The Screenwriter's Friendly Internet Forum (and Lessons Therefrom)

The only thing worse than a Bitter, Liberal, Angry, Hollywood Screenwriter is an Unemployed, Bitter, Liberal, Angry, Hollywood Screenwriter (“U-BLAHS,” as I adoringly refer to them). There are several thousand U-BLAHS hanging about, primarily in Los Angeles. They haunt the revival cinemas. Some dicker around, half-heartedly attempting new “careers,” like being a poker dealer in a market oversaturated with same (that’s Liberal thought for you — no understanding of a free market, much less a saturated free market). Some U-BLAHS film clumsy internet videos from their computer, concocting a list consisting of the dozen most unintentionally bad jokes they can think of in a desperate attempt to deflect their self-hatred onto Conservatives.

You might find them at the Arclight during December and January, when their WGA memberships permit free admission for themselves and a “guest” (long-suffering spouse/partner? Homeless guy they promised a meal to?). Otherwise, they likely couldn’t afford the premium ticket prices there. Poker dealing doesn’t pay what it used to.

Theirs is a lost generation, having witnessed their dreams of boarding the luxury cruise ship of the Hollywood Elite dashed — instead relegated to the ship of fools, a half-constructed government-funded behemoth inadvertently launched prior to completion, now residing limply on its side as seagulls crap on its hull. Flailing madly in the bay, arms slapping the waves of excremental runoff from L.A.’s shores, the U-BLAHS emerge onto dry land, greeted by two herds eager to welcome them. They recoil from the initial herd, despising it as they do, refusing to accept the herd’s membership card involuntarily thrust upon them: that of the Has-Been. Stumbling for escape, the U-BLAHS run into the arms of the only other herd awaiting new membership, the Never-Weres.

Suddenly, the awful truth descends upon the U-BLAHS. The two herds are equivalent, their mated species the result of spectacularly misguided inbreeding. They slowly gather around the U-BLAHS, who grimly submit to their fate amidst the guttural chants of, “One of us! One of us!”

The U-BLAHS herd, now fully assimilated, congregates on the internet, in an echo chamber all their own, called www.WriterActionBBS.com. Don’t bother trying to access it. You must belong to the WGA to gain entrance. Once there, if you happen to be non-Liberal and participate in the political forums, you can begin counting the days before you are banned.

The U-BLAHS online personalities recall a colony of grotesque lifeforms akin to Jeff Goldblum’s transformation in The Fly. I’ve heard that most are actually really nice people in real life and if I ever met them, I’d welcome them with a handshake and smile, for I know one’s online persona can be quite different from one’s real one. I doubt they’d do the same for me because, well, you know the story about the scorpion riding the frog.

One of Them

My experience at WA, as it is known, had a few positive aspects. Outside of the political forums, everyone congenially engaged in discussions about movies, craft, referrals to local plumbers and the like. It was a good source of discussion during the WGA strike. That’s the WA I enjoyed. Normal people interacting normally.

Inside the political forums, however, the U-BLAHS Collective was administered the Rage Virus, and I thus return to The Fly analogy by way of Danny Boyle.

I shall explain.

Readers of my columns here at the Bigs know that I do not identify with any political party or ideology, but am often mistaken for Republican or Conservative simply because I often challenge the Left’s lack of common sense and reason. But that doesn’t matter to the Left, because if you aren’t one of them, you are by default The Other and require extermination. Now, the Right has many of its own problems, as well. For me, I abide by the words of Dennis Prager: “I don’t have to give up my heart to embrace my mind nor must I give up my mind to embrace my heart.” The Buddhists call this The Middle Way and I do my best to subscribe to it (often failing, as humans do).

Anyway, while arguing with the U-BLAHS, I discovered that not a single tactic ever worked. Reason? Forget it? Facts? Ha! You’ll get nowhere with people who insist that only rich people benefited from the Bush Tax Cuts, despite being shown tax rate schedules from before and after the legislation. Then I tried to walk them through their positions one step at a time. Nope. It was like nailing jello to a tree. I asked them to leave me alone. They didn’t. (Two of them still, to this day, are stalking me via the internet). I tried The Middle Way, suggesting that Liberal tolerance should extend to all points of view, and that perhaps the way they viewed a given circumstance might not take all the facts into account, that it isn’t possible to see inside one’s heart, that…

You know the drill. (So do I, because I was a Liberal once.)

