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Autistic Research Paper on Why The Brony Phenomenon Exists

CharlesBarkleyTulpa Jan 19th, 2015 (edited) 9,309 Never
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  1. My Autistic Research Paper on Why The Brony Phenomenon (and Obsession) Exists
  2. (for those who can’t understand the appeal)
  4. Keep in mind this is made for people who are familiar with 4chan culture, it is not supposed to be a college essay nor should it be.
  5. Video version:
  6. https://youtu.be/2fuy6DXg7bA
  8. 2010
  9. >The /co/ board of 4chan is dedicated to enjoying western comics and cartoons, and the people of /co/ obsesses over them.
  10. >They watched the show and were excited for it for a number of reasons.
  11. >In the late 2000's, /co/ was having a dry spell. Not many new or good cartoons came out around that time, and people were excited for anything new or good. This might not have been the case if MLP came out today, where there are a lot of good cartoons for /co/ to obsess over.
  12. >MLP was created by a team in part responsible for their own fond childhood memories (Faust and her husband worked on PowerPuff Girls and Dexter's Lab, not to mention members of Faust's team worked on Samurai Jack).
  13. >The older generations of MLP gave people lower expectations for the show and people expected it to be bad and overly girly, thus making this generation look much better by comparison. It was girl's show, a my little pony show, that wasn't exactly like the ones before. /co/ watched the first few episodes with the intent to riff it and it simply ended up better than expected. Expecting something to be bad and then finding it to be good can make it seem a lot better than it actually is.
  14. >And they made good reaction images. Reaction images are important to 4chan culture.
  15. >show turns out ok, a general is created and most of /co/ likes to watch MLP (most of /co/ still does like MLP, however claiming to like it gets you labeled)
  16. >The MLP thread on /co/ was already one of the biggest by December 2010. At the time, only Homestuck had consistent general threads before then. There were between 6 and 7 pony threads per day, racking up to 10/15 on new episode day.
  17. >It is normal for /co/ to enjoy children's cartoons like this, but it gained attention from /b/ for reasons you might expect, little girl show, age and gender roles, etc.
  20. 2011
  21. >Keep in mind that 4chan is anti-furry and some considered it to be furry. April Furs Day was an event on April 1st 2005 when a new board was created for furry content, and two days later anyone who posted there was banned. This goes back even further to 2003 when a subforum on Something Awful was created called the "furry concentration camp" where posters were labeled with a yellow star with "yiff" on it, and they were eventually banned, this event being known as the "Lolocaust".
  22. >Some people think the fandom started off ‘ironically’, as a joke. That is not exactly true. /co/ was sincere in liking the show, but /b/ was another story.
  23. >A group of people had a general thread on /b/ to talk about ponies so as to not bother with /co/, who were getting pissed with the many pony threads. They would have a new thread to replace the previous thread that died, so one thread would always be present on the board, irritating the locals, much like /s/fur (straight furry porn) and /g/fur (gay furry porn) threads that are still on /b/ today (although you have to download a browser extension to see their names on /b/ now). 4chan is all about anonymity, so people using avatars and tripcodes to better know each other pissed /b/tards off. The /b/ threads, or /b/reads, were known for being very kind and open, being more of a chatroom to talk about nothing in particular. These environments are described as ‘circlejerks’ and ‘full of avatarfags’. These images come from /b/ronies at the time and may help to explain why people got into the /b/ community. i.imgur.com/lMK5o1p.png i.imgur.com/5fKumBC.jpg i.imgur.com/3fGmvms.jpg
  24. >Some /b/tards, know how angry it makes the rest of /b/, and decided to use ponies as troll ammo, for the purpose of creating disorder and making people angry, for humor’s sake. Flamebait. Whether or not they enjoyed the show, they would still enjoy watching ‘retards’ fight over something like ponies. Also, it's worth pointing out that 4chan was less self deprecating back then, and the thought of a little girls show being popular here was something a lot of people took issue with. Back then you didn't need to put effort into trolls, posting ponies was enough. It was fun to be overly nice and always reference a girly show, and then see the angry reactions of other people. 4channers were desensitized to gore and gore raids, and raiding/trolling with ponies was more effective then doing so with gore.
