No, Not Black Leaf!

Lieutenant John Martini: Mazes & Monsters is a far-out game. Swords… poison… spells… battles… maiming… killing!

Daniel: Hey, it’s all imagination!

Lieutenant John Martini: Is it?

Mazes and Monsters

mazesmonstersvhscoverSo people have started noticing the unbelievably bizarre insult being hurled by McCain flak Michael Goldfarb:

It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman’s memory of war from the comfort of mom’s basement, but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others.

The “Pro-Obama Dungeons and Dragons Crowd”? Pardon me, but what the hell is Goldfarb smoking, because I need to get me some of that.

Look, we all know that D&D is likely to make you go insane, seek out the World Trade Center, and try to jump off while casting a spell that will give you superpowers and allow you to avoid making the movie Joe vs. the Volcano1, but frankly, I’m not getting why this is suddenly an insult. At least not in the year 2008.

John Cole has some idea:

Is it to build up McCain’s macho street cred by attacking the nerdy Obama and his supporters? Are the religious nuts still convinced D&D is a tool of satan? Is there some sort of anti-D&D demographic out there that is the new soccer mom? Or is Michael Goldfarb just an idiot and forgot to vary his schoolyard insults?

not-black-leafMy guess is that it’s trying to insult Obama for not fighting for his country in Vietnam, when he was twelve, or in a war he could have fought in, like Grenada. Of course, we all know that not fighting in a war disqualifies one from ever criticizing anyone who has fought in a war, on any topic, ever. And nobody would ever question whether an inaccurately retold story about war disqualified someone for the presidency. So this is totally understandable.

And yeah, it probably has something to do with a shout-out to the Christian right, who cling bitterly to the belief that four guys role-playing an attack on a giant spider represents evil Satanism, when what it really represents is America’s best hope for an abstinence-based reproduction program.2

Nevertheless, I don’t think this is an attack that’s going to fly. Look, Jack Chick aside, nobody actually believes D&D is evil anymore, certainly not anyone who would vote for Obama. I mean, the game system is 34 years old at this point. It was last scary around the time Mazes and Monsters came out, which made fear of D&D too hilarious to be taken seriously. There are grandparents out there who played D&D as college students, and a lot of parents who played it as kids. Attacking the D&D-playing Obama campaign is like going after the Yahtzee-playing McCain set — it simply doesn’t make any sense to anybody, anywhere.

Which is why I strongly encourage the McCain campaign to stick with it.

  1. It makes more sense than the actual plot. []
  2. My character was Elven, Neutral Good, and a Mage. []
This entry posted in Elections and politics, In the news. Bookmark the permalink. 

28 Responses to No, Not Black Leaf!

  1. 1
    Antigone says:

    I don’t know: both my parents and my new in-laws thought D&D was evil for a long time (until about, oh, the time that their nerdy kids started playing it).

    Chaotic good, half-elf, Bard. And damn good at it.

  2. 2
    Seth says:

    Also note this, by Goldfarb as well, on the site:


    Posted at 11:35 AM on 8/1/2008 by Michael Goldfarb

    NYTimes Editors: Leave Obama Alone!

    If the shareholders of the New York Times ever wonder why the paper’s ad revenue is plummeting and its share price tanking, they need look no further than the hysterical reaction of the paper’s editors to any slight, real or imagined, against their preferred candidate. This campaign has never engaged in ‘racially tinged attacks,’ and the Obama campaign conceded as much yesterday in a statement clarifying that “Barack Obama in no way believes that the McCain campaign is using race as an issue.”

    That the Times made this allegation in a blog post rather than running it on the editorial page indicates that they either knew the charge was bogus or they didn’t have the nerve to make their case in full view of the public. But in their new role as bloggers, the paper’s editors seem to have all the intelligence and reason of the average Daily Kos diarist sitting at home in his mother’s basement and ranting into the ether between games of dungeons and dragons. They also have about as much care for the facts–the “board” has already been forced to append a correction.


    Apparently Michael Goldfarb really thinks this ‘slander’ will work.

    There are a few problems with this strategy.

    1. It’s really unbelievably crazy. Totally out of left field. It makes no sense at all. Obama seems as unlike a D&D nerd as anyone. Now Karl Rove, he almost certainly knows his way around a d20.

    2. It’s dated and no one cares anymore. Yes, when Goldfarb graduated from Princeton in the late 70s/early 80s people talked about D&D. D&D was teh satan back in the early 80s. But that was three editions ago, before TSR went bankrupt and was bought out by Wizards of the Coast, and now Hasbro. Yeah, Hasbro. The owners of Candyland and GIJoe.

