Several days ago, I submitted a breezy little article about the new "harassment" policy and how it extends CCP's reach into the realm of TeamSpeak. A number of players had just been permabanned for involvement with Fighter Jets GuitarSolo's new version of the Bonus Round. Since there was no known victim of harassment, no SoundCloud recording, and no clarification from CCP, the EVE community was left with a mystery about what can and can't get you permabanned these days.
I pointed out a number of situations where people bring scam victims (or legitimate game show contestants) onto TeamSpeak. I argued that if a line wasn't drawn somewhere to distinguish their antics from those of FJ or his predecessor Erotica 1, confusion would result.
It didn't take long for that confusion to manifest itself. Within a few days of my article being posted, prolific scammer Scooter McCabe submitted his own thoughts to this fair news site, in an article called "The Dunces Formed a Confederation". I'll be honest: After scrolling down and seeing two whole pages, my first reaction was "TL;DR". Then I noticed the piece mentioned my name. I enjoy reading about myself almost as much as I enjoy writing about myself, so I decided to give Scooter's article a chance. I was immediately glad I did. It turned out to be one of the most exciting editorials I had read in quite some time.
Scooter's article is a thrill ride, filled with unexpected plot twists that come out of nowhere. First, Erotica is described as a "monster" who preys on the EVE public by forcing them to do "sexually humiliating things". At that point, you think you know where the article's going. But suddenly, Ripard Teg, the guy who wanted Erotica to be banned, is condemned for being "as bad as Erotica1". You might suppose Ripard's criticism of Erotica was too harsh? Not so fast--Scooter also condemns me for covering up what Erotica really did to his victims. Before you can catch your breath, those victims find themselves in Scooter's crosshairs, derided as "worthy of scorn and the sternest of admonishments"!
The article ends kind of like Hamlet, with Scooter declaring everyone should be permabanned, except for Fighter Jets and his crew, whose fates are uncertain. Only Scooter himself is left alive, as a Horatio, to tell the story. It's pretty epic.
Although I recommend reading the article, think twice about bringing the kids. Scooter's essay comes from a place of deep anger and resentment. It features bon mots like "piece of shit," "whitewashing sycophant," "shameless liar," "fuck off," and "shut the fuck up." And those are just the things Scooter says about me. (To be fair, I suppose "shut the fuck up" was also directed at Erotica.)
Initially I felt Scooter's attitude toward me was one of the piece's mysteries. I hadn't been addressed in such harsh language since five minutes earlier, when I received an EVEmail from someone who lost their Retriever in highsec. However, Scooter's angst is explained by his involvement with Space Court, one of six TeamSpeak-related activities I mentioned in my own article. Scooter claimed I was "attempting to throw other scammers under the bus."
To be clear, I am and always have been, pro-scam. I believe scamming is a legitimate part of EVE and, in fact, core to its identity. That other MMOs don't allow scamming only adds to its legitimacy in EVE, for it gives the game a unique selling point. My intention is not to encourage CCP to ban everyone who scams on TeamSpeak. Nor was I arguing that the six activities I singled out were identical to the Erotica (or FJ) Bonus Rounds in every single way. My purpose was to identify areas of commonality that need to be addressed if one scam is considered okay and the other gets you permabanned. For instance, if Bonus Rounds are evil but "singing ransoms" are great because they're much shorter, then CCP needs to say so.
It's this line-drawing exercise that gets people into trouble. Scooter's editorial is a perfect example of it. To defend his own position while leaving the Erotica precedent intact, he was forced to engage in all kinds of gymnastics. To say his logic was twisted into a pretzel would be an understatement. His argument doesn't thread the needle; it bounces around like JFK's magic bullet. Let's take a closer look at just some of the head-scratching aspects of Scooter's essay. To help navigate it, you might find this scorecard a useful guide:
- Erotica 1: Should be banned for being a sexual predator.
- Ripard Teg: Should be banned for wanting to ban a sexual predator.
- James 315: Should be banned for NOT wanting to ban a sexual predator.
- Scooter McCabe: Nice guy, definitely shouldn't be banned.
To begin with, Scooter claims Erotica tricked his scam victims into "full-frontal nudity, smearing various substances on their body, and taking nude photos of their other half." He also says Erotica "went batshit insane and tried to get marks to do sexually humiliating things" and wanted them "to go completely nude and expose themselves across the entire internet." For failing to address these points in my article, I was accused of whitewashing history and "shuffling around Erotica1's story".
