When I was first starting out as a conjurer, much was made of the spirit of magic. It was something the people I learned from talked about and did their best to instill in me. The spirit of magic was an attitude of friendly helpfulness. If a magician from out of town was doing a show and had neglected to bring along a certain prop, that prop was provided by someone in the magic community. If someone was struggling to make sense of a sleight or trick, someone with more experience was glad to provide instruction. I guess the underlying philosophy was there are so few magicians we ought to stick together and help each other out. Magic was considered a true brotherhood, and the spirit of magic was like our code of conduct.
Many years later, when I first got online, I had a hell of a shock. It seemed the spirit of magic was an anachronism in the cyber world. Instead of extending kindness, many seemed to extend nothing more than vitriol.
Starting out, there were people who were very kind to me, who gave of their time because they loved magic and wished to help me avoid the pitfalls they’d already encountered. They allowed me to ask questions and state opinions – hell, they encouraged me to ask questions and state opinions. When they felt I was wrong, they patiently explained why. They brought reason to their arguments. I wasn’t expected to take their word on something simply because they’d been at it longer than I had.
Online the attitude is shut the hell up and do what I tell you and don’t you dare ask a question or offer a dissenting opinion. There’s no regard for the beginner, no desire to help and guide. Magic beginners online are condescendingly called “newbies” and commonly dismissed as if they’re the lowest form of shit on the planet. It’s a wonder that anyone who starts out in magic online sticks with it. I can’t imagine I would.
Now, I don’t want to give the impression that everyone online treats beginners like garbage; there are a lot of good people out there who do their best to help those starting out, who foster the true spirit of magic. I would say, however, that the majority see nothing wrong with being scathingly dismissive to beginners or anyone else they feel is inferior to them. It’s as if the very worst elements of the magic clubs – those colorless losers with fractured self esteem who use magic as nothing more than an ego boost – reign supreme in the online magic world.
It’s easy enough to spot such people, both in the real world and online. While lording it over those viewed as inferior, they waste no time kissing the asses of those they know to be their betters. In the real world such people are viewed as an annoyance and usually aren’t taken seriously at all – if for no reason other than their version of magic sucks, as they possess no understanding of magic beyond what it can do to enhance their image as someone special. Online, it can be much more difficult to tell what’s what. I mean, if you visit a magic forum and someone has ten thousand posts, you’re likely to conclude they must know what they’re talking about or they wouldn’t be so prolific. And if you’re just starting out and have no experience upon which to gauge what they’re posting, it’s easy enough to assume what they’re saying is right.
So the bullies dominate. They back each other up, form little cliques, and soon they’re running the show. The kid who saw Blaine or Angel on TV and was impressed and wants to learn what magic’s all about reasons these people must know. He innocently asks a question or states an opinion and the wolves fall on him. Then the kid either says screw this or models his behavior on theirs as there seems to be little alternative.
I recall reading a thread where a kid – I think he said he was fourteen – stated that Criss Angel sucks. I don’t think he meant what he was saying, but was only parroting what the other posters were driving at. But being a self professed beginner he was immediately taken to task for having the gall to express an opinion, and no matter that it mirrored the consensus. He was told he had no right to say Criss Angel sucks as Criss is a professional who’s worked hard, while he was just a little nobody wannabe. The kid tried to fight back – pointing out rightly that just because he was a novice didn’t mean he couldn’t formulate a correct opinion – but it was hopeless. These “adults” tore into the kid like hyenas into a fresh kill. One “adult” even said, “I bet you don’t even know who Vernon was, do you?” I guess he forgot to include na na na-nana.
If I sound angry it’s because I am. I don’t like bullies, and I especially don’t like adults who are so pathetic as to bully kids. I further don’t like those who would corrupt the spirit of my art because they didn’t get enough hugs and are trying to compensate for what miserable losers they are by demonstrating they’re real life magicians.
I few years ago I was hired to run a magic site that catered mainly to beginners. I did my best to make sure everyone was treated equally and with common respect, but I don’t know how successful my efforts were. Even among those just starting out, there are divisions, with those who have just a little more knowledge and experience looking down on those without. I don’t know, maybe it’s the nature of the beast.
I guess the best I can do is keep believing that the spirit of magic isn’t dead. If you feel the same, please try to treat beginners with the respect you’d wished to be treated with. Exercise a little patience, take a deep breath, and do your best to help, not harm. See you next time.