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He Who Controls The Past …

 

In May 1915, a German submarine torpedoed and sunk the British ocean liner Lusitania off the coast of Ireland. The German Kriegsmarine insisted that their action was based on solid intelligence, that the United Kingdom had been in breach of international agreements by using the ship for arms transports and other purposes of warfare. The British denied this and accused Germany of committing an unlawful atrocity. The fact that 128 U.S. citizens were among the dead contributed in a major way to shift the public opinion in the United States to join the war on Britain’s side, which they eventually did in 1917.

From our history lessons many of us will be familiar with the story of cold-blooded Germans ruthlessly sinking a civilian ship. A historic narrative written by the winners of that war, justifying their cause. Any claim that things might have been different was relegated to the realm of conspiracy theory until 2008, when a diving expedition did in fact find ammunitions in a secret cargo compartment of the wreck. Only last year it became public that a prior salvage operation in 1982 had been warned about unexploded ammunitions. It became sufficiently clear that the British government had presented a manipulated account of historical events which cast them in a positive light while vilifying the Germans. Even today many people still believe that version of history to be true.

What Does That Have to Do With EVE?

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

Historic revisionism like this was an inspiration for George Orwell’s famous quote, delivered as a slogan of the totalitarian Ingsoc regime in the book 1984: He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past. Incidentally, that doctrine also plays a role in the way major organisations constitute themselves in EVE. Every long-standing player who has been involved in major factional conflicts will be familiar with the concept of propaganda, and historical revisionism has always been part of it since the first time major conflicts developed among players. One of the most widely famous examples was probably the declaration of Sir Molle that Goonswarm had been eradicated. In the near future, revisionism is likely to reach a new level with the publication of EVE’s first commissioned work of player history: The Fountain War.

This book will be published by The Mittani Media. That appears to be a company which was formed “[t]hrough the combined efforts of TheMittani.com and Jeff Edwards”. That makes sense. To publish a book which uses another company’s intellectual property as a basis (CCP’s EVE Online) one wants to engage with a business partner on equal footing. It has been confirmed by CCP Falcon that The Mittani Media have indeed acquired the rights to use CCP’s IP for their product. With the permission to do so, The Fountain War will describe the campaign of the ClusterFuck Coalition (CFC) against Test Alliance Please Ignore (TEST) and their allies in 2013.

epmegafleet

Other than Andrew Groen’s book on EVE player empires, this is not going to be a historical report, though. Jeff Edwards—the hired author—is a writer of military fiction, and in his own words he describes his effort to write The Fountain War as the result of “searching for ways to recreate that first heart-pounding experience [of reading the novel The Beyond at the age of eight].” The sample excerpt on the Kickstarter page also makes it sufficiently clear that we are dealing with fictionalised reality here:

Captain Darius Yaaah lowered his body into the pod, feeling the warmth of the semi-liquid amniotic gel enfold his limbs and torso. He gave a final encouraging nod to his bridge crew as the door of the armored capsule swung down to enclose him.

Clearly, this is not going to be a documentary but rather a docu-drama, a form of quasi-historical entertainment popularised by the History Channel and BBC One, among other television channels and filmmakers. As such, it will not provide a historical overview, like documentaries or textbooks do, but will engage the reader in a narrative that will doubtlessly revolve around interesting protagonists and spectacular set pieces. This already creates a very subjective view of events which lends itself very well to revisionist bias. Furthermore, docu-dramas often take a lot of artistic license to make events appear more spectacular. The superlatives used in the book’s description indicate a similar tendency. At the very least, a reader is invited to identify with the main characters of the story and immersed in a particular view of events. The short sample text, for example, puts the character of one Pandemic Legion spy front-and-center. More importantly, it labels the side who is paying for this endeavour as The Imperium. Readers who will receive this work of fiction may not know that Imperium was not what this coalition called itself back then. Already we can see revisionism entering the picture. Retroactively the CFC is rebranded to its current image.

Beyond this, the Kickstarter campaign promises a personal chapter in the book for everyone who pledges sufficient money. Max Singularity tweeted as a response:

Getting my name in the book! Because I must feed my #narcissism! and I want to be a part of EVE history.

