Thursday, August 13, 2015

Tools Actually Do Go Out of Fashion

Photo by Louis Villard--My Hero!

When I was 13, my friend and I wrote and illustrated an “underground” newspaper called “The Squealer.” It was filled with incredibly juvenile humor. So pretty much exactly like what I do now. Only I was a juvenile then, and it seemed OK. John and I would write it over the weekend, I’d type it up, hunting and pecking, John would illustrate it, and my mother would take it to her school (she taught high school English) and mimeograph about 25 copies, which we would pass out at school on Tuesdays. It became popular, I think primarily because the mimeographed pages smelled so good. The jokes smelled pretty bad.

After a few issues had been passed around, I was called into the principal’s office. I’d never been in a principal’s office, not once. I was pretty nervous. The principal told me in no uncertain terms that John and I were to stop writing “The Squealer” and passing it out to the other kids. I thought I was going to get sent home, or expelled, but, fortunately, that was it. I rather mildly surrendered.

That night I told my mother what had happened in the principal’s office. I was visibly upset, near tears. I could see she was beginning a slow burn. She made me slow down and carefully repeat what the principal had told me. I thought she was mad at me.

My mother called in sick to her school the next day. I had no idea. I walked to school every day (it was only three blocks). My mother called the principal, showed up at his office, stormed in, and proceeded to educate him on the Constitution, the rules of the school district, the right to free speech, and, undoubtedly threatened to feed him his dog’s testicles for lunch (which, coincidentally, was the cafeteria food that day). I wasn’t there. I’d have died of embarrassment.

That night, she told me what she’d done. And then she told me that John and I had better write “The Squealer” that weekend, so she could mimeograph it on Monday, and we would pass it around on Tuesday. And if we didn’t, I was personally going to suffer.

“Your principal bullied you, Ron,” she said. “He was wrong, and he knew he was wrong. He used his power on someone far weaker, someone he knew he could intimidate. You’re too young to have fought back. You did the right thing. But when you see that happening to someone else, when you see someone being bullied, you have to say something, you have to do something. It’s important. It’s about your character, and who you are. Don’t fear bullies. Ask for help, but don’t be fearful. Good people will help you. But you have to be one of them, one of the good people.”

The past few days, I’ve thought about that moment a lot.

Tim Atkin is brave enough to publish a piece I write on the first Monday of every month. I’m a busy guy, I have a life. Writing is a small part of it. That first Sunday of August, I still hadn’t written a piece for Tim. Someone sent me a link to the New Yorker piece on the younger Riedel, and that set my satiric mind to work. I hastily wrote “Riedel Me This” (a stupid title) and sent it to Tim. I didn’t like the piece at all, and I still don’t. It’s not my best work, and that’s a low bar to get over. But there’s lots of truth in it. The piece speaks to truths that are widely recognized by people in the wine business in a satiric fashion, that fashion being exaggeration, mockery and relentlessness. It's what I do, and, frankly, there aren't enough wine writers doing it.

When the letter came from the Riedel attorney, I was surprised. I knew I was within my rights to publish it in the good ol’ USA. There are fools and hypocrites who say people like me hide behind libel laws. The truth is that without those laws, that First Amendment these idiots refer to as "libel laws," it's the rich and powerful who would hide behind their money and lawyers. Any writer worth a dime knows that my protection, as someone who "claims to be a satirist" (gee, didn't know you could get a Master Satirist credential) is also their protection. I hate what I write, friends, but I'll defend to the death my right to say it so poorly. The Riedel lawyers knew they had no case against me, they simply chose intimidation as a first response to my lampooning. I'm sure in hindsight they wish they hadn't.

The response to my publishing the letter was, well, incredible. Thanks to all of you Good People. I intentionally stepped away during the past week's firestorm. A satirist needs some distance, and, also, I was overwhelmed with emails and comments and Twitter reports and FaceBook hits, and, I confess, in shock. Never in my life was I so happy not to be on FaceBook. I have some insight into the power of social media now. Even on this small scale, the power of your words, the power of your voices, the anger and fearlessness you all showed in the face of the bully were inspiring. My piece did nothing to scare Riedel. They wanted me to back down. Not publish. Don’t pass it around to the other kids. They expected me to timidly acquiesce. Your actions, your defense of this cut-rate satirist, your indignation at someone trying to stifle free speech, to try to silence satire, were what mattered. "Wow," was all I could say. To everyone I wrote to and spoke to. "Wow" was the best I could do. I’m rarely tongue-tied, but the tsunami of support was breathtaking. I’m certain I’ll never be part of something so beautiful and powerful and human again.

