Philip Bump, The Washington Post, about the announcement that Gawker is shutting down:
Its final legacy will be the way in which it was destroyed, by a man with deep pockets and a lengthy grudge who backed not only [Hulk Hogan’s sex tape lawsuit] but several others, under the theory that if one failed to decapitate the site, another might succeed. For you or me, hiring a lawyer who can defend you in court for months on end is a cost-prohibitive idea. For Thiel and other members of the hyper-wealthy class, it’s not. There’s always going to be a price for saying something someone else disapproves of. Thiel ensured that the price was as costly as it could possibly be. The smart money says that the verdict against Gawker is overturned on appeal, but, oh well. Overturning capital punishment sentences can be buggy.
It’s interesting to consider Gawker’s fate today. The Department of Justice announced that it would stop housing federal inmates at for-profit prisons, a decision that many credit to extensive reportingby Mother Jones, which spent hundreds of thousands of dollars revealing how the system worked. Mother Jones, too, was nearly destroyed financially by a billionaire who opposed their coverage, but they won. In the online media world, two makes a trend, and this trend isn’t cute.
It’s possible to cheer for Gawker’s demise while also being troubled by how it happened.
As Bump notes here, Gawker was the best and worst of online journalism. And when it was bad, it was horrible. There really is no excuse for outing gays and bisexuals the way they did. No excuse.
If you want to applaud Gawker dying, I won’t object.
On the other hand, Gawker websites have done great work, and launched the career of one journalist/technologist whom I respect highly.
Bump nails the problem with the way Thiel put Gawker down: He used his deep pockets to fund not one but several lawsuits, and lay in wait nearly a decade before the coup de grace came. You or I don’t have access to that kind of remedy. The same thing nearly happened at Mother Jones.
This is another example of the super-wealthy enjoying rights and privileges to set public policy, which you and I do not enjoy.