The Milo Story, Nazi Prevention, and A Simple Hope – by David Lillie of Dreamkeepers
by Patch O'Furr
Welcome to David Lillie, artist of Dreamkeepers, a comic with a connection to here via Fred Patten’s reviews. A fantasy comic doesn’t need to tie to current events, but that changes when it embraces controversy.
Dreamkeepers did that by hitching their marketing to Milo Yiannopoulos in 2016, buying an ad on his show and giving him a fan art fursona. Milo was known as a demagogic celebrity who rose with Gamergate and the alt-right, and fell by condoning pedophilia. He addressed furries by bashing them on Breitbart, as I mentioned in this article about looking at conservatives before Trump was elected. But the topic here isn’t really Milo, it’s the things he rode in on, and they need to be clearly defined.
Regular readers will be familiar with reactionary groups aligned with the alt-right, like Altfurry. An honest look will find them inseparable from racism. Despite their claims to be defenders of free speech, I think they aren’t motivated by limitations being imposed on freedom, but the opposite; they’re reacting to society getting too free for the targets of their hate, who they consider lesser humans. Their leaders want unaccountability for it, and many of their collaborators simply don’t understand the greater context, or don’t care as long as they personally come out ahead.
Unaccountability isn’t even enough, so they push back with absurd counter-claims about things like “white genocide”. It comes from hate, not legit grievances, no matter what props they use for the pose. The proof is in the way they revise history for it (as if the Holocaust was caused by people hating Nazis, that’s the worst victim blaming ever.) It causes the conflict with those who they consider enemies. Enemies means new generations wanting to preserve advances for minorities and a better deal in times when the rich get richer with the poor getting poorer. To fight change, the alt-right casts it as cartoonish invasion and “degeneration” (except when they enjoy the benefits) while claiming to represent a false golden age from the past. But when they claim to be “hated” for troll behavior, it’s false equivalence to hating others humanity. With the alt-right, there’s no symmetry between their bad-faith backlash and those receiving it. There is no “both sides”.
The article here may imply that “both sides” deserve to be considered legitimate, and I don’t endorse that. Of course I endorse civil rights and free speech, which aren’t the issue with rules moderation by private platforms who don’t want trolls fouling the water for others. You can’t just redefine privileges as rights for that. Also, when it addresses Milo, it’s too bad it glosses over how he served Nazis to launder their hate, and how the sleazy association with them is a much bigger problem than their size. Association isn’t dismissable (especially to a fan subculture that depends on it in every way) – both when people choose to enable assholes, or show them the door. Choosing who to host is free association too.
All of this is to define the fundamentals if you sense cynical dissociation and rebranding in the article, which was criticism I got about hosting it. So why do it? I have to say that the author already has his platform and doesn’t need mine, and I don’t need his. I don’t think a one-time guest article is like giving up keys to the site and he could easily put it elsewhere. It’s here to be open and raise questions.
An open mind can lead to common ground, but also let nasty things crawl in. (You might enjoy this guest article about that: How I Ended Up in the Alt-Lite, and How I Got Out). Which one is this article trying to do? And do you feel rabid or poisoned about it?
The Milo Story, Nazi Prevention, and A Simple Hope – By David Lillie.
You may be reading this to check whether it’s okay to continue hating me. Let’s cut to the chase and give that a simple yes.
I create the best comic I’m capable of rendering; but I also drew Milo as a snow leopard, and occasionally shake my head at the firestorm it caused. Since I still think it was funny, your hatred is socially acceptable. Including acceptable by me. I’m not holding it against you. It’s just how you feel.
So we’ve covered the hatred question, but you may still be curious about why I changed my opinion regarding Nazis in the furry community. Especially if you think Nazis are a problem. Because I agree with you, and previously I did not.
(Any Nazis reading this just began considering whether they, too, should hate me.)
We’ve established I’m not writing this article in the hopes of reducing the number of people on twitter hostile towards me. So why would I change my mind, if personal social approval is off the table?
To establish a starting point, let’s examine a common question about the Milo fursona.
“What were you thinking?”
