Univision to buy Gawker for $135m

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/08/16/univision-to-buy-gawker-for-1.html


“vengeful billionaire” lol. Poor Gawker, what kinda country are we living in when you can’t post someone’s sex tape on a “news” site without any sort of consequences. Fuck em, this isn’t a 1st amendment issue.


You may not like Gawker, or what they did - I’m not thrilled with it. But to say that they were wrecked by a vengeful billionaire is a 100% true statement. The Hulk Hogan litigation was bankrolled by Thiel, and they crafted the claim to avoid triggering Gawker’s insurance.


Hogan and his attorney also settled with the real culprits for $5,000, and then used them to go after Gawker for $140,000,000.

Hogan’s friend “Bubba the Love Sponge” and his wife aranged the sexual encounter for the purpose of recording it, recorded it on video, and then released the recording. Gawker wasn’t even the first media outlet to publish the material.

The entire case against gawker by Hogan is tainted by the funding of an undisclosed party at interest, and was prosecuted under strategies that were to the benefit of Thiel over that of Hogan, IMO. I think Hogan’s attorney should have recused himself as Thiel seems to be his actual client.

Hogan was offered a ten million dollar settlement by Gawker and declined, because this suit was always about ruining Gawker.

I hope Hogan looses completely on appeal. He should have gone after the real perpitrators rather than settling with them for a measly five grand.


$135 million for shit, literally SHIT.


And that doesn’t get into the other incredibly dodgy law suits against Gawker Thiel is suspected of funding/his prop attorney is involved in. Gawker was, is, and always has been a bit of a shitshow in terms of ethics. But you have a situation where an incredibly wealthy individual has used many clearly malicious law suits to almost successfully shut down a media outlet. The Hogan thing, and their success there just let Thiel do it in one big win, rather than by attrition. That’s distressing, and a 1st amendment issue.

I was very much in a “fuck Gawker” frame of mind when the case first finished up. Not because they deserved it, or because that was a good legal discussion. But because those idiots (or that idiot, because Denton is the problem here) brought it on themselves. Just look at some of the testimony on Gawker’s end. Denton and the ex-editor involved treated the whole situation like it was funny. Their defense seemed mostly based on smugness and half assed peons to freedom of the press.

But the Thiel reveal (RHYMES!), changes all that. What if Thiel, or some one like him, decides they don’t like The New York Times. Or PBS. Or Boing Boing? Is that same approach to bankrupting a media organization through endless nonsense lawsuits OK? Is it OK when the same strategy is used on smaller scale to silence criticism? Like when a critic is gets hammered with trash lawsuits over poor reviews of a product. Or the way the Alt-Med community uses the same in an attempt to silence doctors, scientists, and skeptical writers? When multi-level marketing or scam companies use it to attack watch dogs and victims trying to raise awareness of said scams?

If none of those things are OK. Then why is Thiel’s vendetta OK just because Gawker is owned by a well known Knob and quite often employs at least a few similarly huge Knobs?



I’m not defending how Gawker used their right to free speech. Posting a video of someone’s most private moments without their consent is despicable.

But if the people we don’t like aren’t free to say the things we don’t want to hear, how can we be sure that those same constraints aren’t going to be used to silence the people who should be speaking?


Without a real news worthy reason, and mostly for spiteful lulz. Its difficult to defend Gawker as a whole when they pull this trash. Buts it become relatively clear that such things are largely down to Denton and other elements in management. Either in first hiring, then empowering scumbaggy staff. Or their early anti-worker business structure and shit pay model that forced their decent staff to participate. Or more recently in Management taking direct action against the wishes of Editorial and the actual writers. There’s a reason so many fundementally good writers who are decent interesting people (including former Boinger Joel Johnson IIRC) have floated in and then rapidly out of Gawker’s sites over the years.

I can sit rather comfortably saying I am defending Gawker, but sure shit won’t defend Denton. Seems to solve the cognitive dissonance for me.


