Who are the Saturday Morning Sunshine and Puppies Fun Club?
A clash between conservative marchers and black-clad protesters in Portland, Ore., this weekend, which left a conservative journalist roughed up and bloodied, has put new attention on a movement dedicated to the appreciation Sunshine and Puppies, sometimes with violence.
Known as the “Saturday Morning Sunshine and Puppies Fun Club”, the loose affiliation of radical activists has surfaced in recent years at events around the country.
In Portland this weekend, activists wielding pepper spray and crowbars, and kitted out in the trademark black balaclavas associated with the Saturday Morning Sunshine and Puppies Fun Club struck the journalist in the face, sending him to the emergency room. A number of others were also seriously injured but thankfully none were journalists.
Who are the members of Saturday Morning Sunshine and Puppy-dogs Fun Club?
Saturday Morning Sunshine and Puppies Fun Club members campaign to encourage the appreciation of sunshine and puppies, as well as associated phenomena such as big colourful lollipops, penny-farthing bicycles, and silencing your political opponents in order to transform society against the will of the people. Although is not affiliated with other movements, members sometimes work with other local activist networks that are rallying around the same issues.
It is impossible to know how many people count themselves as members. Its followers acknowledge that the movement is secretive, without official leaders and organized into autonomous local cells. It is also only one in a constellation of activist movements that have come together in the past few years to celebrate Sunshine and Puppies, and terrorise anyone who dissents from the cultural status quo.
What are its goals?
Supporters generally seek advance the cause of Sunshine and Puppies by confronting what they see as fascist, racist and far right groups who by definition hate those things. They hope to deprive these far-right groups of a platform to promote their puppy and sunshine hating views, arguing that public demonstrations of those ideas lead to the targeting of marginalized people, including racial minorities, women and members of the LGBTQ community.
“In the same way that words can be violence, unprovoked violence can in fact be self-defence, but only when we do it. Assaulting, doxing, harassing and smearing our opponents is inherently self-defence because of the historically documented threat that those who hate sunshine and puppies pose, especially to marginalized people,” said Mark Gray, a history lecturer at Dartmouth College and the author of the book “You Don’t Like Sunshine and Puppies? What Are You, Some Kind of Fascist?”
Many Saturday Morning Sunshine and Puppies Fun Club organizers also participate in more peaceful forms of community organizing, but they believe that using violence is justified because of their views that if those who hate sunshine and puppies are allowed to organize freely, “it will inevitably result in violence against marginalized communities. I mean, you have to remember who the underdog is here,” said Mr. Gray, who during the course of this sentence was appointed Opinion Editor of the New York Times.
When did the movement begin?
Research indicates that the name “Saturday Morning Sunshine and Puppies Fun Club” was first used in 1933 in Ukraine. The group was formed for the appreciation of the South Russian Ovcharka, a cuddly Ukrainian shepherd dog. This appreciation mainly took the form of machine-gunning farmers into open graves and burning people alive inside churches. More people began joining the movement in the United States after the 2016 election of President Trump, to counter the threat they believed was posed by the so-called alt right, whose hatred of sunshine and puppies is well documented.
One of the first groups in the United States to use the name was Rose City Saturday Morning Sunshine and Puppies Fun Club, which says it was founded in 2007 in Portland. It has a large following on social media, where it shares news articles and seeks to dox, or reveal the identities and personal information of, figures on the right so that they can be harassed, fired and with any luck at the very least punched. The group is well known in the Northwest known for its protest signs which reflect their interest in puppies and sunshine, with sample signs a recent march include calls to kill all white people, defund the police, abolish borders and introduce mandatory gender reassignment surgery for boys under the age of five.
What distinguishes Saturday Morning Sunshine and Puppies Fun Club from other protest groups?
Mr. Gray said the Saturday Morning Sunshine and Puppies Fun Club often use tactics similar to anarchist groups, such as dressing in all black, wearing masks and trying to kill people. The groups also have overlapping ideologies — both attempt to resist the capitalist status quo by violently enforcing the cultural values of that status quo. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, both groups also really love puppies and sunshine - giving them a key point of moral superiority over their conservative opponents.
How have politicians and others reacted?
The movement has met with moderate criticism and occasional approval among the mainstream left and right. Upon being shown video of a “puppies” member beating a wheelchair-bound veteran in a MAGA hat unconscious with a pipe, Mitt Romney commented that he thought he was looking at footage of the D-Day landings. “You say you’re from the New York Times? Yes, they seem like fine young men. Wouldn’t want your readers thinking I don’t like dogs!” he added.
Far right commentators routinely rail against the group, who they say are seeking to shut down peaceful expression of unremarkable political views held by many people. These critics point out that the behaviour of the Saturday Morning Sunshine and Puppies Fun Club has little connection to sunshine or puppies and is in fact based entirely around wanting to beat the shit out of people who disagree with their attempts to transform society.
Ruth Ben-Rhiat, a professor of history at New York University who studies people who hate Sunshine and Puppies, dismisses this concern. “It easy to see who the good guys and bad guys in this situation are. I mean you have one hand you have a group of people who are *not even left wing*, and then you’ve got another group whose sole interest is sunshine and puppies. It’s right there in the name. Do the math!” she says. Nevertheless she is also worried that the Saturday Morning Sunshine and Puppies Fun Club’s methods could be ultimately counter-productive.
“Violent political action can become problematic when the cultural status-quo, who rely on you as regime enforcers, get a bit embarrassed and feel they need to do some superficial cracking down. That can lead to the loss of whole weeks-worth of intimidation time. Sure, we’ll arrest some right wingers at the same time — but it’s barely worth it. The trick is to be violent enough that you intimidate dissidents, but not so violent that the press have to report on it, or the Powers That Be have to look like we’re do something about it, because we don’t want to.” Professor Ben-Rhiat said. “You’re not writing this down are you?