While this is a cute tongue-in-cheek commentary, and I doubt anybody will pay the $10.000 for that (except if they are more insane than even I consider possible), it does not bode well for historical accuracy. Sponsorship that has such influence is usually not a good idea when accuracy is the goal. There is a famous Dutch painting of a battle between the Dutch and Spanish navies at Gibraltar. In it, a particular ship is displayed prominently. Historical data shows that this ship was never present in that engagement, but its owner had been a sponsor of the artist and paid a major contribution for having his vessel in the painting. Is this the version of EVE history The Mittani Media are going to aim for here?

1280px-Battle_of_Gibraltar_1607

At the same time, players are invited to submit their version of events to the author, no matter which side they were on. This is a nice attempt at aiming for impartiality, but will those submissions be corroborated in any way? Will there be any kind of vetting process or a balance between submissions from one side or another? Certainly, the author will be guided by the views of those who hired him, and the text will be as balanced as they want it to be.

Who Cares Anyway?

In a conversation I had with one of my fellow CZ writers, I was challenged with the following:

Some guy having an idea and no job. If people want to pay to have a book and help someone make a living, it’s their choice. It’s a book that will be read once by EVE people, [it’s] not like it will change anything.

That is a fair series of statements. There is nothing that objectively speaks against TMC, and by extension Goonswarm leadership, monetizing their community more than they already do. The Mittani himself said many times that nothing obliges EVE Online players to remain loyal to their organisation. If they don’t like it they can leave.

“…create a narrative which presents them as the most heroic and righteous group in the game.”

Of course that line of reasoning can also be turned around. Faced with the perpetual danger of defection, what can a player organisation do to retain their membership? One of the potential solutions for this problem is to create a narrative which presents them as the most heroic and righteous group in the game. When it comes to that, the Goons have long fought an uphill battle. When we look at the presentations done by Alexander Gianturco (The Mittani) himself, and the credible reporting of EVE player history done by Andrew Groen, Goonswarm were once forced to side with the most hated group in EVE besides themselves, Red Alliance, because nobody else wanted them as an ally. The political landscape of EVE has come a long way since then, but still there are many who continue to perpetuate the story of the “evil Goons” and enough of that mindset is left to merit a propaganda effort which counteracts it.

In a more current frame of reference, another argument comes into play which was put up as a challenge by one of my fellows:

The Goons exist. But no one gives a shit about their narrative or mindset. Only inertia and a great bureaucracy are left.

In this view of recent EVE Online politics, Goonswarm and the Imperium are viewed as a stale, stagnant and boring superpower. All they can purportedly offer their members is safety in numbers and great income opportunities for “nullbears”. Actual “fun content” is supposedly not the reason why anyone would join an alliance within The Imperium. No matter whether this impression is correct or not, it is sufficiently widespread to influence player decisions. The current Imperium leadership wants to establish KarmaFleet as a viable opportunity for new players to get great content, and in this field they have to compete with Pandemic Horde, vibrant lowsec warzones and other new-player-friendly groups like Phoebe Freeport Republic, the remainder of Brave Newbies or indeed TEST Alliance.

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In the light of this competition, commissioning a heroic, revisionist interpretation of the organisation’s history can go a long way. In doing so, they also create a source document, supported by CCP, endorsed by Grath Telkin (Pandemic Legion, CEO of Sniggerdly), written by a bestselling author, that becomes the main reference for this particular part of EVE player history.

Make no mistake, the subject matter is not an irrelevant chapter either. It is about the consummation of a schism which drove former allies apart and made them bitter enemies to this day. It is also about a lesson taught to the upstart who decided to rise up against their patron. I still remember the declaration of war by The Mittani which stated R64 moons as the main reason for the campaign, but more than that was needed to rally a whole coalition against the then largest alliance in the game plus Pandemic Legion, NC. and Nulli Secunda. Very soon this became a war where the very foundation of TEST culture and leadership was called into question and vilified. During the CFC propaganda campaign against TEST it became obvious that, while this war was about ISK and resources, it was also about one narrative against another. I’d be surprised if this propaganda does not find its way back into the upcoming work of fictionalised history.

