How To Win A Narrative War: A Guide

2021-08-13

Author’s Note: This article compiles and summarizes concepts found in a number of texts on rhetoric and propaganda. The following are ones I recommend for anyone who is interested in better understanding the topic and its application in EVE Online. In chronological order: 1) Aristotle’s Rhetoric. 2) Propaganda by Edward Bernays 3) Manufacturing Consent by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky. 4) How Propaganda Works by Jason Stanley. 5) Merchants of  Doubt by Naomi Oreskes; and 6) Post-Truth by Lee McIntyre.

This article is longer than the ideal length for an INN article; it is long because it is thorough. It’s written tongue-in-cheek. I’ll state here that I don’t actually want readers to become adept at propaganda. Instead, I want readers to recognize propaganda when they see it. The steps I have given to achieve narrative superiority not only teach “right” methods, but I also explain (or summarize others ideas, really) of why they work – the psychological exploitations behind them. This guide will also help you understand your own positionality in relation to propaganda and narrative wars taking place in EVE Online’s meta.

The Chief Cornerstone: Human Nature Isn’t Rational; It’s Social

It is maximally important, if you wish to understand narrative war and propaganda, that you relinquish any faith in people’s innate ability to perceive the world accurately.

For most of our existence, as a species, humans have believed the sun traveled across the sky. Because that is what their eyes saw. But this was an illusion; it was the earth that moved, rotated. Likewise, if I were to hold up a stone to you and ask you if it were solid, what would you say? Likely yes, perhaps after inspection. But modern science tells us that the atoms that make up that stone are mainly composed of vacuous space, with the smallest dots linked together in a matrix determined by the chemical laws of attraction. Your senses belie you, telling you the stone is “solid.” Your fingers and tools are simply too big to detect the truth undiscovered by your perception.

Human perception isn’t constructed to accurately perceive truth. You are reminded of this every time you look at an optical illusion. Rather, human perception developed with the purpose of being able to survive. You would think that perceiving truth would be advantageous in terms of survival, but as my examples above demonstrate, often truth is irrelevant for human survival. What’s it matter whether it is the earth that moves and not the sun, or that at an atomic level a seemingly solid stone is primarily space, or that those squiggly lines in optical illusions aren’t actually moving as your eye dances across it? These truths are irrelevant when growing your crops, or when dodging a stone thrown at your head; these are the priorities to survival and your human perception is more interested in attending to these things rather than Truth with a capital “t,” which may or may not be useful for human life and happiness.

In the same way that human perception isn’t well equipped to perceive the scientific truths of natural philosophy, that same perception isn’t well equipped to perceive truths in social and political matters as well. The human mind is more naturally suited for survival than understanding. Survival for human beings has always meant social cohesion, solidarity, mating, and friendship. Society, tribal or otherwise, offered warmth, protection, division of labor, and collective effort to defend against hunger, exposure to the elements, enemies, etc. A testament to the social instinct: in many ancient societies the punishment of banishment and exile was considered worth than death. In some modern societies, solitary confinement is considered inhumane, and psychological research has affirmed that such confinement imposes psychological harm on the alienated individual. To align with our social instinct, our understanding has adapted by understanding the world socially and collectively. The vulgar term for this is “groupthink.” Anthropologically speaking, groupthink isn’t a bug. It’s a feature.

Each child is born utterly dependent on others: we need breastmilk from a mother or wet-nurse, clothing from our family, language from society to satisfy an innate need for human connection. Infants are doubly reinforced – nature and nurture – from the very beginning, to be social animals with an instinct for social/dependent development. Without an instinct towards groupthink social cohesion and its benefits, almost everything would be much harder to accomplish, perhaps impossible. Just as matter is naturally attracted to itself via the law of gravity, humans instinctually gravitate towards each other: out of need as well as desire.

In sum, the first principle is to abandon any illusions about your natural ability to accurately understand the world. Distrust your own judgement and the judgment of those around you.

We Can’t Fact Check Everything

The second principle: human perception is social, not rational. Much of our understanding is socially constructed; very few of our opinions are developed because we undertook research projects, collected evidence, evaluated the results. This is in large part because nobody has the time to undergo research projects for every belief we accept; herein lies one of the first exploitable insights into the limitations of our understanding. We simply can’t fact check everything. Instead, shorthand our understanding by tending to believe the things we hear more than being skeptical. Fact: people are naturally more inclined to believe than question. This isn’t necessarily a weakness; it’s the only thing that allows us to function in the world, not having to question/fact check every piece of information we encounter.

Furthermore, because people naturally gravitate towards others, our understanding tends to conform with this social instinct. Arguing, publicly disagreeing with others, standing out from the crowd, all induces psychic stress. Our social instinct pushes and pulls our understanding towards conformity with the group. Deep down in our DNA we are all just like high school kids wanting to be accepted, to feel we belong and have a place. Once we come to terms with this, we can analyze the implications of these human instincts/limitations and how they might be exploited to win a narrative war in EVE Online.

Summary: the above material provides the theoretical foundation for all that comes after. Below, then, are the steps to achieve narrative victory.

Step 1: Grab A Megaphone

This one is obvious and needs little explanation. Your narrative can’t take hold if people can’t hear. You must first be heard and heard widely. Narrative proliferation must be maximized. Start with populated places with lots of traffic and shout so the people in the back can hear.

EVE Example: posting on r/EVE doesn’t promise your message won’t be drowned out by others, but does have the potential to be seen by many.