    3. Half the D&D crowd is in the McCain camp. Look, D&D is a tactical combat game with strong roots in war-gaming. It’s popular in the military and among veterans. It has parallel interests with weapon collectors and those interested in battle, combat, and tactics. It’s steeped in european medieval and sword & sorcery fantasy. Its core demographic is white males. As such, many libertarians, republicans and independents play the game. The gun show crowd, the military-fetishist crowd, the war history crowd. Sure there’s the Obama-supporting college kids, but there’s more 30+ old-school gamers. I’ve been to the conventions and the game stores.

    Now I happen to be a pro-Obama D&D player. But before Goldfarb connected the dots I didn’t see the correlation. The thing is that I was on the fence about McCain early (before I signed an Obama D&D suicide pact in my local sewer), but the swell of neocons and the strange off-target ads really soured me on the guy quickly. I doubt this comment will really hurt him, but it’s these odd clumsy attacks by the McCain camp that really leave me shaking my head.

  3. 3
    sara no h. says:

    when what it really represents is America’s best hope for an abstinence-based reproduction program.

    Aw man, you made me lol. >.<

    And, er, I had a neutral good half-elf ranger, but he fell off a cliff and an inside-out giant fell on top of him, and he finally kicked it when he managed to pick off the bandages holding the two sides of his skull together.

  4. 4
    Robert says:

    Chaotic good half-orc barbarian, with one wizard level just so I can have a familiar with 75 hit points.

    Gronk likes McCain’s hard stance on Russian adventurism, but also feels Obama’s cross-racial appeal could bring the country together. Difficult decisions make Gronk angry. Gronk rage! Gronk smash!

    OK, well, my game group thinks it’s funny. Obamabots all, except for me, but we manage to get along. I’m pretty sure that being a D&D geek is a cross-class skill.

  5. 5
    Falyne says:

    I started playing my sophomore year of college, five years ago. My mom, who’s a conservative boomer, freaked out slightly, as she’d internalized the moral panic of the 80s or whenever it was that some kid died in some steam tunnels and his mother blamed his D&D game, or whatever it was.

    Ah well. She eventually got over the OMG DEATH reaction, but still kept D&D squarely in the Stupid Things Distracting My Daughter From Education pile, which meant it was part of the background radiation of criticism. Blergh.

    My first character was a Chaotic Neutral Barbarian, named Daera. She had bad luck with criticals on both sides. First, there was the critical success on a critical fumble, which resulted in her cutting herself in half with her greataxe (waaaay over fatal damage). Luckily the DM decided she had a flask of “Druid Fluid” in the massive quantities of alcohol she’d ‘borrowed’ from the last inn, which hand-wavingly restored her to 0 hp. Again, beginner’s campaign, nice DM.

    Then there was the time she was too damn good, and nearly got the party killed. See, there was a group of girallons, or giant four-armed gorillas, that were supposed to be too tough for our party. We were supposed to try and attack, not get anywhere, get dealt lots of damage, and run for the hills.

    Well, Daera went first, and got a double-critical success, and dealt 85 points of damage as a level 6 Barbarian in a single hit. BOOM! Dead gorilla thing. Soooo, we figure it’ll be a cakewalk, and commit to battle. Only a couple rounds later, we have the cleric under a Sanctuary spell dragging unconscious party members to safety, healing me repeatedly back to consciousness so I can guard our retreat (as I’m the only one that can even hit the damn things), and nearly having a total party wipe before we finally, finally manage a full retreat. Gyah!

    I’ve since decided that my *own* description would be Chaotic Good Barbarian. Sadly, I don’t exist in 4e. Ah well, I’ll live.

  6. 6
    Falyne says:

    But, yeah, back to the topic…. my mom’s a reasonably intelligent woman with a weakness for right-wing talk radio and moral panics. Oh, and she loves Nancy Grace, and has followed the coverage of every nationally-broadcast Missing White Girl case.

    So, yeah, there do exist people who WILL take references to moral panics seriously. Then again, my mom wouldn’t vote for Obama *anyway*, since she’s convinced he’s going to wreck the economy (uhhhhhhh…..) and enact bad (read: progressive) tax policies. Le sigh….

  7. 7
    Falyne says:

    One last thing: I actually bought a copy of Dark Dungeons off of eBay. It’s the original out-of-print version, which still claims that CS Lewis was Satanic. It’s so horribly beautiful, I love it! ^_^

  8. 8
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I think you’re misunderstanding the insult– it’s not that D&D is evil, it’s that gamers are unmanly. They live in their mother’s basements (don’t have jobs, haven’t separated from birth family) and can’t attract women. McCain just adds that they don’t have sufficient respect for the military.

    I see it as partly an attack on Obama’s actual ability to attract intelligent supporters, especially geeks.

    I don’t expect it to do McCain much good.

  9. 9
    Silenced is Foo says:

    Ick, D&D is for nerds. Never played that crap.

