Touchy Subject

by The Bon Vivants

The subject of the anonymous online comment has come up too many times recently for us to ignore it any longer.  This is how it all started… A little over a month and a half ago we published an article entitled “Take Me to Your Leader” here on ShakeStir.  It stirred up a few comments.  The article was shared online by the local SF Chronicle’s daily blog, which we thought, and still think, was great.  Then, what you find below came in, and Scott, for the first time in all his years of being a target of anonymous online “critics,” lost his sh!t a little...

“Pretty funny article.  It was the Bon Vivants that took and TAKE too long to make drinks. Funny isn't it. ? Or maybe its Harris's bulldog slobbery on his jeans? Yeah.  that was a great article in the SF Chronicle.  can't wait for your bar to open. Bull Trick Dog.Trick alright...hey..sorry to be raggin dude.  but you guys are full of yourselves...and your drinks were pretty bad at Social Mixology” – ANONYMOUS post on ShakeStir.com

Scott replied…

“So to the last person who wrote it, this is Scott from the Bon Vivants, your anonymous courage is underwhelming whoever you are. My phone number is 510-414-2352 and my email address is scott@bonvivants-sf.com. Every week we put ourselves out there and offer an opinion on the craft that we love. Every night bartenders go to work and put themselves out there to be on a stage where anonymous, know it all critics can yelp and snipe from the sidelines without ever risking anything including there identities. So courageous anonymous critic be proud and bartenders everywhere this is for you as well to all the spineless sh!t talking yelpers and armchair quarterbacks who feel so confident in there anonymous worlds.”- Posted in response to above on ShakeStir.com

You may notice the hints of emotion in the response and the type-o’s.  It was too personal an attack on us; maybe Scott was a bit tired and thin on patience that day.  Scott then went on to call ShakeStir’s own Lindsay Nader to discuss how frustrating and sad it is, that on a site by bar professionals, for bar professionals, we must endure slanderous anonymous attacks.  The previous week, Lindsay published an article, “The 10 Rules of Drinking Like a Woman.” She took a beating from the anonymous as well. Some conversations were had with ShakeStir - no longer can anyone post without creating a profile and logging in. 

Sitting in the office over the past month, we have had many discussions on this subject.  Our thoughts ranged from, “F*ck those motherf*ckers!!” to, “It is a sad life to feel the need to put others down so you can make yourself somehow feel better… let’s just ignore them.”  And then this happened…

Scott Beattie, our friend, had been nominated for EATERSF’s Bartender of the Year online poll.  All of the bartenders nominated are guys that are incredibly talented and we consider friends (good nominations). 

We were checking out the poll and then saw this…

“Beattie is a hack. His drinks are so overrated and did you see that recockulous book he wrote? Pa lease...” - ANONYMOUS comment on EATERSF online bartender of the year poll

We read it, shrugged our shoulders and went with the, “F*ck this mother*cker approach.”

“This comment is referring to one of the anonymous comments now buried in the thread. TO THE ANONYMOUS COWARD - Your "opinion" about our dear friend Scott Beattie must make you feel so good about yourself. Sitting hidden by the shadows of your anonymity, talking trash about someone who for years has worked tirelessly to put out thoughtful, relevant and personal beverage programs makes you a coward. Take a look at yourself - what good from cutting people down. If you are a bartender, you probably suck because any bartender worth anything wouldn't spinelessly talk anonymous trash. You got trash to talk, say it proud. Your courage is underwhelming. And go ahead, Feel free to say anything you want about me or my business partner Scott Baird. Beattie is an amazing bartender and an amazing person. You are a cockroach.” - Comment on EATERSF from the Bon Vivants logged in as Josh Harris

Not too much time had passed before this popped up…

“..After reading these comments..it proves you are ALL a**holes..would never want to sit at your bar, ever! Not with your ugly tattoos, your dirty jeans, your less than good drinks...this is all BS! I wouldn't vote for any of you..there are 5 thousands bars and restaurants with wonderful bartenders that work hard and make great drinks...we don't need you baffoons...Resorting to the like of SFEater for votes, in of itself is pretty sad..as this site has done to the toilet! literally as you read nothing but Ohh..lets vote for the best bathroom! to hell with all you stupid stupid people.” - ANONYMOUS comment on EATERSF in response to “Josh’s” comment.

We at this point stopped and stepped back.  You cannot win the fight if you have no idea who you are fighting with.  We then heard via Facebook that our friend Naren Young had endured some unfair comments in EATERNYC poll so we looked into the other EATER national awards polls to see what we might find…

“how about a replacement option for adam bryan on account of being a major d*uche?” - EATERAUSTIN ANONYMOUS guest

“Naren Young blows” - EATERNYC ANONYMOUS guest

“@guest#13 Female bartenders are c*nty, self-entitled, and lazy- also they are slow and everyone- male and female- hate them.” - EATERNYC ANONYMOUS guest

“@guest#14 - what, if they aren't a**holes with stupid mustaches they aren't good bartenders? We're voting for REAL BARTENDERS here - not hipsters with stupid facial hair and condescending attitudes.” -   EATERNYC ANONYMOUS guest

There are more… take our word for it.  We would assume this is making you as sick as it makes us.  We all know that Naren does not blow, unless they mean blows people away with his charm and skill.

