November 2003 (v6 i3)
Doubting the moon landing since 1997
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Student wins Internet message board argument
Frequent poster "totally owned" by newbie
by Ryan B. Martinez, Associate Editor

THE INTERNETWelcome to the Short Bus, an Internet message board community for fans of the pop industrial band Filter, was in a state of upheaval Friday as one of its upstart members "totally owned" a charter member in an argument that spanned four separate topic pages, several members said.

17-year-old Eric Lancaster, known on the boards as "AwakeOnMyAirplane," bombarded his opponent, long-time member Jeffrey Surran, a.k.a. "Mr. Jurassitol," with razor-sharp logic and acerbic wit. After the firestorm of insults subsided, Lancaster had gotten Surran to admit that Filter's new album, Amalgamut, did not, in fact, "suck donkey balls."

"Your (sic) just jellous (sic) of [Filter lead singer] Richard Patrick's wikked (sic) goatee," countered Lancaster to Surran's initial contention that Filter's musical output has suffered a dip in quality since its 1999 opus, Title of Record. "Yer (sic) prolly (sic) all mad and shit becuz (sic) he's all rich and you're still living with yer (sic) parents. LOL!"

Lancaster's double-barreled rhetorical onslaught left Surran defensively scrambling to contest two assertions: that his disapproval of Amalgamut stemmed from jealousy over both the lead singer's facial hair and his material success. Enthralled by the clash of the message board titans, all 11 registered users reading the boards at the time eagerly awaited Surran's rebuttal.

"dude your (sic) such a moron. How can I be jellus (sic) of richard's goatee when I have a freekin' (sic) beard. i'm all man, unlike you're (sic) stupid butt," Surran volleyed.

While his retort neutralized one of Lancaster's claims, Surran failed to mention that, as a 14-year-old high school freshman, his living situation with his parents was perfectly justified. Lancaster shrewdly exploited this glaring hole in his opponent's counter-argument, seizing the opportunity to making fun of him for being an "unimployd l00ser (sic)."

"Here's a silver dollar, Jurass-is-ugly. Go buy yerself (sic) a job. LMAO! Your (sic) such an 'American Cliché,'" replied Lancaster, weaving an allusion to a Filter song title into his insult and displaying a gleeful satisfaction at his own verbal dominance.

Lancaster continued to overwhelm Surran with a bevy of arguing techniques, both fallacious and logical. After employing rhetorical strategies such as the straw man argument, the moral equivalence appeal, the fingers-in-my-ears-I-can't-hear-you defense, the Whooping Crane, and the Harlem Shake, Lancaster successfully convinced Surran that Amalgamut was indeed a masterpiece.

The debate was the latest intra-board example of a "flame war," an Internet exchange in which two rhetoricians each propose and logically defend proofs while deconstructing the others' argument. The status of a poster within the community depends upon both the burn of his flames and the number of posts he has made during his tenure on the message board.

Lancaster's triumph over Surran - especially in light of his "newbie" status - marked a changing of the guard at the music message board, said anthropologist Samantha Evans.

"What we have here is not unlike the challenge that a mature silver-backed gorilla eventually faces from a young male in his family group," said Evans, who had been doing an ethnographic study on message board subcultures when she witnessed the sparring match. "AwakeOnMyAirplane will move on to become the new 'silver back,' and he'll one day have to face just such a challenge himself."

Despite the damage to his Internet reputation, Surran does have recourse for saving his reputation on the boards. One method is to register a new username in order to create an alternate persona who can rally support for the poster's original identity. Already, a poster going by the suspicious handle, "AwakeOnMyAirplaneSucks," has started topics such as "Mr. Jurassitol rawks (sic) all yalls (sic) nads!" and "Yes, certainly, or definitely: Does AwakeOnMyAirplane suck hard?"

Noting this latest development as she refreshed the webpage on her computer screen, Dr. Evans merely shook her head and sighed:

"Welcome to the Short bus, indeed."
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