Chill Bro. It’s Just A Game

Indeed, it is all just space pixels. I could not agree more. However, for some people those space pixels represent money in the bank. Now, I am not talking about some conspiracy theory related to alleged Goon RMT cartels, but the very simple fact that Alexander Gianturco and Steve Howe call themselves the CEO and COO of a company called The Mittani Media. They intend to earn money on a book that will likely be a hagiography of their achievements in this space-pixel realm. They are of course welcome to do so, but as EVE players we have to ask ourselves: Will this serve the rest of us in any way?

Another voice from the CZ writer’s pool submitted the opinion that this will create more public exposure for EVE Online. Even if that were true, is that sort of exposure what we want and need?

We will not get an analysis of a historical event and its repercussions. Under these conditions, this is simply impossible even with the best of intentions. After his presentation at EVEsterdam Andrew Groen was asked why his analysis of EVE history ends so far in the past. His answer was twofold. On one hand he admitted that there was not enough space to go further than he did without cutting out a lot. On the other hand he cautioned that one can not take events that are too recent and analyse them without having seen the last consequences of them unfold years down the line. This is a viewpoint many real-world historians share. The Fountain war is too recent to merit such a treatment. In the aftermath, TEST were declared dead, and yet they are reformed and are back on the stage. The last word has not been spoken yet on what their ultimate fate will be and how much it was actually decided by the Fountain War.

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I have my doubts that this book will be read by many who are not EVE players affiliated with one of the parties in that war, but those who have not been directly involved are likely to be presented with a very skewed perspective of what strategic campaigns in EVE involve, and they will have no way of knowing the difference. There have been many comments about the fallacy of promoting EVE as a game of epic space battles because those major conflicts are rare to begin with, and if they occur they are not that exciting to be a part of, except maybe for a couple of bloc FCs and supercap pilots who have trillions of ISK on the line.

The best that this book can achieve is bringing another bunch of players to the game who have completely false aspirations about what their achievements in this game should look like. In the process they will be attracted to the largest and most established organisation that already exists, and they will help generate more income for its leaders.

In the end, the Imperium control the present through their numbers and resources. By leveraging their position as such a prominent organisation, they control the past through tailoring their historical narrative. Following that, they are poised to control the future by attracting even more support and loyalty.

I congratulate them on their business sense and social engineering acumen, but I seriously doubt that it will bring any progressive change to the game of EVE Online.     

 

Tags: Jeff Edwards, tarek, The Fountain War, The Mittani, The Mittani Media

About the author

Tarek Raimo

Former nullsec spy (no not under that name of course) and current failure at lowsec solo PVP, Tarek spends his time not logging in to the game as much as he keeps thinking about its social and metagame nature and sharing some of those thoughts with the CZ readers.

  • Viince_Snetterton

    Biggest lesson of all this is that CCP clearly ignores any RMT done by goons.

    • Kamar Raimo

      Oh, if you want to go there, they do not only ignore it, they openly support it. What do you say to that reinforced tinfoil?

      • MrFoundryguy .

        THE FOIL WARS BEGIN!

        • Kamar Raimo

          (Croaky Yoda voice) Begun the foil wars have.

    • Saint Michael’s Soul

      Its not RMT if it doesn’t concern any in-game asset at all. Its just a transaction. If a person (author, mittani, whoever) makes some money from this, it’s no-ones business except theirs. It would only be RMT if they were saying “Give me two PLEX and you get a book” or “Pay to this kickstarter and we’ll give you a book…and a pile of ISK”.

      • Viince_Snetterton

        Sigh…you best catch up on the facts….The DID offer an in-game item, (the failed lawyer’s corpse), and someone did pledge for it. Then CCP gently reminded them that would be RMT, and it was replaced with a roam with the failed lawyer, which turns out still breaks the EULA, and that item was in turn replaced.

        But was anyone banned?? Oh no. It was a clear attempt to RMT, but CCP gives the goon leadership a pass. Anyone else try that, and CCP / goon’s propaganda teams are all over that person, and they are perma-banned in minutes.

        And now, because this whole thing is incorporated, goon leadership can cry innocence, and just say, “these ideas were thought up by a non-Eve playing employee and were not vetted by goon leadership”.

        • Kamar Raimo

          I wouldn’t go as far as calling that RMT. Sure, in-game items or perks were offered for a pledge, but that is not the same as setting up a continuous income stream based on trading in-game assets for real-world money.

        • Arrendis

          Actually, they were vetted by CCP. Including the corpse. Then people bitched, so they changed their minds, and we complied with their requirements.