God, I hope not.

Many people who supported me were influential people I had previously lampooned, insulted, spoofed and tormented. But they’re Good People, and they jumped into the fray to defend my right to be an asshole. I’m a satirist. My intent is to have fun at the expense of the powerful, or the stupid, or the arrogant. I also take aim at the talented and famous. Many of them I admire, but as the HoseMaster, admiration is not in my wheelhouse. I’m not nearly the person many of them turned out to be.

But most who supported me were strangers. Just wine lovers who don’t pretend power or omniscience. Folks who like to laugh, folks who follow me for reasons I don’t understand. They jumped in without fear, cared enough to speak up in a very noisy world, refused to sit idly by and watch, knew instinctively to intervene. You’re the best people. I am in your debt.

The best among us recognized that we are all in this wine world together. Many bloggers, wine writers, and readers recognized that if Riedel silences me, and Tim, that the wine world loses. I might be the first to sink, but we’re all in the same boat. I might be the biggest jerk on the deck, but if saving me means saving the ship, you win, too. Thank you for that. It was certainly a tempest in a teapot, but, believe me, being the teapot is no fun. But you very well could be next, and karma is a dangerous enemy to ignore. I truly believe that what helped me was my mother’s strength and karma. I know, I’m such a momma's boy.

I’m not any kind of hero, if anyone is tempted to see me as one. I was a conduit. An unwilling one, but a conduit nonetheless. Tim Atkin MW had all the courage. He’s the guy who looked the bully in the eye and said, “Go ahead, hit me. See what happens.” I was hiding behind him. I don’t deserve your admiration, if, in some alternate universe, you have admiration for the HoseMaster. Save your admiration for Tim. I admire him for his rare appreciation for the place of satire in a business that takes itself far too seriously. He walks that walk. Few others will.

I think it’s interesting who didn’t chime in, who didn’t fight for the right of free expression and satire, who watched the bullying and decided silence was the best choice. Many are folks in the wine biz who take advertising money from Riedel. I didn’t see any of them here. Perhaps they’ll claim they didn’t see the brouhaha, or read about it. Do you believe that? People who are in the wine business? Who keep up with wine social media? And then ask yourself, if they were silent because they were afraid to offend an advertiser like Riedel, and many of them must have been in that boat, are they the same with other advertisers? Though maybe the truth is I'm nobody, so what does it matter? There's always that.

Above all, I know that this entire incident was not for a moment about me. It’s why I stepped aside, didn’t comment, refrained from posting. I’m insignificant. Maybe we all are individually. But when I was threatened, my community, the community of folks who love wine, folks who love satire, folks who love freedom of speech, stepped up—in a hurry, and in force. Wow. I do not think for a minute you stood up for me personally. You didn’t. You graced me with your kindness and sense of what is right. But you stood up for yourselves, for what you believe is right. You stood up to the bully. You didn’t have to. Thank you.

I’ve found that a life is a series of labels. I’ve been The Guy Who Won a Lot of Money on Game Shows. I was The Guy Whose Fiancée Died. I became the Guy Who Married a Much Younger Woman. I’ve been The Guy Who’s the HoseMaster for quite a while. Now, until the next label, I’m the Guy Who Was Threatened by Riedel. I’m none of those Guys. And all of them.

If you take away anything from all this, aside from my profound gratitude, for the support, for the money (I’ll probably need it again one day, and what I didn't spend I’m saving for that next rainy day), take away these words:

Don’t be afraid of bullies. Ask for help. Good people will help you.


Ziggy said...

Bravo! Hose, for telling the Bully to pound salt.

BTW, I see a HoseMaster GEICO commercial in your future. "It's what I do".

Goddess of Wine said...

We all have your back, Ron. Long live the HoseMaster!

wine man boy said...

