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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

nazis? in MY magic???

Slightly over three years ago, I wrote a post telling MRAs and other assorted bigots to get out of the Magic community. It became one of my only posts to get any attention from outside the tiny pond that is online Magic culture. Most of that was places like r/kotakuinaction (remember when they were relevant?) and r/redpill and... okay, it was almost entirely right-wing subreddits. Once every few months since then, someone reposts it and I get a bunch of people with anime avatars who are still mad about a woman's YouTube videos hopping into my mentions.

A few things have changed since then. First, all those different groups I had listed on separate lines (MRAs, PUAs, people spitting into their webcams about "cultural Marxism") have formed into one big tent of like-minded people who share an interest in yelling at women online and being dumb as shit.

Secondly, their anti-Magic tactics seem to have changed. When I published that post, a venture into the depths of that comment thread shows a lot of "oh yeah?? Well I've never PLAYED Magic, but now I WILL." Now, in the wake of some dude who made the intelligent pivot from making impossibly bland unboxing videos into the much higher-visibility world of making a hundred-part video series ranting about a specific woman, that big tent is claiming that they've always been huge Magic fans, and now they're quitting. Even Breitbart is getting into the action.

The small-time piece of shit Jeremy Hambly (aka MTGHQ), from that same tiny Magic pond, is getting used by the big-time piece of shit that is Breitbart and the broader alt-right reactionary movement.

I’m not going to bother responding point-by-point to that piece of shit (especially since Chas did an excellent job in his response), but I can't resist taking a few shots. It's so long and blatantly unedited that an outline for the article would look like throwing Scrabble pieces at a map of highways in New Jersey. It opens with a declaration that "Magicgate" is happening, saying that it's an "ugly, scary power grab by the regressive left" before making a jughandled turn into revealing that this -gate is actually just about Jeremy Hambly not being allowed to attend DCI-sanctioned tournaments.

This apparently was "delivered out of the blue like a bolt from Zeus." I would compare it more to getting thrown into the ninth circle of Hell where he's condemned to make overly-emotional videos about not being allowed to play tournaments until the end of time, but that's more of a stylistic difference between us as writers.

Author James Delingpole says right at the beginning that he's "not among the 20 million people who play Magic: the Gathering," presumably five seconds after searching Bing for "number of people who play Magic: the Gathering."

It makes me wonder what the creator of this wordsludge is trying to accomplish here. James calls at the end of his article for his readers to threaten a boycott of Wizards or the entirety of Hasbro. (This is right after he quotes poet laureate @james_succ calling Wizards' community standards poster "thought police.") Yet Hambley, the victim of a left-wing power grab (???), titles one of his videos "Please Do Not Quit Magic" and argues that a boycott will deprive his fans of a great game that they love. The guy is even promising to still be a loyal Wizards customer!


Delingpole tries to obscure what happened by leading with a bunch of innocuous tweets from Hambly, but the real story is simple. Hambly makes a comically huge number of videos of himself opening packs, and doesn't get much traction other than a couple with clickbait titles like "GUY GOES NUTS OPENING $800 CARD!!!"

Somewhere along the line, he gets upset that he's putting in so much time and energy into pointing a camera at himself and overreacting to cardboard, so he puts his Sherlock Holmes hat on and gets to the bottom of it. Wouldn't you know it, someone is making real money at Magic without playing it! And it's... a woman!

This female has things so much easier than him that it's ridiculous. Here he is, waking up before noon some days, putting on his best (by default) hoodie, making his fingers slightly tired opening packs, then clicking "upload" on YouTube. All she does is dress up! Okay, it's cosplay as a bunch of really well-known Magic characters, but how hard can it really be to dress up in a really high-quality costume that no one has ever made before? And go to tournaments all over the country?

So, our hero Hambly has found his solution. If she's popular and makes money, all he has to do is make a video... about her. And another video. And a literally uncountable number more videos about her, because he went and deleted them all when tons of people rightfully called him out for continuous harassment.

But a year before that happened, something was clearly going wrong. The reason people are upset that he's become obsessive about one cosplayer is... the social justice warriors. So he goes and has a nice livestream chat with Sargon of Akkad, posted as a nearly two hour video which I am absolutely not watching.