Not exactly. In the autumn of 2013, Erotica announced he was running for CSM. In some of his Bonus Rounds, he told his marks to hold "Erotica for CSM" signs over their faces and send him a picture. I was able to dig up one of these photos, seen here. I've heard that one of his marks wrote "Erotica for CSM" in peanut butter on his chest, with his face cropped out of the photo. (Presumably this is the "full-frontal nudity" Scooter was talking about, as well as the "substance smearing".) I never saw or heard of any evidence for Scooter's claim that Erotica was getting people to do Bonus Rounds in the nude, or that he tried to.
During the CSM run, Erotica held a "press conference" in which he invited everyone in Jita local to join him on TeamSpeak for a speech. Supposedly at least 100 people showed up, as Erotica was already a celebrity. According to Erotica and others in the "Belligerent Undesirables" group who were present, the girlfriend of a BU member took risqué photos (with no actual nudity) including her and a message of support for Erotica. She shared the link with everyone on TeamSpeak and sang a duet with her boyfriend as part of the event. While perhaps noteworthy, this didn't occur during a Bonus Round scam.
If these stunts were the reason for Erotica's (and the Fighter Jets crew's) bans, then Scooter might have a point. But they weren't, and he doesn't. Instead, Scooter was the one to "shuffle" the history. It's true there was backlash for these incidents, but they came from Goons, not CCP. (Erotica's main was in GoonSwarm Federation and he posted about his Bonus Rounds on their forums.) In response, Erotica stopped asking marks to take photos, withdrew his CSM candidacy, and retired from scamming.
His retirement was brief. By the end of November 2013, Erotica returned to hosting Bonus Rounds, keeping them voice and text based. It wasn't until several months later, in March 2014, that CCP Falcon raised the Sohkar incident with the CSM (the Sohkar Bonus Round had just been made public) and asked their opinion about banning Erotica. If Falcon came to the CSM in October or November 2013 and told them about the peanut butter guy, and if Fighter Jets had been circulating photos, we would have a different story. Scooter simply has his facts wrong. He writes:
"Erotica1 wasn't banned for getting people to blow up clones all the way down to no skills or 'hold people' in Teamspeak for hours until they gave up all their ISK... Getting someone to sing a song, write a poem, or jump a carrier into a waiting death squad in no way bears any comparison to what Erotica1 considered standard operating procedure."
No, and no. The Sohkar Bonus Round that resulted in Erotica's ban only included asking him to read and sing, until Sohkar finally realized it was a scam and raged. Erotica's ban wasn't a result of what he did several months earlier. We know this based on the timing of the actual history, what Falcon brought to the CSM, and what Ripard Teg (then a CSM member) wrote on the subject. It's also apparent that FJ and his crew were banned based on the presumption that they were making people rage in TeamSpeak, as opposed to getting photos of people.
I could have raised and dispensed with this issue in my original article, but then people would've complained about having to read 18 pages instead of 16. Lesson learned--you people crave more content!
Given what Scooter had written so far, you might think he was a fan of Ripard Teg, who also hated Erotica. You'd be wrong. Scooter hates Ripard just as much. In my own article, I claimed Ripard's reputation was almost as bad as Erotica's. Almost. Scooter takes things a few steps further. He writes:
"As for Ripard Teg, who will never realistically face any punishment for his part: know you are as bad as Erotica1. Remember that every time you think of starting up your blog again."
So Ripard Teg is literally as bad as the "monster" who "sexually exploited" people? Huh. Scooter explains that his disgust is rooted in the fact that Ripard only pretended to have sympathy for Sohkar. Yet in this same article Scooter himself repeatedly expresses his lack of sympathy for Erotica's victims. In a truly bizarre twist, Scooter writes the following in reference to Erotica's "sexually exploited", pre-Sohkar victims:
"What [Ripard] needed was moral outrage and a victim who seemed shattered. He didn't have that at first because anyone aware of Erotica1's operation knew that his marks had zero self-respect and would perform fellatio on a rodeo clown if asked. These are the kind of people who have no business playing computer games and need counseling in real life. They were not to be pitied because they held EVE Online above real life and anyone doing that is worthy of scorn and the sternest of admonishments."
This is remarkable for two reasons. First is Scooter's lack of concern for Erotica's victims, while criticizing Ripard for hypocritically lacking that concern. Second is the idea that Ripard didn't have the ammunition to take down Erotica until the Sohkar incident.
