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When “Punch a Nazi” Goes Wrong
Inside an oceanside furry fight
Those who want to listen to Jesse and Katie discuss this strange controversy on BARPod can do so here.
It was a scene made for tabloids: a beach confrontation between a megaphone-wielding fursuiter in a pirate hat and a man filming him. The fursuiter raised the megaphone and brought it down on the other man’s head, first glancingly, then hard enough to knock him wailing to the ground. Other furries, in and out of suits, wandered around the scene as the man shouted, “This is what furries will do to you!”
The headlines came quickly: “Bizarre moment man is attacked by FURRY after he’s caught filming fetish group in Huntington Beach” from the Daily Mail; “Furious furries fight back after busting man filming them on beach” from the New York Post; “Man Attacked By Furry At Huntington Beach Meetup, Wild Video Shows” from TMZ. More articles, each gawking at the spectacle while providing little more than scattered details, came from similar outlets, while the team of Fox News host Jesse Watters, sensing opportunity, reached out to the victim.
I’m not much for tabloid trash and messy fight videos, I confess, so normally this is the sort of event I’d briefly catch wind of on social media before grimacing a bit and wondering at what I’m doing with my life. The reactions to this video caught my attention, though: instead of the standard crowd of idle gawkers, an eager crowd of social media watchers cheered the assailant. A few close to the situation claimed the assaulted man was a Nazi, and with that bit of context, his misfortune became the internet’s source of mirth. “Punching Nazis is so cool,” read one popular response. “Punching Nazis, extremely based, thank you fursuiter person,” read another. The sentiment that he was a Nazi and obviously deserved the assault was overwhelming among leftists who took note of the situation on Twitter, on Reddit, and around the internet.
The assailant himself, a “vore” fetishist (one who fantasizes about swallowing creatures in a fantasy setting; NSFW Twitter) who goes by Fenrisulfr, was quick to brag about his own accomplishment and ask for memes of the moment of assault.
All of that caught my attention, and it sounded familiar. Whether the call is punch TERFs, punch Nazis, or some other permutation, the sentiment that some beliefs are so egregious they should be met with on-the-spot violence is increasingly the consensus in online leftist subcultures. But idle talk is one thing, and it’s not unreasonable to treat most tough talk on the internet as just that. What caught my eye about this situation in particular was the widespread consensus that a specific, named individual absolutely deserved to be assaulted, complete with tips for destroying evidence and exhortations to bail out the assailant after his arrest.
To put my cards on the table, I believe in maintaining a hard line against interpersonal political violence in almost any circumstance. Liberalism is a peace treaty forged in blood, a commitment to keep conflicts over values from escalating into cataclysmic cycles of attack and retaliation, to build meaning in spite of often-bitter division. Abandoning that treaty doesn’t lead to pushing your enemies to the margins of society. It rallies them, turning petty conflicts into existential disputes and as often as not hurting those who escalate to violence as much as those they escalate against. That’s where my mind was when I first saw the video: the importance of unambiguously condemning violence against one’s political enemies, and that’s the article I was prepared to write going into this.
That assumed, though, that there were political enemies to fight in the first place. Almost as soon as I started digging into the story, it became clear there was something more complicated, and more tragic, at hand.
Behold, a Nazi:
That’s the victim, Renn, in the shirt he was wearing at the time of the attack, covered in a laundry list of progressive slogans. If you’re wondering why a Nazi would wear a shirt more often associated with nice suburban ladies who attend BLM rallies, you’re on the right track.
The closer I looked, the more the “punch a Nazi” framing seemed incongruous. The assault, instead, was the culmination of half a decade of interpersonal bitterness stemming initially from an extraordinarily petty dispute. Over the years, what could and should have remained a simple personal disagreement spiraled into a public smear campaign, a series of increasingly heated confrontations, threats of doxxing and legal action, destroyed friendships, and an apparently irreconcilable feud, with one accusation circling again and again: They’re Nazis.
Let’s start there, then. Are they?
Is the Victim a Nazi?
