Lunatic fringe strikes again...
It's odd how the timing for this couldn't be more perfect: On one hand, we have the newsbit that Micah posted regarding the conditions found in a large-production slaughterhouse. It roused a little debate -- although not as much as some people may have expected -- regarding the potential validity of this article, as well as a few remarks on the conditions humans subject themselves to, with a dash of "is organic farming reasonable?" thrown in for seasoning. On the other hand (paw?) we have the article about Furry fans appearing on the hit TV show "E.R." and the possible negative repurcussions it can have on the fandom. I watched some of the tidbits that were taped and converted to streaming media, and I personally don't see what the people on alt.fan.furry are up in arms about -- the Furry fandom has had worse blows (Vanity Fair, anyone? Or have we already forgotten the "Rapid T. Rabbit" interview on The Daily Show?) in its past. Surprisingly enough to me all the flames and knee-jerk reactions have stayed on a.f.f. and off of the Flayrah threads.
I have something here that I think should help clarify a point that I and others have been trying to make for quite some time: If people in the Furry fandom stop acting like extremist idiots, we needn't worry about what people are thinking of us because of some passing cameo in a TV show or news snippet after the 10 o'clock news, right before the weather comes on.
Have you ever looked at an action that's being taken on behalf of some large company, or an organization, and wondered "What are these people thinking? Can't they take a joke?" At what point have these people gone beyond trying to forward a cause and ventured into the land of obsession? I found a perfect example of this: Today I was surfing the web, and took a detour over to Plastic.com, which is a fairly interesting site. Take actual news, post it in Slashdot fasion, and mix in a healthy dose of biting social commentary ala The Onion, and you have Plastic.com. While I was amusing myself by digging through some of the slightly older material I find this newsbit. It is a brief overview of this column in the New York Times about how the founder of the web-host company Digex registered the Top Level Domain (TLD) "peta.org" and set up the "People Eating Tasty Animals" site, which is part parody and part carnivore-advocacy. A fairly amusing joke to most people, although some furries might take it a little more badly than others (The site mentions that "Vegetarian Times magazine has openly reported, on page 17 of the June 1996 issue, that "People Eating Tasty Animals" is "a front for the meat industry." -- how is that for completely missing a joke?).
The 'real' PETA didn't see it as nearly so amusing, and began proceedings to transfer ownership of the TLD to their domain, citing everything from trademark infringement to domain-squatting (They coined the term, near as I can tell, way before it became such a big business in the late 90s) to stating their amusement that they are "so threatening to people like this that they [the original registrant of peta.org] would go to so much trouble as to steal away our name." In the end, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals won out and got the peta.org domain, forcing the original site onto a different URL.
All that was in 1996. Since then, according to the NY Times article, PETA and the original registrant have been doing battle in court, both looking for court-approved proof that they are the sole and rightful owner of the domain name. This is most likely the longest running Internet-related litigation I'm aware of.
Maybe some of you who are a little shocked at this sort of extremist action, and wondering why the site wasn't protected by "free speech" or "parody" laws. Maybe others are thinking it was the right decision on the half of NSI to give over the domain, as well as the right choice by PETA to persue this. Either way, you probably are looking at their actions in a slightly different light now, regardless of your stance on some of their positions, yes?
So what is the parallel I'm drawing here? What is the reason I decided to dig this ancient history (Hey, five years in Internet time is ancient history) up? What could this possibly have to do with Furry? Well, what I'm saying here is this: PETA got Yet More Negative Attention because of their actions against Mike Doughney, the original registrant. They didn't need somebody to write about them in Vanity Fair to make them look bad, their own actions did it for them. They, in essence, set themselves up. They also had a very thin skin and had to decide that this persons attempt at humor was a direct shot at them, even when it clearly wasn't. They were looking to be offended.
I'm seeing a lot of the same thing in the Furry fandom. As a whole we really have become a group that is looking to be offended. We take ourselves too seriously. If somebody tries to poke a little fun at us (Daily Show), we overreact -- how dare they portray us in a negative light. If they really do portray things negatively (Vanity Fair), then it really gets bad: clearly this is the downfall of furry, and evidence that all along the extremists were right. We take things so seriously we honestly believe that it is a shot aimed directly at us if ER includes a "Furry" as a comic relief character in one episode. We also have the various extremist groups on all sides of various issues who want their opposition to be blown off the face of the planet -- and their antics usually ensure we get just the sort of attention we're not looking for. Both things together combine to just beg for the attention we don't want and this fandom really doesn't deserve.
How can we avoid it? Well, I've said it before and I will say it again (and assuredly again, and again, and again): Be less thin-skinned about outside attention -- it can't all be positive. Try to have a sense of humor, especially about yourselves. Try to avoid being so extreme in our views and maybe be a little more tolerant of each other.
This fandom isn't as bad as we think it is, and maybe if we stop having knee-jerk reactions of our own, and stop encouraging the fringe groups, we can avoid making ourselves look as foolish as PETA did.