grasp of real life than what the alt-furs have.

This is just a story of what my experience was, and it is not, and should not be reflective for others. The communities that I was in were more moderate (on average) than the full blown fascist/sexist/racist/xenophobic alt-right ones. But there are still many malignant people in those alt-lite groups, who are just not as extreme as the actual alt-right.  I have never shared the ideas of the alt-right. There is nothing nice to say about them.

When I felt unwanted, their community drew me in.

As a quick profile of myself, I was always voting for socially aware parties, participating in some protests for social and minority rights, and actively working to help people during the massive influx of immigrants and refugees that we had a few years ago. At the same time I was already somewhat participating in right-leaning groups. It wasn’t that I shared beliefs with those people, but their community made me stay.

I understand and feel for the sexual, ethnic or any other minority parts of the furry community and their issues, but the discourse was alienating. It was generalizations like “the whites are again at it”, “cis people don’t understand”, ”they’re a cishet male”, etc. The constant stream wore me down. Trying to raise concerns about it was rarely met with understanding. I never cared that I was straight, cis, and white. Those weren’t an important part of my character.  There were nice people who let me know that they weren’t referring to me in those posts, but it made me feel unwanted.  So I just gave up on the regular community.

I started interacting with other furries who weren’t bringing up politics, or going somewhat against the regular community. It felt better, as I stopped seeing the blame for something that I wasn’t even guilty of.  With time, I started joining alt-lite furry communities.  They made me feel welcome. I could talk about things that might have been controversial and ended up in a callout fest. People there were disagreeing with me but also discussing. They seemed more reasonable and despite politics being an often important topic, people were talking about other things too. It felt good.

These groups weren’t large, but they were spread out, with members in multiple groups leaning towards the right wing. I had time to get to know some of the members more personally, and it was a more varied bunch than I expected. It wasn’t just straight white dudes, but there were gay people, women, variety of skin colors and even some trans people. I was intrigued about how they joined, and I realized that many had similar experiences to mine. They felt unwanted for a variety of reasons, and these communities accepted them. Some were doxxed and received death threats because they were disagreeing with the general community, others were betrayed by close friends and lost support, some were ridiculed for their beliefs in completely unrelated topics, or were disregarded because they weren’t a part of some minority. A decent number of them didn’t join alt-lite groups because of their political or social beliefs, but because those groups welcomed them and offered them acceptance. I was one.

Again, it’s not my interest to defend any of it, but to give an insight and understanding into how these things happen.

Debating or ignoring extremists

Of course, it wasn’t all nice. There were a certain amount of extremists who were alt-right and full blown fascists or bigots. I was cautious of arguing or calling them out, because I didn’t want to get ostracized again, especially knowing how the alt-right can be hostile. But other people were arguing against them. It was something that I hadn’t seen before, so I started participating too. Most of them didn’t share my views, but they didn’t kick me out.

Not many people in the community looked favorably towards the alt-right, maybe agreeing in some broad strokes, but mostly considering them man-children. Most had favorable views towards topics that I found distasteful at best, abhorring and disgusting at worst.  It went from conservative beliefs to creation of an ethnostate, denying trans rights, heavy opposition to what they considered SJW’s, hostility towards non western european / american nations, and global / jewish conspiracy. It paled to the degree of what the alt-right does, but it was there.  I kind of ignored them because there are always maniacs in all groups.

An important rule in many groups was no stirring up drama. It was mostly used when people got personal during discussions, and wouldn’t drop issues. It was supposed to apply to everyone, but eventually there was more leeway for those right wing oriented ones. For a long time I ignored that because I was privately laughing with some of the alt-right, having the impression that they were community buffoons.

The danger of a safe space that welcomes extremists

After being a part of such groups for a while, your beliefs still stay the same, but you start giving leeway to those you disagree with more and more. Using a variety of insults and phrases becomes more and more acceptable, you start ignoring more and more of the extreme views, because you stop considering them as worth of talking about.  You stop minding topics that you’d vehemently disagree with before. The topics brought up almost always end up with some of the more extreme members joining in, so you ignore them. And you don’t notice how your perception gets distorted.

What you’d argue against before, you stop caring, slowly some of the arguments and “information” that you see start having some sense, or at least worthy of being considered. You get assaulted by tons of data that you have to sort to find what is the issue in it. By the time you finish taking apart one thing, three more get thrown at you. You still go against over-exaggerated narratives that they throw at you, but some of the data starts chipping away at you. The more you dig into it, the less you see the whole picture, and the godawful bigoted narrative that they present.

