Monday, February 17, 2014
Ethics? Ethics? We Don't Need No Stinking Ethics!
It's hard to remember, but I think this piece was written after a wine blog written by one of the anonymous (at the time) judges of the Wine Blog Awards won a Wine Blog Award. It doesn't matter. The piece, written in the Angry Young HoseMaster style, received a lot of comments. When I recently re-read it, I felt like it could have been written yesterday, though it was originally written in August 2010. I like the voice, well, as much as I ever like what I write, so here it is at the pinnacle of publication--a Best of HoseMaster!
Ask any wine blogger what the biggest roadblock to success in the wine business is and he'll undoubtedly answer, "Ethics." Stupid, useless ol' ethics. And not because he believes in ethics, that's clearly a waste of time, much like reading wine blogs published east of the Mississippi, but because there are not guidelines to these imaginary ethics. Just where are the lines that one isn't supposed to cross? And where are the lines one is supposed to obey? And the ones they promised me I could snort? You start a wine blog for purposes of personal gain, get a little bit of notoriety, and, BANG, someone goes and ruins the whole thing by bringing up ethics. You win a Wine Blog Award, an achievement equal to passing your driver's license exam without the actual driving test, and some ethics cop, some self-appointed moron of morality, some pompous penis of principles, comes along and points out you were a judge in the competition. All because of ethics! How stupid is that? What does it matter that you were a judge? You won fair and square! There are no ethics on the Internet. The Internet wasn't created so that the cretins of conscience could ruin it for everybody! The Internet can't survive if you expect ethical behavior. What sort of an idiot thinks that? No, the Internet was created so that we can do anything we fucking want to do and not have to answer for it. Christ, it's so obvious.
Nonetheless, ethical guidelines are sorely needed in the wine blog world, if only to know what to ignore. It's tiresome to go to all the trouble of writing a wine blog yet not get the satisfaction of knowing that you're absolutely unethical. I've been giving this issue a lot of thought. OK, I'm actually just making this up off the top of my head, but that's what you're supposed to do when you're blogging--make shit up as you go along. It's what all the top bloggers do. It's how they got to the top. Once again, it's the Internet. What does it matter whether what I write is thoughtful or original or, God forbid, accurate? Only the addlepated, dimwitted, thunderstruck and the anencephalic believe what they read on the Internet. Though that is the core group that reads Palate Press. Anyhow, I have given this issue great thought and now present the core set of Ethics for Wine Bloggers. I'll thank you to follow them.
This is simple. You're entitled to it. You've got a wine blog, you work at it every day, you're on your journey to discover wine, wineries are supposed to send you samples. And if they don't, wineries can be incredibly stupid about not sending out enough free wine to the people, wine bloggers (duh), who will determine their very existence, just call them up and ask them for it! It's your ethical responsibility to ASK THE GODDAM WINERIES TO SEND YOU YOUR WINE. And don't make the egregious mistake of not telling them your shirt and hat sizes--they'll want to send you swag and can be very pouty if you don't seem to want any.
You are not obligated to report to your readers that the wines you review on your blog were sent to you for free. Who made that up? If you're using them, get rid of your stupid disclaimers. It's no one's fucking business where you got the wine from! The only things that matter are that you liked the wine, that it paired well with the lavish dinner the winery treated you to, and, above all, what kind of closure it had. No one needs to know you didn't pay a nickel for it. What kind of a lousy world would this be if we had to reveal every goddam thing we get for free? The whole country would devolve into anarchy. The IRS would be buried in paperwork. Hookers and pimps don't report their income! Explain to me the difference between wine bloggers and hookers and pimps! Yeah, pimps drive nicer cars, but other than that. Sure, unlike wine bloggers, hookers spit, but other than that. It's outrageous. Your ethical obligation is to say nice things about the wineries that give you free stuff, and only nice things. First off, you're not really qualified to judge wines, so why would you risk appearing stupid and ridicule that Moscato d'Asti for having some sort of chemical problem that makes it fizzy? Just say something nice, you got it for free, didn't your mother teach you to say thank you? This is so obvious, I wonder why it has to be said. Sheesh.
Again, this is simple. Everything you can think of, especially you, to say about wine has been said before and said far better than your miserable vocabulary allows you to say. Oh, goody, you discovered Aglianico, a wine that's been around for thousands of years but you're the first one to notice it's pretty good wine if you like that Southern Italian crap even though the ones they're starting to make in California are sooo much better. Great. Fascinating. I'm quivering with excitement. Believe me, everything you have to say about Aglianico, the grape and the free bottle of wine you're talking about, and every other wine, has been said more articulately and more eloquently. And yet, it is your ethical responsibility to bring the level of discussion down to where the kind of dolts who read wine blogs can understand it. Your job is to educate the poor slobs who know less than you about wine, the fools who've only been learning about wine for eight months when you've been reading Lettie Teague for years, the sad group of humans who don't know what to buy when they're shopping at BevMo and someone has torn down the Wilfred Wong recommendations and put up pictures of kitties instead, though the kitties would be more useful than Wilfred for explaining the crap BevMo sells. Your job is to say, in very simple phrases and poor English, what has been said before. This is how wine blogs work. Don't go trying to be original. Really. This is important. Just look at the top wine blogs. See anything original? No. Take a hint. Figure it out. Genius.
And when you're not reviewing wines or writing about your annoying children or filling your pointless blog with more links than a Jimmy Dean warehouse, you can always plug local events. After all, your eleven readers really want to know about the $150 per ticket Insipid Producers of Oregon Tasting with music by Celine Dion impersonator, Celine Dion. It it your ethical responsibility to post as often as possible without regard to meaningful content. Try to see your wine blog as spam. The meat, not the junk mail. You call that meat? You call that writing?
When reviewing wines that you don't really understand or you are incapable of describing, it is perfectly ethical to simply quote from the fact sheet the winery provided, or reword the back label. There's no need to try to make up descriptors when the correct ones are right in front of you! The only ethical responsibility you have is to make certain no one knows you've borrowed from someone else's work. That would be misguided and can only lead to uncertainty and chaos. Better yet, why not just skip the stupid description and simply assign the wine a score? Scores cannot be questioned, and make lovely graphics besides. Lately, wine bloggers have begun to use badges instead of scores. I am completely in favor of this trend. Poodles becoming badgers. After all, both wine bloggers and badgers are in the weasel family.
Photo: Best New Wine Blog Nominess 2010