Well said Hose Head! Yes, we all have your back and your testicles.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I just wrote my usual sort of satire. The real point of the piece, in my mind, was to point out how easy it was for Riedel to fool sommeliers and wine writers and the public with their pseudoscience. I just chose Georg's voice as the vehicle. And if it hadn't been published on Tim's site, I suspect nothing would have happened. But that's how life works, the law of unforeseen consequences and all that.

Comedy is what I do. And with all the newfound attention I received, the temptation is to change what I do. I hope I don't. I'll continue to write what I want to write, as stupid or as silly or as scathing as I'm moved to. Well, that's what I intend.

I found that out. It's humbling. Thank you, and thank all of you common taters and supporters.

Oh, that's where they are! I thought I left them in my other pants.

Charlie Olken said...

Bullies? Sure. Stupid bullies? Natch.

But, the underlying satire has not changed. I use Riedel stemware for our tastings--Overture Reds--and I like them for that purpose. I thought about tossing them out, but, at an operational level, I chose them because they fit the purpose. I don't ask the makers of my cars or their air bags or my dishwasher or the purveyors of my gasoline for their politics.

So, why does a maker of such beautiful objects also turn out to an object of ridicule? Because they have no sense of humor--not even about themselves. And that is the saddest part. I get that human frailty allows Riedels to sell all those different styles of glasses as if they actually make a difference, but how can the company not chuckle when it adds yet another glass?

No sense of humor. Too bad. But the satire was necessary--is always necessary, and satire is at least more fun on the receiving end than ridicule.

Ultimately, that is what Riedel got for its troubles--ridicule. Yes, we all stood up to them. Yes, we were all incensed by their actions.

And yes, the Hosemaster, in writing satire, laid out the truth. Thank you for that.

Unknown said...

Ron, my five yr set of Riedel stemware given to me as a gift from my better half are showing their age(chipped,stained,ugly) were just deposited in the trash . Rest assured replacements will not be from Reidel since their intent was to try and fuck you over. Glad to see your "sod off" attitude towards these over the top bullies gained considerable traction amongst the better people. Keep going.

Francly Speaking said...

Kudos to both you and Tim for 'keeping it real'!

Unknown said...

Zalto now (finally) offers "industry pricing". Just sayin'...

Unknown said...

Your post last week was brought to my attention on one of the big wine media bulletin boards, so yes I'm sure they were aware of the "bruhaha". When I read it, I immediately signed up for your blog. This is my first reading. Stay the course, you've earned at least one new fan.


jock said...

" I didn’t like the piece at all, and I still don’t. It’s not my best work," I beg to differ. This may be your best work ever. Hilarious - AND - more important, TRUE. Sometimes the truth hurts. Riedel has been using the power of suggestion to foist off ridiculous grotesquely priced stemware. Hey, I just came up with one you should have thought of -- Riedeliculous!

Thomas said...

Having never subscribed to the Riedel hype, I was so sorry I had no glasses to throw away, but I would have thrown them away had I ever spent hard-earned money on them.

Good you found out that there is a community beyond the regular comment taters that appreciates your work, but please Ron, whatever you do, don't start hyping Facebook...

The moment I read the word "mimeograph" I could smell that purple ink.

Unknown said...

A heartfelt piece, Ron, and a wonderful one. And I'm glad that Riedel "tools" ad made it into print (or cyberspace). Truly, it has been very moving to receive so much support over the last week, especially from wine people in the United States. Thanks to all of you.

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron Love,
Was the Riedel piece your best work? Oh I don't know, I can think of quite a few others that made me laugh harder, some tender pieces that made me swoon and several that had me simply marveling in your raw talent and perfect pitch and gift with the written word. That said, I ended up loving the piece as much as those precisely because of your, (as well as Tim's) willingness to stand up to a bully and put your mouth where their money is. For the rest of us as much, if not more, than for yourself.....not to mention what an absolute thrill it was for this very long time fan of yours to see how many people came out in support of You. I was and am very proud of you my dear sweet Ron. Not everyone has had the pleasure to know you as long and I'm guessing few have loved you as deeply so for this too I find myself wishing to thank you, for showing so many what I already knew, what a strong willed and wonderful man you are. I love you.

James said...

I once had a very good friend that was a HUGE proponent of Riedel. I used to love to tease her about it, proclaiming my belief that the brand was more marketing than substance. Now she works for them and doesn't talk to me any more :(

Some powerful Kool-Aid they serve there!!

