The News This Week: Furries, Nazis, And #MeToo

Chris Savino's Nickelodeon reckoning, the neo-Nazi problem on Disqus, Kim Kardashian's visit to President Trump, and more.

In this week's episode:

* VP of News and Programming Shani Hilton talks to reporter Ariane Lange about how the women in the Animation Guild held Chris Savino accountable after he lost his job for sexual misconduct.

* Tech reporters Katie Notopoulos and Charlie Warzel talk about free speech vs. hate speech on the internet, and the Nazi problem on both Disqus and Fur Affinity.

* Justice reporter Dominic Holden explains what is happening with Jeff Sessions' case against sanctuary cities.

* Deputy world editor Hayes Brown talks us out of our frenzy over Kim Kardashian West's visit to the White House.

* Jane Lytvynenko quizzes host Julia Furlan on the week's fake headlines.

Listen to this week’s episode:

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The Lede - 00:51

Julia Furlan: When members of the Animator's Guild found out that the prominent animator Chris Savino had been fired for sexual misconduct, they wanted to make sure it would never happen again. In Aptil, 11 artists and animators read statements at a hearing saying that he leveraged his status in the industry to sexually harrass women for nearly 14 years.

TAPE: I suspected I was one of the only people. And you don't talk about this stuff in animation.

JF: That hearing led the guild to impose a series of additional punishments on Savino. The guild also sent a letter to all of its studios explaining that Savino had been suspended, which means there's a paper trail.

Entertainment reporter Ariane Lange has been following these women who are hoping that their story can serve as a blue print for the future of the #metoo movement.

This is The Lede, with Shani Hilton.

Shani Hilton: In April of this year, a group of 11 women in animation stood up at a hearing to tell their stories about being harassed by Chris Savino. There was a real familiarity in their stories in terms of some women having experiences, some women hearing about them, all of them sort of having a chilling effect on these women and their jobs. Very common across the board in terms of #metoo stories over the last you know since October.

Ariane Lange: Yeah

SH: What I thought was really fascinating was the way that they took this man's career into their hands in a way that was only made possible by some weird side bylaw by the guild's constitution, right?

AL: Yeah it was a weird bylaw and it clearly wasn't written with sexual harassment in mind, it was a section about disloyalty. And we know that it wasn't written with sexual harassment in mind because until relatively recently, all of the pronouns in the constitution and bylaws were male pronouns. They had to change them recently. So it was a pretty inventive use of their own internal rules. But they thought that it applied to them, and the guild agreed ultimately.

SH: And so you talked to other guilds and unions about this because obviously this is not the only guild with this situation happening, but didn't find that other groups were doing the same thing.

AL: Yeah so they were a little cagey when they responded to me. But I think in general because unions likely reperesent both teh allged harasser and the person saying they've been harassed, they're in a little bit of a tricky situation, becuse they have a duty to protect both of those parties. But that also leads to unions potentially passing the buck to the employter and the animation guild really didn't do that.

SH: Has Savino said anything?

AL: He hasn't really spoken publicly aside from an apology he posted on Facebook shortly after he was fired.

SH: One think that this really underscores is that we know that there are different types of behavior that we've seen expressed during the #metoo movement. There's truly criminal behavior. Then there are things that are lower level but still fireable, and then there's inappropriate behavior that has an effect on you know direct reports and colleagues, but isn't exactly defined as criminal. And even if you were a victim of it, or saw it happening, it still doesn't seem like it rises to the level of "this person should be thrown out of the industry, thrown out of their job," etc.

AL: Yeah I thought that was what was really interesting about the people who testified at the hearing because six of them did not say that they were sexually harassed by Savino. And one of them in particular, Aminder Dhaliwal, talked about how she wasn't harassed by Savino but she felt sort of traumatized by learning that her friends had been harassed by him and what that said about the industry and what that said about solidarity among women sort of, and it was just really hard for her to watch her friends and colleagues break down after she learned that they had these stories in the wake of #metoo.

