Does the French government snoop through your wine blog?
Finally a post where I can really flex my paranoia muscle. But before getting too far ahead of myself, let me say that my answer to the question in the title of this post is “No, the government doesn’t really snoop through your blog, but it CAN and it MIGHT!”. The heavily anti-wine atmosphere in the French government coupled with a new series of reforms in the way winemakers are controlled can cause a bit of paranoia in a place where a ton of crime is discovered through dénonciations.
A recent story popped up in the Beaujolais that has paranoid winemakers like me wondering how much of the vines we can safely show on our blogs.
Lilian Bauchet’s inspection
The story that has me thinking comes from Lilian Bauchet who recently came to my attention as a bit of a French blogging sensation. He’s an offbeat blogger working in the Fleurie (an appellation within Beaujolais) and he’s got no nonsense and a lot of personality. So when he blogs, he says what’s on his mind and it can be pretty colorful.
His vines were recently subject to an unannounced inspected by a government-approved control group (I’ll explain this later). And somewhere, in the back of our heads, we start to wonder how his vines were chosen for inspection.
“A moins que le récit de mes aventures de néovigneron dans les vignes sur ce blog ait intéressé à ce point les gens du CIBAS qu’ils se décident à venir y jeter un œil de plus près ! “
Lilian’s comment is tongue in cheek. But still… is there a chance that blogs bring unwanted attention to the vineyard?
Obviously, the control groups cannot inspect every single vine in France. So they have to select a few parcels from a few winemakers and they rotate through a representative sample of vines every few years. But we all know that it’s tough to be random. And hearsay, rumor, and politics can often influence these decisions.
Is there a risk that outspoken blogging can win the attention of bureaucratic enforcers?
Why I think we’re mostly safe.
I feel sort of silly saying this next bit. The good news is nobody in the business reads our blogs! I don’t think that folks in the control offices, or at customs, or the prefecture, or even our fellow winemakers spend time reading our blogs.
Most of my direct neighbors in the winemaking community have just a vague notion that I do something on the Internet which has inexplicably raised sales and they usually narrow their brows and raise their shoulders when they talk about it. And they occasionally say something about facebook.
Even people who seem overly dedicated to antagonizing me don’t seem to really look at the website. I have neighbors who are constantly denouncing me to the cops for weird pseudo-crimes that I’m not committing… if those guys ever started reading my blog, they’d probably be able to denounce me for an actual crime that I’m really committing!
I mean, I run more than one website dedicated to wine without slapping around that disclaimer required by the Loi Evin about “l’abus d’alcool est dangereux pour la santé” or whatever. But no popo. These laws go almost entirely unenforced, to my knowledge.
Where are the blog police? They don’t exist…yet.
Will the Blog Police Exist One Day?
That’s a good question. Does the RG (Renseignement Généraux) read the blog? They certainly could. But could they read ALL the blogs? It’s sort of a major time suck. And as the years go by there are more and more active sources of information online. Eventually, the RG is going to face the same problem every intelligence organization faces. They will have access to too much information.
And the same can be said about the CIBAS or OI. Determining which vineyards to inspect based on blogging is likely to remain a silly fiction spun by paranoid winemakers like me.
On the other hand, I’m always surprised at the lengths spiteful neighbors or rival winemakers will go to just to piss each other off a little. While the blog police won’t likely be a government institution any time soon, I do think citizens will be denounced more and more often for their blog-confessionals.
Thanks to Iris for pointing me to Cotes de la Moliere’s post on this subject.