Step 2: Tell A Good Story (Truth Optional)

My father Graydoc and I often joke: “Don’t ruin a good story with the truth.” While said tongue in cheek, there is a lesson to be learned here. The truth is often complex – or worse – boring. The fact is that the world is chaotic, even incomprehensible. (Go to Wikipedia and search “quantum mechanics” as an example of how nonsensical, though true, the physical world is.) Add into the equation the actions of irrational human beings and you have a real conundrum. Trying to understand anything in the world, especially the political/social world, is a difficult task.

Picking out truths from this swirling mass of chaos we call the world is very difficult. Sometimes impossible, for we often lack measurable data. This is true in EVE as much as anywhere. The data we do have can be organized into tables and graphs to make the endless strings of numbers researchers generate a little easier to manage. But even then, such graphs are hard to make sense of. Even the best minds can misinterpret the true causes for the data they examine and do so all the time. Finding the truth, answering why, is hard.

But human are narrative animals. We are better at telling stories than interpreting spreadsheets. Narratives make sense out of the chaos, even if those narratives don’t offer true causes. The best narratives aren’t the most true; rather, they make the most sense. Tell a story that explains the phenomena people see and feel. If two opposing narratives make equal sense out of listeners’ experiences, the more exciting one will win; especially in EVE, which is fantasy and  where people thrive on drama and scandal to make the game interesting.

RL Example: The American middle class observe the following phenomena: 1) they actively feel life getting harder; 2) they see increasing numbers of people who look and speak differently from them. The following narratives make sense of at least one of the observations.

Narrative 1: American middle class life has gotten harder because immigrants are taking their jobs and soaking up benefits paid for by their taxes.

Narrative 2: American middle class life has gotten harder because real wages have stagnated since 1973 while debt (things like student loans) has doubled; increased immigration is an irrelevant factor.

Which narrative is true doesn’t matter for our purposes. The relevant question remains: which narrative is more believable? Which makes better sense out of what people see and feel? Which is more exciting? That’s the narrative most people will adopt.

Another piece of advice: politicize everything. Leave nothing untouched that might be useful for your cause.

Step 3: Be First

The early bird gets the worm. It’s not only important to tell a good/better story, but also important to be quick about it when opportunity presents itself. Research shows that people have an inherent “firstness” bias – they are more likely to remember what they’ve heard first, even after correction. Test subjects purposely given false information, which is later corrected, will more easily forget the correction than the original falsehood. It’s easier to learn, than to un-learn and re-learn.

Step 4: Drown Out The Competition

When I was in Europe on a trip I saw an acquaintance of mine lose a bunch of money to a man with a ball shuffled around between three cups. Before he lost his money, he watched a number of other people playing the game, winning and losing, but excitement all around. Each time someone won/lost the ball was obviously under one or the other cup. “Bad slight of hand,” I thought. The trap was set. The moment my acquaintance put money down I watched a master at his trade go to work. Later I realized something that struck me like lightning; all those other people playing, winning and losing, were in on the con. Good propaganda works the same way. We too often think of propaganda as a solitary guy writing a piece, with you buying it or not. No. Really good propaganda is an apparatus; it needs hype-men, a community, people surrounding the target providing a whole experience.

Fact: people will adopt the collective narrative of those around them, even if counter-evidence stares them in the face. One study showed that this was true even with something as basic as identifying lines of equal length. Researchers put a test subject in a room at a table with about five other people who were in on the experiment. The group was shown pieces of paper with lines on them, and told to point to lines of equal length. The experiment was set up so that the test subject would always go last. The first few times those in on the experiment pointed to the correct lines. But then, in unison, they all pointed to two lines of different length, saying they were equal. Of course, the test subjects looked at the lines and the others incredulously. Then something interesting happened. While some maintained their belief that the lines were unequal, against popular opinion, many conformed and pointed to the same lines as the others. Many didn’t break ranks.

Another name for purposely exploiting people’s groupthink bias is “gaslighting.” Fact: regardless of the ethics, gaslighting works. On your own people as well as others. One might question whether the test subject who pointed to the same lines as the others really believed like the others, or simply acted in unison. But I would posit that at some point this distinction doesn’t matter from a propagandist’s perspective. If they talk the talk and walk the walk then you’ve won. Further, their behavior also convinces those around them.

If the social instinct is strong enough to have people point to something as non-political and objective as line length, what hope do you, me, or others have when team bias is engaged? What hope for objectivity when all those at the table are your teammates, and instead of evaluating something as solid/simple as line lengths, it’s something as fluid/complex as whether your enemies in war have a valid point of view.

If you want to win the narrative war you must monopolize the discourse. Flood every platform, forum, reddit page, and news source with your people and your narrative. Fill these places with your narrative until they overflow; leave no place untouched, no safe haven. Doing this works twofold: 1) it gives the (mis)impression of common opinion, which applies the pressure of the groupthink bias on others. 2) it also squeezes out counter-narratives, giving the (mis)impression that they are minority opinions. Monopolizing the discourse can also de-facto silence these other opinions, diluting them beyond visibility (see Step 1).

Step 5: Rinse And Repeat . . . A Lot

Fact: research shows that people have a repetition bias. If they are told something repeatedly they are more likely to believe it. Take Step 4 and do it over and over again until narrative victory is achieved.

Step 6: De-legitimate Enemies

Even when employing Steps 1-5 it might not be possible to silence enemies and counter-narratives, especially if they also are employing these tactics. It then becomes necessary to de-legitimate enemies, counter-narratives and those who propagate them. There is more than one way to do this.

