Couldn’t You Just Shut Up and Write About Wine?

This is a message I sent to the former writers of the wine column in The Wall Street Journal (and their editor) in June 1959.  I do not know whether my message had any effect, but I do note, with a bit of guilt, that the column to which I referred proved to be their penultimate column for the Journal.


Dear Ms. Gaiter and Mr. Brecher,

I am a regular reader of your wine columns in the Wall Street Journal.  I am not a wine expert; I prefer wine to whiskey, beer, and Diet Pepsi, and  I read your columns mainly  for your recommendations – I find it useful to know that California Chardonnay is generally disappointing, overpriced, and inferior to certain wines from other countries.  I usually have little interest in your reveries about travels and experiences involving wines, though I do understand that you undoubtedly have readers who find such writings cozy and charming.

Your Tastings column, in yesterday’s Journal, left me momentarily speechless.  Why would you want to go out of your way to insult a significant portion of the people who read the Wall Street Journal and take the time to read your column?  I refer to the following:

“There’s a renewed sense of optimism in the land.  The market is up.  The president’s popularity is high.  Even a kid from the projects of the South Bronx can be nominated for the Supreme Court. . . .   We believe that, despite everything, our nearing-21 daughters will grow up in a country that offers more opportunities than we had. . . .”

It is almost inconceivable to me that you do not realize that a massive portion of the readership of the Journal would find most (or all) of those assertions to be incorrect, misleading, or downright insulting.  I am certainly not alone in believing: (a) that there is a feeling of foreboding (not optimism) in the land, because we are being led down the road to socialism, unsustainable debt, and defeat in the war against terror; (b) that the market would have to go up by at least another 50% just to get back to where it  was the day before the president was elected; (c) that the President is a lightweight and an Alinsky-acolyte whose instincts are Marxist and who will lead us into permanent decline because of his willingness to sacrifice our economy and our national security in order to implement the Alinsky game-plan; (d) that there is nothing new about the fact that anyone, from any background, can be nominated for the Supreme Court; and (e) that the opportunities available to your nearing-21 daughters are likely, if  the President succeeds with his agenda, to be quite a bit more limited than those that were available to you at that age.  This is not to say that you are wrong and I (and a vast number of your other readers) are right; it is merely to say that a think you made a major mistake in bringing politics into your column.

I suppose you are following in the grand tradition of writers, artists, athletes, and other public figures who find it appropriate to pause in their careers to denigrate the country that provided them their platform – people like Paul Robeson, the Hollywood Ten, the Weavers, Miles Davis, Harry Belafonte,Danny Glover, and most of contemporary Hollywood.  That is certainly your privilege, and if the Journal is willing to provide you with the platform from which to go public with your politics, that is their privilege. On the other hand, you should not be shocked to learn that a lot of people wish you would just shut up and sing – in other words, write about wine (which you know), and spare us your political bitterness.

For certain, I will never watch another movie starring Mr. Glover (or, for that matter, others who insist on cramming their politics down my throat, such as Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Matt Damon, and hundreds of their comrades), and I will never read another column written by you.  If you wanted to advocate for Che Guevarra, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, or Hamas, that would be fine by me, just don’t force me to hear about it as the price for being able to read your column.

Actually, if I may be blunt, I am not the least bit interested in hearing your grievances about this country. The United States of America is the most free, democratic, and benevolent major country in the history of the world.  We have lifted the health and living standards of the entire world; we have brought freedom and democracy to people who previously had known only despotism; we have saved the world from the Nazis and other tyrants; we have offered welcome and unlimited opportunity to people of every race, gender, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation; and we have paid with our lives to secure the privilege of every citizen to speak his mind on any subject. We are virtually the only nation on earth to which people still wish fervently to emigrate, and many of those people are willing to risk their lives in order to get here.

If it has taken the election of an Obama to finally give you a “sense of optimism” and a feeling that “anything is possible”  (just as her husband’s candidacy  apparently finally gave Mrs. Obama some basis for being proud of her country), I think your views are so far removed from the mainstream values of this country that those views do not deserve to be taken seriously.

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