Editors note: This article was originally posted on MTGSalvation but was deleted in view of the large controversy that followed it. For the sake of transparency and the sake of a free discussion of the issues addressed or pertinent to this article, we have decided to repost it here at diestoremoval.
I've touched upon this issue previously in an edition of The Magic Street Journal, but recent events surrounding Christine Sprankle and those who drove her from the
community indicate that this subject needs revisiting. For those unaware, Christine Sprankle was until recently a notable member within the Magic community, most famous for her cosplay at large events. She was forced from the community due to a nonstop stream of threats, harassment, and other vitriol which will not be recounted here, as despite the name, the focus of this article is not on these specific events, but on a malignant problem within the community as a whole.
Tiki Torches and Making America Nazi-Free Again
Earlier this year, neo-Nazis staged a tiki torch rally to bring attention to their racist and hateful cause of "Unite the Right" with such wonderful slogans as "sieg heil" and "blood and soil." Naturally, this sparked a little bit of controversy, as Nazis tend to do. One common theme, however, was for those identifying as right wing, especially Trump voters, to take an odd kind of personal offence to the backlash, as if an attack on Nazis is somehow an attack on them. A similar note of extreme defensiveness sprung up with Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus's marketing of "Make America Nazi-Free Again." The very same people who would happily shoot Nazis in Call of Duty: World War II get very anxious when the context is changed to killing Nazis on American soil.
It should go without saying that if you feel personally attacked when someone denounces the Nazis, you ought to take a good, hard, long look inside yourself to find out where that Nazi sympathy comes from. And then you kill it with fire from a good, old-fashioned, American-made M1A1 flamethrower, a fine weapon responsible for killing many Nazis in the actual World War II.
Just Locker Room Talk
We've become too accustomed to depravity and shameless sexism. Whether it's the presidential candidate saying to "grab her by the pussy", a senator being accused of sexual encounters with girls underage, or the endless stream of Hollywood sexual assaults - we've been inundated with so much horrific sexism that anything less than assault is considered "locker room talk" and brushed aside. Whether explicitly or implicitly, many men aspire to be like these famous sexists, who could get away with treating women as objects rather than people.
Unfortunately, this only reinforces a growing trend within our youth that they can be as crass and boorish as they like and that they shouldn't face any repercussions for it. It feeds into the identity politics of Gamergate, of the alt right, of white nationalism: that straight white cis men are being victimized by "SJWs" and having their speech unnecessarily curtailed. After all, if the Dear Leader or Hollywood Star can say these things, why can't they?
It's Never Just One "Joke"
Imagine you're a regular at a restaurant. You go there for lunch about once a week. You get to know the waiter fairly well. Then one week, the waiter tells you that they run into a ton of people being utter dicks to them day in and day out. You might not see it personally, but then again, you're only in that waiter's life for a very small portion of their work week. Unfortunately, the kinds of people who whine about "professional victims" and other nonsense don't quite seem to grok that it's equivalent to telling that waiter they just have a victim complex and that people aren't really dicks to them.
When someone interacts with a member of the Magic community on a forum, on Twitter, or on any other platform, they're similarly only seeing one tiny slice of that person's day. That "lol go make me a sandwich" crack you just made might not be the first time the woman you're talking to has heard it that day. It might not even be the tenth. You don't know. You didn't see it. While it's easy enough to shrug off one hailstone, it's quite another to walk out into a hailstorm. Denying that women and minorities face such hailstorms is a height of hubris that basically says, "I know your life better than you do." It's an utterly callous way of erasing someone's experiences in your mind so you don't have to feel bad about verbally slapping them in the face.
Finally, incessant calls for "proof" are how harassers get away with their behaviour so cleanly and so often. Trying to file a police report will lead to your report being referred to the circular file as it's basically a he-said-she-said situation, and the court of public opinion will never be satisfied that harassment is serious unless a truly unreasonable level of "proof" is offered. Even when it is, the goalposts inevitably move. This is why it's so important to trust that accusers aren't in it for the attention or to harm anyone. Coming forward about being victimized is difficult. Look at the backlash given to people who accused Bill Cosby, Roy Moore, and even Donald Trump of harassment. They're seen as wanton opportunists at best, and malicious liars at worst. They are asked to provide such a mountain of "proof" that many lower-level cases of harassment simply go unreported for having the same expected of them.
Nonstop demand for ever greater amounts of "evidence" is a well-established troll tactic, because it places a harsh burden on the victim, devalues their experiences, and removes any degree of power they might have to right things. It's psychological manipulation, and concern trolls have it down to an art form. Bystanders should be wary of those who always ask questions but never seem to answer any themselves.
Even Moot Kicked Gamergate Off 4chan
Alternatively: Ignoring trolls does not make them go away.
Confession time: I've been a regular on 4chan for well over a decade now. I've seen culture shifts within trolling that might shock you. I've seen the downfall of Anonymous as an organized hacker collective. And I can tell you that, when it comes to trolls, they generally aren't after attention per se. They want the satisfaction of knowing they've done their job, whether that's merely pissing someone off or ruining their life. They don't care if you show them any specific reaction as long as they know that they've gotten under your skin. In fact, silence is often taken as confirmation that they have, in fact, done exactly that.
Politically-minded trolls such as the alt right want something else, though. They want their ideas and rhetoric to become normalized. They want it to be okay to hold their little tiki torch rallies, to dehumanize women publicly, to mold communities to their ideals, and they see "victories" such as the election of Donald Trump as fuel to add to their fire. Every new person who feels empowered to do those things because they see others doing it without repercussion contributes to a destructive cycle that leads to nothing but discrimination and pain. They may claim "intolerance" when banned, but that's because they want to be seen as martyrs when that happens. It's a last ditch attempt to normalize their behaviour by crying out to others for support. But by cutting both the trolls and their support off, we give no platform to hate. We force hatred underground, and bigots to remain silent. We can't police people's thoughts, and the thought of doing so is abhorrent, but we can certainly police behaviour, and a community without open statements of hatred and acceptance of harassment is a healthy one.
If You Feel You're The Victim, You're Part of the Problem
Whether Nazis, White Nationalists, or simply members of a reactionary right unaffiliated to either major political group, there are going to be a great number of people who read the above and feel personally attacked. They'll feel like I'm calling them Nazis. They'll feel like I'm blowing things out of proportion to demonize them.
Good. Feel that way. But use it as an angle for introspection.
If you're fine shooting Nazis in Normandy but not in New York, ask yourself why that is. If you're the type to say "it's just a joke" when it comes to harassing women but can't take a single negative comment about Jeremy Hambly, ask yourself why that is. If you feel that you can't comment on MTGSalvation without being singled out by the mods, ask yourself why that is. Unpack those unspoken assumptions you make about how you interact with society, and emerge from it a better person capable of deeper levels of empathy. Then you'll be part of the solution, not part of the problem. I promise, empathy is not weakness, but the inability to analyze one's own behaviour absolutely is.
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