Why is the reaction to the Spectator hoax so fierce?
It was disingenuous for Tom Matthews to deny, as the Los Angeles Times reports he did in a phone interview, that the magazine’s award of excellence program was designed to generate revenue for the magazine. “This is a program that recognizes the efforts restaurants put into their wine lists,” the paper quoted Matthews as saying. But also this morning, Jon Bonné, the Wine Editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, weighed in with an estimate that, at a charge of $250 per application, “the 4,128 restaurants in the [Wine Spectator’s] list would have grossed more than $1 million total.” (The New York Times reported the same thing.) I can personally assure you that $1 million is a lot of cash for a wine magazine, even one of Wine Spectator’s deep pockets.
I Googled “Wine Spectator” and was still finding links to the scam on page 23 when I gave up trying to count. The reaction has been fast, furious and worldwide, with the weight of opinion running heavily against Wine Spectator. Which raises the question, Why? Yesterday, I rose to the magazine’s defense, arguing that anyone with enough time and ingenuity on their hands (and Robin Goldstein apparently had both) can scam anyone about anything. I still hold to that position. But the gleeful anger so many people feel makes me wonder what’s going on to fuel the fire. Have people reacted so strongly because they detest Wine Spectator specifically? Is it because they dislike the notion of wine and food awards in general? Perhaps just a natural reaction against authority? The collective impulse of the Gotcha!sphere? A group grope into Schadenfreude?
I have to admit I’m stumped. The one thing I can come up with, at least from my California point of view, is that there’s a body of opinion in this State that Wine Spectator is arrogant. This isn’t to say that the magazine’s personalities in California aren’t nice people. It’s just a perception that Wine Spectator has been a little too elitist, too hilfalutin for its own good. Maybe that explains it.