The “New Paws” Hoax: How alt-right trolls piled on a disabled man to boost their failing careers.
by Patch O'Furr
4chan started a conspiracy theory that PretzelCollie used dry ice on his hands because he wanted them to be amputated and replaced with paws.
Hands-down one of the most depraved harassment campaigns I've ever seen. And it's of course blatantly untrue too. https://t.co/rC2pzgITL1
— Mythic (@MythicalRedFox) August 31, 2019
A shocking accident.
In 2015 I met a furry who joined furmeets I organize in Northern California. He’s bright, enthusiastic and fun to host. It was a shock when he posted on Facebook about suffering an accident. There were graphic medical photos of extreme frostbite caused by dry ice.
Welp, I’m in the hospital with a life changing situation. It was my own damn fault. Been pushing myself so hard for so long, sleep deprived, pushing myself with arthritis in my wrists. Basically I fell asleep while icing my wrists last night. Woke up 6 hours later, hands were frozen. Went to the hospital, they care flighted me to a burn center in California. It was too late, damage had been done, it’s resulting in a bilateral hand amputation so things are about to get very interesting in my life. I’m doing ok, remaining optimistic. Honestly I’m anxious to get it over with and move on with my life.
To help with costs of hand amputations, one of his co-workers started a crowdfund. I shared it on Twitter, and added a light-hearted comment about helping him to get “new paws” with an article I wrote 6 years ago: Scaly, feathery alternative limbs leap the uncanny valley into the future of prosthetic design (2013). It was about improving the lives of amputees. Instead of hiding prosthetics, they can be featured, like transforming scars with cool tattoos.
I commented about “new paws” before I saw anyone else say it. The crowdfund was his co-workers idea. Those ideas didn’t come from him.
Cooking up a fake attack.
Soon a rumor began spreading on social media. He was accused of causing the amputations on purpose for a fetish. There are cases of people doing self-harm with “body mods” or BIID (Body Integrity Identity Disorder), so the idea has non-zero plausibility. It’s a dysmorphia issue like anorexia. On rare occasions it crosses with furries. Examples range from Stalking Cat in the 1980’s, to the 2018 “Noodles and Beef” story that was on the cover of The Stranger in Seattle. (The writer consulted me for his story based on my tweets about it.)
The situation was concerning. Did I help to spread false money appeals to the public, or contribute to the risk of media glorifying self-harm? Even if it was very unlikely and it was spread from dubious places, the risk was worth taking seriously just in case. I looked in with an open mind about issues I already cover, so this can’t be accused of bias. I checked both sides, but only one was real. Not everything has sides.
Meanwhile the target spent energy to answer trolls while he couldn’t even easily type. With a stylus in his mouth (or speech-to-text), and nothing to hide, he challenged them to show evidence. They had nothing to show but posts unrelated to him, and fake screenshots with no source.
He explained that he worked with dry ice, and used it after a busy day because he didn’t have regular ice packs ready at the moment. It would have a powerful effect. He’d been overworked, and slept through the harm. (I use melatonin or a weed gummy to pass out sometimes).
He’d never posted anything about intentional amputation — that would be a drastic result of long-term obsession, not a sudden impulse. He did have a history of pain management and motorcycle accidents.
This was a sadistic hoax to torment an innocent guy in a time of need. And the hoaxers didn’t even know that they were piling on someone who was hurt for more than medical reasons. The next part could bring more harassment, but I think it’s important to reveal how they’re even more malicious than they look (and help you decide what responses to give their agenda.)
Pouring salt on the wound.
The victim wasn’t out as gay, and that made a problem about getting home care. He wrote on Facebook:
You know what sucks the most about this situation I’m in? The fact I can’t tell my family. Sure they will find out eventually, but I have to stall that as long as possible. I cant rely on my own parents for support through something like this like I can all the rest of you.
Then a visit from a parent outed his relationship with a partner who was caring for him. Coming out as gay led to losing a parent (at least for the time being.) It’s more evidence that there’s no intentional self-harm here. After the sudden disability, and losing a parent, he told his friends:
Reading the responses and messages just makes me smile and give me that fuel I need to keep pushing on… You all truly are family to me.
I felt bad about unintentionally feeding the hoax with my prosthetics article. There were a few hundred retweets on my posts. I deleted them, and he posted about a break from social media to let the hoax wither away.