  • bob@wormholes.com

    Why should we pay for goo, propaganda?

    • Kamar Raimo

      You are free to do so or not. It’s your choice. I am sure many will for better or worse. Other than many detractors I do think this project will be successful. If nothing else, it will find enough supporters among affluent loyalists of that community who want to see it become a reality.

  • AFK

    Perhaps if Oprah Winfrey chooses “The Fountain War” for her weekly book club, then it will bring more people to EVE. But, most likely it will be an obscure flop bought only by people who already play the game and yet another elaborate RMT moneyspinner by a man who, had he been born in any other century, would be selling snake oil from the back of a wagon.

    • That Guy That Commented Here

      Wait, this oil I got when I was in the CFC isn’t a cure-all?

      • Kamar Raimo

        It can be exchanged for paplinks or ship replacements though 😉

  • Dirk MacGirk

    Gevlon, we welcome you to Crossing Zebras. I suppose the first step in the war of words is to label any future comments as propaganda. Part of me thinks this is a troll by Tarek in order to gin up some website hits, because he’s not usually so openly jaded.

    This is why we can’t have nice things. So few are willing to put in the effort to make it happen, but countless will stand on the sidelines without ever even making the attempt. All the while decrying the motives of those who make the attempt. Yet some people will try, and no single reason is better than one that could make money. The naysayers can say what they will, but until the book is released, if it is ever released, I think the mindset behind its production is based on creating something more people will want to read as opposed to less. Something that isn’t some jokey-ass lore BS. I know its difficult to imagine, but alienating a potential customer base isn’t a very smart business decision.

    The sad part is that this should probably be called the Last Great War since now apparently hiding in lowsec is the Eve of the future. Let’s see if CCP can market that video game better than they did a game built on the backs of nullsec. Hopefully more players will come to EVE, hopefully more will see how terrible nullsec is compared to the greatness of lowsec. Then one day, when they’ve lost their fear of warp disruption bubbles, they will venture out into nullsec and take on the nullbears of the north and create a new story. But that will probably require the same thing that TEST did: PL to hold their hand. So nope. Not gonna happen. It’s almost too bad that a piece like this can’t lead to war anymore. Emotions have always been one of the primary drivers of great wars in EVE. The personal slights and verbal miscues. Sadly, I don’t think your command nodes are what a nullsec campaign is made of these days. We have our own shitty command nodes. But you’re free to come out and slap a few of those around before heading home to -insert lowsec system name here-.

    If the book comes out as propaganda then let’s call it propaganda. I’ll be right there with you because I have ~hopes~ that isn’t the purpose here. But to do so now is just rank pissing and moaning based on an in-game narrative. For some, no matter how accurate the book down to its finest detail, it will be propaganda because there is no way of making a loser look like a victor. Until then, why don’t we at least try and be a bit balanced that something good might come of this. EVE isn’t all about Drifters and and dead Empresses. It’s also about the players. How about we give the players a shot. At least those willing to try.

    By the way Tarek, you always tell a good tale. Even though I disagree with you on the final outcome, its still a pleasure reading your stuff. Then again, I sometimes get halfway through Gevlon’s shit still nodding my head in approval.

    • Dirk MacGirk

      PS – Grath and the others didn’t endorse the outcome. They endorsed the idea and the attempt.

    • Kamar Raimo

      A passionate rebuttal indeed, and much appreciated.

      Let me first say that it is not and has never been my intention to agitate in a Gevlon Goblin style against Goonswarm and the Imperium Rather than that I will call out every self-righteous and self-aggrandising person or group of people. It just happens to be them who are at the top of the pile. If this were 2006 I would write the same about BoB and Sir Molle if they did something similar.

      On the subject itself, it is simply bad form to do something like that. It is the equivalent of wearing the t-shirt of your own band. The pledge rewards – which I have not even mentioned – are even more evidence of the cringeworthy quality of this project.

      You compare me to Gevlon Goblin who sees conspiracies and shadowy deals where there may not be any, but I simply tell it as it is. This is a project to generate money from a loyal affiliated playerbase and potentially increase the number of likeminded people. I would dare you to deny this allegation.