Then recently, when he's finally successful in driving someone out of Magic, he does his best Urkel "did I do that?", except that he immediately concludes that no, he did not. The real culprit all along, his new sidekick Delingpole concludes, was of course the "cry-bullies." Delingpole reasons that Sprankle, like the Voldemort of Gamergate herself Zoe Quinn, wants this attention. That's why she's doing attention-seeking behaviors like quitting making costumes and other content, not going to large tournaments, shutting down her Patreon, locking her Twitter, and not making more public statements after the initial tweets.

It’s important that we don’t just throw names like Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, and Christine Sprankle around and think of them as just people involved in some online dust-up. There’s a clear imbalance of power and action here: Zoe and Christine were literally just living their lives, wanting nothing to do with internet fascists, when people like Hambly decided to start a campaign against them for no particular reason. Anita’s crime was making educational, intro-feminism type videos for a millenial audience that can relate to her underlying points more when they’re presented in a way that uses games they’re already familiar with.

What Hambly (and Gamergate before him) did is disgusting. Imagine going through continuous targeting on a daily basis, in a community that already treats you like an outsider, by some guy you don’t even know and his fanbase. Then, when he gets called out on it, he dares his accusers to point to one specific moment that crossed an arbitrary line. But that’s not what it’s about: it’s the volume, the death by a thousand cuts. Waking up every day, knowing that you have to deal with more bullshit from guys with 12 followers “just asking questions” about every aspect of your life; people prying into every relationship you have, every dollar someone on the internet gives you, trying to show there’s something insidious.

It’s one thing when people in politics or genuine celebrities are subjected to this kind of criticism; Ajit Pai certainly should have known what he was in for when he took his current job. But these are normal people, just trying to exist in male-dominated spaces. You annoy one YouTuber, or one ex gets mad at you, and bam: no more privacy, no more logging onto twitter without hundreds of hateful messages.

What's happening here is that, like the right used organized hatred toward Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian to create an opening to expose sad, angry men to their politics, Breitbart and the rest of them are using Hambly as a martyr to woo disaffected Magic players to their side.

They don't give a shit about Hambly. It doesn’t matter to the alt-right if he can't play in tournaments or loses a source of income or becomes entirely isolated from the Magic community that once welcomed him, because they'll hold up all of that as evidence that social justice warriors have infiltrated the business world and gaming culture.

He's already been cast out of the mainstream Magic community. Even Reddit of all places is completely sick of his shit and tells him to fuck off when he grovels to r/magictcg. All he has is now is the alt-right, who couldn't care less about him opening packs. What happens when his story is no longer new and interesting to Breitbart? What if he doesn't quite sympathize with their racism, white nationalism, and support for fascism? He'll have nowhere to go, no one to turn to. Nothing to do but open packs of cards he'll never play in a tournament, for an audience of people who recoil at the sight of his screenname.

The problem with what Wizards did isn't that they banned Hambly. It's that they reacted far too late, after the damage to the community was already done. The problem with posting a sign about inclusivity in stores isn't that it's "a safe space sign like we're in the Jim Crow South" (actual tweet quoted by Delingpole), but that it's in such corporate-speech vagueness that it means nothing. "No matter who sits down at the table with us, we make them feel welcome" needs an exception for people whose form of interaction with the community is harassing women and saying that whites deserve their own ethnostate.

Wizards has gone hard on the "few bad eggs" explanation of bad behavior. They think that if they just have rules and procedures for reporting misconduct to a judge, that their wheels of justice will swiftly make the community safe and welcoming.

Unfortunately, there's one aspect where I agree with the fascists: there are a lot of people involved in Magic that feel similarly to Hambly. It's not just a specific behavior that's unacceptable; there's an underlying hateful ideology fueling them. And as a community that's mostly white and preposterously male-dominated (a fact which, similarly, Hambly is absolutely correct in saying that Wizards has tried to cover up), it's going to have an overlap with the white-and-male-dominated sphere of the alt-right.

Of course, I don't think it's feasible for the DCI to issue a ban to anyone who's ever posted to to r/mensrights, but change can't just come from above. I stand by that post from three years ago:

If someone's a fascist, don't welcome them in.

It's up to the community to talk to one another, and not include Nazis in your drafts, playtesting, or EDH group. Even if they're nice to you.

