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Is the My Little Pony Fan Community Really Full of Nazis?

The Atlantic recently published an exposé on the urgent problem of Nazis in the subculture of “Bronies,” adult fans of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic cartoon.

This was interesting to me, because I have argued in the past that the influence and scale of the far-Right or alt-Right is wildly exaggerated in mainstream media, and, in a 2018 article for Quillette, I supported this claim by pointing out that the 2017 Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which was the largest gathering of far-right activists in many years, attracted only 500 attendees while the 2018 Bronycon, an event for adult men who love My Little Pony, attracted 11 times as many people. But could it be true that the Bronies themselves are far-right activists?

What do Bronies really care about?

The evidence of this Nazi problem in the My Little Pony fandom is that, on a My Little Pony imageboard called Derpibooru, over 900 images were tagged as “racist,” and images mocking Black Lives Matter were upvoted by users while images supporting the movement were downvoted, even as the site’s administrators made a statement of support for the protests. After much controversy, the imageboard banned uploading images “created for no reason other than to incite controversy” and removed the 926 images tagged “racism” or “racist.” This move was extremely controversial within the Derpibooru community, many members of which oppose any moderation.

Atlantic reporter Kaitlyn Tiffany suggests that the strong free-speech norms of the Derpibooru boards stem from its origins on 4Chan, which Tiffany describes as “the largest den of chaos and toxic beliefs available on the Internet.” She describes the Brony community as being divided between those who “genuinely enjoy My Little Pony and the wholesome escapism it provides” and trolls who think it is “edgy and provocative to be an adult obsessed with cartoon ponies.” This frames the Derpibooru imageboard as a place where innocent cartoon fans are unknowingly subjected to subversive, racist memes and images that may send people down a rabbit hole of far-right content.

However, claims that a significant portion of the Brony community are Nazis, or that a significant amount of the content on Brony imageboards is right-wing propaganda or racist memes has to be put in the proper context. First of all, the 926 images tagged “racist” exist on a board that hosts over two million images. If you order all the site’s various tags by how many images fall within their categories, there are 12 full pages of other, more popular tags you have to scroll through to find the “racism” tag. One thousand two hundred and seventy-five images are tagged “politics” and include images both supporting and opposing Black Lives Matter. Discussion of these issues is a tiny fraction of one percent of the content on the My Little Pony imageboard. 

By contrast, 315,867 images on the Derpibooru forum are tagged as sexually explicit, a further 127,414 images are tagged as sexually suggestive and 105,521 images are tagged as containing “questionable” sexual content. The truth is that Derpibooru’s lax moderation norms and anti-censorship culture don’t exist to protect objectionable political content; this imageboard is unmoderated because it is an enormous repository of fan-made My Little Pony pornography.

The Atlantic article fails to place the 926 racist images in the context of the larger scope of the two million images hosted by the Derpibooru board, because less than one-quarter of one percent of the site’s content is of a political nature. And the Atlantic article avoids mentioning the half-million pornographic images the site hosts, because doing so reveals that the community’s widespread opposition to content moderation on their imageboard is about protecting sexually explicit content rather than creating a space for hateful politics to flourish, and it further reveals that the Bronies are 500 times more interested in having sex with My Little Pony characters than they are in spreading racist pony memes.

The article creates an impression that the alt-Right is using seemingly-innocent cartoon fandoms as a Trojan horse to conceal and spread a sinister ideology, but the truth is that the only thing these guys are interested in hiding inside a horse is their dicks.

Why does this kind of thing keep happening?

White nationalists and the far-Right seemed to be ascendant in 2016 after Donald Trump won an unexpected victory in the US presidential election. A couple of weeks after the election, alt-right leader Richard Spencer held a celebratory event in Washington, D.C., at which he threw a stiff-armed “Roman salute” and bellowed “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!”

