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Delingpole: Magicgate – the Ugly Story of How Social Justice Warriors Ruined an Innocent Collectible Card Game

two cosplayers show off their costumes of Magic: the Gathering characters
Flickr/Rodney Brown

This is the story of Magicgate. Yes, another scandal, but one that for a change doesn’t involve any actual rape or sexual harassment… only game players who like pretending to be witches and wizards.

Like Gamergate, it concerns ordinary people who just want to be left alone to enjoy their hobby.

Ranged against these ingenus is an orcish horde of bullying, preening, self-righteous Social Justice Warriors who believe that everything — even an innocent collectible card game like Magic: The Gathering — should be played and policed according to their viciously intolerant politically correct rulebook.

Even if, like me, you’re not among the 20 million people who play Magic: The Gathering, what I hope you’ll appreciate is that this is a story that should concern us all.

By the end, I hope, you’ll feel as angered as I am by this ugly, scary power grab by the regressive left. And I hope you’ll want to join me in making your voice heard by hitting the people responsible where it hurts most: in their bank balance.

That means the companies which own and profit by Magic: the Gathering. That means you, Hasbro toys. And you, Wizards of the Coast.

I want you to realize that playing games is not a left-wing thing or a right-wing thing but an everybody thing.

I want you to realize that it is not the business of games manufacturers to discriminate against or punish players for their political opinions.

I want you to realize that your miserable sordid scheme to bully everyone who plays your games into sharing your SJW values is not remotely liberal but authoritarian and fascistic.

I also want you to realize that we have got your number: you try to claim the moral high ground, yet your entire business model is based on the kind of predator capitalism I’m sure you’d be the first to condemn if you weren’t getting so rich off of it.

You have a captive market of often vulnerable, socially maladjusted young men for whom your game is their social life, their passion, almost their entire world. And you exploit their addiction mercilessly with regular releases of new card sets, sold in packages costing around $100, which they can’t afford not to buy and trade because it will limit their gameplay. OK, fair enough, that’s how capitalism works, more or less. Except you’re a monopoly provider, so you’re abusing your monopolistic power — which for most leftists, and indeed most conservatives is a big no-no. Plus, I understand from Magic: The Gathering players that your product quality is getting worse and worse, with poorly printed artwork, damaged cards inside new packs, or ones that warp shortly after opening. So it really does show some chutzpah, I must say, to rip off your customers and treat them like shit — then to insist that, “Oh, by the way, we reserve the right to tell you scumbags how you must think as well…”

Like Gamergate, Magicgate is a classic example of what Andrew Breitbart meant when he used to say that “politics is downstream from culture.” Sure Trump is doing great work, fighting the good fight in the White House. But ultimately whether our civilization thrives or withers depends not so much on what happens in DC or Westminster or Brussels or the United Nations as it does on what happens in the broader culture of our ordinary, daily existence.

Every day, everywhere from college campuses to social media pages, from Hollywood to the comic industry, from science laboratories to the military, a battle is being fought for the soul of Western civilization. On one side are the “progressives” whose risibly inappropriate name includes everyone from Antifa, Occupy, and Social Justice Warriors to the liberal elite types who congregate at Davos every year and who would be running the U.S. now if it hadn’t been for the glorious accident of Donald Trump. On the other are the happy warriors — of whom Andrew Breitbart was one — who recognise that the Culture Wars are a continuation of the same struggle for freedom and against totalitarianism for which good men have been fighting and dying since at least the Battle of the Salamis.

And caught in the middle of this struggle are all those millions of ordinary people who probably never thought of themselves as political but are beginning to realize, through rude awakenings like the one I’m about to describe, that there is no such thing as neutral status in the culture wars. Either you’re for liberty or you’re against it. It really is that simple. And if you’re for liberty, you can’t just hang around taking it for granted. You have to fight for it, now more than ever, every day of your life.

