Tag Archives: Hulk Hogan

You can cheer about Gawker’s death while being troubled by how it happened

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.

Peter Thiel makes the case for his bankrolling the Gawker lawsuit

Peter Thiel, The New York Times:

Last month, I spoke at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland because I believe our country is on the wrong track, and we need to solve real problems instead of fighting fake culture wars. I’m glad that an arena full of Republicans stood up to applaud when I said I was proud to be gay, because gay pride shouldn’t be a partisan issue. All people deserve respect, and nobody’s sexuality should be made a public fixation.

Unfortunately, lurid interest in gay life isn’t a thing of the past. Last week, The Daily Beast published an article that effectively outed gay Olympic athletes, treating their sexuality as a curiosity for the sake of internet clicks. The article endangered the lives of gay men from less tolerant countries, and a public outcry led to its swift retraction. While the article never should have been published, the editors’ prompt response shows how journalistic norms can improve, if the public demands it.

Not mentioned here: The vast databases of private information compiled by business and government in the name of marketing and national security. That kind of information is potentially far more damaging to far more people than sex tapes.

Also, while Thiel is right that even public figures have a right to privacy,I don’t want to live in a world where billionaires decide the boundaries of legitimate journalism. (See also.)

Money talks 

The shadowy war on the press: How the rich silence journalists

The Gawker lawsuit, financed in secret by by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, is the latest example of the rich using wealth and influence to get back at journalists who report critically on them.  The Koch brothers hired private investigators to dig up dirt on a journalist who was writing a book about them. Another wealthy person founded a his own news site for the purpose of going after journalists who criticized him.

Targets of media have always sought to retaliate, but the means of fighting back has reached mass scale. An entire industry has been created, some of it underground, some of it wide open, all of it aimed at discrediting a journalist’s critical take. Companies and interest groups, often coached by aggressive PR firms, are investing in bare-knuckled strategies to give their media rebuttals more teeth and a wider audience. They launch negative online ad campaigns against particular journalists and master the art of ensuring their stories reach Google’s top rankings. In some cases, the goal is as explicit as ruining a journalist’s reputation, so that when someone types the writer’s name into a Google search, a page full of humiliating, defamatory content appears.

[Damaris Colhoun/Columbia Journalism Review]

Link

Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall on the news that billionaire Peter Thiel is backing Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker:

“You may not like Gawker. They’ve published stories I would have been ashamed to publish. But if the extremely wealthy, under a veil secrecy, can destroy publications they want to silence, that’s a far bigger threat to freedom of the press than most of the things we commonly worry about on that front. If this is the new weapon in the arsenal of the super rich, few publications will have the resources or the death wish to scrutinize them closely.”

A Huge, Huge Deal– Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo