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Dancing On a String

Sometimes, you shouldn’t take the bait. For example: If I were a bigtime wine writer with a website to publicize and an afternoon to kill, I’d kick things off with a posting like this:

At Winophilia, we’re not armchair tasters who pretend to speak knowledgeably about regions we’ve never visited. We’re not amateur bloggers whose coverage of wine is limited to a handful of random samples we’ve just received, a trade tasting we’ve attended, or a press junket we’ve just been treated to. We live wine. Each of us spends several weeks to several months on the road each year, visiting wineries and tasting thousands of wines annually with their makers.

That is to say, I’d do what Stephen Tanzer did when he launched his new blog, Winophilia, which is to enter the blog world with a broad statement belittling other bloggers, and then I’d sit back and watch the fun.

As an armchair taster who pretends to speak knowledgeably about all sorts of things, I’d like to personally welcome you to the wine blogging world by saying go back to your dying print medium, jackass.

That from a posting called “Stephen Tanzer is a Jackass,” but I could well link to about a million others that flared up in a few hours after Tanzer’s bold statement of the obvious: he is more experienced and more knowledgeable and more professional than most wine bloggers.

I don’t know if Tanzer — who pulled himself up by his bootstraps in the halcyon, mimeographed newsletter days of yore – is savvy enough to have done it deliberately, but this was a great publicity strategy. His affront to the dignity of bloggers, who are regarded by professional media people the same way ants are regarded by picnickers, moved his blog up in the public consciousness in a way that subdued professionalism never would have.

And bloggers went right along with it. In fact, the bloggy reaction was so fast and predictable that Tanzer should have set up in advance a set of Blogger Bingo cards. In each square, the cards would have familiar blogger invective, and every time a blogger used a key insult or obscenity, that space would be marked off. As my office mates and I watched the meme permeate through the Googlestream and recorded the Tweets of umbrage, we could drink and sneer and have a grand old time as the bloggers did our publicity work for us.

Tanzer: “Ass hat! I got ass hat! That’s four across diagonally! I’m ‘dinosaur’ away from Bingo!”
Not Tanzer: “I need someone to say ‘dead tree.’ When is someone going to say ‘dead tree,’ damn it!”

And when the kerfuffle had exhausted itself, I’d remove the offending language and make nice, causing bloggers to change their tone (e.g., “Stephen Tanzer WAS a Jackass”). Yep, that’s what I’d do.