SH: This is all in really direct contrast to the case of John Lasseter, the Chief Creative Officer of Pixar, who has been on a six month sabbatical that I think recently ended, but he still has not appeared in public. In fact he was missing at The Incredibles 2 premiere recently, and Lasseter admitted to some things, but there was never a transparent or clear process, or even real clarity as to what was going on.

AL: Yeah that's exactly right. And what you see with the Lasseter case is the potential pitfalls of leaving these punishments entirely up to an employer.

SH: So as we've seen repeatedly, we hear a #metoo story, or several, around one guy in the workplace, and he either gets fired or suspended or disappears or nothing happens. People react, and then we all move on. This resolution feels cleaner and clearer, but the question is like, will this set a precedent for other industries and other organizations?

AL: It's unclear whether this will set a precedent for other industries, but they think that they can be an example for women and other unions and other guilds and yeah. That's what they were hoping. That's part of the reason why they wanted to talk about it publicly.

JF: That was The Lede, with Shani Hilton.

You know who that is, that's our friend JoJo. Whenever you hear that cute little beep beep boop it means that JoJo is here to help you find a story that we're talking about. So here's how it works:

Step one: open your messaging app on your cell phone.

Step two: type in JoJo's number, which is (929) 236-9577.

Step three: text JoJo the word that we give you. They will text the story that we're talking about.

If you want to read Ariane Lange's piece on how the animation guild is dealing with #metoo, text JoJo the word "animate" right now and it'll magically appear on your phone so you can read it when you're done with this episode.

Search History - 07:19

JF: If you've ever looked at a news article or commented on it, you've probably seen Disqus. That's "discuss" with a q. It's the internet's most popular commenting platform that gives you one log in to comment on thousands and thousands of websites like TMZ or Breitbart or Rolling Stone. So, because this is the internet, it turns out the platform is being exploited by white supremacists who are coordinating attacks on the comment sections and flooding them with vile, hateful content. And while Disqus has a hate speech policy, they aren't really enforcing it. This week on Search History, Katie Notopoulos talks to tech reporter Charlie Warzel about how these neo-Nazi trolls are campaigning in the comments.

Katie Notopoulos: So all these things where we assume it's a ton of awful people, it's not! It's actually a small group that is really coordinated.

Charlie Warzel: Yeah I think--I mean that's exactly what it is. One user that we found who's an alt-right guy who goes by the name The Dank One, he creates sock puppets accounts, and floods Breibart articles with pro-white propaganda essentially. And he feels that by doing that he's converting users potentially. Or at least subjecting them to those viewpoints, and then they become potentially sympathetic to that. And so I think that's why it's a big deal. It's because it's really a place where information warfare is going on.

KN: Do you think that a bunch of internet comments are enough to actually change someone's mind?

CW: I think that's a really good question that--it's really hard to know what an effective influence campaign is on the internet. Yeah I don't think we understand yet how big these communities are and how influential their tactics are. Everyone has a right to be heard, but you also don't have a right to create these fake amplification campaigns that really suppress the speech of other people.

KN: So I recently had learned of this really popular website for furries, people who dress up like animals, called FurAffinity, it's like a social network for furries, it has recently changed its rules: you're not allowed to promote being part of the alt-right on the platform anymore. And this has caused huge waves and ripples in the furry community. You know I think that the people who identify as both alt-right and furries are a small venn diagram, but I would also say, not that small! So, we know that a blog that covers the furry community had sort of unmasked two of the people who were involved in the Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally, as furries. It identified them from photographs appearing in the crowds, one of them you know holding the tiki torches. So there is this bleed over from these online actinos into you know something as horrifying as the violence that happened in Charlottesville. So I actually talked to that furry blogger who runs the site called Dog Patch Press. His name is Patch O'Fur, that's his furry name which he prefers to go by.

Patch O'Fur: Now, Fur Affinity, they took action because their corporate owner IMVU took notice. There was a wave of public protest by furries, and in an instant the alt-furries, they went from brown-nosing the site manager, a guy called Dragoneer, to threatening his family, digging up personal info to harass him...

KN: For the Furry community you know it's hitting all those notes of 'people are mad about... well, sure you're saying you're banning Neo-Nazis, but what about people who are just conservatives? You're stifling anyone who doesn't have the same liberal viewpoint as the guy who runs the website.'

