The Big Lie: The Fallacies of Demonisation

At Nuremberg, Goering famously explained the principle of The Big Lie: in short, if you're going to tell a lie, make it such a huge one that no one would ever believe that you'd dare to lie about it. Of course, there are all sorts of refinements to The Big Lie - smaller, subsidiary lies, bolstering it with the truth (or facets of the truth) whenever possible, and most importantly of all, playing to what the Volk want to believe.

Ideally, when you're telling a Big Lie, you tell a lie that fulfills three important criteria

  • i: That the listener's problems are not his fault. They're caused by a malicious and irredeemable Other. And they're going to keep on getting worse.
  • ii: That if this Other weren't up to those shenanigans, the listener would be recognised and rewarded for being the superior person that he is
  • iii: The implicit, but unspoken solution is to do the thing that the Big Liar wants to happen. And just in case, make the solution explicit and speak it loudly.

Do these criteria, dear reader, remind you of anything you regularly read on the EVE-O forums? How many times have you read forum posts advocating a Final Solution to the pollution of hi-sec untermensch? Who can count the threads detailing the moral vacuity and hive-mind conformism of the 0.0 Bolsheviks and their barbaric interference with the godly folk of Empire? Delete Hi-sec! CONCORD all those with neg sec! Move level 4s out of high! Ban scams! PvP is griefing! Miners are human bots!


What we have seen the forum narrative evolve into is a particularly interesting form of the Big Lie, because it's evolved into a self-sustaining lie about both sides. I've taken an interest in watching this narrative evolve, but as a first step to discussing it, we need to cast off the habit of long years of Big Lying and remind ourselves of something: Low-seccers and 0.0ers aren't all sociopathic murder-slaves in mindless hive-thrall to their Dark Lords (well, admittedly IRC are, but the rest of us aren't). Hi-sec players aren't all ignorant, pale, soft grub-like cowards hiding from all challenge and risk. Those are just stories we made up, a narrative to support our cognitive dissonance about the choices we've made and now feel locked into. It's okay to create a narrative in order to support a campaign, but it's more important to remember that it's just a narrative we made up or we'll end up like Team Romney, shocked and stunned to find out that the polls were just data all along.  And even more importantly we need to remind ourselves that the subtext of The Big Lie is also a lie: what's good for hi-sec isn't ipso facto bad for 0.0, and what's good for 0.0 likewise need not be bad for hi-sec.

So many of us have for so long been locked into the narrative of this Lie that it can feel shocking to have it revealed to us. Why, simple logic tells us that if hi-sec is "better" than 0.0, then people won't live in 0.0. If I dearly love 0.0 then logically I want hi-sec nerfed to save null. Right?


Wrong. Burning hi-sec to the ground won't do a single thing to help null. In fact wrecking hi-sec would strangle null within a few months at best - we've already seen that nerfing hi-sec incursions did not, mysteriously, revitalise 0.0. Making it impossible to build T2 ships in Empire would be just as effective. Moving all level 4 missions out of hi-sec will not fill the belts of null. It just won't. I know many of you think it should; perhaps in a just world it would. But it won't. You can't force people to play a game they don't feel that they want to play.

Equally misguided are the narrowly focused vocal hi-sec uber alles types who just wish that all the drama-llama nullsecers and Jack Sparrows in lo-sec would just go away. They want CCP to endsolung the problem with a server split or, failing that, PvP-flag hi-sec. They believe that, no longer trammeled by the demands of PvPers, EVE could be happily balanced into an eternal mission running nirvana. Leaving aside the inexplicable reluctance of CCP to try and emulate the incredible commercial success of Star Trek Online, these people forget that Goons were able to successfully and gloriously grief even in STO and that even now, PvE-focused games aren't happy wonderlands of mature, constructive dialogue and RP. In short, their aim will fail because they're playing a multiplayer game and there will always be a way to be a dick to someone, especially when you have a pre-existing playerbase with a decade of intensive study into the theory and practice of dickery.


Here is the unfortunate, inconvenient truth: We need each other. The industries of hi-sec need the consumers of null. The producers of 0.0 need the demand of hi-sec. The manufactories of hi-sec need the primary resources of null. The groups of 0.0 need the new player spawning grounds of empire. Alliances which have failed it in null need a place for their members to retreat to and rebuild from. The war machines of null are equipped with the products of hi-sec. And so on. Any argument, any proposal, any whine or Features & Ideas post, however passionate, which does not take this simple truth into account is doomed to be a Lie.

Even worse, I'm sorry to tell you that your choice of security space does not make you a better, morally superior person, nor does it make you a better player. It just means you've chosen to play a fabulously complex, diverse and involved game from a different perspective. Each player makes decisions which are rational from his own perspective, not out of some sec-based moral degeneracy. Whenever you feel tempted to make sweeping judgments about players who focus on "hi-sec" or "lo-sec" or "null-sec" remember that these are actual people with individual lives, jobs, families, personal history, personalities, preferences, tastes, phobias and perspectives of their own. You will not, in short, be able to make accurate generalisations about them and apply them to any individual. Add in the well-known capacity of text-based internet media to cause emotional miscommunication and you have a fertile broth of nutrients for Big Lies to grow and breed in.

