Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Two Different Kinds of Shitstorm

It has been a relatively feisty start to 2014 within the world of beer blogging -  well at least a small segment of it.  That's noticeable for its unusualness and even then it is relatively minor compared to the flame wars I used to be involved in pre blogging days.  Oh yes, I wrote about beer, at least in some form, from way back in the 1990's.  When I started blogging back in 2007  I kind of carried on from these old days.  What old days I hear some ask?  The old days of  Usenet where, from the 1990's,  we discussed the beery agendas of the day, in rather less cordial terms (at times at least) than the moderate and well mannered thing that most beer blogging has evolved into.  When I started blogging I kind of thought that it was a platform for the opinionated, for the the frustrated writer, for those that felt they had something to offer from their point of view.  I think blogging did start out that way and no doubt some still is, but now would I be that far off the mark to say that the beer blogging scene for one has become for the most part, a bit cosy? 

Anyway, enough of that for now and back to the point of the less than cosy - and therefore all the more remarkable - situation of two of our best known British beer bloggers getting a bit of flak. I am not sure of the sequence, but one is far easier to discuss than the other. Boak and Bailey got some (undeserved) stick  about being less than fulsome in their praise of the quality of a product.  Then they were unjustifiably criticised about the way they handled that dissatisfaction from some other rather hostile commentators.  This evolved into a long rule ridden debate about what you should do about either a bad beer - one that is off - and one that you simply didn't like. So far, so good, but what strikes me about this is that almost no-one that I can recall said that most simple of things "Tell it how it is."  One thing is pretty certain.  When you make an offer to the public, the public is free to comment honestly on how that offer was at the time. The customer is under no obligation to give the vendor a chance to redeem themselves after the transaction has been made, unless they choose to do so.  Personal confrontation is not what you go out for in most cases. That doesn't mean you spend time later slagging people off willy nilly and of course there are ways of saying it nicely and contextualising it, but if you think the whole experience was poor, or that a particular brewery doesn't do it for you or is poor, you should feel free to say so. It would surely always be a situation that you really feel strongly about, otherwise why would you do so? For the vendor it is also useful feedback, even if at the time, you don't care to hear it or disagree with it.

Now to another Bailey. Dave Bailey got into a lot of trouble by discussing the subject of women in pubs and in beer.  If that's not where angels fear to tread, I don't know what is.  I won't be following in his footsteps, but what was noticeable is that his honesty (if that is the word) was not appreciated and that is perhaps the common thread, though the two cases are really only linked by my observation in my opening sentence. Nonetheless it was remarkable to see this somewhat snug world rocked slightly. It reminds us that opinions of any situation vary greatly.  Nonetheless, stating yours, while difficult and uncomfortable at times and even with the undoubted potential for backfire, egg on face or humbling, is still a valid blogging approach.

Opinions are good. Let's not be too afraid of them.

It may not be noticed by many, but I offer a right of reply against my opinions of people or places. No-one has ever taken it up.

Update: This post now has a slight edit to make it clear B&B also got undeserved flak from commentators to their blog. 


Bailey said...

I think what we're tying to do is make sure that, when we do tell it like it is, there's no ground for anyone to argue that we're fibbing or misunderstood the situation.

FYI, the best response was in a subtweet we spotted which suggested we'd *obviously* been paid by a competitor to criticise Arbor.

Don't criticise breweries? 'You're a stooge in the thrall of free beer!' Do criticise breweries? 'You're being paid off!'

Can't win.

Bailey said...


Cooking Lager said...

What you have to ask yourselves is whether something is "good for beer"

Now I'm not exactly sure how to ascertain this but so long as what you say is good for beer you will be applauded by the mob.

My limited understanding of good for beer is good for beer makers & writers rather than good for beer drinkers.

Tandleman said...

Bailey. It wasn't having a go at you. In fact it was vastly supportive of you.

Cookie: Honest opinion is good for beer.

Phil said...

I thought what was interesting about Dave's posts was the reflection that the debate (which I didn't see) moved very rapidly from what he'd said to the offence he'd caused by saying it - as if to say that there are certain topics we just don't discuss in public, because suggesting that there's anything to discuss is inherently offensive. I don't think this is a very helpful approach - particularly when we can all think of offensive topics which aren't worth discussing but regularly get discussed in the mainstream media. If the worst - most offensive, most sexist - thing we were likely to encounter in the media was Dave remarking that some men have an irrational dislike of women drinking from pint pots, the world would be in a much better state.

As for B&B, Jon Stringers and I both stood up for honest reviewing. I think critical reviewing can get a bad name when people do it for fun - piling on the abuse and thinking of weird and wonderful ways to slag something off makes for a good read, but it's not always justified. B&B's comments were as mild and measured as you could want. Also, I've always liked (or at least not minded) Arbor beers, so the criticism made me more rather than less likely to give them another try, to see if I was missing something.

Unknown said...

Honesty, I like the concept, it sounds like a nice idea.

Oh, and this thing of having to prove you are not a robot is annoying, isn't it? Just a shame it seems to be needed.

Tandleman said...

Dave. I might take it off.I was getting spammed to buggery, hence putting it on about a year ago.

Unknown said...

Tandy, I've put one on mine, I think it's got to the point of necessary. Like you I was getting far to much spam. You may have to leave it, as irritating as it is.

BeerReviewsAndy said...

I read both Bailey's posts and Dave's posts and have been surprised that the anger directed at both of them.

It does seem that you get damned for praising a brewery and damned for criticising them, even if it's just a quick tweet to say you aren't a fan of a popular beer, it's amazing how aggressive people can get.

With the sexism thing I really feel for Dave, I'm sure he's not a raving sexist pig and had the post been given a different title it may have not caused such a shitstorm.

Sooner or later people will be scared to offer an opinion for fear of a lynch mob forming.

Penny said...

Is it just me or are you being very diplomatic in saying that the criticsm of Boak & Bailey was undeserved while saying nothing about Dave's case?

Tandleman said...

Not at all Penny, but I didn't get the chance to read Dave's stuff and the comments in full before it was removed. In fact only when I looked to see how it was going did I find it gone.

The subject matter sadly makes you a hostage to fortune and I don't fancy a dose of what he apparently got, especially when I don't know exactly what was said and by whom.

As I said "where angels fear to tread".

Curmudgeon said...

Not to mention, of course, the abuse that Martyn Cornell got for suggesting that treating the pub companies as the root of all evil wasn't necessarily the path to the promised land.

Tandleman said...

Well he had to have a second go at it, as his first didn't make a lot of sense.

His second go was rather better thought out.

StringersBeer said...

wikipedia - Online disinhibition

DavidS said...

I think the shitstorm directed at Dave's post was massively out of proportion. On the other hand it wasn't /just/ people who like to get offended responding to what they thought it might say rather than what it actually said - there's a reasonable post here:
that gets to the nub of the more measured criticism.