The Observer‘s Tim Adams has written an excellent piece about comment-thread big-mouths that partially focuses on LexG. The article also looks at the anonymity factor, which I feel is vital for good frank chatter. Yes, HE’s very own LexG is shaking the rafters in England. (Adams twice asked for his email address, which I passed along. As there are no LexG quotes in the piece, it’s possible that he blew Adams off…just like he couldn’t be reached for a recent Oscar Poker podcast.)
“Some trolls have become nearly as famous as the blogs to which they attach themselves, in a curious, parasitical kind of relationship,” Adams writes.
“Jeffrey Wells, author of Hollywood Elsewhere, is a former LA Times Syndicate columnist who has been blogging inside stories about movies for 15 years. For the last couple of years his gossip and commentary has been dogged by the invective of a character called LexG, whose 200-odd self-loathing and wildly negative posts recently moved Wells to address him directly:
“‘The coarseness, the self-pity and the occasional eye-pokes and cruel dismissiveness have to be turned down. Way down. Arguments and genuine disdain for certain debaters can be entertaining, mind. I’m not trying to be Ms. Manners. But there finally has to be an emphasis on perception and love and passion and the glories of good writing. There has to be an emphasis on letting in the light rather than damning the darkness of the trolls and vomiting on the floor and kicking this or that Hollywood Elsewhere contributor in the balls…’
“When I spoke to Wells about LexG, he was philosophical. ‘Everybody on the site writes anonymously, except me,’ he says. ‘If they didn’t I think it would cause them to dry up. This place is like a bubble in which you can explode, let the inner lava out. And, boy, is there a lot of lava.’
“He has resisted insisting that people write under their own name because that would kill the comments instantly. ‘Why would you take that one in 100 chance that your mother or a future employer will read what you were thinking late one night a dozen years ago if you didn’t have to?’ For haters, Wells believes, anonymity makes for livelier writing. ‘It’s a trick, really — the less you feel you will be identified, the more uninhibited you can be.
“At his best LexG really knows how to write well and hold a thought and keep it going. He is relatively sane but certainly not a happy guy. He’s been doing this a couple of years now and he really has become a presence; he does it on all the Hollywood sites.’
“Have they ever met?
“‘Just once,’ Wells says. ‘I asked him to write a column of his own, give him a corner of the site, bring him out in the open.’ LexG didn’t want to do it; he seemed horrified at the prospect. ‘He just wanted to comment on my stuff,’ Wells suggests. ‘He’s a counter-puncher, I guess. The rules on my site remain simple, though. No ugly rancid personal comments directed against me. And no Tea Party bullshit.”
“The big problem [Wells] finds running the blog is that his anonymous commenters get a kind of pack mentality. And the comments quickly become a one-note invective.
“As a writer Wells feels he needs a range of emotion: ‘I also do personal confession or I can be really enthusiastic about something. But the comments tend to be one color, and that becomes drab. It’s tougher, I guess, to be enthusiastic, to really set out honestly why something means something to you. It takes maybe twice as long. I can run with disdain and nastiness for a while but you don’t want to always be the guy banging a shoe on the table. Like LexG. I mean it’s not healthy, for a start…'”
Supplemental Thoughts: (1) I’m not the only person on HE to use my own name — many journalists who comment (including Glenn Kenny, Joe Leydon and Lewis Beale) use their names so I shouldn’t have spoken so quickly. (2) LexG has positive currents in him, and genuine enthusiasm for this and that from time to time, so I didn’t mean to characterize him solely as “banging a shoe on the table” kind of guy.