Enter Jeremy Hambly, a bearded thirtysomething from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who has spent an awful lot of hours playing Magic: The Gathering. This fiendishly complex card strategy game, involving fantastical beasts and characters, was launched in 1993 by an American Dungeons & Dragons fan called Richard Garfield. Garfield, a Ph.D. mathematician — and great-great-grandson of President James Garfield — developed the game with a company called Wizards of the Coast (now part of Hasbro) and has since become immensely rich on the proceeds. The game has around 20 million players, and requires regular capital outlay on card sets sold in randomized boxes costing around $100, but whose printing costs are a tiny fraction of that. So: like Garfield did, do the math…

Originally Hambly never thought of himself as particularly political. If you’d asked him, he’d probably have said: “leftish.” Mainly, though he was just a guy who was really into playing Magic: The Gathering, which he’d been doing since 1994, the year after its launch. Initially, he played the game on the Friday Night Magic sessions staged at specialist stores all over the country, and also at the bigger Grand Prix conventions which can attract up to 10,000 players.

More recently, though, he has become better known as a commentator than a player. In 2012 he started doing regular vidcasts, published on YouTube, where he would chat about the game and the circuit and the characters involved.

His channel became popular with players, attracting 140,000 subscribers. This meant he could start making money and his videos became a useful supplement to his income.

At least they did till this month (December) when Wizards of the Coast suddenly hit Hambly with a lifetime ban. As well as excluding him permanently from attending any Magic: The Gathering conventions, they confiscated all his online card sets, worth several hundred dollars. And, of course, in doing so they also killed off a significant part of his livelihood: thanks to the ban he is no longer in a position to report on what’s happening in the Magic: The Gathering world.

But what terrible thing had Hambly done to deserve such a draconian punishment, delivered out of the blue like a bolt from Zeus?

Well, the official version is that Hambly had violated Magic: The Gathering‘s terms and conditions.

These are pretty stringent, as you can see from the email excerpt below…

Hi Jeremy,
The reports allege that you have violated point three of Wizards of the Coast’s Code of Conduct. http://company.wizards.com/legal/code-conduct
It reads:
3. Do not harass, bully, threaten, harm or cause discomfort for other persons, including any other members. For example:

  •  Use of hate speech or racial, ethnic, sexist, homophobic or religious slurs;
  • Harassment of a specific person (repeated flaming, personal attacks or posting their private information);
  • Trolling or baiting the community in general with inflammatory statements, such as ones designed to elicit a negative response from the community; or
  • Posting or otherwise disclosing any personal or private information of another person, or any confidential information pertaining to a business, without consent.

We have attached a sample of the social media posts that have been reported. We would include links to the YouTube videos that have been reported, but it appears that the reported videos have been removed for alleged violations of YouTube’s Terms of Service.
We would like to give you an opportunity to provide your side of the story.
With respect to the images you attached to your last message regarding your own alleged harassment, we will review and investigate the information you provided. Some of the images do not have sources or context visible. Can you please ensure that we have all the information that would required to investigate possible threats or harassing messages?
If you are receiving specific threats that you feel are credible, please also reach out to your local law enforcement.
Thank you,
Wizards of the Coast

If these rules governed, say, how to behave on a Magic Online session or at a Grand Prix convention it might be understandable. But as you can see, they go much further than that. If you play Magic: The Gathering — Wizards of the Coast seems sincerely to believe — then the Wizards of the Coast can police, judge and punish you, 24/7. They are so stringent, in fact that, essentially, Wizards of the Coast is reserving the right to own the life of any player who plays its card game — and to banish them permanently at the drop of a hat should he or she (though, face it, 99.99 times out of a 100 it’s going to be a he) fail to meet its exacting standards of personal behavior.

And that judge’s decision is final. You’re not allowed a defense, apparently. You’re not allowed a plea in mitigation. Nor is the judge — Wizards of the Coast, owned by Hasbro — under any obligation to justify his verdict and the consequent penalty. Nor, furthermore, is that judge required to be in any way consistent. As we shall see, if you have the correct SJW politics you can harass, oppress and bully fellow players with virtual impunity; only the politically incorrect are punished.

This becomes pretty obvious when you look at some of the supposedly offensive social media posts which helped earn Hambly his lifetime ban.

There are lots more in this vein. But you get the idea. Jeremy Hambly has been reported to the Wizards of the Coast Stasi by its SJW informants, investigated and found guilty of doing something that hundreds, if not thousands of millions of us do on the internet every day: bantering, shitposting, fighting snark with snark, invoking Kek and Pepe the Frog…

And, instead of shrugging its shoulders, and going “Meh. This is what people on the internet do”, Wizards of the Coast Stasi has decided to confiscate his property, destroy part of his livelihood, and snatch away the hobby he loves. A pretty poor way, you might think, for a games company to treat one of its most dedicated, earlier-adopter players, the kind of person whose loyalty helped Magic: The Gathering grow into the lucrative commercial venture it is today.