Generally my mind is in one of two places; the next comic page, or hare-brained marketing schemes. Aspiring content creators may relate to the constant drive for experimentation, improvement, and the hope for success.
During some of my many thousands of hours of drawing I listened to a podcast by Milo. I knew him as a provocateur attracting massive crowds and protesters while advocating free speech and being banned from twitter. The controversy swirling around him was many things, and entertaining was one of them.
I heard him do a live-read advertising, of all things, cars. Talk about boring. Too bad he wasn’t promoting something interesting. Like a webcomic… Like a furry webcomic. Like OUR furry webcomic!
The idea popped into my head like a Robin Williams punch line, and I laughed.
One of culture’s most controversial figures, promoting a furry comic. The thought was so absurd, I had to at least try for it and see what would happen. I probably wouldn’t be capable of pulling off such an advertising coupe. No publicist, no ad agency, no form of professional representation.
But it turns out I could.
And I did.
Milo’s audience heard all about Dreamkeepers, and then he became a snow leopard.
If you’re concerned about social problems, and shaming others into agreement is a tactic you sometimes use, what happened next might be of interest to you.
I was called the usual assortment of smears that we’re all so familiar with, whether we’re hitting with them, or being hit by them. Fascist, alt-right, x-phobe, Nazi.
Now, was the pitchfork crowd aware that the labels they flung at me were inaccurate? I can’t say. I have difficulty reading minds.
But I know my own mind (a little), so from my perspective it was obvious those labels were wrong. I don’t identify as a fascist, and my values are incompatible with fascism. The credibility of my accusers thus dipped a bit, and not just their personal credibility. Being falsely labeled confirmed for me that these labels were used falsely, broadly, as a disingenuous social weapon.
I shrugged off the pitchforkers seeking to apply shame and control, because, no thanks. We carried on drawing things, sharing art, and having a good time.
Now remember, you are permitted to hate me for all of this, as we established at the beginning. That’s fine. I don’t identify the way you have labeled me, and you’re allowed to be upset about that.
But the takeaway here is that, even for oddly agreeable fellows like myself, social shaming tactics are losing effectiveness. The hammer still has force- but everyone has been pummeled so long, over such trivial or fallacious things, that hardened shells have become mainstream. Shame doesn’t work. That weapon has been removed from our arsenal of social correctives. And as it happens, we may have disarmed ourselves at just the wrong moment.
I’m starting to get worried about Nazis. Now, when I say that, I don’t mean Dave Rubin. (I could take ‘im.) Allow me to briefly clarify how I conceptualize “Nazi.”
I don’t use it in the colloquial sense of “person outside my political tribe.” I’m talking about a fringe ideology that opposes individual rights, seeks to purge all disagreement from society, and minimizes historic mass murders.
The left-leaning readers are pulling their hair in frustration at that definition, thinking, “Yes you idiot, that’s what we’ve been telling you this entire time! There are actual Nazis, we’re not making this stuff up!”
I hear you, and you’re correct.
Real people exist who are Nazis. I’m sure you can find examples who are not Dave Rubin, and they will be valid examples of very bad Nazis. There were valid examples a few years ago, and before then as well.
The existence of a few people thinking totalitarian thoughts doesn’t concern me then, nor now. I’m concerned because of a major contextual social shift.
Up until now, mainstream society was generally Nazi-proof because of one universally accepted truism; that Nazis were morally reprehensible. Nobody would ever vote for a Nationalist Socialist political party, because there wasn’t one single good thing about Nazis.
Or at least, there wasn’t.
The door is opening to Nazis having some mainstream appeal, and here is why.
Public perception is beginning to register Nazis as defenders of free speech.
If you disagree, just check this for yourself. How often do you see online conversations touching on the topics of Nazis and free speech at the same time?
That proximity alone, repeated often enough, will form a link in people’s minds long after they forget the context of the arguments.
If that impression solidifies, then we have destroyed the decades-long public consensus that there is nothing good about voting for Nazis. People will start saying, “Well, I disagree with their French foreign policy, but at least somebody is defending free speech.”
