Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Milo Story, Nazi Prevention, and A Simple Hope

We've received numerous requests for a version of our article without the interjections of Dogpatch Press editorial staff. It is presented below. Readers are encouraged to browse the original article as platformed by Dogpatch on the Dogpatch Press website, and to provide due credit to them for initially publishing the article.  Our thanks to Dogpatch press and to the readers who took an interest in our thoughts.

 By David Lillie.  
Thanks to @Boneitis and  @kaze_the_wyvern  for providing constructive feedback and advice.

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.

Moral credibility.

  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. 
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.

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