If you want to venture into the more contentious and vitriolic side of the audiophile hobby, invest some time in a forum. This is a place where unseen and basically nameless individuals can spout off with any amount of revulsion they choose regarding any position taken by anyone. This is not to say there are not forums, or even contributors to forums, where some sense of decorum is maintained. Obviously, there are.
There seems to be a fine line between a spirited debate, which is perfectly acceptable, and an outright insulting attitude. Anyone who places anything online is not immune. It matters not if the author is someone writing professionally or an individual posting a comment. Fact is, anyone who places any word, phrase or idea about any subject imaginable is potentially subject to harsh and even vile criticism. In audio circles it seems to be more a commonality than isolated occurrence. I was therefore curious if our hobby is ruder and more insensitive than others. So I decided to peruse some forums of several hobbies where one would think class, sophistication and Miss Manners would rule supreme. My sources of inquiry were fine wine, cigars and ultra-expensive, high end watches.
Would you not think wine aficionados would be a civilized lot? Pinkie in the air sort of thing? Yeah, think again. I read any number of forums on the quality of wine glasses, to the pressing methods, to the type of dirt used to grow grapes, to weather, and one very curious discussion on the skins of the grapes. One reader told another they were full of s&#t regarding their outlook on grape skins. Really, this even matters?
Another took one reader completely to task because of their choice of wine glasses. And to show you how much I know about making wine, I have never once considered the skin of a grape when opening a 2012 Opus One Cabernet. I could just as easily drink wine from a paper cup as a Baccarat Massena No. 2. All this other stuff is inconsequential to me. I know only I like the wine. Then again, I do not take the same interest in wine as an oenophile.
Moving on to several cigar forums, I found that like wine, those who enjoy a good Davidoff, Fuente Opus X, or whatever the better cigars actually are, share certain common tenants regarding comments on forums. In short, they can be just as mean spirited as wine and audio folks when it comes to how others are treated. I don't smoke cigars so I'm not up on what's best. I don't know, or don't really care if the leaf is Cuban or Nicaraguan grown from leaf imported from Cuba. When, however, I read comments like one person who wrote a particularly nasty reply to someone else and finished with - "ridin by on yo high horse," I begin to wonder if anyone is even capable of something vaguely akin to simple politeness.
Watches. My ace in the hole. Certainly, those who collect fine and expensive timepieces have a refinement about them. I mean, go price a Patek Phillipe and tell me they are not to watches what $100K speaker systems are to audio. Well, whaddya know, it seems those with the requisite disposable income for expensive watches can be quite testy. I read several venomous comments claiming Patek Phillipe were nothing special visually and their movements were not nearly as well made as Breguet and Vacheron. Of course, it is not too very difficult to imagine what those who did not believe in expensive watches thought about those who do. I mean, it should be really easy to visualize, right? Think audio! I read comments like - "you only wear that expensive piece of s$#t because you are showing off."
Then there was the guy who claimed - "your watch is the car you take into the boardroom. It projects success and financial trust." If an audiophile were to write something like that about a high performance audio system, can you even begin to envision the wrath of the ensuing comments?
At the end of the day, it is not surprising that there will always be those who are in some way resentful, distrustful, objectionable and simply disagreeable with anything others may like to do or hobbies they enjoy. Audiophilia is not an isolated case when it comes to mean and insulting comments. We endure them, we sometimes respond to them (at times with way too much enthusiasm), other times we ignore them, but for whatever reason, we ALWAYS read them. Call it inane curiosity.
Happily, there are some forums, or perhaps parts of forums, where some measure of civility is practiced among a sea of negativity. There are those comments that offer insight, reasoned opinions, well crafted responses, and yes, even dissention done with a sense of style and class. Like separating wheat from the chaff, it becomes sometimes difficult to weed out the good from the bad. I would like to think anyone who posts a comment on a web site or forum would do so with civility. That, however, has about as much chance as me buying that twenty four million-dollar, Patek Phillipe Henry Graves Supercomplication watch everyone in one particular watch forum seemed jazzed up about.
Sometimes rudeness pervasively seems to rise to the top. And whether the subject is wine, cigars, watches or even our dear old audio systems, taking bad with the good when reading a forum is how the game will likely, and enduringly be played.