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Don't Hide Behind That Mask

James Laube
Posted: February 3, 2000

Don't Hide Behind That Mask
By James Laube, senior editor

THE INTERNET IS a great vehicle for information for subjects like wine that otherwise don't merit high-profile, mass media attention.

You can have creative, constructive conversations with people who share your hobbies, likes and dislikes, and learn and teach from those dialogues.

But there's a lot of junk that spills out on the information superhighway, and sometimes that spoils an otherwise interactive party.

An unfortunate side effect of the Internet is what passes for news vs. opinion. The latter is often tied to misinformed gossip and gross speculation masquerading as fact-based opinion.

SOME OF THE most flagrant abuses are the unfounded and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories that link us to deals with wines (inflated scores) and wineries (special treatment for advertisers).

Real news and substantive, credible opinion are based on facts and the articulation of those facts, not impulsive fantasy whipped up by a flamer with an ax to grind

At professional news-gathering organizations -- whether print, radio, television or digital -- reporting is done by professional reporters and reviewed and edited by professional editors.

GRANTED, THE QUALITY and accuracy vary greatly from news organization to news organization, and even diligent reporters who do their homework can lead different journalists to different conclusions.

On the Internet opinion boards, anything goes.

I once compared bulletin board chats to meeting friends at a bar, but only after the friends had been there drinking there for two or three hours.

What passes for fact is quite often nothing more than sloppy gossip and innuendo that is forgotten as soon as the bar closes.

NOW I'M TOLD some of you on Wine Spectator bulletin boards want some sort of log-on protection so strangers won't use your pseudonyms and post some outrageous note aimed at fanning fires under the nickname of Blimp Head, Cooked Goose or Raisin Brain.

I've never really understood why so many posters are afraid to sign on with their real names and stand behind their views.

Afraid the boss will learn you're on the wine boards when you're supposed to be developing that new secret rocket fuel?

Fearful someone might discover that what you're saying really has no basis in fact and that you're merely trying to raise the ire of some?

WORRIED THAT SOMEONE who knows you might blow your cover and that you really didn't taste all those wines and visit all those wineries you professed to know so much about?

I can't speak for my colleagues, but as long as someone isn't willing to identify him- or herself, there's no point to entering a debate or even answering off- or on-the-wall questions.

How long would you debate with an anonymous phone call before seeking the identity of the caller?

There's a simple solution: stop the shadowboxing and sign your name. Stop hiding behind phony masks.

IF PEOPLE WANT to be taken seriously on bulletin boards, then they shouldn't hide behind a pseudonym.

Unless that's the point -- you don't want to be taken seriously -- you're just in it for the gossip, in which case I've missed the whole point of bulletin boards.

I'm sure there will be some of you who view this column as an insult, but I can assure you that's not the intent.

I just think we should move on and sign on with real names.

Have the courage to stand behind your convictions.

HAVE THE GUTS to sign your name.

We suspect that some of you will want to respond to the issues raised here. Perhaps on the Wine Conversations bulletin board?

This column, Unfiltered, Unfined, features the opinionated inside scoop on the latest and greatest in the world of wine, brought to you each Monday by a roster of Wine Spectator editors. This week we hear from senior editor James Laube. To read past Unfined, Unfiltered columns, go to the archives. And for an archive of Laube's columns, visit Laube on Wine.

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