What’s even worse, the furry community’s efforts to eradicate Nazis are making this catastrophic impression- this idea that Nazis defend free speech- correct.
If you fight Nazis by revoking their civil rights, then they will defend themselves by advocating for civil rights.
The moral high-ground is the one thing Nazis never had. It is a massively powerful weapon, and we are giving it to them, for free.
Please, let’s all stop giving Nazis the moral high ground. It’s easy. We can disarm them by simply respecting everyone’s civil rights.
Many will rush to explain that no civil rights are being violated. Perhaps you are technically correct- let’s not argue the legal minutiae outside of court. If it satisfies your desire for accuracy, every time you hear “violating civil rights” simply replace it in your mind with “deplatforming, demonetizing, censoring, and social banishment, with no criminal charges, no trial, and no recourse.”
Many of the people being purged are not Nazis at all. Not even a little bit. Tossing around hateful labels like ticker-tape at a parade makes these kinds of civilian casualties inevitable. And they are mounting.
The recent Furaffinity purge provides the latest examples.
People with no ties to the alt-right have had their accounts nuked, being told opaquely “you’re not the sort of person welcome in our community.”
Many just want access to their account back, even briefly, so they can save copies of favorited art, gather their posts and journals from past years, and consider if they can take their belongings to find a new home. One where they won’t be banished for reasons that are never disclosed.
And that game is to make people in the fandom think that the net is being cast too wide and that people who don't "deserve" to be pushed out of the fandom are suffering.— VƎX IS RUNNING D&D (@vexwerewolf) May 21, 2018
QuQu and everyone else in that chatroom knows "the truth" is that altfurry IS a paraiah group.
In the furry community’s zeal to expunge “Nazis,” you might anticipate another unintended consequence.
Fearful people gravitate towards group identity, for protection.
I will let you deduce what happens when raving headhunters add notches to their belt and gloat over scalps.
A few furs will choose to live in fear. Re-reading every tweet, anxiety spiking as they second-guess each joke, knowing one wrong move could end their social existence in the oh-so-welcoming community, but hoping the next person to be cast out will be a different member of the herd.
But for every furry who stays quiet and toes the line, more will stay quiet and drift away from the headhunters, into the opposing camp.
During the Milo fursona days every public tweet or comment bullying us would correspond to roughly ten private messages or e-mails expressing solidarity with our actions, and fear of the online mobs.
The furry community is devolving into one defined by anxiety, insecurity, and fear.
I’ll repeat it, in case you didn’t feel the psychic surge of readers around the globe nodding mutely in assent.
We are creating a climate of fear.
One where polarized factions misrepresent one another. One where artists, working maniacally to build up a career, live in fear of being next on the chopping block, their hopes and dreams just more collateral damage. We’re creating a community where any creator who fails to join a rigid political bloc risks being caught alone in the crossfire between the two.
On our current path, we’re only a few years away from politically segregated conventions. That will take the reciprocal ugliness and intolerance that exists online, and make it worse. We can only throw so many people out of the fandom before it generates an entire rival community. That’s a road we don’t have to go down.
Now, I’m not telling you to start liking Nazis. I don’t like them- every time I see those movies, I’m rooting for Indiana Jones.
I can see a better future for the fandom, and it doesn’t require us to join hands and sing kumbaya. Dislike some art? Explain why in a comment. See people agreeing to a bad idea? Explain why it’s bad. Want to shun a person? Use your block button, and don’t invite them to your parties.
But we have to exist together in the same society. We can curate our personal social circle- but we cannot claim personal ownership and curation rights over the entire fandom. Law abiding people, even those who disagree with us, must have access to publicly accessible social events, publicly accessible online platforms, the ability to earn revenue, and basic civil rights.
That’s a pact I can support. Even if I disagree with someone, and even if they’re a genuinely bad person, if they follow the law I won’t try to demonetize them, deplatform them, or eject them from the broader community and its gatherings. (Openly or otherwise.)