One of the most peculiar ironies of the whole dispute is that virtually nobody made a serious claim that the victim himself had said or done anything to deserve the “Nazi” title beyond associating with his boyfriend, who came to the beach with him that day.
The victim goes by Tye, or Renn, depending on whether he’s in costume as his “Derpy Dergen” character. Since the name Renn has been used most commonly for him in the conversations around this drama, that is what I will use throughout this article. He’s a filmmaker and longtime participant in the furry fandom who described himself to me as a “Bernie Sanders democratic socialist” when I reached out for comment. Back in 2020, in the heat of the George Floyd moment, he made a brief video in support of Black Lives Matter. His personal Twitter account is a steady stream of condemnation of what he sees as the cult of Trump and the rise of fascism in the United States, commentary in support of gender and sexual minority causes, against climate change, and more messaging consistent with the above, over the course of many years. If he is running a con, it is a long one. In my conversations with him and my observation of his online presence, the only opinions I noticed that are arguably conservative-coded had to do with his skepticism of vaccine mandates and of some anti-Covid measures — something that will come up again later.
Why, then, have people been calling him a Nazi? The accusations rely, in short, on the behavior of his boyfriend Skaard.
Politically, Skaard describes himself as disillusioned but supportive of a broad range of progressive causes and priorities. When I messaged him for comment, he rattled off beliefs in quick succession: “I want to see Donald Trump hung for insurrection and revealing our national secrets. Bernie [S]anders should have won the primaries, not Hillary. I want free healthcare for all [. . . ] I believe in equal rights for all, trans rights are human rights, BLM is a justified movement [. . . ] I bought my first firearms because I was scared that Trump was going to force his way into power in the 2020 election. I thought we were going to have an authoritarian dictatorship here in my country. I was scared because I am gay, and so is my partner.”
As in Renn’s case, these claims are backed up by a long history of public and private statements. His own Twitter feed is a mix of his photography, dragon pictures, and leftist commentary. Where, then, do the Nazi allegations come from? Inasmuch as they have been made public, they come from a few observations. The rumors initially began circulating back in 2016, when SoCal furry meetup organizer Teskine, someone who we’ll return to later, posted an accusation on Twitter: “Yo ya’ll want more good [s---] about this [redacted]? He’s also a furry raider nazi scumbag. Someone passed me the info when he was harassing me like a wacko earlier this year.”
The tweet pointed to a few key allegations that would return to haunt Skaard repeatedly over the years.
First: his history roleplaying in the video game Garry’s Mod as a “Nazifur” character, which a friend drew for him as a gift in 2017, when he was 20 years old:
As Skaard explains it, he grew up as a socially isolated military brat from a troubled family and without real community around him. After discovering what furries were from a meme, he set up a server, suddenly finding “people who wanted to play with [him] and have fun and laugh, shot [sic] rockets at each other, set off nuclear bombs, rag doll each other. . . ” — essentially, he saw it as silly escapism and didn’t give much more thought to it. In his telling, it was an unhealthy environment for many reasons, at a time when he was immature and careless and surrounded by similarly immature people — at once a toxic space and his first time finding the sense of community he lacked growing up. He closed the server around 2017.
Second: the accusation shows a screenshot of him in the chat server for a group known as the Furry Raiders. The Furry Raiders are a controversial group of conservative furries known for their use of Nazi-referential imagery. They’re led by Foxler Nightfire, who’s been accused of child grooming, bestiality, and rather a lot more. (While Foxler claims the accusations lack context, he does little to dispute the substance.) When people refer to “Nazi furries,” the Furry Raiders are almost always at the core of the accusations, and their reputation within the furry fandom is abysmal.
What, then, was Skaard doing in their chat group? As he tells it, he became increasingly paranoid about alt-right attacks in the lead-up to the 2020 election, eventually lurking in a number of alt-right chat groups to keep an eye on things and be forewarned of any danger. “I feared [for] my safety and that of others while the alt right was planning protests all over,” he mentions. “I was in the proudboys [sic] main telegram for example. I could see where they were going at all times. [. . . ] [A]s 2020 got closer and political tensions were hot I wanted to atleast [sic] have an idea of what the militants were doing because some kind of a takeover of the government was a genuine possibility to me [. . . ] I left all those groups at some point in 2021 still having never spoken a word in them.”