After the 2017 Unite The Right event in Charlottesville, during which a white nationalist murdered a counter-protester by running her over with his car, Trump appeared to defend the rally by saying there were “very fine people on both sides.” With this level of normalization from the holder of the country’s highest office, it seemed like the far-Right might be on the verge of entering the mainstream of American politics. 

News media rushed to cover this trend, hiring reporters whose entire beat was the alt-Right, white nationalists and other far-right extremists. But the mainstreaming of these ideologies never happened. After the violence at the 2017 Charlottesville march—an event which only attracted about 500 far-right activists—the alt-Right never mustered again. When organizers attempted a second Unite The Right event in Washington, D.C. in 2018, fewer than 30 alt-right activists showed up, and were surrounded by thousands of counter-protesters.

Perhaps the most prominent far-right figure, former Breitbart editor and provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos was banned from Twitter in July 2016 for posting doctored screenshots of fake tweets and attempting to use them to incite harassment against Saturday Night Live performer Leslie Jones. In February 2017 Yiannopoulos was disinvited from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and had his book deal with a conservative imprint at Simon and Schuster cancelled after the conservative Twitter account Reagan Battalion posted audio of Yiannopoulos appearing to defend pedophilia. By the end of 2018, Yiannopoulos claimed to be $2 million in debt and was pushing a self-published ebook called How To Be Poor.

Spencer, too, saw his fortunes decline after Charlottesville. By 2020, he was openly lamenting his disappointment in Trump and according to a documentary from the Atlantic, which has had a film crew following Spencer for years, he is now living with his mother.

By any reasonable measure, the alt-Right and its ideologies of white nationalism have collapsed. The marketplace of ideas has rejected organized hate and racism. The groups that advocate for these beliefs cannot muster any activists. The leaders who espoused these ideas on national stages a few years ago are now deplatformed, disgraced, and unemployable. 

This is great news for most opponents of far-right movements, but it is, perhaps, bittersweet for academics specializing in researching right-wing extremists and journalists whose job is to be watchdogs on groups that barely exist anymore. Victory in the war on Nazis means that the services of these specialists are no longer required, and they do not want to be looking for work in a market that is glutted with PhDs scrabbling for a handful of tenure-track academic jobs, or trying to respecialize in a media environment when major outlets are conducting mass layoffs. In order to preserve their job security, professional anti-extremists must always find new extremists to be anti. With few windmills left to tilt at, journalists from major national outlets searching for extremists to expose are combing the weird corners of the Internet and building stories around a handful of anonymously-posted racist meme images on an unmoderated website that hosts My Little Pony porn.

But all is not lost: In order to remedy its lack of newsroom diversity, the Washington Post is creating 12 new positions, including a new job for a national security reporter whose job will be to ferret out “extremist groups with supporters in the military and police; the internationalization of far-right groups; and the sources of financial support for white nationalism.”

I’m sure Spencer and Yiannopoulos, who are also desperately searching for sources of financial support for white nationalism, will be paying close attention to what the Post uncovers.

 


Daniel Friedman is the Edgar Award-nominated author of Running Out of Road. Follow him on Twitter 
@DanFriedman81

Feature image: My Little Pony in human form cosplay, Wondercon, 2015.

Comments

  1. Oh my, how the The Atlantic has fallen.

  2. The Atlantic recently published an exposé on the urgent problem of Nazis in the subculture of “Bronies,” adult fans of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic cartoon.

    Thank goodness somebody finally got around to doing it. Christian nut jobs who saw gay conversion conspiracies in Teletubbies episodes have been out-stupided by their left-wing mirror images who are busily rooting out “racism” in Paw Patrol and exposing Nazis in My Little Pony. I think I speak for everyone, though, when I say it might be a good idea for someone to keep an eye on adults fantasizing about pony porn, just to be on the safe side.

    After the 2017 Unite The Right event in Charlottesville, during which a white nationalist murdered a counter-protester by running her over with his car, Trump appeared to defend the rally by saying there were “very fine people on both sides.” With this level of normalization from the holder of the country’s highest office, it seemed like the far-Right might be on the verge of entering the mainstream of American politics.

