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Of Troublemakers and 'Official' Amtgard
[04/13/2006] [Randall]

There’s been a lot of noise lately about the ‘officialness’ of certain parts of Amtgard. Sword Knight Boot Camp is unfortunately at the center of this stink, as troublemakers struggle to defend themselves from any punishment for their actions there by noting that SKBC isn’t an official Amtgard event. Apparently, an event hosted by Amtgardians, named after an Amtgard fighting award, teaching people how to fight in Amtgard, open to all Amtgardians, bigger than most Amtgard events, where Amtgardians have received titles, and advertised on a dozen Amtgard forums is sufficiently unofficial that troublemakers feel they can vandalize whatever they want without fear of repercussion. Even e-Samurai has come under attack for not being official, with the usual line of reasoning being that, were e-Samurai somehow brought under control, the folks who run it wouldn’t get away with whatever they’ve been getting away with. So it goes.

In most cases, the difference between being official and unofficial is merely getting something declared official. You might never notice the difference between a 'real' Amtgard event and an 'unofficial' one. The problem here is that, once ownership of something has been noted by a chapter, it falls under the jurisdiction of the Althing. More than one Amtgard chapter has seen fights between webmasters and Althings over their club’s website. Fear of this control could encourage people to be protective over things they, and not their club, started. Hell, I know I’d rather play in traffic than let the people of Amtgard vote for the administrator of e-Samurai. That’s not really the point I’m trying to make, though. Nor am I trying to argue that SKBC or other private events are actually Amtgard events.

The point is that certain activities are completely unacceptable no matter where they occur. And people who think they’ve covered their asses by being especially nasty at unofficial events or websites, rather than regular Amtgard functions, could get their comeuppance.

Let us assume that the troublemakers are correct – SKBC, e-Samurai, and a host of other places they go out of their way to ruin aren’t official. Club officers can therefore do asinine things at those events without fear of any punishment, right? If a member of a board of directors did something that would normally cause Amtgard sanctions to come into effect, he’d be free and clear because he didn’t do ‘em at real Amtgard.

Except that’s completely wrong.

The Amtgard contract requires each chapter to abide by all laws, whether federal, local or state. More importantly, it requires each chapter to maintain a positive relationship with authorities, the public, other groups and organizations, and other Amtgard chapters. If we assume that a camping event is not an Amtgard event, but rather one run by another group, a club officer who went out of his way to disrupt, vandalize or ruin that event would be acting in ways that violate his obligations to Amtgard as a whole. You could be at GenCon for all I care - if you wipe your shit on a bathroom wall in a way that affects Amtgard, you’ve just broken your group’s contract with Amtgard, Inc. because of your misbehavior.

This isn’t the thought police. You can still be an ass in private. You can wipe as much ketchup as you want on your own bedroom walls. You can even, in some cases, wipe your ketchup on street signs as long as it doesn’t come back to Amtgard. But once you cross the line – once you involve the authorities, the public, other groups, or other Amtgard chapters in ways that impact the game – you’ve committed an impeachable offense and should be censured or tossed out of office.

If the person who acted out of line was not an officer, but rather a regular member of the club, Amtgard still has an obligation to act if Amtgard is impacted by the person’s behavior. Club officers should reprimand the offending member, imposing Amtgard sanctions such as bannings and title stripping if need be, to demonstrate that such behavior is not tolerated, condoned, or encouraged by Amtgard. At the very least, a group could disavow any connection to the offending individual’s behavior. Officers who willfully ignore or defend such miscreants do the club an injustice and violate their group’s contractual obligations. They should also face Amtgard sanctions for their behavior, including the possibility of impeachment for dereliction of duty.

In particular, Amtgard thugs and troublemakers should not be able to excuse their abuse of other Amtgardians by claiming they weren’t at an Amtgard event.

Some people may think this goes too far. The familiar arguments will be brought up. . . and, if anybody applies a little common sense, quickly shot down. Should officers be impeached for getting speeding tickets? Should we ban two kids for getting into a fight in their parent’s backyard while fighting with Amtgard swords? These arguments are as familiar as they are feeble. With a little common sense and reason, they can be skillfully navigated. This isn’t about meddling in people’s lives. This isn’t about being the thought police. Two kids get into a scuffle over who sluffed whom? Who cares! But if one of them gets his replica katana out and stabs his pal, maybe Amtgard should ask him not to show up for awhile.

And officers who are elected to represent your club? Contract or no contract, corpora or not corpora, official or unofficial – if an officer can’t represent your club without smearing condiments on things, and is willing to hide behind legalese to protect themselves and their cronies, maybe it’s time to impeach the corrupt bastards and elect someone better.

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