The Alliance Panel is a Fanfest tradition: it is an extremely M-rated event where six or seven representatives from EVE alliances are given the opportunity to brag on themselves for 8-10 minutes each, usually while drunk. Alcohol is a big part of the Alliance Panel, as is biting humor, sarcasm, and satire. Names are named. People, corps, and alliances are mercilessly mocked. It is -- by far -- the most EVE-like part of Fanfest, where people bring their in-game personas and leave their real selves at the door. A CCP employee is present as an ornament, but usually has little impact on the proceedings. All they can do is smile and hang on, because the least nice people in EVEdom -- alliance leaders -- are in the driver's seat.
The Alliance Panel is always roundly hysterical.
And truths are told. Oh my yes, truths are indeed told. In vino veritas.
Fairly legendary among the Alliance Panel presentations is the one given by Darius JOHNSON, at that time CEO of Goonfleet (now CCP Sreegs), at Fanfest in 2009. He showed up very late, in a ridiculously bad costume, obviously drunk and/or stoned out of his mind, and without speaker notes. And then, off the cuff -- and after describing The Mittani as a pseudo-intelligent douche-bag! -- delivered one of the funniest and most memorable presentations ever done at that panel. It is the source of the famous Goonswarm mantra: "Our goal is not to destroy the game. At the end of the day, our goal is to destroy your game." as well as the meme "Giant dicks are cost effective." And then he dominated the entire Q&A session. Nobody seemed to want to talk to anyone else.
Think it bothers Mittens -- who prides himself on his ability to present and communicate -- that the most memorable Goonswarm presentation ever done at the panel wasn't done by him? Bet you he'd deny it and say that he's just happy that it was a Goonswarm presentation that's most remembered. Also bet you my left thumb he'd be lying when he said this.
So that's point number one to remember: the Alliance Panel is alcohol-driven, but it is also ego-driven. Every alliance looks to outdo the ones that have presented before. Enough background.
What actually happened Thursday afternoon? The Alliance Panel at this year's Fanfest opened casually with a presentation from EVE University, but then jumped into a pair of excellent presentations by a pair of wormhole-based alliances. Without getting into a lot of details, the first was well-organized and -presented, and funny as hell, but more or less traditional. The second was entirely a series of unusual "ransoms": recordings of the national anthems of a half-dozen countries, sung by EVE players who were told that if they sang, the ship or system being threatened would be left alone. In both cases, names were named, and individual EVE players were subject to ridicule. By the end of it, the audience was rolling. A great deal of alcohol was visible on the table throughout, and Mittens (who was to present last) didn't drink lightly.
At several points, he was heard to say to each presenter after the W-space guys, "There's no way we're beating that." Still, Gentlemen's Agreement did a pretty fair job, and TEST's MB3 did a fine job. The pressure was on.
Last year, Mittens presented at Fanfest 2011 for Goonswarm. Let's be clear: his presentation wasn't bad. But it was extremely pedestrian and unfunny. It was also... gasp... a serious examination of Goonswarm history! No alcohol was in evidence! Yes! At the Alliance Panel! Believe it or not, if you're looking to learn the history of Goonswarm, this presentation is the best place to do it. But it sure didn't fit with the format or the audience. It made an impression, but that impression was negative.
Mittens was definitely looking to improve his performance this year.
He gets a lot of mileage out of forum porn on his Ten Ton Hammer column and on kugu, and obviously decided to bring that to the Alliance Panel this year. Alcohol would be consumed. Names would be named. Truths would be told.
Really, there was only one problem with The Mittani's performance in 2011: The Mittani didn't show up. Instead, a guy named Alex showed up.
Want to annoy Mittens? Want to really annoy him? Refer to him by his real name on the Internet. He'll never, ever admit this, but it drives him wild. You see, there are actually three people at war with each other in this situation. Three personas, if you will:
- The Mittani, former spy, who is the fearsome and scary head of the Clusterfuck Coalition, the largest mass of EVE players ever to play the game, and the largest mass of griefers and gankers in EVE history;
- Mittens, the almost-but-not-quite fuzzy, cuddly friendly Chair of the CSM; and,
- Alex. He was a lawyer at one time.
On Thursday night, The Mittani showed up to the Alliance Panel. Oh my yes, he did indeed. And you know, what? It was perfectly appropriate for him to do so, you see: The Mittani leads Goonswarm. The Mittani is not the Chair of the CSM. Back to what happened.
During the presentation, The Mittani presented a great deal of forum and chat porn while outrageously mocking those that produced it. It was damned funny, but it was also quite mean, almost savagely so. During the presentation, one such bit of EVE mail porn centered on a player that had lost a large number of Mackinaws to Goon gankers, and said he was upset because he had recently gotten divorced and ice mining was the only thing that relaxed him and settled his mind. As humor, this was borderline stuff. Mittens was visibly pounding back Jägerbombs and at one point commented that he was not drunk enough yet to present this material.
Alex was objecting, and possibly, so was Mittens. We've seen a kinder, gentler Mittens this year.
The Mittani was having none of it and pressed on.
Now, do not get me wrong: I am not saying there was any level of schizophrenia here. At all. I'm simply saying that The Mittani persona came out, got drunk, and gave a very Goon presentation. It was borderline, but savagely funny. It couldn't have been any more different from 2011. The problem came at the Q&A session. The Mittani didn't just cross the line. In the immortal words of John Roarke, he lept over it that day. I briefly quote Liang Nuren's transcript of the event:
The Q&A is where all the interesting parts are anyway (@1:11:30):What we have here at this point is not The Mittani naming names. What we have here is him directly encouraging EVE players to harass a potentially mentally-unstable individual into a rash act.
