The expression permanent floating flamewar
or perpetual floating flamewar
was coined many years ago by some wag in the wilds of Usenet
. The term is a reference to Larry Niven
's short story
"The Last Days of the Permanent Floating Riot Club
". In the story, cheap teleportation
technology leads to the formation of flash crowds
around newsworthy events: mob scenes which occur when people teleport in to gawk. (Something like a Slashdot Effect
, but in real life.) The eponymous Permanent Floating Riot Club is a group of opportunists who take advantage of flash-crowd scenes to incite looting
, and to take the best of the loot for themselves.
The permanence of the "floating riot" stems not from any one location being under a constant state of riot, but from the fact that at any time, there's a riot on somewhere in the world. By analogy, at any time, there's a flamewar on somewhere on Usenet — and, most often, it revolves around one of a few common subjects. A troll or other person eager to participate in flamage need only locate the flamewar of the day, then "teleport" in to the afflicted group to participate.
In the early days of Usenet, the topics of the permanent floating flamewar were described by the "three H's": Hitler, Homosexuality, and Heinlein. (In anime-related newsgroups, Hentai may be added as a fourth H.) These days, politics dominate the floating flamewars, with gun control and Internet censorship being popular topics.