Jet Fuel said...

Amen, to both you and Tim. Keep up the great work!

Daniel said...

I just returned from vacation and missed the actual bru-ha-ha, though I did read your original piece on my phone while the kids played in the pool. I thought it was your usual biting and dead-on great stuff.
Sorry I didn't have time to chime in before...thanks for giving them hell!

I'd pitch my few remaining glasses, but I'm too cheap, and they were free. Thank god I have never given them my money.

...and I swear the one of the best glasses of wine I ever had was drunk out of a tumbler on a patio in Tuscany...or was it that Rose from the mini fridge in Provence? Funny that I don't ever remember a memorable piece of stemware.


mwangbickler said...

A nice piece, Ron.

It was a pleasure meeting you this past week. While I don't find everything you write to be terribly witty and insightful, the wine world needs you. It needs that voice from the inside that says, "hey, wait a minute..." It needs people like you to poke fun at it, and call out its ridiculousness and shortsightedness. Wine people frequently take themselves WAY too seriously, and its good that you are there to inject a little humor and wisdom.

Bravo for continuing to take chances and push the envelop of decency.


David said...

Hey Ron
That piece just showed how much we wine-idoits need a bloke like you to poke at the Mrs. Hyacinth Buckets of the wine world! Although I only joined in on the fun in march this year, I've read all the previous posts - I love what you do as the HoseMaster that much (either that or I am an utter idiot at spending time correctly in my life...)
A thumbs up for all the cold showers and messing about you bring to the wine-world.
Like the photo - Have you noticed that they actually point to themselves as "winemakers"? Wouldn't "large-wine-dispensers-without-lid"-makers be more appropriate?


Don Clemens said...

I haven't had this much fun since Nixon resigned. Well, that may be a bit hyperbolic, but still...

Keep up the great work, Ron!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Common taters,
Tim and I share amazement at the support of people during this strange ride. It was clear from the earliest moment that a lot of folks were enraged at the events of "Riedeltor." And were willing to help, even when they disliked my work personally. And a lot of people dislike my work, even despise it. This brings me joy, for the most part.

There are two sayings that apply to writing satire of the kind my Riedel piece represents. First, if you dish it out, you have to take it. I take it plenty. Second, the satirist never gets invited to the party. I don't much like parties, so that's fine, too.

But let's be clear. I didn't knowingly take on Riedel. I wrote the sort of piece I've written here for five years now. I've pissed off a lot of people. I've received lots and lots of hate mail. I've been brushed off and I've been given plenty of cold shoulders. Satire is always hilarious until it's aimed at you, then it seems unfair and libelous. But I've never received any threats until this legal one.

It's comedy. It's aimed at human foible and folly, at human gullibility and hubris, at greed and avarice and gluttony and the other Four Deadly Dwarves. The things we are all guilty of at some time in our lives. Satire and comedy are a precise measure of a healthy society. It's what the worst, most cowardly and evil regimes suppress first. Those regimes don't much care if you assign numbers, post tasting notes, or write glowing essays about wineries.

Most of us can laugh at ourselves. Not all of us. Those who cannot, trust me on this, are those you truly do not want on your side.

Hawk_Wakawaka said...


Sybaritewino said...

Shared with friends. It's what I well as drink from Zalto...keep on keep'n on Mr. HMW!

Unknown said...

Dear Ron,

This must be a stressful time for you. I have been threatened with legal letters before, on several occasions, and it's not nice. In fact, it can be quite unsettling. So I sympathise with your situation. Sadly for you I'm one of those who don't find your 'satire' funny, in fact in the most part I find it cruel and unfunny. When I first read the Riedel story I thought it was cruel but I also thought: 'hello..I would be surprised if Riedel doesn't react.' We have a satirical magazine here in London called Private Eye, have a look at how many times it has been successfully sued - quite a few.
My strong advice would be for you to meet with Georg over a beer and try and resolve the matter amicably. I always did this in my cases when I was threatened and with a bit of laughter and explanation everyone can go home happy again. Maybe you could crack a joke about Zalto? And with a bit of time and a few more jokes he will look at you and then vigorously slap you on the back and declare: "I always knew you were a funny guy." Before you know it he'll be producing a limited edition hosemaster wine glass.

