29

In 2020 Magic: The Gathering banned seven cards due to racist or offensive content. But I don't understand the inclusion of the card Stone-Throwing Devils on that list. It just shows a bunch of demons jumping over a fence and throwing stones. What is the problem with it? Everything on the web just includes it on the list of banned cards but doesn't explain why.

7
  • 1
    A small caveat that might assist towards finding another answer to this question, in the book Us vs Them: The Failure of Globalism, Ian Bremmer refers to stone-throwing as the only way poor and powerless people can express their frustration when they have no ability to change things.
    – Jack J
    Mar 3 at 21:50
  • 3
    Given the interest in this question, I have opened a phrase history question on the English Usage site. Hopefully, this can provide some historical or literary context to the phrase.
    – Geoffrey
    Mar 4 at 0:54
  • 1
    Isn't the question here, "Why did Wizards of the Coast ban the card?" Not what someone else might find offensive about the card? That's too broad a question and not appropriate for this site.
    – John
    Mar 4 at 17:27
  • @John. I think it is a clear question. The question asker says it was was banned due to 'racist or offensive' content. So the question can't by 'why did WOTC ban the card' as they know that.. They seemed wanted to better understand why it might be considered racist and the answers below seem rooted in facts with references showing that the question is answerable. Whilst it might be the usual type of question here it is certainly games related and answerable. Mar 4 at 18:46
  • 1
    Since the image is removed from WOTC sites, here's one found elsewhere Mar 4 at 23:43
21

I am not convinced that anyone has ever used the phrase "stone-throwing devil" to refer to Palestinians, however throwing stones is unquestionably associated with Palestinian protest (Palestinian Stone-throwing), perhaps especially with the First Intifada.

It has been 30 years since the first Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, exploded onto the scene in the occupied territories.

The prevailing images of unarmed Palestinians throwing rocks at fully armed Israeli troops and military vehicles, which clearly showed the occupied and the occupier, were covered with unprecedented interest by international media.

Stories from the first Intifada: ‘They broke my bones’ (emphasis added)

Indeed, the act of throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers has become a symbolic act of defiance and resistance for the Palestinians. The juxtaposition between boys and men armed with stones against the Israeli military has drawn comparisons to biblical foes David and Goliath.

Like the kaffiyeh, the checkered Arab scarf that Palestinians sometimes use as a shield -- against tear gas, and to hide their identities -- the stone has become a symbol of their struggle.

Why Palestinians Throw Stones (emphasis added)

So, in the contemporary (American) imagination, there's already some connection between stone throwing and Palestinians.

If that connection doesn't feel obvious, also remember that the card was printed in Arabian Nights, which is set in an imaginary Arabia - so these are Arab stone-throwing devils.

Although the connection with Palestinian protestors - intentional or not - is pretty clear when you consider the above, it's not as clear what kind of statement the card would be making. That said, if there's any statement, it's probably something negative. The card is black, which is typically (though not exclusively) the color of the most evil creatures; there's the fact that they're called "devils"; there's the flavor text:

Sometimes those with the most sin cast the first stones.

None of this seems very nice to me. But as long as I'm editorializing, even if no statement were made, the mere fact that this card evokes an ongoing, often passionate political debate would be reason enough to take a very cautious stance. Why would a company that produces consumer goods want to get into that hot water?

10
  • @Geoffrey posted Is the phrase "stone-throwing devil" actually a slur? on English.SE to ask for actual evidence. But fair point that some people may leap to conclusions on their own, regardless of historical usage, and yeah that's reason enough for a game company to cancel the card. Mar 4 at 3:44
  • 2
    "Sometimes those with the most sin cast the first stones." This is a Biblical reference to John 8:7b: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." Mar 4 at 19:51
  • @JohnDumancic, assuredly so. Do you think that fact should be incorporated into this answer? I'm not quite sure how I would do so in a meaningful way.
    – Juhasz
    Mar 4 at 20:54
  • 3
    @Geoffrey, the intentions of WotC might be important if we wanted to judge them for printing this card. That's not what I'm trying to do. I'm hoping to answer the question: what might people find offensive about this card. I'm open to suggestions or edits to better convey this.
    – Juhasz
    Mar 4 at 23:16
  • 4
    @Juhasz Fair enough. I suppose the whole point is that the card was made by people who are familiar with the joke but unfamiliar with the connotation of the term, and it is being interpreted by people unfamiliar with the joke but familiar with connotation. So obviously those people would see that as a judgment of themselves rather than the biblical reference it was intended to be. Good point.
    – Geoffrey
    Mar 4 at 23:27
22

While sources are sparse and unofficial, it appears to be because of the name of the card itself. The term “stone-throwers” or “stone-throwing devils” is used as a derogatory name for Palestinians or Muslims.

Sources:

https://tappedout.net/mtg-forum/general/why-is-it-banned/

This particular card was banned because "stone throwing devils" is an old slur for muslims.

https://twitter.com/itsJulian23/status/1270998016766476288?s=20

What I found is that "Stone throwers" is a derogative term for Palestinians, especially kids.

