Last Friday, an article was posted at New Wave which gave credence to a rumor that had been floating around since Worlds – that Chris Benafel had colluded with other players to intentionally throw a match during the Team finals portion of the competition.
I had heard this rumor and simply did not believe it. I know Chris and I’ve played him a number of times. He can be intense, and he’s not the most fun person to play against. But collude to throw a match? In the Team Finals? Preposterous.
That the editors of a website would print such a damning article without the merest shred of proof – only conjecture and rumor – amazed and angered me.
Magic writers and editors, please take note.
Libel, according to Webter’s Dictionary, is defined as: A written or oral defamatory statement or representation that conveys an unjustly unfavorable impression by (1): a statement or representation published without just cause and tending to expose another to public contempt (2): defamation of a person by written or representational means (3): the publication of blasphemous, treasonable, seditious, or obscene writings or pictures (4): the act, tort, or crime of publishing such a libel
Since I actually have a degree in journalism, I think I know of what I speak.
There are many people in the Magic writing community who apparently don’t know the meaning of the word "libel." In tournament reports and articles, they regularly defame or insult opponents, and many editors let these mistakes slip. Even seemingly minor barbs, such as calling an opponent "gay" or accusing another player of intentionally stalling constitutes libel, and opens the author and the printer of said material to punitive and monetary damages.
I’ve had the opportunity to communicate with the author, a Dutchman, and he does not believe that his writing was libelous, having conferred with a solicitor (which I believe is the European version of a lawyer) as to its content. I am not familiar with the libel laws of most European Community nations; however, according to Webter’s and everything I was taught in journalism classes, the article, if not actually libelous, was very close. It walks the line most of the so-called "articles" found in supermarket tabloids walk when printing their gossip and innuendo and passing it off as news.
The follow-up article seems to be an exercise in damage control, pointing out how many high level Magic players and judges-including some who were at the event-support the position that there was no collusion. But there are opinions stated in this article that say, yes, Chris was guilty of the crime in question.
As a result of this article, people who had no idea that such an event even occurred have formed an opinion of Chris Benafel as a cheater.
So what are the facts – the rock-hard, concrete facts? That during the Team finals at Worlds, Chris lost his match two to one. He missed a land drop in one game and made a few other plays that some observers considered questionable.
Those are the FACTS. Anything else is pure conjecture.
Should Chris so choose, he can demand a retraction and/or an apology as redress, or sue for damages. If Chris feels his reputation has been sufficiently besmirched, these are very real and valid options.
It’s bad enough that this article was written, but it’s even worse that it saw print. Unless the author and New Wave have the facts to back up their accusations, they should immediately remove the article from their website and issue an apology to Chris.
Chris may not be the most popular player on the Pro circuit, but no one deserves to have their reputations smeared and destroyed without the foundation of evidence.
And for all writers of Magic, please, remember this, for it was drilled into me in Journalism 101: IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE FACTS, EITHER GET THE FACTS OR KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT.
It is better to be silent and thought of as a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.