The furry days are over
Read to the end for a really good picture of a cat
How Did Furries Get Swept Up In The Culture War?
Following the various narratives of right-wing media is not easy. Which is by design. There is a general shape to how conservatives transmit ideas, which then informs policy. But it largely happens in disconnected and seemingly random bursts across various levels of mass media until it begins to resemble some kind of consensus.
You’ll see something on Twitter, then you’ll notice a few headlines in newspapers about it, maybe see a joke about it on a bumper sticker, some memes, then maybe a Fox News segment, until finally, whatever the thing is, it feels as if it’s everywhere. This process is something that Christopher Rufo, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute and the architect of the current “grassroots” anti-critical race theory movement, has admitted — and bragged — about exploiting. But it’s not just Rufo and critical race theory. In the absence of Trump, American conservatives have turned their attention to community governance and infrastructure — libraries, schools, town boards — where local grievances bubble up seemingly out of nowhere into national moral panics. What if the Salem Witch Trials were applied to any and every thing you can imagine and hooked up to Facebook and Twitter?
But this decentralized conservative machine also means that weird things can get absorbed into right-wing politics. Which is how Nebraska State Senator Bruce Bostelman ended up giving a speech in March about furries using litter boxes in high school genderless bathrooms.
This whole speech is nonsense and Bostelman eventually apologized for it, but it also begs the question: how did furries get rolled up in the conservative trans panic?
From what I can tell, it seems to be the combination of a Facebook rumor and Twitter drama happening at the same time, causing a weird outrage feedback loop to play out between the furry community and conservatives.
In December, a rumor swept through the local Facebook network for Midland County, Michigan. The rumor, which was eventually shot down in a Facebook post from Michael E. Sharrow, the superintendent for the county, gained so much traction that it came up during a school board meeting right before Christmas. “At the December 20 Board of Education meeting, a community member addressed the Board of Education,” Sharrow wrote in a January Facebook post. “During her comments she stated that litter boxes were provided within MPS student restrooms for those who identify themselves as ‘furries.’”
Sharrow’s post got a few hundred shares, but because of how localized Facebook is now, you don’t really need a one hugely viral post to get an idea to start circulating, just a lot of little posts saying the same thing. There’s a chance the whole thing would have died down, but the story was too much for the New York Post to resist, which wrote it up with the headline, “School district denies litter boxes for students identifying as ‘furries’”. According to social analytics site Buzzsumo, the Post article was the most shared story about the rumor. Also, there is no actual way to debunk anything within conservative social media because it’s all reactionary, so even a story denying something just helps amplify it.
And so, as the furry bathroom panic began spreading on Facebook. And in a strange twist of fate, furries on Twitter in February then began a campaign to help fund a library in Ridgeland, Mississippi. At the time, the town’s mayor was withholding over $100,000 from the library unless it agreed to ban a bunch of books that contained LGBT content. Furries are really good at using the internet and one furry named @SoatokDhole heard about what was happening in Ridgeland, got mad about it, and started a donation campaign which raised over $100,000 for the library in a matter of days. You can check out @SoatokDhole’s original thread here and VICE wrote about it at the time.
According to one furry I spoke to for this piece, BowieBarks, furries think the library crowdfund is why Republicans are so mad at them. But it seems clear that the Republicans were already mad at furries for the bathroom thing. But now both groups are duking it out on social media. And this resulted in this truly incredible tweet from Kandiss Taylor, a 2022 Georgia gubernatorial candidate.
Taylor has also put out anti-furry campaign materials that cite the furry bathroom panic from Facebook, but her replies are full of furries tweeting porn at her. Sorry, I’m still laughing over the sentence, “the furry days are over when I’m governor.”
Anyways, in this Reddit post from February, furries are trying to figure out where the bathroom rumor originally came from and speculate it was 4chan. It’s definitely possible, but the earliest mentions I found to furry litter boxes in school bathrooms on 4chan was in April.
A few days after Bostelman made his weird furry speech in Nebraska, right-wing talk show host Vicki McKenna went on a show called the the Dr. Duke Show, which is hosted by Dr. Duke Pesta, a transphobic right-wing broadcaster from Wisconsin, and claimed that the Waunakee school district in Wisconsin was going to install furry litter boxes under what McKenna called the “furry protocol” lmao. A clip of McKenna was then shared by Libs Of TikTok.