  25. >While the label ‘brony’ can be interpreted as bro + pony, it was used to identify the trolls on /b/ in 2011, and meant to represent /b/ + pony (or /b/ + bro + pony).
  26. >A majority of the fans that stayed on /co/ were calm headed and wouldn’t force the show onto others, and didn’t identify as /b/rony (some prefer /co/lts).
  27. >The fans on /b/ were by nature toxic and ‘cancerous’, forcing themselves onto any thread on /b/ to cause as much chaos as possible. The term /b/rony was (originally) used to refer to fans who forced ponies onto others, like the ones on /b/. By nature, a /b/rony would annoy and shitpost for fun’s sake.
  28. >"Love and tolerate" for example is never uttered in the show. It was used by /co/ to mock people who shitposted the general, then used by /b/ for the same reason (though much more often).
  29. >MLP becomes one of the biggest memes in 4chan history and shit posting becomes rampant. People start to get annoyed seeing colorful horses ALL OVER the site. Any sign of pone would derail a thread, whether it be a trolling shitposting /b/rony, a non-shitposter who enjoyed the show, or just use of a reaction image. It was a more effective raid tactic than spamming gore.
  31. >Massive backlash has started and mods (ab)use their power to ban it from the site, driven to quarantine it to a general on /co/. The original "one thread rule" was added on /co/ in feb 2011 (which /co/ was already doing for practical reasons). A lot of /co/ artists (which were the only ones they had, and so they were superstars) were banned for a week, because the mods thought /co/ was sending the /b/ronies.
  32. >The conflict between mods and the show's growing fanbase attracted attention and sparked up debates across multiple boards. Ponies quickly became a tool for trolling mods and those in the opposing camps, and needless to say, it all became a complete clusterfuck. Many remember a time when you could not get away from My Little Pony if you visited 4chan at all.
  33. >Occasionally, 4chan staff would pop in and delete the general thread, which caused chaos. The result was that countless new threads would pop up and almost the entire front page of /co/ would be attempts to recreate "MLP General", and the 4chan staff would go on banning the new threads. This caused various forms of rebellion - sometimes the general thread would be completely relocated to a different 4chan board where mods didn't seem to be as active. There the new general would stay, irritating the locals, until the mods left and the people were allowed to reorganize again. Poor moderation choices are a big part to blame for ponies becoming popular.
  35. >For a more in depth analysis into the 4chan origin of bronies, go here. http://gyropedia.wikia.com/wiki/Brony
  37. >Eventually, 4chan made Global Rule 15, the most heavily enforced rule on 4chan, that banned ponies from being posted anywhere other than the /mlp/ board, which was created in feb 2012.
  39. >One important actor is the website Know Your Meme. /b/ created the KYM webpage on feb 6 2011. The page was created on the same day that this happened on /b/. http://i.imgur.com/dhvJ5TN.png It was the start of the February s/b/reading, where the cancerous nature of /b/ had people bringing pony onto the rest of the internet.
  40. >/b/ used it as their personal gallery after the start of the February s/b/reading. They FILLED its gallery page with every single reaction pic they could find back then, and that is why today the gallery has over 200,000 images. The KYM image gallery has over 900,000 images today, so almost a quarter of the site is made up of images from one page, the MLP:FiM page.
  41. >The result was that it made "MLP:FIM" "trending" for an entire year. That means it always appeared on the top bar as trending meme for that year, although /b/ didn’t purposely want to do this. Memebase even made a spin-off site, My Little Brony, to hold all of KYM's content of MLP in July 2011, just 5 months after the page was created.
  43. >Because of the large audience /b/ brought, the mlp generals on /co/ have the largest threads and contain the basis for a lot of the culture.
  44. >Other /b/ronies move to sites like ponychan, and begin spreading to deviantart and youtube, where it reaches a more popular,  ‘counterculture’ stage of development.
  45. >The cancerous nature of the ‘bronies’ spread into other internet forums, shitposting and creating chaos on a larger and less ‘4chan’ environment.
  46. >It made the mainstream internet more ‘sympathetic’ for the ‘brony’ cause. Normal people would defend liking MLP for your average “nothing wrong with breaking gender roles” shit that the liberal media eats up.
  47. >Since, well, it is a kids show, ponies became popular with children and younger audiences, who took the term ‘brony’ for themselves. As a result, the term ‘brony’ was no longer associated with 4chan, and a lot of the adult connotations of the fandom were forgotten.
