If you pay much attention to the world of Craft Beer recently then you have almost certainly seen a number of online articles whose headlines read like this: “I Think Craft Beer is (Stupid/Bad/Pretentious/Responsible for Pearl Harbor)!” Whatever the ridiculous inanity that sprouts up for these opinion pieces is, the fact is that it catches our eyes because we care about the subject matter. Fans of Craft Beer have been fighting an uphill battle for the last four decades or so to get attention, recognition, and a share of the spotlight in the popular consciousness.
Well congratulations, we’ve got it.
Having someone openly insult your interests is a surefire sign that your movement has now gained some serious traction and importance. It would be pointless to ridicule something that no one cares about, the whole point is to rile up anger amongst the largest group of people possible to fuel discussion and increase readership. It’s similar to that moment when a celebrity first appears on South Park. Chances are good that that person is going to get horribly ridiculed or even degraded, but they just made it on to South Park!
We’ve all heard the phrase “any press is good press” and the fact is that when people feel the need to publicly point out the flaws in a person or movement, they are acknowledging that the subject matters. I take it as a point of pride that people whose opinions mean nothing to me are taking the time to denigrate my passion for good beer. Having said that, we need to be careful to make sure we aren’t inadvertently supporting these people whose best journalistic works break down to: “I don’t like what you like so you’re stupid!”
These troll articles (for that is all they are) work off of a simple premise: “lots of people care about this, so I’m going to insult it with whatever thoughtless drivel I can come up with. They will all read it to convince themselves that I’m wrong.” and that’s when they’ve got you. The moment you click on the headline to read the article that has aroused your fury, they win. “Click Bait” is the common term for these articles, and I don’t think I have to go in to further detail on how or why they work.
Perhaps the most unfortunate thing is that these articles are often shared to my social media by well-respected organizations that I follow. It isn’t their fault of course; the more respectable beer media outlets share these articles in an effort to give a fair representation of both sides of an argument. Unfortunately, the authors of these sad excuses for editorial probably know they can count on the organizations to spread their work. The only solution therefore is for the individual reader to understand the nature of these articles, and when presented with the obvious click-bait headlines, choose not to open the page.
This gets down to a bigger issue amongst beer lovers. Craft Beer has taken some serious shots in recent months, and not just from the pond scum of journalism who desperately want us to know that they are too cool to care about their beer. More and more, words like “snobby”, “pretentious”, and “hipster” are getting thrown out to describe Craft Beer drinkers. There is a lot of truth to these descriptors in the Craft Beer community, and you could certainly use any or all of those three words when talking about me to a degree of accuracy.
My solution? I’ve just stopped caring. Rather than worrying over whether or not I’m being a snob when I spend two hours discussing the finer points of proper glassware, I just accept that by some people’s judgment I am most definitely a snob, but in the opinion of the people I most enjoying talking and drinking with, I’m just another guy who loves beer. I have my own opinion on what makes a person a beer snob, it’s one very simple principle: if you try to tell someone else what they should and should not like, you have become a snob in my mind. Beer is subjective, we all have our opinions. But hey, that’s just me, the point is that as Craft Beer lovers we all need to define for ourselves what is and is not proper. At the very least we need to agree that we are not going to allow our interests to be defined by people whose only goal is to see how many of us will click on their headline.
So please, don’t feed the trolls.
(Note: In the interest of scholarship I would usually provide references to the articles that I am talking about, I have specifically chosen not to do this for the express purpose of not feeding their readership further. Also, I do appreciate the irony of expressing these thoughts in this medium. Irony is fun.)