Flames et al -Reply

James Barnes (Barnesj@SMTP.LMS.USACE.ARMY.MIL)
Thu, 5 Jan 1995 08:02:16 -0600

"Great minds against themselves conspire, and shun the cure they
most desire" (Purcell, _Dido & Aeneas_).
A truly appropriate quote-jb

Both seem to often be irrational and overstated reactions to ideas and/or
actions that are misunderstood. ... What is it about a particular topic that
generates responses of anger rather than reasoned argument? Or,
perhaps it is not the topic but the manner of presentation or the manner
of rebuttal that is significant. Any thoughts?

Scott Holmes <sholmes@netcom.com>

I, too, would like to see a summary of some of the flame wars that have
occurred. But, I'm not sure what would really be revealed. Perhaps a
cross-section of the core values of the respondents. I think that flame
wars start when a certain post violates some individuals' dearly held
beliefs about the way the world should be or people should behave.
And, all it takes is one intemperate post and the party has started.

Holmes is absolutely correct in differentiating between topic flames and
presentation flames. The Rushton flames were generated solely by
content, at least initially. Rushton's posts were inflammatory only in their
point-of-view. However, the responses became inflammatory in
presentation very quickly. Rohrlich's posting was inflammatory in
presentation, at least to me (I happen to agree with her about the use of
"mankind"). Parenthetically, I always manage to embarass myself by
immediately throwing my own principles of conduct out the window in
criticizing the conduct of others. What fools these mortals be...

The fortunate thing is that cooler heads always prevail and the flames
usually turn to thoughtful discussion of the issues.

So, in any analysis of past flame wars, there needs to be some way to
sort out topic vs. presentation responses.

Jim Barnes