Torturous arguments

As I alluded to in my very first post, one of my inspirations for this blog was the departure of Ripard Teg from the EVE blogosphere and his abrupt ending of Jester’s Trek as an active blog.

I won’t say that “I saw it coming”, because I didn’t.  There were signs, starting with his equally abrupt end to the series of posts that led to his discussion of the Erotica 1 bonus room.  There was also his equally abrupt switch from enthusiasm to dismay with Elder Scrolls Online, although that sort of abrupt switch (which I will cover shortly) was not the only one of it’s kind I observed.  Elder Scroll’s extensive beta program seemed to produce quite a few people who, having played the game extensively, were suddenly disenchanted with having to pay for the same content they’d already played for free in beta.  That’s a topic for another day, however.

Ripard had recently given up his CSM post as well, and his original reason for starting the blog was to support his first CSM run.  He got elected to CSM later, but with that term over and the abrupt change in relationship to the EVE playerbase that entailed (some players seemed unable to understand that he was, in fact, no longer on the CSM) that most likely provided a rather substantial shock to his usual blogging routine.  Indeed, he’d previously hinted that after his CSM term he wished to get back to guides, hints, and other more gameplay-oriented posting.

The abrupt change in tone of the blog, however, over the last couple months it was active, should have been a clue things were coming to a head for him.

The first indication of this tone, of becoming frustrated with his inability to get his point across to people that didn’t want to see it, was the “bonus round post”.  Now, I fundamentally agree with the vast majority of this post.  Ripard’s intentions and message were fundamentally accurate.  Erotica 1’s bonus room is reprehensible, and should not be permitted or tolerated by CCP, nor should anyone else’s.  This sort of thing is disgraceful, and the massive errors in reasoning committed in trying to defend it are evidence of the nature of the defenders.  While it’s a fallacious argument in itself to argue that an error in reasoning means that a conclusion is necessarily false, if ALL of the arguments for a conclusion are fallacious there’s a very good chance the conclusion is as well.

The most prominent of these fallacious arguments (although not by much) is the argument that “CAM members can just get someone they don’t like banned.”  This is an appeal to motive in a number of ways; just because Ripard was on the CSM, and does not like Erotica 1’s conduct does not mean CCP banned Erotica merely for his appeasement.  In fact, given that his term was almost over, he was not running for re-election, and the CSM is purely advisory in role in the first place, it’s hard to see why CCP would be particularly concerned about simply appeasing him.  The CSM has 14 members and he’s only one; other CSM members, such as Malcanis, disagreed with him.

It’s always appealing to revert to implications of corruption when a governing body does something one doesn’t like.  This is why codes of ethics in government, and CCP’s rules for conduct of it’s employees reflect a desire (in real government’s codes of conduct often explicitly stated) to avoid the appearance of impropriety even in situations where no impropriety actually occurred.  For example, a judge will recuse himself from a case where he has prior connections to the parties even if those connections are relatively incidental and he feels no real preference – people can perceive a preference.

The problem with this is, however, that people determined to find impropriety will find it no matter what, even when they need to make tortured claims that CCP bowed to the will of a lame-duck CSM member for no apparent reason.  Remember folks, CCP couldn’t possibly be motivated by the possibility of bad press and turning away potential new customers (an area they are perpetually in need of help in), it must be because Ripard Teg demanded it!

That said, Ripard did overstep in one area – his repeated description of the event as “torture”.

Now, I have very high standards for describing something as torture.  Torture is one of those words that tends to get thrown at any mildly undesirable experience a person undergoes these days.  I find this to be a very bad habit of society; diluting the seriousness of the term for rhetorical impact.  Torture should be regarded as something truly appalling; very severe pain inflicted over an extended period of time against a defenseless victim, and without any legitimate purpose.

Unfortunately, even legal definitions of torture tend to fall short of this.  In an effort not to attempt to exhaustively list every type of torture, or provide a line that the depraved can walk right up to, the law tends to define torture as a very vague, nebulous thing.  The U.S. statute on torture could be read to prevent placing people in handcuffs.  While some anti-government forum nimrods not faced with the responsibility and danger of actually having to arrest people themselves, or needing to ensure people actually come to court might find this appealing, the fact is that physical pain, discomfort, and harm are sometimes necessary, and thus do not rise to the level of torture unless they go beyond what’s necessary for the safe arrest and control of accused persons.  It might be necessary to hit a person pretty hard to get them to submit to arrest; the same blow to obtain a confession isn’t necessary because while the government has a responsibility to ensure the accused go to court, it has no similar responsibility to ensure they confess or are convicted – the accused may be innocent.  That same blow, however, doesn’t become torture unless it’s repeated and severe.  Abuse is not a synonym for torture; while all torture is abuse, not all abuse is torture.

In the case of the Erotica 1 situation, another criteria arises – the defenseless victim.  The victim was not, in fact, defenseless.  He was capable of simply leaving.  Erotica 1 and his advocates have used this as an excuse to claim that they “did nothing wrong”.  This is not the case; coercion by means of deception and bait-and-switch does not become acceptable because the victim can walk away at massive cost to themselves, but it DOES mean that the victim was not being tortured.  This is scant defense for Erotica 1, but it is important to me because while I find the conduct of Erotica 1 reprehensible and the ban perfectly sound, this should not be considered real-world criminal behavior, nor should victimizing someone via the internet because of a video game be considered “torture”.

Real schoolchildren are, these days, often subject to terrible cyberbullying where even their own house is not a refuge any more as the bullies penetrate that haven by means of social media and the internet, leaving them with the choice of being social outcasts by being denied the media of their peers, or being outcasts by means of the ostracism of a few classmates that are “harvesting tears”, thinking that schools are their own “sandbox” in which to bend the rules.  A few hours of humiliation after getting in over one’s head in a video game is not the same psychological torture that school kids undergo (although it is a form of cyberbullying), and it certainly does not deserve the same appellation as the treatment of POWs and oppressed people throughout history.

This kind of use of extreme terminology weakens the argument against such conduct by making those opposed to it look like unreasonable fanatics.  Unfortunately, it’s common in society today – witness the ranting and screaming by the left about a “war on women” that amounts, substantially, to possily having to pay for one’s own birth control.  As my own wife said, to listen to these people you would think all women cared bout was consequence free-sex.  And yet, after making a professional victim like Sandra Fluke their mascot and other associated panic, they wonder why their opponents gain traction.

EVE players opposed to the Bonus Room and other such misbehavior should not make the same mistake.  This, ultimately, is a video game.  Yes, we need to call out appalling behavior, but we should not make ourselves look foolish by pretending it’s real-world crime or torture.  A criminal that confines themselves to violations of gaming rules of conduct is vastly better than one that violates his fellow citizen in real life.

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