Community Frat House

I have actually held this post back for a little while now because I believe it to be a little controversial. I also feel that it is a case of me talking pretty harshly about our community. However with the recent events surrounding the CSM candidate, Fon Revenhort I feel that it might be a good time to let this one out of the bag.
So deep breath, and here goes:
Before I start this post I feel the need to pre-balance it with some good points about the eve community. First I would like to point readers in the direction of just how awesome the eve community can be. All kinds of events (too numerous to list here) have been organised by and with the Eve community, tournaments, contests and games, the like of which are found in no other MMO today. We also have a number benevolent organisations and individuals who are a boon to our community (for example, the Angel Project by Sindel Pellion, and Somer Blink’s dedication of 10bn Isk to all teams in the New Eden Open). We also have the wonderfully worthy PLEX for charity events run by CCP which raises thousands of points to help the wider community of human beings. Because of these Organisations and individuals eve online arguably has the best community of any MMO. Indeed this is reinforced by the awards eve has received in the past. I love eve online and am thankful to make people within it for putting in the effort to make it as great as it is.
But would I recommend eve online’s community to a friend? Would I give it a 10/10, best community ever award? The answer is no. Its not because we celebrate lol mails, or because we enjoy preying on the weak in our universe, that’s fair game. Its because of a rot which has spread through some of the groups in our community, a rift in our moral obligation as human beings. Perhaps a good way to example this is to look at a post made almost a year ago by Corelin.  
On as much as I agree with Corelin, I also differ on several points, not to say that the issue of “Rape Culture” doesn’t exist, nor that it is in any way acceptable fopr our game to nurture it, but more that I don’t think the issue stops there. Let me stop again and counter the argument I know is coming, before I continue writing; I do not believe that the entire community has the moral standing of a religious fundamentalist doing part time work for the Klu Klux Klan helping them write a formal agreement with the Neo Nazis. But I do believe that despite the peaks of some members of our community, a very large swathe of people are dragging the average morality level down to that of someone who flashes nuns for a hobby. And people who use “Rape”* as a positive adjective in eve are actually a small part of the bigger problem of what language is considered acceptable.
I am talking about what is considered “cool” in some areas of eve: While editing this article I found it really sad that rape was the only word, or term I was willing to actually write myself from the lexicon of things “1337” players thought were ok to say in a social environment. The other words which seem to be considered acceptable humour include; racial slurs, references to history of slavery and religious insults. These are things I will not entertain on my blog even for the reason of pointing out the immaturity of our players some times.
To me the true scope of the issue is the massive amount of this downright immature behaviour, and language being practiced throughout eve online and the external communication channels it spawns. Sometimes listening to the collective voice of our player base can be like listening to a 12 year old who has gotten hold of a copy of Razzle, and now thinks he knows the all the cool words. Racial, sexist, misogynistic, creedist, you name it some people think its cool to say it and a coms channel. Its like a frat house in some Corps and alliances out there.
Another quick break to pre answer to thoughts you might already have about me. First and for most I am not a thin skinned individual, nor one who is unaccustomed to immature surroundings. Furthermore I do not consider myself above the people/groups I am taking about here. I grew up going through specialist boarding schools, and that means several things:
  1. When I was 12 years old I and my Dorm did find a copy of Razzle, and thought we knew all the cool words
  2. From the age of 8 I effectively had 20 brothers, taking the piss, having the piss taken and generally doing all the horrid things children do to each other while sharing the same room.
  1. You noted the “Specialist” bit right? I constantly have people making preconceptions about me based on my disabilities and even being down right rude about my problems**
This means that not only have I developed an exceedingly robust sense of humour and exceedingly thick skin (along with a very laid back attitude). But I have also been one of the immature masses spouting racial epithets because I thought it was cool. I also remember how funny and great it was when our sub community found an offensive phrase and used it within our social group. It was like a secret language, within the group, we knew it was wrong, but that almost made it better. Because we thought it was cool we thought people who used it were cool. And because people who used it were cool we used it. Worst of all anyone who spoke out against it was fighting the social norm within our sub group and as such lost standing within the dynamic, or were temporarily ostracised in extreme cases. Its a self perpetuating cycle of social bonding, and as a child its a phase most of us went through, and in a twisted way I can understand the mind-set which sustains it within a community. Its time to grow up though.
Again referring back to Corelin’s post we see a lot of discussion about John Gabriel’s theory of the Greater Internet Fuckwad. i.e. Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Total Dickwad. And this is a tried and tested formula which accounts for a large amount of low level ass-hattery on the internet, and indeed in eve. But I don’ think this is everything. I think it is merely a contributing factor to the foul mouth immaturity rampant in our game, I believe that the Theory of Dickwad bases  itself on the concept that people are immature because people don’t know who they are. Yet in eve the anonymity isn’t there; ok so all but the most determined internet stalker doesn’t know the real name behind your avatar but eve, unlike say a forum, gives us our own identities and reputations. The Theory of Dickwad falls down here, because racist and sexist people in eve would find that their in game reputation was diminished by these slurs. So if its not the Theory of Dickwad at play, why do we have this rot within our society?
Here is my own theory. Eve online asks us to break our normal constraints in terms of what governs our actions. In real life someone who scams another person out of millions of Pounds would be banged up. A corporation who sponsored a mass murder spree of a particular cast would be in court before they could sign the first pay-out. But in eves lawless universe we are not only told to ignore these social barriers to action, but actively encouraged to break them. The law of most countries is upheld by a solid hard barrier, punishment for our transgressions in the form of incarceration or indeed physical reprisal for our bad actions. By asking us to break this social norm, the game awakens some people to other social barrier, which is even easier to break. Social etiquette (i.e. Not bring a small minded, self important prick). Transgression of this law is only punished by soft, social, punishments. Rob a bank, and go to prison. Use a racial slur and you wont get invited to many parties (at least none worth going to). After being told to break a law discouraged by physical punishment, how many people suddenly realise that breaking a soft law like not being sexist is the next logical step? How many people take that step? Find out how many eve players have used the immature language I have referred to and I think you will have the answer.
The issue is that because of the self perpetuating nature of this plague its going to be near on impossible to stop, and its gotten so bad it’s going to take a very long time. So here is what I’m going to encourage you to do; and its really not much: Don’t join in. I said before that this is self perpetuating. If you as an individual can simply not endorse immature behaviour, and where you can do so without pariering yourself, stand up to people who do. Some people are willing to do more (and I sadly don’t count myself in this group), to stand up against this kind of behaviour like Corelin, and they should be encouraged and supported at every opportunity. But as a normal individual just don’t fall into the trap of helping the cycle perpetuate.
Finally for anyone reading this who thinks I am talking about the kind of language they use, I simply say this. Your words and actions may make you feel big and cool in the social group your in. But to the rest of us it makes you look like a prat. If a subset of people playing an internet spaceships opinion of what’s cool is more important to you than the rest of the world… Well good luck with that one.
**Seriously this makes it sound really bad, save your pity/support for someone who is worse off than me, trust me its not as bad as I make it sound here.

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