The Rhetoric of War: A Double-Edged Sword


Art by Major Sniper

The horn has been blown and, apparently, many Imperium members are answering the call. But old Goons aren’t the only ones who’ve heard the sound of the horn. Calls for aid aren’t shouted into an empty void; the Imperium’s enemies have also heard The Mittani’s horn – and their mouths are salivating, perceiving the call for aid as a sign of weakness.

This double-edge sword is one of the problems when making any kind of announcement, distress call, rallying cry, etc. They always cut both ways. Vily’s confidence on TiS when talking about his forces’ position in this war could just as easily be interpreted as brazenness in the face of biting off more than he (PAPI) can chew. On the other hand, when The Mittani blows the Horn of Goondor, it can be interpreted as a sign that the Imperium is in more trouble than previous rhetoric let on. Getting a sense of what is really going on in EVE is complex because the content of these public messages and declarations are distinguishable from the ends those messages are trying to achieve.

Let me explain what I mean. I think any perceptive EVE player is suspicious about any and all dialogue during wartime, especially when that dialogue is coming from those with platforms like The Mittani, or Vily, etc. – anyone to whom people actually pay attention. Players are suspicious of this dialogue because information is also another form of warfare. To shake confidence, to demoralize one’s enemy, and to encourage your own troops: all this can be done with the spoken word. And because of the power of rhetoric, I think EVE players often consume messages from leaders and spokespeople with less an emphasis on the content of the message than the context of the message.

Let me go through some examples. As a member of Pandemic Horde (PH), I am not overly encouraged by Vily’s professed confidence in PAPI’s chances in this war; I think he comes across as glib. Take a look at his interview on a recent TiS. If someone suggests the Imperium is doing something well, Vily affirms it’s of no consequence. If the Imperium is getting some skilled FCs to engage more within Imperium ranks, Vily attacks their decision making capabilities. When conversation turns to The Mittani’s Horn of Goondor, Vily says: All Goons did was take their old email list to anyone that’s off and sent them an email; it’s not like a massive project. It’s a little bit spammy, mind you.

Materall: Well, [the Imperium] got some good will out of it; I mean, they picked up a trillion in change from [one older Imperium member].

Vily: I mean, power to them . . . Ya know, it is what it is. They put out the call; some people answered and gave them money and I’m happy for them. They’re gonna need it all. More likely to get us an interesting war.

Time after time, Vily refuses to concede anything to the enemy; and he comes across as less credible and blithe, even if he believes everything he is saying. As Vily’s ally in this war, I want everything he says to be correct; I also share his confidence. But that confidence is tempered at least with some acknowledgement of the Imperium’s capabilities. I believe PAPI’s chances are good, but Goons aren’t fools; they rank among the best EVE players in history and ought to be treated as such. Rhetorically, Vily sounds like his words are meant to keep morale solid, not give an objective analysis of the situation – like this is the Vily he wants us PAPI members in the rank and file to hear, not the Vily that would appear in strategic meetings. Let me be clear: I’m not insinuating Vily speaks the way he does for the reasons stated above; but the way he presents his message lends itself to that interpretation.

However, in that same interview Vily expresses what I believe many PAPI members are thinking after reading The Mittani’s call for aid:

I think this is a pretty awesome moment in the history of this war, as Goons have kinda realized that, “Ok we’re in deep shit; we need to call every able-bodied person we can get, we need to call in every resource we have. We need to take this shit serious.”

I don’t think that the intended effect of The Mittani’s message was to increase the morale of PAPI. I also don’t think that the intended effect of Vily’s impregnable wall of confidence is to make PAPI members like me feel like he’s not giving accurate information. But both these things are at work, which is why almost any message spoken by leaders cuts both ways. It is the natural consequence of EVE players reading far more into the context of the message than its content.