And the anti-furry thing has stuck with Libs Of TikTok ever since. As part of a full-on assault against schools, the account has repeatedly shared very fake pictures of furry lesson plans, claiming they were infiltrating schools all over the country. Mashable’s Matt Binder was able to figure out where the fake furry lesson plan materials were coming from. A super toxic spin-off of Reddit’s r/drama subreddit has been photoshopping them and sharing them around the web.
But as I said, it doesn’t matter if this is all fake and based on nothing. It’s about using America’s information systems to overload the average person. Conservatives want to overwhelm libraries, school boards, local Facebook groups — anywhere communities congregate — and fill up those spaces with so much bull shit that you eventually can’t and don’t care what’s real or not anymore. And trying to debunk these things only makes them more interesting to the paranoid weirdos sharing them on Facebook and Twitter. It’s a complete hijacking of how we communicate, both online and off. And it may seem silly because, in this instance, it’s about as something as patently ridiculous as furries using a litter box, but it should be very clear now that it will only be ridiculous for so long before it becomes very serious.
The following is a paid ad. If you’re interested in advertising, just reply to this email and let’s figure something out. Thanks!
Where’s Your Ed At is a free newsletter by Ed Zitron, who writes at The Atlantic, Business Insider, Wall Street Journal, and other places, and is also a publicist. He writes about tech, culture, and the future of work.
His daily newsletter digs deep into big topics like the exploitation at the heart of the cryptocurrency world, the predatory return-to-the-office movement, and why the metaverse is over-hyped. Click here to get Ed’s newsletter in your inbox.
A Good Tweet
Very Cool Emoji Project
This is super fun. Jennifer Daniel, a Unicode Emoji Subcommittee-Chair, wrote up this great post about turning emojis, which aren’t a font really, into an actual font. You can download the font from Google Fonts here. Here’s a really interesting point Daniel makes in her post that I hadn’t really thought about before:
Over time, emoji have become more detailed. Instead of representing broad concepts there has been a trend to design emoji to be hyper realistic. This wouldn't be a problem except skeuomorphism's specificity has resulted in the exclusion of other similar concepts in your keyboard. Today we have "💃" … but what about other types of dance? Hula dancing? Belly dancing? Salsa dancing? Boogie woogie? By removing as much detail as possible, emoji could be more flexible, representing the idea of something instead of specifically what is in front of you (that … is what your camera is for 😂).
A Controller For Elite Gamers
Rudeism, a YouTube creator and gamer who specializes in hacking controllers, mapped out a Fisher Price controller so it could play Elden Ring. It’s very cute and very cool. I recommend you turn the sound on for the video embedded above because Rudeism left all the Fisher Price sounds on, so the controller is excitedly talking back every time he hits a button.
NFTs + Snapchat
On Monday, I wrote about the NFT community’s weird metaversal aspirations. NFT enthusiasts are confident that NFTs will, somehow, help bring about a more immersive version of the internet and are basically now scrambling to get blockchain technology to be good enough to actually do cool things with it.
In the video above, an owner of a “Bat Cowl Collection” NFT, which were created by Palm NFT Studio in conjunction with Warner Bros., syncs up with a Snapchat filter that puts the NFT in your video.
This is an interesting use for NFTs actually. Like with all things on the blockchain, I’m not totally sure why this needs to be blockchain based, but I do think filters for apps like Instagram and Snapchat are good fit for something like an NFT. Unlike JPGs, which are very easy to right-click, filters are trickier to share and easy to show it off and the scarcity might even feel cool for certain users? Or it’s just a big cringy waste of money. Time will tell, I suppose.
Let’s Check In On The Summer Of Morbius
God this video is good. YouTube creator Eddy Burback decided to watch Morbius five days in a row. Why? Why not. But, to make sure that he wasn’t supporting Sony, and thus dooming the world to a possible Morbius sequel (which should be called More-bius or MorbIIus in my opinion), Burback decided to buy five tickets to Everything Everywhere All at Once and then sneak into Mobius. Which really added a great sense of danger to this whole thing!
An Incredible Gundam
This is was dropped into the Garbage Day Discord by my personal guide to Flavortown, Mitch. It’s Gundam. It’s themed like Guy Fieri. What’s not to love???
Some Stray links
P.S. here’s a really good picture of a cat.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***