1) One of the easiest ways to delegitimate an enemy is through laughter. To laugh is to say “your ideas aren’t even worth addressing.” It also requires no effort, or thought; no points need to be addressed. Given this, laughter carries a lot of weight for little cost. Try this experiment; enter a forum with some of your friends and invade an argument you don’t care about. Pick a random side and have you and your friends type “lol,” “ahahahah” etc., upvoting these comments while downvoting the side you’ve chosen to demoralize and watch how the character of the argument changes. Without even making a point or countering one you will see people walk things back, re-state things, even switch sides.

Laughter also signals that something is unthreatening. SirMolle, after his real picture was revealed with a pink hat on, was memed to high heaven. Feared dictators and conquerors have a much harder time being taken seriously as memes. Humor often cuts sharper than steel.

2) Staining Character. Aristotle said that a man’s character was more convincing than any argument he could make, his ethos being more important than his pathos or logos in rhetorical matters. Developing a good ethos with an audience can be hard, sometimes impossible. But casting doubt on your opponent’s character is easy and often as effective. It is easy because evidence of wrongdoing rarely is required. All that is needed is to make an audience suspicious of your opponent’s motives for acting or speaking the way that they do. “What’s the real reason you are saying this?” “My opponent claims he fights for justice but really it’s for power/from jealousy/for wealth/etc.” See Step 2. If you can tell a good story that makes sense about your opponent, truth isn’t necessary. If you can’t tell a better story than your opponent and/or develop a good ethos, go on the offensive: cast suspicion on the other’s character and motives.

3) Sow Doubt. Doubt is the mind killer. It is highly infectious, erodes confidence, and stalls action. It also takes much less effort than taking the time to prove your opponent wrong, counter each of their points, providing more convincing evidence. Luckily, it is often as effective as proving your opponent false for much less effort.

The book Merchants of Doubt is an academic study revealing the public relations tactics of certain corporate interests to cast suspicion on things, like the dangers of smoking, or global warming. One famous sentence came from a strategic public relations memo. Big tobacco companies, as science started revealing a link between smoking and cancer, said: “Doubt is our product.” Big Tobacco funded their own scientific studies with the express purpose of making the scientific findings on smoking more ambiguous instead of more clear.

The tobacco industry realized something about human psychology; they didn’t need to disprove the science linking smoking to cancer to keep people smoking. They only needed introduce doubt. So long as people think, “Maybe it hurts me, but the science isn’t sure just yet,” they kept smoking. Therefore, should you find people being swayed by your opponents’ argument, you don’t need to disprove their points or even their evidence. Simply sowing doubt will be enough to keep those with team bias (and other biases in your favor) from being swayed.

Step 6: Carefully Channel Disagreement

If you have completed Steps 1-5 you have probably already won the narrative war. But not all will be won over this way. The loyal, the dull, the complacent, the passive, the zealot, the un-reflective, and the team-player will be easily convinced by even the vulgarest propaganda so long as Steps 1-5 are accomplished. But you will not convince all, who might see your efforts for what they are, or find the more blatant aspects of your propaganda distasteful.

The neutral, the bright, the curious, the devil’s advocate, the historian, the reflective, the naturally suspicious, the skeptical, and most importantly, the enemy – many of these will not be convinced by Steps 1-5 because they will appear too one sided, hence suspicious. At some point the people mentioned in these categories will want to hear the other side of the story lest they feel something is being kept from them, that your side is carefully keeping their eyes away from information you’d rather keep hidden. To win these people over you must give them Emmanuel Goldstein’s book; you must allow them to hear enemies and their arguments (though not too much or for too long). Doing so makes it look as though you have nothing to hide, nor are afraid of their arguments.

This last step is the most subtle, and carries the greatest risk of failure. Only allow dissenters to speak who you are confident can be one of the following: de-legitimated, outnumbered, or argue worse than your own rhetoricians. If you want to your narrative war to be perfect you must allow some opponents through to be heard by your more difficult audience members. Silencing all opposition is suspicious; allowing defeatable opposition creates trust and increases the legitimacy of your position. Defeating opposition in front of an audience will solidify your narrative victory entirely.

Where Is Truth’s Place (and Your Place) In Narrative Wars?

One of the questions I ask my students at the end of our class on rhetoric is to reflect on whether there are any ethical limits to the kind of rhetoric we use: in advertising, in politics, etc. Is it ethical to lie to win an argument, even if supporting a good cause? As much as we may wish it were different, truth is often isn’t needed to be convincing. The sophists of ancient Athens understood this, and that’s why the philosophers hated them so. I tend to not tilt my students one way or another in answering this question; I mainly wish them to think about something few of them have thought about. I always get interesting answers.

But this guide doesn’t teach you how to take the high road in narrative wars; it teaches you how to win.

Narrative wars in EVE Online are happening all the time and we are always in the midst of them. I have seen all 6 Steps used in EVE’s narrative wars, either consciously or organically. I have seen them work, too. Rarely are we in good places to be perfectly rational and objective, given our affiliations and the worth of skilled rhetoricians/propagandists. If you think you are too intelligent to be manipulated by EVE propaganda, I assure you that you are not. Almost no one is; human nature is simply too biased and exploitable for us to be totally untouched, un-swayed, unmoved. However, this is a subject where knowledge truly is power; those most ignorant of the techniques of rhetoric/propaganda are the most susceptible.

There’s no test to determine whether you are thinking clearly or have completely “drunk the koolaid.” But here is a test to measure the probability of whether your beliefs are under the influence of bias and instinct. A higher score means you’re more likely to have your biases and social instincts influencing your thinking.