Now they will be El Gawkador.


I always liked io9, the sci-fi/fantasy/science blog. Unlike their parent, Gawker, they’ve put out some very decent work. Though they’ve lost staff and IMHO haven’t been as good since the reorganization, when they became a sub-blog of Gizmodo. I hope they don’t get whittled down any further under the new regime.


They were always sort of a sub blog of Gizmodo, at least in terms of the level of shared staff and the way the sites are actually arranged on the server. But they seem to have been the most gutted recently by people leaving. Its a bit sad as that was probably the best thing going.

Kotaku was an unfocused mess with heinous commenters. But with some damn good writers. Gizmodo itself hosted some good work over the years, even if it was sort of … boring? without Io9. Jalopnik has legitimately been one of the best things going in auto-journalism for a long while (and its apparently the largest, and most successful part of the whole edifice). Lifehacker is self help for burgeoning yuppies. Jezebel is helplessly torn by hysterical and not well thought out Feminism and bizarre/catty celebrity gossip and beauty tips on the one hand, and legitimately good work on feminism and social justice on the other. And Gawker itself never seemed to have much point besides mean spirited muck raking. Especially in the beginning, but its nearly as unfocused and pointless now that its supposedly a political news blog.

But as the better writers and editors who kept the thing barely functional have been jumping ship since the Hulkster suplexed their corporate structure its become incredibly clear just how messy the whole thing is.

Both Kotaku and io9 covered Comics and cosplay. Despite both fitting better under io9’s masthead. And they did so with different staff and without cross linking each other. i09 occasionally covered gaming, but (asside from gamergate and harassment) mostly from the PC, big geek RPG, table top/board game side, something that was a better fit for Kotaku. And would have filled one their biggest blind spots. Kotaku, supposedly a gaming news venue, spend a bizarre amount of time covering quirkier aspects of Japanese culture. But only those subject to western geek fetishism. Jezebel’s celebrity crap was a better fit for the tabloidy Gawker. And its makeup/fashion coverage a better fit for Lifehacker. Lifehacker’s best feature is the product reviews and crowd sourced recommendation lists. Which would have fit better at Gizmodo. And occasional cooking stuff, most of which was entirely perfunctory. When the food writing of any sort wasn’t perfunctory it was relegated to a sub-blog of Jezebel or somewhere else. Jalopnik has almost seemed entirely sperated. Except its loaded down with often weird sub blogs. Including one that’s 50/50 military news and military equipment fetishism. Probably a better fit for Gawker proper. But only if Gawker is legitimately a political news and commentary site and not a trashy tabloid gossip rag. I don’t read Deadspin but they seem to be just as messy.

And I could go on. The whole edifice is riddled with confused editorial direction. Lack of control. Inconsistencies and overlaps. And the only unifying thing seems to be a broken social/blogging platform and a struggle between talented staff trying to do something interesting on their way out the door and an owner/board that likes all the shittiness and further muck things up.

If this mess has done one good thing. Its putting all of that under the control of an actual media company with some idea of how to run this sort of thing. Unfortunately much of their most interesting and talented staff have already left. Even Jalopnik lost one of their more entertaining and ambitious (forcing a lot of video work) people recently, and they’ve seemed mostly insulated from this garbage.


Josh Marshall on the Gawker sale:


That’s one aspect of this that has me wondering what will happen with all the talented editors and writers that have left recently. If memory serves Denton himself spun out of existing media orgs as the whole webernets revolutions first started to create instability in traditional media. It’d be kind of apt if one of the better ex Gawkerites took this opportunity to start their own thing in a similar vein. Theoretically it’d be kind of trivial to offer former coworkers a less jacked up fresh opportunity in place of the mess they’re in. There’s no less job stability involved, but its a bit easier to sell people on hope and opportunity than it is on fear and “synergy”.


