The mystery man behind the destruction of Gawker


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/02/27/the-mystery-man-behind-the-des.html


#2

I find myself in the depressed spot between having my suspicions confirmed, but at the same time expecting nothing will happen because the USA is being run by Skeksis.


#3

I guess Gawker wasn’t the very good boy that fearlessly escaped a pack of wolves.


#4

I dunno… not that I don’t think Peter Thiel is a slimy asshole, but Gawker was at best a glossy tabloid rag. Not sure sure why we keep morning this dead horse.


#5

For a lot of us, it’s less about mourning its loss than about still being pissed about just how it was killed.


#6


#7

Exactly. Whatever one’s opinion of the quality of Gawker’s journalism, advocates of a free press are right to be concerned about the ability of thin-skinned billionaires to destroy media outlets they feel have embarrassed them (as opposed to defaming them). That’s why this needs to be discussed and examined, especially when the current resident of the Oval Office talks about “opening up” the libel laws.


#8

What blows my mind about the whole Gawker affair is we hear all this high-minded discourse about freedom of speech and the press and all that. How the verdict and resulting closure of Gawker was terrible and led to endless hand-wringing about chilling effects and everything.

But Gawker straight up posted a celebrity sex tape and predictably got sued into oblivion.

It was a literal tape of a famous person having sex that they posted for no good reason. Remember “the fappening”, when countless celebrity nudes were leaked online? We all agreed that was a bad thing, right? How is this different?

You are free to not like Thiel or Hogan, but Gawker was a bad actor. Gawker tied the noose, put it around its own neck, and handed the rope to the plaintiffs.


#9

Unpopular speech is the only kind that’s in danger from this kind of tactic, tough. Popular, pleasant speech doesn’t need any protection, because it’s popular and pleasant. That’s why a genuinely terrible person like Larry Flynt is a First Amendment hero.

Sure, the weapon that Thiel used against Gawker was Hogan and his sex tape, but the reason he went after them was because of their coverage him that he didn’t like. Thiel made explicitly clear that this was about “deterrance” for other actors who might cross him, and it has almost certainly worked to some extent.


#10

I agree with that, but not sure the tabloid trash of a sex tape is the hill I’d want to die on.

Like the other guy said, Gawker handed Thiel the rope with their questionable ethics. If Thiel had sued because of his unpopular coverage alone, I’d be siding with Gawker. I feel like the hate for Thiel is excusing Gawkers actions, but if they had done the same thing to someone else people would be calling for Gawkers head on a plate.


#11

To me, that is a complete red herring, and this is the kind of high-minded stuff that I find so baffling. You can have all the motive in the world but it wouldn’t matter without an opportunity to act.

And lets not forget, the opportunity is a sex tape! Don’t post someone’s sex tape! Is that so hard? That is the lesson here. You speak of deterrence. Ought we not be deterred from shamelessly posting people’s sex tapes? If other websites are “deterred” from posting sex tapes because of the Hogan verdict, is that not a good thing? People are in prison today for posting revenge porn. Is revenge porn somehow ok if the victim is someone you’ve heard of or the perpetrator is, by some definitions, a journalistic institution?


#12

I think my point may not have been well made. Gawker should probably have borne some legal consequences for its handling of the tape. What Thiel did, however, was to use that case to bankrupt a media entity whose coverage embarrassed him in the past, and to send a message to other media outlets. That is most definitely a hill worth caring about.

For example, by excluding the insurer and any potential coverage, Hogan’s lawyers (paid by Thiel) structured the claim in such a way to maximize the damage to Gawker and minimize the chances that Hogan would actually be able to recover any meaningful portion of the award. I care when billionaires use our court system to effect revenge for unflattering coverage in this way.

No one is defending Gawker’s judgment in publishing the tape, nor any number of the other sleazy things they chose to publish. But with all due respect, I think you have the red herring backward here. The deterrence that Thiel set out to create was not about the publishing of sex tapes, but for embarrassing coverage of him. One can recognize the dangers in having billionaires proxies to punish media outlets that have crossed them without being an advocate for revenge porn, my friend.


#13

This is the important point. Thiel didn’t sue Gawker directly for the articles about him he didn’t like because, under the law as it stands, he couldn’t successfully do so. Talking about either his sexual orientation (an open secret amongst anyone who already knew his name anyhow) or his fund’s mediocre performance and management (a legitimate function of a media outlet in a capitalist society) wasn’t defamatory.

Instead, he meets this crapweasel D’Souza, connects up with Harder, and finds a bunch of people who have winnable libel suits against Gawker, finds a friendly jurisdiction with jurors hand-picked by pricey consultants, and proceeds to carry out a personal vendetta mainly focused on wiping the unflattering articles about him and his firm from memory without addressing their merits or lack thereof in a court of law. And all because he has enough money to bypass the normal system.


#14

This. This. This. A thousand times this.

You may not like a certain asshole, but that does not give rich Dexter wannabes the right to hire gunmen to off the guy, and then brag about it to intimidate others.

This is a rich scum-sucking toad who thinks he gets a pass because his first scalp was tawdry and no angel itself. Fuck that.


#15

My friend, you and I are so far apart here we may just have to agree to disagree. This logic is just inscrutable to me.

Gawker odiously published a private sex tape. They were punished for that action. End of story. If you think the verdict was too large, the blame rests with the judge and the jury, but I warn you that you’ll make yourself sound like a Republican if what you are advocating is tort reform. If you are upset because a guy behind the scene had a grudge, I’m sorry but that is nothing other than good old fashioned karma.

Honestly, I’m kind of on Thiel’s side about the underlying grudge, too. Gawker publicly outed him as gay. Haven’t we also agreed as a society that outing someone against their will is poor form? People in his personal life may well of known that he’s gay, but it was up to him if he wanted that to be public information. It’s nobody’s business.

I don’t even like Thiel or Hogan. I kind of resent how now I’m finding myself in the position of defending them, but someone needs to be the voice of reason.


#16

FYI, ignoring all of the events that led to a kangaroo court because you find the releasing of a sex tape despicable, does not make you the reasonable one.


#17

I think it’s the end of the story if one chooses to ignore the context and the underlying motivations for the suit and its goals. Billionaires using proxies to bankrupt media outlets they don’t like is dangerous. One need not defend Gawker’s actions to recognize that.

Perhaps a hypothetical would help make the principle more scrutable: let’s say that instead of using Hogan and the court system, Thiel made friends with the local police chief and convinced him that these Gawker jamokes were a bunch of dicks that needed to be taught a lesson. So, the police chief assigned officers to follow all the reporters and ticket them every time they failed to use a turn signal, and to stop them for breathalyzers any time they left a restaurant or bar. As a result, let’s say that half of the staff was eventually arrested for DUI and the other half was bankrupt from traffic tickets. Is the fact that were, in fact, guilty of all the crimes they were punished for the end of the story there, or would we care about the underlying motivations at play?


#18

If it hadn’t been the sex tape mistake, Thiel would have continued to fund other lawsuits, like the email loon Shiva Ayyadurai and others, until one of them scored or the constant grind drove Gawker under.

Bottomless legal fund attacks are hard to fight, especially if no one knows that it is one. It’s Scientology’s specialty, and I’ve seen many people and organizations ground to hamburger by it. (e.g. Cult Awareness Network, where Scientology funded and ran the Jason Scott case against them.)


#19

Some days the objective, definitive, and expedient nature of Trial by Stone looks vaguely attractive compared to some of the alternatives.


#20

Gawker is no great loss but the whole thing stinks and we should expect more of this now certain people have more money than “god”.