This is roughly the point in the argument when progressives like to crow: “But this is just your beloved free market in action! I thought you believed in the right of private enterprise to set its own rules? Well all Wizards of the Coast is doing here is applying its rules. You’re only complaining about it this time because it doesn’t suit your politics…”

Progressives love deploying this argument, whenever they can, because they think it proves their point that free markets are fickle and unfair and that the only way of making everything nice is with yet more government regulation.

But I’d counter that the point it really proves is how little progressives care for freedom of speech, consumer rights, equality before the law, freedom of conscience or natural justice. If they did, they’d be fighting as hard against the ban on Hambly as they would if the punishment had been peremptorily applied to one of their own.

To give you an idea of the double standards at play here, consider for a moment this vicious, vindictive, genuinely menacing and ugly YouTube post by another Magic: The Gathering player. He operates under the handle The Mana Leek and is a certified Magic: The Gathering judge — so, quite senior in the game’s hierarchy.

The Mana Leek — a Canadian SJW type — is clearly not a fan of Hambly and wants him destroyed utterly. (Mana Leek has just over 400 Twitter followers by the way. That’s how significant he is.)

Here’s a sample of what The Mana Leek has to say:

If you’re not familiar with him, Jeremy is an asshole – a pure unadulterated piece of shit. His channel is a mix of product openings and low effort magic content, but primarily is wild conspiracy theories, alt-right talking points and flat out attacks on some of the most prominent and positive magic content creators around.

He’s everything that’s wrong with the internet.

This guy needs to be stopped. Subscribers need to leave his channel. Stores need to blacklist him. Hateful videos need to be removed. Accounts need to be banned.

I personally hope their [Wizards of the Coast] lawyers do a deep dive into his content, finding any straws they can grasp for slander or libel or defamation of character; find some unfair copyrighted material usage to pummel this guy with legal fees.

Now if ever there was a post in breach of Magic: The Gathering‘s terms and conditions, you’d think that particular rant would more than qualify. It is, quite blatantly, an incitement to harassment. And it doesn’t even have the excuse that Hambly’s relatively harmless social media posts (above) do of having been written, immediately, in response to provocations. Nor, unlike Hambly’s is it in any way funny or playful. The Mana Leek’s post is cold, cruel, considered, and, despite its vaunting air of moral superiority, bullying — and quite possibly defamatory.

Has The Mana Leek been reprimanded in any way for posting something objectively far nastier than anything Hambly has ever done or said?

It goes without saying that, despite protests from Hambly, The Mana Leek remains unpunished, unsuspended. Nor has his bullying post been taken down. Hambly tells me that when he complained, the head of Magic: The Gathering‘s judge committee replied that The Mana Leek had done nothing wrong.

Nor have any of the other SJW Magic: The Gathering bullies who have harassed and threatened and doxed Hambly been in any way accountable for similar flagrant breaches of Wizards of the Coast’s conduct code.

You might be wondering, at this point, whether or not there’s something deeper going on here. The pretext for Wizards of the Coast’s ban on Hambly is so obviously flimsy that there has to be some ulterior motive, right?

Well yes, there is. One of the things this story has in common with Gamergate is that it originated with a complaint from a cry-bully female “victim.”

The catalyst for Gamergate was a young woman operating under the pseudonym Zoe Quinn. You can remind yourself of the full backstory here. Suffice to say that Quinn was a beyond-useless games designer with a deeply suspect past who chose to shriek and #metoo her way into the cause of Social Justice Martyrdom, allegedly as the result of harassment she’d had from the sexist, misogynist gamer “community.”

Magicgate too began with a young woman eager to make a name for herself by proclaiming her victimhood — a cosplayer called Christine Sprankle.

A cosplayer — it comes from “costume play” — is someone who dresses up as a character from a TV show, movie, storybook, anime or video game.

Sprankle’s speciality was dressing up as sex-goddess-type characters from Magic: The Gathering.