POF: That's exactly what they're doing. That's their main tactic. It's the paradox of tolerance; if you tolerate anything, if you tolerate the thing that destroys tolerance, you know... you have to set a limit at some point.

KN: Over and over we're seeing these different groups--whether it's the people who are bombarding Breitbart, or the people on Fur Affinity who have these really extremist far right messages--crying "free speech!" It's tough, I don't know.

CW: Yeah I mean, so I think there's a bunch of issues here. You know you mentioned the furries being, or the people in Charlottesville being unmasked as furries, and there's a lot of issues there with like revealing identities of people and a lot of controversy there, but I think more what it speaks to is this idea that I always kind of harp on covering this stuff, which is that the internet is real life. It's not outrageous, like behind most weird online fringe communities are actual people sitting at computers. And so even when things seem ridiculous or weird, you like kind of have to take them seriously now, because there are real people with good and bad intentions sort of behind every chat room or like weird egg twitter account.

KN: Charlie Warzel, thank you as always.

CW: Thanks for having me!

JF: That was Katie Notopoulos and Charlie Warzel. Charlie has a great newsletter about all the dark parts of the internet called--wait for it--InfoWarzel. Text JoJo the word "Charlie," C-H-A-R-L-I-E, to get a sign up link.

What Did I Miss? - 12:52

JF: This week was a big win for Attorney General Jeff Sessions. A circuit court announced it would re-hear a case of his, about sanctuary cities that he's been trying to push through for months. But I'm going to admit something... I have a hard time figuring out how the legal justice system of the U.S. functions... Even though I know it's really important. And with the news moving as quickly as it does, it's just really easy to get distracted. Which is why Justice Reporter Dominic Holden is here to bring us, What Did I Miss?: What's happening in the Justice Department when we are not paying attention.

Dom, what is Jeff Sessions trying to do?

Dominic Holden: He announced last year that he was going to refuse to provide the country's number one crime fighting grant, called the Byrne JAG Grant, to any jurisdiction that didn't cooperate with their anti-sanctuary city policies.

JF: And a sanctuary city, by the way, is a city that's trying to provide safe harbor for undocumented immigrants.

DH: Right. They have some sort of policies that say they're not going to go out of their way to assist in federal deportation efforts, because they argue that it actually keeps those communities safer. So, sessions was sued! And he has been losing in court up until now. And then you have an opportunity to petition for what's called an en banc re-hearing. And that's the whole bench of judges for that appeals court.

JF: So basically the has a hail Mary chance to try and push this through, and that's what Jeff Sessions is doing.

DH: Absolutely. And so right now he still hasn't handed out the money, and all of these police departments are waiting on the money, all across the country.

JF: But okay, Sessions's whole deal is supporting the police; he talks about it constantly!

Jeff Sessions: To apprehend and bring violent criminals to justice.

The policy of this executive branch is to reduce crime in America.

Your areas tend to have higher than average rates of violent crime, aggravated assault, and especially, robbery.

DH: Absolutely. Like that's his brand, and not only does he want to fight crime and violent crime and support local police, he really wants to crack down on drugs. But he cares more about punishing sanctuary cities than he does about handing out these policing grants, apparently! But here's the irony of it: the cities and states and counties that are being hurt the most by all of this are the little ones. The rural ones, the conservative ones, the drug task forces... The actual sanctuary jurisdictions? A lot of them are big cities like Chicago or San Francisco or King County with Seattle, Washington; they have rainy day funds. So many of the people who are being punished the most are the people who don't have a sanctuary policy, whose crime fighting agenda lines up with Sessions's, and so he's oddly undermining his own agenda. A win in this case would be huge for the Trump administration. Trump came in saying he was going to crack down on illegal immigration, and Jeff Sessions, you know he's like a little bristling with Jeff Sessions over the Russia probe, but Sessions also is really opposed to undocumented immigrants in the country. And here's the thing though: the federal government, even as big as it is, can't control what local law enforcement does. They can't force them to carry out certain laws. But, by essentially having this huge pot of money that police departments rely on, and threatening to not give it to them, the administration and Jeff Sessions is able to coerce them into carrying out the government's agenda. So if they win here, you essentially have the federal government--through creative mechanisms--getting local cops to do their bidding.

