If they don't own the press, they will destroy it.
May 25, 2016 5:56 AM   Subscribe

 
There is an ancient Klingon proverb...
posted by Damienmce at 5:58 AM on May 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


I mean Gawker is a hot garbage fire, but Trump delegate Peter "Rand did nothing wrong!" Thiel?

It's like Alien vs. Predator: whoever wins, we lose.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:14 AM on May 25, 2016 [38 favorites]


There's a lot of ick here. I was sympathetic for Hulk Hogan, but the TPM from the link sums up what this new development really means:

Regardless of his politics, this news should disturb everyone. People talk a lot about the dominance of the 1% or in this case more like a tiny fraction of the 1%. But being able to give massive political contributions actually pales in comparison to the impact of being able to destroy a publication you don't like by combining the machinery of the courts with anonymity and unlimited funds to bleed a publication dry.
posted by cacofonie at 6:21 AM on May 25, 2016 [50 favorites]


I read yesterday related to this that he also backs the dirty tricks team that has made fake attack videos about ACORN and Planned Parenthood.

I've also read that he denies it, but if true this would make him the truly evil billionaire everyone has been thinking of when hating on the Koch brothers.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:25 AM on May 25, 2016 [12 favorites]


There can be more than one evil billionaire at a time. This isn't an episode of "The Highlander."
posted by saulgoodman at 6:28 AM on May 25, 2016 [112 favorites]


andsomehowwehaventstrungthesefuckersupbytheirentrails.gif
posted by aspersioncast at 6:28 AM on May 25, 2016 [8 favorites]


There can be more than one evil billionaire at a time. This isn't an episode of "The Highlander."

Yeah, it's not as if the Kochs have stopped supporting all kinds of really horrible shit. What we're seeing in state-level governments can be directly laid at their feet.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:32 AM on May 25, 2016 [11 favorites]


yes, it's okay to think that thiel, hogan, and gawker are all terrible. you don't have to pick a side
posted by entropicamericana at 6:33 AM on May 25, 2016 [27 favorites]


This should disturb everybody. Gawker does some shitty shit now and again, but has done it in the name of frequently-misguided-but-still-genuine ideals. I'm grateful that its new iteration seems to pick its targets more carefully and seriously, and the Hogan/Conde Nast scandals were shameful, but as a fan of the last two years of Gawker it's evident that it grew pretty directly out of its frequently-awful origins.

When you look at the sorts of people and groups that make it a point to name Gawker as some sort of enemy, there's a pretty clear trend of it being people whose idea of decorum is keeping quiet in the face of serious economic and social imbalance, and not calling out the absurdity of our culture's economic underpinnings. Gawker has loudly and vocally encouraged unionization, basic income, and keeping aware of mass media/culture's biases even if you're a fan of it.

They were also critiquing Silicon Valley half a decade before anybody else nearly as prominent was making a campaign out of it, and while Valleywag was as frequently awful as Gawker proper, it revealed things about SV culture that nobody else was, in a way that helped shape a lot of young people who were otherwise heading straight for there (myself included).

All this is to say that, while my sympathies in the Hogan case were pretty damn conflicted, Gawker's scandals have mired what is otherwise a genuinely noble institution, and one that's done a tremendous amount of good in between its shitshows. The initial ruling against them was grotesquely high, in my opinion. And the reveal that Thiel, who is as close to a genuine monster as Silicon Valley gets, was bankrolling Hogan this whole time raises some serious alarm bells. This makes what was already an unnerving situation for a media institution to be in suddenly seem outright terrifying.

I hope people can see through the schadenfreude this case generated against Gawker (and mostly deservedly-so) for what this situation is: a very wealthy and awful man pursuing the destruction of a boldly leftist publication, and one that's popularized its political positions more successfully and enjoyably than most publications of its ilk have.
posted by rorgy at 6:38 AM on May 25, 2016 [97 favorites]


So this is sort of the old 2 Live Crew obscenity brouhaha, isn't it. As much as we may despise Gawker, now we have to all stand up and defend them because the alternative.

Sort of like Dennis Miller said after all this (on SNL before he had his stroke or whatever). Paraphrasing: yeah, we all had to do the right thing for the first amendment and all, but it really was a shitty album.
posted by Naberius at 6:44 AM on May 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


Gawker does some shitty shit now and again, but has done it in the name of frequently-misguided-but-still-genuine ideals

I was unaware lulz was now an ideal.
posted by zippy at 6:47 AM on May 25, 2016 [13 favorites]


If only rorgy had written several more paragraphs describing how he detects those ideals in Gawker's work
posted by No-sword at 6:49 AM on May 25, 2016 [35 favorites]


I love how libertarians claim to believe in individual freedoms, but it always boils down to individual freedoms for THEM, or in this case HIM, one particular individual, who is determined to make the rest of the world step in line according to his own personal preferences.

It’s weird how quickly “individual freedom from outside interference is paramount” turns into “All shall kneel before me, the only true and worthy self” when obscene amounts of money and influence get involved.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:49 AM on May 25, 2016 [38 favorites]


It’s weird how quickly “individual freedom from outside interference is paramount” turns into “All shall kneel before me, the only true and worthy self” when obscene amounts of money and influence get involved.

I think it's more like, "I should be able to purchase any level of comfort I can afford, including the silence of any critics."

The good news is, as soon as mind uploading is possible, these guys will all go Galt into Heaven immediately and leave the rest of us alone.
posted by thecaddy at 6:54 AM on May 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


This is one of those stories that, if it appeared in a movie or book, I'd dismiss as contrived bullshit, yet here we are.
posted by Sangermaine at 6:54 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Just a reminder that Gawker outed Peter Thiel which is probably why he's helping Hulk to destroy them.
posted by Talez at 6:55 AM on May 25, 2016 [28 favorites]


I was unaware lulz was now an ideal.

Yeah yeah, go ahead and look down on Gawker. And when it goes bankrupt, and he turns his wealth against other publications until nobody is willing to do anything but lick the boots about the ultra-wealthy, what then?

When metafilter is forced to start dropping articles out of fear of lawsuits, will you still be shrugging and making false equivalencies?
posted by happyroach at 6:57 AM on May 25, 2016 [21 favorites]


The NYT is coy about it, but one of the closeted Silicon Valley "royalty" Gawker has outed as gay was.....wait for it....Peter Thiel.

Seems an odd detail to hide in a story about Peter Thiel and Gawker, but from 2007:

Peter Thiel is totally gay, people.

Here's part of a comment Nick Denton left below the story at the time:

If Silicon Valley is the bastion of tolerance it likes to believe, and if the tech industry cares only about money, it's surprising that Thiel would have kept his personal life a secret from journalists and his closest colleagues, for so long. He was so paranoid that, when I was looking into the story, a year ago, I got a series of messages relaying the destruction that would rain down on me, and various innocent civilians caught in the crossfire, if a story ever ran.

Seems like essential backstory here, and it's idiotic the NYT deliberately played coy with it.
posted by mediareport at 6:58 AM on May 25, 2016 [59 favorites]


The good news is, as soon as mind uploading is possible, these guys will all go Galt into Heaven immediately and leave the rest of us alone.

Ooh! And then we can just unplug them! :D
posted by sexyrobot at 6:59 AM on May 25, 2016 [18 favorites]


Though lots of money is necessary in order to have access to our civil justice system, money alone is not enough. I don't quite understand the shock about this. Thiel, though a completely awful person in many ways, had a reason to want revenge, and he waited until Gawker screwed up to exact it.

This type of attack won't work on a media source that is actually doing worthwhile journalism.
posted by Llama-Lime at 7:00 AM on May 25, 2016 [9 favorites]


The good news is, as soon as mind uploading is possible, these guys will all go Galt into Heaven immediately and leave the rest of us alone.

Yeah right. Like they're not going to want "natural humans" for their twisted exploits.
posted by avalonian at 7:01 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


This type of attack won't work on a media source that is actually doing worthwhile journalism.

This. Publishing someone's sex tape is like the media equivalent of playing with fire. A billionaire can't walk up to a publication and say "we're going to sue you for a squillion dollars because we don't like what you said about climate change".
posted by Talez at 7:02 AM on May 25, 2016 [11 favorites]


Yeah yeah, go ahead and look down on Gawker. And when it goes bankrupt, and he turns his wealth against other publications until nobody is willing to do anything but lick the boots about the ultra-wealthy, what then?

Same as now: we'll have passionate but meaningless online discussions about it that make us feel better but accomplish nothing.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:02 AM on May 25, 2016 [12 favorites]


Where do you even start with this? It's bags of dicks all the way down. Hogan: dickbag. Thiel: dickbag. Gawker: just because they also champion progressive values doesn't mean they haven't done a lot of dickbag stuff. Verdict: dickbag.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:03 AM on May 25, 2016 [9 favorites]


Seems like essential back story here, and it's idiotic the NYT deliberately played coy with it.

The NYT doesn't want to be sued into oblivion. SLAPP lawsuits work.


This type of attack won't work on a media source that is actually doing worthwhile journalism.


In other words, licklicklick "Oh Mr. Thiel, you're such a wonderful entrepreneur! Can I get your other boot?" licklicklick

The people determining "worthwhile" journalism, will be the ultra-wealthy, like Thiel.
posted by happyroach at 7:04 AM on May 25, 2016 [22 favorites]


This type of attack won't work on a media source that is actually doing worthwhile journalism.

For that they would have to buy them.
posted by ghharr at 7:05 AM on May 25, 2016 [25 favorites]


For that they would have to buy them.

Wow. Holy shit. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.
posted by Talez at 7:06 AM on May 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


The NYT doesn't want to be sued into oblivion. SLAPP lawsuits work.

Nah, it's just the usual mainstream media squickness about the closet, as heavily entrenched at the NYT as ever. "In 2007, Gawker published a report that Thiel was gay, and Nick Denton claimed publicly that he'd previously gotten threats of destruction if the story became public" wouldn't have put the paper in any danger, but *would* have provided readers essential background that was instead merely hinted at in the most delicate and shadowy way possible. Ridiculous journalism at its apex.
posted by mediareport at 7:12 AM on May 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


Journalists sure get pissed when their targets hit back.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:17 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I can no longer think about Peter Thiel without picturing the Peter Gregory Burger King scene from Silicon Valley.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:17 AM on May 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


In other words, licklicklick "Oh Mr. Thiel, you're such a wonderful entrepreneur! Can I get your other boot?" licklicklick
You know that's now what I said, because I also said he was an awful person.

Trying to shut down discussion with petty insults does not negate my point. Others were able to argue against it without being a total jerk.
posted by Llama-Lime at 7:18 AM on May 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


This type of attack won't work on a media source that is actually doing worthwhile journalism.

Frank VanderSloot is Exhibit A in why this is dangerously wrong.

This. Publishing someone's sex tape is like the media equivalent of playing with fire. A billionaire can't walk up to a publication and say "we're going to sue you for a squillion dollars because we don't like what you said about climate change".

Exxon successfully suppressed research and manipulated media coverage of climate change for decades. The NFL and NRA have done the same thing on CTE and gun violence, respectively. Who knows how much discussion of, say, economic inequality or police violence has been funded by people like Thiel. Or, as ghharr points out, just bought outright like Sheldon Adelson is doing? It's amazing how much Denton/Gawker hate is making people come to seriously naive conclusions here.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:28 AM on May 25, 2016 [73 favorites]


I'll echo cacafonie and happyroach. Focusing on the "ick" in this particular case is short-sighted and hypocritical if you believe in freedom of the press.

From TPM:
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.

That was my takeaway from the New Yorker's report on Victor Kesh, I mean James O’Keefe III.
posted by sixpack at 7:31 AM on May 25, 2016 [12 favorites]


That was my takeaway from the New Yorker's report on Victor Kesh, I mean James O’Keefe III.

