By The 2-Belo
The Meow Wars The largest flame war in Usenet history, involving hundreds of people from over 80 newsgroups, lasting over forty-five weeks. It was the Usenet equivalent of World War II. It was The Flamewar to End All Flamewars.
It was the best of times.The Meow Wars It all began innocently enough: a small group of students at Harvard University - a band of future bloodsucking ambulance-chasing lawyers, medical specialists who phone in diagnoses from mobile phones on yachts, and caffeine-crazed computer programmers with way too much time on their hands - began to use Usenet as a local dorm room bulletin board/gossip clique area.
The newsgroup they chose, apparently at random from among the hundreds of empty Usenet joke-newsgroup wastelands: alt.fan.karl-malden.nose. [The circumstances surrounding the birth of this newsgroup can now be told, thanks to the location of the original newsgroup control message.]
This small group of posters set up their little regime in this forgotten newsgroup, posting daily schedules and post count summaries, talking about this class and that event and this and that and the other. Eventually, they tired of posting articles about their immensely boring daily lives, so they turned their attention to the computer network world around them. First they tried their hand at penny-ante crossposting, branching out to claim other empty newsgroups, such as alt.fan.ok-soda and alt.fan.pooh. This soon grew stale as well, as each poster moved into a new group only to find the same bored people he/she left behind.
Apparently as a result of the Ivy-League uppity belief that all the world should be like them (and also as a result of trying to avoid studying for exams), one of the posters suggested that they “invade” a real, populated newsgroup and “rile up the stupid people”. When Matt Bruce, another of the Harvard band, heard this, he wrote this response:
“I suggest that we start either posting or crossposting to alt.tv.beavis-n-butthead. I also suggest that we use big words and perfect grammar, and refuse to write as the young ruffians in question speak.”
“This could lead to some interesting ‘dialogue.’”
This article was posted directly to alt.tv.beavis-n-butthead. The regulars at that group, wondering what the world was coming to, scoffed at the notion of a couple of stuck-up geeks from Harvard calling them “ruffians”, and a few unpleasantries were exchanged. This crosspost-tossing attracted the attention of an unknown poster going by the name of Dontonio Wingfield. He/she discovered that one of the Harvard posters, Chuck Truesdell, placed “meow meow” (a reference to Henrietta Pussycat of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood fame) in many of his posts as a sort of calling card, as his initials spell “C.A.T.”. Matt Bruce picked up on this practice for one post (the quote at the top of this page), and someone, for some reason, took that article out of afk-mn, crossposting it to a dozen newsgroups as a troll against the “Nosers” (as the Harvard students called themselves). Dontonio Wingfield either instigated this troll, or was the first to reply to it:
“What the hell is this shite? Would you mind keeping it the hell out of HERE?”
The Dontonio Wingfield persona then, of course, vanished. The posters in the targeted groups, noting the “meow meow” elements, began to retaliate against the supposed original crossposter, Matt Bruce. These posters entered the 'Nose and found it full of other Harvard students like Matt, and the counter-invaders flamed and spewed “meow” with vigor, In time, flames containing the word “meow” would start popping up all over the place, aimed mostly at areas where the high-class uppity Ivy-League snots were known to congregate, such as alt.college.college-bowl. Other flames targeted snobbish college kids who regularly huffed their freckled noses in newsgroups such as alt.music.nin. Some of the more daring souls decided to forge articles in Bruce's name, spreading the “meow” attacks to more and more groups, including afk-mn, to add to the onslaught against him and his “intellectually elite” cohorts.
When the real Matt Bruce caught wind of the uproar, he and the other Harvard students first tried to write his attack on atbnb as a "joke". When no one bought his story, he attempted more forcefully to get the attackers to stop, which only sounded like more condescending talk:
“Please stop. Cease and desist. You are only making yourselves look silly.”