So… we have allowed this to get under our skin.  Giving into the dark side of this anger is a nasty, downward spiral.  Stewing over this has led us nowhere.  Ten years of doing this, always brushing it off, and then, “snap,” the disgust boils over.  We saw red and fought back.  When Scott first responded on ShakeStir, the response was uncontrollable. Send got hit, and then the haze cleared to see what was written.  Now, time has passed and we do not know how we feel about this grotesque demon that haunts us all in each of our respective markets.  The obvious “take the high road approach” is the path to take. But we all have a little Charles Bronson in us, a little Dirty Harry.  Firing back at these "cockroaches" felt great in the moment but as the adrenaline and anger faded we were left feeling a little lost, maybe even disappointed that we gave into the baser instinct to attack back.  It’s a vicious hamster wheel to find yourself running.  Turn the other cheek.  Fight back.  Be the bigger person.  Don't let bullies take power.  All this because of someone's own spiteful, sad psychological life was vented in our general direction. 

Who are these people?  What drives them?  Why does EATER, or sites of this nature, feel these are helpful in anyway?  Is this what has become of critical thought/criticism?  We can sit here in a moment of green tea Zen and feel sympathy for them, but in reality, sometimes these things sting, and the high road seems too mature for moments like these. All you want is to defend yourself, or those you respect, against this unforeseen aggression; you want to obliterate it.  It’s natural to want to come to your own defense, and that would work if this were a fair fight, but it is not.  There will never be closure in attempting to deal with these anonymous bullies and aggressors who seemingly want nothing more than to get our goats and possibly find an audience for their bile.

We spoke with some friends at the SF Chronicle and were directed to this official policy…

We encourage comments that:

  • Are "on topic,” and that respond to the content in the article or blog post
  • Are responses to comments left by other readers
  • Are brief and to-the-point
  • Have a positive/constructive tone
  • Are open to being contradicted by other readers
  • Might disagree with the content in the article or blog post, but they never insult the writer of the article or blog post, or other commenters

We discourage comments that:

  • Are not "on topic," or are not responding to other comments or the content in the article or blog post
  • Insult the writer of the article or blog post or other commenters
  • Are excessively long or negative in tone
  • We will delete comments, without notice, that:
  • Are abusive, harassing, threatening or vulgar
  • Are personal attacks, including name-calling or celebrations of another person's death or misfortune
  • Contain advertising or spam

These seem like a fair set of requirements.  If any of the aforementioned comments were mailed into our local newspaper as a “Letter to the Editor,” or posted as an online comment, it is more than likely they would not find a forum.  This isn’t to say that a well-thought out, clearly articulated letter or comment that was sent anonymously wouldn’t make it to print, it just wouldn’t be the drivel you’ve read above.

By instituting a "log in to comment" rule, the slanderous haters are usually stopped in their tracks.  The minuscule effort it would take to set up a user identity is more work than someone who doesn't care that much is willing to endure. 

In preparation for this article, we polled some friends in an email.  Most responses were, "Let comments like these go," "It must be sad to be them," or “F*ck em', they are meaningless to business anyway."  Our friend Neyah White summed it up pretty well with his, "Be deliberate and considerate, do what you can, no more, move on when there is nothing else to be done, and remember any lessons to be learned."

Some friends, not in the bar business, but rather on the media side said, "We welcome criticism but slanderous, anonymous comments are inappropriate, and best to be ignored."  Our personal favorite is, "Be glad they aren't your significant other and you don’t have to get naked with them."  They did say that any attention can be good attention because the mass of readers aren't mindless; they are able to sift through the strata and see that malicious comments are as useless as they sound.  They are able to find the truth in whatever they are reading.

As well, our friend Lindsay Nader brought up a great point even in light of the fact that she is a recent recipient of anonymous trashy comments…

"Login control of comments can hinder content growth. If you figure the mentality of the "anonymous slanderous" commenter - they make their post, then return to the site to see what activity their comment has spawned, thus creating more traffic and hits. 

Required login is most often accompanied by a profile creation or some kind of sign up, which is a deterrent, as many people do not wish to participate to that capacity, even though it's more beneficial to a site, such as ShakeStir.com, which thrives off of the number of profiles created. Don't forget it also thrives off of traffic, which accompanied with profiles, will get the site more advertising. I've gotten heated over anonymous comments in the past, but I'll take more traffic, hits and free viral marketing over my feelings being hurt."

So with all that being said, we respectfully ask, “How do you feel about all this?”  You are going to have to log in to let us, and everyone else know, but please do. This subject has touched a great many of us, and we would appreciate hearing your feelings on the subject.  We admittedly got heated, pulled out the guns and blazed away.  Now, we have doubts and misgivings.  We own them though.  This ShakeStir site has the potential to open doors to great lines of communication and learning.  We welcome true constructive criticism.  That is the stuff that keeps us all honest.  For someone to take the time to critically think through a topic, break it down, digest it, and then offer a well thought out and articulate opinion is high flattery.  If someone is that moved to write a "Letter to the Editor" of that nature, you've done something right.  If someone says, "you blow and your mom's a whore," have you done something right?  Probably, but you wouldn't know it from that ANONYMOUS response.  

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