That’s easy enough for him to say, of course, but it lines up both with years of his political posts, which were anything but pro–alt-right, and with claims from the Furry Raiders themselves. When asked, Foxler replied that the group had no record of Renn or Skaard ever having been part of their group or, indeed, anyone in their geographic area ever having purchased anything from the Raiders’ online shop. In his response, he also condemned the attack, claiming the group doesn’t believe in violence toward others.
I searched within the group, first checking whether any active members had heard of Skaard before the beach incident — they hadn’t — then searching the near-million messages in their chat history for any mention of Skaard or Renn, or messages from either. As far as I can tell, neither Skaard nor Renn ever posted anything to the group, or were mentioned, in the entire chat history. Moreover, the reaction within their chat server to the beach confrontation itself showed no signs that anyone viewed the fracas as an assault on one of their own, or that anyone recognized the victims.
People don’t trust the Furry Raiders, of course, but they have much more motive to falsely claim Skaard than to falsely disown him: a member of your group being assaulted gives you the opportunity to paint yourself in a sympathetic light to outsiders.
Those claims represent more or less the full substance behind allegations that Skaard is a Nazi: a roleplay group he left half a decade ago, and lurking in the chatrooms of a group he dislikes without ever participating in any apparent way, all while maintaining a consistent public stance against everything to do with conservatives.
The idea that either Renn or Skaard is a Nazi, to be blunt, strains credulity past the breaking point.
The couple would, ironically, be in a much better position if they were the far-right figures they stand accused of being. Most furries have no great love for conservatives, of course, but a handful of conservative furries do exist. One, a self-anointed “leader of MAGA furs,” contacted Skaard eagerly looking to bring him on for a podcast appearance. When I reached out to Foxler for comment, he made it clear he and the Furry Raiders would have helped with legal matters if the two were members of the group. Even among conservatives more broadly, it’s trivial to become a cause célèbre when you face violence from the left. Jesse Watters’ staff may have reached out hoping only to make fun of furries, but a few words about facing persecution for their conservative beliefs and the two would have punched their ticket onto a dozen different podcasts and talk shows. “If I wanted to be around conservatives all the time I’d go visit my family in Ohio,” Skaard told me. “There’s a reason I like being on the opposite side of the country from all of them.”
That, really, is the core, bitter realization that pushed me to investigate these claims so thoroughly: the only reason these allegations hold any power at all over them is their own broad agreement with progressives. If a progressive and a conservative sling “Nazi/commie” smears at each other, each can rally their own troops and proceed convinced more than ever of their opponents’ wretchedness. If people sling baseless accusations at someone like me, a frustrated centrist who spends most of my time online in “heterodox” spaces, I can laugh at the absurdity of the whole thing with my similarly world-weary friends and fellow travelers, then emerge with all the relationships I care about fully intact.
But sling the same smears at a couple of democratic socialists who have done most of their socializing with like-minded furries and who don’t have another ideological tribe to lean on?
That’s how you do real damage.
The Full, Bitter Story
I’ve spent a great deal of time dwelling on the political in this article because it matters a great deal to the stories people tell themselves. A petty interpersonal dispute, if it becomes animated by political sentiment, becomes a stirring fight between good and evil. The label Nazi and the slogan punch Nazis carry incredible power among progressives: if you can make that label, or similar labels marking someone as an oppressor, stick, you place your target outside the realm of moral consideration. No longer are they a human, worth treating with civility, considering with charity, or engaging with earnestly. The label carries with it the sweet, seductive promise of morally justified misbehavior, the chance to treat someone as scum and feel heroic for doing so. It’s a heady promise, and a dangerous one.
My own feeling is that the risks inherent to such an ethos outweigh any possible benefit: that while self-defense is and always will be appropriate, there is no justification for treating someone as irredeemable based on their beliefs alone. Even if you disagree with that, though, the risks of casting too broad a net should be clear. If someone is successfully labeled an oppressor, every social rule changes, every interpersonal interaction looks different.