Georg makes great glasses and has done a lot for wine. Many love and support your work - you both come from a position of strength.

An open hand is stronger than a fist.

Will Lyons

Unknown said...


As with most of these situations, the storm Riedel caused in the wine community by threatening you legally has most definitely caused them much more harm than the actual article itself. Discussion on two wine forums, Wine Pages in the UK and Wine Beserkers in the US, have told stories of the fragility of the glasses and the expense of them, making it an unwise purchase.

I agree with you Ron, not one of your best pieces, as it did cut to the bone rather obtusely, and I can see why Georg Riedel could have easily (on a personal level) been offended by it. I don't think that is what satire sets out to achieve. Satarists are meant to be the Dadelaus's of the writing world, not the Icarus's. With this article, you did fly too close to the sun though. However, not for one moment it did not warrant the response from Riedel that it received.

I am glad to see the whole affair resolved and I agree with the points you made in this article. You must indeed be proud to have the mother you have.

Thomas said...

Mr. Lyon:

"An open hand is stronger than a fist." Really.

Maybe that aphorism should have been sent to Riedel instead.

Laurent Noblet said...

Great piece Ron. I think we should take a Glass Action against Riedel.

Unknown said...

I've been observing (and smilin') throughout the events here...and wondered what the right response (if any) was appropriate from Georg...and I just figured it out. Had he (or his cronies) written a humorous/satirical reply back, they would have gained so much in the eyes of the wine world. Something along the lines of...

Dear Hosemaster,

Thank you for your insightful commentary and helpful ideas for our product lines. We pride ourselves on keeping in tune with wine consumer needs. As such, we're proud to be introducing our new product lines, which have been in development for the past 35 years in our secret development caves under the Matterhorn:

"Indestruco Supreme" - these glasses are forged of titanium and carbon fibers, utilizing nanotechnology to create the strongest glasses ever. Not only do they bounce, they actually can crack your sink. Use caution when cleaning as not to damage more fragile items.

"Chug & Toss" - our new picnic line, intended for the connoisseur in the great outdoors. These fine glasses are made with biodegradable enzymes and will begin to fall apart within hours of exposure to UV light. Lovely for the picnic and patio,and part of our plan to help save this planet.

Okay, so you're the satirist, not me...but sometimes the best defense is none at all. Kudos to the "open hand" comment...


Unknown said...

I thought the funniest and most insightful part of your original article was the bit about sommeliers. Their outsized egos are so fragile I would not have been surprised if the International Brotherhood of Sommeliers would have dispatched a thug to threaten you.

Unknown said...

I'm delighted that Riedel have confirmed in a public statement that they will not be taking legal action against Ron. Thanks, again, to everyone for their words of support.

Bill Klapp said...

Will Lyons,

It is OK to find Ron's satire cruel and unfunny, just as it is OK to find your wine writing mediocre, generally poorly researched and too often ill-informed. This must be a stressful time for you as well, since nobody reads your work, or even knows who in the hell you are. (I thought that you were an American film critic, but somebody set me straight and told me that was JEFFREY Lyons. I asked around and have come to understand that you are the third-string wine writer for the Wall Street Journal, a newspaper read only for its financial information, behind Lettie Teague and Jay McInerney. That suggests that you, too, come from a position of strength. I would have slit my wrists if I were third-string behind those two!) I am truly shocked to hear that you have been legally threatened before. Surely it was not based upon something you wrote, as that would require that somebody read it. Was it for unpaid child support? Urinating in a public place?


Unknown said...

Bill, the next time you're in London look me up and I'll buy you a pint. I know a lovely little pub in Soho you're going to love.

Unknown said...

Ron, thanks for sharing the story of your childhood. Your mother is an incredible lady.

I thought the brouhaha had come to a finale until I read the comment from Mr. Lyons. Advising Ron to invite Georg out for a beer? Is it sound business brain if Georg personally invited Ron, an accomplished veteran sommelier, for a wine tasting under the format of tasting each wine from its corresponding varietal Riedel glass? It'd be a wonderful opportunity for Georg to exercise the magnanimity of a billionaire businessman and to swoon Ron over the virtues of the varietal glasses. Georg's PR image is in dismay, and if Mr. Lyons wants to appoint himself as the arbiter, he will need immediately to offer advice to Georg on strategies for PRR (public relations repair).

