As we move past Fur Affinity’s most recent spasms (which intersect macro, indirectly), let’s talk about culture wars, artistic intent, and ultimately, the value of controlling your own content.

The Sunk Fur Fallacy

Arilin Thorferra

As of this writing, Fur Affinity has just weathered another paroxysm over moderation and “free speech,” by which I mean: swastikas. Because it’s 2018 and of course I do. Good thing we stopped having to talk about Nazis a few years later, right? (sigh) This particular attack intersects with macro; it was a picture of a giant sergal in a Nazi uniform stepping on someone small.

If “we’re the free speech wing of the free speech party” is both prime virtue and prime vice of Twitter, “never kink-shame” is both prime virtue and prime vice of furry. We’re loathe to do anything that smacks of gatekeeping. (“First they came for the Sonic porn, and I did not speak out.”) Furry art sites tend to consciously choose permissiveness, and this has led more than one of them into controversy.

But what’s fucked Twitter—I mean, beyond a slew of bad business decisions—is the way conservative culture warriors have ruthlessly exploited the company’s technolibertarian Freeze Peach! blind spots. Good thing Twitter stopped making bad business decisions a few years later, right? (sigh) By “conservative culture warrior,” I mean the GamerGaters, the Sad Puppies, the 4Chan trolls, and all the others who live in constant mortal terror that everything they love is under existential threat from everyone from teens with Tumblrs to trans people using public restrooms. (But remember, it’s the SJWs who are the snowflakes.)

This may shock you, but there seems to be some evidence that Fur Affinity’s management also has a blind spot or two that the conservative culture warriors have been taking advantage of.

FA recently banned a few dozen users who were blatantly violating their Code of Conduct, which stated “do not identify with or promote hate groups and their ideologies.” They also updated that line so it now reads “do not identify with or promote real hate or terrorist organizations and their ideologies” (emphasis mine: identifying with fictional hate groups is a-ok!). They also added “alt-right” to their list of examples of hate groups, and specifically did not add “antifa” to the list, much to the chagrin of the alt-right crowd, who huffed “FA’s been taken over by the communists.” Fun history fact: in World War II we didn’t call anti-fascists communists! We called them “the Allied Forces.”

Anyway, what FA didn’t do is delete Giant Nazi Sergal Dude. Technically, they deleted the original picture, then rescinded the removal and allowed the artist to re-upload it. They write,

However, artistic expression that may be offensive to some users does not necessarily mean the content violates our rules. Indiana Jones would not be who he is without his greatest enemies. Maus would not be the tragic story it is without being able to show the horror.

Fair enough, but what we’re implicitly talking about is artistic intent. It’s not hard to see the difference between Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Nazis in Triumph of the Will.

So what’s the intent if you take furry pinup/kink artwork—macro or otherwise—and slap a swastika on the subject? I’d argue that’s already out of Maus or Raiders territory. You’re either saying “Nazis make my kink hotter, swastikas are smexy,” or you’re openly challenging the SJWs to show up in your comment section and shout at the CCWs. In either case, if the SJWs show up in your comment section with ethically-sourced pitchforks, I won’t have oodles of sympathy for you.

In Nazi Sergal Dude’s case, the artist’s description now adds “me and Kill [the sergal character] don’t support or promote anything that the nazi’s [sic] did, we just love the SS uniform.” And, okay then, but you’re both insisting that you have to love it in public. In 2018, after not just the alt-right but Nazi-furs have made national news coverage. And after this specific picture caused a shitstorm of controversy. The artist can put as many disclaimers up as he wants, but uploading it twice is a pretty clear message. The new description might as well read, “FA gave us explicit permission to keep this up, so suck it, SJWs.”

I don’t believe Dragoneer and cohorts are Nazis any more than I believe Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and his execs are. What I believe is that Jack and the Dragon both suffer from ideological paralysis, because their services have become such effective monopolies in their niches that they believe they’re duty-bound to be everything to everyone. Sure, there are technically alternatives to Twitter and Fur Affinity, but who else has the audience? We’ll make noise about leaving, but gosh, we’ve put so much time and effort into building an audience there, and the other sites are smaller, it’s just not worth going anywhere else.

Yet it’s the scrappy upstarts that have the space to make bold, controversial moves like asserting a social network “has a responsibility to build a safe community for its users.” There are already services out that there not only don’t suffer from the same problems Twitter has, but that have taken steps to try to avoid Twitter’s mistakes. Ditto for FA. Sticking exclusively with either one is a version of the sunk cost fallacy; in FA’s case, call it the “sunk fur fallacy.”

Again, good on FA for solving this problem. But it’s just today’s problem. Yesterday’s problem was the cub porn. It’s also been hacked administrator accounts. And multiple failed code rewrite attempts. Endless moderator drama. The amazing disappearing forums. What will tomorrow’s problem be? Do any of us believe that there won’t be one? It’s not that Fender keeps breaking his promise not to pull the football away this time; it’s that he keeps dropping the football and lighting his ass on fire.

You don’t need to abandon FA. Realistically, you probably shouldn’t. But the best place for your art and stories is a web site you control; the best way to control a web site is to own a personal domain name. That’s why exists in the first place. Depending on the top-level domain you pick (e.g., “.net,” “.blog” or have you) and the registrar you choose, this can be under $15 a year. I like Hover, which is a little more expensive, but has great customer service and free privacy controls.

Just owning a domain name is technically enough. You could just redirect your domain to your Fur Affinity page and call it done for the time being; you could set up a free blog at WordPress or Tumblr and connect your domain to that (Hover makes that easy); you could, if you’re nerdy, find all sorts of free or low-cost alternatives. The point is that if you own your domain, you can move between any of those options at will. And nothing stops you from using something like PostyBirb from uploading to the archive sites, too.

I understand “spend money to control a little more of your own destiny” will raise some hackles, accusations of not understanding my own privilege, and so on. Look, if even the cheapest path to this isn’t available to you, then it isn’t. But I’m going to be blunt: if you get more than, say, $100 a year in commissions, patronage, or donations, really consider this. For my part, I’m going to try to treat my personal web site as my primary “archive.” It’s easier said than done, just like maintaining presences on multiple archive sites is (my SoFurry account is literally years behind my FA one). But it’s worth it.

This particular Fur Affinity storm is already over. But there’s going to be another one. And another. And another. Again, I’m not telling anyone to abandon ship. I’m just saying, consider investing in a life jacket.