The U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith who was killed in Benghazi last night was known to his online gaming friends as “Vile Rat.” One of his friends, “The_Mittani,” describes the way in which Smith’s professional life and online life intersected. To those of us who know nothing about the virtual worlds in which players such as Smith obviously spent a large amount of time, many of the details below will mean little. Even so, there is — at least to my mind — a disturbing degree to which there seem to be a lack of clear boundaries between the virtual and the real.
We knew that Vile Rat was in Benghazi; he told us. He commented on how they use guns to celebrate weddings and how there was a constant susurrus of weaponry in the background. He was in situ to provide IT services for the consulate, which meant he was on the net all the time, hanging out with us on Jabber as usual and talking about internet spaceship games.
The last time he did something like this, he was in Baghdad in 2007 or 2008. He would be on jabber, then say something like ‘incoming’ and vanish for a while as the Kayatushas came down from Sadr City – State had been in the former Saddam Hussein palace on the Tigris before they built that $2bn fortress-embassy later. He got out from his Baghdad post physically unscathed and had some more relaxing postings after that. Montreal, then the Hague. He kept asking me to come visit him – we’d hang out in the States a couple of times a year or see each other in Iceland for CSM crap, but I didn’t have the time visit for whatever reason so I would always say ‘next year’. I missed Montreal, but had made real plans for the Hague… fuck.
If you play this stupid game, you may not realize it, but you play in a galaxy created in large part by Vile Rat’s talent as a diplomat. No one focused as relentlessly on using diplomacy as a strategic tool as VR. Mercenary Coalition flipped sides in the Great War in large part because of Vile Rat’s influence, and if that hadn’t happened GSF probably would have never taken out BoB. Jabberlon5? VR made it. You may not even know what Jabberlon5 is, but it’s the smoke-filled jabber room where every nullsec personage of note hangs out and makes deals. Goonswarm has succeeded over the years in large part because of VR’s emphasis on diplomacy, to the point of creating an entire section with a staff of 10+ called Corps Diplomatique, something no other alliance has. He had the vision and the understanding to see three steps ahead of everyone else – in the game, on the CSM, and when giving real-world advice.
Vile Rat was a spy for the Goonfleet Intelligence Agency. He infiltrated Lotka Volterra; he and I cooked up a scheme where we faked VR blowing up one of Sorenson’s haulers full of zydrine in Syndicate – this was back in 06 when zydrine mattered – and that proved to Lotka Volterra that he had gone ‘fuck goons’. BoB invaded Syndicate, then shortly thereafter GSF went to Insmother, allied with Red Alliance, and plowed over Lotka Volterra’s territory, all with Vile Rat’s aid. He came back in from the cold and became one of the most key players in the GSF directorate. His influence over the grand game and the affairs of Nullsec cannot be overstated. If you were an alliance leader of any consequence, you spoke to Vile Rat. You knew him. You may have been a friend or an enemy or a pawn in a greater game, but he touched every aspect of EVE in ways that 99% of the population will never understand.