Mr. Lyons thinks Ron's satire unfunny and cruel but suggested, on the other hand, to Ron to crack a joke on Zalto in front of Georg. Does that mean he believes that Ron can create truly funny and compassionate lines of satire on Zalto? Why is it that jokes on Zalto from Ron will make Georg laugh, whereas jokes on Riedel will make him sue Ron? I found it utterly absurd.

If you can't show logic, please show that you're guileless. Otherwise, you loose your credibility with the public. Mr. Lyons' comment presents itself as an adult with a hidden agenda coaxing a child into acting on something absurd. It's unfortunate for him that there're no children in the community of this blog.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Susan Darling,
The notion that I'd want to share beer or wine with Mr. Riedel is rather sad--I don't even want to share the same planet. Through a flunky, Mr. Riedel did offer to meet and share some wine, but I'm uninterested. He may have taken offense at my satire, but I do not socialize with people who threaten me, and then pretend that they are a "true advocate of free speech." Actual advocates of free speech should be outraged at that statement. One cannot make that claim and then have an attorney threaten a satirist with legal action if he doesn't erase the "free speech," and all the links to it. That's absurd on the face of it.

The brouhaha is over. Satire can occasionally have the power of making people show their true colors. This odd episode has many heroes--Tim Atkin MW, Mike Steinberger, Jon Bonné, Jancis Robinson, and my friend John Friedemann. Plus hundreds and hundreds of people who rose up in defense of freedom of speech. And there are plenty of fools aside from the target of the piece, and they have also made themselves abundantly clear. I won't name them again.

I simply didn't read any of the things written about all of this, and about me. Oh, that's not true, I read Chris Kassel's piece, and 1WineDoody's. Nothing else. This is at least the third time in my life my writing has led me to be bullied--it's probably more like five if I think about it. There are many people in the world who believe that they should be above criticism, above being lampooned, parodied, skewered, or insulted--and they are always the ones who deserve it the most, the ones who pretend day in and day out to be people they are not. They have every right to feel that way. As I have every right to point out the comedy of their self-delusion.

I'm nobody. Always have been a nobody. But for all of my bluster, my japery, my use of profanity, I do my best to be truthful. Most of you are here because you sense a kind of truth behind the jokes. Satire without truth is emptier than tasting notes, and just as interesting. Ultimately, all of you find whatever truths you are comfortable with. My job is to make all of you a little less comfortable. But it's the laughter that, if you experience any, allows you to step back from that discomfort, release some of the stress of your life, and then, later, think a bit. We see ourselves more clearly in comedy, and we see others more clearly in satire. I see myself in both, but I'm nuts.

Thanks to all of you who haven't threatened me recently. Much appreciated. I don't know what to do next when it comes to HoseMaster of Wine™. Not yet. I've given the HoseMaster a bunch of days off. I'm not talking to him. He's very angry, and I don't need that right now. He can be such a dick. But, anyway, stay tuned.

And thank you. From the bottom of my tired old heart, thank you.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Oh, I did leave out one other "hero" in all this--Doug Frost MW, MS. His outrage was palpable and influential. Thank you, Doug, very much.

Paul in St. Augustine said...

I would think the Hosemaster might have an opinion on Brosé.

Unknown said...

Who the hell is Will Lyons?? He was one of the giant blue cats in Avatar spewing wine nonsense on how to pair wines on holidays... oh I'm sorry, was that cruel and unfunny too..

Bob Henry said...

When I read Bill Klapp's vituperative comments about Will Lyons, I was reminded of this (coincidentally, a Wall Street Journal) opinion piece:

Excerpt from The Wall Street Journal “Op-Ed” Section
(April 21, 2006, Page A14):

“When Blogs Rule, We Will All Talk Like —-”

By Daniel Henninger
“Wonder Land” Columnist

. . . in a “Blogs Trend Survey” released last September, America Online reported that . . . 50% of bloggers consider what they are doing to be therapy. . . .

Not surprisingly, a new vocabulary has emerged from clinical psychology to describe generalized patterns of behavior on the virtual continent. As described by psychologist John Suler, there’s dissociative anonymity (You don’t know me); solipsistic introjection (It’s all in my head); and dissociative imagination (It’s just a game). This is all known as digital identity, and it sounds perfectly plausible to me.