This starts affecting interactions with people outside of the groups. Before you were just pushed away, but now you start getting defensive, which in turn makes people even more upset with you. And you have no clue why, because in your perception, you didn’t change. It pushes you even deeper into alt-lite groups, as they offer also other content than politics. You stop caring about the general population.  The longer you’re in those groups, the less you care about what you disagree with, and more about what you have in common. Art, movies, series, games, food, nature, whatever. You avoid politics, thinking you won’t be affected by it, and feel cozy in the situation.

“No drama” rules = weak defenses

Now the more extreme ones are still tossing awful shit at you, and you don’t care any more. Sometimes a newcomer may argue, and they get kicked, and you don’t care. You just see some leftist arguing with the local extremist who you don’t pay attention to.

When you do take up discussion, both inside and outside those groups, you do it weakly, because you know that its just going to be a constant stream of dumb and annoying things. You stop caring about those topics, as it becomes a self maintaining circle of apathy and not wanting to be involved (again) in something that is too stupid to argue against. You hope that people understand that some of it is inherently bad, so why should it be even talked about. If you try, you have to go against what the alt-right extremists are throwing at you, muddling the whole picture.

The biggest danger of such groups is not realizing that your experience and worldview is being distorted, and being slowly pushed more and more towards apathy, despite their beliefs going against it. Those groups don’t do it intentionally, as the alt-right ones do, but it’s a side effect of constant exposure. It doesn’t matter if someone is social-democrat, labour, conservative, liberal, green, centrist, unaffiliated or whatever other political party they might be. Being in such alt-lite groups affects everyone, some more, some less, and it distorts them.

It becomes hard to get out of those groups.  People argue for or against your beliefs without too much drama, and you feel appreciated without being insulted, you are set with what you have and become complacent and lose empathy to those outside.  You lose motivation to try, and nobody is there to point out what is happening.  If I hadn’t met one amazing person, I probably would be still stuck in those groups, having my perception slowly distorted to be more and more favorable towards the alt-right.

A wake-up call

One outspoken person stayed a bit longer on one server, and didn’t get kicked as fast, so I had time to get to know them. They were somewhat similar to me when I joined, just much more vocal. It felt good to have someone who shares the same social awareness as I do. Up until they got banned, I ignored and dismissed when newcomers were getting kicked out, and cared more about the regulars.  But now the “management” and some other regulars were trash talking them and it was straight up awful. It broke the image that I had.

I started looking into other groups and noticing the same thing. They were straight up awful to anyone who wasn’t a part of them. More and more extremist voices were being tolerated and supported. I realized that I had lost the human touch I had before I became a full time regular member. With time, I slowly started interacting less and less, finally leaving all of them them.

It’s been a couple of months and rejoining the regular furry community takes a while. Getting rid of distorted worldviews isn’t simple, and there are still issues that pushed me away the first time, but I learned how to deal with those to a degree. I know that I don’t want to end up back in those alt-lite groups.  If I could share one important lesson about it, it would be how to discern people who are misled, from those that are malignant alt-right, and how not to push them into it.

Good defenses.

People can be misinformed, have bad or old information, and use it to argue. At the start that was often me, but instead of being offered information I felt alienated. Also, being honest to oneself about different information isn’t simple, and people often miss it. Looking back now I see a lot of similarity between what people similar to me were saying, and what the alt-right are doing, but there are some important differences.

The alt-right forces you to argue little details, and they want you to do it publicly. They intentionally ignore requests to go back to the general topic. They start swapping phrases and terms as if they’re all the same thing. They always counter whatever is said and don’t back down or accept being wrong, but always try to one-up it. The purpose is to annoy and upset you.

Don’t cede them the spotlight. Call them out for doing something wrong, and if they don’t step back, they’re doing it intentionally. When that happens, don’t waste any more of your time to let them share their views.

When people toss out some generalizations, ask them simply- do they have any questions about it?  Good meaning people, and those who are misled, will have questions. Their tone will change, and they won’t stick to single talking points.  They’ll raise issues they might have, be polite, and ask questions. Don’t be hostile towards them just because what they said had might have bad implications. If nothing else, don’t feed the hate. (Also, please avoid “the cishet white males” posts. It’s hard for me to have sympathy when phrases like sound similar to stuff that the alt-right says.)

A bit of understanding can bring a lot of change – but don’t waste your time if there is none. Thanks to people who offered me a chance and understanding, I managed to get back into the furry community.

Thanks to this guest for their story. Get in touch via the About page to submit guest posts. – Patch

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