accusations

There’s currently a kerfuffle in the furry world (I know, hardly a first) that involves some very serious accusations of genuinely evil actions having occurred.

If you are connected in some way to either the zoo or furry world (which, needless to say, are two worlds with a wide degree of crossover), then it’s likely you’ve heard of this situation as it’s been pretty loud and high-profile for the past while. And, if you’re not directly connected and thus haven’t heard the rumble, it’s unlikely the details matter and thus it’s not constructive for me to lay out the entire backstory here. Suffice to say that there’s allegation that someone in that world has done something genuinely evil to another sentient being (or beings).

Having heard that rumble, myself, from several directions – primarily in the contributions I make to the curation and administration of the twitter account of the Cross Species Alliance (I founded the CSA nearly five years ago, publicly, and continue to be active in its work as time permits) – I’ve become entwined, both in public and private discussions, in the ongoing evolution of the situation overall.

If you’re curious to see how this has been playing out in the CSA twitter feed, in near-realtime manner, then you can do worse than by starting at this ingress point to a long thread on the topic. Amidst that, CSA (with me at the helm of the account at the time) made the following summary of our position in a tweet yesterday:

As can be seen by the tone of the discussion, things have been heated in these particular threads – and they continue to be heated, on all sides. That’s not unexpected; what’s being discussed, and the allegations afoot, are intensely serious.

During these discussions, the CSA – with me at the helm, again – has taken heat from all sides because of my refusal to jump in feet-first and simply accept what “everyone is saying” happened, and that “everyone knows” happened.

Woah, woah… hold on.

As this discussion has spilled out of twitter and smeared across a wide range of communications channels, I’ve found myself trying to explain my unique position relative to how this situation continues to unfold. Which is frustrating for everyone involved: for me, I keep trying to lay out a coherent set of interlocking considerations, to little avail; and for my interlocutors, they keep getting frustratingly fragmented bits and pieces of my presentation, that being, basically, that of a stubborn curmudgeon for what must look like totally inexplicable reasons.

So I’m cohering most of that backstory into a post here, under my own name. Yes, this is something I’ve been discussing in context of the Cross Species Alliance – that’s the overarching context. However, and concurrently as well as perhaps more importantly, it’s something that I personally have a very direct and very specific interest in approaching properly and with utmost integrity.

It’s also the case that I am entirely comfortable discussing this, and posting on this, under my own name. Despite everything, it still seems there’s people out there who really do expect me to be skulking about and behaving as someone properly shoved into the back of some societal closet. Nope, not me. Not at all.

So once again: yes, this is me. I am writing these words, and posting them here. They are important words, on an important topic. Literate adult humans routinely share their words on important topics in this way; I am no different. This should neither be surprising, nor “controversial” – and yet, it is. Whatever – get over it.

Back to the main thread:

My basic intransigence in this situation has been my unwillingness to accept attestations – from multiple directions, and often with extreme vehemence – that “people” have verified that something (it’s not really clear to me, yet, exactly what that “something” is – but I’m slowly working through the chaff to the core of the actual claims) was done by someone and that I HAVE TO ACCEPT THIS IS TRUE – RIGHT NOW!!1!

Sorry for the caps, but that’s exactly the emotional carrier wave of this entire situation – and of the way my hesitancy has been received by a big slice of people in the zoo/furry crossed-over communities these past weeks. I’ve – sadly, but predictably – been repeatedly accused of “standing up for” whoever is being accused (I don’t even know the physical-world identity of this person/persons at this point… which is perhaps worth emphasising), and/or “denying” that this or that happened (because I can’t confirm they have – which is entirely a different position to take), and/or engaging in some complex conspiracy or other to accomplish some subtle ends that I don’t even wtf…

Sigh.

Anyhow, in actual reality my position is totally simple – it is also the position that 99% of people jumping on this particular bandwagon should be taking at this point in time. To wit: I don’t know enough, with actual objective confidence, to say jack shit with confidence about what has – or has not – happened. And, apart from the 1% (or less) of people with firsthand, direct knowledge of what happened, each and every person currently bloviating on twitter (and elsewhere) about this ugly mess is and should acknowledge being in exactly the same position.

As I intimated earlier, I am in a legitimately unique position on this question. Let me explain.

More than eight years ago, I got smeared – through a well-coordinated, well-planned black propaganda campaign hatched and deployed by a small group of hate-obsessed, bigoted, lawless police and government employees – with horrific (and specific) allegations of actual abuse/killing of sentient beings in my care. Although, as far as I can understand so far, this current situation involves different allegations (in kind, if not in type), overall there’s enough similarity that to the average observer it’d sound fairly similar to what was thrown at me eight years ago.

My situation, however, was dissimilar in that the (100% bullshit, entirely fabricated) allegations levelled at me were broadcast worldwide on the front page of most major newspapers – in addition to being indexed deep into google’s search results where they continue to subsist today with little diminution in visibility. I’ve written elsewhere here on that dynamic, for those curious as to the details.