- Questioneer: Just something about the guy with 22 accounts. I think he moved to the Drone Regions and now he’s got kicked out of there as well.
- The Mittani: Incidentally, if you want to make the guy kill himself, his name is [name]. It's [spells the name]. He has his own corp. Find him.
Mittens claims to have no direct memory of the event until shown a transcript, and I believe him. He also says that he despises people who use the words "I was drunk" as an excuse, and I believe that, too. He has abjectly (and I believe, sincerely) apologized. He has made an act of contrition toward the pilot affected, saying he's given this player 10.7 billion ISK in compensation, and the player in question has apparently confirmed the gift.
And Mittens has quietly offered to "resign", though whether that means "resign from the CSM" or "resign from being the Chair of the CSM, but not from the CSM itself", he has left open to interpretation.
If you've read more than a few posts in my blog, you know that I love quotes from movies, particularly quotes from bad movies. The one that sprung unerringly to mind in this situation is from a little flick called EdTV. Made years before the first reality show, it tells the story of a man who is hired by a network to put his entire life, 24/7, on TV. Late one night while nervous on a date, Ed (the star of the show) is spontaneously making out with his date on a dining room table when -- in the throes of passion -- he rolls off the table. A pained cat's meow is heard on Ed's landing and the date ends with Ed transported to the hospital and the cat to the vet. On live TV. Commiserating later, one of his buddies offers some sympathy:
John: Look, Ed, you put anybody on television sixteen hours a day, and sooner or later they're going to fall off a table and land on a cat.
Mittens feels awful about what's happened, and I believe that completely. You put anyone in the spotlight for this long, and sooner or later, they're going to fall off a table and land on a cat. It's now happened.
And it happened to the CSM Chair.
But not while he was wearing the CSM Chair hat. This is critical!
Remember, this incident happened in the context of The Mittani's role and duties as the leader of Goonswarm. The Chair of the CSM was not present. "Jester, you idiot, they're the same person!" you say, and sure, yeah, that's true. But kinda, not really, too.
Here's the truth of the matter, kids, and pay attention, because this is important: people are human. Even smart people. They make mistakes. People occasionally do really stupid, dumb-ass things. There's no "save game" button in real life, and no check-point that you can roll back to. And if you jump immediately to "fire him" every time someone makes a mistake, you're not going to have very many people left around you. If you do something stupid, all you can do is apologize and try to make it right.
The Mittani dropped character, became Alex, and is doing that. And I sincerely believe that he means it. Does that mean The Mittani is gone? Hell no, he'll be back.
Bad pennies always turn up.
But Alex is back there trying to make this right. Let's talk consequences.
Should Mittens lose his position as CSM Chair over this? My feeling is no, he should not. His offer to resign is noble, but not warranted. There should definitely be consequences from this, and the act of contrition and the ISK are a great start. But he should not lose his CSM position nor his Chairmanship over this in my opinion. Smart people do dumb things. Bill Clinton performed a sex act with a woman not his wife in the White House. No one has died here, been harmed, or been publicly humiliated in real life. There's a blue dress here, sure. I doubt Mittens will be wearing a wizard hat or drinking to excess again any time soon. And an EVE player nobody knew has been thrust into the spotlight, but he doesn't currently seem to be in any danger of suicide. In fact, aside from a little bit of apathy (which I'm told by someone with reason to know is actually a bit troubling), he doesn't seem overly impacted or troubled by this at all. I've looked at the EVE Terms of Service, and it would take a real dick to try to argue that they've been breached.
At least, not any more than Goons breach them routinely.
Will Mittens resign from the CSM, or from the Chairmanship? He very well might. As I said, the hat that the leader of Goonswarm must wear doesn't fit well with the hat that the CSM Chair must wear. You might even argue that to be good at one job, you are by definition being bad at the other job, and vice versa.
Still, there's no question that Mittens has been a fine CSM Chair and an excellent player advocate. I might grumble at his methods and his arrogance, but there's no question that they've been effective. Hell, I'd argue that we need him in that Chair. As I've already said and will elaborate on in the coming week or so, this is going to be an important year for EVE players... maybe the most important year in EVE's history. We need a strong advocate. Mittens is the right person, in the right place, at the right time. He might feel the need to resign his CSM Chairmanship over this, but I sincerely hope he doesn't.
And this is me saying it. ;-) I've had my reasons to be skeptical of Mittens, but I was wrong and I don't mind admitting that. He's made a believer out of me. Mittens, I hope you'll stay on. I like Two Step, but we need you.
We do need to see how CCP (and possibly just as important, Sony) react to this. As I write this, the work day is just starting in Reyk and in London. We'll see how it plays out. The next 12 hours or so are critical.
Should there be further consequences? Yes, there should, in my opinion. Mittens was acting as a representative of Goonswarm in this matter. I suggest a hefty fine, and a ban from the Alliance Panel at Fanfest 2013. Goons have presented the last three FFs anyway. Let them build up some more stories and present again in 2014. And the fine will be a deterrent to another alliance trying to push the boundaries next year. But the Alliance Panel itself should also continue, and in more or less its current form. David Reid tells us EVE Online is hard-core and is going to remain hard-core. Let's not make him a liar, CCP. The Alliance Panel is one of the most popular events at Fanfest for very good reason.
Whew! This has been an outrageously long post, but important, I think. Probably get grilled for it, too, but that's no different from all my other posts. What do you think, Dear Readers? Burn him on a spit? Or accept Mittens's act of contrition? Discuss.