Furries in the Washington Post
Posted by Crassus on Wed 31 Oct 2001 - 14:41
The Washington post just recently published this article talking about what wacky and weird plans for halloween people have this year. Down 3/4th through the article there's a paragraph about furries; the info taken from Vanity Fair, so the view is of course a bit warped. Positive/negative comments?
About the authorCrassus — read stories — contact (login required)
a web designer from Southern California, interested in furries, tail designing, art, music and sociology
What you're not seeing is that it doesn't matter how the furries define themselves. No one else is listening. The media now defines it, and has been doing so for awhile now. And -they- are being listened to. It's no good preaching to the choir; it's the rest of the world who need to hear it, and they're listening to the press and other media. And the more they -believe- it, the 'truer' it becomes until -their- defintion becomes the de facto version.
Any of this sinking in?
Several days ago I wrote a letter to the author of the Washington Post article, explaining that the Vanity Fair article did not give an accurate portrayal of the furry community. So far I have not received a response, but I post a followup here if I do. Even if I don't, we can still hope the journalist read it and may portray us more accurately in the future. And we can keep writing letters when we are misrepresented in the press.
So what then? You're saying we might just as well roll over and play dead, 'cause those media hacks will never give us even a halfway fair shake? We can put our best foot forward, provided we _try_. Dr. Conway did a good job of presenting us to the media at AC.
Besides, I like to think that most people are well aware that the modern media has turned into a freak show. Truth and facts take second place to yellow journalism and sensationalism. Be honest now; last month's massacres aside, when last did the national news actually present something that meant something to you or your community, as compared to the latest sex scandal or brutal murder?
My own take on this is we might as well ignore the media. The fools who swallow anything they hear or read will continue doing so, and the folks who use their brain cells will take a closer look if they're interested. And, really, what exactly can these articles do to us (aside from starting lengthy and ultimately useless threads)?
Play it cool, folks.
One day, a committee called on Abraham Lincoln to discuss a matter of public concern. After listening for a while, Mr. Lincoln asked, "How many legs would a sheep have if you called its tail a leg?""Five," they answered."No," Lincoln said, "it wouldn’t; it would only have four. Calling a tail a leg does not make it one."The media doesn't define furry fandom because furry fandom has already been defined by us. The media got the definition wrong. It doesn't matter how many times the media gets the definition wrong, the fact is they're still getting the definition wrong. Incorrectly defining something does not change what that thing is. An incorrect definition or furry fandom, whether stated one time or a dozen, is still incorrect.The only way people will believe the incorrect definition is if furry fans remain silent and don't provide an alternate viewpoint. The fact is we have something more important on our side.It's called the truth.
Furry Fandom Infocenter
Letter writing won't hurt, but the 'solution,' such as it is, is simply for people who aren't part of the freak show to step forward and be visible.
Yes, that's a bit inflammatory and it's certainly subjective. But what I'm driving at is what the people who'll step forward to talk to reporters will say to them. Are they going to talk about Carl Barks and Steve Gallacci and how 'furry fandom' forms at a crossroads of anime, funny animals and science fiction--or are they going to talk about how they only feel fully sexual when they're zipped into a fursuit? Our biggest problem in the media department boils down to the "silent majority" problem: the former kind of fan is a lot more numerous, I think, but the latter is louder--they often seem to seek validation by sharing with everyone.
With all due respect, Chuck, calling the good article published about Anthrocon (after the reporter talked with Sam Conway) "PR control" belittles a crucial point: that's how you talk to the media if you want them to spin things your way. Once any organization gets to a certain point, be it a company, trade association or non-profit NGO, they have a media relations contact. Maybe they have a media relations department. Hell, it came out later that the government hired the public relations firm Burston-Masteller to manage the Gulf War, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if there's a commercial PR company working behind the scenes with "Operation Enduring Freedom."
There's no way to protect a group from determined hacks; by all accounts the Vanity Fair article was written by someone who wanted to write about a freak show and simply threw out everything that didn't fit his thesis. But if the media is "managed" in the sense of the group actually (gasp) inviting the reporter, having an image they want to present in mind, and managing things to make sure that's the image they do present, you have a good chance of ending up with a feature story rather than a creature story. Sure, the articles are always going to have a "this is weird" angle--but I don't think that working to get Furries lumped in with the Trekkies is that unreachable a goal.
Say it loud man.
We can do all we want, but what has the media done recently that was good ? Ever turned on the news and seen a story about something good that isn't already over hyped ? It's all about giving us as much sensationalism without much content. The Dr Conway article was great, but I didn't see many people pick up on that.
Relax a little and do your best to represent the fandom without judging everyone who comes from it from the outside.
