Gawker journalism

I’m not super inclined to take a piece whose thesis is “Journalists would never write politically motivated hit pieces, the tech folks whose platforms are diluting the traditional power of journalists are bad and suspect” from a Gawker (who got sued out of existence for harassment and hit pieces) alum at face value.

Well yeah, I actually pretty much do. You want to point out some problems, rather than just ad hominem?

Edited post-split to make clear that I am referring to Elizabeth Spiers personally, NOT Gawker.


FTFY. Gawker had its problems and some of its editors (like Daulerio) were arseholes, but ultimately this was about Thiel settling a personal score by using Hulk Hogan as a front.

Even to say they “outed” Thiel as a gay man is a stretch. His sexual orientation was an open secret in the industry and no-one (including socially conservative investors) gave a damn about it. Gawker (an outlet owned by an openly gay man) wrote a piece that casually mentioned it, which was met mostly by shrugs from a readership who already knew. But a fascist-leaning plutocrat like Thiel wasn’t about to allow a mere media outlet to get away with that, nosiree. And since he had no basis for a ruinous lawsuit himself, he bankrolled the Hulkster’s more viable suit.

Also, Spiers’s thesis is how tech industry founders and investors (like Thiel) get all upset when tech journalists don’t act as uncritical cheerleaders or, worse, actually question their business models or (in re: SSC) their personal genius and moral superiority. As someone who’s been involved in the tech industry for decades I can only agree with her.

ETA: come to think of it, there’s a striking shared interest between techbro plutes like Srinivasan and the Gamergate misogynists in the battle cry of “it’s about ethics in games journalism”


That is mostly fair enough, I certainly agree the tech industry’s relationship with journalism is … not good… and the tech press specifically certainly has an unhealthy amount of “excessively credulous” reporting.

… on the other hand, very publicly and mockingly outing someone and managing to do it in a way that gets populations usually super sensitive to personal identity to characterize it as “hurting their fee-fees” is… maybe not a behavior of a decent institution.

I always understood the gawker implosion to be two horrible entities expending a bunch of resources being horrible to each other instead of anyone else.

It’s not quite head on, but this related take *Washington Post* public editor: The powerful have realized they don’t need the Post (…which is actually from a different Gawker alum) that is staring into the same hole from a different angle and noticing that everyone is now interacting with the media the way we worry about tech douches doing. It would explain the NYT’s behavior as basically flexing at a vulnerable point in a phenomenon that represents an existential threat [to the power of journalists].

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that is a very thiel-friendly understanding of the situation and circumstances.


You probably missed my edit on that above. I’d say that 90%+ of the Valleywag readership already knew Thiel was gay and didn’t care.

Gawker was problematic in its editorial approach and made some appalling errors (“Gawker Stalker” comes to mind). But their horrible-ness pales in comparison to the vampiric Thiel’s.

The NYT article here wasn’t great, but yeah, they know that if they personally offend the wrong plute with an article they’d have a very expensive lawsuit on their hands through a third party like Hogan.


…right on time Feddie DeBower’s long-form almost exactly matching my take arrived in my RSS feed.

This is a case of a media entity using their power-levers to try to convince people to look down on tech bros for their awful myopic superiority complex and ladder-climbing bullshit (which we should), instead of looking down on the media for their …awful myopic superiority complex and ladder-climbing bullshit (which we also should).


Reading deBoer’s piece, it is strange how this is so similar to attack from Vice on Naomi Wu.

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I think Thiel is a massive asshole who had ulterior motives for backing Hogan, but let’s not pretend Gawker was the good guy in the whole Hogan affair. They published revenge porn taken without the guy’s knowledge or consent. He asked them to take it down and they didn’t. A court enjoined them to take it down and they still didn’t. Their argument, in court, was effectively that publishing revenge porn is protected speech.

