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Feature Story June 2, 2008
 
Eleven Years of Threats: The eXile's Incredible Journey
In a nation terrorized by its own government, one newspaper dared to fart in its face By The eXile Browse author
 
 

From its very inception, The eXile has been under constant siege, always pushed to the brink of collapse by a nefarious alliance of Russian bureaucrats, aggrieved small-business owners, thick-ankled American women, thin-skinned Russian celebrities, seething Western journalists and politicians, and even members of our own staff, people whom we thought we could trust. Everyone, it seems, learns to hate us at one time or another, leaving only a small rump core to keep the flame of hatred burning. Is there a lesson to be learned in that? Yes there is: everyone but us is a worthless piece of shit. But if you’ve been reading our newspaper, you already knew that, didn’t you—you worthless piece of shit.

Our survival for the past 11 years is a testament not just to what Nietzsche might call “The Will To Failure” (if Nietzsche was an Exile editor, that is), but more importantly, it speaks volumes about the human will to survive and endure against all odds—either that, or it means that The eXile is some kind of printed herpes virus that you can treat, but never cure.

Welp, those dangerous days are behind us folks. Now that the liberal Medvedev Era has arrived, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. At last, after all of the assaults, lawsuits, threats, thefts, bad drug deals, false pregnancies and petty betrayals, after the terrifying presidencies of Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin, the light of liberal freedom is shining into our basement offices. We can already taste the fresh gusts of liberal-air blowing in from that little fella with the big floppy head and the stumpy arms—damn, he’s cute, ain’t he? Don’t you just want to pick Medvedev up and hug him and squeeze him? Or zip him up in a squirrel costume and put him in a habittrail, then just watch him run around, gnawing on a salt lick or rolling around in wood chips? We do. And we’re not afraid to say it either.

See, we can say those things now, because Medvedev’s a liberal. And as far as we at The eXile are concerned, liberal means: “Freed from the shackles of oppressively responsible journalism, we now have full license to urinate into the president’s mouth without any fear of consequences, and there ain’t a durned thing he can do about it.”

So, that’s settled. Good times ahead, folks! We’re eating our asparagus stalks as you read this, drinking a triple venti Dark Italian Roast, hooking up our catheter tubes, and preparing for the best next-8-years of our entire media lives!

But before we celebrate the good times yet to come, now is an appropriate time to respectfully bow our heads, and look back at the impossible journey we took to get here.

Yes, they said it was impossible—they said no newspaper could possibly survive 11 years only to reach that milestone of making the president’s mouth our personal urinal—but thanks to you, the ungrateful reader who never gave us any money and who was too cowardly to let your peers even see that you were reading The eXile, furtively slipping this paper between the pages of The Moscow Times or stuffing it into your briefcase for safe toilet reading later—thanks to your total unwillingness to sacrifice a single hair on your ass, we made it. It’s a joint effort, and it’s time we congratulated ourselves.

And now…get out your hankies, cuz we’re taking a look back at the impossible crises we overcame:

February, 1997: Threats of Violence

After the first issue, editor Ames is told that his former publisher threatened to “break his legs” for jumping ship; scary owners of the old Rosie O’Grady’s Bar threaten Ames with unspecified consequences for the nasty “Jeers” review.

May, 1997: Death Threat

Editor Matt Taibbi seeks FBI assistance then flees Moscow after receiving a veiled phone threat from fellow American expat Michael Bass, a movie producer/petty conman whom Corey Haim once chased off his property with a BB gun.

September 1997: American Embezzlement #1

Original American partners Kara and Marcus Deyerin dump The eXile and slip away without leaving an address; $25,000 goes missing; new American sales manager Nicole Mollo starts.

February 1998: Bacterial Threat

Ames prescribed Sumamed antibiotic following a doctor’s visit following a two-week affair with a freshly-paroled devushka.

March 1998: American Embezzlement #2; Boycott Threat

Nicole Mollo abandons The eXile with a note telling the editors how much she hates them, takes refuge in the US Embassy before fleeing to an undisclosed Dutch location; $14,000 in cash missing; Baltimore Sun correspondent Kathy Lally calls for a boycott of The eXile.

April 1998: Press Ministry Threat

The eXile publishes a fake issue of The Moscow Times which causes an outcry; a couple of days later, Ames receives a phone call at his apartment from someone at the Russian Press Ministry; Ames calls Independent Media publisher Derk Sauer, and after a discussion, the dogs are called off.

