Breaking the internet (hotels, guestnet style)

Joel Esler eslerj at
Tue Dec 8 16:12:05 CST 2009

On Tue, Dec 8, 2009 at 4:52 PM, Paul Vixie <vixie at> wrote:

> > Date: Tue, 8 Dec 2009 15:21:30 -0600
> > From: Jorge Amodio <jmamodio at>
> >
> > Among the many wonderful things Internet has created in the past 2+
> > decades, it gave birth to a countless number of "Internet Experts" ...
> for example, some of us got a chance to witness the following.  i've
> removed all identifying marks.  (i was NOT the author NOR the offender,
> but the author does read this mailing list, and several of you will no
> doubt recognize the flaming style once you consider the time/date stamp.)
> ------- Forwarded Message
> To: ...
> Subject: Re: verbal brickbats
> Date: Sun, 02 Jun 96 23:37:40 PDT
> From: ...
> My guess is that most people just ignore you. Which might be a shame,
> because your point of view is different enough from the average member
> of the list that you are valuable here just by being different. I think
> of you as a pompous egomaniac nut case, but that's just my opinion; I
> have no Greek or Latin quotations to back it up and no 5-point treatise
> about how some part of scripture says you're a bad person. It's just
> what I believe, based entirely on what you've said here.
> In your world you're a fancy professor with power and authority. You're
> probably the intellectual terror of [your] postal code. Here in my
> world of cyberspace you're just an arrogant twit who knows Greek. If
> you want to spend your time making impassioned arguments to the people
> who already agree with you, then just keep doing what you're doing. If
> your goal is to change somebody's mind about one of the topics that you
> address, then you need to learn both some manners and some rhetorical
> technique. If you want to teach somebody, to expand somebody's
> understanding, to increase the number of people in the world who agree
> with you, then please listen to me, because here in cyberspace I'm the
> guy with the power and experience and authority and you're just an
> insect. ...
> Let me give you a few pointers on being taken more seriously.
>  * First, you have the habit of making arguments from authority, rather
>  than as an individual. Sometimes it is important to establish
>  your authority in some area, in much the same way that an expert
>  witness in a courtroom establishes his credibility and authority on the
>  topic for which he is to testify.
>  You may think of yourself as an authority on the matters that you are
>  expounding on, but we don't yet. Your academic pedigree and your
>  quotations from ancient languages are just bluster here on the Internet.
>  The general principle here in cyberspace is that we participate as
>  individuals and not as representatives of authoritative bodies. You can
>  earn the right to wield the authority of some body on whose behalf you
>  speak, but you don't walk in our door holding that authority just
>  because you are B.A., M.A., Ph.D. and have a white beard.
>  [...]
>  If your goal in writing to the Internet is to change somebody's mind
>  about some topic that you care about, then you really must learn to
>  communicate in a very different style.
>  * Second, you are constantly trying to impress us with how much better
>  educated you are than we are. This might be related to the first item,
>  above, since if you're going to be arguing from authority then you
>  probably need to keep establishing that you have some authority. I
>  think you'll find that this is a pretty highly educated crowd, but you
>  don't catch us relying on our academic pedigrees instead of on our
>  ability to communicate. I am quite certain that I have absolutely as
>  many degrees as you do, and I am completely certain that I know many
>  more obscure languages than you do, but if I can't win an argument with
>  you based on what I say and how I say it, then my degrees are all just
>  puffery, aren't they?
>  But in establishing a precedent of authority and pedigree as the basis
>  for power, you are treading on dangerous ground. Here in cyberspace you
>  aren't in your world, you're in mine. If you make the mistake of trying
>  to establish some ground rules in which argument by authority is the
>  norm, then you'd better make sure that you don't ruffle the feathers of
>  somebody who has more of it than you do. I can make the Internet do
>  anything I want it to do. I can perform the digital equivalent of
>  heaving lightning bolts in front of your chariot, and rending the earth
>  beneath your mail reader. I can turn your hard disk into a toad. I'm a
>  technocrat. But I won't, because we professionals don't act that way. I
>  don't have to brandish my power and authority and education and
>  knowledge of arcana in order to get people to listen to me. I try to
>  make a crisp argument and let my words carry that argument. If I fail,
>  then I don't go running for some Greek derivation or invoke some
>  long-dead philosopher. Heck, I don't even go running for analogies from
>  Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven", which is every bit as fine a piece of
>  literature as Aristophanes.
>  * Third, you convey a complete disdain for your reader. Your writing
>  style reeks of the belief that your time is so much more important than
>  the time of your reader that you can't be bothered to write correctly
>  or to edit what you write. If you'd like to have more readers, then it
>  would be very worthwhile for you to be more respectful of them. Among
>  other things, this means that you need to write in a way that makes
>  it easier for your reader to read: use real sentences with real
>  capital letters at the beginnings of them, and do try to spell as many
>  words right as you can muster.
> So mind your manners, learn to communicate better, stop insulting your
> readers, and then come back and contribute your intellect to [this]
> mailing list. If you keep acting like a jerk I'm going to wake
> up some morning, yawn, make a cup of tea, and then vaporize your
> mailbox. Sometimes we supremely powerful technocrats just have a bad
> day.
> ------- End of Forwarded Message
This is a great email, it belongs on countless blogs.  Written back then,
still relevant now.


Joel Esler | 302-223-5974 | gtalk: jesler at

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