To reiterate, Thiel is a bad guy. Worse than anyone at Gawker. But Gawker was very much in the wrong here, and indefensibly so. Would they have been driven out of business if Thiel hadn’t decided to get involved? No. Would they have been driven out of business if they hadn’t made deeply terrible choices, and then double-downed on those choices again and again? Also no.

As much as I can’t stand Thiel, this was a company that was sued out of existence for publishing revenge porn, even after a court told them to stop. They didn’t just give Thiel enough rope to hang them with. They tied the noose and stepped onto the gallows of their own free will.


Yes, the Thiel is strong in this one.


In regard to Hogan, I absolutely agree Gawker was wrong. But that’s not the main story here.


It’s a free press. For all that these ultra-wealthy techbros go on about freeze peach they make a determined effort not to understand it or to use money and fear to undermine it.

Similarly, they’re perfectly fine with “move fast and break things” (right up the point of helping to break liberal democracy) for a social media startup, but not so much a news media upstart.

I guess what I’m looking for is a little consistency or at least some brutal intellectual honesty from these beings of supreme reason.


Watching the ladder-pulling bullshit going around in sections of the American left is not exactly the model of consistency on speech and assembly.

Dumb games with
“My interest group organizing through technological mediation is amazing forward-looking community building.
Your interest group organizing through technological mediation is more-than-tacit approval of evil agendas by powerful shadowy entities and must be stopped.”
“My out-of-mainstream opinions are powerful truths that must be heard, and any obstacle to expressing them in the de-facto public sphere, no matter how small, is an affront.
Your out-of-mainstream opinions are hate speech which must be banned, and your free speech rights only extend to places where you aren’t visible to or inconveniencing anyone else.”
read to me as a major threat in an era where essentially all public discourse is technologically mediated.

At least the awful techno-libertarians are consistent in their “You have the right to say anything wherever, whenever, and everyone else has the right to use whatever means are available to them to get rid of you for doing so” position, even if it is (as unfortunately many libertarian ideas) an a well-labeled on-ramp on the road to oligarchy.

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This is one of the big things that I have reevaluated in my beliefs in the past decade, and my current thinking is that the absolute right is on free thought: the ability to consider and weigh all positions. But, the right to advocate for a position should not be absolute, as there are positions that are very much not advocated for in tolerant, good faith. Eg, things like nazism, theocracy and white supremacy.

It’s definitely a big reason I don’t call myself a rationalist. (There are plenty of other things, not the least of which is the community is as irrational as any human community.)


Your claim of “ladder-pulling” going around in sections of the American left in regard to on-line forums is grounded in a false equivalency. The core difference in approach is (supposed) free-speech absolutism enbled through (supposedly) unmoderated forums vs. forums with clearly-stated rules and active moderation.

The former allow a “fair hearing” for “out-of-mainstream” opinions advocating for insurrection, racist violence, fascism, etc. without consequences because the people running those forums tend to be privilege-blind wealthy dudes. The latter forums, at least liberal and progressive ones, tend to frown on such “out of mainstream” opinions and impose consequences on those that try to take them or JAQ off about them; I’m fine with that, which is why I comment here but don’t have a Facebook or Twitter account, let alone a Parler or Gab one.

In practise it’s not just an on-ramp when it comes to conservative, Libertarian and right-wing forums: you’re already on it even as they’re telling you that you’re still out on the wide-open plains. As our moderator @orenwolf has mentioned, it’s fine to acknowledge that a privately-owned forum has the ability to engage in (non-governmental) censorship. What’s not fine is pretending that anything goes, and then banning people when they dare complain that a fascist is being given a fair hearing.

SSC promoted itself as a free-speech haven where anything went without any consequences except a rational debate in the free marketplace of ideas. Until recently, Zuckerberg and Dorsey took a similar attitude toward their platforms. Any private forum that asks us to have a rational debate where one side is sincerely promoting fascism or neo-feudalism or eugenics or anti-vaxx positions or the like reads to me as a major threat to liberal democracy. In contrast, any private forum that says those kinds of positions are discredited (which is not denial of their existence) and that taking them will not be tolerated is, per Popper’s Paradox, in line with trying to preserve liberal democracy.