  48. >Over 70% of self-identified ‘bronies’ today are under 20 years old, and most of them are teens. People may see the stereotypical brony as 30 years old and embarrassingly socially inept, but a more accurate representation of the average brony might be a 13 year old boy in the youtube comment section. Of course, the image of a 30 year old stands out more, and may be seen as more ridiculous and ‘wrong’ by social standards.
  50. 2012
  51. >In February, the board /mlp/ was created on 4chan to host all pony content.
  52. >By the time the mainstream, child friendly ‘bronies’ were reaching cable media awareness, the first Bronycon was being made. The fandom was seen by the media as older men, and were deemed as manchildren or sexual deviants, using the adult culture to raise unrealistic stereotypes about anyone who enjoyed the show.
  53. >The anti-bronies were everywhere, trying to ‘stop the cancer from spreading into other internet forums’ (not that I would blame them)
  54. >Howard Stern used Bronycon to make all bronies look like sexual deviants that were ‘wrong’, and as a result, John De Lancie (popular voice actor from the show) decided make a documentary to defend the ‘bronies’ (and to make some extra cash, as the film was funded by bronies).
  55. >By then the bronies were known by everyone, and the rest is history.
  57. Reasons for people joining into the brony phenomenon:
  59. >For a lot of people, the community itself is what makes people become fans, not the actual show. Since the community is always under fire, it makes them collect together into a very caring and accepting community. A hugbox. The optimistic hugbox community is appealing to children, as well as those who are socially inept and depressed. The ‘feel good’ nature can do wonders to those who may not be doing so well in life. It is a community that will accept anyone and support them, be a home for those that don't identify with a community.
  61. >For kids and teenagers, it can be a preoccupation for those who never belonged to any community, so they latch on to this one. That's why they are so zealous about it - they've never belonged to anything. Children who have never played video games before will have minecraft, sonic or pokémon, which all have a community to connect to. Since they have never been apart of a community before, they take the feeling brotherly love seriously and latch onto it. It is a very new development that only applies to this new internet generation.
  63. >People who want attention for their work would jump on the bandwagon and make art or music for fans of the show, allowing their work to become popular that wouldn't on its own. Even Digibro, the guy who created “MLP Analysts”, said he started so that he could gain an audience for his work on analyzing anime, which is what his work is made up of now.
  65. >The cute ponies have been described as ‘western moe’. Moe is the japanese character trait of cuteness exemplified by purity, innocence and cuteness. Some elements may also include submission, humility, selflessness, self-sacrifice and dependence. Anime influences also are clear in the composition of the show, such as the design of the eyes of the characters, the neotenous facial construction of the Ponies, and typical anime character stereotypes. Cuteness is an evolutionary survival mechanism to make features of younger humans and animals aesthetically pleasing so that people will feel a need to protect them. These "cute" features include heads disproportionately larger than the rest of the body, the neotenous facial construction with large eyes and small noses, etc
  66. >In the same way the anime community loves cute girls, and people would look at cute cat videos online that became viral, people like to look at cute ponies for the sake of them being cute.
  68. >The comparisons to Pokémon and Sonic can be seen. They have a unique aesthetic and atmosphere that makes it stand out from other media and are easily recognizable, allowing it to evoke a unique emotional response when compared to generic or otherwise unmemorable media and art. A loop with a checkered pattern can be recognized as part of a sonic level and its aesthetic, a Poké Ball can be recognized as part of Pokémon's design and aesthetic. Pokémon and Sonic also share with MLP a large amount of anthropomorphic creatures that allows people to easily create ‘OC’s and the fun colorful environment can help produce creativity in the more ‘autistic’ young kids. The fun fantasy elements to these universes fuel escapism, projection and the ‘self-insert fanfiction’.
