The Worst Thing About Social Media

 

 

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Social media has afforded the world’s bravest cowards a flea market for their artistry – Mark Leibovich

Was thinking recently about the most destructive thing about social media, aka Twitter and Facebook. No doubt, the candidates for the worst side of it create a very crowded field. Narcissism and negativity are rampant, as are trolling and digging up people’s past…and deciding years later that you were deeply offended by something….in 2005.

For every good thing the interwebs have spawned (#metoo; heightened awareness of racism, world understanding), there’s been a counterbalance of empowerment of ideas and people that used to reside in the little holes where they belonged (conspiracy nutbags, truthers, chem trail hysterics, flat-earthers, anti-vaxxers, etc.)

But the thing that bothers me most are people who take offense at something, and then try to get someone fired from their job. (I’m not talking about Harvey Weinstein/Charlie Rose levels of predators that deserve their comeuppance.) I’m referring to the individual (and mob) mentality that empowers without hesitation, a person’s right to take some offense (a racist tweet, a salacious photo, a contrary opinion) and then run to a person’s employer with pitchfork in hand demanding that they know “the kind of person who is working for you.”

Of course, it goes much deeper than that. What they’re really trying to do is deeply hurt someone, literally where they live — Interfering with someone’s income for nothing more than taking offense at something a person wrote. No one actually DOES anything to these people — no dicks are whipped out; nothing happened face-to-face — it’s all because someone read something they disagreed with, be it relatively benign (“you and your opinions suck”) or something deeply anti-Semitic, pro-police, Beyoncé-critical, or simply that you made a lot of really bad jokes.

This came into focus for me recently when a couple of valued, smart FB friends — who have weighed in with opinions on some of my more controversial postings — told me that their employers received messages along the lines of “You’d should know what kind of (racist, sexist, insensitive, opinionated, asshole) ____ ____is.” All because this person made a comment on my Facebook page the offended party didn’t like.

This sort of behavior has become all too common over the past several years and has taken internet trolling to a new low.

When did this become okay? When did disagreeing with a person’s opinion become a license to try to make them lose their job? It’s elementary to the point of absurdity that the punishment sought (by the outraged person) has no relation to the crime.

So what if someone you work with thinks Harvey Weinstein is getting a raw deal? Or Mario Batali wasn’t doing what thousands of other less-famous chefs have done? Or Bill Cosby is innocent? (HE’S NOT!) I’m sure a significant % of people I’ve worked with in my life held some deeply racist or sexist opinions about certain things. But as long it didn’t interfere with their job, why give a shit? Who even cares if they belong to a “Ship All Brown People Back To Where They Belong” organization (aka Republicans), or a “All Women Are Simply Repositories For My Sperm” chatroom (aka college fraternities)?

Everyone knows the interwebs created a forum for assholes of all stripes to vent their twisted opinions, but acting like a jerk in some Reddit forum pales in comparison with going out of your way to get someone fired from their job.

I’ve had my own experiences with this. Two TV producers and networks got bombarded with negative info about me because someone didn’t like something I said on the internet. (A dust-up with a troll who called me an anti-Japanese racist, and trying to put the Batali thing in perspective, if you’re interested.) As did the City of Las Vegas — because the person who runs Eater Vegas (press-release regurgitator Susan Stapleton) didn’t like some tweets I sent out about how much it sucks. (IT DOES!) Think about it: they didn’t like something I said, so they went out of their way to get me tossed off some TV shows and fired from my day job — none which had anything to do with whatever I said.

Ten, twenty, fifty years ago no one acted this way. No one even thought of acting this way. Someone offended you, you ignored them, someone (a public figure perhaps) said something you disagreed with, you wrote a letter to the editor and griped to your neighbors. It’s one thing to vote someone out of office (politicians are fair game, after all), but private citizens, even in a public forum, have a right to express themselves without fear of financial repercussions.

“It’s just too easy to do it, now,” The Food Gal® says. And she’s right. The ease which allows women to band together to stop workplace misogyny also allows one or a dozen committed ax-grinders to take a hatchet (or carpet bomb) to a person’s reputation and income. And short of illegal harassment or libel, there are no rules, no morality judgments, or punishments for this behavior.

Besides the grotesque imbalance of power this dynamic has caused (a stranger being able to directly communicate with your boss about things that have nothing to do with your work), what this does in the long run is drive opinions back into the closet — the exact opposite of what the internet was supposed to foment through the broadening our horizons.