I'm ashamed that O'Keefe completely slipped my mind. A completely innocent--hugely beneficial, really--organization was destroyed thanks to him and his conservative bankrollers. Planned Parenthood is under the same threats, not just economically, but physically as well. More examples disproving the idea that only the icky organizations will have a bulls-eye on them.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:36 AM on May 25, 2016 [19 favorites]


Frank Vandersloot is evidence on my side, that this type of attack doesn't work on journalism.

Exxon suppressed their internal research, but there's no examples of them suing the media to stop publication, is there? Not sure how you're connecting the two. Same with the NFL, they are not using the courts and winning big settlements on concussions, are they?

Media barons have been an evil since the early days of journalism. Media baron/Amazon owner Bezos reported on That dirt bag because he's not on the same side of that dirtbag anyway.

the legal system is unfairly expensive, but in the end it's judges who decide what's ok and what's not ok for these kinds of lawsuits.

Also, if you're going to accuse me of being naive, please at least pay enough attention to make sure your points back up your argument enough directly that I don't had to go find evidence for them, to fill the connection to your argument.
posted by Llama-Lime at 7:36 AM on May 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


Imagine Hogan was bankrolling this himself. Imagine Hogan had made a bunch of smart investments with all of his fight money (after all, at one point in the past, he had more wealth than Thiel), but was the same person with the same trouble with Gawker.

Are you still angry? Are you wishing violence upon him? No?

So how is this any different, really?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:38 AM on May 25, 2016 [10 favorites]


I think the distinction, Cool Papa Bell, is that the ability of monied interests to attack journalism at all is not being distinguished from the particular attack in this case.
posted by Llama-Lime at 7:41 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


guys the only moral choice here is to do here is to load thiel, hogan, and gawker into a space-x rocket and launch it into the sun

(i'm 100% serious; this is not sarcasm)
posted by entropicamericana at 7:42 AM on May 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


When they came for Gawker, I said nothing, because Gawker was a dumpster full of shit...

So how is this any different, really?

Hogan was pissed at Gawker for a specific reason that could be addressed and settled, as indeed it was. He would have gotten what he considered justice and gone home rather than continuing to undercut civic institutions for his own gain.
posted by Naberius at 7:44 AM on May 25, 2016 [11 favorites]


Can't a citizens group gather and file a class action suit against Thiel for cruelly and irresponsibly using his money to make the society a crappier place?

The analogy is big tobacco although he isn't actually killing anybody (yet).
posted by bukvich at 7:47 AM on May 25, 2016


Frank Vandersloot is evidence on my side, that this type of attack doesn't work on journalism.

You seem unaware of how close they came, and missing the point of their article.

Exxon suppressed their internal research, but there's no examples of them suing the media to stop publication, is there? Not sure how you're connecting the two.

There is ample evidence that they used lobbying and advertising to, as well as including using media outlets to discredit valid climate science.

Same with the NFL, they are not using the courts and winning big settlements on concussions, are they?

They held them off for a very long time, long after many people could have done something about it. So, in a way, yes. They still have a lot of fans convinced it's all a liberal plot to take away football.

Ultimately, your argument "sure, no one has done ​exactly​ what Hogan and Thiel are doing right now to the Good Guys and made it stick" seems like a really weak argument. There's a ton of examples where either 1) they did something with the end result being functionally the same as this type of lawsuit, and 2) judges (elected or otherwise) have been influenced to support their view of things.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:51 AM on May 25, 2016 [17 favorites]


Can't a citizens group gather and file a class action suit against Thiel for cruelly and irresponsibly using his money to make the society a crappier place?

I'd love to see the cause of action for "cruelly and irresponsibly using his money to make the society a crappier place".
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:53 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Thiel was pissed at Gawker for a specific reason, too. They outed him against his will, which was not illegal, but still an incredibly shitty thing to do. Now he's resorting to entirely legal vigilantism using third party litigation funding.

Gawker wanted to play the field both ways. They wanted to publish salacious things about famous people for clicks, but then when those people get mad, they run and hide under "OH BUT WE'RE JOURNALISTS" to avoid public distaste for what they're doing. Welp, that's not gonna work anymore. They played with fire and lost. There's a difference between Gawker and a real newspaper/magazine that holds itself to an ethical code. Call me when this happens to a publication of repute and then maybe I'll agree that the sky is falling.
posted by permiechickie at 7:53 AM on May 25, 2016 [18 favorites]


One issue I see is that seemingly under instruction from Thiel, Hogan dropped part of his suit to cause maximum pain to Gawker but which could reduce the damages he could win. From the NYT:

Mr. Denton is referring to a decision by Mr. Hogan’s legal team to abruptly drop one of the claims — for “negligent infliction of emotional distress” — from its case. That claim had a particularly special meaning: It was the one claim that required Gawker’s insurance company to pay for its defense as well as potential payouts in the case of a settlement. (That provision of Gawker’s insurance policy became public after the insurance company, Nautilus, sued Gawker to try to limit payment for defense.)

Several legal experts said that it was particularly unusual for a plaintiff using a lawyer being paid on a contingency basis not only to turn down settlement offers (several sizable settlements were proffered by Gawker) but also to pursue a strategy that prevented an insurance company from being able to contribute to a settlement.

posted by PenDevil at 7:54 AM on May 25, 2016 [35 favorites]


So how is this any different, really?


If it were just Hogan and Hogan's money, it would not reek of "let's you and him fight."
posted by ocschwar at 7:55 AM on May 25, 2016 [9 favorites]


guys the only moral choice here is to do here is to load thiel, hogan, and gawker into a space-x rocket and launch it into the sun

Thiel should be put on a barge with a bunch of libertarians and floated out to sea.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 7:56 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Kevin Drum of Mother Jones (which also has dealt with a billionaire trying to sue them out of business):

But I'd like to hear a little more about this from the folks who think that safe spaces and campus protests are harbingers of doom for the First Amendment. You know what could really hurt a free press? Mega-millionaires who know that defending a suit can easily put a small publication out of business, and don't really care much if they win or lose. For them, a few million dollars is chump change anyway. And if they can do it secretly? All the better.

It's best not to focus on the virtue (or lack thereof) of any one target of this practice and look more closely at the practice itself. Between Gawker, Mother Jones, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal, we have a real problem on our hands with billionaires thinking they can manipulate or bankrupt publications they don't like.

Can any lawyers out there comment on how anti-SLAPP laws might apply in the case of Gawker?
posted by Cash4Lead at 7:58 AM on May 25, 2016 [22 favorites]


the legal system is unfairly expensive, but in the end it's judges who decide what's ok and what's not ok for these kinds of lawsuits.

Judges often decide after large amounts of money have been spent. They may also decide, as is stated in the TPM article in this case, well after a verdict and the publication was forced to sell ownership. Judges jobs is not to figure out what each party can afford to spend on litigation and structure the process to accommodate them.

The scenario is not necessarily that I criticize Exxon on climate change and they sue, though similar things have happened. And there are stories publications are reluctant to touch that should be out there because of fear of expensive lawsuits tying up all their resources. Especially for local publications.

But this scenario is that a billionaire offended by something funds a bunch of nuisance suits from third parties who don't like the coverage. I don't know that this happened much--it's newsworthy because its rare. The fact that Gawker wasn't doing what I'd call journalism in this case may make it look less threatening, but it's not at all clear the current 9 figure verdict is the correct outcome legally.
posted by mark k at 7:59 AM on May 25, 2016 [8 favorites]


I just want to mention that Gawker hosted the now defunct ValleyWag, which exposed the hypocrisy, hubris, and socioeconomic injustices rampant in Silicon Valley. To Silicon Valley libertarians and ideologues, this kind of scrutiny is anathema.
posted by splitpeasoup at 8:00 AM on May 25, 2016 [22 favorites]


I'm not sure how well-known Gawker-as-a-publication is to people who don't read Gawker, but for every "Hulk Hogan sex tape"-style junk item they publish, they break a few hundred stories about wealthy people bankrolling/having connections to groups who do screwed-up political things, investigate organizations people are too apathetic to investigate, publish interviews with people doing important work around the world (including a lot of women/poc), and do the daily breaking-news drip with a heavy dose of political and economic theory/citations of prior incidents/discussions about what the role is of politicians and the media in a functioning democracy. They're extremely left-wing, really damn smart, and use humorous cynicism and snark to mask some seriously righteous and erudite beliefs, and as time's gone on they've only gotten more politically-motivated.

Their writers not only unionized but have encouraged writers at other companies to unionize, and they report frequently on when companies attempt to suppress budding unions (as is happening right now at the Huffington Post). They also write some phenomenal essays about feminism, cultural blind spots, and media theory, some of which are so well-written that they've become staple rereads for me. (I've mentioned it on this site before, but On Smarm takes Frankfurt's classic On Bullshit and extends it into 21st-century analyses of methods we've developed for shutting down reasonable conversations. It also serves as a decent manifesto for Gawker itself, and for why it operates the specific way that it does.)

It has its roots in tabloid journalism, to be sure, and most of its political aspirations began in the muckiest ways, but Gawker does fantastic journalism, and is a fantastic satirical publication as well. (Its editor-in-chief is Alex Pareene, who nearly cofounded The Racket with Matt Taibbi; if you read Wired's article about what The Racket was meant to be, you've got a pretty good idea of what sorts of things Gawker has been up to since Pareene took charge.) It's a nice mixture of junky-in-a-smart-way and smart-in-a-smart-way, picks its targets pretty carefully, and, with the exception of the occasional major flub—the last of which saw a chunk of the company leave and led to Gawker's current iteration—it knows how to punch up with a consistency that amazes and delights me.

I pretty frequently tell people that it's my single favorite web publication these days, because it is. I can't stand to read most things online, but Gawker's found a sweet spot that I seriously admire. Treating it like it's a gossip rag misses its subversive aims, and I genuinely think they are subversive, as well as damned important. And I think that even as I think that the Hogan story/the one about Conde Nast's CFO are despicable and that this lawsuit was deserved (though $110 million in damages is fucking absurd).
posted by rorgy at 8:02 AM on May 25, 2016 [76 favorites]


They played with fire and lost. There's a difference between Gawker and a real newspaper/magazine that holds itself to an ethical code. Call me when this happens to a publication of repute and then maybe I'll agree that the sky is falling.

This is extremely short-sighted. Gawker is a waste of time and a POS, but I'll let Josh Marshall from TPM express why this is a worry for everyone.

Talking Points Memo this is a huge huge deal

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.
posted by C.A.S. at 8:11 AM on May 25, 2016 [19 favorites]


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.
Right, but this is a very specific instance where a specific action was attacked. Thiel did not go after Gawker for outing himself, because he couldn't. He went after them for what they published on Hogan.

This case is not an instance of shutting down a publication arbitrarily, there was a specific cause, that most agree was a cause that they should have lost. It seems that the only reason people think Gawker should not have lost is that they're afraid that this will be used as precedent in non sex-tape cases. That jump has not been established at all.

And this case, and its secret funding, does nothing to change the situation of a billionaire spending millions to file many nuisance lawsuits. That's possible whether or not Gawker lost vs. Hogan.

Lawsuits can be filed over nothing, and Gawker vs. Hogan does not change what substance they can be lost or won over. The secret funding of Hogan does not change this either. Losing on a sex tape does not mean that Mother Jones is going to lose when they publish substantiated truth.

Thiel has a well-earned reputation as a dick (as does Hogan). I don't read Gawker, but I'm glad they do some good things. Hopefully they will focus on those good things and less on sex tapes.
posted by Llama-Lime at 8:20 AM on May 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think there's a huge difference, or should be, between "journalistic organizations" and "places that publish people's nonconsenual sex tapes."
posted by corb at 8:22 AM on May 25, 2016 [9 favorites]


It's almost like one organization can do some shitty things, while also doing some non-shitty things.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:23 AM on May 25, 2016 [23 favorites]


For those people without legal backgrounds who might not have realized how significant it is/anybody who didn't RTFA, the quote and content posted by PenDevil explains part of why Thiel backing this lawsuit is a lot more disturbing than if Hogan had just financed it himself.