      You say that the likes of me strike from the safety of some lowsec system, and I say: yes guilty as charged. The reason why we are there is because we refuse to be leveraged for someone else’s celebrity status.

      We fight in small gangs with FCs who are our personal friends and with CEOs who are not “relevant” because we like interaction with real people instead of being counted as part of a fanbase who may or may not be important enough to talk to some remote leadership who do not even play the game.

      Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge the people who choose this life in EVE that they are doing that, I am just saying it is not my choice and just like you call us out for being afraid of warp disruption bubbles I take the privilege of pointing the finger at the people who assume to control the narrative of EVE and tell them what I think of their endeavours.

      No offence taken.

      • Dirk MacGirk

        Gevlon stuff was a joke. And I somewhat agree regarding some of those pledge incentives, which I think have been removed for various reasons. Some came in conflict with the game and some just seemed outlandish. Maybe sounded good when spitballing but then maybe not so much after the fact. On the other hand, I think they really want to get this done, to make it happen, and will use any allowable tool at their disposal. And if something as silly as some of those things entice even one other person to aid in doing that, he’s willing to use himself and leverage the cult of personality around him, to that end. So is it self-aggrandizement or is it just using anything and everything at their disposal as a means to some grand end? I don’t know. How far is anyone willing to pimp themselves in order to make something happen? How far is too far? Does too far really exist is a realm of avatar names?

        • Kamar Raimo

          I guess I got triggered a bit 😉

          Anyway, apart from the involved party not having a history of being a humble and impartial person at all, nobody could possibly escape such criticism given the circumstances.

          Imagine I would go ahead an commission a book about “The Great Campaign of Gallente Militia to conquer the Warzone”.

          Even when I wrote my lore history articles about the fictional part of the Caldari-Gallente war people called me out on bias, and that was basically just a synopsis of canonical fiction and not something I was personally involved in.

        • Kamar Raimo

          … also, I always value your comments and if they are critical I value them even more. I appreciate that you take the time to construct an argument which counters mine. This is what discourse is all about.

          • Dirk MacGirk

            Crazy question, but have you read the reddit AMA with the author from Thursday? I’d recommend the recap on TMC rather than the direct /r version, but if so, did it help/hurt?

          • Kamar Raimo

            I read some of it and will go and have a look at the recap. It did influence my view of things to some degree and this article would have turned out differently if the AMA had come before it.

            I am still sort of sneering at the whole media stunt aspect of it though and how they are milking their community for money.

    • Too old for nonsense

      The Mittani as a benevolent Eve Online player / coalition leader.

      I think not.

  • Saint Michael’s Soul

    Even if the motives are murky and the history will be airbrushed and blah blah propaganda, it’s still an Eve book and more stuff about Eve is good. However the kickstarter target is ambitious and doesn’t look like its going to make it, even with all goon line members being told to fork over cash to their glorious leader..

  • billy jim bob

    I do believe you are over-egging the objective here.

    I very much doubt the motive is it give the CFC an in game
    advantage, rather it is an attempt to monetise the player base. Specifically,
    the 40,000 characters in the CFC.

    The jaw dropping amount of money the project wants to raise
    exceeds most community funded efforts good causes; such as Plex for good.

    Realising that most of their normally loyal member base
    visited the kickstarter page, shook their heads and left – TMC have now
    provided a financial breakdown. I’m not sure highlighting that they are paying
    Jeff Edwards $90k to write the book is going to motivate many more to stump up
    their ten bucks.

    It is ironic that an organisation which trumpet their
    diplomatic and relationship building abilities have misunderstood the relationship
    they have with their player base so badly.

    Eve
    players support their community. If
    members of our community need financial support, they often get it. Clubbing together
    for charity isn’t an issue.

    Supporting your favourite website or tool with affiliate
    links links or denotation, not a problem.

    However; funding a commercial enterprise by milking your
    loyal player base – maybe not.

    Just goes to show – in game diplomacy doesn’t necessarily
    relate well to the real World.

    • Kamar Raimo

      I don’t disagree. I also don’t think they are primarily aiming for an in-game advantage. I do venture to say, though, that if this book brings new players to EVE, they will mainly be joining that organisation because they are the ones who stand most to gain from it in-game.

      Your points about how they might have overplayed their hand there are interesting. I have my doubts that the effect will be significant however, but I might be wrong.