Put another way, what’s the bigger threat: a forum or platform devoted to effectively unmoderated free speech that allows people to “rationally debate” the benefits of insurrection against a government in thrall to a Satanic child-trafficking liberals or a “ladder-pulling” one that bans such discussions? Hint: see the fascist raid on the U.S. Capitol building last month.


Hey now. There are decent satanists that shouldn’t be lumped in with the rest of those labels. Like the Satanic Temple. /Hahaonlysrs


Having only radicalizing echo chambers that have scooted the range of acceptable discourse for different large groups so far they don’t overlap is …not going well. Per your example.

The idea that if you can get people off of shared platforms they go away and you don’t have to engage with their ideas doesn’t actually work. You both retreat, you both radicalize into weird civic religions, and then you both vote. And then the last 5 years happen.

There are a bunch of people with reprehensible ideas floating around, but handing enormous, entrenched private interests editorial control of the (only remaining, de-facto) public sphere because it’s locally beneficial to some shared causes is probably not a solution that will go well for people who would like to avoid oligarchy. I’m not claiming to know what is.


Not to dismiss your argument entirely, but that is not at all what has happened. There is no both here. There is one (singular) group of people that have retreated and radicalized into a weird civic religion that revolves around bizarre conspiracy theories (and even while they were in power). And we wish to have nothing to do with those people. As is our right.

If you are suggesting something that could hypothetically happen on the left, then maybe wait until there are signs of something like that in the works. Given the last five years, I find your use of the word “both” absurd. I am not here to censor it. I have no intention of flagging your post. I am just pointing out that I find it absurd.


This site is frequently characterised by right-wing and Libertarian tr0lls as a liberal or progressive “echo chamber” because it has specific rules and active moderation. Yet somehow, not allowing bigoted and fascist rhetoric, calls for violence, political and scientific disinformation, etc. does not prevent vigorous, healthy, and rational debate. So it’s going very well here. If conservatives and Libertarians still have a problem with the site leaning liberal or progressive due to those rules, they might want to consider why such rules are at odds with their ideologies and philosophies.

What’s not going well is that the major social media platforms and – to a lesser degree – techno-utopian freeze peach sites like SSC have abdicated responsibility for content moderation. Do you want ants Nazis in the public sphere, because that’s how you get ants Nazis in the public sphere.

It’s not about getting people off of shared platforms, it’s about de-platforming users and groups who arrive to promote discredited ideologies, sell dangerous woo and disinformation, and promote hateful ideas. The point is not to prevent them from discussing those ideas in their own (one hopes obscure) forums, but to keep them from spreading those reprehensible ideas to a wider audience. Whether we’re talking about ISIS or America’s domestic right-wing terrorists, the process of radicalisation and the gateway methods of initiation they use are well known at this point. Effectively unmoderated platforms, including BBS’s and social networks, are tailor-made for these malicious actors to spread their poison.

Another false equivalency. Rght now we see one “weird civic religion” rejecting liberal democracy and the other side trying to maintain liberal-democratic norms and institutions. It’s the former that’s responsible for the last five years, not the latter.

That’s why you should be focusing on Net Neutrality, anti-trust regulation, strengthened and improved Section 230 protections, and decentralised/federated/FOSS alternative social networks. Establish those things and you don’t have to worry about oligarchy or free speech being stifled. And yet, presented with these methods to eliminate enormous and entrenched private interests exercising "editorial control"t (really moderation) over user-generated conten, Libertarians and conservatives instead choose to whinge about supposed censorship by “PC liberal elites” and “echo chambers” as they fight anti-trust regulation, support opponents of Net Neutrality, and call for the complete elimination of Section 230.


Yeah, there are no weird tankie/Jonestown style cults that have any significant power in the USA today, unlike the far-right cults that have taken over the Republican party. The US “far-left” isn’t actually that far left on a global scale, so there isn’t that tendency for cults to form.