I’m torn on Thiel’s involvement, because Gawker went above and beyond any rational standard of “don’t poke the hornet’s nest.” The Hogan lawsuit was entirely bright upon by Gawker chasing money and not for any sort of integrity, and his ability to get outside support from others came from the lawsuit having merit as well as Gawker gathering a massive roster of enemies. Thiel’s involvement isn’t out of Gawker bringing important social or political issues/injustices to light, but because Gawker routinely pushed the boundary of what is and isn’t fit to publish about people. I can’t say Thiel’s money and Hogan’s celebrity didn’t make the lawsuit end worse for Gawker, but at the same time Gawker clearly went against a reasonable and obvious legal standard flagrantly.

Which is all fine. In that one case. But do some poking around. Thiel, or at least his legal proxy is involved in a bizarrely large number of past and present legal actions against Gawker. Most of them clearly spurious, or where Gawker is clearly in the right. Hogan is/was a lucky hit. Thiel happened to bankroll a particularly winable case, in a particularly friendly court, and Gawker happened to drop the ball badly (serious go find somewhere to read the defenses testimony or excerpts). And many observers, most of them actual lawyers, have said the decision in that case is a bad one at odds with legal precedent. But Gawker are currently being sued over a rather well regarded, well reported, and entertaining investigative piece on Trump’s hair piece by the same lawyer. On behalf of the hair replacement company in question. Among other really weird cases.

This doesn’t seem to be a case where Gawker clearly violated the law. And some one (Hogan) was looking to sue them for $140m. And Thiel just happened to notice and offer to fund it for spite/a cut. Hogan settled with the guy who convinced him to fuck his wife, secretly filmed it, then deliberately leaked it for $5k. It looks increasingly like Thiel went looking (through the lawyer in question) for anyone who could sue Gawker. No matter how tenuous the case. And prompted them to do so, with assurances that he’d cover the cost. That looks like an attempt to bankrupt Gawker with spurious law suits. File so many that even when they are dismissed, or Gawker prevails (something that’s happened in a few cases Thiel may have bankrolled) they go broke anyway. Kind of the shotgun approach.

So like I said Hogan was a lucky break. He unexpectedly won. From what I’ve read because Gawker/Denton seriously screwed the pooch defending themselves. And while Gawker does have a bad habit of doing wrong, hugely unethical, indefensible things. For profit. It isn’t clear that any of them have amounted to an out and out violation of law. Given Thiel’s approach they could have been 100% right, 100% legal, 100% unimpeachably magically Jesus. And still would have ended up just as bankrupt on a long enough time line.

Basically Thiel’s involvement and the Hogan shit show are 2 different but intersecting issues.


At what point would Gawker have a tortious interference case against Thiel? Or is that too special legal animal to apply?

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I’m not the person to ask, as I’m not a lawyer. But from all the coverage I gather that what Thiel is doing is technically legal. But the scale of it, and deliberately malicious, censoring nature of it might run afoul of. Well, something. It seems like this level of legal trolling is new enough not to have much precedent behind it.

I do know that the lawyer in question risks disbarment if too many of his suits are found to be malicious/spurious. Though its not entirely clear how much of this is his doing, how much of it is Thiel’s, and if he’s the only lawyer Thiel is using. And there are constitutional issues that could be broached, much better then they were during the Hogan case.

Either way it looks like they’re looking into it. The bankruptcy/sale apparently breaks the suits off from Gawker itself. The sites/assets move on. The judgement and standing suits stay with previous ownership or some such.



Having followed the SCO, Righthaven, Prenda and Malabu Media lawsuit factories over the years it’s pretty clear that it’s almost impossible to get disbarred for frivolous lawsuits in the US. Judges give too much deference to lawyers when it comes to such suits. And they are far too conservative in handing out punishments for the same, relying too much on the adversarial nature of us civil law.


Harder than it should be but not impossible. Remember Jack Tompson ? As just one example. Weird how that whole thing curdled so poorly later with the ethics in knob wad journalism thing.


Remember how long that took? He’s the extreme exception that proves the general rule. Bleh…

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