So the “good news” is that, because an independent investigative reporter spent eight years researching the truth of what actually happened back then, those false claims against me have been fully disproved as of today. Which… yay for me, right? Of course, I lived for eight years under the shadow of those false claims – spread globally, and available to everyone who ever decided to google me to find out the “truth” about me – and who got those lies instead. Every time. Eight years.

Through those experiences (and through surviving them, however imperfectly), I gained – unsurprisingly – a few seriously hard-won and high-value lessons. Let’s see…

One, when it comes to anything even remotely related to the “b-word” (i.e. bestiality – the modern-day bigot’s equivalent word to calling gay folks “dick-sucking faggots” back when I was young, btw), even the most far-fetched and entirely factually unsupported allegations, or claims, or outright smears will be sucked up and accepted as factual in a way that is impossible to understand if one hasn’t seen it play out firsthand. I was, quite literally, accused in a straight-faced and direct manner (in courts of law, on the record) of doing things that have long since been demonstrated to be purely urban legends – listed as such on snopes, natch – and which (recorded records of human history thus far suggest) have never actually occurred in the reality-based universe, anywhere. Those accusations lacked any evidentiary basis whatsoever and were entirely false – faked-up, in this example, by Laura “felcher” Clark in her sick pursuit of 15 seconds of putrid fame.

I was accused of so many random things that I quickly lost track of the total list of them. I was accused of mutually-contradictory things. I was accused of doing things that specific other (i.e. non-me) people had actually done… things that those others had explicitly and directly acknowledged doing, rather than me doing them. Despite all that, newspapers – and not just garbage rags like the Bellingham Herald – reprinted and repeated those accusations… often, in fact, randomly embellishing them with each reprinting.

Two, people will fully lose their minds when a mass-hysteria b-word lynching gets ‘a-runnin’. Throughout my own experience on the targeted end of that dynamic, very few people even hesitated before accepting as “true” even the most far-fetched, totally incongruent claims about me – so few people that, statistically, it would be easy to round that number down to 0%. Sometimes it was people who’d known me (and my nonhuman companions) on a firsthand, first-name basis for years or decades. Sometimes it was people who knew that the people making the fantastical claims against me had every incentive to lie – and that, come to think of it, those people were in actual fact lying. Still, people believed whatever was said about me. Because b-word, or something.

So.

So, I have every reason to know – directly, from my own personal experience – that when a b-word bandwagon comes rolling by, there’s this sick, fascistic tendency for everyone to jump right on… and for everyone to pressure everyone else to jump on. Right now! Evidence? We don’t need no stinking evidence – because “people” said “someone” said “people” know for sure it’s true. Whatever “it” ends up being.

My position, consequently, is as simple as can be – and it’s exactly the position that should reasonably be taken by most everyone witnessing this situation unfold:

Until – and unless – I see actual evidence to back up what “everyone” is saying or claiming someone else said, I have exactly 0% confidence in what the mob is saying. Indeed, the louder the mob bays that I must AGREE WITH THE MOB RIGHT NOW!!1!, the more I know I must step back and independently, carefully, dispassionately look at the actual facts before I make the slightest decision about what’s actually happened.

One funny (in the “not at all funny, and not even metaphorically funny” kind of funny way) thing about this is how loudly folks will scream at me on twitter that I MUST accept something is true because some other random screen name on twitter said it’s true. Obviously! No, actually wait – not at all obviously. Because in truth, 99.9% of the people screaming about this situation are purely screen names with zero (public, stable, verifiable) connection to actual, real-life identities and reputations and credibility and prior examples of trustworthiness. Which… duh.

Why the fuck would anyone take seriously some random screaming twitter nickname who insists that some other random twitter nickname said something is totally true? Hell, a good chunk of the twitter accounts screaming loudest are what we used to call “eggs” – and they expect that their “word” is somehow enough to judge a person guilty of the worst sorts of actions? Really?

I actually do think that there’s some mass psychosis thing that’s going on here – and that its functionally identical with what happened in my virtual global lynching, eight years ago. In such situations, even otherwise sane and level-headed people can get swept up in these pathological panics about how something horrible has happened and the internet needs to act!!

Many of these people, I expect, actually haven’t stopped to take a breath and consider whether “that dude says that other dude totally said that other dude said this is totally true” is actually a transitive trust-chain in which anyone would – responsibly and maturely and logically – place any confidence, in any serious decision about serious matters. Rather, they get so caught up in the hysteria that you can almost hear the spittle flying from lips as they slam the keys, insisting I get hysterical right alongside them.

Nope. Noooope.

