We need Enemies!

Its Blog Banter time again with the interesting topic of propaganda.

In a socially-driven game environment such as EVE Online’s, everyone has an agenda. CCP promotes its products and has an army of volunteers to do the same; corporations and alliances deliver entertaining recruitment drives, CSM election candidates solicit for voter favour, bloggers and podcasters opine to their audiences.


In this intricate web of communication, influence and control, what part does propaganda play in your game?  

Propaganda is just communication with the singular purpose to weld a group of people together.  Nothing more to it.  The giants of propaganda, Goebbels, Mao, Stalin and Karl Rove used it to convince the masses that they were part of something far bigger and therefore that their suffering had meaning beyond their own pathetic lives.

While it is lazy to say “its just human nature”, I’ll do just that for now.  People, humans want to be part of something bigger.  I am pretty sure that this desire is the evolutionary by-product of self consciousness and one’s understanding of mortality(1).  It is the same driving force that created religions, political parties, soccer fans and the “hate” between miners and PvP-ers.  Properly used, propaganda is the key force holding disparate groups together under stress.

To work properly, propaganda needs two key elements.

Shared internal values.  Preferably nebulous (“freedom” is a good one), these values are shared among the the peasants who substitute their own values for it.  In practice, a peasant gladly gives his son to the war effort, i.e. replaces his personal love for his child with a love for the shared goals of the nation.  Propaganda made him do it and the trick is to make him feel good about it for a long time.  This is of course a dangerous gamble.  When the populace realizes that it was propaganda all along, the anger that it evokes can take down governments.  Therefore, the these imposed values can never been too specific.  “Freedom”, “Democracy”, “Peace” are all examples of extremely non-specific and highly successful propaganda values, easy to share, easy to understand and very, very hard to disagree with.  Not so successful were those terms that alienate one group against another (although I get to that in a second).  These include racism (2)  in its widest form.  Even the most convinced racist can have doubts about his superiority, especially when they can remember someone from a – purportedly – inferior “race” who did not fit into the created stereotype.

External Threat.  No propaganda is complete without an external and endangering force. Whether it is “al-Quada”, the devil, global warming or high sec miners, a tangible threat has to be created and distributed  among the followers.  As I said above, if the threat is tangible, emotions are easy to create but hard to control in the long run.  More nebulous terms like “terrorist”, “evil” or “Devil” are of course harder to create but far longer lasting – virtually all religions have some incarnation of that.   George Orwell’s 1984 had the government create an eternal war in order to justify its police state – an old trick used to good effect into modern times.  The external pressure is the force that squeezes the mass together.  In EVE terms, Goons and Test of course use this constantly, The Mittani thinks he is the master of creating enemies.  There is a slight problem in that people can switch allegiances really quickly in the game without real, physical consequences.  This creates the very specific propaganda that you can see on The Mittani or internal forums.  

Personal Use

I always have these two principles in mind when talking to people.  Many years ago during my Army service, I was put in charge of 12 soldiers whom I outranked only a little.  By the end of the first week, I had the most coherent and trained squad in the company.  How?  I just told everyone that we were the best and that the other groups are just a bunch of pussies.  We raided the other squad’s quarters at night with water buckets and did 40 pushups at muster to differentiate ourselves.  The process was so easy, it was laughable, there was nothing inherently different about my group (they were randomly mixed) but my guys craved the feeling of being better as a group. And all I had to do is to give it to them.  Easy.

In EVE, I don’t use propaganda all that much, mostly because my game time is pretty limited now and I am not really in charge of anything.  I watch my Faction War corporation use it to good effect “we are the best, Ev0ke is evil”, that kind of thing and it does amuse me.  I have used it to some effect during the recruitment process that I used to run for our corp and alliance.  In this example, I deliberately used internal values only.  In previous recruitment drives, I had posts up contrasting  our “free and independent” WH life style against the robotic and slave-like existence in nullsec.  This slightly more aggressive approach was based on no personal experience whatsoever (never flown in nullsec) but it worked reasonably well.

So, the blog banter asked what part does propaganda play in my EVE Online world and the tl/dr part is, that I see it, I understand it, it amuses me and when I see it useful, I will use it.

__________________

1.   (they are different from each other, no matter what the old school biologists say).

2. There is no such thing as race, btw in real, modern evolutionary terms.

The Ministry of Opinion Prestidigitation

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5 responses to “We need Enemies!

  1. “By the end of the first week, I had the most coherent and trained squad in the company”
    At least you and the squad thought so, as most of the other squads too about themselves, I bet.

    “2. There is no such thing as race, btw in real, modern evolutionary terms.”
    As there are no such races in EVE, but most of us still use it to differentiate the NPC empires.

    And you really used null-wh comparison during early recruitment?!? Can’t remember it actually. 🙂

    • “By the end of the first week, I had the most coherent and trained squad in the company”
      At least you and the squad thought so, as most of the other squads too about themselves, I bet.

      Well, on the objective matrix used (competency test across the company) we were second (I think, its bee a while). On the fun and energy level we certainly had the most – and after all, does it really matter? The goal was to create the perception of superiority and therefore cohesion. In this it _certainly_ worked.

      With respect to the comparison between WH and nullsec, I did a few forum posts and I can fish them out – they were quite “tame” by internet standards. There would have been nothing gained from getting flamed on the forums. With more critical mass and support from the alliance, I could certainly open the crank a little more. Want to help with that? 😉

      • “The goal was to create the perception of superiority and therefore cohesion.”
        Yup, that’s all that matters for the group. 🙂

        “Blah blah WH and nullsec blah blah. Want to help with that?”
        Sry, I’ll turn your offer down. I managed to resist watching and not posting even once in the EVE-O forum for 2 years (except for some really interesting/important threads pointed out by alliance mates or well respected bloggers). I don’t want to break this successful achievement.

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