Empire of Meow

The One True History of MEOW!

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 newgroup control message.

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).
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 this only fanned the flames further, he [Matt Bruce] 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.

Go read The One True History of MEOW!

» by Madfish Willie on March 19 :: Permalink :: Comments (5) :: MEOW!
» Welcome to Castle Argghhh! The Home Of One Of Jonah's Military Guys. links with: This is post #1000. Therefore, it is only appropriate...
» Blog o'RAM links with: Cat-astrophy
» Technicalities links with: Catching Up on Blog Reading

Trackbacks to Empire of Meow
This is post #1000. Therefore, it is only appropriate...
Excerpt: ...that I use it to link to the people who helped lift me up high enough that this got addictive. Especially since the workload of late has kept me from being able to properly visit my blog buddies. I'll start...
Weblog: Welcome to Castle Argghhh! The Home Of One Of Jonah's Military Guys.
Tracked: March 19, 2004 03:16 PM
Excerpt: First, the cats killed the server. So UMLGuy sullied his soft hands fixing hardware. All seemed to be well until Rammer went off the radar screen and UMLGuy started with his extortion theme. Then the note arrived. Much discussion ensued...
Weblog: Blog o'RAM
Tracked: March 21, 2004 02:46 PM
Catching Up on Blog Reading
Excerpt: Which means I haven't put in any time blog writing. I know you are all devastated by this. Therefore I decided to throw out some linky love to take up space. One of the new blogs I've put up on
Weblog: Technicalities
Tracked: March 26, 2004 12:24 AM

Excellent! Thanks for posting this. I never got into Usenet at all, but I love the story!

Posted by: Teresa on March 19, 2004 05:21 PM

Emperor Darth Misha pointed me over there a long time ago. The were roasting a troll -Barney- and MEOW kept appearing. When I asked him what it meant he took the time to send me a really long e-mail expaining it and gave me the link. When ever I need a laugh, I go through the archives and look at some of the absolutely brilliant silly shit these guys did. I'm thinking of posting a little of this silliness every day for your entertainment... what do you think?

Posted by: Madfish Willie on March 19, 2004 06:00 PM

Go for it! Usenet was the conceptual Godfather of comment and cross-blog conversations that we enjoy today. A little cyber-history lesson would do us all some good.

Posted by: Harvey on March 20, 2004 09:05 AM

That would be fabulous. There has been so much really terrific stuff on Usenet that I've never had time to go read! Now I could come here and let you do the work for me - LOL.

Posted by: Teresa on March 20, 2004 12:34 PM

how do i dop to join the empire of meow?

Posted by: future meow member on May 15, 2004 07:32 PM