. . . But there is one more personality trait common to the blogosphere . . . It’s called disinhibition. . . .

In our time, it has generally been thought bad and unhealthy to “repress” inhibitions. Spend a few days inside the new world of personal blogs, however, and one might want to revisit the repression issue.

. . .

Unknown said...

O.K. Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Will Lyons and I'm a British journalist living and working in London. My present employer is The Wall Street Journal where, among other things, I write a wine column. Before the WSJ I worked for The Scotsman in Edinburgh, I have worked in busy news rooms for more than 13 years and have experienced countless legal spats.
As I said I have been threatened with letters several times and it's not nice. Funnily enough, one chap who threatened me said exactly the same as Mr. Klapp in that I had no readers and was the worst journalist in the world. When I replied: "you have nothing to worry about then " it only provoked him more.
The reason I logged onto this site and posted a comment was because on Saturday I was approached privately to sign a letter in support of Ron against Riedel. I thought this a really bad idea. I have seen journalists being sued in London and it is not funny. I thought the best way to resolve this was for Ron and Georg to meet face to face. I'm very sorry if that has offended anyone, it wasn't meant to.
I happen to think the piece was vile and vicious and thought Riedel would react to protect his reputation. Again, sorry if that offends but it's the way I see it.
But I am genuinely very happy to see this issue resolved. The wine world is on the whole a decent and benign place, let's try and keep it that way.

And with that I'm signing out....

Will Lyons

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Mr. Lyons,
So Riedel gets a pass on threatening me because I was "vile and vicious?" So free speech does have a limit. That's wonderful journalistic integrity. And your solution is that we shake hands and get on with it? How charming, and so civilized.

How much money does Riedel spend on advertising with WSJ every year?

Charlie Olken said...

Riedel makes too many different glasses and does not have a sense of humor about it. Will Lyons finds your writing cruel, but does not have a sense of humor about all those useless extra glasses.

And, when all is said and done, the Hosemaster is the one that is left angry and emotionally beat up while the Riedel empire, despite a temporary black eye with one corner of the geek world, goes on about its business.

I add all this up and see nothing but a win for the Hosemaster on the issues involved. It is unfortunate that the Hosemaster also pays a price for bravery, for truthtelling, for satire.

The common-taters get that this has not been exactly a walk in the park for you or him. We will see you both on the other side of your respite. Riedel, or any other bully, will not, cannot silence our friend.

Thomas said...

Vile and vicious describes a bunch of aesthetic criticisms I've read over the years in and outside wine. Cannot remember one of them leading to either the threat of or a real lawsuit.

I do however feel sorry for satirists and critics in England, since speech protection there seems a vile and vicious joke, and maybe that's why Mr. Lyons is facile.

Unknown said...


Yes, in Britain free speech does have a limit. That's the law. It's called defamation. Next time you file for Tim you might want to take it into account. Not sure Riedel has ever taken an advertisement with the WSJ, but I'm not taking sides on this. It's been resolved what more do you want? You should be happy.

Will Lyons

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Mr. Lyons,
Free speech has limits in the US, too. That Mr. Riedel was defamed is strictly your opinion, maybe shared by a few others. You'll recall the threats were dropped. But thank you for being the judge.

Tim is not a fool, I'm sure you'll agree. I didn't somehow force him to publish the Riedel piece. Tim allows me the freedom to write what I want, unlike your publisher.

I am damned near always happy. The issue was resolved because the vast majority of wine people stood up to Riedel, and Riedel finally recognized they were wrong to bully me, and wrong to threaten Tim. They hurt their own business by giving me ten days of fame.

I aim vile and vicious at the people I think deserve it. At the people I think are hypocrites, who are corrupt and powerful. It's just my opinion. But Riedel's use of pseudoscience is fact, whether you take sides or not, Mr. Lyons.

Riedel will live on happily ever after. However, siding with bullies isn't an attractive trait. You are welcome to loathe me, Mr. Lyons, and I am certain you do not care what I think of your work. But Riedel's tactics against Tim and me were loathsome, and to just let that slide speaks poorly of your values.

Unknown said...