This situation opens up interesting questions about the net worth of announcements, or rallying cries such as The Mittani’s “Horn of Goondor.” Goons may (likely will) get reinforcements, but at the cost of a morale boost to their enemies (like me). Was that worth it? And did The Mittani think about this unintended side-effect of his message? We probably will never know for sure; no matter which way the war goes we will only be able to speculate. But for a gaming community that values meta-gaming so highly, I think we also ought to appreciate the meta-rhetoric that takes place within that meta-gaming; and we ought to appreciate, and factor in, those hidden costs to every public message we send.

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  • Simon Chui

    I think the horn of Goondor is just so the old Goon vets don’t miss out on the next big titan brawl. Can you imagine not inviting your old friends to the biggest party in years?

    September 16, 2020 at 7:45 AM
  • Rammel Kas

    I don’t view TIS as reliable in the least the past 3-4 months. They were at their best doing impartial interviews with the Devs at the last EVE Vagas before the epidemic. Now however it’s just pointless rhetoric from the other camp and very little facts checking. With a host who can barely contain his bias.

    When Vily says it’s “going well”, the situation on the field is far more grim for PAPI in terms of barely containing INIT incursions, losing several SOV contests daily in his own area and stalled progress, as well as an increasing tempo of small actions in his own space while they are basically observed to be doing PVE and only form 12-man interceptor gangs to cover their offensive Entosis ship (singular… it was PGL himself flying that one) in Period Basis. If you only look at the TEST side they may in one view be within a week or maybe two of total collapse. And it seems to be a quick cash grab for whatever they can get before the tide turns. We have noted a rather… interesting alt corp being formed which inserted itself into the far Drones as a back door escape plan. Leave it up to you to figure out who owns that one.

    September 16, 2020 at 3:08 PM
    • Seir Luciel Rammel Kas

      These are some strong claims; but I want to look at one in particular. You say:

      When Vily says it’s “going well”, the situation on the field is far more grim for PAPI. . . [and] If you only look at the TEST side they may in one view be within a week or maybe two of total collapse.

      Other Goons don’t share this kind of confidence. Moomin, in an article posted recently, concedes that Goons may just well lose; and he has accepted that as a real possibility:

      The great thing about this situation for me is that I cannot lose. If we
      are defeated in Delve, we will simply adapt as we have before. If we
      should, by a miracle, win then I know I would have played a small part
      in one of the greatest gaming moments in history. I fail to see a

      Moomin thinks that Goon’s would only win this war “by a miracle.” Perhaps he is wrong. Perhaps he doesn’t know something you do. But I think Moomin’s perspective is worth factoring into our view of the current state of affairs.

      September 16, 2020 at 6:23 PM
      • Guilford Australis Seir Luciel

        I’m not going to wrangle the point of a “literature grad student” who doesn’t know the proper use of a semicolon (hint: the clauses on both sides are supposed to be complete and do not require “but” or “and” after the semicolon).

        The point about TiS as an unreliable news source is reasonable; I believe it relates more to Matteral’s intent to keep things focused on what he believes is best for the meta rather than an overt bias against The Imperium. (That was a proper use of a semicolon).

        September 16, 2020 at 6:56 PM
        • Seir Luciel Guilford Australis

          Buddy . . . I think you wrangled it. Didn’t know I was getting graded. (Will you allow this fragment?)

          Fair enough teach; I’ll try to make sure my punctuation is up to your standards next time.

          September 16, 2020 at 7:02 PM
          • Guilford Australis Seir Luciel

            I have to admit that I misspelled both “Matterall” and the name of my own coalition in that comment (hence the edit), so I guess there’s a bit of rich irony here.

            September 16, 2020 at 8:07 PM
          • Seir Luciel Guilford Australis

            🙂 Careful, or else the whole game might try to take your whole corporation out or something.

            September 16, 2020 at 9:38 PM
      • Moomin Amatin Seir Luciel

        Despite what some say I have always based my writings on what the numbers say. You look at maps and movements. Who is fighting who and where and in what. Even the most “grr gon hat gon” PAPI member concedes that we are vastly out numbered. That is the reality of the materiel but the will and conviction is another. If PAPIs will breaks then Goons win. Vily will be known as a leader that, even with the mightiest army ever assembled in eve, failed.