JF: That was civil rights and justice reporter Dominic Holden. If you want to read his coverage of the Justice Department for yourself, just text JoJo the word "justice." Again, their number is (929) 236-9577.

Calm Down with Hayes Brown - 16:24

JF: She sells fit tea, she runs a reality TV empire, and several businesses, but is Kim Kardashian West dabbling in prison reform? Hayes Brown is here to help us all calm down about her recent visit to the White House.

Hayes Brown: Hey everyone. It's time for another edition of Calm Down With Hayes Brown. So, crank up that AC (if ya got one), pour yourself a chill drink, and let's all just calm down.

So this week, we're talking about everyone's favorite topic: mass incarceration and criminal justice reform! By which I mean, Miss Kimberly Kardashian West. As you've probably heard, last week Kim Kardashian West met with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office to advocate for the commuting of the sentence of Miss Alice Johnson, who has been in jail for a non-violent drug offense. Kim first saw Johnson's story when a Mic video floated across her twitter timeline last October. It sunk into Kim's heart, and she decided: this is her thing.


Kim Kardashian: When I looked deeper into Alice's case, I got my personal attorney on it, Shaun Chapman, and we're on a mission now. We want to do anything that we can to get her story out there.

HB: She started tweeting about it, advocating about criminal justice reform, and Johnson's case specifically, and last week, she managed to get time in front of President Donald Trump in the Oval Office. As soon as the meeting happened, people began to say, "what, why is Kimberly Kardashian taking up this cause? Why is Trump listening to her? Is he going to the Kardashians for all of his legal advice now? Attorney General Kimberly Kardashian! What is this world?" Well to them, I say "let's all calm down for a second."

Johnson's case has come before the Department of Justice numerous times over the years. And each time it hasn't made it up to the Oval Office because they thought, "this does not warrant a presidential pardon or commutation." This time, Kim saw her opportunity and she took it. She knew that she could get in front of Trump and make her case, and she did exactly what we have been begging celebrities to do--possibly since the invention of celebrity--which is use your privilege for good. Over the years, Kim and the rest of the Kardashian-Jenner clan have gotten a lot of grief for kind of profiting off of the black experience while not actually giving much back to the community, or helping lift anyone up. Now, let it never be said that Kimberly Noel Kardashian West is a perfect human or the perfect ally. But in this case, she did the best she could do, and I hope that in her position, we would all do the same.

We'll see what Kim winds up doing next with her newfound sense of social justice. But until then, I think we can all just take a deep breath, and calm down.

JF: That was Calm Down With Hayes Brown, who is somebody we always like to encourage on this show.

TAPE: you're doing amazing sweetie.

If you're thinking to yourself, "I definitely want to know about these people and the corners of the internet they explore on a regular basis," text JoJo the word "whomst." That's W-H-O-M-S-T, and once you do JoJo will send you a list of everyone who appeared in this week's episode. Again, JoJo's number is (929) 236-9577.

Fake News You Can Use - 19:53

JF: Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today because the internet is a trash fire and we cannot escape it. Fake News You Can Use is where our Fake News Debunker-In-Chief Jane Lytvynenko helps us figure out what's real, what's fake, and what you can do about it.

Jane Lytvynenko, you have a headache. Is it because you've been inhaling fake news?

Jane Lytvynenko: Inhaling, yeah I've been snorting fake news on my days off.

JF: Mainlining that shit

JL: Yeah, yeah. Got a real fake news IV here.

JF: So Jane, what have you got for us this week? How are you educating the people this week?

JL: Alright so as usual we have a quiz. So my first question for you this week is about he family of the Stoneman Douglas student David Hogg. The family got swatted at their home. And swatting of course is when somebody calls literally a swat team to your house. And people have died this way, so this is a dangerous action that a lot of internet trolls default to. So, do you think that's real or fake?