When this only fanned the flames further, he threatened to cancel all articles containing the word “meow”, and to netcop all the “meow” article forgers. This “Cancellation Notice”, posted about a month and a half after the first “meow” troll, was apparently the proverbial last straw. A person crossposting into 12 newsgroups, then claiming it a “joke”, when he obviously had no sense of humor? This pissed off the Usenet Performance Artists to no end. it was time to teach Matt Bruce - and the rest of his gang of snots - a lesson. Suddenly, afk-mn, alt.college.college-bowl, and scores of other groups were flooded to the gills and beyond with hundreds upon hundreds of huge meow articles from all corners of Usenet. Cascades, ASCII cats, hundred-line “meow” hello-world-type flood posts, and more were posted, reposted, munged, pureed, and regurgitated all over the servers of the world. The Harvard kids' protests were quickly lost in the feline tidal wave. Every post by a Harvard snot would result in fifty cascade follow-ups. alt.college.college-bowl, a known regular haunt of Matt Bruce, was reduced to a smoldering crater, so inundated with meows that its regulars could no longer use it. After a couple of weeks of this, Usenet in general looked like Chernobyl, or the Marina district of San Francisco after the 1989 earthquake, or downtown Nagasaki the day after the fall of the Fat Man.
A number of the attackers, calling themselves the “MEOW MEOW ARMY”, were bent on taking over afk-mn and occupying it as their own. It soon was - the Harvard students, seeing a fire raging out of control in their cyber Dunster House, were compelled to escape to a local, non-propagated newsgroup on a Harvard server.The meow hurricane, however,simply refused to die: alt.college.college-bowl continued to be attacked until almost a year after Matt Bruce's now infamous post, and the Meowers now in afk-mn began to redecorate their new home (with the legendary Fluffy, formerly Matt Bruce's pet, claiming ownership of all of Usenet), merging with the verbal abuse powerhouse known as the Mighty Alt Dot FlameTM.
Today, afk-mn remains as a sort of Usenet posting relay hub. The first- and second- generation Meowers also became alt.flame regulars. Other bases of Usenet Performance Art, such as alt.alien.vampire.flonk.flonk.flonk, alt.non.sequitur, and alt.stupidity, long bases of Meow action, also traded regulars with the Nose. These groups fused together to form what is now known as the Empire of Meow.
This empire is still growing as you read this, as in 1998 the groups alt.flame.niggers and demon.local were recently annexed much in the same fashion as the 'Nose. There are hundreds of groups throughout the alt.* heirarchy who have at least heard of the Meow movement… every so often, a troll warning will be posted to these groups, sometimes even warning the inhabitants about elements that the Empire has nothing to do with:
“You will be able to recognize a troll and an impending invasion from alt.syntax.tactical by cascades, numerous appearances of the word ‘meow’, and crossposts to alt.fan.karl-malden.nose…”
Also, throughout its lifetime, the actions of the Empire have seemingly become a convenient scapegoat for real Usenet abuses. In February of 1997, several inhabitants of the 'Nose were placed under a Usenet Death Penalty, or UDP, for over a week by a certain self-made Usenet “spam canceller”. The crime: cascades. Also, in 1998, Meow became the whipping boy for those persons who wanted a UDP imposed on Altopia News Service, which many Meowers use to post to Usenet, because of the few Altopia users who were committing blatant acts of abuse such as mailbombing and post flooding. These accusers were wont to include relatively harmless acts of off-topic crossposts and cascades in with the real problems. Apparently, there will always be those, like the Harvard kids, who will not tolerate the right that all Usenetters have to act silly, or to have a sense of humor, or to have the view that nothing should be taken too seriously. It should, however, be noted that without the existence of tight-sphinctered conservative snots, there would be no Meow in the first place. Hated or not, it would thus seem that the phenomenon known as MEOW, and its practitioners known as MEOWERS, have forever carved their place among the legends of Usenet, along with the likes of Kibology and the first MMF chain letter. Clealy, sir, the Empire of Meow's feline vocalizations will be heard forever more throughout Usenet history.
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The above article is found at the following URL 〔http://member.newsguy.com/~shpxurnq/meow.html〕 on 2001-11.Disqus