Among my roster of social media fīda Achates, I number a number of wine writers. Most wine writers, in fact. It’s not because I particularly like wine writers; on the contrary, I dislike the bulk of them with the sort of impassioned enmity generally stockpiled among patients at the Bridgewater Hospital For The Criminally Insane.
That said, I manage to engage in playful wine banter with wine writers from time to time, because for the most part, they are innocuous, gentle, simple folks who rarely cross the line from unspeakably dull into palpably offensive, and when that happens, a nudge and a wink is often enough to get them back in line.
Naturally, there are a handful of you out there who are exceptions to prove the rule—wine writers able to compose legible English sentences while possessing impeccable palates as well as an innate sense of when to shut the f**k up, but why should I further stroke your egos by naming you? You already know who you are.
No, the subject of today’s meander into malice and aforethought is neither the Johnny-With-Pabulum-In-The-Wine-Tulip style of snorefest commentary nor the narcissism-charged, pedantic tripe pedaled by men and women with plenty of wine sense but none of their own minisculeness along the boundless Infobahn.
Today lesson is considerably more narrow:
Wine columnists who use social media platforms to spread non-wine-related hideousity to an audience who befriended them specifically because of their wine columns. Or wineries or labels or whatever. And here I’ll name names.
The Houston Strangler
Last week, I received the Facebook equivalent of an ISIS YouTube beheading by wine columnist Ron Saikowski of the highly-decorated, if inbred clan of Houston Community Newspapers and the Pulitzer Prize-winning People Scene Magazine.
Okay, so perhaps I am gilding the lily by bestowing a bunch of made-up honors upon these local rags, but if your middle name is either Caucosoid or Europid and you have grammatical difficulty writing your own LinkedIn profile, these conservative tabloids may be your best outlet, which is certainly the case for Mr. Saikowski.
After all, Houston Community Newspapers’ National Media Kit promises ‘Controlled circulation targeting affluent single-family homes and guaranteed to reach the ‘right’ audience.’
If you think that last part was a typo and actually meant to say ‘white’ audience, you and me are singing from the same hymnal.
So, I have been reading Saikowski’s twatty tweets and nasty FB ‘status updates’ for nigh on five years, and whereas I recall seeing one or two about wine, the vast, vast, vast majority are virulent anti-Obama tirades. I mean, his newspaper runs some Tea Party-esque editorials, granted, but this stuff is not only over the top, it is borderline psychotic.
How many Obama-hating comments does it take before one can be considered a serial psycho-poster? Let’s return to the hallowed cells of Bridgewater, former home of The Boston Strangler, to find a corollary: According to the standard definition of a serial killer, an individual must murderalize at least three other individuals over at least a month before he or she can wear Belial’s sharpest horns. Considering that Ron posts no less than three anti-POTUS rants per day, all of which either grossly distort facts or are blatant lies, I’d say he qualifies.
When you spew that much steady, uncompromising, unrelenting venom toward a man who will not even be in office in a couple of years, it’s a fair assumption that there is something about Obama beyond his politics that is getting under your… uh, skin.
Care to guess what?
I’ll ‘race’ you to the answer. Ha ha ha; I should be writing a humor column like that syndicated douchenozzle Tom Purcell, whose ‘funny’ anti-Obama diatribes also appear in Houston Community Newspapers.
Peppered judiciously among Ron’s hard-line non-wine no-spine whines are Jesus-drunk declarations against gay equality and—perhaps worse—some really ugly anti-Muslim propaganda. Not just low-hanging fruit about disliking ISIS beheadings, but evil crap designed specifically to infuriate and mock law-abiding followers of Islam, including crude portrayals of Mohammed as a sexual pervert. If you don’t think Muslims take this sort of insult seriously, just ask Salman Rushdie. Or The Jyllands-Posten, who described a similar image of Mohammad they published in 2005 as ‘Denmark’s worst international relations incident since the Second World War’.
Now, at my age, I accept that not everyone basks beneath sunshine and incense, and that even the most single-minded bigot probably has a decent side buried somewhere beneath the hate. An appreciation of excellent wine, maybe? The example I used to give was, ‘I’m sure even Charles Manson was a cute baby’ until I finally saw a picture of Charles Manson as a baby and it turns out that he was a spooky little shit right out of the gate.
Ron Saikowski may have been a spooky little shit right out the gate too, and he may be a spooky big shit today between wine flights, and frankly, I couldn’t care less.
However, what shocks me to the core is that in this era of hyper-connection—where a young woman takes a photograph of herself in her own home and a short hack later, a hundred million men (including me) are leering at it—is that somebody would use a wine column as a staging ground to launch toxic hate speech in a conjoined medium and not worry that his editor might see it.
Unless, of course, he already knows that his editor shares his views.
But what about the newspaper’s reported 1.7 million readers? Are they all against gay rights? A sea of intolerant, radical Christians? Flag-wavers who love America while despising a huge portion of the people who live here? What about the rag’s targeted advertiser on a quest for the ‘right’ audience? Teapublican Islamophobes to a man, woman and transsexual?
I tend to doubt it.
And what about Houston Community Newspapers’ reported subscribers, 81% of whom are married and 64% with children? How does blatant racism, vile contempt for a billion peaceful Muslims and gay-bashing fit with their family values? (Or are we back to comparisons with Manson’s family?) Google Saikowski’s name and you get two immediate links to wine columns and a third to his Facebook page—a neat cyber-biography tied up with an online bow. Should one of the Houston Community Newspapers’ 900,000 ‘unique’ monthly visitors care to learn more about their new resident wine pro and find, via social media, that he’s actually a serial psycho-poster, doesn’t that reflect back rather poorly on the newspaper’s vetting process? Isn’t that like sneaking a peek at a hacked nude of Jennifer Lawrence and discovering she has a ton of back hair? Somehow, regardless of how you witness a person’s bête noire reality, your vision of their day job is forever tainted with a soupçon of nausea.
So much for your readers, Ron. But to your fellow wine writers (who you represent simply by calling yourself one) you are scarier than any thicket of back hair, more insidious than a serial buzz-killer. You are cancer; you are Old Yeller with rabies; you’re a Yank gone rogue, like Sarah Palin, only without the deep intellectual insights.
Wine is an equalizer, not a polarizer; wine is non-denominational, non-political, non-divisive. Wine people welcome all comers, passports or green cards and regardless of their privately-held beliefs. Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to drink free; give us your Charlie Mansons, your Salman Rushdies, your Albert DeSalvos, your nude, follically-challenged celebutants…
Keep your xenophobes, though.
So, the conclusion to the story would have been Ron Saikowski finally unfriending me, only first, he felt it necessary to send me a catty personal farewell message to say (among totes of rude stuff) ‘Goodbye, Chris’. Except that—dingledork to the bitter end—he forgot to block me, so I was able to give him a heads up that this column was coming.
Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way: Goodbye, Ron.
And a word to the rest of you wise: In 2014, the least of your worries is having naked photos of yourself spread across the planet. We’ve all got blemishes and cellulite and appendix scars and circles under our eyes; it can’t be helped. What you need to worry about is that your naked psyche will start making the global rounds. Because, however much that can be helped, there are a whole lot of Ron Saikowskis out there who shun the Norelco of Tolerance, the Gillette of Acceptance, the ProGlide of Integrity and prefer to let their grodiest back hair fly.