Header and inset art by Cryo Huren
This article is a brief discussion on the topic of hubris, arrogance, and the use of rhetoric within aspects of EVE Online’s propaganda and metagame, between two INN editors, Gray Doc and Seir Luciel. Gray Doc is a member of KarmaFleet, while Seir Lucial is a member of Pandemic Horde Inc.
Gray Doc: I’ve been thinking about some of your recent stories, or comments to stories, especially how Goons are so “proud,” lack humility, are filled with hubris, etc. It also reminded me of something Matterall was saying on Talking in Stations. The conversation was about a third party group beating up on another group, to the point where they actually chased them from their home and then followed them into Great Wild Lands to continue to bash them.
Matterall said, “The pursuit thing is a little troubling. It starts to look like griefing to some degree. Chasing somebody after they are defeated and clearly don’t want to fight anymore. I guess it depends on what’s motivating the whole thing. But if somebody’s . . . [pause] I hate to put it in playground fight terms, but if somebody’s still talking back after they’re on the ground, that’s different than someone on the ground whimpering. Like, there’s a different sense of mercy at that point.”
I’ll probably come back to this Matterall quote, but it demonstrates that we have, I think, other motivations for the war and for continuing the war that go completely off-grid from the stated objectives by either side. I wonder why “hubris” seems to irk you so much. And, as you see from the Matterall quote, you’re not alone in this focus on humility or crying for mercy. Some PAPI people not only want to win the war, but they also want to humble Goons. I have a theory as to why that is, but I’m interested in your take, since you seem to be one of those people for whom “humility” seems so paramount.
Goons have a great deal to be proud about.Seir
Seir Luciel: I want to first say that Goons have a great deal to be proud about. I don’t want to minimize this. Goons have a long history, and a very successful history. Early on they were taken for granted and primarily punched their way up into recognition and respect. They have taken on some of the most powerful organizations and beaten even those thought invincible. I am specifically thinking of BoB, which has been receiving a bit of attention lately, but there were others as well. Goons have been able to take situations most alliances would buckle under and return stronger than before.
These are incredible accomplishments and ought to be regarded as such. Indeed, this success is one of the reasons they get so much flak; people don’t tend to get worked up about no-names and non-threats. However, I’m not irked that Goons feel proud of these feats. Goons accomplished much, put in the hard work, and they deserve to brag about their successes. In my mind, they’ve earned that right.
But before I go on, give me your theory. Why do you think you are seeing PAPI members focusing on hubris, pride, and humility lately?
It’s a Freudian and Jungian playground.Gray
Gray Doc: I think many aspects of human nature are at work. That’s one of the reasons the PAPI war goals have been so confused and mixed: we see the stated war goals, but we also must allow for unstated ones that really go to individual egos and collective unconscious stuff. It’s a Freudian and Jungian playground. I think many PAPI members have felt deeply and personally hurt by Goons. People have played here since 2003 and for some people, their relationship with other players has outlasted many marriages. So, I think personal grudges are behind a lot of what I’m seeing.
What I’m seeing is that some of the most virulent anti-Goon attacks, that go beyond strategy or typical war goals, come from people who have a personal emotional stake in the outcome. Some in PAPI want Goons to feel humbled, embarrassed, humiliated, and shamed and I can’t help but think there is a desire for personal, not strategic, retribution. So, when Goons don’t demonstrate those qualities, but the exact opposite ones, that Goon defiance infuriates PAPI and hence the talk about hubris, pride, and arrogance.
Seir Luciel: I think it depends on the instance, and depends on the person. Yeah, some PAPI members want Goons to be humbled. Others are just here for the military campaign; it’s not about humbling Goons, it’s just about winning the war. And then there are spaces in between. There might be some specific individuals that PAPI members want to see brought low, but don’t care either way when it comes to Goons as an organization; some people just really hate The Mittani, for instance.
[Goons are] a kind of North Korea of nullSeir
Part of the frustration I see in many PAPI members is what they consider a dissonance between Goon attitudes and what they would call “reality.” I’ve heard in fleets people say (to the effect) that the only fuel in left in Goonswarm’s tank is their own propaganda; these same people will give credit to Goon successes and strength, but essentially consider them to be living on a different planet compared to the rest of EVE–a kind of North Korea of null. Part of the problem is that in EVE, unlike other games, there’s no arbitrator who has any authority to decide wins and losses.
If I lose all my structures in Starcraft, the game tells me I lost and the other guy won: I can complain about this or that but there’s no debate about who won the match. In EVE, I can lose all my structures and people will debate about who won or lost for years. Some PAPI members want Goons to be “humbled” in the sense that they come to see the situation the same way PAPI members do, i.e. accepting that they are losing or have lost the war. I don’t think that will ever happen, but some do. But that’s not the only kind of humility all PAPI members are looking for, and it’s the other kind I suspect you are talking about.