One of the reasons I think Trump support runs so rabid is because conservatives had/have been driven underground by all the liberal p.c. correctness, and opinion-shaming. They can’t express themselves freely anywhere but Fox News and Trump rallies for fear of being shouted down (or worse), so they clam up on social media and let themselves go wild when they have plenty of back up. But the point is, everyone should feel comfortable to express themselves, no matter how marginalized they may be, without fear that something they think, or say, no matter how wacky, is going to cost them their employment. The freedom of speech this country was founded upon demands it, and civilized behavior should require it.

Everyone should be able to speak without fear in America.

Except frat boys. Those dudes are fucking idiots.

I Hate People

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Overheard at my favorite neighborhood sushi spot:

Women walks in and is being shown to seat at sushi bar.

As she’s about to sit down, she starts grilling the helpful hostess.

“I’m allergic to gluten and all regular soy products.”

“I don’t eat wheat of any kind.”

“What kind of vinegar do you use?”

“Does it have any wheat products in it?”

“Would you check please?” (Helpful hostess goes to check; returns five minutes later.)

Upon being told that the vinegar may contain trace amounts of gluten or wheat, she (and her no doubt long-suffering husband/boyfriend) decided to leave.

She was carrying her own bottle of tamari.

I would bet the beach house this woman was no more allergic to wheat than I am to catfish.

I would bet my other bungalow that 90% of the narcissistic prigs out there who claim to have gluten allergies are lying about it.

But it’s nice that your “allergies” give you an excuse to torture people in restaurants so you can make yourself feel “special” at their expense.

Here’s an idea lady: leave your bottle of wheat-free tamari home, and leave my sushi bar alone.

Better yet, leave yourself at home.

Do you know who doesn’t have food allergies? Europeans, Asians, Africans, Mexicans, Burundians… and all sorts of third world countries where people are starving.

Do you know who has a lot of food phobias? American white women who want to draw attention to themselves.

It’s always white women, isn’t it? I’d venture the ratio of white women to white men claiming food allergies in America to be at least 100-1.

But how they suffer so. Poor things. They have this burden dontcha know of things they can’t eat….but they still want to go out and be seen at restaurants and be known as food lovers (because you know, it’s cool to be a foodie), but they just want everyone to know how special their needs are. And they need the restaurant to know so they can be catered to in a very special way that will make them feel special, because, you know, their special-ness depends on it.

Face it: your gluten allergy is fake.

So go fuck yourself and your fucking fake food allergy.

A person who is severely allergic to foods and still goes to restaurants is like a someone who abhors violence stepping into a boxing ring.

The only thing that would’ve made this situation worse is if she had been carrying a dog.

I hate people.

Getting It and Not Getting It

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When training oneself to eat and to drink, it is best to inhabit a precise financial spot — one should have enough money to pay the tariff, but not so much that he is indifferent to the size of the bill. This is so because modest deprivation leads to experimentation. A rich man never has to choose between an inexpensive main course (braised beef heart for example) paired with a good bottle of wine and a pricier main course with a rather middling bottle; he will simply order the best of everything and in so doing will never know whether he likes beef heart or not. – A. J. Leibling

Item: I have friends who go to Italy all the time, have traveled all over the country, and love to return with tales of white truffle hunts and very special meals — meals where they always meet the chef, and he was “just divine,” and “John, you have to go and we’ll put you in touch, and it will be the best meal you’ve ever had in Rome, Venice, Palermo….” whatever. Within days of returning from one of their trips, they can look me straight in the eye and suggest we go out for some red sauce slop at some terrible local Italian because, and they say this with a straight face, “We really like the food there.”

Item: Dearly departed Robin Leach, who had chefs and sommeliers bowing before him for forty years, always preferred the cheapest, shittiest sauvignon blanc on any wine list.

Item: I recently went to Raku with some folks who raved about the food. (They were not Raku rookies, and we must’ve parked the entire menu on our table.) During our meal, they told me I had  to go to their “favorite place for Japanese” which will “blow me away.” We did go a couple of weeks later and it turned out to be a mediocre sushi bar/Japanese restaurant, that is no different from dozens of other cookie-cutter, Korean-owned, Japanese joints in town. (At the rematch, many of the inventive dishes fell flat and the fish was merely okay. That didn’t keep the price for our omakase from being through the roof.)