I mention all of this because when I look at the full story leading up to the beach altercation, I see a struggle not between an oppressor and the oppressed, but a deeply personal conflict that at its root had much more to do with a personality clash than with a political one. Stay with me — this will dive pretty far into the weeds, because I want to ensure as full a story as possible is clear.
It started, more or less, back in 2018, with a petty dispute over Skaard (then “Valyrym”) repeatedly asking for rides to a meetup in a group chat. As Renn tells it, messages got buried fast and without repeated asking the request would fall unheard, but Skaard’s requests upset an admin, Teskine, and led to a terse exchange of words and a ban from that meetup. Renn took Skaard to one of the meetups to try to settle things in person with Teskine and her fellow admins, but the conversation went south quickly, with harsh words and anger in both directions. The online part of this particular mess and its fallout was archived and remains available. In the wake of this confrontation and the fallout from it, the Nazi rumors began circulating, amplified by Teskine.
After that mess, Skaard and Renn made no further attempts to attend the meetup they were banned from, instead opting to focus their energies on their own monthly meetup, the Rose Bowl Fur Meet (RBFM), which they had assumed responsibility for in early 2018. This meetup was a consistent success, averaging 70–80 attendees monthly until the pandemic forced it to shut down.
The pandemic would prove the next source of serious controversy, after Renn and Skaard announced intentions to host a meetup in April 2021. Despite the meetup being voluntary, masked, and outdoors, two other admins from the area, a nonbinary furry who goes by Scout Pawfoot and a trans woman who goes by Silverbeak (herself a longtime friend of Teskine), pulled the two into a chat group with other local meetup admins to press them to cancel their meetup. According to Renn, people in the group claimed they would be murdering people by hosting it, and called Renn and Skaard Nazis. When this didn’t work, Pawfoot publicly shamed them on Twitter. Renn and Skaard threatened a lawsuit in response. They successfully resumed their meetup, but the dispute deepened.
Things only got worse from there. According to Skaard, Pawfoot and Silverbeak took it upon themselves to act as community guards against him, telling other meetup hosts that he was a Nazi and should be banned when he expressed interest in attending their meets. One longtime participant in the meetups, Rose, corroborated this, telling me that anyone who met Renn and Skaard without knowing about the allegations against them would immediately be told Skaard was “a racist and a fascist and a Nazi without any context or evidence of what he did to get that title.” Rose, having met Silverbeak before she knew Renn or Skaard, heard those allegations and banned Skaard from her meetups, not wanting a Nazi fur in her group. Later, without realizing Skaard was hosting it, she attended the RBFM, where a third party convinced her to speak with Skaard and clear the air.
Per Rose’s account, in early 2023 she saw Silverbeak and Pawfoot discussing plans to create a document doxxing Skaard’s full legal name and address and spreading the allegations against him. Skaard responded, well, less than optimally, threatening legal action against Silverbeak and Scout Pawfoot in direct messages while using their names and addresses — in his telling, to make it crystal clear that he was prepared to respond in court to continued defamation.
Silverbeak declined to comment on anything connected to this story, while Pawfoot expressed reluctance to comment due to unspecified threats from Renn and Skaard, which she was not comfortable describing for legal reasons. My impression is that this threatened lawsuit was the key threat in question.
To tie up another loose end, this threat was also the final straw in Skaard’s relationship with his former intimate friend and meetup cohost Serah, who used to cohost RBFM with him and Renn. Their falling-out was ugly and deeply personal in both directions, with Serah (herself a trans woman) furious that Skaard “deadnamed” Silverbeak and showed her he had her home address, while Skaard lashed out with personal, cutting insults when the conversation took a turn for the worse. Serah would go on to become the most visible source for the Nazi allegations against Renn and Skaard after the beach confrontation.
