Flame wars ~ an essay

Flame wars ~ an essay

A Story by Kasey Klein

communication on the Internet




Many years ago, soon after Al Gore invented the Internet, I got involved in IRC. IRC was an interface by which people could communicate across a network almost instantly, typing messages onto a common screen. It was pretty cool, the open exchange of ideas. Once in a while, like Plato's revelers in the Symposium, an [email protected]#hole would come along looking to caustically fight about anything. Back then, I took the bait, us flaming page after page at each other.


Newsgroups were even worse, people investing hours a day arguing over nonsense, all looking for the perfect gottca. Of course, we’re human beings, not Jesus, who could dispatch a group of rabbis with a witty comeback and a wave of his hand, an often-overlooked miracle.

I came to call such behavior flame wars. The thing about flame wars is there's nothing to learn, nothing to gain and nothing to win. Not unlike playing a video game, the behavior is a thing unto itself with no purpose outside its own existence. I’m sure, though, the antagonist touts his rhetorical powers to his poor wife, his co-workers and maybe even some poor b*****d in the checkout line at the supermarket, retelling his side of the tale, his fingers thumping away on an invisible keyboard floating in the air before him.


“Then I said…!”


The listener, his or her brain numb, not unlike someone never having heard of Farmville having to listen about the new Thanksgiving turkey.

One day I just woke up, realizing how much time I was wasting. I say wasting, but that's not the right word. That's just my opinion, my point-of-view. To me, Farmville is a gross waste of time, but I don't begrudge people who like it.

I don't eat liver, either and I have no desire to visit Egypt.

The point is, engaging in a flame war is a choice. To me, it's like seeing a ramshackle man draped in old used clothes on the corner, wild eyes, waving his arms, drool dripping down his bearded chin, screaming: "The end is near!" and engaging this man, arguing that the end is not near.


We human beings have this Darwinian reptilian-brain-burning-drive in our guts to get even. That's where flame wars come from in the first place, a primal desire. When we sit on the steps in the cool air of autumn and breath deeply, our upper mammalian brain understands we need not engage the [email protected]#holes. When we calm and center, we see there's nothing to learn, nothing to gain, nothing to win and we're wasting our time.

However, allow me to stress I don’t see anything inherently wrong with this behavior, if someone chooses to engage. Sometimes pretending to dispatch people with a witty phrase can make us feel good about our self, that we managed to put someone down, maybe even hurt his or her feelings.


We can then bounce our hands in the air like a praying mantis and bore to tears those who will listen with how we bested someone on the Internet.


~~Off to find my copy of Animal Farm~~




© 2011 Kasey Klein

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Added on January 14, 2011
Last Updated on January 14, 2011


Kasey Klein
Kasey Klein

palmyra, NJ

Greetings and salutations. I'm serious about my writing. I'm not much for writing or reading poetry. I like the classics: Poe, Frost, Whitman. I'd like to read good short stories. If you don't.. more..