Who cares and so what?

Well first and foremost, The Big Lie is a huge hindrance to any attempt to discuss the development and balance of the game. Any attempt to modify conditions in EVE instantly devolve into a furious "hi sec vs 0.0" forum fight, based on the fallacies and untruths I have mentioned above. Mechanisms which are blatantly unbalanced are defended by people who are intelligent enough to know better, purely because they perceive the rebalance as a loss of ground by "their" part of EVE. Fabulously unlikely conspiracies are blamed, 100-page threadnaughts abound, and in the middle... is the game we all play. And of course the poor devs, who are unable to do anything nice for player A without being accused of being sellout whores by player B.

Now that you've been alerted to The Big Lie, you may be sincerely interested in making EVE better, but at the same time, you may not be sure of what to do. How do you equip yourself to fight The Big Lie? What can you do to promote constructive change? How can you save null, protect hi-sec, and reform lowsec without feeding the Lie? Here are some tools you can use:

(1) Big generalisations are a danger sign. Whenever you are tempted by an argument that relies on characterising "all hi-seccers" or "nullbears" or "ganktards" or whatever, treat that argument with extreme skepticism. Proposals which rely on emotional appeal, labeling and Othering are always highly unbalanced and self-serving, or at best superficial. Even if they might be seductively unbalanced and self-serving in your favour, you should reject them because (i) CCP tend to ignore them and (ii) they'll generally backfire. 

(2) Beware of the zero-sum. When someone says that we need to nerf A in order to boost B, the first question you should ask is if there's a way to boost B without nerfing A. If B is unattractive, then nerfing A won't make it any better, it will only reduce the overall attractiveness of the game. That's not balancing the game; that's just spitefulness. Look for alternatives to attain your stated goals that won't nerf other people's activities. If nerfing is inherent, look for ways to mitigate or evade the effects on other players. No one is playing EVE to be your bitch. If someone wants to nerf your A to boost their B, then you have an even better reason to look for alternatives to that nerf. Simply treating their proposal as yet another insidious attack on your play style only makes you look self-interested and parochial.

(3) Look for higher order consequences. It's very easy to make simple-sounding proposals that will have massive unintended secondary and tertiary consequences when we're talking about a highly complex and inter-connected game like EVE. Make sure that you know what you're talking about when you suggest or criticise ideas; make sure that you've traced out the likely consequences beyond what's immediately desired. To use a common example: if you want to remove insurance because of inflation or you think "risk free" PvP is bad for whatever reason, then be aware that you've radically altered the cost:benefit balance between T1 and T2 hulls, and thus you've made having the skill to fly T2 much more valuable, thus effectively nerfing low-skilled new players. Furthermore you've significantly increased the demand for T2 components and thus given a large relative advantage to the holders of those moons. As a result, you've increased the incumbent advantages of current sov holders as well as reduced the relative income from mining... and so on.

(4) Remember that other people are rational. If you find yourself confused why other players would do something in this way or that way or even at all, the answer is unlikely to be "because they're stupid". It's far more likely that they know something about what they're doing that you don't. It's also possible that they genuinely don't know something you do. That doesn't make them stupid or hateful, it just means they're unaware of some aspect of the game that they've not considered.  Further, make sure ideas that you're proposing or objections that you're making don't rely on people being irrational and acting against their interests.

(5) You won't change people's ideas by making them feel bad. You won't understand their ideas by assuming that they're bad. If you want people to buy into your idea, then you need to show them why it's in their interest, or at the very least, that it's not against their interest. That means tracing out those consequences and making an effort to understand their rational motivations. This may mean doing a little research. Calling them "faggot carebears" or "cowardly ganktards" is extremely unlikely to persuade them to support your cause and will also discredit you amongst those who have had The Lie explained to them. Likewise, when you see a proposal that initially horrifies you, then try and see where they're coming from. That Bad Idea might make sense from their perspective and you'll be far more persuasive in promoting your perspective if you explain it before resorting to hostilities - see (4). Even if an idea is truly bad, try and attack the idea, not the guy that had it. Remember that really bad ideas won't get adopted anyway; being a little nicer than you are inclined to be will help you keep that noob away from the tarpit of The Big Lie.

There are other tools that one can use, but these are the most important ones, I think. The important thing is to be clear in your mind about whether you want to use those tools to try and build a constructive debate, or whether you're just amusing yourself with a Saturday Night Forum Fight. I will willingly admit that in my early days I bought wholeheartedly into The Big Lie (my posting history is there for all to see), and I have only my ideological consistency to console my shame at the shockingly poor rhetoric I employed. Since rejecting The Lie, I have found - amazingly! - that I have been far more successful in getting what I wanted. If you care about improving EVE and you want to have a say in directing its evolution, try the truth.