I didn't say you defamed Georg Riedel, that's for the lawyers to determine. My point was in Britain freedom of speech has a limit - it's called defamation. That was a general point not referring to this case. I didn't side with Georg Riedel either. He reacted. My point was that he's not the first person to act in this way and you're far better resolving this over a beer (does he do a beer glass by the way?). I was actually trying to help because I understand the law and when I read lawyers were involved I thought this could get messy which nobody wants.

Was he bullying? Maybe. But it seems to me he was just sticking up for himself. You provoked him, he responded, nobody got hurt, nobody went to hospital, nobody died.

Now can we all go for a beer? It's 17:42 in London and I'm gasping.

Will Lyons

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Mr. Lyons,
I agree that it ended well. The rest is simply fodder for chat rooms and insignificant blogs. I've enjoyed it. Though I long for it to be the distant past.

And, as a last thought, thank you for posting here, and for your candor.

I'm fine with that beer, so long as Georg doesn't show up with his idiot son.


Unknown said...

Cheers Ron!

The next time you're in London the beers are on me.

Will Lyons

Unknown said...

As a Canadian citizen, it is my view Mr. Lyons exemplifies a typical British "aristocracy " aloofness that is evident in their mannerisms. Not all mind you but I have seen/experienced it.

Unknown said...

"I happen to think the piece was vile and vicious and thought Riedel would react to protect his reputation." have heard of Rupert Murdoch, right? Talk about vile and vicious.

Ziggy said...

News you need to know ....

"does he do a beer glass by the way?"

Hmmmm... yes.

Bob Henry said...

I have waited for Los Angeles Times reporter David Pierson to volunteer today's editorial.

Since he hasn't, let me . . .

Excerpt from the Los Angeles Times "Sunday Opinion" Section
August 16, 2015, Page A21)"

"Taking Aim at SLAPPS"


By The Times Editorial Board

It's a sadly familiar sight in courthouses around the country: A deep-pocketed corporation, developer or government official files a lawsuit whose real purpose is to silence a critic, punish a whistleblower or win a commercial dispute. That's why California enacted a law in 1992 to give people a preemptive legal strike against frivolous lawsuits that seek to muzzle them on public issues. This sort of safeguard doesn't exist in almost two dozen other states or in federal law, unfortunately, but a group of tech-friendly lawmakers is trying to change that.

Although the lawsuits in question can assert many different types of claims, including defamation and unlawful interference, the legal profession knows them as "strategic lawsuits against public participation," or SLAPPs.

Twenty-eight states have enacted anti-SLAPP laws that offer varying degrees of protection against such abuse, with California's widely considered the broadest. It works this way: When someone is hit with a lawsuit that feels like a SLAPP, he or she can quickly file a motion to strike. The court then puts the original lawsuit on hold while determining whether the person was, in fact, being sued for exercising free-speech rights, petitioning the government or speaking in a public forum on "an issue of public interest." If so, the court will toss out the lawsuit unless the plaintiff can show that the claims are legitimate and likely to succeed at trial. To guard against abusive anti-SLAPP motions, the side that loses such a case has to pay the other side's legal fees.

. . .

Bill Klapp said... of hands: how many here think that hoisting a pint in a London pub is the perfect resolution to all of life's thorny problems, not to mention settlement of potential defamation claims? Mr. Lyons first takes the losing position on the Riedel matter, without evidence of having given the matter any forethought, then shows up here to troll Ron on his home turf (with Riedel, in the meantime, having had to shut down its FB page to stem the bad PR tsunami and already having made the decision to back down), then (and I flatter myself here, but with good reason!) he has his ass handed to him for busting such a crass and stupid move. What does he do? Why, he LURKS after posting to see if anybody will pay any more attention to him here than they do to his WSJ column. When the answer surfaced as a resounding "no", at least in any positive way, he invites me, Ron, and anybody who will acknowledge his existence to share a beer in London. With most of the people on this thread being Americans interested in wine, that seems a bit tone-deaf, and surely totally ineffective for the purpose of avoiding the incoming shower of verbal SCUD missiles that Mr. Lyons's opinions could be counted upon to trigger. Having treated Mr. Lyons to a second dose of the Klapp (I believe your people know it as "the French disease", Will, the French of course knowing it as "the British disease"), I shall now retire and let him see if he can find anyone who will drink with him...