Tl;dr: the suit was conducted in the way most likely destroy Gawker as a media outlet and business concern, rather than in the way most likely to make Hogan whole for what was done to him, which is how a lawsuit like this would normally be run.
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:27 AM on May 25, 2016 [37 favorites]


Thiel is also suspected to be behind several other lawsuits against Gawker filed in the last month by Hogan's same lawyer, although as far as I can tell no one has confirmed his backing in any of the others, at least as of yet.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:29 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


And remember folks, if we lose Gawker we also lose our beloved IO9!
posted by Ber at 8:30 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


And remember folks, if we lose Gawker we also lose our beloved IO9!

oh no the only website that writes about geek culture on the internet
posted by entropicamericana at 8:32 AM on May 25, 2016 [16 favorites]


From the TPM link:

And in recent weeks, in the aftermath of the Hogan verdict, there have been a spate of new lawsuits brought against Gawker that are unrelated to the Hogan case. All have been brought by the same lawyer who handled Hogan's suit.

So it may be premature to say that this "is not an instance of shutting down a publication arbitrarily".
posted by Slothrup at 8:34 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Tl;dr: the suit was conducted in the way most likely destroy Gawker as a media outlet and business concern, rather than in the way most likely to make Hogan whole for what was done to him, which is how a lawsuit like this would normally be run.
This is also quite typical in the legal world, unfortunately, and something that the legal system has always enabled. And as I understand it, it's still up to the judges to determine if their court is being abused. Was it really abused? What if Hogan also didn't care as much about the money, but about hurting Gawker?

Also, are these other lawsuits on Gawker's legitimate journalism, or on their not-so-legitimate journalism? Just because they do some good things does not mean that they shouldn't have to pay when they misbehave.
posted by Llama-Lime at 8:38 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Gawker publishes some really, really terrible things (worst one I saw today was this) but they shouldn't be shut down for being shitty. However, they have criticized other sites for linking to or posting celebrity nudes and yet do the same exact thing (also apparently they posted nude photos of an NBA player Greg Oden? I should just stop googling for Gawker nude scandal since it's a whole whirlpool of just crap). So the way I see it is that it doesn't matter who funded the Hogan lawsuit. If you're going to criticize other websites for doing what you end up doing yourself then you shouldn't be hypocritical about it when you end up facing the heat. The guy who did the Fappening got charged. Why should Gawker be above that?
posted by I-baLL at 8:40 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Holy shit that Jezebel article reads like a cautionary tale on the difference between privileges that everyone should have (equal access to employment, safety in neighborhoods, etc) and privileges that no one should have (violence as an acceptable form of expression).

Yuck.
posted by avalonian at 8:59 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


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 such a big concern, then perhaps these publications could at least not publish sex tapes and make it exceedingly easy to destroy these sacred bastions of free thought with readily available legal tools.

I get the nuanced points being made, and I don't entirely disagree. But I'll be damned if I'm going to even hint at excusing the reprehensible behaviour of Gawker, just because a billionaire asshole has decided to try and fund their destruction. I can, in fact, despise both parties for separate reasons — and to varying degrees.
posted by Dark Messiah at 9:02 AM on May 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


That Jezebel article is also from 2007.

I'd put 2007-era Gawker/Jezebel up against 2007-era MetaFilter and still be reasonably certain we wouldn't come out looking any kind of triumphant.
posted by rorgy at 9:03 AM on May 25, 2016 [22 favorites]


If this is such a big concern, then perhaps these publications could at least not publish sex tapes and make it exceedingly easy to destroy these sacred bastions of free thought with readily available legal tools.

That's the same "logic" used to shut down ACORN (perhaps a single employee could at least not fall for a scam) is currently being used against Planned Parenthood (perhaps they could at least not "sell baby parts to the highest bidder"). In other words it's not the publishing of sex tapes that's making anything easy. That's a convenient excuse for those wanting to destroy free speech (or any other right, such as the choice a woman has over her body) that often use a corrupt or biased legal system (see also: Citizens United) to do so.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:06 AM on May 25, 2016 [22 favorites]


What if Hogan also didn't care as much about the money, but about hurting Gawker?

This this this this. If I was Hogan, and if I felt as he did, then I would be totally cool with this form of payback.

These people are all shitty. However, Gawker stepped on a cow pie, and it was a big one. And after stepping on that cow pie, they then jammed the other foot in, and then one hand, and then the other, and then they tried tying their own shoelaces together with their teeth.

Sidenote: did you see the footage from the trial? The editors seemed utterly oblivious to the case's gravity. It's rare to see people, people with presumably expensive lawyers, respond to questions with the attitude of a teenager being asked to mow the lawn. There was a bizarre bit in which one person had "joked" that Gawker would publish a celebrity sex video featuring a five-year-old - it was brutal, seeing the editor trying to wriggle out if whether or not he had been joking, or even if he had ever said such a thing (he had).
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:12 AM on May 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


the same person with the same trouble with Gawker...Are you wishing violence upon him? No?

So how is this any different, really?


Well the Hulkster has some retaliatory moves in his arsenal that Thiel, quite frankly, lacks. That's one reason.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 9:12 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


People bankroll other people's lawsuits in exchange for a percentage of the outcome all the time. You could even make the case that lawyers themselves do it when they take a case on contingency. There is financial risk in bankrolling a lawsuit. This instance is no better or worse than any other. Gawker, as per the jury, screwed up. Whatever you think about Hogan or Thiel personally (or even Gawker) Hogan has a right to try to get compensation for his wrong even if he cannot afford it and finds someone to back it.
posted by AugustWest at 9:16 AM on May 25, 2016


I think there's a huge difference, or should be, between "journalistic organizations" and "places that publish people's nonconsenual sex tapes."

This is much the same reasoning Trump is using to say he would shut down the NYT, WaPo, and everybody else he thinks is printing "salacious" stories about him.

"It couldn't happen here," except it already is, and you're pretending they have never actually done actual journalism to bolster your point.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:18 AM on May 25, 2016 [27 favorites]


People bankroll other people's lawsuits in exchange for a percentage of the outcome all the time. You could even make the case that lawyers themselves do it when they take a case on contingency. There is financial risk in bankrolling a lawsuit. This instance is no better or worse than any other.

I would be amazed if Thiel had any interest in making money off this deal.

Whatever you think about Hogan or Thiel personally (or even Gawker) Hogan has a right to try to get compensation for his wrong even if he cannot afford it and finds someone to back it.

I think this case would have happened in more or less the exact way it did (minus the point raised by PenDevil) if Thiel weren't funding Harder. We're not talking about Terry Bowles who works at a chicken processing plant for $17 an hour and is suing Perdue because his hands got cut off.
posted by Etrigan at 9:24 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


To be perfectly clear, I consider publishing someone's nonconsensual sex tape - exposing them sexually to people they did not wish to expose themselves to - to be a very mild form of sexual assault. So this isn't about it being 'salacious'. It's not even the same thing as reporting that someone has made a sex tape. It's providing the ability to actually view the sex tape.
posted by corb at 9:24 AM on May 25, 2016 [5 favorites]




I'd put 2007-era Gawker/Jezebel up against 2007-era MetaFilter and still be reasonably certain we wouldn't come out looking any kind of triumphant.

"You guys were shitty too" is just about the weakest response to "someone is/was being shitty".

Two dongs don't make a right, nor do they really make a hypocrite. Especially when it comes to gawker and jezebel.
posted by emptythought at 9:39 AM on May 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think this case would have happened in more or less the exact way it did (minus the point raised by PenDevil) if Thiel weren't funding Harder.

Absolutely not.

The point is, the deep funding pockets changed the way this lawsuit was pursued. Routes to a settlement were avoided. The target is Gawker, not compensation for damages to Hogan.

From the TPM summary of the NYT

Read the Times article for the specifics. But the gist is that Hogan's lawyers made key decisions which made zero sense if the goal were to maximize the plaintiff's settlement.

And in recent weeks, in the aftermath of the Hogan verdict, there have been a spate of new lawsuits brought against Gawker that are unrelated to the Hogan case. All have been brought by the same lawyer who handled Hogan's suit.
posted by C.A.S. at 9:46 AM on May 25, 2016 [9 favorites]


contingency?
no. money down!

sorry
posted by bitteroldman at 9:52 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


People bankroll other people's lawsuits in exchange for a percentage of the outcome all the time. You could even make the case that lawyers themselves do it when they take a case on contingency. There is financial risk in bankrolling a lawsuit.

This.

I'm not bothered by Thiel bankrolling Hogan's lawsuit. I'm bothered by the fact that some people in this world might not get justice, or protection of their rights, if they can't bankroll something like this lawsuit. That's the bigger threat to democracy.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 9:53 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


And in recent weeks, in the aftermath of the Hogan verdict, there have been a spate of new lawsuits brought against Gawker that are unrelated to the Hogan case. All have been brought by the same lawyer who handled Hogan's suit.

It looks like the Hogan case was essentially a way to open the way for horribly frivolous lawsuits that benefit both from being well-financed and from little to no anti-SLAPP regulation. But sure, let's all imagine that it's really for a good cause.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:02 AM on May 25, 2016 [13 favorites]


The target is Gawker, not compensation for damages to Hogan.

From the TPM summary of the NYT


Yes, I said "minus the point raised by PenDevil", which was that exact thing.

Beyond that, Hogan settled with the guy who actually made the tape for $5,000 (that's 1/27,000th of the judgment against Gawker), and it's not that far of a stretch to think that he did want to damage Gawker far more than he wanted money. It's common for celebrities to go after the institutions that defame them. Carol Burnett said about her suit against the Enquirer that "If they'd given me $1 plus car fare, I'd have been happy, because it was the principle" and donated the money to charity.
posted by Etrigan at 10:07 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


This type of attack won't work on a media source that is actually doing worthwhile journalism.

This is only true to the extent that the relevant jurisdictions have appropriate laws and functioning court systems. The sheer level of the award of damages indicates something very wrong with the system in question.

I draw your attention to BCA v Singh for an example of the use of malfunctioning legal systems to chill free speech. The BCA only lost, in this instance, because Simon Singh was independently wealthy and ideologically driven. It is not particularly troubling that Gawker were punished for doing something clearly wrong, but the level of damages, and the costs involved in fighting such a case, are deeply troubling in light of Thiel's involvement.

"Nothing to hide, nothing to fear" is rarely a good maxim; I suggest it is a very poor one here.
posted by howfar at 10:17 AM on May 25, 2016 [12 favorites]


Also

Thiel: The Dick Project.
posted by howfar at 10:19 AM on May 25, 2016


I think this case would have happened in more or less the exact way it did (minus the point raised by PenDevil) if Thiel weren't funding Harder.

That point is a very big one. I find it hard to believe whatever Hogan's personal financial status that the case "would have happened in more or less the exact way it did" without the champerty.

caterina re champerty

Hogan’s lawyers made decisions against Hogan’s best interests, withdrawing a claim that would have required Gawker’s insurance company to pay damages rather than the company itself–a move that made Nick Denton, Gawker Media’s founder and CEO, suspect that a Silicon Valley millionaire was behind the suit.
posted by C.A.S. at 10:20 AM on May 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


What if it were Hulk Hogan's mom that was bankrolling it? Imagine Hogan had a family member with a shit ton of money and a desire to defend/protect/avenge the Hulkster. Are you still upset? Again, how would that be any different, in effect, than Thiel doing it?

The question of whether maintenance is detrimental to legal systems and to freedom is actually a significant one. Should rich people be able to use the legal system to hurt their enemies, even if their enemies give them no cause of action personally?

Also, to answer your question in this specific instance, it's because Nana Hulk would not have cause the following to happen, as C.A.S. already said.

