[Note: I want to thank all those who have offered comments at the end of this article. The information I wrote about some of these cons was brought to me by various furries and online articles. I was not at RMFC or the early ConFurence I mention here, or, indeed, any of these cons. In the end, however, it it not important who, exactly, did what to whom. There are two undeniable facts: 1) several furcons have been cancelled over the last couple years; 2) the fact that they were cancelled is NOT because the mundane community banned furries; it IS because, in one way or another, furries behaved badly. It might be that three conventions being cancelled in three years is just a coincidence, but it seems to me that this is an escalating symptom of a phenomenon I am seeing, and that is that the fandom has grown so large that it is getting out of control. What the solution is, I'm not sure, but I think we need to start addressing this in a serious manner.]
I need to pause here and take a breath. There have been some sad developments in the furry world over the last two years or so, and I am going to state my opinion about it so my readers know where I stand.
As any furry who pays attention knows, three furcons have now shut down due to bad behavior: Rainfurrest, Oklacon, and, very recently, Rocky Mountain Fur Con. In the first case, the con got out of hand when a bunch of furries trashed hotel rooms, costing the hotel a lot of money, and also indulged in bad (sometimes gross) behavior in the lobby and public areas. In the case of the Colorado con, it seems to be a combination of the actions of a group calling itself the "Furry Raiders" (I've also heard the name #AltFurry), an apparently new group that supports right-wing principles and is opposed to what is, really, a rather liberal social group, as well as furcon admins who didn't pay federal taxes. One admin has also been involved in sex with a minor and (not sure if it's the same person) is connected to the Furry Raiders, allowing them to reserve a block of rooms that ended up excluding other furries and that, in turn, resulted in threats of violence.
Here's a good article about what happened at RMFC.
Also, in 2014, Oklacon was menaced by drunk furries who engaged in public sex acts that forced the con to shut its doors the next year.
And then there is the incident at Midwest Furfest during which someone released chlorine gas in a stairwell. You will notice, though, that MFF is still running. Why? Because it is a great example of a well-run furry convention (kudos to the staff). Something happened that was beyond their control, but they quickly managed the situation and the result was that this convention is still around for good furries to enjoy.
While all this saddens Papabear, I'm not really surprised this has happened. The fandom has grown so large and is sans any kind of controls or rules or regulation that unsavory elements have inevitably infiltrated our ranks. Such a lackadaisical approach is the result of a permissive culture that abhors societal restriction (much like the hippie generation). I get that, but there comes a point when being too laid back is a problem.
Like a parent who allows her children to do whatever they want, the result is a bunch of spoiled, self-entitled brats who think they can do whatever they like, even if it is harmful to others.
It is more important than ever for those who run conventions to be vigilant. It is not impossible to run a large con efficiently and well. Anthrocon had 7,310 attendees in 2016 and you saw nothing like what happened at Rainfurrest or Oklacon. This result is directly attributable to those who run the con.
The danger of having badly run furcons is not just that they will close but that they will give all conventions and the fandom a bad name.
[Note: Dogpatch Press published a good article about how false rumors can also spread about cons, however.]
The preventative is vigilance. The Rainfurrest organizers were overly indulgent with attendees (public drunkenness was rampant); the RMFC staff permitted bad behavior on the part of the Furry Raiders and also either didn't do a background check or didn't care that someone in their ranks had a criminal record.
Frankly, these conventions deserved to close. If you can't do it right, then you shouldn't do it.
Convention founders and administrators need to have enough gumption to ban furries or groups of furries from joining in on the fun if they have proven themselves to be a problem. (For example, if a group espouses hate, violence, or prejudice towards others, that should be a clue they are not good furries and should not be permitted into a convention). RMFC had the opportunity to do this with the Furry Raiders group, but they backed off and suffered the consequences. (To be fair here, after talking to more people who were there, bad behavior was also demonstrated by anti-Furry Raiders people, one of whom tried to throw a punch).
No apologies should be necessary when it comes to who you allow into your organized, private function. Furry conventions have a right to ban anyone they wish for the good of the attendees who simply want to have a good time.
We need to seek an answer to this problem now before it escalates any further. My (admittedly, unasked for) advice? I would propose that an organization be created that includes all those who run or wish to run a furry convention (it would be great if this could include furries from all over the world). The purpose of this organization would be to:
The days are past when furcons could operate just fine in isolation from one another.
[NOTE: In light of the comment added by Smash in the comments below, the above is obviously a good idea that is already in existence (never said I was original LOL). Funny that I have not heard about the Furry Convention Leadership Roundtable before, even though it was founded back in 2010! I'm sure the members of that group have been talking about recent events. Would be interesting if they could maybe be a little more public about it. Good for them for organizing the FCLR! Kudos all around, and I wish them success in the future.]
When I talk to furries and ask them what they like about the fandom, one of the frequent answers is that they enjoy the camaraderie and the fact that furries accept everyone. Indeed, that should be the spirit of furry. You might think that I am against the Furry Raiders' conservative values and that's why I'm ripping on them here. Not at all. If you want to be a conservative furry and vote for Donald Trump, go for it. But don't espouse hatred. Don't threaten violence against other furries. Don't reserve a block of rooms for the purpose of keeping furries you don't like from attending. Such behavior is obviously unacceptable and should be rejected by all good furries everywhere.
The furry fandom is supposed to be a world where people can escape from the nonsense of hatred and prejudice that plagues the rest of society. Yes, of course, furries are humans and subject to human flaws, but that doesn't mean we can't strive to be better than that. It takes work, and the more furries there are in the world the more work it will take.
I think it's worth the effort.
[Thanks for all the comments below. I've gotten a few things incorrect, apparently, but was simply reporting what I had heard from people who said they were there. I'm getting some different stories from other people who also said they were there. Details. Well, let's forego all the details. The point is, that furcons have been and are being taken down by furries who can't behave themselves. This is an important issue that needs to be addressed by the community. A good start would be the Furry Convention Leadership Roundtable.]
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.