  • I tend to fact check and research the EVE narratives I encounter and believe in. (1 all the time — 5 I never do)
  • The narrative I believe now happens to be the first one I heard regarding the issue (1 don’t agree — 5 agree)
  • The narrative I believe now is the one I hear most frequently (1 don’t agree — 5 agree)
  • The narrative I believe now is the one that seems to be believed by most people. (1 don’t agree – 5 agree)
  • The narrative I believe now is the one that my team believes in. (1 don’t agree – 5 agree)
  • I tend to get my EVE information from the same source every time. (1 don’t agree – 5 agree)
  • I tend to get my EVE information from my teammates only, or teammate-run sources only. (1 don’t agree – 5 agree)
  • I feel dissident narratives are silenced or squeezed out on my preferred forums, shows, and podcasts. (1 don’t agree – 5 agree)
  • If I believed my enemy’s narrative, I couldn’t continue to serve my own team in good conscious. (1 don’t agree – 5 agree)
  • If I believed my enemy’s narrative, and admitted it publicly, it could threaten my position in my organization. (1 don’t agree – 5 agree)
  • If I believed my enemy’s narrative and admitted it publicly my teammates would reject me or treat me differently.
  • I think my team in EVE should win a (narrative) war by any means necessary; after all, it’s just a video game. (1 disagree – 5 agree).
  • I have seen evidence of my team silencing or hiding information that would be bad PR.

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Comments

  • Xelistren

    Good points The EE goons have gotten good with following these even without being give the same level of experience as others. Right now in EE it has became known that our group is one of the if not the most dominant news sources in EE.

    Yes i know i just complemented seir, I don’t judge people based on past i judge their actions purely on themselves.

    August 13, 2021 at 7:32 AM
  • Rabid

    When I started reading this article, I was quite sceptical. I have read most if not all of Seir’s previous articles, and found them, for whatever reason, rather lacking. I really enjoyed this article, however. It was informative and interesting! Thank you!

    August 13, 2021 at 8:01 AM
  • Malcanis

    It’s delightful to see this. Explaining your methodology in this kind of detail is a rare piece of honesty from some who has defined his EVE career with the truthiest, factphobic agit-prop pieces I’ve read in a long time.

    August 13, 2021 at 8:04 AM
    • Gray Doc Malcanis

      I’m not sure why you, Malcanis, would see this as Seir’s methodology. This is a mock/real process analysis piece, a “how-to” to something. The subtext implies that you’d have to be Machiavelli to do some of these things, like ignore the truth and focus on what you can sell to others. Rather than explaining Seir’s methodology, I think this is a critique of the Imperium’s ability to present a coherent and powerful narrative and what the Imperium might have been willing to do to “sell” said narrative.

      August 13, 2021 at 3:32 PM
      • Guilford Australis Gray Doc

        The spectrum of facts -> narratives -> propaganda is extremely narrow and highly dependent on perspective. “[Ignoring] the truth” is a meaningless judgment when much of what we’re talking about involves only opinion and predictions.

        And I believe Seir did in fact spend the entire war doing the things you describe beginning with the third sentence of your comment, as many others do, too.

        August 13, 2021 at 3:44 PM
        • I hear you, Guilford. Who disagreed with Seir more than I? But I was directing my comment to Malcanis, who sees this particular piece as some kind of declaration of Seir’s modus operandi, which is just simply wrong.

          August 13, 2021 at 4:40 PM
          • Garreth Vlox Gray Doc

            “which is just simply wrong.”

            It seems spot on, this piece describes in detail EXACTLY how Seir apporached his articles published on this site covering this war from start to finish.

            August 13, 2021 at 10:04 PM
          • Jeet_Kundo Gray Doc

            I think it’s a case of chicken or the egg: did Sier read these first and employ them into his works? Or can we simply draw correlations to every bit of Sier’s methods across those works — especially considering none of them individually is all encompassing?

            With his field of study in consideration, I believe it to be a mix. I won’t be so grand as to say he was able to employ every single element, it’s nothing short of being a savant to do so and I’d imagine we’d have received content much different than we’ve experienced, but I do believe it’s in his arsenal that, whether intentionally or not, was largely employed if from nowhere else than experience and exposure. Experience bleeds into people’s actions, willfully or otherwise. Naturally, his modus is his own, observers will make the conclusion on “if the shoe fits.” It’s not exactly the most fair approach, but it is what it is. I enjoyed the article all the same.

            August 14, 2021 at 2:29 PM
          • Seir Luciel Jeet_Kundo

            Most of you seem to missing one of my major points, namely that the majority of this advice cannot be done by an individual. It can only be achievable at an organizational level either intentionally or organically.

            I’m honestly aghast that people are seeing this piece as a Seir Luciel Strategy Guide, as if for instance, my lonesome self were drowning out the competition in the middle of the beehive INN! Narrative wars are a group/community effort, not the accomplishment of individuals.

            August 14, 2021 at 7:21 PM
      • Malcanis Gray Doc

        A tongue in cheek piece deserves tongue in cheek praise

        August 13, 2021 at 6:13 PM
    • Seir Luciel Malcanis

      Flattering, but ridiculous. These steps can’t be completed by a single individual. One person can’t monopolize a discourse let alonecreate a discourse. You need a community to do that, and an information apparatus: forums, podcasts, youtube channels, etc.

      Still, its flattering you think my writing has such an impact.

      August 13, 2021 at 3:55 PM
      • Jeet_Kundo Seir Luciel

        I will say that I’ve seen elements of Chomsky employed, whether knowingly or circumstance, and glad you made an article that gave some recognition to Manufacturing Consent

        August 14, 2021 at 2:20 PM
  • Paul Knight

    “This last step is the most subtle, and carries the greatest risk of failure. Only allow dissenters to speak who you are confident can be one of the following: de-legitimated, outnumbered, or argue worse than your own rhetoricians.”