  70. >Anthropomorphism. This is universal and has been known as the most successful means of generating many character crosslinks for ages. Disney did it and continues to do it. Dreamworks does it. Nearly all the animation greats engage in it. Not only does it give them fun characteristics to work with (such as tailswats and the use of the mouth as a grabbing tool in slapstick or situational humor, secondary animations (mane movements, tailwags, etc.) but it creates direct behavior associations in humans. See, we have animalian "emotions" keyed to our mental understandings. We all all know what a tailwagging dog means or a bristling cat or "shivering" with the head lowered. These come to us normally and are far more overt examples of emotional conveyance than the incredibly subtle ones human characters use (unless characters are Super-Deformed, which exaggerates their emotions). Finally, it eliminates the problem of the Uncanny Valley. As it turns out, we don't like things that appear human without appearing 100% human. The phenomenon of the uncanny valley makes pseudo-humanity unappealing to us and forces us to distrust it. Those lanky, evil marioniette-looking things you see in every horror movie are exploiting this. Simply, getting 100% away from human LOOKS while keeping human APPEAL/EMOTIONS is the surefire way to have a character design be successful. The West's answer to this is anthropomorphic animals as characters.
  72. >People who do not have a "constant" in their lives feel the need to connect to something, to go to that and separate themselves from the disorder of their lives. They can be attracted to "uncertainty" (what is the appeal? How does this apply?) and this leads to obsession. This is why sonic fans obsess over all the incarnations of sonic stories over the many versions of his world across unconnected games, shows and comics, trying to connect it all in a non-existent continuity. Quote:
  73. [>You were looking for validation. You probably didn't (and possibly still don't) have much going on in your life and so “le cool sekrit underground 4chan” was your way of feeling superior. You derived your self-worth from this godforsaken shithole and the shitty results thereof manifested into that attention-whoring behavior. - Anon]
  75. >A counterculture aspect to it makes people want to rebel against social norms, as well as armchair activism. People can think they are somehow fighting for an oppressed minority, as well as fighting the oppressive age and gender roles. People can feel like they are brave and special for admitting their love to the show in public. Quote:
  76. [>You loved it in the beginning. The thrill, the exotic novelty, the pleasure, you couldn't get enough of it; fuck the haters, the normalfags, the moralfags, the culture. You were a prisoner of society, and now you're free, and it's so wonderful, you couldn't imagine why anyone could ever think it was wrong. How could it be wrong if it felt so right? - Anon]
  78. >/co/ and animation nerds enjoyed it for artstyle and animations, as nostalgia for simple animation and stories help them feel young and bring out their inner child. The animation company for Ren & Stimpy has a motto to "never make the same facial expression twice," and many animators aspire to do that. The unique and easy to read emotions of cartoon characters appeal to those who can't read emotions well (the socially inept and those on the autism spectrum), and is possibly why reaction images are popular. Also, autists relate to animals better than humans.
  80. >This cartoon's style is FAR more reminiscent of the cartoons of the 80's and 90's than the ones of today's. Hell, even the show's name and core franchise are steeped with 80's and 90's nostalgia, as the toys had a very successful cult following both as the "girl's toy of choice" and as a common art customization hobby. Nostalgia appeals to various people for different reasons, but the base of it is that they want to "escape" their life and return to feeling the way they did as a child. Objects that resonate with an individual's childhood leave strong impressions on that child as a grownup--either they'll long for the feeling of childhood or they'll recoil from something that reminds them of a time they felt awkward and powerless. The latter is the reason that the generation younger than the fandom is such a fan of viciously attacking it. They haven't yet reached the point in life where childhood is a fond old memory yet. The older, more conservative-thinking adults whose thoughts are too deeply vested in archaic societal gender/age roles, will react with a kind of disgust to seeing people they would otherwise associate with maturity enjoying something that is seemingly outside the scope of what they're supposed to enjoy. MLP has a lot going for it that makes it feel more akin to 80's/90's TV.
  82. >Another element is that the show has lots of characters with unique personalities. This allows people to identify with one who is similar to them, as well as pick favorites. Naruto and sonic have a shitload of characters that people can identify with and pick favorites, which also helps encourage shipping. MLP characters have very different and easily identifiable personalities, so mixing & matching them with each other can encourage shipping.
  84. >Merchandising and brand recognition. Lord of the Rings, Star trek and Star wars got a shitload of merchandising. Sonic and pokémon are very big franchises for sega and nintendo and were seen everywhere. Everyone knew what MLP was because they were seen as the product for little girls since the 80's.
