Usenet: from Flame Wars to Killfiles

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2023-01-25 00:00:16

Something about online communications seems to make some people particularly irritable. Perhaps it's the immediacy and semi-anonymity of it all. Whatever it is, there are whole classes of people you will soon think seem to exist to make you miserable.

Rather than pausing and reflecting on a message as one might do with a letter received on paper, it's just so easy to hit your R key and tell somebody you don't really know what you really think of them. Even otherwise calm people sometimes find themselves turning into raving madmen. When this happens, flames erupt.

Periodically, an exchange of flames erupts into a flame war that begin to take up all the space in a given newsgroup (and sometimes several; flamers like cross-posting to let the world know how they feel). These can go on for weeks (sometimes they go on for years, in which case they become ``holy wars,'' usually on such topics as the relative merits of Macintoshes and IBMs). Often, just when they're dying down, somebody new to the flame war reads all the messages, gets upset and issues an urgent plea that the flame war be taken to e-mail so everybody else can get back to whatever the newsgroup's business is.

All this usually does, though, is start a brand new flame war, in which this poor person comes under attack for daring to question the First Amendment, prompting others to jump on the attackers for impugning this poor soul... You get the idea.

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