For those of you who follow me on Twitter, I’ve been getting a lot of questions regarding this last tweet I made. As many of you are well aware, my situation got a lot of attention and the internet trolls latched onto it and took off with it. I was so relieved to see the majority of furs arent buying into their bullshit. Honestly I’ve got bigger problems to worry about than what some pathetic basement dwelling teenagers want to speculate, but it was really starting to get out of control. Everything I said and did was being used against me, I just got tired of it. I deleted all of my furry content because people were taking my past posts and manipulating them, in addition to straight up photoshopping fake posts. It was getting bad. I figured the best thing for me to do was to take a break from Twitter altogether.
Selfish trolls grabbed attention by kicking an easy target while he was down. But it wasn’t just simple clout-chasing.
A scapegoat for a hate agenda.
The rumors were spread by washed-up pseudo-celebrities tied to hate groups and “Gamergate”, the conspiracy theory/harassment campaign. Their following has nothing to do with furry fandom and only targets it for views. These are grifters who bounce from target to target sourced from chanboards and troll sites, to capitalize on their most gullible followers. (I won’t make that easier by linking their accounts.) These are frontline trolls with 5-figure followings (and not the helpful Frontline that gets rid of fleas.)
(Last screen) Milo’s channel
A machine greased with hate to strip-mine the truth.
This hoax is just one example of gaming the algorithms of platforms. Faking a controversy has a goal to move merchandise, subscribers, and donors, at the expense of a newly disabled man in a time of suffering. They’ll say or do anything for clout. You can tell they’re lying if their lips are moving.
The last screen above comes from a familiar face. Milo is the Gamergate grifter who built a following by:
- Mocking gamers as “unemployed saddos.“
- Getting paid by propaganda outlet Breitbart to turn them into a troll mob, and “red-pilling” them as tools for neo-nazis of the alt-right.
- Getting fired by Breitbart for praising pedophilia, going bankrupt and being deplatformed by Twitter for hate attacks.
- Recently trying to mobilize hate groups behind a so-called “straight pride parade.”
When he isn’t spreading transphobia, he’s teasing views at the expense of furries, like the other trolls shown above. It isn’t coincidental, it’s coordinated. Like when an admin of The Daily Stormer (the neo-nazi blog) tried to get “altfurries” out to neo-nazi events coordinated with trolling on their blog. Milo even did get help from a few furries. Dreamkeepers artist David Lillie drew a fursona for him (that he’s been sharing lately) and boosts the “Comicsgate” troll campaign. If you like furry fandom, these trolls inside will use your tolerance to ruin it for you. But you don’t have to let them.
Throwing a wrench in the gears.
This was written with permission to help the victim. But there’s a bigger point to a story of how simple trolling isn’t so simple. They can target me about it to grab their clout, but I personally don’t give a shit about them (or any breed of clout-chaser) because it’s not about me. It’s about what you can do.
Outside of fandom, these trolls are more and more desperate. Their games stopped working thanks to platforms cutting them off from abusing their service.
Deplatformed alt-right personalities Milo, Jacob Wohl, and Based Dragon are all having a collective meltdown together about how their Telegram audiences have stalled at extremely low numbers right now and it's glorious.
Sweet, sweet nazi tears. pic.twitter.com/9GlXcrKqg0
— Gwen Snyder is uncivil (@gwensnyderPHL) September 8, 2019
Milo Yiannopoulos says he is broke. The disgraced right-wing troll is complaining that the major social media companies have effectively cut off his alt-right audience and crushed his ability to make a decent living.#thoughtsandprayers https://t.co/e2JFcbH8cB
— Stone 🥶 (@stonecold2050) September 9, 2019
Alt-right furries had the same fate after Furaffinity kicked out a few and the fandom showed the door to the rest. Altfurries have no real presence except for being corralled in little hate groups on Telegram where they just wither away now. https://t.co/gP9fqwjXpe https://t.co/MrgPX8Dzxy
— Dogpatch Press (@DogpatchPress) September 9, 2019
Deplatforming WORKS! No person nor platform is obligated to provide a soap-box for these hatemongers. Sure, sunlighting is important, but both sunlighting and deplatforming are valid and complementary strategies to protect communities from alt-right recruitment tactics. https://t.co/aYCu57aQ3W
— Echoen (@echoenbatbat) September 9, 2019
The hoax about “a furry amputated his hands to get new paws” comes from termites eating away at what makes furry fandom special. It’s a place where a newly disabled LGBT man finds support he needs. Spreading this kind of bullshit hurts the weakest people who need help the most. If you see anyone jump on board with it, abate the misinformation. And if they keep doing it, block them, kick them out of your groups, and cut off their funding, because hate doesn’t belong here. Don’t let them in until they stop making scapegoats out of people who truly deserve support. It’s like a little treatment of the Frontline we need.