1/16/17

In My Opinion, This Is "Fake News"


A synthetic diamond. Even its flaws are fake.


In a recent post, our friend at Wordpress has penned another screed about Dior's Sauvage, this time slanting it against what he perceives to be "fake facts" about such frags. He writes with great condescension:

"And to be clear, yet again, I don’t hold anything against a person who enjoys Sauvage (or who has a social use for it), but it’s time to stop talking about it being great or special or unique or a breakthrough or a masterpiece."

So apparently we are no longer allowed to bestow high praise upon Sauvage, as for the thousandth time, the author has made clear that these "fake" tributes are intellectually and stylistically inappropriate. On what authority he rests his claims is not clear, but what is particularly interesting is that these admonishments were preceded by the following thought, without any hint of irony:

"The fragrance chemist I spoke to didn’t believe much thought went into Sauvage, and you don’t need to be a fragrance chemist to notice how 'chemical' it is (as the reviewer himself does)."

This brings us to what I think are "fake facts." This interview is entirely fact free, simply because it comes from an unidentified source. Because it lacks even the most basic citations, nothing there can be confirmed as factual. Yet it is packaged as an "interview" with a "fragrance chemist," a claim my own readers have easily debunked. There isn't a single sentence in the entire article that relates truth and technical accuracy to readers, and the supposed chemist's identity is not even given.

So it's fine for the author to convey his own ideas through this mysterious third party (who may not even exist), but when people give their honest subjective opinions about a fragrance like Sauvage, they're peddling fake facts?

Another sad case was the Monsieur Guerlain debacle from last year. Without any substantive information to support their opinion, people in the fragrance community were up in arms over the unsubstantiated narrative that evil corporate LVMH had destroyed Monsieur Guerlain's blog for containing some minor legal slip-up.

If you frequented basenotes, you were to believe that because some stranger on the internet (who only a handful on basenotes ever met in person) lost his blog, basenoters were tossing out their Guerlains. One moron even went so far as to post a picture of his top-tier Guerlain parfum extrait boxes sitting out in the snow, like discarded trash, to send the company a "message." Aside from conveying that he was intent on getting rid of empty boxes, this person's "message" was tied to a false narrative, a verifiable "fake news" story: that MG had been "closed down." Meanwhile, his blog lives on.

These are, in my opinion, examples of "fake news" in the fragrance world. Falsehoods, dubious facts, and unsubstantiated claims are not what plague the myriad of subjective amateur reviews on basenotes and fragrantica. We go into those sites knowing the majority of their reviewers are amateurs and enthusiasts who have little professional knowledge of that which they write about.

We automatically assume that someone who says Sauvage contains "high quality materials" is speaking subjectively, and no thinking person, no sentient reader, would ever ascribe more to such an opinion than whatever comparable opinion of his own would warrant.

The real "fake news" stories in our community take the form of half-baked interviews, contrived outrage at stories that aren't even partially fleshed out with any substance, and narratives that overarch the general public's perception coming into the community. Stuff like, "Vintages are more natural," and "Perfumes never spoil." These are falsehoods that have been proven false on this site by professionals in the industry, both through interviews and reader commentary.

If we're going to opine on "Fake Facts" and "Fake News," then we ought to be truthful about those terms, and how they apply. Subjective opinions with hosting site disclaimers, such as reviews on fragrantica, are not the problem. Those who "criticize the critics" are far more responsible for what comes out of their blog posts.



8 comments:

  1. I wondered why I'd never heard of his blog, since I follow all of the (currently active) blogs on his roll. Then I noticed he only has 54 followers......I suspect that speaks volumes.

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    1. Well, I only have 70 followers, so I won't cast any more stones in that direction. I will say, however, that if his argument were more persuasive than mine, there would be people vocalizing their agreement with him, here and/or there.

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  2. The funny thing is these people don't even seem to realize how idiotic they sound. Let's even assume for a second that the "fragrance chemist" and his quote are real, then we can safely assume that this chemist was taking the proverbial piss out. I mean: chemist notes the composition is chemical?!
    Really?? That chemist has a tremendous knack for stating the obvious!

    You're fired!

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    1. But as Bibi mentions below, saying something is "chemical" is like saying the sky is a "color." It really doesn't say anything at all. What does "chemical" mean? Not natural? Where are the demarcation points through what is natural vs. chemical? Define "chemical" objectively and apply the definition - at least use an example. Bigsly makes a qualititative analogy to women wearing too much makeup, but he only attempts to establish that we wouldn't focus on material quality in assessing a face that's overly made. That falls far, far short of explaining what he or his unnamed chemist mean by their vocabulary.

      To suggest in an "off the record" interview that you're a chemist, and that you think something like Sauvage (or any designer fragrance) smells "chemical" would merely be acknowledging that Sauvage is perfume, since we know, by literal definition, that perfumery is expressly about the exploitation of synthetics in a manner that glorifies synthetic fragrance. It's a comment to be duly noted for being, as you point out, material for Captain Obvious.

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  3. I don't know why Bigsly doesn't change his name to Boorsly. I mean c'mon. How many boorishly long screeds can one what about a single fragrance? Seriously, get a life & find some new & interesting topics! Stop boring your readers! We know you don't like Sauvage ALREADY! Fer gawdsakes I hate Tabu, Angel, Prada Infusion D'Iris, anything by Estee Lauder, and the list goes on but I'm not bringing them up every other sentence.

