Flame warfare is psychological warfare. It is
important to understand the enemy, the innocent bystander, the effect of your
weapons and your own motives. There is a thin line between protecting your reputation
and egomania; know where that line is.
Remember: you do not really know
this awful person on a distant computer. So you need to look for the signs; is
it someone who simply does not understand how public the web is? Or is it a throwback
to the worst days of CB radio, trying, like the last dinosaur, to adapt to a strange
Or is it some poor kid who has not got the attention span to follow
a logical argument? Or a tired old git who hates anyone young and fresh?
to read between the lines - was that last post meant to soothe your ruffled feathers,
or get up your nose. Count, as they say, to ten.
Don't Believe in Conspiracy:
If everyone's against you, it doesn't necessarily mean that you deserve it. But
you might. So it doesn't mean that there's a conspiracy against you, and it is
by no means certain that you will be doing the entire net a favor by exposing
Golden Rule of Flaming:
May your flames be witty, insulting, interesting,
paradoxical, funny, illogical, caustic, sarcastic, even inconsistent - but never,
ever, let them be boring.
Illustration: IMSandman wrote:
"That's better! you must have written it in Spellchecker, then copied it and
pasted ... " (and on and on) Painful stuff!
Like being attacked by a
the obvious is the Flame War equivalent of a suicide note - you might as well
hold up your hand and say 'I am a plank'. The only exception to this is if you
are being sarcastic 'I do apologise
for expressing my opinion, but I thought the whole idea of this group was to discuss
Illustration: In response to a joke, DrJkl7885
wrote " that waas stupid". As if that was not a waste of bandwidth, RumpL4skn
felt he had to reply; "No it waaaaasn't, goat-boy".
Withdrawing gracefully from a
flame war is one thing; sulking is another. If you want people to think you are
ignorant or cowardly, sulk away. Otherwise, ignore pertinent postings at your
Illustration: Jeff Dauvin wrote "You cannot discuss
(only argue) with someone if they do not or will not understand the issues.
Signing off - Goodbye."
Pseudonyms are routine on the internet, and are widely
accepted - in these days of excessive spam, it was bound to happen. So using a
pseudonym, consistently, with an eMail address that works is acceptable. Hiding
behind a false name, created for flaming, or no name, is cowardly. No more, no
less. If you have a point, make it, sign it and stand by it.
If you receive
flames from no-one in particular, delete and move on.
"NurseyDear" wrote "Quit being a big girls blouse"
Nice comment, undermined
Insults are the basis of all
Flaming: not to be confused with abuse. Post your insults
with humour, and you increase the chances of others coming to your side. Remember
that the more effective your attacks, the more you invite response. So update
your word skills. Theoretically, flames are
not personal - but of course they are. Be it racist, fat-ist, or otherwise hateful,
your opponent may try to use it against you. You have the choice in whether to
join in, but it is all a part of flaming, and should be expected.
internet is so informal, people 'chat' as if face-to-face - but you cannot pick
up audible clues (as on the phone) let alone 'body language' and facial expression.
So expect to be misunderstood.
recently wrote " ... I NEED TO KNOW" about a usenet question. Mildly curious,
I responded (mildly, I thought) "No, you WANT to know. Why?".
Then it got
interesting; ebbarton butted in with "Andrew Heenan you are going to break both
your legs jumping to conclusions (soon, I hope)".
had I been abusing the original poster, this would have been so out of proportion
as to be indicative of a serious stress problem. As it happens, sticks and
stones may break my bones, but ebbarton has two chances - fat and slim.
rarely helps your case, and often confirms that you are a jerk; if your 'name'
is designed to offend, why bother to stretch your imagination anyway?
Because the debate was over his head, GOD@Heaven.ORG (GOD) wrote "H*** s**t!
