Freedomain 'Cult' leader to furry, "Leave your otter family."
A recent video has popped up on Youtube and was sent to me by a corgi friend of mine. Apparently someone by the name of Stefan Molyneux had interviewed a furry in a video named: The Shocking Furry Fandom Conversation. Yes, Really!. Given the thumbnail containing the mugs of the leaders of the Furry Raiders I thought this person was interviewing them, but as it turns out the content of the video didn’t seem to have anything to do with the controversial alt-furry group.
Or at least that is what I thought coming away from the video. As I did more investigation into this Mr. Molyneux and the methods in which he is infamous I started to come to a bit of a more darker conclusions and questioning the intent of the video. Could this seemingly innocent interview with a random YouTuber actually be a propaganda piece crafted to fulfill as a recruitment tool aimed at furries? A way to take aim at those in the furry fandom and have them join the Freedomain fandom, a group which seems to have been noted as having cult-like qualities by some press releases?
Well I don’t know about all that. In fact, the reason I put the word cult in the headline is simply because Stephan put the word sex next to furry on his video’s thumbnail. And like me seeing those two words together for the purpose of click-bait made me eye-roll, I’m sure seeing his organization being called a cult all the time earns similar expression from Mr. Molyneux. Also, inquiring to Patch, he seemed to indicate that Leon was an actual person and the conversation was legitimate. So, with that in mind, I gave it a second watch and highlighted items of interest, both good and bad in the conversation.
The beginning of the otter; and shakiness in Fandom definitions
It gets off to a bit of an unfortunate start where the furry guest, an otter by the name of Leon, describes furry in just about the worst way possible. When defining furry to Stephen he ended up highlighting things like people who are into copulating with snakes and chickens. Leon does indicate it is a small percentage, and he does try to get a more somber definition across at the start, but he hangs on that chad for a bit longer than necessary and unfortunately that is the definition that sticks with the viewer. About half the time defining this group is focused on the “twenty percent” of furries “like that”, even Stephan himself had to drag Leon out of this cycle of talking about that subset.
After defining the fandom, the guest defines himself, a North American river otter fursona. It was influenced by the portrayal of the species by Brian Jacques's Redwall series, a series he read when he was younger. At this the host inquires about Leon’s family and if he shared his experiences with the stories with them, to which Leon indicated he did not, because when he did they seemed disinterested in his interests. There is a moment when Stephan seems to invoke a facial expression as if he solved the puzzle and found the point he was looking for when going down this line of questioning.
“Why is that?” Stephan asks.
“Because they’re selfish? I don’t know.” Leon responds.
“Nah, see, they’re your family. So the ‘I don’t know’ as you know never cuts it here. If you don’t know things about your family then you don’t know enough to pick up the phone and call me.”
On my first viewing this line was a bit odd to me, but after learning more about Stephan I discovered that discussing displeasure with one’s nuclear family is basically his claim to fame. In essence, he is of the belief of abandoning it if it doesn’t function to one’s specifications. But with a furry, it seems there’s another layer he aims for.
The furry family.
The otters are your family
For the next handful of minutes the host allows their guest to talk about their family life, and the isolation they experienced during those years. After allowing this Stephan makes his hypothesis on his guest’s attraction to otters.
“The otters are your family.” Mr. Molyneux states.
At this point Leon does note the family dynamics in the Redwall story Taggerung and its influences on him. Stephan claims that his attachment to these fictions are because of the lack of the reliable relationships in the real world. So in this vein his connection with that fictional world and their characters were for a lack of bonding with their siblings.
Most furries when talking about their more anthropomorphic hobbies tend to indicate it as just that, a pastime, something to keep their mind busy, to escape or to hang out with others whom also find connection with animal characters and their fun, wacky, and typically morale ideals. This one takes it one step further and indicates that Leon literally ‘bonded’ with a fictional otter family in placement of their own.
In a great spin of irony, Stephan uses zoomorphism to highlight this point. He compares Leon's bonding to the otter family of fiction frequently to a metaphor around the behaviors of young ducklings bonding to non-ducklings instead of their actual parents.
Abandon your otter family, before it eats you (says the bear?)
The last third of the video you need to go through very carefully, because this is where Stephan throws the hook, one that he is quite infamous for. The push for their guest to abandon the bonds in their life so that they, allegedly, can be more susceptible to bonding with his philosophies. At this point Stephan has Leon so enamored by exploiting the vulnerabilities and feeling of neglect in his family life he can make some pretty factually incorrect statements and get away with them. Take for instance the italicized below.
But you’re still in an environment of people [furries] that you can’t connect with Leon, you haven’t escaped… What served you as a child— what fed you as a child is eating you as an adult. And this is very common, the survival strategies as children destroy us as adults, or have that capacity.
Because you’re now in a situation where you don’t want to bond with the people who are fucking snakes [furries] and you can’t bond with people who aren’t because of this subculture.
Speaking of adults, Stephan, Fred Patten is a member of this subculture and is probably 20 years your senior. I can’t speak for how this fandom has served him as an adult, but I fair to guess it is pretty well. And no, he most certainly hasn’t done anything heinous with a snake.