JF: I'm going to say that I think this is real because David Hogg has been the target of so much hate and so much vitriol online, it doesn't seem too far off field that his family would be the target of a swatting incident.

JL: So you're correct! It is real. Unfortunately. There was no incidence; the family I believe wasn't home, but David Hogg has been the target of a lot of misinformation, fake news, and like you said vitriol. So this is just.. it just keeps spilling over.

JF: It's creepy, and sad, and punishing, and difficult, and I feel bad for David Hogg. It must be hard.

JL: Yeah absolutely.

JF: So what's next.

JL: Alright so here's a fun one. After getting kicked out, a concert goer swam a lake to get into a Slayer show. Is that real or fake?

JF: Okay so I'm going to say that this sounds real because I feel like Slayer is like metal and heavy and da-ra-ra-ra-ra, and there's like kind of nothing more metal than getting kicked out of somewhere, and like insisting, and then doing a big physical act of exertion to get back into the Slayer show. I'm going to say it is real.

JL: You are correct!

JF: Whoa!

JL: The gentleman got kicked out for moshing, which is a thing I guess they don't allow you to do nowadays but back when I was a teen you could mosh your heart out.

JF: Okay!

JL: So he got kicked out, and he was so heartbroken that he literally swam to the venue through Lake Ontario to get back into the concert. Unfortunately he got kicked out again.

JF: But like at the very least you deserve to see the show that you swam across the lake to see.

JL: I agree!

JF: So what do we have next.

JL: So this is a Fox News screenshot. It's the host and to the right of the host is two players kneeling, and on the little text at the bottom there it says, "no fly zone: Philadelphia Eagles won't attend White House ceremony.' Is it real or fake that these players are kneeling during the anthem in protest?

JF: I feel like it's real? Real. Yes, I think it's real.

JL: Okay it's fake.

JF: What, really!? I was doing so well!

JL: I'm sorry! You got one wrong this week. So this is Philadelphia Eagles players kneeling, but they were praying, not kneeling in protest. So, the interesting part about this is that the Philadelphia Eagles have never actually protested the anthem by kneeling, but that is the reason they were disinvited from the White House; under the guise that they have protested the anthem like some other players have. And Fox News used this photo, essentially mischaracterizing it, lying about it, saying that it was them kneeling in protest. There was an outcry, and they've since had to release a statement apologizing for that entire segment.

JF: So technically it's fake news, but it was propagated not by one of these dubious sites, but by Fox News?

JL: Yeah.

JF: So, in the swamp of fake news, Jane what is your top for us this week?

JL: My tip this week is how to do an advanced Twitter search. So a lot of tweets do get faked, and there's a really quick way to check if someone's tweeted something or not. Essentially, in your little Twitter search bar which should be at the top right, just type in "from" colon, and then put the username you're interested in under. So for example if you wanted to search my tweets, you just put "jane l-y-t-v," some self-promotion here. Or if you wanted to search I don't know White House tweets, you could just put "whitehouse." And then just include a couple key words. So say somebody faked a tweet about fake news, you would just put in "fake news." Or somebody faked a tweet about Samuel L. Jackson dying, so just put "Samuel L. Jackson" and see if anything comes up. Of course it's still possible that somebody deleted their tweet, but that's sort of one of the best ways to go through somebody;'s timeline in a succinct manner and figure out if they have tweeted something, if the voice in the screenshot that you're seeing matches the voice on their twitter, and sort of judge for yourself if what you're looking at is a fake or not.

JF: Okay, I appreciate you. Thank you so much, Jane!

JL: I hope it helps!

JF: That was the Internet's favorite truth-finder, Jane Lytvynenko. If you want to try out Jane's fake news quiz for yourself, just text JoJo the word "quiz." Again, their number is (929) 236-9577. Good luck!

This episode was produced by the PodSquad! That's Megan Detrie, Alex Laughlin, Camila Salazar, and me, Julia Furlan. Our boss is Cindy Vanegas-Gesuale, and our music is by Chad Crouch. Thanks to Vocal Fry Studios for engineering our taping with Jane.

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