    Will someone please tape a copy of the speech Trump actually gave regarding the Charlottesville murder to the eyelids of every journalist in the world? They keep forgetting what it said.

    In order to preserve their job security, professional anti-extremists must always find new extremists to be anti.

    They might want to start with the group that is responsible for ~99% of terrorist deaths worldwide every year: Islamic extremists.

  3. Indeed. I used to read the Atlantic regularly. I gave up a few years ago.

    One point of fact in need of correction, and this fact was belatedly confirmed by CNN and the New York Times, although a year too late. When Trump spoke of “good people on both sides” in Charlottesville, he was not speaking of the Antifa and white supremacist protestors who showed up to a pre-existing rally of Unite the Right. The only rally that had a right to assemble there and then was Unite the Right, which had a permit. The Antifa protestors, primed for violence and armed with illegal weapons, showed up without a permit, followed by white supremacists also illegally armed. The latter two groups were violent and toting illegal arms and should have been jailed. The entire incident turned violent only because the police withdrew from enforcing the law, under pressure from the city and university.

    What Trump was speaking of was the original controversy around the Unite the Right rally, to defend statues of Confederate leaders. Their rally was peaceful and legal. “Fine people on both sides” referred (as confirmed by several transcripts of Trump’s press conference) to that controversy – people defending the statues and those who wanted them removed. That’s it – there was no defense of either Antifa or Richard B. Spencer’s white supremacist followers – Trump’s remarks would have made no sense in that context in any case.

    The falsehoods around this, while not present in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s press conference, became holy writ to the chattering classes and much of the media about a week or two later. The White House released a transcript a while later, to no effect. A year later, CNN and the Times released their own conclusions, that in fact, Trump was not referring to the violent counterprotestors who illegally showed up. The conventional media quietly shoved the whole incident down the memory hole, although, even now, you still hear these canards being repeated as if they are fact. They aren’t.

    I didn’t vote for Trump in 2016. I didn’t like him and still don’t. But that incident was the dawn of awareness on the part of many (including me) that we had entered a new era of pseudo-journalistic junk and propaganda and that it was imperative for all decent, rational people to start abandoning what was left of the legacy media and avoid the toxic sewer of unfiltered social media. I’ve seen enough other examples of this elsewhere (many not connected to Trump) to confirm my decision. I’m not going back.

    P.S. A final irony: either at that press conference or shortly after, Trump half-joking predicted that statues of Lincoln would come down next. People thought it was a crazy, throw-away remark at the time.

  4. What a relief. The cartoon porn pervs are not Nazis. Well I will sleep better tonight.

  5. The author accuses the left of conjuring up white supremacists where none exist then labels Milo Yiannopoulos a white supremacist and delights in his downfall. Smooth transition.

  6. @quillette: In order to preserve their job security, professional anti-extremists must always find new extremists to be anti. With few windmills left to tilt at (…)

    No need for windmills here. When you are looking for crazy and dangerous extremists, how about Antifas, SJW and their willing supporters on university campuses and in the mainstream media? Twitter and Facebook are also full of them.

    And for some of these ‘professional anti-extremists’, even an honest look in the mirror might suffice.

  7. You mean the gay Jewish Brit whose boyfriend is black? That Milo Yiannopoulos?

    Candace Owens and Kanye West are now routinely labeled White Supremacists as well.

    Gratuitous personal attack of the kind he claims to hate.

  8. Once it ceased readers’ comments the main thing keeping it in check was lost. I cancelled my subscription then and rarely return. When Jeffrey Goldberg caved to the mob and fired just-hired correspondent Kevin Williamson I knew the place incompetently managed.

    Every once in a while it has its gems, such as My Family’s Slave.

  9. i like to think i am a sophisticated and urbane cosmopolitan and that little could surprise me. But adult men and women who like to dress up as little pony cartoon characters and, according to the article, create pornographic images of sexualised little ponies has got me completely bamboozled.