The highlighted line should show you how dangerously Stephan was misinformed by Leon’s rambling definitions at the start of the segment. The host has furries and those that sex snakes so connected in his mind he’s using them synonymously. Any furry who has not had their family history exploited for 20 solid minutes on a live audio conversation would be able to detect that anything made after that statement is as ridiculous and ill-informed hogwash as the statement itself. But unfortunately for Leon he’s been hooked, and he doesn’t even note the error, he is not in any position to have a conversation anymore with all the emotions he was wrung though, so Stephan takes the helm from here on out.
Stephan is certainly an expert in talking with others, but it seems that most of his listeners are those wounded in some degree. This is from his own words, in an interview with the Globe and Mail.
Molyneux has denied that FDR [Freedomain Radio] is a cult. In a 2008 interview with the Globe and Mail, he said, “I’m sure a few marriages broke up because of feminism, it doesn’t make feminism a cult.” The article reports his claim that only some 20 of his young followers had left their families. Noting that four percent of the population was considered sociopathic, he wrote, “If we assume that separating from a truly sociopathic parent would be emotionally advantageous, then we are far below the average.” Not intervening in his listeners’ lives would be “like stepping over someone on the sidewalk who’s collapsed and saying, ‘I don’t want to get involved.’”
So clearly whenever Stephan brings on a caller he believes them to be wounded to some degree. And he is sitting in as some sort of YouTube physiatrist trying to cure the things that ails them. He does this without an actual background to provide such help, so I guess that would make them sort of a snake oil salesman in a way. Which hey, if furries are defined as being snake abusers, they may find use for one selling such things. Guess Stephan and furries have a symbiotic functionally after all!
In fairness he does request Leon seek actual qualified help, but also in fairness he seems to forward him to his own site for help finding such help, which is quite strange indeed.
Leon here was clearly hurt, they came forth with the premise of feeling the wish to get out of the fandom. If that is what they want, and it truly makes them happy, then I think it’s a good thing in general. However, I would hope Leon would look upon the advice given to him with a critical eye, especially as more adults join the furry fandom. You can enjoy life as an adult while not letting go of the creativity and wonder that expanded one’s horizons as a child. In fact, I find, many adults are envious of those that can strike that balance.
I mean don’t we need those to write future otter stories that help people like Leon through childhood? Stories like those must come from the responsible adults amongst us. Saying to not draw, write, or read anthropomorphism simply because you can’t make adults respect you for it, is in essence poor reasoning.
But that’s the kind of reasoning you’ll get when you define furries as those that lay with snakes.
A real reason for furry overlooked
There is an easily missed point in the middle of the hour long stint where things ramble on a bit. The long of the short is they discuss how not allowing someone to have an outlet for their passions can cause resentment. What was particularly interesting about this segment is that Stephan was getting so into talking about his passions that he wouldn’t let Leon get a word in edgewise. I thought he was purposefully suppressing Leon with his rambling and was trying to see if he would lash and try and push his passions in, or get angry with him.
“I didn’t get much chance to speak...” Leon said after about five minutes of the host rambling on about his passions. Okay, that one was out of context and the (ex?) otter was talking about his family not letting him speak and not Stephan, but I found it hilariously coincidental turn of phrase in its own way.
What’s interesting here is I thought this was probably more the cause of furry than any ‘faux (or fox) family’ bond pseudo-science. Both the host and the guest missed this fact. This is where fandom of all stripes stem from, including this furry fandom. Yes, the fictional otter family does not exist, but there are people out there who have found the same outlets and passions and come together to talk about the things they enjoyed that got them through the tough times in youth.
For instance, if you show me a religious person I will should you a person who bonded with their church, or God, because it was the thing there for them in their youth when other institutions failed. Show me a sports fan and I’ll show you someone who saw the happiest moments in their childhood enjoying the spectacle of the Sunday crowd. Furry characters and video games were major staples in my childhood that helped with the stresses of growing up with the kind of peers whom apparently would elect someone like Trump to office in the future. I guess looking at it that way, I’m a little less surprised by the election results.
There’s also the common thread that Stephan, Leon, and myself hold. I see all three of us as self-sufficient bookish learners. This is also caused as sort of an escapist need. One that can help in adulthood sure, but it is one nonetheless. I wouldn’t have any doubts that we all had good relationships with the educational institutions we drove ourselves into while our peers were busy enjoying their less isolated social connections. This possibility was also overlooked in the video: what role does the education system play in our rearing? Our relationships with peers away from home can't be discounted can they? Stephan seemed to dismiss Leon whenever he started to bring them into the conversation.
In the end, furry is not a ‘wrong crowd’, a group to be afraid of, or even a hindrance to one's personal growth. It has the capacity to be just as as bad as any other fandom, sure. There are exploitative individuals in any group of humans. The bullies we grew up with have interests and passions too and they’ll find their way into adult social circles as well. One should not need to abandon their fursona to be a healthy adult, just as one shouldn’t have to abandon music, religion, or other such passions. To ask one to abandon the hobbies and things they love simply for peer acceptance is quite philosophically shallow, no matter the verbose vocabulary behind it.
I guess to round it off with one last question: when one belittle another’s passions because they are
childish ‘negatively influencing your adulthood’, shouldn’t that be just as frustrating as having someone just ignore said passions entirely, if not more so?