My Time with NearDramaHound aka Blum
Over the last year, I had the amazing opportunity to meet and grow close to Near, someone that I had admired for a very long time. Someone that had helped me when I needed help the most. A couple of days ago he took his own life due to the online harassment he received from the Kiwi Farms.
I first learned about Near when his bsnes emulator released in 2004. It had a focus on accuracy, and fixed a lot of the issues that plagued emulation at the time (like inaccurate sound). Getting these games from my childhood to run properly on my computer at helped me immerse myself in them and spend long hours playing dozens of favorites like Super Mario RPG and Super Castlevania 4. I struggled to enjoy emulators prior to this because I found that the inaccuracies would break immersion and ruin the experience for me. As it turned out, a distraction like this was sorely needed during my late teenage years when physical, mental, and sexual abuse was so frequent at home. I was also harassed online frequently starting in 2007 for being a member of the babyfur community. Having an escape like bsnes during that difficult time of my life, along with supportive Internet friends, helped me get through it and be here with you today. Without even knowing me at the time, Near did a lot to help me persist. I surely can't be the only one that he helped in this way by making these fun experiences so much more accessible to everyone.
I had always wanted to approach Near, but I never felt worthy. He has a mountain of accomplishments with code so complex that I'm fairly certain that I'd go insane even trying to understand it. And who am I, some college dropout that knows HTML, CSS and maybe a bit of incredibly dated Visual Basic? There's no way someone like that would give me the time of day, I thought. One other thought was that I hoped this man would one day fix Nintendo 64 emulation like he did with SNES emulation. I got busy and didn't think about Near again for several years as my life got better. And then, out of nowhere, I hear that he IS going to fix N64 emulation. It was all over the news about a year ago. I then realized he had a Twitter account like I did at the time. So I started sending him positivity and encouraged his new project. And he...actually started replying to me. I was confused but also very happy. Why was someone on his level giving me the time of day? As it turns out, he's a very nice person who's willing to talk to anyone who means well.
We started to DM. We had an uncanny connection personality-wise. It was almost instantaneous. It was like I was talking to a harder working, more successful version of myself. We understood each other so naturally and thought the same way to a bizarrely high degree. I then learned that he too is a furry and that we even shared some interests. We started talking every day, and I even brought him to my private Telegram chat where my friends and supporters had the opportunity to meet and hang out with him over the last year. He was often the life of the chat. Unfortunately, I can't share any memories from the chatroom as all posts are automatically deleted after 24 hours to protect user privacy.
As it turns out, Near had another reason for reaching out to me specifically. Like myself, he too has been a long-time victim of online bullying and abuse from the Kiwi Farms and similar circles. He read about me out of curiosity. He saw how people were decontextualizing a minor lying to me about their age to imply horrible things about me. He saw how I had spent two and a half years infiltrating, taking over, and ultimately shutting down the largest nazifur group to help the furry subculture, and how this caused Internet trolls (and grifters alike) to stalk and harass me even more. They said that it was all a lie without evidence and got some very large accounts to assert as much. They even got me fired from my job by harassing my former employer with lies. I think he saw a bit of himself in the treatment I had received. So in addition to both being furries that love video games, we also bonded over being victims of online abuse. Trying to do good things for people leads to a lot of negative attention on the Internet, and Near understood that better than most people.
It was a long-term goal of mine to get him to not care about what people said about him online. Unfortunately, despite these efforts he had a psychological condition that made it extremely difficult for him to ignore the online harassment no matter how much my friends and I tried to help him adopt a better mentality on the issue. Ultimately, it was not his fault that he had this condition and there was nothing any of us could do for him to stop this from happening. That said, I am very grateful for the opportunity I had to give him a positive, comfortable place for him to vent and express himself during the last year of his life. Ultimately, the Kiwi Farms is responsible for this.
The Kiwi Farms is indicative of a larger Internet issue where legitimate accountability is often tainted with exterior motives such as grifting, revenge, or simply a desire to bully others for being different. For every thread about someone who tortured animals to death for fun, there is another going "lol look at this ugly trans person" or "lol look at how autistic this furry is". It's a disturbing miasma of justice and prejudice that is taken far too seriously by far too many well-meaning people. The thing about the Kiwi Farms is that literally anyone can post there. While this means that quality legitimate info can wind up there, so too do uncharitable interpretations of events by people with an axe to grind, which are then defended to the teeth by everyone else because it's "funny" when some random decent person gets called a child molester.
There's also the issue of private information also being so prevalent on the site. Posting someone's First Last is incredibly common there, and it shows up on Google which can make employment extremely difficult, even for lower-end jobs. Efforts are made to ensure these uncharitable takes about people rank as highly as possible in search results. The owner of the Kiwi Farms claims that the site is simply a gossip forum where people shitpost, but if this were true he wouldn't put so much effort into SEO. No, the Kiwi Farms wants normal people to legitimately believe what's on their pages. Because the owner wants a kill count.
After the whole nazifur subversion project, I started the DramaHound YouTube channel. I understand that it's really not to a lot of people's tastes. I'm falsely called many things because of that channel, but Near believed in what I'm doing. The goal of the channel is (and has always been) to get furries that browse Animal Control (the furry section of the Kiwi Farms) to stop using a website that hates them. To stop using a website that bullies and harasses innocent people for being weird.
Near understood my pitch that furries need a source of entertaining drama that doesn't spread misinformation to bully people or share private details like someone's First Last; that the lack of such a thing is driving furries towards Animal Control to get their fix, which leads to mountains of bad faith being taken seriously by well-meaning people. Near wanted me to succeed because it means getting more of us furries to stop looking at that site. It means teaching and encouraging us to be more objective and skeptical when looking at online callouts. It means that legitimate bad actors are the ones that get the heat. It means, ultimately, a reduction in harm from websites like the Kiwi Farms.
I wish I could've done more to make him feel safe, but I understand that this isn't my fault. All the same, I feel an immense burden to do what he wanted, which is to lead drama culture within furry in a more positive direction. One that doesn't fuck with people's private lives. One that doesn't go after people for being LGBTQ et al. I truly hope you are in a better place now, Near. I will do my best.