    This was my favourite part of the article, Seir.

    August 13, 2021 at 8:16 AM
  • Gray Doc

    It’s a great piece and very interesting. While not directly related to EVE, it carries huge implications for the game of course. I believed from very early on in the recent war that the Imperium had the “better” rhetoric and the better writers, with the exception of yourself. It seems that Imperium have honed their rhetorical skills over time while many of the anti-Goon comments (again excepting yours) took the form of “Grrrrrrr Gon” type stuff. Though, as you note, maybe I was just not reading the right sources.

    August 13, 2021 at 10:39 AM
  • chimpy

    Seir considering you are on the “other side” do you write for the other side? If yes is it public and can we get links to it please? You seems to communicate here in INN in a sort of devil’s advocate role. I find this very vaulable, your opposing view. I imagine that if/when you write for PAPI that you might try to explain the Goon mindset to PAPI. It’s much easier to fight an enemy you understand, and PAPI has not demonstrated any understanding of Goon culture or tribe. It’s one of the main reasons they lost the war. Reference: Dunk stated he was surprised how well the Goons held their moral together. I suspect he was judging Goons moral from the lense of his own troops. Reference: the speed of the failure cascade one it began, speaks of troops ( and especially leaders ) with low morale jumping ship at the very first opportunity. What understanding you have of the Goon mentality would have been very valuable to PAPI. I’m wondering did you have a forum to give it to them? Can we have a look please? I’d be fascinated to see PAPI reponses to anything you wrote. If anything Seir you seem more Goon than PAPI to me. You don’t quit trying to communicate here even though it’s a mostly hosile audience. This is not in keeping with what I have come to expect from PAPI. You rimind me of that one japanese solider they found on an island somewhere still fighting the war years later until he was discovered, and they had to work hard to convince him the war was over.

    August 13, 2021 at 12:13 PM
    • Seir Luciel chimpy

      I talked some on horde’s discord and will likely start posting some on their forums. But the forums are much quieter, and less used than a place like INN. Discord scrolls fast; you can’t really see what people say unless you are actively reading while they’re posting. You can’t come back a day later and read a longer post, for example.

      And that’s only horde. I wouldn’t even know where to write something that could be seen by brave or test, or even nc. And others in panfam. Except reddit i suppose, but im not a redditer and my guess is whatever id write would be downvoted so fast it would be pushed to the bottom and never be seen except by those who sort by new.

      Papi never had centralized communication spaces for someone like me to write in. Only separate, disconnected ones.

      August 13, 2021 at 3:19 PM
      • chimpy Seir Luciel

        That’s a bit of a shame really. Apart from the context of making a difference in the war I think as gamers all playing the same game it’s useful to be exposed to a range of different perspectives. There’s an incredible irony that neither of us are Goons ( although I support them ) and here we are using Goon infrastructure to communicate. I think that’s something that’s been overlooked in factors that decided this war. Goons have an incredible infrastructure in place that can make a huge difference e.g. SRP speed. I sometimes wonder if The Mittani isn’t so much the leader of Goons, but a piece of Goon infrastructure. A guy the Goons hired to be the cartoon villain public face while the managers get on with managing in the background.

        August 13, 2021 at 3:48 PM
        • Arrendis chimpy

          I sometimes wonder if The Mittani isn’t so much the leader of Goons, but a piece of Goon infrastructure. A guy the Goons hired to be the cartoon villain public face while the managers get on with managing in the background.

          In fact, Mittens is definitely a piece of Goon infrastructure. But while he is the guy who goes out and plays the cartoon villain, he’s also the guy who is absolutely obsessed with process and organizational improvement.

          Ask anyone who’s been in the editorial meetings after Sion left, when Mittens was helming those meetings directly. ‘How does the org function, and how can we make it work better’ is his absolute *jam*. He can’t fit a ship, plan a military campaign, or run an industry chain (well, he learned how to do PI), and good lord, don’t let him fly a dictor when he’s high…

          But if you need an org built or a table flipped over for a fresh start, he’s your man. That’s what he brings to the table: the ability to say ‘I can identify what’s not working, and what we need to make it work. If I don’t know how to make it work, I will find people who do, and I will give them the power and authority to do it. And then I will get the hell out of the experts’ way and let them do the things they are good at’.

          He’s very good at recognizing when he doesn’t know how to do it himself. And he’s always looking for talent, always. That’s why the most dangerous thing you can do in Goonswarm is display competence. If you make that mistake… Mittens will put you to work, for the good of the swarm.

          Because that’s another difference between Mittens, and our enemies: Vily and Progod basically came into TEST at the upper echelon of leadership. Gobbins was tasked with making Horde. The only one remotely like Mittens is Dunk. Dunk doesn’t just lead Brave, Dunk is of Brave. Brave made Dunk, and shaped him into who he is.

          Mittens, similarly, is of the swarm. Mittens was a Goon before he was ‘Space Tyrant Mittani’. He was a line guy before he ran the GIA, and he seems happiest when he’s being the stoned dumbass bubbling his own fleet during Saturday Night Swarm, telling stories and laughing with the line guys. Hell, sometimes I think he’s one WWII analogy and a whole mountain of weed away from becoming DBRB (but, you know, not really).

          He’s made missteps, sure. Who hasn’t? But at the end of the day, he’ll always put goons first, because first and foremost, even before he’s ‘The Mittani’… he’s a goon.

