Wizards Implements Ochlocracy

Today, a player who recently made the Top 8 at a Grand Prix was banned for life from tournament Magic: The Gathering. His account on Magic Online was seized, and he will be given a check for what Wizards thinks that account was worth.

Wizards does not discuss the reasons for bans, but in this case everyone knows the reason: Then years ago, when he was 19, this person entered a guilty plea for aggravated sexual assault. He served three months in prison, and now does dozens of hours per week of community service, has married and is applying for admission to the bar.

This man, for the past ten years, has as far as we know committed no crime, violated no rules of Magic or its tournaments (other than accidental minor rules violations), done nothing wrong on any front.

Other than, it seems, his failure to die in a fire, which bugs the hell out of a certain group of people. These people, including one Drew Levin, took to Twitter and Reddit to demand that Something Be Done about this Rapist In Our Midst, when he had the audacity to actually do well in a tournament and come to the Twitter Mob’s attention.

In response to a quite small number of outspoken people, a person has been entirely purged from the game. No rule has been established that convicted felons, or sex offenders, or violent offenders, or those who inflict rare diseases on cute puppies (in order, of course, to soak up all the charity dollars as inefficiently as possible, thus denying those in need their Malaria nets and microloans!), will not be welcome at Wizards events.

Wizards statement on the matter was this:

“We work hard to make sure all players feel welcomed, included and safe at our events so that they can have fun playing Magic. We don’t generally comment on individuals or provide position statements in the abstract, but we take action to address player issues and community concerns when we feel it is necessary.”

In other words, Wizards has become an Ochlocracy: Mob rule, and that mob is an internet Twitter mob, which doesn’t even have the decency and costly signaling power to show up in person and procure a decent supply of physical pitchforks.

Whereas it turns out that the actual vast majority of the community does not see it this way. In response, the community is currently making it very clear that this effort to making everyone feel welcome is actually making us feel quite unwelcome, and that we are deeply unhappy about it. We are deeply unhappy that there is no announced policy. We are deeply unhappy that Wizards has bowed to a Twitter mob, thus encouraging more Twitter mobs, and emboldening exactly the wrong kind of toxic tactical behavior. We are upset that the system doesn’t care about due process of law at all, when that has been the excuse for not banning actually highly toxic people who ruined the tournament experience of everyone they played against, and who made the game look like it was filled with a bunch of scummy cheaters. 

Someone came back from a ban and wrote “Miss me?” on his top 8 form, and listed his favorite card as the one he was caught cheating with on camera. Welcome back! Someone was elected to the Hall of Fame, then banned and had it revoked. Welcome back! Things are no better than when Ryan Fuller spat in our collective faces and stomped all over the game’s good name for years before he was finally caught sufficiently red handed to be showed the door. Magic has had cheaters, but Ryan managed to actively make you want to quit Magic after every match against him. It was an art form. Where was our ‘answering community concerns’ and ‘good for the game’ back then?

The defenders of this act only highlight the problem. I was pointed to what I was told was a high-quality defense of the act. I responded thus:

If “rape is trump, rapist evil and if you disagree you’re pro-rapist” talk is the best argument for, that’s pretty sad.

That seemed accurate to me, and it is a very common tactic to say, if you do not like what I am doing, you can be equated with the worst trait of the person I am attacking.

I was informed that no, it was actually a better argument:

I would agree that logic is bad. I read it as “we should be glad a racist is gone, not defending his right to play Magic: The Gathering”.

But to me that is almost as bad. It is, as I put it, saying:

“These means are bad and we need to stop.” “But look at this sweet end! Isn’t it cool?” Even if I agree it is cool, #BigNo.

If I complain about the way you go about doing something, and you respond by saying I should instead be celebrating your accomplishment, that is in no way addressing my true objection or argument, which is that your means are awful and that we cannot abide this sort of thing if we want to keep having Nice Things and go about our days in peace. The counterargument to that seems to go along the lines of my original summary of the opposing argument, that rape is trump, rapist evil and I did something bad to a rapist so it was automatically awesome and why are we letting them sleep so close to those bridges anyway?

Where does all this lead? More Twitterstorm mobs, of course. Those who did this will not be satisfied to have justice done; they will feel emboldened to move on to their next target. The next time I want something done, my own first temptation and thought will be to start or stoke a Twitterstorm mob. Which is, effectively, what I did a decent amount of today in reaction to this event.

Hopefully the antidote to a Twitterstorm mob is an equal and opposite, or even larger, Twitterstorm mob in reaction. If giving in is clearly worse than standing firm, maybe some people will grow a spine and stand up to these mobs. This is the second time in recent memory this has happened in Magic, even, as another storm forced a website to retract an article and issue an apology, rather than saying “here is something some people disagree with, so let’s have a discussion.” The mob does not want discussion. The mob does not want debate. The mob wants scalps and apologies and agreement on everything, and it has zero interest in listening to your well-reasoned arguments, which are no match for their puny catchphrases.

This doesn’t just apply to Magic. This applies everywhere, to everyone. Just this past week I was discussing with my fellow aspiring rationalists ways to either harness or destroy the internet hate-mob, as it has become a clear and present danger. My proposal was to sufficiently subsidize or support (in various ways) victims of the mob, so that destroying someone simply wouldn’t work; it does not take very many people who like you to make everything all right, if they are willing to stand with you. I do not care that the vast majority of people would not enjoy my company, nor I theirs, nor must we do business.

The plan has some obvious giant glaring flaws (such as what happens when people try to false flag against themselves) but at its core, there seem to be three options. Two of them seem awful: we can let those You-Know-Whos that decide what the offense of the month is scare us all and control our behavior lest we be purged, or we can attack those who attack and make them pay. The third is to stand up and say: Hold. What you do is wrong. Why do you do this thing? Say it loudly every time anyone gives in to such a mob, and make sure they know they are giving in to a small minority, and by doing so they are destroying the trust and relationship they have with the vast majority.

The mob’s goal is to make you think it is them against their victim, because they choose unsympathetic victims: We have to make it clear that standing up against these tactics does not mean we agree with the actions of your victim. I do not care if the victim was asking for it. I don’t even care if the victim was a horrible person. I do not even care if we are better off with him being driven away. Hold. What you do is wrong. Stop doing this thing.

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3 Responses to Wizards Implements Ochlocracy

  1. In your second paragraph; you accidentally misspelt “ten” as “then”– as in “Then years ago”.

  2. monolith94 says:

    The sexual assault case was much, much worse than you make it seem in this piece. Reading about it, it was heinous; given that the game is aimed at a family-friendly audience, they are well within their rights to ask an individual to not attend events which are shared by many, many pre-teens.

  3. kastaka says:

    So, the problem with not banning people like this is that you effectively then ban the victims of people like this – but they tend to be less noisy about it, so you don’t hear about how they just quietly don’t show up to the things they like because someone who hurt them, or reminds them of how they were hurt, is there.

    Those people haven’t done anything wrong but when abusers and rapists are allowed to be in places, it locks them out; it’s a pity that truly reformed people who once committed sexual assault also get swept up in this attempt to protect people, but at least it is their own actions that have caused this, rather than things that were done to them.

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