Let's take a step back for a moment. If Erotica really did what Scooter says he did, and if he really was getting people naked and sexually humiliating them, couldn't Ripard have used that against Erotica? Why did Ripard need to wait for Sohkar's Bonus Round? And if Erotica did "sexually exploit" players, how could Ripard possibly be "as bad as Erotica1"?
Gratuitous side note, lest I be accused of omitting vital information again: Scooter McCabe participated in the Bonus Rounds. When Erotica told me about it, I was skeptical. After all, Erotica, Ripard, and I, plus Erotica's victims, are all terrible, and only Scooter is worthy of trust. Fortunately I had some old chat logs. In April-May 2013, before Erotica's scams evolved into a TeamSpeak affair, he often invited famous people like me and Chribba into his in-game Bonus Round channel. Since I'm a busy guy, I was only available to appear a few times. I checked those few logs and sure enough, Scooter McCabe spoke in two of them. Just a handful of lines, and only encouraging the mark to follow Erotica's rules, but he was there. I don't know how deeply involved with the Bonus Rounds Scooter ultimately got; maybe he'll tell us.
This minor detail was left out of Scooter's article. I'll give Scooter the benefit of the doubt and assume he felt it wasn't relevant to his point. However, if he's going to spend half an article throwing stones at me for not addressing Peanut Buttergate, he could at least mention that he occasionally acted as an assistant to the "monster" he despises so much.
Taking the whole article together, it looks like Scooter's only real concern is protecting Space Court (and his accounts, should a GM feel it's hammer time). In Scooter's version of history, Erotica was banned for photos, not for TeamSpeak harassment; this leaves Space Court in the clear. I'm a villain for "throwing scammers under the bus" by mentioning them in the same breath as Erotica. Ripard's a villain because he's against scamming. The marks are "not to be pitied" and "worthy of scorn" because Scooter needs to keep scamming them. Everything makes a kind of sense, once you twist it enough.
Even so, drawing the proper lines is still a challenge for Scooter and Space Court. Scooter draws it as follows:
"The line is simply this: is your scam based on the premise of generating ISK? Is any humiliation that results merely as a byproduct of the ISK based scam being successful? Was the mark given a series of choices where they picked the most humiliating thing rather than pay ISK or give up a ship? I can tell you that in any scam I ever ran, all my marks were given a choice. I never pushed anyone in any direction to do something."
In Scooter's eyes, the Space Court scam is legitimate because it makes him money. The entertainment, the humiliation of the mark, the funny SoundCloud recordings--these are all mere byproducts. They're just a bonus. Not that kind of "Bonus". Totally different. Of course, Bonus Rounds also made money for the scammers. Lots more, in fact, because they got all of the mark's assets. The difference is that the BR scamming occurs up front. In theory, there's no monetary incentive for the Bonus Round to continue after that point. With Space Court, Scooter gets (or tries to get) the mark to pay him even more money after it's over.
I see his point. If the scammers think they can potentially get more ISK after the not-BR is concluded, then it's not just for entertainment. I'm not so sure CCP would draw the line there, though. They could. But if a BR host left Sohkar with some of his assets in the beginning, and tried to get Sohkar to hand them over at the end of the BR, would that make the BR okay in CCP's eyes? I'm thinking no. As a line to draw, "try to get more money at the end of the scam" is not a convincing one. This is only a guess, since I'm not a GM.
The whole situation is murky, and CCP should clarify the rules. Scooter agrees with me on that, at least. While I blame CCP, Scooter puts some of the blame on me, Erotica, Ripard, "and anyone stupid enough to hang out in the bonus room."
As for Erotica, I don't blame him for lack of clarity, because he did petition to get a better explanation of the rules (they didn't provide one). As for Ripard, I've already come as close as I feel comfortable to defending him, so I'll abstain. As for me, I'll claim innocence. My article was posted two weeks after FJ's crew was banned, and six months after Erotica was banned. I don't think CCP took it into account when making their decision, but Scooter gets his history mixed up sometimes.
As for the people "stupid enough to hang out in the bonus room", I'll partly agree because Scooter himself is one of those people. Articles like his do add to the confusion. However, they are a byproduct of the environment created by unwritten rules. I would prefer the scammers stick together, not play rounds of "His scam's worse than my scam." Like the Bonus Round or Space Court, no one wins that game.