July 1998: Russian Government Threat

Members of prime minister Sergei Kiriyenko’s government query two Moscow Times editors about the reaction that shutting down The eXile would cause in the expat community; naively, the MT editors tell the Russian White House officials that the outcry would be serious, thereby defending The eXile; days later, The eXile arranges the theft of editor-in-chief Geoff Winestock’s pen from his desk, then publishes a photo of the stolen pen in The eXile.

August 1998: Financial Crisis

The Exile’s bank, Rossiiskii Kredit, collapses. So does every business in town.

September 1998: Defection

With the paper teetering, editor Matt Taibbi abandons The eXile to live at his father’s Manhattan high-rise.

October 1998: Tax Raid

Tax officials threaten to shut The eXile down; Michael Bass threatens to pour acid on Ames’ face.

November 1998: Kremlin Media Attack

The Russia Journal, believed to be a Kremlin-backed project to blunt The eXile’s nefarious influence, is launched.

April 1999: Sniper Threat

The eXile leads an “Americans Against NATO Bombing Of Serbia” protest near the Russian White House; some 100 Russian cops guard the march, including rooftop snipers; 10 Americans join them.

June 1999: Giardia Threat

Ames catches first case of giardia, believed to be linked to a bad batch of Persian Gray. Excessive abuse of metabolism-altering substances begin to take their toll.

August 1999: Loss Of Manhood

Vladimir Putin is named the new Prime Minister by Boris Yeltsin; Ames suffers first instance of impotence, an affliction which would eventually consume every eXile editor.

December 1999: Celebrity Threat

Ames and Taibbi sign a movie deal with Good Machine productions, blow the check on a three-day binge at Night Flight and Metelitsa.

April 2000: Celebrity Threat #2

Ames and Taibbi’s book “The eXile” released by Grove Press; 2 month book tour ensues, ending with hitting a deer with their car; first IKEA opens in Moscow; returning to Putin’s Russia and its 13-percent-flat-tax-rate mentality plunges them into depression.

August 2000: Suicide Threat

Ames moves to an apartment in Serbian-controlled northern Kosovo; locals immediately accuse him of being a NATO spy; Jake Rudnitsky hired as new editor.

January 2001: Media Threat

Russia Journal publisher Ajay Goyal and his bodyguard storm into The eXile office and threaten the cleaning lady, after an eXile mole in the Russia Journal writes an article  announcing upcoming RJ articles before they go to print.

March 2001: Horse Sperm Pie

The eXile bakes a horse sperm pie and throws it into the face of the New York Times’ bureau chief, Michael Wines.

April 2001: Jail Threat

Exile columnist Edward Limonov jailed and charged with attempting to raise an army in order to invade Kazakhstan and create a National-Boshevik republic; Ames moves to Kentucky for reasons which neither he nor anyone else ever understood.

June 2001: Stomping Threat

Taibbi stomped by six men in suits outside of the Boar House at 4am; Krazy Kevin McElwee falls from a third floor balcony and breaks both legs while trying to escape angry Russians whose car he vandalized. Taibbi starts talking of quitting.

September 2001: Bankruptcy Threat

Following a cover mocking the 9/11 terror attack, American-owned advertisers dump The eXile, and American-run businesses refuse to allow The eXile to be distributed.

December 2001: Ego-Clash Threat

Ames returns to Moscow from Kentucky; Taibbi begins publishing in the Kremlin-backed Russia Journal. The eXile is $15,000 in debt to employees and others.

January 2002: Celebrity Threat

Lawyers alleging to represent hockey star Pavel Bure serve The eXile with a 500,000 ruble lawsuit for libel.

February 2002: Defection

Taibbi quits again, moves back to his father’s Manhattan high-rise, continues to write for The Russia Journal; Exile moves offices for 6th time, this time into the Rasputin Strip Club.

May 2002: Celebrity Threat Rises

Snap surprise decision in lawsuit against The eXile for what was then one of the largest judgments in post-Soviet history; Ames receives strange phone call on his cellphone from a Russian woman telling Ames, “You should call your mother and tell her you love her”; The eXile drops lawsuit appeal and settles.

September 2002: Permafrost Threat

Rudnitsky leaves for horrific 6-month retreat to a small Siberian city, nearly gets killed by heroin addicts and drunks; John Dolan arrives from New Zealand as new editor.

September 2002: Hurt Feelings Threat

Dolan is insulted for first time by Sovok grocery-store clerk; devastated, threatens to leave Moscow. When reminded his reviews viciously insult one and all, comments, “That’s different!” After fellow editor shows Dolan the more Western-service-friendly Sedmoi Kontinent, he agrees to stay.

