Social justice and progressive values are a surprisingly challenging topic in the year 2017. The idea that women should be represented in the artwork used for a card game such as on the upcoming Unstable expansions’ Spike, Tournament Grinder shouldn’t be controversial and yet, here we are. This sentiment of course is a microcosm of what’s happening today not only in the larger gaming community but in social circles across the entire country in a post-Trump United States of America.

Wizards of the Coast has embraced their diversity initiative when it comes to creating new characters. Spike, Tournament Grinder, is only the latest in a very long line of cards that were used to help improve the representation of a variety of minorities in the Magic multiverse. Articles and studies about representation and diversity consistently show their importance.

This article from 2016 published by Morgan Stanley’s research division shows a strong correlation between gender diversity in the employee base and stock returns for investors. Here’s an article that was published earlier this year by the Duke University Chronicle that discusses a study showing that people in racially-diverse groups are less likely to make poor decisions by acquiescing to consensus.

So if studies shows that companies that embrace gender diversity produce stronger economic results, and that racial diversity leads to more free-thinking and stronger decision-making, and if Wizards of the Coast has chosen to embrace both of these policies, what’s the problem?

Call it what you’d like, whether it’s gamergate, the alt-right, white supremacists, or something else, there is a small but very vocal minority that strongly resists these changes. These groups, empowered by the election of a president that they view as an ally, have become more vocal in the past 12 months and have recruited more members to their cause. One of those members posted to Mark Rosewater’s Tumblr blog last week challenging the decision to make Spike a woman.

Over the rest of this article I’m going to dissect the post that was made on Blogatog, explain the subtly important parts of those carefully crafted 41 words, and then discuss why Mark Rosewater’s response, while being 100% correct, completely missed an important teaching opportunity for the Magic community that I hope to share here. Let’s go.

Now, to be 100% clear this is both misogynist in its message that women don’t belong in the competitive organized Magic community and it is also antisemitic in its use of “shekelsteinberg” as an account name. This was not done unintentionally and the name has been used before on Twitter to support Marine Le Pen for the French prime minister elections earlier this year. Le Pen of course has a well-noted history of antisemitic rhetoric.

Greetings Mr. Rosewater,

When this first began making the rounds of the Magic community one thing was painfully obvious, this was a very carefully crafted message by a group of people who subscribe to the anti-progressive alt-right philosophies. Why do I believe it was created by a group? Well to be honest it’s simply too well-written and very formulaic.

may I ask why Spike is portrayed as a female, when only about 1% of professional players are girls,

Note that the authors are trying to come off as having a civil discussion through overly formal tone like “Greetings Mr.” and “may I ask.” This gives the illusion that discussion about the idea that women aren’t people is one for civilized folk. You can see a lot of similar discourse in the writings of 19th century politicians defending slavery in America.

Word selection is critical and it’s a big reason why I believe a group of Magic’s alt-right community members crafted this. Using “female” instead of “woman” is an attempt to continue the idea that this is a civil rational discourse based in some kind of empirical evidence (because female is a more scientific term than a social one). Using “girl” instead of “woman” is an attempt to undermine the equal standing that women have with men by instead referring to the diminutive term.

it’s not honest

The idea of honesty and dishonesty is one that comes up very frequently when trying to converse with members of Magic’s alt-right community. Here we see a turn from the illusion of rational discourse and instead an appeal to moral values. Honesty is a core value that everyone can support. No one wants to be labeled dishonest and you’ll often see Donald Trump refer to the media as being dishonest. The use of “it’s not honest” here instead of “it’s wrong” is an attempt to appeal to that sense or morality.

to make people feel included in a representation of a player base they don’t belong.

Finally we get to the core argument. Now that you’ve been told this is a civil discourse, and that we’re discussing moral honesty, the authors make their bold claim: women don’t belong in the competitive Magic community. They don’t say anything factual here but simply state their misogynist opinion that competitive gaming is a place for men and they don’t want women to intrude.

So why is this important and what did Mark get wrong with his response? Nothing Mark said was incorrect. One in about every four Magic players is a Spike meaning they play because they have something they want to prove. Also roughly one in every three-to-four Magic players (across all media and all levels of competitiveness) are women. After laying out the factual basis that at least 750,000 women worldwide play Magic, Mark closes by reiterating Wizards of the Coast’s commitment to diversity that I explained above.

So where did Mark go wrong?

The question wasn’t for him. It was for you.

Diversity and representation in Magic are not ideas that Mark Rosewater is changing his mind on and certainly not for such a poorly contrived argument. So this wasn’t about challenging Mark, it was about challenging you, the casual Magic fan who reads Mark Rosewater’s blog or read’s Reddit. It was crafted to be read by people for whom the message would resonate.

This post was, in-short, a recruiting flyer from Magic’s alt-right community to you, Magic’s fans, and delivered unwittingly by Mark Rosewater and the Reddit community. Mission accomplished.

The lesson here is to learn how to identify this kind of propaganda. The overt use of formal phrasing, the intentional dismissal of women as people through the words “female” and “girl”, the attack on perceived morality instead of facts by claiming “dishonesty”, and finally the claim that women don’t “belong” are all subtle attempts to create what on the surface seems like a well rationed argument. Once you peel away the layers however the result is someone simply saying, “It’s perfectly okay to not want women around and we want you to know that we exist and if you feel the same way you can find us.”

Now, maybe I’m misreading Mark’s response and he also intended it to be for you, the Magic fan, and not for the alt-right community. But I don’t think that’s the case, because if I wanted to respond to this message and direct that response to the wider Magic community here is what I would say:

“Women will always belong in the Magic community at every level and across every medium. From the kitchen tables of casual paper Magic to the unending grind of the Magic Online Championship Series, women are welcome, women are wanted, and women belong.

“You, on the other hand, overly misogynist (and antisemitic) Tumblr troll who is trying to use my soapbox as a platform for recruiting more people to your anti-woman campaign are not welcome. You’re not welcome on the Pro Tour. You’re not welcome at your local game store. You’re not welcome at my kitchen table. You’re not welcome on Magic Online or MTG Arena or even MTG Puzzle Quest. We don’t want you here. Please take your cards and go. Do us all a favor and sell your collection and find a different community to plague with your hatred of women (and Jews).”

That’s the strongest message we can send as a community, and it’s the one that I hope you’ll send. Even though Mark is technically correct, it actually doesn’t matter if women make up 25% of the community or 90% or 10% or pick-any-number-you-like-percent because women are people and Magic is for people. Period. Full stop.

There is only one type of person that Magic is not for and that’s the type of person who would tell other people they can’t play Magic and if your response to that statement is to argue that it’s a Catch 22 and call me a hypocrite then please allow me to show you the door because you are not welcome here and can take your hateful point of view elsewhere.

Rich Stein just wants everyone to show compassion and empathy for other people regardless of race, sex, or religion… except when it comes to people who would deny anyone else their rights because of their race, sex, or religion. Those people can go to hell.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.