These people would not only never change and never listen to reason, they weren’t even self-aware enough to realize that they were engaging in a classic Jungian pathology — projecting all the most hateful aspects of themselves onto me, the proverbial Shadow. They were not the hateful, closed-minded, bigoted, intolerant suckerfish attached to a whale’s anus, I was.

God knows there was no other reason to waste any more time there. Except to have fun.

I took a page out of their book, and combined it with Andy Kaufman’s. I would make the wildest, most outrageous, unsupportable statements. I would name-call. I would make statements completely lacking in logic. And if someone called me on something I said, I would go back and delete the comment and innocently ask, “What are you talking about”? I did. They raged. Then I’d return to logic. Then return to mindless rants. Then I’d agree with them. Then I wouldn’t. My favorite tactic was to write a really hate-filled screed laced with profanities directed at one U-BLAHS, wait for him to read it, then quickly delete it, so as to avoid being caught by the Stasi, known in web-speak as “The Admins,” who await such nasty posts so as to administer reprimands. If I could get my target to quote from my screed, so that everyone could hear him say, “Larry called me a [insert Mamet-influenced insult]!”, I gave myself bonus points.

Regarding aforementioned Stasi, the worst thing one could do on WA was to “ad-hom” someone. You know, hurt their feelings. Of course, these rules were applied in typical Liberal fashion. That is, Liberals could write anything they wanted. Non-Liberals were held to a different standard. You see, a U-BLAHS with a history of violence could write, “Hey, Conservative Joe, I’ve personally seen you suck Satan’s ***k,” and not be reprimanded. But Joe can only say, “Hey, your argument is like sucking Satan’s ***k”. If Joe actually said the same exact thing the U-BLAHS did, he’d get a Yellow Card, kind of like in soccer. You know, bad tackle.

Now, let’s say some obese professorial blowhard Has-Been is quoting some “wisdom” from the early edition of his MSM newspaper and, after he gets away with a bad tackle, you ram your cleats up his rear? You get the red card and a two-week ban. If, after your return, you dare commit another felony, it’s six months in the gulag. One more offense — and believe me, they are watching every word you type — and it’s the permanent penalty box for you.

Of course, the point is to chill your speech. And you don’t actually know what is considered an “ad-hom” and what isn’t, because the standard isn’t applied equally and fairly. You know, “fairly,” like “Social Justice.” But like any great Soviet-style Liberal paradise, you won’t actually be informed if you commit the crime of hurting a U-BLAHS feelings. (Assuming that is a crime. It’s still an assumption since, well, just keep reading.)

See, while simultaneously posting how awful the proposed Gitmo tribunals of terrorists are in the political forum, the Stasi Star Chamber deliberates in total secrecy regarding the latest crossing of the goalpost-shifting ad-hom line, and then hand down their sentence. Indeed, myself and others have endured Der Process — of being arrested, sentenced and summarily executed without even being informed that a crime had been committed.

At least, I think a crime had been committed. I still don’t know why I was banned. I think I made someone mad. Or used improper sentence construction. Or had a dangling participle. Or more likely, spoke the truth. I don’t know. I still haven’t been told, despite asking multiple times. My friend Josef K doesn’t know why he was banned, either.

Of course, let me make it clear that I speak of this particular group of U-BLAHS that I’m deservedly taking the piss out of. I have met and worked with many, many warm and wonderful people in Hollywood, and still do. Of the people I know, their politics rarely bleeds over into their scripts or into the conference room. Most writers just want to tell good stories, get them produced without going over budget, and feel like they accomplished something in the face of daily obstacles that seem constructed specifically to frustrate them. They write about what it means to be human, to show compassion for others, to find justice for the victims of crime, to self-transcend like my old math teacher always taught, to use one’s abilities to transform the world into a better place (in ways everyone can agree on), and to make us laugh.

These are the true and honest Hollywood writers and, yes, they exist in far greater numbers than you might believe (or want to believe). The tragedy of the U-BLAHS are that writers are generally unhappy people to begin with and, as I believe Liberals are as well, the tendency to remain within the herd is far more powerful than having the courage to escape it. That’s why so many writers just sit and complain when they aren’t getting work, instead of breaking with the flock and discovering all the other gifts they have.

It’s never too late.

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