You can see from this video why she went down so well at Magic: The Gathering conventions, attended as they are by an unusually high proportion of young, undersexed males who wouldn’t even know how to begin to converse with such an unfeasibly attractive young woman, except, perhaps, to gasp a request for a selfie.

But in November this year, Sprankle announced she was giving up on Magic cosplay, claiming that she had been a victim of targeted harassment.

In a subsequent tweet, she held Hambly most responsible, claiming that “he has made my life hell this whole year with his unnecessary tweets/videos about me and other members of Magic.”

This sounds bad. And you can understand why certain members of the Magic community were quick to condemn Hambly: after all, it’s not as though incredibly attractive young women in sexy elf outfits exactly grow on trees in the introverted, lonely worlds of most Magic: The Gathering players. One of their bros had just badly let them down: depriving them for evermore of possibly the hottest chick they were ever likely to encounter this side of an Internet porn channel.

There is, however, at least one major problem these “targeted harassment” and  “made my life hell this whole year” claims. They just don’t stand up to any objective scrutiny.

The most thorough investigation of the claims made against Hambly is in this video by YouTuber Count Dankula.

Count Dankula, you should be aware, has had his own run-ins with the SJW bully mob — notably with their uniformed branch in the Scottish police, which in turn takes its directions from the hard-left Scottish National Party administration currently busy transforming Scotland into an approximation of East Germany in the Soviet Era.

Dankula — real name Markus Meechan — is neither hard right, nor a Nazi. He is, like Hambly, just an outspoken provocateur and critic of progressive lunacy.

But it suits the left to pretend he is much more dangerous than that, which is why is he is currently facing a year’s prison sentence for teaching his pug dog to do Nazi salutes — mainly to annoy his girlfriend — and then posting it on the Internet. So in the brave new world for which Social Justice Warriors are campaigning, bad taste pranks have become an imprisonable offense.

Dankula has sifted all the available evidence — including Hambly’s critiques of Sprankle — and come to the conclusion that he has no case to answer. Yes, Hambly can be edgy, even cruel in his observations but he tells it like it is. That’s why, until recently, the 144,000 subscribers to his channel preferred his Magic: The Gathering content to any of the politically correct, milquetoast, let’s just be nice to everyone, alternatives.

Take, for example, the now-banned (by YouTube) videos where Hambly calls out Sprankle. These were prompted by an appeal Sprankle had made on Patreon, tearfully pleading for donors to fund her ongoing cosplay activities.

Hambly was cynical about what he considered to be her exploitation of “loser beta cucks” — his description of vulnerable, desperate, undersexed Magic: The Gathering players.

“Give her your money. But don’t you dare objectify her,” he said.

By crying in her Patreon video, he argued, she was trying to provoke a “White Knight goldrush for these losers who think they have any chance of penetrating this woman.”

As Count Dankula pithily puts it:

This is harsh criticism. It’s also ****ing true.

He can find no evidence for Sprankle’s harassment allegations:

She claimed years of harassment. The only evidence we’ve seen is a screenshot of a Reddit post, a few references in some of his videos. And a handful of tweets.

He also notes that Sprankle’s Patreon donations had been tailing off quite dramatically in the last year and wonders whether that might have had something to do with her publicity grabbing gesture — which did indeed cause her Patreon takings to skyrocket.

In fact, since then, Sprankle has herself gone public on the real reason she quit cosplay: she’d been accepted into a nursing program.

Yet on the basis of this totally cooked up, fake evidence of wrongdoing, Wizards of the Coast (a subsidiary of Hasbro, let’s not forget) decided to punish Hambly with a lifetime ban.

But then, Dankula argues, the alleged harassment of Sprankle and the supposed community guidelines breaches which led to the ban were merely a pretext.

He says:

It’s very well known that Jeremy is not liked within the community because of the way he acts…I think that pretty much everybody in the Magic the Gathering community has at some time run into Jeremy where he’s mocked them or critiqued them or referenced them in a video and they’ve got really upset about it. And that’s what this is about… These people really couldn’t deal with Jeremy calling them out on their bullshit…So what could these people do about this thorn in their side? What could they do to finally get rid of him? Enter Sprankle. Because who could think that you’re ever wrong when you’re coming to the aid of a poor, defenseless woman. Even if that woman is ****ing lying…

So, yep, it looks like Jeremy Hambly has been the victim of a miscarriage of justice. But for all that, why should most of us care? Why all this involved detail about the goings-on in a game most of us will never play, involving people we’re probably never going to meet, or maybe would even care to meet?