Gray Doc: As a way of responding, let me tell you about my own reaction to Mohammed Ali, probably the greatest boxer that has ever lived. When I was a much younger person, I really disliked Mohammed Ali. He had faced prison rather than go to Vietnam, changed his name from Cassius Clay to something that I couldn’t pronounce, and he became a Muslim. So, he was already on the outs with me and the values I held then.
But he eventually returned to boxing, becoming the world heavyweight champion. He proclaimed himself “The Greatest,” and said things like “I’m so pretty” and in no way demonstrated any humility. I really disliked him. Almost hated him. He projected something: hubris and arrogance. I wanted him brought low. Many years later, when I understood that part of my reaction was racist, I viewed Ali differently. I came to admire him. He was a man who refused to kowtow to racist ideology or play the role of the subservient man. His braggadocio was well-earned.
In fact, he WAS the greatest and his proclamation of it wasn’t just an act of personal ego-boosting, but was a kind of rallying cry for millions of people. And, of course, I later came to share his values regarding the Vietnam war and I respected his decision not to engage in military service. I saw, eventually, that the problem had never really been Mohammed Ali, but me. I had the problem and I learned, over many years, to see things differently.
Seir Luciel: Like I said, there are things worth being proud about. Mohammed Ali deserved to be proud of his accomplishments just as Goons deserve to be proud of theirs. I don’t see any issue with this. What I take issue with, and I think many PAPI members take issue with, is when pride goes beyond one’s accomplishments.
Now, it isn’t what Goons have done that is commendable; now it is who they are, a feature of their being, posited as opposite the Great Satan of PAPI. It used to be, “Of course it would take all of EVE to fight Goons because that’s the only way pubbies could beat us.” Now, it’s “PAPI are evil, greedy, lying, botting cheaters who love tyranny and Goons are the only ones in space fighting for justice and who care about their members.”
Goon rhetoric shifted about when the ‘Serenity superstition‘ (or as you would say, certainty) started becoming dominant in the narrative. Even more specifically, I think this shift in rhetoric started happening when Goons realized PAPI actually was going to take the time to grind down all of Delve, actually was willing to be in a year-long war. Earlier rhetoric spoke of people getting tired, burned out, and going home; you don’t hear much of that anymore. I think when Goons realized PAPI was willing to stick it out no matter what, and really wasn’t going to peter out, their attitude changed.
It’s an odd war goal. It’s personal, not strategic.Gray
Gray Doc: Two points, if not counters. First, I saw some meme that was quite hilarious which was a takeoff on the Monty Python routine of two knights fighting. The black knight refuses to kowtow to Arthur, who proceeds to chop off his arm, to which the black knight replies, “‘Tis but a scratch.” PAPI members love the meme and turned the black knight into Imperium, who refused to recognize how “dismembered” they were.
But what the meme also shows is how far the “noble” King Arthur was willing to go in the face of someone resistant. One arm, both arms, both arms and a leg, and finally, all limbs gone. If you look at the skit another way, the joke is on Arthur and what atrocities he was willing to commit, because if there was one thing he could not stand, it was still being resisted by someone defiant.
Like Matterall and his playground analogy: “If somebody’s still talking back after they’re on the ground, that’s different than someone on the ground whimpering. Like, there’s a different sense of mercy at that point.” Some people in PAPI want Imperium to whimper, to ask for mercy. That’s my point. It’s an odd war goal. It’s personal, not strategic. It speaks to personal ambition, retribution, an avid (almost obsessive) need for recognition, to be somebody.
I’ll let Henry V make my second point:
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage”William Shakespeare – Henry V, Act 3, Scene 1
Goons are just doing what Henry was doing, rallying the troops. Put another way:
“The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Mittens, Imperium, and Saint Asher!’
Seir Luciel: I don’t think making The Imperium whimper was one of the war aims; at least, I hadn’t heard any PAPI members speaking in those terms. But I think it is becoming one of the war aims, especially as The Imperium’s rhetoric becomes more self-righteous. People are over it and are losing whatever sympathy they might have had for Goons.
[S]ome Goons really believe that they effectively are God’s people in EVESeir
Quite right: PAPI loves that Monty Python meme with The Imperium as the black knight; it shorthands really well our viewpoint that Goons are completely disconnected from reality as we see it. But I want to touch on your “God for Mittens, Imperium, and Saint Asher” business. I think you are saying it here playfully, but some Goons really believe that they effectively are God’s people in EVE and are the chosen saints, warding off pubbie evil.
It’s some major fundamentalist, Goon exceptionalist stuff: what I’ve called “hubris.” I get that it’s war time and that means propaganda is going to spew, but whatever morale boost Goons are getting out of this rhetoric, it’s really sharpening the teeth of PAPI members out there. It’s a slippery slope from trying to convince others you’re the “good guys” to simply acting holier than thou.
One of the Imperium’s meta tactics with their propaganda was to weaken PAPI members’ (and others’) confidence that Goons deserved what they were getting and that, maybe, they were fighting for the wrong side. But given recent developments in the narrative I think we are moving into a space where the question is less and less “do Goons deserve this?” and more and more “are they asking for it?”