"Hogan’s lawyers made decisions against Hogan’s best interests, withdrawing a claim that would have required Gawker’s insurance company to pay damages rather than the company itself"

It seems to me like you're arguing from a very theoretical standpoint. But this actually happened, and happened in a specific way because a rich man wanted to hurt his enemies. That's not at all the same as a mother helping her son. Specifics matter, please pay attention to them.
posted by howfar at 10:37 AM on May 25, 2016 [8 favorites]


Re: My rhetorical question, what if Hogan bankrolled this himself, would you still be upset?

Had Hogan bankrolled this himself, he likely, not having the kind of money Thiel has, would have been more likely to push for an outcome of the suit that most benefited himself rather than one that most harmed Gawker. Had he pushed for an outcome that was most beneficial for himself, Gawker's insurance would have kicked in and Gawker would not have been as harmed as it was, and Mr. Hogan would be better off financially.

Probably. We don't really know. But in the counterfactual where Hogan -- bankrolling himself, bankrolled by family -- pushes for a large settlement, no, I would bet that no one here would be upset at all, because that is how the majority of cases go and no one gets upset over most cases.

At issue here is not the source of the financing in and of itself, nor, really, of third-party financing at all. It's that this is reflective of, yet again, the distorting effect that wealth inequality has on all levels of American society. What if Hogan's family financed this but only had 1/100th of Thiel's wealth? Would they be so quick to dismiss charges that would be likely to increase Mr. Hogan's -- and potentially their own -- payout at the end of the suit?
posted by cjelli at 10:38 AM on May 25, 2016 [9 favorites]


[Couple comments removed. If you want to talk about how you think the perception could be different if the circumstances were different, fine, but let's skip the THIS IS HOW METAFILTER IS, COME AT ME framing and let's sure as shit skip the rape analogy gotcha responses.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:40 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Imagine Hogan had a family member with a shit ton of money and a desire to defend/protect/avenge the Hulkster. Are you still upset? Again, how would that be any different, in effect, than Thiel doing it?

Does it change your opinion if Thiel is proven to also be behind the string of other lawsuits against Gawker? Thiel has infinite money. He can spend any amount of it funding endless streams of lawsuits indefinitely. Does that concern you in anyway? What if his next target was Metafilter or Mother Jones? Is there any point in your mind at which the third party funding of lawsuits would have a chilling effect on speech?
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:40 AM on May 25, 2016 [9 favorites]


Does it change your opinion if Thiel is proven to also be behind the string of other lawsuits against gawker? Thiel has infinite money. He can spend any amount of it funding endless streams of lawsuits indefinitely. Does that concern you in anyway? What if his next target was Metafilter or Mother Jones? Is there any point in your mind at which the third party funding of lawsuits would have a chilling effect on speech?

For there to be a lawsuit there needs to be a tort which mean someone's been wronged in some way.
posted by Talez at 10:47 AM on May 25, 2016


No. There needs to be an allegation of a tort. The legal process exists to determine if there was an actual wrong. Use of unfounded legal action to chill speech is well documented. That this one happened to be well-founded does not mean that the overall pattern of behaviour is safe or acceptable.
posted by howfar at 10:51 AM on May 25, 2016 [19 favorites]


For there to be a successful lawsuit there needs to be a tort which mean someone's been wronged in some way.
posted by Etrigan at 10:51 AM on May 25, 2016


I'm just Mr Jinx today, aren't I?
posted by howfar at 10:52 AM on May 25, 2016


Sure, you have to state some legal theory in the complaint, but the allegations don't need to be remotely reasonable, and the damages alleged can be grotesquely excessive as they were in the Hogan case. It sure looks like Thiel is passing out legal fees to anyone who can come up with a complaint against Gawker that might survive a summary judgment motion. Are we really saying that we have zero free speech concerns here?
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:53 AM on May 25, 2016 [11 favorites]


People bankroll other people's lawsuits in exchange for a percentage of the outcome all the time. You could even make the case that lawyers themselves do it when they take a case on contingency. There is financial risk in bankrolling a lawsuit. This instance is no better or worse than any other.

Third-party funding of lawsuits has been recognized as potentially corrupting of the legal system since forever--hence, many jurisdictions banned or restricted champerty, barratry, and maintenance. Cases in which someone other than the client is paying are universally recognized as raising serious ethical issues, because the lawyer's legal and ethical duty is to the client, not to the person paying the bills. I don't know, in this case, what Hogan perceived his interests to be. It's not exactly wildly implausible that a financially comfortable person might be more interested in destroying a company that published his sex tape than in recovering maximum damages. But the converse could also easily be true. So, no, this is not just some humdrum, "everyone does it, it's no big deal" tactic, but one historically recognized as fraught with ethical peril, and that's only considering the point of view of the actual plaintiff, not the broader social implications. It's easy to imagine a more personally vulnerable plaintiff who could be pressured by someone like Thiel or effectively sold down the river by counsel paid by someone like Thiel.
posted by praemunire at 10:55 AM on May 25, 2016 [17 favorites]


For there to be a successful lawsuit there needs to be a tort which mean someone's been wronged in some way.

Your lawyer will cost money either way.
posted by praemunire at 10:57 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


For there to be a successful lawsuit there needs to be a tort which mean someone's been wronged in some way.

Doesn't matter if your goal is to trouble or endanger your opponent. Doesn't matter if someone's actually been wronged. Faced with litigation, both sides are looking at incurring legal costs. These are significant.

For instance, I am currently in litigation. Its a professional negligence lawsuit against an architect. (i'm UK based). The case is, legally and evidentially clear cut in my favour.

The amount at stake is well over a year's good salary, a lot for me. But due to the costs implications, its considered a small stakes claim. I am being faced off by the insurance company's lawyers. They know that even if awarded costs (as successful), I may not recover all costs. It may quickly become dangerous for me even if I'm clearly in the right. At the same time, they are facing 3 times the damages if they lose. We are playing a high stakes game of chicken.

There is no doubt that someone with infinitely deep pockets could use the legal system against a target even if there's no clear-cut cause, tying up resources and money to a degree to cause damage.
posted by C.A.S. at 11:12 AM on May 25, 2016 [9 favorites]


Pando's take (Thiel's a Pando investor).
posted by edeezy at 11:13 AM on May 25, 2016


For there to be a successful lawsuit there needs to be a tort which mean someone's been wronged in some way.

Doesn't matter if your goal is to trouble or endanger your opponent.


Yes, what I was responding to was the assertion that someone must have done something wrong in every lawsuit.
posted by Etrigan at 11:19 AM on May 25, 2016


And now another billionaire is in the process of buying the American Presidency. Toys, toys, toys. Are there ever enough?
posted by chance at 11:22 AM on May 25, 2016


As a lawyer my immediate first-instinct question is whether there are ethical sanctions that can be brought against Hogan's lead attorney Charles Harder. As praeminure correctly notes, there is an ethical duty to the client - to zealously advocate for the client's needs. Not the whims and desires of the person who is bankrolling the suit. This is a mandatory requirement of the profession, not just a philosophical suggestion or a mere good idea. And your duty is to make the client whole. This is not a punitive process; civil cases are about compensation for wrongs, not burning the defendant to the ground at a third party's request. Foregoing multiple lucrative settlement offers for your client and outright dropping a negligent infliction of emotional distress claim is extremely unusual and brings up several red flags. I think a bar investigation should happen, honestly...
posted by naju at 12:04 PM on May 25, 2016 [19 favorites]


This type of attack won't work on a media source that is actually doing worthwhile journalism.

Really? The NYT was too afraid to even mention the actual reason Thiel was trying to stomp Gawker into oblivion (their story that Peter Thiel is secretly gay), in their story about Thiel trying to stop Gawker into oblivion. Sounds like that of attack is working just fine.
posted by sideshow at 12:13 PM on May 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


The NYT was too afraid to even mention the actual reason

Do you have some evidence thats why they didnt mention it? Seems like there are lots of reasons (the way their policies work, don't want to create any sympathy for Thiel, ignorance, etc).

Gawker may or may not have done good journalism in addition to this, but just because someone does some good things doesn't absolve them of doing something horrible.

If Thiel is (as he appears to be) _also_ sponsoring/funding frivolous lawsuits designed to silence media, thats certainly reprehensible, but the Hogan case is not a good example of that.

(Certainly Thiel is a generally horrible person all around)
posted by thefoxgod at 12:23 PM on May 25, 2016


the Hogan case is not a good example of that.

If his maintenance of the case means that it was run in his interests, rather than those of Mr Hogan, it is an exceptionally good example of the way that powerful people can distort the justice system. It is entirely possible to think that Hogan should have won and simultaneously deplore the effect of Thiel's involvement.
posted by howfar at 12:30 PM on May 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


I learned a few days ago that Thiel only eats ice cold chicken soup because he believes cooking destoried neutrons that will allow him to live to be 140
posted by The Whelk at 1:16 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


When metafilter is forced to start dropping articles out of fear of lawsuits, will you still be shrugging and making false equivalencies?

So a celebrity with a single front incisor walks into a bar lawyer's office...
posted by Guy Smiley at 1:30 PM on May 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


Samantha Barbas, a law professor at the University at Buffalo whose research focuses on the intersection of the First Amendment, media and privacy, said the verdict “could have a profound impact on privacy rights and also free press rights” in the United States.

“For a jury to say that a celebrity has a right to privacy that outweighs the public’s ‘right to know,’ and that a celebrity sex tape is not newsworthy, represents a real shift in American free press law,” Professor Barbas said.


I'm not a lawyer, so I am mystified as to why a random jury can, apparently, be given this power to decide on such an abstract question that is the crux of the matter? Does this case set a legal precedent? Technically the jury's decision applies to this specific case only. Would future cases serve to tune this shift to provide an evolving balance between conflicting interests? Is this even sustainable, as a political process? What is the best way for the public to have a conversation about this? Etc.
posted by polymodus at 1:30 PM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I learned a few days ago that Thiel only eats ice cold chicken soup because he believes cooking destoried neutrons that will allow him to live to be 140

He may not live to be 140, but on that diet at least it'll feel like it.
posted by howfar at 1:32 PM on May 25, 2016


Lord Denning (then Master of the Rolls), in Re Trepica Mines Limited (No. 2) [1963] “The reason why the common law condemns champerty is because the abuses to which it may give rise. The common law fears that the champertous maintainer might be tempted, for his own personal gain, to inflame the damages, to suppress evidence, or even to suborn witnesses. These fears may be exaggerated; but, be that so or not, the law for centuries has declared champerty unlawful.”

Just to underline that the concerns being expressed here are not new, nor solely because of Thiel's specific involvement.
posted by howfar at 1:36 PM on May 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


*Trepca Mines Limited.
posted by howfar at 1:49 PM on May 25, 2016


You want an example of Gawker doing good, valuable joiurnalism?
Is Donald Trump’s Hair a $60,000 Weave? A Gawker Investigation

As for Hulk Hogan, he made his fame as a frontman for an organization that helped establish "open lying" as a business model. I have ZERO respect for ANYBODY ever employed by WWE (sorry, 'Rock', I ain't touching what you're cooking) and humiliating Terry Bollea, who should have been sued into poverty decades ago for copyright infringement by Marvel Comics, I consider a public service. And the WWE should have been sued out of existence (for ANYTHING) long before it started helping Donald Trump to become a Presidential Candidate. So much of what's wrong with America today can be traced back to the acceptance of WWE's "Sports Entertainment" ("Pre-Scripted Non-Competition"), not a media entity that publishes "trash" that is ten times more likely to be TRUTHFUL than the political pornography of FoxNooz (the WWE of News).
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:50 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


By now, I'm just assuming the idiotic "But this could never happen to legitimate journalism" comments are being bankrolled by Thiel too.
posted by klangklangston at 1:51 PM on May 25, 2016 [10 favorites]


So how is this any different, really?

