Rules for Flame Wars

by Joel GAzis-SAx

Here's something that I wrote a few years ago, a bit of "anti-advice" that you might find helpful. It was recently reprinted and credited to me in Jaida N'Ha Sandra's The Joy of Conversation: The Complete Guide to Salons, p. 224. I confess it is derived from observing both others and myself at their worst. It is as true now as it was when I wrote it five years ago.

Rules for Flame Wars

These rules are issued in the spirit of clearing up some preconceptions about the waging of flame wars. Flame wars do not require profanity, as commonly misbelieved. The following list demonstrates ways to undertake "clean" flame wars:

  1. Accuse the other party of your worst faults.
  2. Insist that you are an avatar of the Truth and that the other person is Falsehood incarnate, or at least "misled."
  3. Dwell on errors. Correct them in others at every opportunity.
  4. Never apologize unequivocably. If forced to apologize, justify yourself in a way that makes it sound like the other party was responsible for your actions.
  5. Write in such a way that the other party looks stupid if they don't respond.
  6. Try to be many things at once, so that you can deny everything that is said about you.
  1. Say the same thing over and over again.
  2. Always strive to get the last word.
  3. Never let a debate rest. Never allow the other party to withdraw without making it clear that they have lost.
  4. Insist that you are misunderstood.
  5. If you can't find something to flame the person about, make something up. Convince yourself that you see the "real" motives.
  6. Remember: Winning is everything.

Rule for Those Who Do Not Want to Get into Flame Wars:

Ignore them.

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This page written by Joel GAzis-SAx
Copyright 1993 by Joel GAzis-SAx
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