          August 13, 2021 at 10:43 PM
          • chimpy Arrendis

            “He’s very good at recognizing when he doesn’t know how to do it himself.” Yes, that literally means everything, and I don’t mean that in an insulting way, I mean that Goons seem to have competency throughout. Mittens delegates everything, and it works out incredibly. I agree with everything you’ve written above and I expect you to be executed for breaking the highest levels of opsec.

            August 13, 2021 at 11:14 PM
  • Moomin Amatin

    PAPI met all of the steps you outlined. So what went wrong?

    More importantly, what is my grade for the year? 😉

    August 13, 2021 at 1:08 PM
    • Seir Luciel Moomin Amatin

      Papi did not meet these steps. One look at reddit and youll see a monopolized discourse, but not by papi.

      August 13, 2021 at 3:47 PM
      • Moomin Amatin Seir Luciel

        Not at the start of the war. Reddit is where TAPI originated from and posting as a Goon on r/Eve rarely ended well. Additionally the initial PAPI narrative was good enough to create the largest blue-donut-rental-empire ever seen and muster 150k chars. So PAPI did have the narrative and also monopolised discussion. PAPI friendly media also rode that wave of anti-goon rhetoric.

        Surely now it is ok to reveal what went wrong for PAPI? Could it just be as simple as PAPI leadership lying and the members tiring of it once it became ridiculous? I mean it is one thing to follow a leader when their cause is good and true. But once they have covered themselves in shit and set themselves on fire many people see the error of their ways.

        August 13, 2021 at 7:03 PM
        • Seir Luciel Moomin Amatin

          You continue to frame the narrative war in terms of “good” and “true.” And that’s fine, but from my perspective it sounds a bit naive and self serving. Every power/state in every war in history always framed their own side as the the “good” and the “true.” From America invading the middle east to the nazi’s defending against the Russians in wwii, to the Spanish inquisition.

          I always get a bit itchy when people start talking about the “good” and “true.” Its not that I don’t believe in these things. I do; im not a cynical person by nature. But i’ve learned to be cynical and highly suspicious when i put on my analyst hat: its the only way I know not to get taken in when listening to politics and war talk.

          That’s why I tend to look at things in terms of power and advantage. These are less slippery than “the good” and easier to identify in a more objective fashion.

          To me its much safer to say “this side won the narrative war because they had the information-infrastructure and communication apparatus set up unlike their enemy” rather than “we won the narrative war because our side was righteous”. For one, the first actually points to some kind of objective observable conditions/evidence. Two, i’m less suspicious the first statement is coming from a my own motives and biases.

          August 13, 2021 at 7:43 PM
          • Moomin Amatin Seir Luciel

            I know what you mean. For example when people start wars of extermination or make far reaching comparisons to oppressive states. But then you may remember that this was the thing you not only signed up for but also promoted.

            The narrative for this war was set by PAPI. “For the good of the game”. It worked up until the PAPI leadership were shown to be incompetent and dishonest. The language that set the scene was from PAPI. In a shock to no one at all the Imperium leaned into it with their normal 40k fervour.

            So you going to answer or counter anything I said or is this it? Just pick on the thing you feel you have the most mileage with despite it actually being the rhetoric created by your leaders. When you started the war it was all well and good. Now you lost it you do not like such things as it makes you “itchy”.

            August 13, 2021 at 10:21 PM
          • Seir Luciel Moomin Amatin

            If you mean progod and vily, they aren’t my leaders. Nor did I ever consider them my leaders. We were/ are allied with them while my leader took a less vocal position and is generally rather conservative in his speech.

            I didn’t like a lot of the rhetoric TAPI leaders pushed, but they didn’t happen to consult me on it so I don’t feel responsible for it. Despite much of the rhetoric I fought for my side and for the good of my organization (Horde) and would do it again.

            People are given different talents. Not every general is gifted in speech, or every speechwriter/orator gifted in war. The Imperium is smart for having its primary mouth (the mittani and brisc) be separate from its generalship. Keep each specific talent where its best applied. PAPI combined pr and generalship and I think it showed.

            Vily wasn’t well spoken. That’s just the truth. He bumbled. He constantly was saying things that came back to bite him. So it goes.

            But I sympathize with Vily, and think he got more hate and bullying than he deserved. He looked foolish a great deal of the time, but I would look foolish too if I were made horde’s head theorycrafter: that’s not where my abilities would be well applied. Vily should have been kept back in the war tent while a PR person like CJ on the westwing filtered information out to the public. Vily was juggling too much and was in a position that didn’t suit his talents, one that should have been handled by someone specifically chosen for their public relations abilities.

            Progod was better but its still the same set up, one built for failure. Keep generals in the war tent and put orators/speechwriters out front.

            August 14, 2021 at 12:49 AM
          • Gray Doc Seir Luciel

            Thoughtful response here. There may be a parallel path, though, right? It IS possible that Imperium BOTH had the better information infrastructure AND a more truthful narrative. Those aren’t mutually exclusive, right? So, sure, suspicion is always a good starting point, but shouldn’t be the ending point. Analyze the motivations and the public statements and put them to the analytical wringer.

            August 13, 2021 at 11:35 PM
          • Seir Luciel Gray Doc

            Exactly. Totally possible. The point is to interrogate the context of your beliefs and opinions, regardless of which side you are on.

            August 13, 2021 at 11:58 PM
          • Xelistren Gray Doc

            I had forgotten this one in my comment below but it fits in here.

            One thing Seir forgot to mention is knowing when not to fight a point of view.

