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                    A GUIDE TO BBS FLAMES
   It has now become clear that some form of guideline must be

set down on the topic of BBS "flames". The simple question-and- answer discussion which follows is an attempt to define the term "flame", to address where its use is appropriate, and to cite examples of good and poor "flame technique". For those lacking the I.Q. of a cow-pasture mushroom [notice the word "idiots" was not used], this effort may still not be enough. It is to the remainder of polite society – the BBS elite – that I dedicate this effort.

[Note to SysOps: Please feel free to quote, reprint, or use this in any constructive way you see fit.]

                            Stacy A. Thomas
                            January 4, 1993
   (Q)  WHAT IS A "FLAME"?
   (A)  In the vernacular of the BBS user, a "flame" is a
        personal attack directed at another user, most often in
        regard to a message left on a BBS.  "Flames" are
        frequently found as replies to topics of politics, race,
        religion, sex, or the weather.  These personal attacks
        usually have no direct connection with, and make no
        contribution to, the topic at hand.  "Flames" are often
        the expression of a sincere wish that the original
        message poster would depart for realms where Ben & Jerry
        don't deliver ice cream!
   (Q)  ARE "FLAMES" REALLY NECESSARY?
   (A)  In a word, YES!  One sometimes encounters an argument so
        profound in its position, and so persuasive in its
        presentation, that it stands on virtually unshakable
        pillars.  What alternative is left but a personal attack
        on the presenter?
   (Q)  DON'T MOST BBS SysOps PROHIBIT "FLAMES" ON THEIR BOARDS?
   (A)  Yes and no.  While direct attacks on the persona of other
        BBS users is generally prohibited, a particularly
        brilliant "strafing run" couched in genteel language
        often gets through.  It's kind of like wearing a suit and
        tie into a place that has a "No shirt, no shoes, no
        service!" sign.  You could be there to hold a fund-raiser
        for Edward Kennedy, but nobody would realize what you're
        up to until you're already in.
   (Q)  WHAT SORT OF "GENTEEL LANGUAGE" IS APPROPRIATE?
   (A)  There is a "polite" word for every disgusting substance
        and perverted act on the planet;  one need only do a
        proper substitution.  Still, this may be a challenge for
        the chronic MTV crowd, whose vocabulary is on par with
        that of a retarded parrot.  [Note the comparative style]
   (Q)  BUT DOES A POLITE REPLY EVER REALLY "BURN" THE TARGET OF
        THE "FLAME"?
   (A)  Oh yes!  In fact, a well worded flame is frequently
        enough to eclipse the original argument, and impress
        everyone else on the BBS with the brilliance of the
        reply.  This is the best of all possible results, because
        it permits one to avoid addressing the original question
        in a serious manner.  Others on the board of equally
        limited mental aptitude will quickly lose sight of
        "content", in the scholarship of the "form".  [Modern
        "Vance Packard" advertising technique]

EXAMPLES OF FLAMES

   Good:
        "I have it on good authority that your wife is a known
        thespian!"
   Analysis:
        This works well in some places, but not in others. 
        Bible-Belt Bubba's will not recognize the difference
        between "thespian" [public speaker] and "lesbian" [female
        homosexual], and will immediately think the worst. 
        Californians, on the other hand, might recognize this as
        a "progressive" family, and be favorably impressed.  In
        Colorado, someone would firebomb the BBS.
   Poor:
        "You are one closed-minded chicken-s*** son of a b****!"
   Analysis:
        Only by placing in the asterisks (those little star-
        looking things) [note; "assumption of ignorance" style]
        would a SysOp ever let you load it on the BBS.  However,
        many of your fellow users may then be too ignorant to
        figure out what the words should have been!  The attack
        is also a little too vociferous [the "50 cent word"
        technique] for we, the more sensitive users.
   Good:
        "Perhaps a sabbatical at Ding Dong School would improve
        your outlook culturally, as well as academically."
   Analysis:
        Very good.  One can never be too educated, and drawing
        attention to such a prestigious institution serves to
        demonstrate that you were no "Sesame Street lackey".
   Good:
        "I certainly wouldn't insult your intelligence (in fact
        I doubt if I could!)."
   Analysis:
        The "parenthetical blitz" technique consists of saying
        what you would have said if seated at the Captain's
        table, then placing in parentheses what you would have
        said if you were making the b****** walk the plank in
        shark-infested waters.  Good at the end of a dissertation
        because few people ever read that far.
   Poor:
        "You're a stinking bigot!"
   Analysis:
        Though obviously true, this conclusion is unsupported by
        the facts.  How, for instance, could one tell if the
        subject stinks over a BBS?  On the other hand, if you
        believe the movie "Platoon", "Opinions are like a**-
        holes; everybody's got one!"  If a bigot is merely a
        very-opinionated person, and we know how opinions are, I
        suppose its possible to infer that he is a "stinking"
        bigot!  (Poor example, wasn't it?)
   Good:
        "We post-Neanderthal humans don't quite see it your way. 
        Could you elaborate further on your position?"
   Analysis:
        The "us and them" technique works if at least one other
        subscriber on the BBS agrees that the message poster is
        a turkey.  Properly carried to its extreme, he quickly
        feels he is fighting the entire BBS.
   Good:
        "Your moving to another board would raise the average
        I.Q. of both BBS's!"
   Analysis:
        Very good.  If you can't say something constructive,
        don't say anything at all!  Isn't self-improvement
        everybody's goal?
   Good:
        "I heard that same silly argument made by someone on
        another BBS.  You are certainly more articulate than he
        was."
   Analysis:
        The "left-handed complement" technique [no offence
        intended to you southpaws].  While making a negative
        statement about the argument, one compliments the arguer,
        thereby appearing to be completely objective.  This style
        is the specialty of political campaign "spin doctors",
        who can paint even motherhood and apple pie in a negative
        light.

CONCLUSIONS

   If American politics and advertising have taught us nothing

else, they have shown that intelligence and honesty have nothing to do with being persuasive. Stated another way, personal attacks can be just as good as facts. In recognition of this universal truth, it is up to all BBS users to upgrade the quality of their "flames" so they can take their place as a valid form of BBS communication. Remember: If George Bush can do it with Willie Horton, so can you!

/data/webs/external/dokuwiki/data/pages/archive/bbs/flamerul.txt · Last modified: 2000/01/30 16:09 by 127.0.0.1

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