Flamewar

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Synonyms: wank, fan war, fan feud
See also: flame, concrit, imbroglio, pairing war, sockpuppet, The Lurkers Support Me in Email
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A flamewar constitutes two or more parties exchanging violent expression of their disagreement, i.e., several flames, traveling in both or many directions. Although heated arguments have taken place as long as there have been people, the term flamewar refers to an Internet cultural phenomenon prevalent on discussion forums like usenet, mailing lists, and now LiveJournal.[1]

In fandom, the term has fallen out of use in favor of wank, which denotes the self-indulgence or self-righteousness involved in a flamewar.

See Letter War.

Flamewars in Fandom

Fannish flamewars may take place between individual fans, between groups of fans, between fans and non-fans, or between fans and professional authors or TPTB.

Not all disagreements are flamey. Concrit, which is meant to assist a writer, and imbroglios, which expose underlying societal attitudes, may be carried out without untoward behavior. However, people often react badly to criticism of any kind, so it is possible for concrit or an imbroglio to lose its dignity and become a flamewar.

Sometimes the personal perception of when a heated discussion has crossed over into a flamewar differs between fans. For example if fans identify strongly with a favorite pairing, and that pairing is insulted, some may describe that as flame, while others will only call ad hominem attacks against fans themselves a flame. A contributing factor to this is that drawn out fandom divisions are often referred to as "wars" even if these aren't engaged in with a hostility level of an outright flamewar all the time, e.g. a pairing war.

Fannish Disagreement Before the Web

It's hard to believe, but yes, fans argued before the internet. Fights usually happened in lettercols of zines, or letterzines. Those controversies were called fan wars, letter wars, fan feuds, and other names lost to posterity. Some of the biggest controversies of pre-internet fandom were: sexually explicit material in fandom; zine pricing and zine piracy; to slash or not to slash; Star Trek vs. Star Wars; and which is better, pro writing or fanzine writing, and whether one's One True Character is the best.

From the letterzine, Southern Enclave: "I stated in the first issue that I didn't want a letter war to be carried on in these pages, but that is what's rapidly forming. I have had to zap more and more offensive statements in LoCs -- things like 'racist' and 'stupid idiot' with names attached to them. I have printed letters that hotly attacked the viewpoints of others, either arguing for the Fall of Luke Skywalker or against it... It is not worth ending friendships over. We are supposedly doing this for fun, but attacking other people who don't agree with your viewpoint and hurting other people's feelings is not fun. So, can we please back off this subject for a while and let our tempers cool down? If you feel that you can't drop it right now, then can you please submerge it to a private correspondence level?" [2]

A 1998 Tongue-in-Cheek Usenet Tutorial

An X-Files fan instructs others on some techniques!

Ah yes, the dogs of August are upon us. With the heat of summer, comes the heat of flamewars that traditionally spawn this time of year. Sweaty, bored authors and jittery readers are forming goon-gangs all over Wonderland, exacting vengeance for slights old and new, real and imagined, scaring newbies and annoying the slightly more sensible among us. (I say "slightly" because who HASN'T enjoyed beating the heat with a good ol' flame war? Like a fine cigar, it never really goes out of style.)

But, since outright flames are seriously frowned upon on atxc (as are controversial postings of ANY type), you have to be a bit more subtle in your approach. So, for the Junior Flamer among us, below is your guide to strategy and defense, fanfic style!

Good luck and !Viva Wonderland!

Handy-Dandy Guide To ATXC Flame War Tactics & Survival:

-- The "Innocent" Approach: Giant lollipop in hand, you are a cross between Little Nell and Shirley Temple, crying "Heavens!" and "What?!" at the first flame directed your way. Wiping very large and very wet crocodile tears from your eyes, you sniffle and write cutesy, sugar-coated posts filled with smilies and 's trying like hell to maintain an adorable air of utter cluelessness. Then, you take your giant lollipop and whack your enemies over the head in private E-mail where no one can see you. Hard. Yes, it's shameless and low, but it DRIVES 'EM CRAZY! Which is the whole point, really. Because whoever snaps in public first, loses.

Downside: After a while, people will start to -believe- you're a clueless idiot.

-- The "Indignant" Approach: Subtly start a flamefest with a loaded, but "innocent" question, then loudly spank the participants (cleverly including your own pals as to look "neutral") when the war starts. Throw in as many snide private allusions as you can, making sure not to tip your hand to the casual observer, but knowing that you will infuriate your intended targets. Then, just stand back and wait for the earthquake.

Downside: Timing's tricky. Make sure the flames are red-hot before you spank or you'll look, well, manipulating. (Which is what you are, but shhhh, you don't want THEM to know that!)

-- The "Rodney King" Approach: Shake your head and loudly cry "Can't we all just get along?" Beg for the peace, love and happiness that you "used to know" in "the community" (all things that never actually existed, but always sounded good) AT THE SAME TIME writing nasty private notes to the more excitable members of the "community", making sure they are nice and frothing when they come to visit you over on the newsgroup. Stand Ghandi-like as they crucify you; offer to hold the nails in your teeth while they pound. Hey, it worked for the saints, didn't it?

Downside: People might actually listen to that "peace" crap, and there goes all our summer fun. Damn you.

-- The "Honest" Approach: The worst policy. Write long and sincere posts, explaining your opinions and rebuttals in a sensible manner. Try like hell not to lose your temper or let the "discussion" dissolve into name-calling or snide remarks. Try to ignore the fact that most people will skip right over you to get to the juicy stuff. Maintain an air of dignity and common sense, even in the face of the most ridiculous taunts and accusations. Then... bow out of the thread gracefully when you realize that you are getting nowhere.

Upside: You are probably a good & well-meaning person who actually has a life. Downside: We don't like your kind around here.

And there you have it. Good luck, Junior Flamer! Oh, and as for your other question. You want to know if -I've- ever used any of these approaches in MY dealings on the newsgroup?

::::batting eyelashes::::::

Heavens, no. [3]

Examples

Filk

Sung to Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start The Fire":

Slingbabies, Vividcon,
You won't say it unanon
Awesome Ladies, Chopping onions, Unofficial Poll!
Piledriving, Scandanonnies, Fungus Poet, Shetland Ponies,
Extra credit, Shameless begging, Same-anoning trolls,
Countrywank, Ship wars, Banhammered, Pinboard
Mod call, The Meme Police, Western fandom versus East,
Lunar bases, Tinhats, Indoor versus outdoor cats,
VARNISH ERROR, VARNISH ERROR, VARNISH ERROR, Flounce!
We didn't start the flamewar
But it burned so brightly
That we gathered nightly
We didn't start the flamewar
And when the flames are gone
We'll still be memeing on ...


Goat of terror, same anon, kudos, wankers, Shonanons
SJ warrior, epithets and your thoughts on yaoi
Guano, con report, reccing, tracking
learn to scroll, idfic, paper bag, trans!pterosaur
Wool Sweaterly, please ban me, Teen Wolf's on MTV
Trigger warnings, fandom wank, make up threads, sfda is that way
femslash, dog pile, work in progress, Yuletide
MRAs, surveys, America is so diverse!
We didn't start the flamewar
It was always burning
Since the meme's been posting
We didn't start the flamewar
No we didn't light
We might try to fight it"[4]

References

  1. Wikipedia:Flaming (Internet)
  2. from Southern Enclave #4
  3. from The Acid Desk #4, August 1998
  4. With (no) Apologies (whatsoever) to Billy Joel anonymous posts on Fail-Fandomanon dated April 4, 2013;reference link.