    Rifts, Vampire, Torg, Star Wars, Werewolf, Mage, Paranoia, Middle Earth Role Playing, Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ninjas and Superspies, Heroes Unlimited, and Toon… but never D&D.

    D&D is for geeks.

  10. 10
    David Model says:

    Traditionally, candidates seem to have two ways to travel during an election: the high road and the low road. Obviously this is oversimplified drivel but it is true that a candidate and his campaign team will choose the general direction of their strategy. It is becoming very transparent that McCain has chosen neither but has opted for some subterranean, miasmic nether world where he can spew out his calumnies about Obama.

    There are several underlying themes to these egregious, craven attacks. One of these themes originated in a transgressive, patently outrageous book written by Jerome Corsi of swift boat notoriety titled The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality. Setting the tone for the campaign, Corsi defines Obama as a dangerous radical liberal who is subversively trying to ingratiate himself with the voters in order to win the election so that he can implement his real and nefarious agenda. This claim is unadulterated, inane, and pernicious nonsense. Progressive democrats are imploring Obama to return to the progressive policies that he espoused during the primaries. As well, I am a Canadian where the so-called ruling party, the Liberals, are far more left than Obama in that they created a single-payer, government-run healthcare system and believe in subsidized housing and daycare. The only people to whom these policies are a danger are corporations and the wealthy that might have to pay their fair share of taxes. We even have a party further to the left of the liberals, the New Democratic Party, who has governed in four provinces none of whom went neither bankrupt nor organized collectives.

    The second major theme for attacking Obama is his lack of courage and leadership qualities which are needed to protect the security of the United States. It’s the swift boat attacks all over again which were partly responsible for sinking John Kerry. While McCain thumps his chest with knuckles that drag on the ground over the Russian attacks on Georgia, even Bush becomes overshadowed by the deafening roar emanating from McCain’s lips. McCain is hoping that the public will swallow these blatantly meretricious images. Examining Obama’s record, he has supported all the funding bills for the Iraq occupation in the Senate, has taken a tough stand on Pakistan and Iran, and has proposed sending more troops to Afghanistan. Obviously to weak as far as McCain is concerned.

    Unfortunately, these kinds of attacks, exploiting people’s fears, frequently resonate with voters. It is important that the Obama campaign actively and aggressively prove these malicious attacks are pure bull****.

  11. 11
    NancyP says:

    Even the most doctrinaire of Christianist pundits know of more recent games, for example, the first person shooter game “Left Behind”, based on the ubiquitous apocalypse novels of the same name. Apparently the Christianist gamers said the game just sucked (slow, few options, dull); I am not sure why the Christianist readers went for the Bulwer-Lytton prizewinner novels, which are so poorly written that they are unintentionally funny.

  12. 12
    Silenced is Foo says:

    I thought the Left Behind game was a real-time strategy title, not a first-person shooter… or did they release a second one?

  13. Pingback: Spook And Muffin’s Relaxed Politics » More on St John McShame

  14. 13
    Batocchio says:

    Well, they’ve moved from Dr. No to D&D. I guess that’s progress in terms of their cultural references. Maybe in a couple of weeks, they’ll hit the 90s. I don’t hold out much hope for them moving from “Czechoslovakia” to “The Czech Republic,” though.

  15. 14
    Kai Jones says:

    I read it and thought he meant “of DnD players, the ones who are pro-Obama are…” And that the reference to DnD is like “armchair general,” i.e. that they have opinions developed without real world experience. Not that I agree with him, just clarifying how I interpreted the statement.

  16. 15
    Original Lee says:

    I agree with Kai in that the D&D comment was intended as the left-wing equivalent of Cheetos-munching Fighting Keyboardists, but I also agree with several other commenters that the secondary prong of this alleged toasting fork was the Satanist canard for the Freepers.

    Neutral good dwarf warrior Phlogiston approves this message.

  17. 16
    RonF says:

    David said:

    Progressive democrats are imploring Obama to return to the progressive policies that he espoused during the primaries.

    David, you need to look at Sen. Obama’s local record here in Illinois where I live. It’s real crowded under his bus. He didn’t just start throwing people and things under there during this national campaign. Back in the 2006 election and 2008 primaries he was asked to endorse “progressive” candidates that were running against the (horribly corrupt) Chicago Democratic machine’s candidates in the primaries. Obama declined to do so and endorsed the machine candidates instead. He’s a creature of the Daley machine. His political career was created by it and has been dependent on it, and the idea that a creature of that machine is actually as close as Obama is to the office of the President of the United States is not just upsetting but close to frightening. The main principle of the Chicago Daley Democratic Machine is “Get elected and take care of our friends”, and any other principle that comes to threaten that will be quickly abandoned. “Progressive” policies helped get him nominated, but they won’t get him elected, so kiss them goodbye and don’t expect to see them again.