All of that takes us, finally, to the fateful beach meetup, along with an annual barbecue a week before. Renn and Skaard had attended both meetups without issue last year, but in the interim, Pawfoot and Silverbeak had joined the admin teams for each. Renn said he and Skaard had no knowledge of having been banned from the barbecue and showed up before Pawfoot asked them to leave, calling park rangers (who, given that it was public property, declined to force them out). They spent a bit of time wandering and saying goodbye to their friends before heading off.
The next weekend, at the beach meetup itself, six years of tension boiled over. Renn and Skaard knew beforehand that Pawfoot and Silverbeak were involved in hosting the meetup this year, and while the two are quick to point out that they were in a public space at the time of the confrontation and claim they just wanted to spend time with their friends and let bygones be bygones, it’s hard to see how attending a meetup hosted in part by two people you have threatened legal action against could lead to anything but trouble. From there, it’s already a matter of public record: Fenrisulfr, who had never met the two before, asked them to leave, eventually screaming through a megaphone in Renn’s face. Renn filmed him during the confrontation, intending to use the footage in a documentary on the furry fandom. Soon enough, Fenrisulfr lashed out, striking Renn twice in the head with his megaphone.
As a result of the blows, Renn suffered a concussion, had half his eyebrow torn off, and continues to sustain lingering vision damage. Fenrisulfr, the assailant, was arrested and charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon, later reduced to misdemeanor.
How Partial Narratives Linger
Being credibly outside of a group is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I can make the observations I want, like “It is ludicrous and reprehensible to justify assaulting someone on the basis of his boyfriend having participated in edgy roleplay groups half a decade ago,” without worrying about losing social standing in the circles I care about. On the other hand, when I make those observations, I do so to an audience overwhelmingly primed to agree with me about that behavior. People who celebrate assaults like the above as “punching Nazis” don’t tend to read my articles often, and I certainly haven’t built sufficient trust with many of them such that they’re inclined to listen when I hope to persuade them.
What narrative, then, does that group trust? Patch O’Furr, who runs the furry news blog Dogpatch Press, wrote the most thorough presentation of their perspective, an article endorsed by both the assailant and Scout Pawfoot as the most accurate recounting of the story. Sources who refused to answer my own questions eagerly added their voices to O’Furr’s account. The article itself presents most of the same events as my own, but through a pinhole view, taking every allegation against Renn and Skaard as a given while neglecting to so much as reach out to either for comment. The two have ties to the Furry Raiders, the article claims, and have spent years pursuing harassment campaigns and issuing death threats. The assault was a simple act of justified community defense against known bad actors. “It was up to the community to handle their intrusion after police wouldn’t,” O’Furr wrote.
Setting aside the brazenness of celebrating assault while bemoaning the bad press the victim caused, the narrative is self-reinforcing and resistant to correction, as I learned when I reached out to the author with much of the above evidence. In response to my message, O’Furr dismissed Skaard’s yearslong public presentation of politics as paying “lip service to liberal values” and his protestations of not being affiliated with the Raiders, along with denials from the Raiders themselves, as the sort of lies that of course Nazis would pursue. Any acts against the two, having been marked as bad actors, become justified community defense: pushing to shut their meetups down, proactively warning anyone who they try to spend time around that they’re Nazis, even assaulting them, are all treated as noble if acknowledged at all. Any responses from the two, meanwhile, become yet more evidence of harassment against people just trying to keep their community safe.
Patch O’Furr highlighted this to me in messages by pointing to Skaard’s response to an article published on Dogpatch about “the fascist fringe of furry fans,” where Skaard protested that just because someone draws a character in a particular garb doesn’t mean they endorse the garb in question — an obvious reference to situations like drawing Nazi-tinged character art. “Dogpatch just hates, that’s all he does,” wrote Skaard.
“Calling reporting about Nazis ‘hate’ told on him,” O’Furr wrote to me — in other words, defending others from accusations of extremism only provides further evidence that Skaard is a Nazi.