You can't run a democratic society without some level of trust that everyone is generally playing by the same rules. It is different because of the secrecy of the money that bought a higher probability of the case's outcome being to the benefit of the hidden funder. The downstream effects of precedent also mean that secretive money will have influence on cases to come. Ignoring that Thiel did an end-run around laws that usually protect us from frivolous libel suits by the wealthy (of the sort that plague the UK, say), this kind of secrecy and corruption corrode trust in the legal system.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:59 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Everyone who watches pro wrestling knows that pro wrestling is theater, oneswellfoop. Not even the dumbest person in the audience at Wrestlemania thinks they're watching a real competition. Hulk Hogan sucks because he helped the W.W.E. prevent its workers from unionizing so that they could get better protections against the dangers of their job.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:00 PM on May 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


So much of what's wrong with America today can be traced back to the acceptance of WWE's "Sports Entertainment" ("Pre-Scripted Non-Competition")

So... you have a problem with fiction?

Listen I get that the McMahons are terrible people but so are a lot of the billionaires who run media/entertainment companies. It's cool to not like wrestling but seriously, it's just another form of fictional entertainment.
posted by misskaz at 2:01 PM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


"Wrestling is a lie, sheeple" is surely the most lukewarm take that can come from all this.
posted by naju at 2:03 PM on May 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


In other news, a vile Midlands writer, working under a number of names, is shamed, after it is revealed that Richard III never said "A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!".
posted by howfar at 2:16 PM on May 25, 2016


To those commenters saying this is no big deal or Gawker deserved it anyway or it wouldn’t happen to proper news sources etc. etc. - if this was a story about a comparable billionaire entrepreneur and a comparable media organization in another country, maybe a country where press freedom is already acknowledged as being under political pressures, can you honestly say your reaction would be equally as untroubled as it is in this case?
posted by bitteschoen at 2:19 PM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


The comments now are strikingly different from last month, which were uniformly pro-Hogan and anti-Gawker. Only goes to show how well Thiel picked a sympathetic case for his mission to destroy Gawker.
posted by crazy with stars at 2:30 PM on May 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


So... you have a problem with fiction?

Mislabeled fiction, yes. Like Scientology is labeled a Religion and not a Science Fiction franchise as successful than Star Wars and Star Trek. All part of America's acceptance of "open lying" that will lead to President Trump. They're all related.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:31 PM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm not a lawyer, so I am mystified as to why a random jury can, apparently, be given this power to decide on such an abstract question that is the crux of the matter? Does this case set a legal precedent?

I can't put words in that professor's mouth, but essentially, the principle is that in a jury trial, judges decide matters of law, and juries decide matters of fact. The jury's duty is to decide, pursuant to legal standards laid down by the court, whether a given type of conduct falls within a legal rule. So to the extent the judge thought about and articulated a legal framework that the jury would use, it does have an effect that can reverberate through other cases. The jury also injects an element of community sentiment into its resolution, so even if no legal precedent comes from this, it can have a profound effect by virtue of setting community norms and chilling speech. Especially given the hugely outsized damages that the jury decided on.
posted by naju at 2:39 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm UK based ... They are facing 3 times the damages if they lose.

The situation is quite different in the U.S. There is no "loser pays" rule (in most cases). A wealthy person can simply sue their opponent over and over again, losing every time, until their opponent goes broke.

This works both ways, although not symmetrically. It means that a less wealthy person can sue a big corporation without the threat of damages hanging over their head if they lose their case.
posted by JackFlash at 2:54 PM on May 25, 2016


To those commenters saying this is no big deal or Gawker deserved it anyway or it wouldn’t happen to proper news sources etc. etc. - if this was a story about a comparable billionaire entrepreneur and a comparable media organization in another country, maybe a country where press freedom is already acknowledged as being under political pressures, can you honestly say your reaction would be equally as untroubled as it is in this case?

Is the media corporation still profiting from broadcasting a pornographic film without the consent of it's subjects? Then yes, equally untroubled. Which is not to say totally untroubled, but I can live with it. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
posted by rodlymight at 3:05 PM on May 25, 2016


The comments now are strikingly different from last month, which were uniformly pro-Hogan and anti-Gawker

Who here has defended Gawker's idiotic sex tape story? Or even suggested that the court's decision was wrong? You don't have to pick Team Hulk or Team Gawker, and I don't think people are. The facts surrounding the conduct of the case are troubling, no matter what the facts of the case itself are.
posted by howfar at 3:07 PM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Which is not to say totally untroubled, but I can live with it. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Wait, are you saying you wouldn't be bothered about having a broken clock because it would be right twice a day? Because that seems like a pretty shit clock and I'd be considering replacing it if I were in your position.
posted by howfar at 3:09 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Wired weighs in: Three Cheers for Peter Thiel
posted by rorgy at 5:40 PM on May 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm reminded of Jon Stewart paraphrasing G. Gordon Liddy: "Because of Mark Felt's unethical behavior, I went to jail for crimes... I committed!"

cjelli: "Had Hogan bankrolled this himself, he likely, not having the kind of money Thiel has, would have been more likely to push for an outcome of the suit that most benefited himself rather than one that most harmed Gawker."

I don't know how likely that is; people do things that cost them resources all the time on principle. I mean "it is the principle of the thing" returns ~250 million hits on google. People act against their best interest for spite all the time.
posted by Mitheral at 5:42 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Quoting some comments:

Tl;dr: the suit was conducted in the way most likely destroy Gawker as a media outlet and business concern, rather than in the way most likely to make Hogan whole for what was done to him, which is how a lawsuit like this would normally be run.

and

Had Hogan bankrolled this himself, he likely, not having the kind of money Thiel has, would have been more likely to push for an outcome of the suit that most benefited himself rather than one that most harmed Gawker. Had he pushed for an outcome that was most beneficial for himself, Gawker's insurance would have kicked in and Gawker would not have been as harmed as it was, and Mr. Hogan would be better off financially.

I can hardly believe I'm defending anybody in this mess, but I guess that's where I am.

Consider a more abstract situation:

Let's say I've been wronged by a company. The lawyers get involved and I'm faced with two options. 1) I can take a $X settlement, paid by the company or 2) I can take $(X+Y) settlement BUT the company's insurance will pay, not the company.

If $X is large enough I would be honestly tempted to take option 1. Why? Because it isn't just about financial reward to me. Where is the justice if the people who did something bad don't suffer any consequences? Where is the incentive for them to stop hurting people? It's not good when an insurance company becomes a bad actor's whipping boy.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 5:43 PM on May 25, 2016




Civil tort law is not about punishment or suffering consequences. It's about compensating a victim for an injury. If the plaintiff is compensated, justice is done. If we as a society want to punish bad actors, then we go through the realm of criminal law. There's no insurance for criminal liability.

If you think we should be allowed to do an end-run around insurance covering for civil liability damages due to negligence, then throw out your car insurance. This is the entire reason liability insurance exists!
posted by naju at 6:22 PM on May 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


Civil tort law is not about punishment or suffering consequences.
It will be under Trump Law.

It's about compensating a victim for an injury. If the plaintiff is compensated, justice is done.
There isn't a human being alive who is injured $140 million worth by a public sex tape. (Some careers have been made by sex tapes) And by the way, the guy who made the tape and then passed it around (Gawker got it third-hand) paid Fake-Hulk $5000 for his malfeasance.

We need more media entities like Gawker, not less. Instead we get Buzzfeed clones and Sons of Breitbart. If there were any chance the scumbags running media campaigns against Planned Parenthood could get a $140 million judgement against them, I might feel differently, but there isn't.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:33 PM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I was speaking broadly about the philosophy of civil cases, fwiw.
posted by naju at 6:47 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


naju: "Civil tort law is not about punishment or suffering consequences. "

25 million of Hogan's award were in punitive damages. Isn't the idea of punitive damages to act as punishment?
posted by Mitheral at 6:51 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Punitive damages are an exception, yes.
posted by naju at 6:56 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Another reason Thiel might not like Gawker is because back in 2009 they pointed out the part of an essay he wrote in which he blames the downfall of the country on women's suffrage. Thiel wrote:

"The 1920s were the last decade in American history during which one could be genuinely optimistic about politics. Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women - two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians - have rendered the notion of "capitalist democracy" into an oxymoron."
posted by pocketfullofrye at 6:58 PM on May 25, 2016 [7 favorites]




Well, that positions Theil, "a pledged delegate for Donald R. Trump for the 2016 Republican National Convention" as a prime contender for Trump's running mate.

He added: “It’s not for me to decide what happens to Gawker. If America rallies around Gawker and decides we want more people to be outed and more sex tapes to be posted without consent, then they will find a way to save Gawker, and I can’t stop it.”
Well, not him, but he's betting that Donald can. As for me, I'm rallying behind Gawker, but I don't have any billions.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:36 PM on May 25, 2016


Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women - two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians - have rendered the notion of "capitalist democracy" into an oxymoron."

Fucking wow.

It never occurred to me that someone could be so stupid and misguided.

I've taken it for granted that the way that the US navigated its way out of the 1930s without the revolutionary disasters of Europe, and the broad based post-war growth the US sustained, would be seen as great achievements by our society.
posted by C.A.S. at 11:17 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


People act against their best interest for spite all the time.

Yes, but your attorney is probably under a code of conduct and obligation to advise you against this in terms of the course of litigation.

I would also assume that he/she would be open to malpractice/negligence if they did not do so.
posted by C.A.S. at 11:19 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Are attorneys required to say "Look chucklehead, your actions are wasting time and money for no gain (but possibly spite), you should instead do X, Y, Z and if you don't you'll need a new lawyer"? Or are they clear to advise and then just follow their clients wishes however misguided they may be?
posted by Mitheral at 11:52 PM on May 25, 2016


Another reason Thiel might not like Gawker is because
Well it’s not just that or the post sort of outing him, if you search the Gawker website for his name you will find a LOT more mentions, many from posts in Valleywag, and many tagged "Peter Thiel" tag.

And even if his name had never been mentioned, all that skewering of the tech industry in general would have sufficed to make someone like Thiel want Gawker Media’s head on a plate, he’s got money invested in everything and is clearly not apolitical.

It’s all so... fascinating for lack of a better word. An extreme libertarian who wants such minimal government that he wants to build private self-governing tax-free offshore colonies but is happy to exploit the US public legal system to fight a media publication - how does that work logically, which school of political philosophy teaches you to reconcile those positions? And how come no other media were taking such an interest in all that before? Where is this happening, the US or Uzbekistan?
posted by bitteschoen at 1:51 AM on May 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


which school of political philosophy teaches you to reconcile those positions?
The Egomaniac School (a.k.a. Trump University)
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:03 AM on May 26, 2016


how does that work logically, which school of political philosophy teaches you to reconcile those positions?

Its the same sort of logic that allows Ammon Bundy, a self-sufficient libertarian rancher using publicly owned land to raise his cattle, argue that the government is interfering with his liberty.

And, once arrested after a stand-off, argue that his his second amendment rights to carry a gun has been violated. Bundy wants better jail conditions

And then related famous self-sufficient libertarian rancher Cliven Bundy seeks Sugar Daddy funding from the Koch Brothers for his legal defence. Bundy lawyer seeks Koch Brothers funding

The answer - there is no logic in these fuckwits whatsoever that is not completely self-serving denial
posted by C.A.S. at 2:26 AM on May 26, 2016


Environmental lawsuits and the vengeance donors is an interesting and provocative analogy, from Thiel's friend Tyler Cowen. I think in general we should not hate every philanthropist who supports lawsuits, but judge based on the purpose of the lawsuit and the organization or person suing. There are a lot of lawsuits worthy of support, and famously people like Prince and Jay-Z would surreptitiously funnel cash to the victims of police violence so that they wouldn't have to take a crappy settlement. Nothing wrong with charity in those cases.