10
  • 9
    @PhilipKendall Googling the name, I see creatures with a blueish tint to their light skin? Mar 3 at 13:52
  • 10
    It might be relevant that it came from the "Arabian Nights" set
    – Kevin
    Mar 3 at 15:09
  • 10
    And of course if the reason is in the card name (only), it doesn't really make much sense that just the image is redacted from the Gatherer page, but not the name of the card. (The same as with Jihad)
    – ilkkachu
    Mar 3 at 17:45
  • 3
    @Arthur, that's exactly what scryfall does.
    – ilkkachu
    Mar 3 at 20:33
  • 4
    I decided to unaccept this answer because its only sources are two forums. The other answer is much better researched.
    – Purple P
    Mar 4 at 15:41
7

I believe that @Juhasz's well-reasoned answer lacks full context. Arabic spirit creatures ("djinn") are often depicted as throwing stones to pester or kill humans, and this card seems to be a reference to that. Use of the word "devils" is likely to (a) differentiate this creature from the rare "djinn" and "efreet" cycles and (b) emphasize the Biblical pun in the flavor text.

It seems clear now that the card was banned not because the phrase is a Victorian-era reference to the Stoning of the Devil (as some people have claimed) but rather because the historical context in which it occurs makes it seem to be a reference to Palestinians. However, I believe that this reading of the card is ignoring the more obvious historical context from Arabic mythology.

I have gone into more detail on the English.SE site with this answer.

3

I've never seen "Stone-Throwing Devils" nor have any special information on the controversy, but for what it's worth, I get it. Remember that the full context is:

  • The card comes from a pack titled "Arabian Nights."

  • The name of the card is "Stone-Throwing Devils."

  • The card text is "Sometimes those with the most sin cast the first stones."

So the card can already be interpreted as referring to someone in Arabia known for throwing stones. For some people, that's the Palestinians; for me, it suggests the Stoning of the Devil so it suggests all Muslims in general. Not explicitly; just, like, "hey reader, remember that thing you know? let's just keep it in mind as we read this card."

So on top of that, the card text is a direct allusion to the Christian Bible. As DavePhD says, it's a play on John 8:7. The meaning of John 8:7 is basically "You shouldn't throw stones at sinners, because you also are sinful (and btw, obviously, let's think about Jesus)." The meaning on the card is basically "These guys throw stones at the good guys because these guys are sinful/evil (and btw Jesus)." At this point it doesn't matter if you've been primed to think of Palestinians or Muslims-in-general or maybe even just the broadest possible Orientalizing "Arabian Nights" setting. It's problematic to say "hey these dudes in Arabia (whoever they might be)? they're evil (and btw Jesus)."


The other "insensitive" card whose image is blocked from this particular deck is "Jihad." Initially I was a bit puzzled, because "Army of Allah" feels like a title with basically the same problem, and "Army of Allah" wasn't blocked.

But then I looked at "Jihad"'s effect: it's basically "pick a color, and make whites more powerful until they succeed in eradicating that color." Again, not necessarily the worst choice of words by itself; but when you put multiple "questionable" things onto the same card, eventually the scales tip toward "hey, this specific card is unusually problematic."

In "Jihad"'s case, I suspect the race-war subtext would have been a huge mental leap in 1993 — "Arabian Nights" was merely capitalizing on the success of Aladdin (1992), and had no inkling that a decade later a lot of Americans would be talking about "clash of civilizations" and contrasting "Islam" and "the West" in explicitly racial terms where the word "white" on a card had a greater chance of being read as suggestive. Notice that these cards were banned for being in questionable taste for the 2020s, not necessarily for the '90s.

-4

The card says:

Sometimes those with the most sin cast the first stones

This is a clear reference to the Bible quoting Jesus as saying:

John 8:7

"Let him that is among you without sin, cast the first stone at her"

As evidence that the card could be considered offensive to some Christians, see this Christian Gaming review of Magic the Gathering:

it's use of Christian themes and images are poorly handled and missused

9
  • 6
    The reference is clear, but this doesn't answer why the card was considered offensive. Mar 4 at 18:44
  • 1
    @doppelgreener Some people will be offended that Jesus's message is being usurped for the purpose of the card and some people will be offended that the card has a theme of Christian origin.
    – DavePhD
    Mar 4 at 19:02
  • 1
    @doppelgreener I added evidence that some Christians are offended by the misuse of Christian themes in Magic the Gathering.
    – DavePhD
    Mar 4 at 19:19
  • 2
    It's not just a reference, it's a manipulation of the quote for humorous effect that kind of makes fun of the message of the quote. Many or most Christians consider the Bible to be a sacred text that should neither be manipulated nor made fun of, and that quote in particularly speaks to an important Christian value. Also, this is happening on a card with "devil" in the name, which further undermines the quote. This seems like a plausible explanation for the ban, and the answers here are a bit speculative either way, since there doesn't seem to be an official explanation.
    – NotThatGuy
    Mar 5 at 10:31
  • 1
    @NotThatGuy, I'm not seeing any undermining of Jesus's message. Quite the opposite - this paraphrase seems to suggest the same thing, only more strongly. Jesus said, in essence: you condemn a woman for her sins, but you are sinners yourselves. Or, to rephrase: "sometimes those with sin cast stones." The flavor text takes this a step further. Not only are the ones casting stones also sinners, they are the most sinful. This seems to echo Matthew 7:5: "You hypocrite! First, remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye."
    – Juhasz
    Mar 5 at 18:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.