  10. That’s no nearly the worst of it. That article barely even skims the tip of a deeply degenerate iceberg, the depths of which you don’t want to know. You DON’T want to know.
    I know, because now I know I wish I didn’t know.

    As the Preacher said;

    For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.
    Ecclesiastes 1:18

    Or as the Internet sayeth;

    What has been seen, cannot be unseen

    UnseenHomerBleachEyes

  11. I do not believe the comments were keeping The Atlantic in check. Most contributors and editors didn’t even read the comments (according to insiders, at least). I frequented the comments section before it was closed down and it is true that more than half of it was trolling or extremist invective. I even joined the Disqus group “The Atlantic Discussions”, which became the unofficially recognized comments section (not sure of its current status, but it had been mined for user engagement data).
    If there is one event I would consider symbolic of the decline of this magazine, I would point to the name change from The Atlantic Monthly to just The Atlantic. There had already been an increasing focus on blog-like posts and big changes to the editorial and writing staff. I noticed a lot of new, young staff writers being hired circa 2015, maybe a few years earlier.
    A friend of mine pins the decline of The Atlantic at the death of Michael Kelly. I think there’s something to this, though the magazine continued pretty well for years afterward. The biggest influence may be the changing market environment for news and opinion publications. More content is required, daily content. Blog-like posts are as representative of the publication as the long-form journalism. I believe the influx of young staff was part of the strategy to increase readership and develop a young audience that would become lifetime Atlantic readers (influencing the leaders of tomorrow, so to speak). It may also be that the zeitgeist in journalism was against what The Atlantic Monthly had been. Anyway, I stopped reading it a few years back and had been frustrated with it for years before that. Every time I do make the mistake of reading an Atlantic article, I regret it.

  12. The author makes a good point. There really is a supply and demand problem when it comes to racists. So much so that when something happens to a black man, like George Floyd, no one bothers to wait for evidence that his murder was racially motivated. It is simply assumed as self-evident by the entire op-ed page of the New Woke Times who immediately start churning out hysterical nonsense by the boatload. I’m ordering my copy of Douglas Murray’s The Madness of Crowds today to help me keep my perspective.

  13. Yo. Made an account here to say I am glad to see some actual journalism taking place, that article sent a lot of people in the community into a book-burning frenzy to root out the evil nazis. And gain clout. Can’t forget the clout.
    Keep doing the good work.

  14. So I’m not the only one then who’s noticed the complete and utter collapse of the Atlantic, that’s reassuring in a guess-I’m-not -the-only-one sense.

    It’s a title that can be added to an expanding list of publications that have relapsed into dull, tedious and utterly trite agitprop: Salon, Slate, the New Yorker and its Conde Nast siblings. Next on the list, and I absolutely hate to say this: The New York Review of Books. Even leaving their daily Trump lashings and peans to far left identity politics aside, the book reviews are still mostly solid, the opinion pieces can more or less be ignored. I knew that publication was going bonkers as it gave more and more space to Masha Gessen who’s increasingly demented pieces stood out at the NYRB like a sore thumb. Of course now she/he/it/whatever is at the nexus of the New Yorker’s descent into full-on Pravda status.

    I won’t even go into Canadian media, as with very few exceptions it may be the worst in the English-speaking world, and utterly compromised as it has received more than $600 million in “support” from the Trudeau government, making an already ideologically and intellectually homogeneous profession even more so. The CBC is now approaching - if not exceeding - HuffPo levels of woke hysteria.

    All of this parallels my own profession. The few library journals and other resources I check into have gone full-blown woke, from the weekly demand for the destruction of the racist and patriarchal Dewey Decimal System to gems like the last Ontario Library Association conference that had panels on How to Manage White People. Seriously. There’s even a leading journal called The Journal of Radical Librarianship that has pieces written whose tone not even Cleese and Chapman in their prime could ever hope to emulate.

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