The Twelve Commandments of Flaming (Revisited)

Twenty years ago or so, even before the time of Al Gore, there was this thing called "The Internet." There were two kinds of people that used it: the military types and college types. As I was transitioning out of the military following the first Gulf War, I fell into both categories. There was no "World Wide Web" then - which some of today's younger generation cannot understand. ("How could you find anything before companies had websites?")

Back then you pretty much had to be a geek to be on the Internet; it had not yet been reduced to the fewer-than-140-character drivel that is so prevalent on today's Internet. That being said, I spent my time on the Internet using four technologies:

  • FTP - for retrieving files
  • Gopher - for research
  • Email - for keeping in touch with some of my ex-military friends
  • Newsgroups - for arguing

Gopher is long-since deceased, FTP is still in use but its power is waning, and if you're younger than the age of 20 then you probably spend more time with Facebook, Twitter, and cell phone texting than sending emails. (But wait until you move out, get a job, and start having to make a living and pay for your own existence - which includes things like rent and food, not just Starbucks and cell phone service.)

In any event, I used to spend a lot of time hanging out in various newsgroups arguing all sorts of issues and topics. Even when I agreed with someone I argued with them. That's really what newsgroups were for - so geeks from all over the planet could argue with each other. Over the years newsgroups have mostly been replaced by web-based forums, although the comments sections on blogs seem to have grown into the avenue-of-choice where the real arguing takes place.

Back in the pre-WWW days, someone put together the "The Twelve Commandments of Flaming," and I wish that I knew the original author's name. (I have seen it attributed to many different people over the years.) What is most amusing about this list is how true it was both then and now. For examples of such behavior, read this list, then browse to your favorite blog and read the comments section.

The Twelve Commandments of Flaming

  1. Make things up about your opponent: It's important to make your lies sound true. Preface your argument with the word "clearly."

    "Clearly, Fred Flooney is a liar, and a dirtball to boot."

  2. Be an armchair psychologist: You're a smart person. You've heard of Freud. You took a psychology course in college. Clearly, you're qualified to psychoanalyze your opponent.

    "Polly Purebread, by using the word 'zucchini' in her posting, shows she has a bad case of penis envy."

  3. Cross-post your flames: Everyone on the net is just waiting for the next literary masterpiece to leave your terminal! From the Apple II RoundTable to X-10 Powerhouse RoundTable, they're all holding their breath until your next flame. Therefore, post everywhere.
  4. Conspiracies abound: If everyone's against you, the reason can't possibly be that you're a jerk. There's obviously a conspiracy against you, and you will be doing the entire net a favor by exposing it.
  5. Lawsuit threats: This is the reverse of Rule #4 (sort of like the Yin & Yang of Flaming). Threatening a lawsuit is always considered to be in good form.

    "By saying that I've posted to the wrong group, Bertha has libeled me, slandered me, and sodomized me. See you in court, Bertha."

  6. Force them to document their claims: Even if Harry Hoinkus states outright that he likes tomato sauce on his pasta, you should demand documentation. If Newsweek hasn't written an article on Harry's pasta preferences, then Harry is obviously lying.
  7. Use foreign phrases: French is good, but Latin is the lingua franca of flaming. You should use the words "ad hominem" at least three times per article. Other favorite Latin phrases are "ad nauseum," "veni, vidi, vici," and "fetuccini alfredo."
  8. Tell 'em how smart you are: Why use intelligent arguments to convince them you're smart when all you have to do is tell them? State that you're a member of Mensa, or Mega, or Dorks of America. Tell them the scores you received on every exam since high school.

    "I got an 800 on my SATs, LSATs, GREs, MCATs, and I can also spell the word 'premeiotic' ."

  9. Accuse your opponent of censorship. It is your right as an American citizen to post whatever the hell you want to the net (as guaranteed by the 37th Amendment, I think). Anyone who tries to limit your cross-posting or move a flame war to email is either a communist, a fascist, or both.
  10. Doubt their existence: You've never actually seen your opponent, have you? And since you're the center of the universe, you should have seen them by now, shouldn't you? Therefore, THEY DON'T EXIST! This is the beauty of flamers' logic.
  11. Lie, cheat, steal, leave the toilet seat up.
  12. When in doubt, insult: If you forget the other 11 rules, remember this one. At some point during your wonderful career as a Flamer you will undoubtedly end up in a flame war with someone who is better than you. This person will expose your lies, tear apart your arguments, make you look generally like a bozo. At this point, there's only one thing to do: INSULT THE DIRTBAG!!!

    "Oh yeah? Well, your mother does strange things with vegetables."

An Example for the Rookie Flamer

> Dear Joe,
I object to your use of the word "dear." It shows you are a condescending, sexist pig. Also, the submissive tone you use shows that you like to be tied down and flagellated with licorice whips.
> While I found your article "The Effect of Belly-Button Lint
> on Western Thought" to be extremely thought-provoking,
"Thought-provoking?" I had no idea you could think, you rotting piece of swamp slime.
> it really shouldn't have been posted in rec.scuba.
What? Are you questioning my judgment? I'll have you know that I'm a member of the super-high-IQ society Menstruate. I got an 800 on my PMS exam. Your attempts constitute nothing less than censorship. There is a conspiracy against me. You, Riff Raff, and Simon Sinister have been constantly harassing me by email. This was an ad hominem attack! I have therefore cross-posted this to alt.flame, rec.nude,, and rec.arts.wobegon.
> Perhaps you should have posted it in misc.misc.
It is my right, as granted in the Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta, the Bible and the Koran, to post where ever I want to. Or don't you believe in those documents, you damn fascist? Perhaps if you didn't spend so much time sacrificing virgins and infants to Satan, you would have realized this.
> Your article would be much more appropriate there.
Can you document this? I will only accept documents notarized by my attorney, and signed by you in blood. Besides, you don't really exist anyway, you AI project, you.

And in closing...

Flames should be witty, insulting, interesting, funny, caustic, or sarcastic, but NEVER, EVER, should they be boring.

Comments are closed