    WTH does 'chemical' smell like anyway?
    Bleach? Band Aids? Iodine? Turpentine? Kerosene? Diesel? Acetone? Sulfur? Creosote? Camphor? Nitrogen? Chloroform? All of those are chemicals and ALL scents are chemicals!!! The 'oh so natural' fragrance of butt crack & dirty feet are chemical too!
    NO CHEMIST WOULD EVER SAY SOMETHING SMELLS CHEMICAL!!!
    A real chemist (ESPECIALLY IN THE FRAGRANCE INDUSTRY) would never say something smells 'chemical'! A chemist would say something smells nitrogenous, acrid, aldehydic, fatty, butyric, sulphuric, etc. Any chemist worth his salt can tell you what's in a fragrance by it's smell.
    A brief article with which to educate thineself-
    http://www.science20.com/chemical_etiquettes/smelly_chemicals_organic_chemists_view-110206

    In summary, if you're going to lie Bigsly, lie well. Stick to subjects you know or you'll end up making an ass of yourself. (Which you've obviously done MANY TIMES NOW.) You certainly don't know ANYTHING about chemistry nor would anyone consider you a great arbiter of taste by any means. Wear your cheapo Playboy crap & wow the crowd. You sound like one of those miserable grad students stuck writing some useless dissertation on some useless topic for 25 yrs in some backwater university who overcompensates for his uselessness (and fear of getting a real job) by lording his meager & brief authority over his 'students' (whom are unsuspecting undergrads that in classes he's supposed to be assisting the professor in). Blah. Pathetic.

    WTH does 'chemical' smell like? I'm just amazed that iso E super gets labelled as smelling synthetic when it's been around since the 1950's and is in sooooo many fragrances! Terre D'Hermes is almost pure IES with a hint of citrus oil- no one is blabbering on about it smelling synthetic or 'chemical'. JHAG's Not a Perfume is pure IES but no one is prattling on about how 'chemical' it smells! If you know anything about chemistry you know that IES is a big molecule that due to it's MW won't start wafting about until it heats up after 20 minutes or so - it is NOT a top or opening note!!! Whatever you are smelling as the initial scent is not IES!! That HARSH opening note in Sauvage is NATURALLY BRASH Szechuan peppercorns not IES!! Buy some Szechuan peppercorns & sniff'em!

    Ok. Rant over.

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    1. That was a great rant! A few thoughts:
      Bigsly lacks the basic structural information and the necessary mortar of objective logic in his arguments, which is why they fail to persuade me. For example, when he says, "What could Sauvage have that is high quality . . . Nothing, but it might have large amounts of some ingredient . . . This is a major problem . . . Aroma chemicals seems to be used in such large amounts that these soon become incredibly irritating . . . " - This is not factual, nor is it objectively true. To date, Bigsly is the only person on the internet who complains about his waxing and waning "sensitivities." Clearly it's faulty logic. One could wonder in reading these kinds of comments whether his sensitivities to the smells of feces, spoiled milk, and cat urine are as wavering as his apparent allergy to Iso E Super.

      He continues to contradict himself in his article by saying, "One could argue that [Sauvage] might have been tested to make sure it didn't irritate the public . . . But again, this is a low bar, and not exactly the 'stuff of greatness.' Instead, this comment comes across to me as someone who, for whatever reason, experiences strong positive emotions when he tries Sauvage."

      So in other words, doing focus group testing is pointless (but effective), and reviewers' positive reactions to Sauvage are suspicious. This is logical? If there is a solid counter argument to enjoying Sauvage on even the most superficial level, let's hear it. But if that argument rests on Bigsly's "sensitivities" and their ongoing fluctuations, then he's pitting the masses against himself, and suggesting you should be a discerning critical thinker by siding with his sense of ever-changing smell.

      The unfortunate thing is that Bigsly has excellent taste in fragrances - he is well aligned with my tastes in many regards - but by not sharing a duality in our cognitive approaches to perfumery, our intellectual dueling reaches pitches (both direct and indirect) that would be more constructive if we could at least agree on the most basic truths about this endeavor. Criticizing, analyzing, and subjectively opining on fragrance is now, as in many prior cultural fashions, an effort to build intellectual consensus. That this community is so incredibly divided by "camps" of thought, even on things as basic as the benefit or detriment to purchasing a forty year-old perfume, that my patience is almost completely worn out. The latest dialogue about Andy Tauer's attitude toward samples and fragrance blogs is almost the last straw. How many one percenters can step up for Andy and defend his expectation that we buy blind? Gee, let's just visit a basenotes thread on any given Sunday and find out.

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    2. Bibi, how would a chemist describe that thin, screechy, nondescript smell some inexpensive fragrances have in their drydowns? I don't know the word for that smell/texture, but I've tried describing it before with no success. It has nothing to do with Sauvage or Bigsly. Just after reading your post, it makes me think there's a proper term for it....if I'm even describing it properly, anyway.
      Thanks!

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  4. Well, recall that Bigsly's logic includes such gem as when he stated that it makes sense that Sauvage has a marine note because Johnny Depp played a Disney pirate.

    Anytime a writer describes a fragrance as being overly synthetic or chemical I just scroll on by. Describing a scent as overly synthetic, chemical, or even cheap just tells me that the writer has neither an experienced palate nor/or the vocabulary to convey what something truly smells like.

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