Stepping back, here’s a few points worth (I think) remembering

  1. The lack (for me, currently) of convincing evidence of something very bad having happened is not, in and of itself, proof that something bad did not happen. I’ve not said otherwise, won’t say otherwise, and don’t take kindly to those who are claiming (and/or have claimed) otherwise: lying about my position does nothing but show that you’re standing on nothing but hot air, yourself.
  2. Given the situation – and the way it relates to my (zoo) community – I do have a degree of responsibility to drill down and figure out, if possible, what actually happened (the “why” of this obligation on my part is a topic for a later essay, as it is a standalone subject with many elements involved).
  3. However, I have (as everyone does) practical constraints (time, etc.) as to when and to what degree I can undertake that investigation – that’s reality, in the adult world, and no I’m not going to “drop everything” to chase this dark chimera wherever it leads. That’s an unreasonable – and frankly unhealthy – expectation to have of anyone who isn’t firsthand involved in this. I’m obviously not firsthand involved.
  4. No level of rhetoric, or threats, or pressure directed at me will serve to somehow magically “convince” me that what I don’t (yet) know to be true is true. Which should be obvious, but apparently isn’t to some folks. Screaming at someone in order to “convince” them of what you are saying is, quite clearly, equivalent to fighting for peace. That some people do such self-defeating things says alot about where they’re at with respect to a given topic – but says nothing about the truth of the underlying elements being discussed.
  5. Telling me that I, personally, will lose charisma points with the {insert noun} community if I don’t jump on the bandwagon RIGHT NOW!!1! is about as relevant to me as telling me there’s big rainstorm brewing on Venus that looks like a real doozy. It is so utterly irrelevant to the actual decisions I make, to the best of my ability, on a daily basis as to be pure background noise. Good choices, and the good actions that flow from them, are the sole goal of anyone acting out of integrity and genuine intention to walk a good path – none of that is impacted in any way by what others may, or may not, think about those decisions. This is a basic fact of personal ethics that I thought we all learned in kindergarten. Apparently not – which baffles me. Do people really make choices based on how popular they think it will make them? Jesus – no wonder this world is sliding quickly towards puerile fascism…
  6. Yes, this is actually me writing these actual words. I’m an actual, physical human being sitting in an actual chair and typing with actual hands. Although I do understand that there’s some good reasons for some people to interact in such discussions from behind nicknames and decoupled personas (I’ve a bit of experience with such matters, you might recall), I also point out that most healthy adult humans communicate with each other via personas closely matched to their integrated life experiences. That’s what I’m doing, here. It’s not weird, or surprising, or a potential weakness to be exploited by enemies. Actually, it’s probably the most “normal” thing I do in a life filled with extraordinary experiences, challenges, constraints, and obligations. Does that make you angry, or frustrated, or some such? Whatever – get over it.

I’ve invested my time in writing this essay for two reasons. One, I hope it’s useful for some readers as they wrestle with their own approach to this particular situation that’s unfolding realtime.

Two, I’m speaking to a wider – and longer-term – question of how “b-word” lynchings start, how they are fanned by pathological bigots, and how they are in some cases able to spread into genuinely destructive conflagrations that result in real consequences: deaths, ruined lives, mutilations, and similar horrors. That’s an important topic, one I am uniquely qualified (unfortunately) to address from firsthand experience. And it’s one I’ll keep working at, writing on, and researching for the simple reason that it’s truly important in a way much larger than my own personal concerns or intentions.

Facts matter. Evidence matters. Reality matters. Any time folks allow themselves to be swept up in a curdled, fast-moving, high-pressure movement towards passing judgement on something is a time that’s darkly ripe for things to go badly awry. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. I’ve been the target of it.

One thing I know I’ll never do is be part of it, myself, targeting someone else.

Whatever happened – or didn’t happen – in this current scenario, I’ll do my best to find out the truth as best I can. If and when I do, I’ll make decisions and take actions, again as appropriate, as best as I can. Until that point, I will indeed continue to – publicly and personally – throw wrenches in the machinery of the bandwagon, because I can see that just about everyone else who is gleefully riding along on that bandwagon has absolutely no more right to be there than I’d have if I’d succumbed to the pressure and hopped on when I was told.

Until you’re the one wrongly strapped to the wooden stake, with the executioner approaching, torch in hand, to set to to blaze… until you’ve been in those shoes, you can’t possibly imagine what it’s like to live that reality. Perhaps, for some people running around frantically with torches just now – so intensely eager to burn someone for something – it’s worth doing a bit of empathetic imagining as to what it’d be like to be on the other end – falsely strapped to that pole, kindling stacked at your feet, waiting for the first flames to hit your skin and burn you slowly until you die screaming…

I’ve been there. You haven’t. You have no idea.

Maybe what everyone thinks happened, did in fact happen – I hope not, because I hope for the best in people until I know otherwise (which isn’t altogether a terrible starting point… is it?). If that’s the case and terrible things did happen, then facts will prove it out in due course and things will proceed from there.

Meanwhile the intensive peer-pressure push towards summary judgement reeks of bad energy, bad faith, bad intent, and bad consequences. I’ll call that out, full-force, each step of the way – unless and until the facts back up the claims, verifiably and objectively. Simple, straightfoward lay of the hand we’ve got in this, don’t we?

Take the time to be sure. If you don’t, then you really are part of a much larger, and much more destructive, problem than you claim to be trying to solve.

Cheers,

~ “f”

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