            Certain points of views are self defeating, they only gain credibility as they are fought. With these points of view letting them defeat themselves usually ends up being the most effective means to win the narrative war. Saying you are going to eliminate someone for being toxic while your own toxicity is appearant will usually end with the assumption that there is no truth in it, however the moment someone refutes it and shows any toxicity it provides the creditability necessary to yield others into believing it.

            August 14, 2021 at 2:29 AM
      • Garreth Vlox Seir Luciel

        “and youll see a monopolized discourse, but not by papi.”

        LOL, sorry but you’re nt even close, it wasn’t like that on reddit, not until you spent 2 months slamming your faces into the brick wall that was the 1dq1 constellation and the 1 month period surrounding the m2- debacle.

        August 13, 2021 at 10:06 PM
  • Garreth Vlox

    lol you can’t even draw a map of how to do what you spent the last year trying and failing to do. Step 1 isn’t grab a megaphone… It’s to publicly set goals you can ACTUALLY ACHIEVE. Step 2 is when you grab a megaphone and tell everyone about the goal posts you set. And Step 3 is when you tell people how you succeed in reaching the goals you set in step 1 and told them about in step 2. Papi and it’s spin team was fucked from day one because the idiots running your side all picked different goal posts and the ones shouted the loudest were the most unachieveable, which immediately doomed the entire narrative process.

    August 13, 2021 at 2:19 PM
  • BriscRubal

    When it comes to narrative building, I cannot stress enough how critical it is that you start with facts. Despite the claims of the bad guys, the vast majority of the stuff we present that gets turned into talking points or “narrative” begins with facts. The spin we put on those facts depends on the goal of what we’re trying to do, but at it’s core, you can’t just go out and lie constantly and expect people to keep listening.

    The most powerful stuff we do on the Meta Show is when we can use the bad guys own words against them. That can’t be refuted. It’s not spin. It’s what they said.

    There is always room for the truth in a narrative – there has to be, or else it won’t have enough power to get beyond the dumbest of the dumb. As you noted, the point of propaganda isn’t just to pump up your own side, it’s also to demoralize the other side.

    August 13, 2021 at 3:38 PM
    • Seir Luciel BriscRubal

      I agree brisc. But as you well know from your time in politics, there are all kinds of facts. Facts that are beneficial for your narrative goals and unfortunate facts which might aid the enemy’s (as well as neutral facts which would be hard to politicize).

      From the perspective of this article if you want to win the narrative war you must politicize and explode the first kind of facts while suppressing the latter.

      August 13, 2021 at 4:23 PM
  • Arrendis

    So, yesterday was kind of busy for me, so I didn’t respond then, but I do want to highlight one thing: The test at the end there? Seir, dude, that is a bad ‘check your narrative’ test. Here, lemme go through some of this.

    I tend to fact check and research the EVE narratives I encounter and believe in. (1 all the time — 5 I never do)
    The narrative I believe now happens to be the first one I heard regarding the issue (1 don’t agree — 5 agree)
    The narrative I believe now is the one I hear most frequently (1 don’t agree — 5 agree)
    The narrative I believe now is the one that seems to be believed by most people. (1 don’t agree – 5 agree)
    The narrative I believe now is the one that my team believes in. (1 don’t agree – 5 agree)
    I tend to get my EVE information from the same source every time. (1 don’t agree – 5 agree)
    I tend to get my EVE information from my teammates only, or teammate-run sources only. (1 don’t agree – 5 agree)
    I feel dissident narratives are silenced or squeezed out on my preferred forums, shows, and podcasts. (1 don’t agree – 5 agree)

    These questions assume misinformation. Apply these questions to, say, a university Calculus course, instead. See what happens.

    Do you fact-check your professor’s math, or trust the professor to be telling you the truth? Is this the first time you’ve had Calculus explained? Is the calc you’re being taught the one you’re hearing the most frequently? Is it the same methods the rest of the class is using? Does the rest of your class believe the same thing about Calc that you do? Are you consistently getting taught by the same professor? If someone comes in to say that mathematics works differently, does your professor tell them they’re wrong?

    Congratulations, you’ve just racked up 40 points of ‘your biases and social instincts are influencing your education’. In fact, you’ve racked up enough points that this test now indicates your education is hopelessly biased by ‘the narrative’ and cannot possibly be impartial and factual… because your test assumes that what you’re being told cannot possibly be factual.

    Now let’s look at the next few:

    If I believed my enemy’s narrative, I couldn’t continue to serve my own team in good conscious. (1 don’t agree – 5 agree)
    If I believed my enemy’s narrative, and admitted it publicly, it could threaten my position in my organization. (1 don’t agree – 5 agree)
    If I believed my enemy’s narrative and admitted it publicly my teammates would reject me or treat me differently.

    These questions assume the enemy’s narrative is basically benevolent. We know for a fact that it hasn’t been. They also assume the enemy’s narrative is based on impartiality and facts. We know that hasn’t been the case here, either.

    But what happens when the enemy’s narrative is ‘your side are monsters who want to murder and eat children?’

    I mean, according to your test, if I’m not willing to believe my enemy’s narrative, and publicly say ‘I believe my side wants to murder and eat children’, I’m biased.

    The test assumes that the side the test-taker is on is fundamentally dishonest, while simultaneously precluding the possibility of dishonesty in the enemy.

    Meanwhile, here in the actual world where we’ve played EVE Online for years, we know, based on their recorded statements, who’s lied to us and who hasn’t.

    We know one side’s leaders spoke of floodplains vs a final, defensible position. We know that side’s leaders have consistently heaped all praise upon the line, and taken personal responsibility for failures—including issuing ‘here’s what happened, none of it excuses me, I fucked up, I’m sorry’ apologies, over and over again, for years.