And, frankly, it's irrelevant. It doesn't matter that the media got the definition wrong or not. The point is that their version is the one that's most prominently promoted each time a new article is posted. Repeat it enough and it -becomes- the true definition, regardless of its accuracy. And, equally frank, there just isn't enough visible out there to convince them that they -might- be wrong, so they're not about to retract their collective opinion without a damn good compelling enough reason to do so.
As for the truth... we can't even agree among ourselves what that is, further muddying the waters.
>"So what then? You're saying we might just as well roll over and play dead, 'cause those media hacks will never give us even a halfway fair shake? We can put our best foot forward, provided we _try_. Dr. Conway did a good job of presenting us to the media at AC."
Unfair to blame it on 'media hacks', when the problem is initially of our own making. They wouldn't have anything to report if we didn't present them with the material and image -to- report on.
But, no, I'm not saying that we roll over and play dead. I'm saying that we don't continue to give them any negative image to report on at all. Dr Conway did a wonderful job, but it was through controlling what information was released to the press; it was a PR job, rather than really news. The media, journalists and hacks alike, are going to go with what they can find and what's most visible. What image of furry, fandom or otherwise, is most visible and easy to find?
>"Besides, I like to think that most people are well aware that the modern media has turned into a freak show. Truth and facts take second place to yellow journalism and sensationalism. Be honest now; last month's massacres aside, when last did the national news actually present something that meant something to you or your community, as compared to the latest sex scandal or brutal murder?"
Murders and scandals are not news!?
First off, it isn't the modern media. News media have done that for years immemorial, for the simp[le sake that it will sell. So you can blame the consumer for that. Secondly, not all news outlets are that shallow. But even they can only report on what they can find; if only one side is visible to them, than that is the side that they will report on.
And, yeah, I get lots of valuable info from the news. Means something to me or my community? What's that supposed to mean? News reporting isn't an outlet for community services; it's just an outlet for reporting on events, whether they seem sensationalistic or not. Here, locally, we've had a series of investigative reporting between the two local papers concerning the police cover-up of a sloppy investigation of a (non-existant) daycare sex ring (without which, a lot of innocent people would have served long sentences for something they never did), and on possible criminal malpractice in a local cancer clinic. I consider those to be quite valuable.
>"My own take on this is we might as well ignore the media. The fools who swallow anything they hear or read will continue doing so, and the folks who use their brain cells will take a closer look if they're interested. And, really, what exactly can these articles do to us (aside from starting lengthy and ultimately useless threads)?"
Well, this contradicts your opening comments about doing something as opposed to playing dead. So which is it that you're reccommending!?
What harm does it do? The same harm that doing nothing always does. "All it requires for evil to prevail is to stand by and do nothing." The 'evil' in this instance is the harm done to the reputation of furry fandom by not contesting the image being conveyed and affirmed by the public media. Unless you -prefer- being thought of as a pervert?
I agree completely with Watts here.
But just putting your best foot forward might not be enough sometimes. We also have to do something about the people who sit at the polar opposite of the freaks, the hard-core critics (most of whom need to get a life just as badly as the weirdoes). I remember being a witness to this at several cons (I was at both AC and CF this year, and I saw this at both); some outsider/mundane walks up and asks one of the more 'normal' looking fans about the fandom. Said fan starts to explain, and then gets blindsided by someone who starts up a 'no, no, furry fandom is a collection of degenerates who bonk sheep and blah blah'. Need I say what the curious person's attitude towards the fandom will become after that?
As so many of you have said, this fandom needs to stop shooting itself in the foot, which means muzzling both the yiff-boys and hard-core furry haters.
The only thing the media repeating an incorrect definition of the fandom will do is give people the wrong impression of what the fandom is about. A wrong impression is still a wrong impression, not a fact.A wrong impression can't change what the fandom is anymore than me saying the moon is made of cheese will make the moon turn into cheese.
Furry Fandom Infocenter
What image of furry, fandom or otherwise, is most visible and easy to find? Simple. Whatever we make most visible and easy to find.No matter how much folks try to trivialize the good press furry has gotten, the fact remains that we do get it. We don't get it by folks hiding and saying "I'm not a furry". We don't get it by folks trying to "take back" the fandom. The only way we get it is when responsible folks speak up and give the media images and material we want them to report on.We've done it before. We'll do it again.
Furry Fandom Infocenter
The definition of "furry" is slowly percolating up through the media. The interesting thing here is that the Post is taking Vanity Fair as the authority for defining what "furry" is. It's no longer the furries themselves who define it.
Today's media generally goes for the most sordid definition, and draws its conclusions from the most convenient sources.
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