  18. 17
    annie says:

    nobody mentioned the double wammy. is it because we are all so accustomed to it we let it slide time after time?

    most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others.

    yawn. this is the ‘you can’t nail mc on anything because while you were masterbating he was POWing for our sins’.

    say it isn’t so

    The Legend of John McCainTM is a masterpiece in political maneuvering that has strength like no one has ever seen. Somehow the McCain team has constructed a persona that can attack at will, but can never be attacked. They have used McCain’s POW history to create a firewall to shield from all criticism, and as a universal qualifier for all things that pertain to foreign policy or to the military.

    Here are some examples:

    – Any question of McCain’s integrity is instantly an insult to all military personnel and all veterans who have ever served.

    – Any opposition to McCain’s ideas must be prefaced with a disclaimer honoring his military service.

    – Any McCain misstep or gaffe is instantly forgiven because he was once a Prisoner of War, and must be honored as such.

    – John McCain’s war hero status overrides the Ten Commandments, because according to Sean Hannity, his adultery is erased by the fact that he was imprisoned in Vietnam.

    ps, i too split a gut over ‘best hope for an abstinence-based reproduction program.’

  19. 18
    Jake Squid says:

    The main principle of the Chicago Daley Democratic Machine is “Get elected and take care of our friends”, and any other principle that comes to threaten that will be quickly abandoned.

    Yes, yes, yes. Unlike candidates of the St. Louis Machine, like Harry Truman. Or any of the many other Machine candidates we’ve had for president over the years. Roosevelt, Cleveland, etc. All of whom are now, correctly, viewed by history as the worst administrations imaginable. Totally unlike the non-Machine but totally corporately owned administration of GWB. Now there is an honest, transparent and competent administration that knows how to take care of their masters and their masters friends.

    Sorry, RonF, that’s just a tired and trivial complaint to try to blow up into a major issue. If you aren’t a candidate of some local machine, you’re a candidate of national or trans-national moneyed interests. There is nobody who can be a credible candidate for POTUS without being wholly owned. Try to name the last one. It certainly wasn’t within the last 28 years. Reagan, Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Bush I, Clinton, Dole, Bush II, Gore, Kerry. All owned.

    If that’s what the right has on Obama, no wonder they’re running scared and trying to create bogeymen to frighten the voters into obedience.

  20. 19
    Jake Squid says:

    Feh, edit isn’t working for me, but it should have read:

    Unlike candidates of the St. Louis Machine, like Harry Truman.

  21. 20
    Decnavda says:

    Ha! How many of you are actually still using your college D&D character’s name as your generic internet screen name. A character’s name which was generated by simply reversing the letters in the first word of “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”?

    Chaotic Good Theif-Acrobat Halfling. Often publicly claims to be Dextrose, an Elven Thief adventuring buddy of Decnavda’s who was only partially rightly famous for being a shapeshifter.

  22. 21
    Bjartmarr says:

    What I don’t understand is how all of you managed to get by with only one D&D character.

  23. 22
    Ampersand says:

    Decnavda, that’s emosewa!

  24. 23
    Ampersand says:

    By the way, have folks read Ryan Lizza’s article in the New Yorker about Obama’s Chicago days? It’s long, but very good. It doesn’t make Obama into the simplistic caricature Ron tends to push, but it does make a convincing case that Obama is a tough politician adept at using political machinery to win elections, and leaving some pissed-off people behind him as he climbs.

  25. 24
    Falyne says:

    Oh, I’ve had many more characters. Daera’s just the first. ^_^

  26. 25
    Kit Kendrick says:

    I think you’re misunderstanding the insult– it’s not that D&D is evil, it’s that gamers are unmanly. They live in their mother’s basements (don’t have jobs, haven’t separated from birth family) and can’t attract women. McCain just adds that they don’t have sufficient respect for the military.

    Which is hilarious, because D&D is freaking huge in the military. The army knows this — remember that ad for the Marines that starts out like a sword and sorcery battle and then morphs into a uniformed Marine with his ceremonial sword? Who do you suppose that was aimed at?

  27. 26
    Silenced is Foo says:

    good point. All the soldiers I know are RPG powergamers… and the mini-maxing powergamers I know tend to be South Park shoot-the-bastards libertarians who only vote Republican because they can stomache the prudish grumpiness in exchange for the rest of the platform. That is to say, they’re not married to the party and can be peeved off with this kind of language.

  28. 27
    Sarah says:

    I’m a pro-Obama D&D player and a college student. The idea that D&D = pro-Obama is the funniest thing I’ve heard all day. Sunshine the Chaotic Good half-elf rogue thanks you. Also, I’m totally house-ruling that Chaotic Good is still an alignment in 4e, because it is too awesome to lose.