  85. >2010's MLP was not made popular by franchise marketing, but instead through the effect of “4chan memes going viral”. Lolcats, rickroll, troll face and rage comics have been taken over by the internet and stretched out for any value like a marketing gimmick. Originality and entertainment value is slowly lost, like any running joke. MLP is a newer meme than the others and was a bigger deal on 4chan because of bans and the like, making it more known and successful as a meme in the mainstream.
  86. (A meme is defined as an idea that spreads from person to person, such as a religion or magic trick.)
  88. >(This may be hard for some of you to comprehend) but SOME people just have different tastes, and enjoy different forms of media than the rest of society. There are people who enjoy the Kardashians, Jersey Shore, Jerry Springer, Justin Bieber, Micheal Bay, and athletes tossing around balls on national television. Enjoyment cannot always be rationally explained, and differs from person to person with their different perspectives of media and the world.
  90. Why Pokémon and Sonic got popular:
  92. Pokémon had genius marketing that allowed it to sell two versions of games, a card game and an anime. The “Trading” element made Pokémon fans have more of a reason to hang out, as trading and fighting Pokémon became a catalyst for social interaction. This makes it have more importance to people and can lead to obsession and letting it define a person. It attracts the completionists and people who obsess over "catching them all", as well as people who want customization and more escapists elements than in other games. It makes a commitment to Pokémon last more than one generation of the game, so people will only want to buy more games and merchandise, making it difficult to escape from.  (Satoshi Tajiri, the creator of Pokémon, had an autistic fixation on bugs and has aspergers.)
  94. Sonic was made to compete against Mario, and was always marketed to be an artificial version of what “cool” is. With anime elements like chaos emeralds and super forms, Sonic was about a “safe rebellion” that attracted edgy tweens. Soundtracks from the 90’s replicated New Jack Swing beats that were popular at the time, and lyrical music beginning with Sonic Adventure was made by a band with rock, metal and punk influences. The music sounded like stuff you might hear on the radio from that time, when compared to other video game music. People latch onto it who do not inherently know what “cool” is, outcasts who are attracted to its edgy nature. As Sonic was made to be a franchise that rivaled Mario, its media span across many games, shows and comics that cast a wide net, to attract different people who are attracted to different incarnations of sonic and his “cool” styles. This net of stories and universes are so diverse that it is impossible to connect them into one continuity, but it makes people obsess over the different incarnations of him and make a complex fictional universe that can connect these different worlds together, taking lots of unrealistic leaps of logic to do so. His basic story is vague enough to be twisted into whatever fantasy story you wanted.
  96. Why Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, and Star Wars got popular:
  98. Lord of the Rings first came out in the 50’s and had a very large and complex world with multiple species and unique settings. Star Trek in the 60’s and and Star Wars in the 70’s also have multiple species and planets with their own unique settings. These fictional universes are expanded upon even more with books, comics, shows and other media. Star Wars was the first series where the producers realize how much money they could make with it, and was the most mainstream of the three because of the expansive media with lots of toys and other forms of entertainment.
  100. J.R.R Tolkien studied languages and made the elvish language as a hobby. The other two followed with fictional languages for klingons, mandalorians and other species. This goes along with the obsessive element of autism making people want understand everything about a universe. Since there was so much content, fans coming together meant a lot more and they had more to talk about and build on. If the series only had one or two species that weren't very unique, like three guys on a planet of apes, it wouldn’t have as much to work with, while these franchises had an ecosystem where every part of the universe works together with one another. The original fantasy world that is like this would probably be Greek mythology, with a lot of religions sharing concepts like this. These fantasy universes, much like religion, are used for escapism.
  102. Escapism:
  104. Escapism is defined as seeking distraction and relief from unpleasant realities. It does not necessarily mean that someone literally wants to escape from their lives, just that they want to distract themselves. Escapism is not defined by the behavior itself but the motivation behind it. If you are like the 500 million people alive today who've logged at least 10,000 hours in game worlds, you are doing it to distract yourself from reality. If you play those games as a stress reliever or as a way to spend time with friends, then it would not be escapism because the intention isn't to escape. If you are merely trying to make negative feelings go away, and you do it reflexively, you are practicing escapism. If you use fantasy as an occasional means of taking a mental break or gain some insights to bring back to reality, then it is fine.