It’s true, of course, that some Nazis would object to calling people Nazis. I don’t find it mysterious at all, though, that someone whose reputation was in the process of destruction by repeated accusations of being a Nazi based on a handful of ambiguous screenshots and a roleplay server from half a decade before would be a bit sensitive about others being called Nazis. Skaard was hardly alone in that objection, either — several who were initially accused of being Nazis in the article expressed their own frustration at the time, including one “Crassus,” who had been pegged as a Nazi sympathizer for, among other things, putting “floral shirt gang” in his Twitter bio (which the writer took to be a reference to the Hawaiian-shirt-loving “boogaloo boys”). While Crassus’s name and several others were silently edited out in later article drafts, the pattern is clear: calling people fascists is treated as a noble act, and there’s no need to apologize for false accusations. Objecting to the label, once someone is under suspicion, serves only as more fuel for the fire — that, after all, is the type of denial fascists are known for.
“Here’s how I judge deradicalized ex–Nazis,” Patch O’Furr told me. “Do they actively work to dismantle and undo the groups? Ok cool, they’re not Nazis. Do they stick up for the groups by passively aggressively treating them as poor victims, and treating anti-Nazis as the ones who made them bad? No pass for their past.”
Particularly given Renn’s and Skaard’s open distaste for the Raiders, I’m inclined to put it less charitably: if your community decides you’re a Nazi, the only way to shed the label is to jump eagerly on board whenever they call others Nazis. If you react instead with greater sympathy toward others you feel have been mislabeled, you only confirm people were right to call you a Nazi in the first place.
I came to this story expecting to find some sweeping political conflict, conservatives locked against leftists in all-out war. Early on in talking with the people involved, I began to think it was instead a case of innocent victims facing absurd overreactions. Now all I can see is a tragedy where at every point, all parties involved thought they were doing the right thing as the situation became worse and worse. It started as a petty dispute and by all rights should have remained that way, but it’s so easy to begin to see someone you dislike as a monster your community must be protected from.
To my eye, Skaard really did give Teskine, Pawfoot, Silverbeak, and eventually Serah ample reason to dislike him. Per his telling, he struggled socially growing up, and was no stranger to outbursts of anger and frustration. But a mere personality clash doesn’t carry the satisfaction or moral justification of a grand political struggle, and a few hints of that struggle were all it took for his reputation as a “Nazi” to be cemented in their minds. From there, he ceased to be a target of moral concern and became only a threat to protect their community from — not just at their own meetups, but wherever he tried to go, even when he hosted his own. He became increasingly miserable and scared in response to all of this — cast out from what is often a community of outcasts, treated as a threat in the first place he found a real sense of community, with people spreading dire rumors about him everywhere he went.
He escalated, as did they. Through it all, he and his boyfriend doggedly continued to participate in community events, even — looking at the present day — when prudence would have suggested another course. Finally, one who had heard all the rumors, caught up in visions of heroism, assaulted a man whose core crime was sticking up for the boyfriend his community preferred to condemn.
Why pay attention to any of this? Why spend weeks talking with every party involved in what is ultimately a petty dispute in a fringe community that has already been mostly forgotten with the news cycle?
I justified this at the start with my disgust at celebrations of political violence, and I really do think it’s worth sitting bolt upright and paying attention whenever people start calling for dehumanization and physical harm to their enemies. It creates an atmosphere of tension and fear, one where low-lying violence perpetually threatens to simmer into something more. The image of thousands cheering a man’s injury, of the assailant doing a victory lap as the name of the assaulted man is smeared across social media, remains seared into my mind.
More than that, though, the obscurity became its own justification. Little tragedies happen all the time and are forgotten by the broader world as quickly as they arise. Most of those stories never get told, or never get told in full. Much of the time, people who receive the full brunt of the internet’s fickle attention for a moment have communities to fall back on, sympathetic allies to absorb part of the blow. But when they don’t, they are left to pick up the pieces quietly on their own, with a pall of suspicion around them as even sympathetic members of their own communities stay quiet for fear of being dragged down with them.
In the end, I pursued this story for a simple reason: nobody else would. If people are to become outcasts among outcasts, to have their names and faces forever tied to allegations of behavior and beliefs so heinous they justify ostracization and physical assault, the least they deserve is someone willing to tell their story.