July 19 2009
I am glad major wine critics are denouncing wine bloggers. That means we have their attention. Let every one of them come out and dismiss the hack work of junior wannabes. But, they should at least do it with specificity and call their shots instead of offering neutered general opinions that take everybody down to mud level, wallowing in their hyped morass.
By way of background, in the editorial column of the July issue of the trade magazine Tasting Panel, Anthony Dias Blue came out against wine bloggers and defended Robert Parker in the controversy that occurred between Parker and wine blogger Tyler Colman (also known as Dr. Vino), in April and May of this year.
If I have this conflict (in its entirety) correct: Tyler makes a legitimate ethical consistency inquiry to Robert Parker, kicking up some significant dust in the process. Parker attacks back, but not at the specific situation through which the inquiry was made, not going after Dr. Vino, no. Instead, Parker goes after all wine bloggers while Dr. Vino remains silent. Two months later, Anthony Dias Blue, in an editorial in his trade magazine, defends Parker, while also indicting all wine bloggers. Dr. Vino still remains silent.
Simply, Parker and Anthony Dias Blue need to grow a pair of, er, courage enhancers. Now, that I think about it, Dr. Vino needs to grow his own set, too and take ownership for the flap that he started instead of letting wine bloggers blunt the frontal assault that is rightfully his.
Instead of attacking their inquisitor, Robert Parker and subsequently Anthony Dias Blue are throwing out generalized blanket statements, couched in smugness, that significantly neutralize their point and let Dr. Vino off scot-free. And, unfortunately, Parker’s inquisitor, Dr. Vino, seems all too willing to let his brethren to take the brunt of the attacks caused by his, albeit effective, but nonetheless sensationalist-oriented, carpet bombs.
There are no winners here.
In fact, Tyler Colman’s silence is made more dubious by the fact that he attended the Symposium for Professional Wine Writer’s, but is not and has not attended either edition of the Wine Blogger’s Conference. It’s not hard to extrapolate how he considers himself and his work.
Generally speaking, I believe in a few fundamental aspects of writing opinion-oriented material:
1) Discretion is the better part of valor
2) Nobody should be above reproach
3) Decency and civility shouldn’t inhibit somebody from giving reasoned analysis and a contrary point of view to prevailing wisdom
4) Mandated hierarchical respect is quaint and outdated.
5) If you’re going to dish it, you better be able to take it.
6) Broadsides and categorical indictments are irresponsible particularly when you can give a specific, to the point, reasoned opinion just as easily.
Item #6 might be the most important because opinion is only valuable in its specificity, not generalization.
The responses from Parker and Blue have been a categorical rebuke that amounts to xenophobic name-calling and an indictment against all wine bloggers. It’s a cowardly response from both of them.
If either one of them had any stones whatsoever, instead of painting all bloggers with the same brush, they’d give a reasoned rebuttal specific to the conflict to Dr. Vino. But, they didn’t and haven’t.
Yet, ultimately, the net result of the inquiry is that Parker amended his writing ethics and standards document and Anthony Dias Blue, whose magazine sells an “Exposure Package” that includes a full page magazine ad, feature story and sponsorship package on a radio program, doesn’t have any room to talk anyway.
If you look at this from a 100,000 feet, what Dr. Vino did was a legitimate question that resulted in a response, even if the inquiry was more sensationalized watchdog than legitimate news reporting, and the response ultimately came in the form of Robert Parker re-writing his ethics and standards.
However, in the ensuing melee, the three principal parties in this equation – Robert Parker, Tyler Colman, and Anthony Dias Blue need to fight their own fights and leave wine bloggers as a category out of it. Wine bloggers have been called the equivalent of being “losers.” I would argue the only losers in this fracas are the three people that have chosen not to fight their fight mano y mano, instead letting “wine bloggers” be a catch-all distractor for grievances.