    We know the other side’s leaders have lied. They have been forced to backtrack on reddit, deny the things they’ve told reputable interviewers, and then essentially accused those neutral, uninvolved interviewers of making things up whole cloth in their attempts to walk back their statements.

    We know they’ve lied directly to their line members, too: Everyone was supposed to be bringing combat capitals to T5Z, remember? Progod and Gobbins both told their guys there would be a big fight, and PAPI was willing to do what it took to break through the gates. Everyone in leadership was 100% committed to the war, remember?

    All of those statements are a matter of public record. Just like the ludicrous claims just before the war that TEST requesting the end if the NIP totally didn’t mean they were planning to invade—another lie.

    The first and most important thing when you get into a narrative war is establishing the answer to one question: Who can you trust to tell you the truth?

    That’s it. And where that’s concerned, Seir, let’s take a look at that last line:

    I have seen evidence of my team silencing or hiding information that would be bad PR.

    I’ve seen evidence of a Horde pilot posting his viewpoint on INN. I’ve seen a (then) NCdot pilot not only able to put in articles if he wants to write them, but a valued member of the art team. And I know we have always been looking for more people from outside of the Imperium to come and provide our readers with their viewpoints.

    On the other side, I’ve literally watched someone shutting down and clearing out almost all the Imperium members from the discord server, while ironically yelling about how he won’t tolerate groupthink. No groupthink allowed, and he’ll enforce that uniformity of opinion, dammit. We’ve seen entire corporations get kicked out of PanFam alliances for daring to voice criticism, and trying to keep hidden information that’s become embarassing (Manny’s little holocaust denial joke, for example, and just how mad all of PAPI got at Asher for pointing out something Manny himself posted to /r/eve).

    So which side is silencing dissent and hiding information that would be bad PR?

    August 13, 2021 at 10:16 PM
    • Seir Luciel Arrendis

      The test isn’t meant to measure anything but the likelihood of bias and influence on ones beliefs. That includes correct ones; it doesn’t always have to be incorrect ones. The repetition bias can just as easily apply when its me being told over and over again that the sky is blue. The point isnt that the sky isnt blue. The point is the repetition bias exists and affects our understanding.

      My test and article is meant to be applied wherever you find it relevant. If you see it condemns PAPI practices then so be it. Do with it as you wish.

      August 13, 2021 at 11:41 PM
  • J Moravia

    Seir, you’re embarrassing yourself every time you try to justify your beliefs against the facts on the ground. Just stop and take the loss, my guy.

    Literally on the same INN front page we have this article and we have a piece about the Tower of Legends being destroyed. Who are we supposed to believe?

    August 14, 2021 at 2:36 AM
    • Seir Luciel J Moravia

      Sorry to hear you didn’t like the piece.

      August 14, 2021 at 4:29 AM
      • J Moravia Seir Luciel

        I think the content of the piece was proof-of-concept for the content of the piece. Some of what you said was great; I’ve showed my own students the line-length experiment before. But some of what you’ve said was disconnected from reality in the name of making a point, such as when you referred to Reddit having a monopolized discourse. That was of course not true for the majority of 2020, when the war narratives were being written, and is only true at this particular moment because the PAPI posters lost morale and aren’t posting as much.

        I also think you incorrectly attribute to narrative many things that should be attributed to culture. Goonswarm’s culture in particular has always been “We will win because we are strong together, and we will get revenge on those who wrong us.” Something like “TEST is next” is not a narrative; it’s Goonswarm’s culture, because they’re notorious for getting revenge on those who wrong them, even years after the fact. (Witness 2019’s Glassing of Tribute as revenge for 2015’s Casino War.)

        So when you say you want readers to become adept at recognizing propaganda, you’re beginning from an incorrect supposition. Goonswarm didn’t hold strong because of any kind of narrative, because of pretty words that The Mittani spoke on the Meta Show. They held strong because of their group’s culture, which has been formed over more than a decade.

        Brisc was correct when he said that propaganda is only effective if it’s based on facts. You may be entertained by an article on that exact topic, which I co-wrote with Paramemetic, who went on to a high-ranking position in Goonswarm’s Ministry of Truth.
        https://imperium.news/the-ins-and-outs-of-propaganda/

        August 14, 2021 at 1:20 PM
        • Garreth Vlox J Moravia

          I liked how his survey was loaded with questions that the average goon will more likely end up picking the 5 point answer on and at the end he tells you a high score means you are more likely to be biased. He designed a test to deliver the outcome he wants to hear, this is classic manipulation tactics.

          August 14, 2021 at 9:38 PM
          • Seir Luciel Garreth Vlox

            Lol Bro this is pretty basic information bubble stuff. At this point this is internet surfing common sense in our polarized society. Doesn’t even need to apply to eve.

            August 14, 2021 at 9:51 PM
          • Garreth Vlox Seir Luciel

            Your entire article here is just a continuation of your propaganda campaign.

            August 14, 2021 at 11:12 PM
          • Seir Luciel Garreth Vlox

            Or maybe you just dislike me.

            August 15, 2021 at 2:10 AM
          • Garreth Vlox Seir Luciel

            I don’t dislike you the person, I dislike the way you spent a year misrepresenting yourself as taking the “neutral party view” to the war in article after article while double fisting papi koolaid the whole time and calling anyone who disagreed with you a goon propaganda person.

            August 15, 2021 at 11:19 AM
  • Jeet_Kundo

    Is this the Last Big Push for PAPI narrative pushing?

    August 14, 2021 at 1:44 PM