This, I have a hard time faulting Hogan or Thiel here. But for the fraudulent ACORN and Planned Parenthood stings I think there's a lot of blame.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:38 AM on May 26, 2016


Ammon Bundy isn't really a rancher, he's a rental car manager who lives in Phoenix, but yea. Libertarian logic isn't generally discernible or coherent. But here, Thiel is telling you exactly his thought process. He's made billions of dollars, which means he has billions more truth units than anyone else. The American people are "free to decide" what happens to Gawker, all they have to do is out spend him in response. It's perfectly consistent with Thiel's broader money as politics and measure of value philosophy. He has the most money around, so he's clearly right and gets to have the most say.
posted by T.D. Strange at 3:43 AM on May 26, 2016 [2 favorites]




Felix Salmon's take:
The next step, after the Hogan verdict, was for Thiel to go public. After the enormous damages were announced and the long appeals process creaked into action, it started to become obvious that Gawker would need to raise more capital in order to continue to be able to fight the case. (In the worst case scenario, it would need to put up a $50 million bond.) Gawker had already sold some new stock in January; there was talk of doing the same thing again. With cash, Gawker could fight the Hogan verdict, get it reduced or even thrown out entirely, and carry on as a going concern.

But then the Thiel bombshell dropped. The Hogan case, it turned out, wasn’t a war in which Gawker could emerge victorious; instead, it was merely a battle in a much larger fight against an opponent with effectively unlimited resources.

Gawker could continue to fight the Hogan case; it could even win that case outright, on appeal. But even if Hogan went away, Thiel would not. Thiel’s lawsuits would not end, and Thiel’s pockets are deeper than Denton’s. Gawker’s future is indeed grim: it can’t afford to fight an indefinite number of lawsuits, since fighting even frivolous suits is an expensive game.

The result is that investing in Gawker right now is a very unattractive proposition, since any investor knows that they will be fighting a years-long battle with a single-minded billionaire who doesn’t care about how much money he spends on the fight. And if Gawker can’t raise any new money to continue to fight the Hogan case, then its corporate end might be closer than anybody thinks. The company’s money-spinning sites like Gizmodo and Lifehacker will live on, somehow: they have value to potential purchasers, and are assets which can be sold in satisfaction of a financial judgment. But Gawker Media, the unique and fearless media organization led by Nick Denton, is truly staring down an existential threat, with no obvious way out.

It gets worse. If Thiel’s strategy works against Gawker, it could be used by any billionaire against any media organization. Sheldon Adelson, Donald Trump, the list goes on and on. Up until now, they’ve mostly been content suing news organizations as plaintiffs, over stories which name them. But Thiel has shown them how to go thermonuclear: bankroll other lawsuits, as many as it takes, and bankrupt the news organization that way. Very few companies have the legal wherewithal to withstand such a barrage.

Thiel, by funding Hulk Hogan, has managed to change the world. He has made the lives of all news organizations much more precarious, and he has created a whole new weapon which can be used by any evil billionaire against any publisher. And the whole thing cost him merely $10 million or so. Quite a return on invested capital!
I'm trying to shut up the cynical voice in me that goes "No shit this happened, Peter Thiel is a despicable prick." Because this isn't an inevitability, and it's not a predestined evolution of our capitalist system. It's a really terrifying way for the rich to dodge the laws that forbid them from crushing the press into nonexistence.

Thiel's describing his efforts as "philanthrophy" make me legitimately quasi-nauseous. It's such a perverted distortion on the world I see and know and want to live in. I'm mostly fine with the knowledge that things are never as good as they ought to be, but redefining philanthropy like that makes a part of me I didn't know was there tie itself up in knots.
posted by rorgy at 5:00 AM on May 26, 2016 [19 favorites]


Wow! It'd get interesting if Peter Thiel were Trump's VP!
posted by jeffburdges at 5:20 AM on May 26, 2016


Wow! It'd get interesting if Peter Thiel were Trump's VP!

It's going to be a few more years before the GOP allows a gay man onto their presidential ticket, no matter how rich or spiteful he is.
posted by PenDevil at 5:48 AM on May 26, 2016 [7 favorites]


I am not an expert on libertarianism but in the libertarianism I've seen the courts are considered one of the legitimate functions of the government.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 6:51 AM on May 26, 2016


Yes, I completely forgot the bigot factor, PenDevil. In fact, I wonder if you've just explained why he hates Gawker so much?
posted by jeffburdges at 7:04 AM on May 26, 2016


It's going to be a few more years before the GOP allows a gay man onto their presidential ticket, no matter how rich or spiteful he is.

So you're saying that Gawker ruined Thiel's chances to become Vice President or otherwise participating in politics?

That almost seems like a legitimate gripe, though arguably it would have come to light eventually. (That said, there are some closeted GOP politicians who survive a long time.)
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:07 AM on May 26, 2016


I am not an expert on libertarianism but in the libertarianism I've seen the courts are considered one of the legitimate functions of the government.

"Courts" are not really a function, they are a means of performing functions. A court sentencing a violent criminal might be fine to most libertarians, one enforcing an environmental regulation not so much. It does depend on the libertarian, of course.

I'm quite sure the standard libertarian's answer to media publishing something gross about an individual would be "people should stop buying it " and not "the government should set up laws to protect the privacy rights of individuals and the state should intervene if they are violated." At least until their own ox is gored.
posted by mark k at 7:07 AM on May 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


There are a lot of lawsuits worthy of support

But where is the link between those examples and this? What has one got to do with the other? How does funding lawsuits against police violence or for environmentalist causes or "philantropic" reasons or whatever in the public interest have any relation whatsoever to what Thiel is doing?

The only thing they have in common is that someone with enough money funded a lawsuit. The motivations and the goals and the principles are so far apart, might as well be comparing a knife used to cut carrots with a knife used to cut someone’s throat and say, see, we shouldn’t be hating knives, they can be put to good use.

I understand someone who’s friends with Thiel making comparisons that defy logic (well, actually I cannot comprehend the level of entitlement or dishonesty it takes to do that and demand to be taken seriously - it’s dictator/oligarch/mafia-boss-level style of reasoning about politics), but what’s the excuse for anyone else defending that non-argument?

I am not an expert on libertarianism but in the libertarianism I've seen the courts are considered one of the legitimate functions of the government.

I know I know but shockingly enough, the point was not about the use of courts itself (or say, calling the police if your children were kidnapped - a truly extreme position against any government involvement is untenable unless you go live on a remote island or yeah offshore in your own little realm I guess), it’s the motive and goal of funding a third-party lawsuit, against a media organisation, for your own revenge against negative coverage... that’s what seems to be very much at odds with every basic definition of libertarianism, of any degree.

Then again, this is a guy who includes the concept of being "against the ideology of the inevitability of the death of every individual" in his definition of libertarian, so I guess it’s too much to expect any reasonable logic or even consistent use of words and their accepted meaning from him, at least.



Because this isn't an inevitability, and it's not a predestined evolution of our capitalist system.

Yeah! thanks for saying that! I’m feeling a bit weirded out by the surreal way this is being reported, as if it was some kind of natural phenomenon that must be accepted, just because it’s technically legal. I guess it’s resignation, if not maybe a little bit of perverse admiration?
posted by bitteschoen at 8:04 AM on May 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


I wonder if Thiel would help bankroll a lawsuit by Ted Cruz against Trump for the National Enquirer stories that damaged his public reputation. Not that I'd want either side to win, but the contradiction is interesting.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:18 AM on May 26, 2016


I get the concern that his brings up. I do. But how do you prevent what Thiel is doing, while at the same time allowing people to get outside funding to pursue legitimate lawsuits against larger entities?

I'm a lot more concerned about a corporation's ability to overwhelm Joe Middleclass's legal resources than I am about Murdoch trying to bleed MSNBC dry.
posted by HighLife at 9:24 AM on May 26, 2016


The only thing they have in common is that someone with enough money funded a lawsuit. The motivations and the goals and the principles are so far apart, might as well be comparing a knife used to cut carrots with a knife used to cut someone’s throat and say, see, we shouldn’t be hating knives, they can be put to good use.

Well, in a liberal society we don't outlaw motivations, we outlaw specific behaviors. Arguably, the world is a better place when rich donors can help less-well-off victims fund their lawsuits against the large, rich institutions that do them harm. Thiel is simply in error when he claims to have created a philanthropic innovation. If we have an objection, it can't be to the process of funding, but to the specific goal of harrying Nick Denton.

If Felix Salmon is right, this does look like a particularly scary one-two punch that I wouldn't want to see used generally... but notice that part of the Thiel strategy is that one has to look deeply unreasonably angry so that investors will know that you're going to engage in lots of self-harm in order to get revenge. That only works with certain kinds of grievances.

what’s the excuse for anyone else defending that non-argument?

Well, I think the behavior with Hogan was actually pretty egregious, as was outing Thiel. I'm not defending Thiel, but in this at least he seems much less evil--and much more comprehensibly human--than Gawker. This isn't really a "first they came for the gossip magazines" kind of situation. It looks kind of like Denton is being hoist by his own petard.

I guess it’s resignation, if not maybe a little bit of perverse admiration?

I buy that. Maybe there is admiration for this kind of devious revenge. If Denton makes his living exposing people's private lives knowing that it will make them feel like shit, then maybe he kind of deserves to acquire an even richer nemesis. Thiel is punching down, but Denton has been punching down for a living for fifteen years and there are a lot of people who welcome the opportunity to punch up.

That said, I'm just chatting. I actually think vindictiveness is deeply problematic and we should ultimately overcome our perverse admiration revenge. But it's worth recognizing the source so we can better resolve the temptation of those feelings. Name it, frame it, and work to change it.

I take it this is what it feels like to support Trump: sure, he's an rich selfish asshole. But when it comes to taking on the establishment folks who have been shitting on you for decades, he's YOUR rich selfish asshole.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:57 AM on May 26, 2016 [1 favorite]




Hypothetical situation here: Suppose Gawker were a publicly traded company. Could Thiel, at the same time he is using his significant wealth to wage a campaign to bankrupt Gawker, short their stock? As long as he was confident his actions would bring down the stock price, he could use profits from shorting the stock to fund his campaign. This would mean that Gawker shareholders would effectively be bankrolling a campaign to bankrupt the very company they are invested in.

I know virtually nothing about shorting stocks, and any SEC rules surrounding it, so I'm going to assume I'm missing some detail that would prevent it.
posted by noneuclidean at 10:24 AM on May 26, 2016


Dumping a stock while suing or otherwise harming a corporation is basically the plot of the television show Leverage. When plaintiffs or plaintiff's lawyers themselves do it, it's called "Sue and Dump" and though it currently skirts 10b-5, I think it's probably the sort of thing that the SEC would scrutinize and we know that judges have used it as grounds to disqualify.

Hell, it could potentially affect the Gawker case itself!
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:33 AM on May 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


Interestingly, all this might push journalism towards greater anonymity. We've a very talented PhD student named Florian Dold, who previously helped come up with the refresh protocol for giving change in Taler, now working on several problems around news dissemination with distributed protocols. There are always numerous complexities, both theoretically and in implementation, but a pseudononymous distributed publication system able to compete with blogs, news websites, and twitter sounds very much in the cards.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:58 AM on May 26, 2016


There are always numerous complexities, both theoretically and in implementation, but a pseudononymous distributed publication system able to compete with blogs, news websites, and twitter sounds very much in the cards.

Dibs on Locke; you can be Demosthenes.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:11 PM on May 26, 2016


Of course you cannot prevent what Thiel is doing by outlawing the practice of outside funding for lawsuits, why is that even a question, who’s even arguing for outlawing anything? How would you go about that anyway?

It’d be impossible, regardless of whether it’s desirable or not. So no need to pit the concern for average joe’s recourse to legal remedies against the concern for press freedom - the two are definitely not mutually exclusive.