November 2002: Staff Stomping

Exile intern-turned-banker Flounder stomped and hospitalized.

January 2003: Prison Threat

Exile columnist Edward Limonov sentenced to 4 years in prison on weapons charges. Strange phone calls to Ames, suggestions that he should “back away from Limonov.”

February 2003: OMON Threat

OMON troops break down door of nextdoor office, seal it; OMON threatens to seal off Exile office as one of the rooms is under dispute, allegedly belonging to a mentally-retarded woman.

March 2003: Cop Threat

Two unnamed eXile editors stopped late at night by cops, with a hard illegal substance on their person; long negotiation leads to bribe and freedom.

July 2003: Police State Threat

Putin takes down Yukos and Khodorkovsky; several close friends of Ames forced to flee, not all get out.

October 2003: Celebrity Threat #2

Lawyers for a certain famous male-ish Russian pop star threaten a lawsuit over a satirical article; celebrity lawyer Pavel Astakhov tells one Russian magazine that Ames’ days in Russia are numbered.

July 2004: Kremlin Threat

Ames, in a prank, takes responsibility for the “Kiriyenko letter” scandal; strange goons call asking Ames how he managed to blacken the ex-Prime Minister-turned-Putin plenipotentiary’s name; Kiriyenko’s lawyer calls eXile office congratulating them on the prank; Paul Khlebnikov assassinated; Dolan leaves Russia, continues to write for Exile.

August 2004: United States Government Threat

Republican Congressman Henry Bonilla of Texas officially petitions the US State Department to lobby the Russian authorities to arrest Ames; Bonilla tells the San Antonio Express-News that “The U.S. and Russian governments should work together to investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators… By taking tough action against the culprits we can prompt future pranksters to think twice.”  

October 2004: Cult Of Personality Threat

The eXile publishes “101 Reasons Why Putin Is A Fascist,” including cover depicting Putin as a Hitlerjugen midget; dozens of restaurants and bars refuse to carry The eXile, clients refuse to advertise anymore.

January 2005: Hitler’s Bunker Threat

Rudnitsky leaves eXile, Ames only editor left.

July 2005: Bankruptcy Threat #2

As revenues dry up, Ames takes on second job in television.

April 2006: Youth Threat

Yasha Levine joins as new co-editor, Rudnitsky leaves again.

August 2006: Sting Threat

An acquaintance of The eXile is busted at Leningradsky Vokzal muling 2 kilos of crank, and she’s jailed for up to 10 years; subsequently her friends call eXile editors repeatedly asking them to “meet” to “discuss business” or to “make a deal”; Ames and Levine join Planeta Fitness, begin new lives.

September 2006: Bankruptcy Threat #3

Exile bankrupt and in debt and arrears; staff defects.

January 2007: Death Threat

Notorious Columbine High bully-turned-Ultimate Fighter "Rocky" Wayne Hoffschneider sends email to Ames threatening him and his family, telling Ames, "you will know first hand how truly fucked up I am."

January 2007: Reorganizational Threat

Alexander Zaitchik joins The eXile as co-editor, attempts to implement basic organizational professionalism such as a white board; eventually runs into a wall of resistance, adopts bad habits of exile staff, and gets into habit of finishing story at 4am on production day; Levine contracts food poisoning while riding platzkart train to Izhevsk, nearly dies.

February 2007: Sexual Harassment

Yasha Levine experience sexual harassment from most of The eXile's female staff. Human resources department seemingly encourage the practice.

July 2007: Hack Threat

Luke Harding, correspondent for the Guardian newspaper, busted plagiarizing an eXile article by Ames and Levine; Guardian issues a rare apology and correction.

September 2007: Celebrity Threat

Adam Levine’s attorney threatens to sue The eXile over a satirical article about his bad sex with Maria Sharapova; eXile dares Levine to sue in an open letter; new Exile 2.0 website launches.

October 2007: Sealed Door Threat

Exile office door welded shut in an unexplained property dispute; eXile moves to a tiny basement office which reportedly has a radiation Geiger count that would make Chernobyl’s neighbors wince.

December 2007: Giardia Threat

Levine contracts his first case of giardia; Ames congratulates him.

March 2008: Unpaid Salary Threat

Zaitchik leaves Moscow for Miami.

May 2008: Liberal Era Begins; Threats Vanish

Dmitry Medvedev sworn into office as the new president of Russia; the era of threats ends, and the era of liberalism and free speech begins.


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