        September 16, 2020 at 9:33 PM
        • Then there is the “even if we win, then what” scenario for Vily.

          Short of him declaring victory and immediately “winning eve”, it’s beyond certain that the Delve-less, evicted Imperium will target Legacy for vengeance. Has Pandafam somehow given Legacy some kind of assurance of mutual defense when this comes? If so, does the supreme military genius he wants to be seen as actually believe it?

          Strategically there just doesn’t seem to be a long term win possible for Legacy in this war. They are the Japan of world war II, opportunistically committing to a war that they can’t actually win.

          Even if (for this example) fascist Pandafam defeats the good-guys Imperium for them here and now, the Imperium will remain. if Pandafam fights the Imperium to a stalemate, the Imperium will remain. Win or lose, the Imperium is coming for Legacy, and no one on either side I think believes Legacy could hold the line alone.

          Which brings us back full circle. To launch this assault as Japan you’d have to not only believe that Germany was going to defeat Russia (that’s plausible in Dec 1941), but that afterwards, Germany would continue to force project basically forever to defend Japanese gains in the pacific from a vengeful USA. Germany could not have destroyed the USA then, any more than Panfam can wipe out The Imperium now. Win, lose or draw in this war, Legacy is going to be punished for it.

          Worse, you’d think the example of Darkness would teach people what Pandafam does to allies of convenience, after the alliance is no longer convenient for them. When Legacy space starts to burn, I fully expect Pandafam to deploy – but with torches, not fire hoses.

          September 17, 2020 at 1:08 AM
          • Gray Doc Mick

            Outstanding comment, Mick, but you are taking all my good material for the next installment of my Art of War series, focusing on TEST. I’ve already written it, but I’ll go in and tweak it now because some of your analogies are spot on (and yes, I’ll cite you as a source).

            September 17, 2020 at 1:14 AM
      • Rammel Kas Seir Luciel

        Aah I see you’re trying to pitch my take against that of Moomin’s. We’re both veterans of the Casino War you know.

        Moomin’s excellent piece was on account of his response to come back for the next big one. We both hope that PAPI do in fact BRING IT as they have promised they would. But you may find we’re both skeptical of the stated win conditions they picked. Just logging in each day defeats the primary one, so they already lost that one.

        I won’t belabor you with too much but this. PH are only now arriving on the battlefields I’ve been fighting in since week 1. So much of my opinion is from being there each day and fighting the Legacy & TEST side of the loose coalition. So be aware of what you have not seen with your own eyes yet. This area is much more compact. What I’ve seen on grid is ad odds with the opinions of the talking heads on TIS of late. They are selling their drink. I am not buying.

        That being as it may, move ops bring a momentum of their own. Maybe that’s the dice roll here. Or maybe you’ll see for yourself.

        September 16, 2020 at 10:53 PM
      • Arrendis Seir Luciel

        We may well lose. Certainly, uncertainty is the only certain thing at this early stage of the war—which, in and of itself, doesn’t speak well for the offensive, almost 3 months in.

        That said, plenty of other Goons do share that confidence. Confidence doesn’t mean ignoring the potential for error, though. We may lose. We may see PAPI decide they’ve totally got the will to grind down a thousand or so structures while under the guns of a larger supercapital fleet than they’ve moved. We may even see them pull it off.

        But I doubt it.

        Honestly, my money says that the moment Vily has no-where to go that isn’t under our supercapital umbrella, he’s going to declare victory and insist he never said anything about driving use all out of the game and destroying GSF as an organization.

        Unfortunately, it’s kind of like his claims these days that he never did cocaine. Such blatant contradiction of his own words means even his most ardent supporters have to claim he’s not trustworthy: either he was lying then, or he’s lying now. If he’ll lie about such ephemeral crap as ‘did Vily do coke ten years ago?’ why should anyone believe anything he tells them?

        September 17, 2020 at 8:28 PM
      • Garreth Vlox Seir Luciel

        “Other Goons don’t share this kind of confidence.”

