I think it was Chuck Cowdery who once made a remark on Facebook that when a blooger starts to blog about blogging it is a sure sign that he has run out of ideas. That’s witty for sure and definitely contains some truth. On the other hand there is one thing which is more important in blogging than in traditional journalism: interaction wth your readers.
I have been ranting quite a bit lately, to the extent of being dubbed an “ever-ranting barbarian” by the Edinburgh Whisky Blog. And while overall reactions were rather supportive I have noticed a few raised eyebrows, interestingly enough mainly from other bloggers. Some interesting discussions have evolved in the blog comments and also on Twitter about the why and how of whisky blogging which I believe deserve to be looked at in depth.
One question was why I don’t use my voice in a more positive manner. In fact I have already written an article called Why so negative, Mr. Klimek? about this topic. But what you probably don’t know is that the title was a direct reference to a poem by German writer Erich Kästner, “Und wo bleibt das Positive, Herr Kästner?” This poem was written in 1930 when the nazis were beginning their rise to power in Germany.
It should be evident that by no means I would ever compare anyone or anything I write critically about to the nazis. That would be disgusting, immature and foolish. But on a more abstract level this poem describes a common reaction of people to threats they regard as inevitable. Allow me translate a few lines:
And again and again you are sending me letters,
In which you write, boldly underlined:
“Herr Kästner, where are the positive things?”
Heck, Devil knows where they are.
You sprinkle sugar on top of your pain
And you think it would disappear under the sugar.
Again you are building balconies in front of your hearts
And take the kicking soul onto your knees
The human species is out of order
And with it house and state and world.
You want me to wrap it up in rhymes
And think this will keep it in place?
I don’t want to cheat, I will not cheat.
The time is black, I don’t paint it white.
Full German text here.
If this is all too bleak for you (the last verse is an eerie prohecy of the Second World War, by the way), then you can just watch Monthy Python’s “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life”.
This is much funnier, but the message is pretty much the same: “Enjoy the bright side of death, just before you draw your terminal breath”
Translated to whisky this means that with almost every bit of news I see the whisky industry heading into a direction that I am uncomfortable with. It’s like a screw that is slowly fastened turn by turn. And I do not belong to the type of people who when the world around them is grey just put on rose-tinted glasses so everything looks fine again. So I write about what disturbs me, even at the risk of being just a lone voice in the wilderness.
When confronted with a controversial piece of news, a whisky blogger has essentially two options. Either state your opinion, be it in favour, against or neutral, or be quiet. Too often for my taste, bloggers just stay quiet. Nobody will know how they think about an issue. Are they quiet in silent surrender or in silent consent? Nobody will know. And this is one reason why I often decide to speak out: Because when I don’t like something, the last thing I want to happen is to be unvoluntarily placed in the “silence equals consent” camp.
But why do I raise my voice at all? Quite a few comments went like “Hey, it’s an industry, they exist to make money. They won’t listen to you anyway, so move on.” (Move on to where, actually?)
What those people do not get, it appears, is that I do not write my blog for the whisky industry. I write it for people who love whisky just as I do. Of course it is also read by industry members, but they are not my target audience. But why do I still criticize the industry then, knowing that I probably won’t change anything?
Now imagine a newspaper columnist criticizing the government. Would you think: “What a pompous schmuck, is this rant supposed to make the government change their minds? How naive! So why not just leave it and move on?” Chances are you wouldn’t. Or would you?
No, I don’t write to change the world. But I do write to alert my readers that not everything they hear or see should be taken at face value.
The elderly among you may remember that this blog started as whisky-rating.com, solely devoted to whisky scores. Over the years my focus has continuously moved to opinion pieces, leaving the whisky reviews as icing on the cake.
I find myself more and more tackling whisky bullshit. Whisky bullshit comes in two flavours. The harmless type is when people simply write wrong or inaccurate things about whisky without knowing better. But the second type is the really dangerous one, the bullshit that is purposefully placed in front of your feet and that is made to look and smell intriguing.
And this is the main reason why I write my “rants” at all. To try and show people who are interested in whisky a way through the smoke and mirrors set up by clever marketing people.