The problem is not the external funding of lawsuits, it’s the context that allowed someone in Thiel’s position to feel entitled to do this, to go after a publication this way, and not have to worry at all about a) reactions from most other media b) reactions from politicians c) reactions from the public.

That is a cultural and political issue, not a legal one, and it’s much bigger than the specifics of this lawsuit.

I think what Spiers wrote in the post rorgy linked to above describes the main problem very well, amongst other things:

Another factor: I think Thiel aside, tech press is largely fawning toward successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, and mostly unintentionally. Journalists who haven’t worked in tech themselves are sometimes genuinely and sincerely enamored with the promise of what they’re looking at and are so dazzled that they fail to ask the questions they should. Some of them are lazy and it’s always easier as a journalist to write the glowing lightweight story, where no one’s going to press you to nail down the facts and you won’t get any blowback from sources or subjects. Ultimately, this has created a sense of entitlement in the industry where denizens of Silicon Valley expect the media to actively support them and any negative portrayals are met with real anger and resentment, even when they’re 100% accurate. And it’s never the media’s job to support the industry — that’s PR. It’s the media’s job to cover it, the good and the bad. But if you’re not used to being covered, and that would describe 99% of the tech industry, the scrutiny can be uncomfortable.
By the way, the only other US-based publication I’m aware of that is escaping that trap is The Baffler (a quote that seems appropriate: "It is clear that Thiel sees corporations as the governments of the future and capitalists such as himself as the kings, and it is also clear that this is a shockingly common view in Thiel’s cohort", you don’t say!), but they have never even gone to the lengths of what Gakwer did, they don’t even have the means anyway.

Most media is indeed self-censoring and uncritical and playing a role of PR to the tech industry and often not even realising or seeing it that way, it’s just the way it is now, everywhere. It’s not limited to the US, it’s spreading with the spread of the industry itself, and it affects a huge set of aspects of politics and public life and rights, that go all the way to the kind of stuff that has been debated in the TTIP negotiations, for instance. In a nutshell, the power of corporations to influence media, and even laws and governments - even in other countries.

That’s why I think the context of Thiel’s involvement in the lawsuit against Gakwer is a serious concern for everyone, far beyond the direct consequences for Gawker.

Personally, I think (naively! I admit! I’m a stupid idealist!) that’d be reason enough to wish that at this stage, after Thiel has revelead himself as a the funder, everyone and all media rallied around Gakwer – regardless of how wrong Gawker were in the specific case they were sued over, because the issue has shifted to a whole other level now.
Or at least raise to the occasion, take up the gauntlet and be more daring and critical - and not just about Thiel specifically, that’s too easy now. But yeah I’m dreaming here, I know.

Honestly, until a few years ago, I used to think it was all a lot of overblown catastrophising, that concern that the tech corporations wanted to practically replace governments and were threatening public life as we know it and whatnot... and now not a year, not a month goes by without some development that seems to point in that direction.
posted by bitteschoen at 12:45 PM on May 26, 2016 [6 favorites]


Personally, I think (naively! I admit! I’m a stupid idealist!) that’d be reason enough to wish that at this stage, after Thiel has revelead himself as a the funder, everyone and all media rallied around Gakwer – regardless of how wrong Gawker were in the specific case they were sued over, because the issue has shifted to a whole other level now.

So you do think this is a case of "First they came for the gossip magazines..."?

I just don't know: the jury award is massive. Thiel's role appears to have been twofold:

First, to help make sure that the insurance company couldn't pay for the defense; Gawker would still likely have been on the hook for paying (most) of the award itself. This jury decided to destroy Gawker and would have done so even if the case was taken on contingency.

Second, to make a threat to keep up this kind of pressure, to reduce Denton's ability to recapitalize through another IPO or bond issue. It's really not clear if that's now impossible or if it's merely more difficult and expensive to sell stock or raise a bond. Just a thought, but perhaps if Denton himself stepped aside investors would be persuaded that Thiel wouldn't continue the assault.

The key here is that Gawker engages in practices that regularly threaten to cause economic harm in excess of its market value. It should probably be uninsurable, like owning a pet tiger. It did something deeply reckless in publishing that video, and it's in a business where it's likely to keep doing such things, run by a leader who seems eager to take on those risks.

It seems to me that Gawker committed corporate suicide in 2012 and Thiel offered to help. But I think you're right that parsing the exact causality matters and if I'm wrong about my reading of the situation then we should head to the barricades and defend them.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:00 PM on May 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


J.K. Trotter: This Is Why Billionaire Peter Thiel Wants to End Gawker
These stories, which are only a small sample of those Gawker has published about Peter Thiel, largely concern his professional life: Business ventures, political positions, and public statements. But as he noted to the Times, it was concern for his “friends” that Gawker had covered that motivated his secret legal assault: “One of my friends convinced me that if I didn’t do something, nobody would.”

And it is Thiel’s friends, broadly considered, that Valleywag made a business of holding accountable: The site’s motivating ethos was to report honestly on Silicon Valley’s businesses and personalities, and to trace out the distance between the meritocratic rhetoric and the actual way things work there. As former Valleywag editor Owen Thomas put it to the Times today, “Silicon Valley said it had ideals. All we asked was that it live up to those ideals.”

It was this persistent, nagging coverage—totally alien to a new billionaire class that had only known access-driven cheerleading from the likes of TechCrunch—that made Gawker and its sites, as Thiel put it, “terrible for the Valley.” Valleywag was creating a counter-narrative to the mythos of the free-market, death-destroying, Randian Übermensch that Thiel and his friends were peddling.

Silicon Valley’s hostility toward any critical coverage persists to this day. Last night, for example, a developer at Uber complained on Twitter that Gawker was “intentionally disruptive to acquisitions” and seemed designed to provide “fodder for NYC-focused disdain.” The refusal to engage in public relations or access journalism—the refusal to lubricate the flow of venture capital—is usually the mark of an outlet’s credibility. For Thiel and his peers in Silicon Valley, such a refusal amounts to repudiating their way of life.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:06 PM on May 26, 2016 [12 favorites]


So now it's forbidden *not* to engage in access journalism.
posted by rhizome at 2:17 PM on May 26, 2016


It seems to me that Gawker committed corporate suicide in 2012 and Thiel offered to help.
I still can't comprehend how a sex tape of a generally irreputable celebrity could be 'corporate suicide' for a media entity larger than a local newspaper. If I were on the jury on that case, I'd have insisted on limiting it to the value of the damage to Fake-Hulk's reputation... which I could cover on my PayPal credit limit. There is one possible reason for the size of the judgment (besides the idiocy, irrationality and immorality of a jury filled with "Florida Man"s) and that would be that Theil's investment in the case included some payoffs to members of that jury. Of course, finding a news organization that might investigate that possibility won't be easy... anymore. Meanwhile, I'm sure The National Enquirer could come up with a story connecting Nick Denton's family to John Wilkes Booth, because outright lying is safe, if you're lying about the right people.

And yes, even though I have no interest in actually WATCHING them (as I never watched the 'Hulk Sex Tape'), but I WANT America to be capable of supporting the publicizing of the surreptitiously recorded sex acts of bad people, up to and including Donnie Drumpf (especially if it included the time he raped his wife). Bill Cosby sex tapes would have settled that case years ago.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:20 PM on May 26, 2016


An open letter to Peter Thiel. By Nick Denton, owner of Gawker.
Your plaintiff’s lawyer, Charles Harder, has sued not just the company, but individual journalists.

A.J. Daulerio, author of the 2012 story on Hulk Hogan, is out of work and unable to pay the $100,000 in punitive damages awarded by the jury. In the Ayyadurai and Terrill complaints, Harder cynically paints author Sam Biddle as an abuser of narcotics, basing this claim on Biddle’s own writing about his struggle with anxiety and depression, and the physician-prescribed medication he takes to treat his mood disorders. John Cook, our executive editor, is accused of negligent hiring and retention.

Peter, this is twisted. Even were you to succeed in bankrupting Gawker Media, the writers you dislike, and me, just think what it will mean.

The world is already uncomfortable with the unaccountable power of the billionaire class, the accumulation of wealth in Silicon Valley, and technology’s influence over the media.

You are a board member of Facebook, which is under congressional investigation after our site Gizmodo reported on the opaque and potentially biased way it decides what news sources are seen by its billions of users.

Now you show yourself as a thin-skinned billionaire who, despite all the success and public recognition that a person could dream of, seethes over criticism and plots behind the scenes to tie up his opponents in litigation he can afford better than they.

You were the basis for the affectless venture capitalist in the HBO show, Silicon Valley; with this diabolical decade-long scheme for revenge, you are redefining yourself as a comic-book villain.
posted by rorgy at 3:38 PM on May 26, 2016 [6 favorites]


but I WANT America to be capable of supporting the publicizing of the surreptitiously recorded sex acts of bad people

The problem there is that not everyone defines "bad person" the same way you do, so when you say "we should do X to someone bad", what you really wind up saying is "we should do X to anyone".
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:47 PM on May 26, 2016 [4 favorites]


So you do think this is a case of "First they came for the gossip magazines..."?

Eh, if you really want to put it that way, but I don’t really see how all they had been writing about Peter Thiel for years long before the lawsuit, and arguably all of Valleywag altogether basically, can be reduced to only "gossip". They have a handy list of "reasons why Thiel hates us" in a latest post, a selection of what they wrote and it’s mostly about his business and politics and ideas, not gossip.

Then again, of course, even if it was all "just gossip", unlike what Mr Thiel himself seems to believe, the legal and political principle of having media free from pressures and interference and revenge is not a principle applied selectively based on the style or type of content the publication publishes, it’s universal.

I don’t really disagree that Gawker "did something deeply reckless in publishing that video", but I do believe that can, or rather, must be separated from the bigger principle that is worth defending. Here’s Justin Peters on Slate:
Thiel’s newly revealed revenge plot is an epochal wakeup call that should concern everyone. Granted, rich people have tried to counteract and forestall news coverage they dislike for generations, usually by pulling their advertising from the outlets in question, occasionally by purchasing those outlets (calling Sheldon Adelson), and often by suing. But it takes a special kind of vindictiveness to devise a long-term scheme to punish a news outlet, pursue the scheme in secret through the courts, and then appear proud of one’s actions once exposed. Thiel’s lawsuit-funding will have a chilling effect on journalists and journalism, not least by asserting the power of the richest and least accountable among us to define what constitutes acceptable discourse and to punish those who violate these arbitrary standards. That’s something none of us should tolerate.

[...] “I refuse to believe that journalism means massive privacy violations,” Thiel, who has donated to the Committee to Protect Journalists, told the Times’ Sorkin in an astonishing interview on Wednesday. “It’s precisely because I respect journalists that I do not believe they are endangered by fighting back against Gawker.” Yes, there’s no better way to show your respect for journalists than by funding a brutal lawsuit that, if successful, will cause dozens and dozens of them to lose their jobs. Irrespective of whether you like Gawker Media and appreciate its blunt, impudent style of journalism, its employees are without question journalists. The stories published on the website’s network are factually based. When its reporters get stories wrong, they cop to their errors.

Gawker Media occasionally screws up, as all journalists do, but most of its controversial stories are products of an aggressively public-spirited editorial philosophy that’s the polar opposite of Thiel’s ideal of enforced niceness. The Gawker Media sites have long been reflexively suspicious of and adversarial toward those whose money or social status shield them from outside scrutiny, and its best stories—Deadspin’s ongoing coverage of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and his inept efforts to protect the league’s reputation in the face of numerous, often self-inflicted scandals; Dave McKenna’s outstanding coverage of creepy Sacramento mayor and former NBA star Kevin Johnson; Gawker’s coverage of the sexual-assault allegations against Bill Cosby—hold these people to account. Gawker Media’s coverage of Peter Thiel and his entrepreneurial colleagues, though often rude, has served as a necessary corrective to the fawning profiles and news-release regurgitation that too often constitutes tech coverage in America, a reminder that these companies are run by people—fallible, self-centered, often stupid people.