Item: I’m friendly with a local mogul who has bucks deluxe — travels to Europe all the time, rents houses for a month in Tuscany, islands in the Mediterranean, hobnobs with chefs, had his wedding in Rome, etc — you know, the usual for a guy scraping by on a couple of mil a year. This guy loves to hold court at one of the oldest, lousiest Italian restaurants in Vegas. Garlic City, I called it. So pungent you can smell it a block away. I ran into him there one time (after losing a bet), and he was beaming at a table filled with his business associates. “John, John! Come over here! Let me introduce you.” After telling everyone what I do as a food writer and joking around for a minute, he pulls me down to him and whispers, “Isn’t the food here great?” To which I replied, “Well, there’s certainly a lot of it.”

Do you know what all of these people have all have in common?

They don’t get it. Never have and never will. No matter how many trips to Europe they take, or so-so sushi meals they have, they are constitutionally incapable of making discerning judgments about food.

Getting it isn’t hard. Anyone can get it, but you have to want to.

Frenchmen think they get it simply by virtue of their being French.

As Joël Robuchon so aptly put it:

Only a small number of French possess refined palates. The French believe they have innate knowledge in the gastronomic domain as in the domain of wines. Whereas nothing is further from the truth. The Japanese (and Swiss for example) show real curiosity; they are very attentive in trying to understand and taste what they are served. That is what refinement is.

New Yorkers think they get pizza, simply because they grew up around a lot of crappy street slices. (Just ask pizza maven John Arena sometime about how often he’s heard the words, “I’m from New York; I know pizza.”)

Los Angelenos think they know tacos.

Bostonians brag about knowing good chowda.

All of them do this because everyone wants to think that they get it — in the same way everyone wants to think they have good taste in clothes or music. (And we all know what we like, so what we like has to be good, right?)

I know my friends above will never get it. Because they all have too much money and they all think having that money gives them discernment….when all it really does is make them lazy.

To truly get it (be it in food, wine, fashion or whatever) you have to, 1) want to get it; and 2) work at getting it. And by “work at getting it” I mean you have to think about things, rather than just constantly pat yourself on the back about how good you’ve got it.

I’m reminded of some rich clients I used to have when I was in private practice. They knew I was into wine and were always asking me what I liked. “Do you prefer Nuits-Saint-Georges or Volnay?” they would ask. “Which vintage should I buy, ‘o5 or ‘o6? Are you a bigger fan of Dujac or Remoissenet?” After dozens of these inquisitions (and precious little sips from their cellars), it became clear they weren’t interested in actually experiencing the pleasure of wine as much as acquiring information about it — for investment or showing off or whatever. There’s a big difference between knowledge and wisdom, and they didn’t give two shits about acquiring the latter. (For the record, my answers were: It depends. lay down your ‘o5s, drink the ‘o6s, and either one if you’re pouring.)

Getting it involves passion and study, not just purse. Getting it involves asking a lot of questions, while acknowledging (and remaining comfortable with) how little you know. The reason rich people never get it is because they’d have to admit how stupid they are about the subject at hand. It’s so much easier just to spend a lot and then feel good about your good taste.

Getting it involves insatiable curiosity.

Getting it means being willing to admit your ignorance. All successful people hate to admit they don’t know something — doctors especially so — which is why they’re always pretending to be much smarter than they are.

Not getting it is like listening to  Boccherini and then stating you prefer Death Cab For Cutie.

A lot of people like the idea of getting it much more than the real thing….just as they like the idea of wine much more than the actual product. Tons of people these days (and seemingly every Millennial on the planet) loves the idea of being a foodie, without really wanting to put in the work.

So, you have to ask yourself dear reader: Do you get it or do you just want to pretend you get it?

Are you the type who knows why Raku is so great and its competitors fall so short? Do you actually think about why a wine is good when you sip it? Or do you just remind yourself that it has to be good for the money you paid? And if you’re a younger foodie out there (or a blogger or Yelper), do you base your judgments upon what you know or what you like?

Like I said, there’s a big difference between knowledge and wisdom.

And if you’re one of those rich folks, well, that doesn’t mean you can’t get it….but you have to stop using your money as a crutch.

I’m sure there are lots of astute, discriminating gourmets out there who are very wealthy.

I’m just not sure they exist in Las Vegas.

Let’s give Joël the last word on this:

This might surprise you, but the number of those who possess real knowledge and have refined palates is extremely limited. And it has nothing to do with social class. Indeed, people from all stations come to my place, and the least wealthy are far from the least knowledgeable.