It’s my hope we’ll move towards a future where the furry community truly is a welcoming place. Where people can disagree and have political spats, then grab a beer together, or play the latest game, or go nuts on the dance floor. A community that doesn’t mandate opinions. A community where anyone can draw anything. (Yes, even that.)
In world like that, it’ll be awfully hard for Nazis to pose as free-speech defenders. I won’t have to worry about culture siding with them. I can laugh at the occasional outrageous Nazi fursuiter, and then continue living in a society that stands for individual rights and against totalitarian social purges- regardless of who is doing the purging. A society where silly people can advocate crazy ideas which the majority will never take seriously, because the ideas crumble under scrutiny. Where we can create any sort of fiction imaginable.
It’s just a hope, not instructions. You’re free to agree or disagree. I’ll still greet you with a smile if you ever decide to swing by, and support your right to viably participate in the community, your right to contribute color, life, and stupid opinions. If I don’t support those rights for you, god knows nobody will support them for me. I think we can do that much for one another.
– Dave Lillie
UPDATE 5/22/18: who could have predicted this would trigger disingenuous concern trolling?
This was published to raise questions. Dave Lillie’s Gab post that disrespected the readers (and the clearly communicated intention to add an editor note) made a question about honesty. Another was how badly would altfurries behave about it?
Their chat didn’t give Dave Lillie much credit for an honest opinion without a trolling agenda. And they couldn’t wait to push their own.
After bringing up a trolling agenda, they couldn’t help themselves from showing what hate is at the root of theirs:
No surprises here. Even an attempt at looking as bland and reasonable as possible comes with hate from altfurries.
Perhaps Dave Lillie would like me to legitimize it by patiently discussing about why grown-ups don’t do that.
But I prefer speaking to everyone who already knows it. (Why act like “moral credibility” is supposed to be the burden of the targets?) Acting like grown-ups isn’t a big expectation. You could call it A Simple Hope.
Have fun trying to post comments and crying oppression when they go to the trash, guys. (That means 4 that came in between 9-11 PM sourced from the altfurry chat egging them on.) Bad faith trolls will never be welcome here, even if they pretend to speak nicely in public. Playing obvious games is a terrible way for hate group members to present themselves as victims. Exposing them might not prevent nazis from existing, but it helps make sure they don’t get anywhere.
Thoughts from regular readers:
so the reason they drew a white supremacist fanart is "for the lulz" and also we should be nicer to nazis?— Tender Violent Qu**r (@ReadingRidley) May 21, 2018
Also the argument that people think Nazis stand for free speech. Like, I don’t know anyone who thinks that. What world is he living on?— Sheiffer Sutherland (@FuzzWolf) May 22, 2018
They don't offer anything to the discussion besides gleefully admitting again, they conspired with a bigot to make more money for themselves.— screwdriver (@SYXG98) May 21, 2018
'Freedom of speech' goes both ways, and people keep forgetting that.— 🗝zʇᴉlqʞuI👑 (@Inkblitzer) May 21, 2018
Patch, why'd you invite these guys to the potluck? pic.twitter.com/so13Ht4qGl— 💕🦄 XYDEXX 🦄💕 (@XydexxUnicorn) May 21, 2018
I don't care if they cry censorship because they've lied before and they'll do it again. It's what they do.— 💕🦄 XYDEXX 🦄💕 (@XydexxUnicorn) May 21, 2018
A "centrist" who collaborates/enables can't just cop out by complaining "guilt by association" like they aren't choosing to associate. And anyone who says "you turned me into a hater by calling me a hater" is a manipulative liar.— Dogpatch Press (@DogpatchPress) May 21, 2018
How does one, who's an adult change their minds from thinking Nazi's were not so bad, to yeah, they bad? How do you wrap that around your brain stem and come to that conclusion to have even thought they were ok to begin with. I mean..really? Well not another dime from me FTG.— The Over-opinionated Ebony Gorilla (@EbonyGorilla) May 22, 2018
The man reason why I wouldn't is, my credibility isn't worth a buck for one additional reader, follower, or fan.— The Over-opinionated Ebony Gorilla (@EbonyGorilla) May 22, 2018
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