Personal addendum/writing update:

A few thank-yous: Reddit user Rarermonsters, who incredibly good post about Hambly was my first introduction to what happened. Chas Andres, whose excellent Medium post made me shout with rage, because it sent a push notification to my phone right when I thought I was about done writing this. My significant other, who graciously agreed to copy-edit my unbelievably long sentences despite not giving a shit about card game drama and is reading this RIGHT NOW.

Yesterday, I published a rather grim look back on my history with Magic, and it coming to an end as far as playing on a regular basis or being able to name a single card from a new set. At the end, I said that there would be one more Magic-related post on this blog. This isn’t it; consider this an emergency addendum. I might be a jaded former player that’s barely talked about the game in years, but I’ll be damned if this game that I devoted 15 years to, that caused me to move to my current city and introduced me to my closest friends, is going to be hijacked by Nazis.

That’s a long way of saying: I’m still working on that last one. Expect it to piss off the right, but for very different reasons.

In the meantime, I’m trying to write non-Magic related stuff and publish it on Medium. To any fascists still reading this, I would feel incredibly owned and triggered if you went to those articles, shared them with all your friends to expose how bad they are, and clicked the hands at the bottom. That site is too politically correct to tell you, but they symbolize smacking a leftist around the face for trying to inject politics into Star Wars.

7 comments:

JASON BLAHA BULL-PREPPING ENTHUSIAST said...

This is beyond pathetic. You're a sad mofo.

Good thing no one knows who you are.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Thumbs up all around. We just can't afford to even let them in.

Unknown said...

I used to enjoy reading your MtG blocks reviews, that was good stuff.
But this is what wakes you from hibernation? This is what makes you write another article? Bullshit drama that is just another opportunity to signal your virtues to the tiny number of people who read this?

People putting politics over morality is the downfall of society nowadays...

Simon Gunkel said...

When you posted about the last deck I thought "Not now, not without a deeper look at the mess, not at the time" and "don't leave the defense of decency to Matt Sperling alone". That being said, I think you give Hambly too much leeway in thinking he is stumbling into this naively. Here's how I discussed it on reddit:
"I disagree. I think at least Jeremy knew exactly what he was doing. His Magic content was going nowhere and there is an audience that will eat up his story of "victimhood". There is a support structure, which will come to his aid. He wanted an in to that scene and lo and behold, he got an invitation as a speaker at the killroy event, he gets featured on all those gamergater sites, now he's gotten a Breitbart story and he's certainly mailed Alex Jones (the last time I predicted that he would and the next day he showed the mail he sent to inforwars on his Twitter). There is money in being a dick these days. You do a bit of cheap content that places you with a community, you start to include a bit of right wing politics and attack everybody else making content. You ramp up the bile, contact everybody about colaborating and if they decline you get to claim it's because you are slightly to the right of center (which by any reasonable view of politics you aren't), while if they accept you gain legitimacy as part of that community. And at some point somebody in the community will say that you've stepped over the line. And then you can leverage that work into alt-right matyrdom, where people will shell out money for you. This is far from over. If Breitbart eats it, I'm sure Infowars will, too. And if Infowars will eat it, Jeremy will have to explain the stack to Hannity. And then the President will tweet about it. And then he's en route to be the next Cliven Bundy, or Kim Davis, or... That's a new way to stardom.

The problem is that there seem to be no effective way to deal with this. At some point you either get these people out, or they will destroy the community. But if you do get them out, they can drum up the racket."

You seem to think he was driven by envy of Christine and given the unequal way he was dishing out hatred, I don't dispute he's a sexist. But he also started to attack TCC before the Professor released his video. He attacked Graham Stark when Graham called him out on attacking Erin Campbell. He attacked TMS. He attacked Rudy. Given that his immediate response to getting a reaction from the community was to put out collections of "dirt" on Evan Erwin, LSV, EFro and Athena suggests that his "exposed" series was to continue until somebody would finally call him out. I don't know when he made the decision to leave the magic community to make a name (and a dime, I'm sure) on the alt-right racket, but I'm sure it was before he started to do the exposed videos.

KillGoldfish said...

Amazing addition! You should be the one writing this, not me.

WilliamKillingly said...

Thanks for writing this article.

Simon Gunkel said...

I've started to put my thoughts on this into song form, which is happens when you combine well over 20 years of political punk rock with a roughly equally long addiction to cardboard (Now I wanna sniff some Unglued!). Basically I'm writing a Prpaghandi song, but each line has to include at least one semi-cringey magic pun.

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