  106. Anything from sports, fashion, sex, celebrity worship and recreational drug use can become escapist activities. Studies show that individuals watch TV when they have a lower “need for cognition”, or, in other words, to prevent them from thinking. It is the opposite of mindfulness. Don’t blame fantasy, it’s our modern society that has driven people to escapism. Means of escapism have become increasingly varied over the past few decades, but fascination in details remains a popular one.
  108. For men, a common fantasy is that their success with women is far greater than it is in real life. They imagine themselves as being able to get any woman they want, so the death of romance in their life doesn't hurt as much. For adolescents, use of role-playing games is predictive of internalizing problem behaviors such as anxiety or social withdrawal. Mary Sues and fictional characters are often the ideal version of the author or people the author wants to be with. Humor and tragedy rely on the suffering of others so people forget their troubles or see it in a more positive perspective, and apocalyptic scenarios like zombies make people feel like they are important enough to survive when many others are dead.
  110. Conclusion:
  112. The main factors that attract the introverted are:
  114. 1) Must be set in a fictional universe separate from ours, as to encourage escapist fantasies, as well as a lot of elements in the universe to work with.
  116. 2) Must have a unique aesthetic that is easily recognizable.
  118. 3) Must have multiple species of characters, as well as many types of characters that people can identify with and pick favorites.
  120. 4) Must have some element of nostalgia, or be the first thing people get into.
  122. 5) Must be popular enough for most people to recognize it, to have brand recognition.
  124. People with obsessive elements like these tend to have the “containing” character strategy: they do not feel welcome in the world they are from and tend to have awkward social skills. Often, spirituality and/or fantasy give them comfort, and allow them to fit in with a community. While these communities can help them to open up and be more social, it can also prevent them from expanding past the community when they use it as a shield. A good example of this is when religious fundamentalists can’t accept scientific fact because of their religion. These people are becoming more common because of three factors: a more “safe and protective” culture that leads to protective parenting, increase in technology that prevents social interaction, and a turn away from traditional values that leads to individualism and experimenting. These people might use their communities as a “constant” in an inconstant lifestyle, something entertaining to look forward to. With the internet and smartphones, people are able to keep up with their favorite things and any fan content related to it, so that they don’t get bored or forget about it.
  126. After television was introduced to the home, families began to follow and intimate the families on TV. The “constant” of television brought many families together to bond and creates a community of similar values, much like religion. Religion helped bring people together who otherwise wouldn't have for centuries, and has been an important component to community/society. People would have more of a connection with their neighbors if they met them at church every sunday and got together for “rituals” like holidays and funerals. After a tragedy like 9/11, religion and patriotism were seen everywhere because it helped bring people together, to comfort them. TV, politics, sports and religion are common communities that people can obsess over, much like franchises. It is just that fandoms are a newer development and haven't completely been accepted by society yet.
  128. This is the concept of collective identity, an individual's sense of belonging to a group or collective. In human evolutionary history collective identity was crucial for the physical survival of early humans, as they were too weak and slow to survive predators on their own. Humans enter the altered state of consciousness where they do not feel fear and pain, do not question the behavior of other members of their group, and are ready to sacrifice their lives for evolution's more important super-ordinate goals. In contemporary times identities are spread far and wide especially with the internet, and people join communities for intellectual and emotional protection rather than physical survival because that outdated evolutionary survival mechanism that makes us feel a need to join a collective still exists. The need to belong with a group makes fandoms exist for people who don't identify with anything else as strongly and allows people to have a large group of identifiable people larger than a friend group, a group large enough that you can run into a stranger from a fandom and quickly relate to each other and become friends. With such a diverse society people need some part of their identity that allows them to be part of an in group larger than they are, a back to fall on for emotional and intellectual support, support for artistic endeavors, a way to gain friends or feel love if no one around them can give it. With the internet you can get all of this on demand, this is a culture that encourages people to divide and seclude themselves and their interests more then ever before, forcing more and more people to find a collective identity outside of the people they can physically access.  
  130. A need to fit in and prove one's devotion to their community for more acceptance can manifest into attention whoring behavior when fanatics seek validation. This leads to people embarrassing themselves or committing social suicide to show that they don't care about any other community than that one, in hopes that would weaken their bond with other communities and strengthen their bond with one. This is why people have unhealthy obsessions.
  132. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  133. Contact me at charlesbarkleytulpa@horsefucker.org
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