        Some other goons don’t share that kind of confidence, many do. Vily has done everything he can to avoid putting his supers under goon supers, He has danced from one point of attack to another to avoid being under that gun.

        But soon he will have to choose between entering goon super range in a direct attack on delve proper, or deciding to attack Period Basis instead, or declaring victory and going home.

        If he goes to period basis he has to sell his allies on AGAIN changing the region they are going to attack delve through, personally I doubt he can sell that kind of thing twice in the same war to the same people especially given how long this war has dragged on already.

        If he calls it a day and goes home he loses face for quitting before even trying to follow through on his threat to make goons quit eve.

        If he attacks delve he has to put his supers on well armed keepstars on grids designed to make that kind of fight a living hell, under the guns of the the largest super fleet in the game, fielded by an alliance with a long history of winning exactly that type of all or nothing fight. I think this is the least likely scenario given his admission that test has the money to replace 100 titans on talking in stations. Which was maybe his biggest mistake of the whole war, reading between the lines allows you to see that while test may have the MONEY to BUY 100 titans, that doesn’t mean they will be able to FIND 100 titans to BUY when the time comes. Goons on the other hand have their fabled massive caches of already built ships ready to use as instantly accessible replacements. And since we are playing defense we still have access to our own ship building yards for further replacements if need where test will have to move op replacements to the field every time they are acquired.

        He has no good options once he finishes taking Querious, but going home is the least damaging one both financially and physically which is why a lot of people are expecting him to call it a day and head home when the last system flips to PAPI sov.

        September 18, 2020 at 6:09 PM
  • hanabal

    All I know is they had formed to kill 2 forts in querios the other day and we saved em both papi had supers formed and when we filled 2 dread fleets they stood down if they can’t even win a Fort timer in querios and are afraid to jump in supers against dreads then how in the fuck do they plan to fight us on keepstars in delve???

    September 16, 2020 at 6:08 PM
  • Moomin Amatin

    A very interesting read and I think you make some very good points.

    The biggest issue now for Vily is that he is poised to acquire the fame and glory he so longs for. He has always put himself forward as a military thinker and this is his chance to show everyone his mettle. So for Vily this campaign will be his defining moment. If he wins he will be the guy who lead the charge to destroy goons. If he loses he will forever be known as the guy who could not win a campaign where he outnumbered the enemy at well over 2 to 1. So Vily should sound confident. He has everything he needs to win. Now he just has to win.

    But unknown to Vily he is but a tool in these meta games. Goons have always looked to fight the ideals of BoB. BoB demand an eve that they are the lords over with serfs and peasants who pick up the scraps they are thrown. BoB rebranded but it still exists. Its ideas and concepts. There are ripples in the potential for the balance of power. PanFam has already won this war in spades and will be shown in the map and rental deals of the future. How Test and its immediate allies will fare has yet to be decided.

    September 16, 2020 at 9:19 PM
    • Seir Luciel Moomin Amatin

      The compliment means a lot Moomin. I know I’m against you and all, but I enjoyed your “Return of the Goon” a lot, despite being told
      the “nastiest and most cruel thing that you can think of to say to someone.” 🙂

      But your point about the “ideals of BoB” is really fascinating to me, and my next article is going to be thinking about how much of this war is about philosophical differences about how Eve Online should be played. Is WWBII a philosophical battle mirrored by a literal battle?

      I’m really interested in the history of thought within Eve culture. I would be interested to hear what you think, so be sure to reply to my next article.

      September 16, 2020 at 9:57 PM
  • Caleb Ayrania

    Nice analysis and succinct points. Almost bordering on calling it unbiased. 🙂

    September 17, 2020 at 1:54 PM
  • This is what professional wrestling looked like a hand full of decades ago. Who each side is and why they should be known as the good guys, why they’ve been wronged or some other motivation, when and where is also good too.

    I guess too many members in both have had too much time amassing their fortune and now it’s time to “create content”.

    Have fun to both sides, third parties and the journalists who follow these shenanigans.

    September 17, 2020 at 3:32 PM