I'm not sure if your post is flame bait, or are you really just that much of an
a*****e? ... F*** you ..." (My **s)
#472 Godwin's Law
a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis
or Hitler approaches one." There used to be a tradition in many groups that the
thread would be closed once this occurred; whoever mentioned the Nazis was considered
to have lost the argument that was in progress. If Godwin was right, the Law practically
guaranteed a thread length limit in those groups.
#473 Name Flame
People are often very sensitive
about their names, so the Name Flame
can be effective where all else has fallen on stoney ground. A simple mis-spelling
can cause some to lose their cool entirely, while a pun, sex change or other name
manipulation seems effective against most attackers. Strangely, the newsgroup
bully with the silly (false) name seems most at risk to this ploy. My favorite
Troll, email@example.com, used to go ballistic if I made feeble jokes about spirogyra
(one celled organisms). Every single time. So to save its feelings, I started
joking about spirochetes (spiral bacteria, causing, e.g., syphilis) instead. You
know, it felt like justice!
#474 Spelling Flame
Spelling flame: A posting ostentatiously correcting
a previous article's spelling as a way of casting scorn on the author, instead
of actually responding to that point. Of course, people who are more than usually
slovenly spellers are prone to think any correction is a spelling flame. Of such
trivia wars are made. Spelling flames often contain spelling errors.
of the ebay marketing newsgroups' resident trolls,
linklurker, once managed "'yanks' don't say "prat". And when
they do, they don't misspell it "pratt". Time for surrender? I think
Don't criticise typos or spelling mistakes - the rule is you lose by
default. Everyone makes them - some more than others - and it really is a pathetic
jibe. Flame is about content, not the structure of the post.
#475 Ullman Exception
The Ullman Exception is
when someone makes spelling mistakes or typos whilst complaining about someone
else's spelling. Then, according to Ullman, it is a moral imperative to flame
An attempt to sidetrack a debate by insisting on meanings
for key terms that presuppose a desired conclusion or smuggle in an implicit premise.
A common tactic of people who prefer semantic argument to reality. Far from being
the last refuge of the scoundrel, the Dictionary Flame is the last refuge of the
Much favoured by academics, this flame usually falls foul of Rule
Many of the techniques described above can involve humour; I recommend
it. If the situation is defusable, humour maintains that option. On the other
hand, total humiliation can destroy the enemy, while keeping the sympathy of the
The Last Word
For some strange reason, Flame Wars often drag on because
everyone wants to have the last word. This is probably a mistake, as once boredom
and apathy has set in, quality can only go down. So your Last Word is left hanging,
to wither on the vine. Better to spot the trend and leave quietly - not to be
confused with sulking - you can always rejoin if the thread
comes to life.
Illustration: Lee Stoudt wrote "I'm a stubborn
son of a gun, so flame me not, it won't help! So, if this stuff upsets you, please
go take a nice warm bath and get all cozy and warm and please forget about me.
But, I also know, some half wit will still complain ... Go Figure!"
knows how the idiots must have the last word - and takes the joy out of
Offering the last word can be a good way to end a declining thread;
it gives you the moral high ground; you are the one with the sense to leave it.
But suppose the other guy gets his offer in first? Depending on who you are dealing
with, there may be one throw of the dice:
White wrote "I see no point in continuing this discussion. You may
have the last word."
As Egbert had been about as pedantic and silly
as it's possible for an Earthlinker to get, it seemed only fair to respond:
are very kind, considering that you own Usenet, and that permission is yours to
give. I think the word that suits you best is: idiot"
What could be sad enough
to follow The Last Word? "Spanking", that's what. Those who fail to
understand Rule 49 take an adolescent pride in their stupidity; they boast about
their 'victory' - being the last one left when everyone else has died of boredom,
they have, therefore 'spanked' their opponents.
From 1997 until 2002, I
resisted even mentioning this (See Rule 42) however, I've
added it for Jack Maxfield, who assures me that it is a way of Winning.
'winner' - or Spanker - is, of course, rhyming slang. Don't go there.