Well, I don’t want to come over Martin Niemöller here – (“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Socialist…” etc) – but this story is ultimately about something much bigger than the misfortunes of one snarky YouTuber.

Really, it’s about that extremely creepy, insidious and dangerous phenomenon which Vox Day anatomizes in his latest book SJWs Always Double Down: the thing he calls “Convergence.”

Convergence, essentially, is the SJW equivalent of those parasitic wasps which lay their eggs inside other insects. The eggs then hatch and the hapless host body is devoured from within.

Obvious victims of this include organizations like Facebook, Apple, and Google, which increasingly put the values of “social justice” before more conventional free market goals like customer service and the bottom line. And, indeed, before more traditional values like freedom of speech or individual rights.

But almost no institution is immune.

As Vox Day says:

Any kind of organization can be converged. Every type of organization has been converged. From churches to science fiction conventions, from rock bands to research science fellowships, there is not a single organization that has demonstrated itself to be immune to SJW convergence. Even ancient organizations, such as the Roman Catholic Church, have shown themselves to be susceptible to SJW infiltration, corruption and convergence.

Wizards of the Coast, it’s well known, was gag-inducingly politically correct long before this particular incident.

But only recently have its SJW politics become so aggressive and all-encompassing as to impinge so violently on the lives and innocent pleasures of its players.

One of the more grotesque examples of this is the way even the characters on its cards have been hijacked by Social Justice values.

Back in the day, players could enjoy looking at characters like Liliana of the Veil, a raven-haired, wasp-waisted beauty whose close-fitting, off-the-shoulder dress shows her bare upper body to great effect, and hints at a cleavage which not disgrace a porn star.

Liliana is what boys like. (I know because I used to play Dungeons and Dragons, and she accords pretty well with all the witch characters in my adolescent fantasies.)

Now, increasingly, politically incorrect characters like Liliana are being sidelined and replaced by hideous but woke creations like the unattractive, asexual but impeccably right-on middle-aged female pirate Admiral Beckett Brass.

As one Reddit user commented, with perhaps a hint of sarcasm:

I am so stoked about pirate grandma

In other words, what happened at Marvel Comics is happening at Magic: The Gathering too. The kids are being given what’s good for them, rather than what it is they want or like.

This is why Jeremy Hambly’s story needed telling. Not because he’s the cutest, cuddliest guy in the world or because he wants to be your martyr du jour or because you’re ever likely to play a Liliana of the Veil, let alone an Admiral Beckett Brass in anger…

…But because it’s yet another example of another little corner of our culture being captured and destroyed by the intolerant and megalomaniacal left.

No one asked the 20 million people who enjoy playing Magic: The Gathering where they wanted their hobby to be policed according to politically correct standards where you’re no longer free to bitch and gossip and joke about the game, the other players, and the organizational hierarchy.

A tiny cabal of SJWs made that decision for them. And now, just like happened with Gamergate, they’ve been forced to take sides.

To judge by the response to this prissy, sententious, cloying tweet from Magic: The Gathering, they’ve taken the same route most Gamergaters did…

Here’s what the Community thinks of that:

Sure there are one or two positive comments too from SJW Magic players who just love the new-flavored Kool-Aid. But you do wonder how representative they are of players at large. Again — this can’t be stressed often enough — Magic: The Gathering is, like video games, a place most people go to escape politics, not have it rammed 24/7 down their throats.

I hope this backfires badly for Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro. And with the help of all those of you who agree with this article, I hope it will.

Let these Social Justice Warriors know that their fascism has no place in your world.

Sign Hambly’s Change.org petition — requesting that he and fellow banned player Travis Woo — be reinstated.

Write to Hasbro and tell them that if this is the kind of fascistic behavior they choose to endorse then not only will you not by any of Wizards of the Coast’s Magic-related products, but you won’t buy any of Hasbro’s other products either.

Either you believe gaming should be about fun, freedom of speech and liberty — or you believe it should be about social justice. It cannot be both. You are the market: you decide!

 

 

 

 

 

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