INN’s Seir Luciel, a line member of the former PAPI coalition, recently published an article attempting to explain the factors he believes led to The Imperium’s victory and PAPI’s defeat in World War Bee. The article includes both compliments and criticism for both sides, as well as recommendations for future planning. Several fundamental errors crept into Seir’s analysis, and this article will respond to the worst problems while offering counterpoints.
Analysis of The Imperium
Seir begins by complimenting the Imperium’s resolve and success. He states that “party line Goon rhetoric continues to emphasize the importance of leaders, and leadership. It makes good propaganda, but it is an error and (deliberately, perhaps) misunderstands.” One wonders what he means by “party line Goon rhetoric,” as well as the source of his belief that leadership is its primary emphasis. The Imperium’s wartime rhetoric – and messaging in general – emphasizes many things, leadership among them. But The Imperium’s primary explanation for its success was the resolve to win, as well as superior organization. It is true that the Imperium’s leadership is excellent, which contributed significantly to their victory, but also that PAPI’s leadership proved to be weaker (more on this later).
The Imperium’s loss of 40 Keepstars and temporary loss of territory is put forth as a lingering source of pain inflicted by PAPI. But PAPI is about to lose all of its territorial gains, and INN’s comprehensive loss tracker shows that PAPI has lost more ISK than the Imperium over the course of World War Bee. It is true they still have their infrastructure intact back home, but they are broken, demoralized, struggling with low participation, dealing with Legacy Coalition’s impending loss of all its previous space and any structures that cannot be unanchored before The Imperium destroys them, and a very grim future for Brave Alliance. Those are far larger problems for PAPI than the relatively minor obstacles the Imperium faces retaking sovereignty and popping up structures.
Seir speculates about a possible Imperium counter-offensive, and that is indeed a possibility given The Imperium’s wartime rallying cry “TEST is next.” But TEST won’t only be attacked in their apparent new home of Outer Passage in Dronelands (which, comically, is almost as far away from Delve as physically possible – that should indicate their confidence of success in resisting The Imperium’s retribution). Payback will also encompass their former space and infrastructure in the southeast, which is the likelier first target. One can imagine ProGodLegend hosting panicky Town Halls as the lossmails start to roll in, the sovereignty map begins to look very different, and his line members revolt about losing everything they once had while failing to get what they were promised.
Analysis of PAPI
Seir advances a novel theory of organizational responsibility by arguing that it is the individuals at the lowest level – line members, in this case – who bear ultimate responsibility for the failure of an organization. He argues, “Goon rhetoric is that it was our leaders that failed us; but that’s about as true as saying it was Goon leaders that saved them. The blame can only be laid at our own feet, us common foot soldiers.” He believes line members are responsible for PAPI’s failures because they stopped participating. But this is completely backward. Line members can only work with what their leaders give them. They don’t have access to director roles, or the ability to make strategic decisions, craft doctrines, form fleets and decide where to send them, establish the coalition’s logistical network, and maintain morale. Those are things only leadership can do.
If leaders give their line members terrible content and relentless loss, disappointment, and frustration by failing to deliver a positive experience, line members bear no blame for deciding not to endure further punishment. The decisions of leadership define their experience, and those decisions are completely outside of their control. Blaming them for the poor decisions and failures of the decision-makers is simply deflection.
I’m struggling to imagine a true leader, say a Marine Corps general, reporting that despite his poor judgment and strategic failures leading to total loss, the real problem was that the grunts weren’t good enough for him. Or a CEO explaining to his Board of Directors that the company failed, not because of his terrible planning, bad decisions, and incompetent execution, but because his employees were too bad to make it succeed despite all of those things.
Frankly? It’s ludicrous.
Supposed Rhetorical Dishonesty
Seir uncharitably accuses the Imperium of insincerity in its praise of Dunk Dinkle’s honesty when explaining Brave and PAPI’s loss, taking responsibility without offering excuse. He contends that the Imperium is praising Dunk to “[ease] Goon consciences” should the Imperium later attack Brave. I don’t see the logic. Normally when I want to beat someone and feel good about it, whether in EVE or in a contest of wills with an annoying coworker, I don’t compliment them and feign admiration for them.
That serves no purpose, and if my goal is to win, my conscience has already come to terms with what I’m going to have to do. I belittle them, mock their faults and failures, wear them down, make my contempt widely and publicly known, and anger them so they start making stupid mistakes I can exploit while beating them into humiliating submission with a smile on my face. I believe that is the usual way these things are done, but perhaps Seir does things differently.
The article concludes with a lengthy admonition to PAPI encouraging them not to despair, and to look forward to strengthening their alliances and coalition for future challenges. Despite its chin-up message, the tone is grim and defeatist. Seir knows that PAPI line members are disgusted with the incompetence of their leadership, the outcome of the war, the hasty and chaotic withdrawal from Delve, and the virtual certainty that they will never successfully challenge the Imperium unless something unexpected happens to the Imperium.
Seir consistently refers to the Imperium as “Goons.” This little mistake, repeated endlessly, is one reason PAPI failed to break the Imperium. Their hatred of the coalition was based solely on hatred of Goonswarm, but Goonswarm is only a single part of the Imperium. Many alliances fought PAPI in the war, and PAPI even lost some alliances to the Imperium.
Seir and PAPI fundamentally failed to understand the tight cohesion of the Imperium, while ironically boasting of their own cohesion even as countless leaked internal communications showed discord, bickering, petty resentments between leaders, lies from leadership to line members, and a hundred other hints that this coalition was never unified.
If Seir is truly interested in understanding the rock-bottom underlying causes of PAPI’s disintegration, he might consider starting there.