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#1 Winning
#2 Strategy
#3 Word Skills
#4 Psychology

Andrew Heenan's

flame ~ n. insulting criticism or remark meant to incite anger
A Guide to Flaming

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Word Skills

Guide to Flaming - Part 3

31 Patronizing
32 Psychoanalysis
33 Fiction
331 Extrapolation
332 Generalization
333 Exaggeration
334 Understatement
34 Innuendo
35 Clichés
36 Sarcasm
37 Quotation
38 Pseud's Corner
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Flame wars are all about words. If you are not articulate, you may get burned. If you are dyxlesic, you may not be taken seriously. But the key to survival is those word play techniques; sarcasm, irony. Words can brutalise your opponent - your opponent's words can do the same to you. The rule is - don't give it if you can't take it.


#31 Patronizing

Patronizing your opponent is easy: Preface your argument with unnecessary adverbs - "Clearly, Fred Flooney is a liar" "Obviously, no-one believes political extremists". But do not forget that other readers may resent this approach. You need to balance this risk against the possible advantage.
Illustration: "You are an idiot. You take snippettes out of context ... so I'm going to take you thru, step by step" This approach can so anger your opponent that tempers are lost - with unpredictable consequences. Be warned, it is all too easy to be boring if you overdo it.


#32 Psychoanalysis

You may be tempted to psychoanalyze by the seat of your pants: you've heard of Freud. You read the Sunday supplements: you may feel you're qualified to psychoanalyze your opponent. "By using the word 'zucchini' in her posting, Polly shows she has a bad case of penis envy." Well, that's fine. But if your opponent knows more than you ... On the other hand, if someone is ranting in an incoherent way, and becoming more and more irrelevent, it might be better to imply mental illness (there's a lot of it about, after all). See innuendo.


#33 Fiction

One of the fascinating aspects of flame wars is how quickly the truth is left behind. If your back is against the wall, you will be tempted to make things up: it's important to make your lies sound true. The rule is: if you do not tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, you are on your own if caught out.

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#331 Extrapolation

Your opponent may be the gentlest, sweetest person on the planet. They can, however, be reduced to screaming wreckage by extrapolation. For example, a suspicion of sexism can be extrapolated to the greater charge of Redneck. A chance comment about Welsh people may be pushed through racism into White Sheet territory. In most cases, however, this is like using a laser beam to open a beer can. Use carefully.


#332 Generalization

While extrapolation moves from an attitude to a specific charge, generalization does the reverse. If a chance comment reveals a dislike or allegiance, this can be generalized to insult a person's taste, backgound ... whatever. But it can leave you wide open, as it frequently insults innocent bystanders too, pulling people in against you. Avoid it.


#333 Exaggeration

Exaggeration is a legitimate weapon, the best. You won't find better!
Unless overdone (See also understatement).

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#334 Understatement

Understatement, the opposite of exaggeration, can be quite elegant. It is probably a minor form of sarcasm; the same rules apply.


#34 Innuendo

Innuendo is very powerful, and very hurtful. "I have always stood up to bullies" ... "I have always tried to understand mental illness" ... "I never realized the Nazis still marched in your area". Innuendo succeeds where insults do not, especially if there's a bit of humour there too.

The 1996 Flame Convention agreed that "As innuendo can do so much damage, its use must be restricted to (a) retaliation against personal insult and (b) protection of vulnerable third parties." In practice, this has been taken to justify its use against people who are grossly sexist, racist or who have attacked those unable to protect themselves.
But if all else fails, all's fair ...


#35 Clichés

Include Clichés: Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit ... Lies, damned lies and statistics. Use foreign phrases if possible; Latin is the lingua franca of flaming; Try to use "ad nauseam" at least once per flame. It doesn't mean anything; but it gives that polished feel to your postings.


#36 Sarcasm

If you really want to hurt - or to stop an unstoppable assault - this one is the best. But do not expect to be friends afterward. Sarcasm is the verbal demonstration of contempt. Once released, there is no reverse.

Some people get offended at any use of sarcasm; Kassandra Oftroy's signature ('I refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed person') started a mini war on one group.


#37 Quotation

Use out of context quotes. These are easy to find on the Internet and there is one for every situation. If the author is well known and held in high regard then, give credit - if they insult you, by implication, they insult your source.
If at a loss, the Declaration of Independence will back your claims; "We hold these truths to be self-evident"


#38 Pseud's Corner

Chucking in a random bit of Latin or science can be a powerful weapon - but more often than not, it's a sign of pure vanity.

Example: When Phil Payne had been raving like a grounded teen, I suggested he stop talking like a college kid. He responded: "I think we can leave the ad hominems out". He could have said "stick to the point" or even "don't shoot the messenger" - but Our Phil has a 'Self Appointed Guru' reputation to protect. While he clearly thinks he's (a) Educated and (b) Mature, to us ordinary folk, he's got his head up his a***.

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