Our society has a sickness. We worship this corrosive individuality and the idea that the world is fundamentally just. People get what they deserve, and if they got a bad turn it’s because of their fundamental weakness, or some other such thing. We create these no-win situations and then blame people who get stuck in our clever little structural traps. We reward hypocrisy, and delight in the suffering of others, because in some small way we hope it will make us feel better about ourselves.

I mention this, of course, because of Crackgate. If you haven’t heard, this is a “cleverly” named controversy that arose because someone went around having pictures taken of him meme-ing in front of people who were sitting on chairs in such a way to expose their butt cracks. He then posted it to Reddit, it went viral, Gawker publicized it further, and then all of a sudden I come in to work to find out that my coworkers, who know nothing about Magic, were ribbing me about how I spent my vacation. It was a black eye for the game, and it’s unacceptable on a moral level as well.

Look, I get that the human form grosses out some people. I’m grossed out by it too. I mean, I save most of my loathing for the body I see in the mirror, but I get that bodies are weird and usually gross, and there’s a long tradition of making fun of people over body stuff. But not all traditions are good, and they’re particularly nasty when they feed into preexisting narratives about the MTG community. In this case, the narrative isn’t that all Magic players are fat nerds; we could live with that narrative, and have for years. No, situations like this reinforce the idea that Magic is full of assholes, petty little fucks who don’t hesitate to replicate the hierarchies that beat down so many of us during our formative years.

That was the final take on the “Finkel Dating Fiasco” from several years back. For those who have forgotten all about that little kerfuffle, some lady went out on an OKCupid date with Magic Hall-of-Famer (and friend of the Obliterator) Jon Finkel. Finkel mentioned he was internet famous at one point, the lady made fun of him in an article posted to one of the more mainstream blogs (I want to say Gawker, but who remembers [ETA: it was Gizmodo, one of the ancillary Gawker sites]), and that could have been the end of it. The lady needed no help looking like a jackass, and Finkel behaved like a complete gentleman throughout the whole ordeal. Unfortunately, the article lured out the trolls. Lots of Magic players started flaming the writer for not being attractive, for being poorer than Finkel, and for a lot of other similarly gross, stupid, and inappropriate things. Then the feminist blogs circled the wagons, and the nerds circled the wagons, and suddenly a group that consists primarily of socially marginalized dudes was fighting a group that consists primarily of socially marginalized ladies, while the cool kids at Gawker laughed all the way to the bank. No wonder they posted this again. They like it when we tear ourselves apart from within.

If you have a problem with seeing other people’s butts it’s your problem. Those other people aren’t making a choice other than coming to the event that we all love. “But they’re choosing to be fat, or to wear ill-fitting clothes!” some might exclaim. Those arguments are stupid. Do you need me to explain how they are stupid? In a nutshell, the bigger you are the less likely you are to find clothing that is made for your body shape. And obesity is not a personal failing, it’s a side effect of living in a culture structured around sedentary jobs and food that’s either unhealthy or time-consuming. If it bothers you, change society. But you don’t create change in society by punching down.

In situations like this, the offender is invariably coming from a privileged place. To think that your disdain for another person’s presentation should result in a change in someone else, not a change in your own attitude, is a privileged mindset. But, like most situations in which privilege is relevant, it’s harder to see it when you’re the one with the privileged position. I get that. I have empathy for that. But that doesn’t mean it’s right.

The problem I’ve been having with the community response is the people who are bending backwards to turn their empathy for the offender into some sort of justification for his actions. This bothers me, because contorting yourself into a pretzel because you feel for this kid seems really excessive when you can’t take five seconds to think about how awful it must feel to see your butt going viral. Personally, I’d be freaked out if my metaphorical butt went viral, let alone my physical ass-crack. That seems like a horrific violation for these poor people, and I think having empathy for them is more important then being able to figure out why a fat dude was taking pictures of butts in the first place.

And intent is irrelevant in situations like this! “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” and all that jazz. The fact is that this dude went out of his way to mock a bunch of people during a huge tournament. Then, dissatisfied with just receiving the praise from his close circle of friends for his “bravery,” he posted it to Reddit, birthplace of half the articles on the major aggregator sites these days. And, like Doctor Octagon before him, this nameless twerp prompts a ban. By replicating the hierarchies of abuse and bullying that brought many of us to this game, he has given Magic a bad name. And he’s made Grand Prix seem even less inviting to new players; on top of the heavy competition, you now have to deal with the chance of your body going viral.

Look, it’s not hard. Be good to each other. Have empathy, not contempt. And no matter how easy it might seem to be to get popular by being a dick to strangers, the world is smaller these days than you could ever imagine. There’s always the chance something you think would just be a laugh for you and your friends could go viral and make us all look bad. So don’t.

Jess Stirba is a formerly-anorexic-currently-fat Magic player.

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