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Feature Story August 10, 2001
By Matt Taibbi Browse author
Thomas Nolle

It all started two weeks ago.

There is a certain person, whom I will hereafter refer to as a Little Birdie, who often sends the eXile materials and ideas for stories and pranks, without getting any credit for contributing. Two weeks ago -- on July 26, to be exact -- the Little Birdie sent me an e-mail containing a story that had appeared in that day's edition of the Los Angeles Times. Entitled "Taming the Wild, Wild Web", and written by Michael Hiltzik, the article basically argued that the internet was too free for its own good, and needed to have its anarchistic tendencies reigned in, for the good of commerce.

The premise of the article was odious enough, but the Little Birdie was particularly upset about a specific quote in the piece. In the e-mail, it was highlighted and placed under the heading, "There are too many assholes in this world!" It read:

"'The Internet is an important cultural phenomenon, but that doesn't excuse its failure to comply with basic economic laws,' said Thomas Nolle, a New Jersey telecommunications consultant. 'The problem is that it was devised by a bunch of hippie anarchists who didn't have a strong profit motive. But this is a business, not a government-sponsored network.'"

My first reaction to this quote was to lean back and frown in disgust -- it didn't seem possible that someone had actually said such a thing... This "Thomas Nolle" came across as some monster rising to the surface after 33 years sunk in a bog -- the language was pure 1968, or maybe even 1971, vaguely recalling the Nixon tapes, with its angry references to "hippie anarchists" (Nixon once blasted the hippies for admiring the pre-colonial culture of the Native Americans, who he insisted "lived filthy lives, like pigs"). Just as bad was his insistence that the internet was "a business, not a government-sponsored network." This was totally contrary to fact: the internet was borne of research contracted out by the Department of Defense -- not by hippie anarchists by any stretch of the imagination -- and was only subsequently hijacked by commercial interests. In other words, the net was yet another sector of private American industry that owed its profits to a capital investment made by the state.

The quote so irritated me that I decided to send Nolle a letter on the spot, informing him of the negative consequences of coming to the attention of the eXile. In the letter I opted to communicate with Nolle in language he would be likely to understand -- cold, officious, corporate bureaucratese, straight form-letter style, dully detailing the personal apocalypse he was now likely to suffer at the hands of our newspaper:

Dear Mr. Nolle,

In light of your comments in today's Los Angeles Times, the Moscow-based English language newspaper, the eXile, would like to officially announce its intention to verbally and psychologically torment you in the next issue of the newspaper.

The eXile, founded in 1997, has a long history of effectively annoying and embarrassing odious public figures. This past March, we threw a cream pie made of equine sperm in the face of New York Times reporter Michael Wines (see photo at We have routinely sent unwanted orders of dozens of Domino's pizzas to the office of Ray Irani, CEO of Occidental Petroleum. When a Senate communications aide was impolite to us on the telephone, we ran a public records search, discovered a recent bankruptcy filing, and published the information, which was subsequently re-run in newspapers in his home state (see "Who is Chuck Kleeschulte?"

Other eXile methods of attack involve trickery, as in the case when we called a World Bank executive named Charles Blitzer and solicited a lengthy interview on the political situation in the "Olajuwon" territory. In another celebrated incident, we convinced Mikhail Gorbachev to fly to New York to discuss an offer to work, for a handsome fee, as the "perestroika coordinator" for the then-restructuring New York Jets.

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The future of The eXile is in your hands! We're holding a fundraiser to save the paper, and your soul. Tune in to Gary Brecher's urgent request for reinforcements and donate as much as you can. If you don't, we'll be overrun and wiped off the face of the earth, forever.

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