Gawker’s ressentiment is not always a virtue, and it has led it to sometimes go after people who do not deserve its scrutiny. Righteous zeal in excess can be a bad thing. But it’s much, much worse to surreptitiously spend $10 million to bankrupt and destroy a news organization against which you hold a grudge. Speaking to the Times’ Sorkin, Thiel justified his vendetta, saying, “It’s not like it is some sort of speaking truth to power or something going on here. The way I’ve thought about this is that Gawker has been a singularly terrible bully.” Thiel is contorting the definition of bully to mean someone who makes me feel uncomfortable. But good journalism is often the act of making powerful people feel uncomfortable, and in this era of vast wealth disparities, few people are more powerful than the Croesan tech executives who hope to change the world by creating widgets, apps, and floating man-made islands.
posted by bitteschoen at 3:51 PM on May 26, 2016 [7 favorites]


If Denton makes his living exposing people's private lives knowing that it will make them feel like shit, then maybe he kind of deserves to acquire an even richer nemesis. Thiel is punching down, but Denton has been punching down for a living for fifteen years and there are a lot of people who welcome the opportunity to punch up.

Is reporting on celebrities "punching down?"
posted by krinklyfig at 4:18 PM on May 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


An open letter to Peter Thiel.

Any appeal to his emotions is fatally flawed in that it relies on Thiel having empathy for anyone with less than his net worth. Imagine writing the same open letter to Trump. It'll have about the same effect. Thiel undoubtedly sees this as him winning.
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:44 PM on May 26, 2016


I really hope he doesn't sue me out of house and home, but, seriously, fuck Peter Thiel.
posted by kbanas at 5:01 PM on May 26, 2016


Josh Marshall responds: Wanted: Better Defenses of Peter Thiel

If we're going to pretend that Thiel's tort jihad might be as much as in the public interest as an ACLU suit, good luck with that. But sure, let the public decide. Do it in public. Don't hide.

What Thiel's actions and The American Interest article both point to this: One of the great trends of our time is not simply to give greater and greater rein for the extremely wealthy to use their wealth in the public square but the claim that they need additional protections from those accorded everyone else or that they need to be allowed to do so in secret. Otherwise, they risk being "villified" or "demonized." In other words, the sheer magnitude of their power and the paucity of their numbers require special rights to protect them against the reputational consequences of their actions.

Free speech goes both ways. It is a modern and questionable innovation to claim that the mere spending of money amounts to speech. But even today in today's era of degraded logic, speech cannot be silent. If something gets the protection of free speech it should, indeed logically must, be out loud. Under current law, Thiel can try to destroy publications because of private vengeance. But he should be required to and should do so openly.

Doing it in secret not only makes him a coward. It's dangerous. Simple as that.

posted by T.D. Strange at 5:26 PM on May 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


If Peter Thiel hates Valleywag so much, then maybe journalism should hit back with a ValleyLeaks site, or distributed tool, that provides strong anonymity protections for sources, along with optional anonymity for journalists.

I'd love to watch Assange's ideas from Conspiracy as Governance play out across Silicon Valley. What's that? Your VC cannot trust your sysadmins enough to use the company email servers? Oh? You cannot acquire another smaller competitor because their employees balked at your background checks?
posted by jeffburdges at 5:35 PM on May 26, 2016


when you say "we should do X to someone bad", what you really wind up saying is "we should do X to anyone".
If Mother Teresa were to have a surreptitiously recorded sex tape, I'd especially want that made public.

Is reporting on celebrities "punching down?"
Never. Especially the kind of "celebrities" that American Culture celebrates.

Here's a thought: the mini-brouhaha over Facebook's human editors ignoring "the conservative media"... what did Facebook part-owner Theil think of that? Or was he quietly stirring the pot to get his 'journalistic' allies back into the mix? Oh, and what did Facebook's human editors do with Theil's enemies at Gawker?
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:42 PM on May 26, 2016


This touches on two possible understandings of "freedom of the press" I been wondering about. Is it to be understood as freedom of the "press," to operate the machine that disseminates information, so that anyone may run a press (or, nowadays, a webserver) just as freedom of speech means anyone may run their mouth? Or is freedom of the "press," people in the journalist class, deserving immunities and privileges according to their vocation?

Me I like the former, but I have no idea where the legal reasoning lies, though it's not solely a legal question.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:47 PM on May 26, 2016


I believe a credentialist interpretation of the 1A came up during the Josh Wolf case, but went nowhere.
posted by rhizome at 7:59 PM on May 26, 2016




so that anyone may run a press (or, nowadays, a webserver) just as freedom of speech means anyone may run their mouth? Or is freedom of the "press," people in the journalist class, deserving immunities and privileges according to their vocation?

It's the former, generally. Speech restrictions are judged in terms of their content, not the speaker's occupation. Lovell v. City of Griffin has the canonical definition "every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion." Which has been extended to bloggers, etc.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:32 AM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


CJR: Gawker can’t hide its bad behavior behind press freedom - "Gawker isn’t always worth defending, but when it is, it’s because of the heat it puts on the powerful, not a blanket approval of everything the outlet publishes. "
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:10 AM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is reporting on celebrities "punching down?"
Never. Especially the kind of "celebrities" that American Culture celebrates.
At one point, one of Hogan's lawyers asked a former Gawker editor if there were any situation in which a celebrity sex tape would not be newsworthy.

"If they were a child," replied the editor, Albert Daulerio. "Under what age?" the lawyer asked.

"Four."
Like I said: Gawker committed suicide, Thiel just watched.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:52 AM on May 27, 2016




Anyone know why the original publishing of the video [NSFW, possibly reprehensible, but no longer includes the video, just a single still & an extended description] didn't include the part where Hogan said racist shit? [NSFW, National Enquirer] Because that was a story that actually serves the public interest.

Story about the transcript leak from the Associated Press at NBC News, might be safe for work.

Until I learned that it took someone leaking a sealed transcript of the tape (from court documents) to the National Enquirer for this story to break, I was prepared to cut Gawker some slack for using a salacious, intrusive story to sell a weightier one. Now, I'm left wondering. The DVD given to them came in at 30 minutes, 17 seconds. Was it edited down? Were they so mesmerized (A.J. Daulerio's word) by the fucking that they couldn't talk to someone who had seen the whole thing "stealthily circulated last April" [2011]? The text of their story suggests they only published one of the 30+ minutes, so did they have the racist portion & didn't bother mentioning it?
posted by morganw at 3:21 PM on May 27, 2016


ah, I see my question has been asked previously
posted by morganw at 3:24 PM on May 27, 2016


The New York Post is reporting that First Look Media owner Pierre Omidyar is stepping in to support Gawker against Thiel.

The Post headline is typically misleading. He's filing an amicus brief through his own media venture, First Look. That's not really "stepping in" or "backing" like Thiel is doing, nor is he putting up any money to help keep Gawker afloat against the judgment. And First Look is a prime target of exactly this kind of tactic, they report on all kinds of things someone like Thiel might take an interest in silencing (although Omidyar has the resources to make it much more difficult to bankrupt than Gawker, if he so chooses).
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:17 PM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've been having some good laughs today.

What's funny is all the fucking puling about the very wealthy exercising power over the courts when billionaire Thiel funds a lawsuit, but not a peep about that only being necessary because hundred-millionaire Denton's wealth pretty much immunized him from civil justice barring a billionaire stepping in.

What else is funny is this journalist quoted above with "Thiel is contorting the definition of bully" when outing people and non-consensual pornography are like, archetypes of bullying these days. There's people as kill themselves after being forcibly outed - not Thiel, but that's still the magnitude of Gawker's attack on him. And I wanted to say "revenge pornography" as is the common phrasing but I don't even think Hogan did anything to Gawker prompting vengeance.

I was taught some rules about comedy, one being that it comes in threes, and another being that it involves the unexpected. Say you search the text of an article, you probably expect to find a result, but if you Ctrl-F this New York Times article entitled "Behind the Scenes, Billionaires' Growing Control of News" for "Carlos Slim" you'll get a behind-the-scenes laugh.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 5:34 PM on May 27, 2016


I wonder if this might have repercussions for the people trying to sue Saudi Arabia for 9/11.
posted by rhizome at 6:37 PM on May 27, 2016




Like I said: Gawker committed suicide, Thiel just watched.

Bullshit. Anyone watching the case knows that Daulerio's "4" comment was a sarcastic response that's been taken out of context to imply to the overly credulous that he seriously thinks age 4 is the cutoff for releasing a sex tape. He was stupid to be sarcastic In a deposition, but your comment implies much more than that, I think.
posted by mediareport at 6:59 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I was taught some rules about comedy, one being that it comes in threes, and another being that it involves the unexpected.

All the first amendment experts expressing serious concerns over this case must've missed the all important comedic angle.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:09 PM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]




What's funny is all the fucking puling about the very wealthy exercising power over the courts when billionaire Thiel funds a lawsuit, but not a peep about that only being necessary because hundred-millionaire Denton's wealth pretty much immunized him from civil justice barring a billionaire stepping in.

The question remains, if he was simply doing philanthropic work helping the helpless get justice why did he feel it necessary to keep it secret?
posted by edeezy at 7:24 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]




> HBGary's emails show they partnered with Thiel's Palantir's to go after Glenn Greenwald for BofA, plotted w/US Chamber to smear labor unions

... But leaked emails show high level Palantir's execs signed off on the political spying proposal, including the board. Thiel has a board seat


Inside Palantir, Silicon Valley’s Most Secretive Company: A cache of internal documents shows that despite growing revenue, Palantir has lost top-tier clients, is struggling to stem staff departures, and isn’t collecting most of the money it touts in high-value deals.
posted by homunculus at 12:02 AM on May 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


Bullshit. Anyone watching the case knows that Daulerio's "4" comment was a sarcastic response that's been taken out of context to imply to the overly credulous that he seriously thinks age 4 is the cutoff for releasing a sex tape. He was stupid to be sarcastic In a deposition, but your comment implies much more than that, I think.

No, the point of that comment is that depositions are not times to be sarcastic, and that Gawker's legal staff should have made the point abundantly clear to their clients. People aren't taking it out of context - they're pointing out that when you give the other side the opportunity to raise the unironic question of "wait, do you actually condone child rape?", you've committed a few unforced errors there.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:55 AM on May 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Just saw an amusing phrase "he presides over a bespoke think tank, the Berggruen Institute."
posted by jeffburdges at 4:27 AM on May 28, 2016


Peter Thiel's Political Awakening [irony alert: he founds a conservative college newspaper to defend someone screaming homophobic slurs at a lecturer's residence as "free speech"]
posted by indubitable at 5:02 AM on May 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


He was stupid to be sarcastic In a deposition, but your comment implies much more than that, I think.

How stupid do you have to be--as an organization--to not prevent this kind of nonsense? I know that the answer is sarcastic. But it looks a lot like a classic gaffe: truth telling is what gets you in trouble. You answer that question sarcastically because you haven't prepped with your own attorneys. You answer sarcastically because you don't think there is a sincere answer to the question. You answer sarcastically because the very idea that there are lines of propriety or law offends you. You answer sarcastically because you don't understand what's at stake.

And the jury is now punishing that. Not Theil: a jury of ordinary folks. Someone above posited that the jury must have been paid off to get this result. That's the same mentality: that people love and defend the 1st Amendment and gossip magazines and thus are immune to feeling outrage at completely outrageous behavior. But I suspect that this trial will ultimately look a lot like the McDonald's hot coffee verdict: pundits will ignore the details and use it to stump for their favorite causes. Yet whenever anyone looks at the details, suddenly the decision will look a lot more reasonable.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:22 PM on May 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


The sarcastic answer was a substantive point against Gawker's favor: it highlighted how the Gawker employee in question was literally unable to express a sense of what newsworthiness actually was, with regard to sex tapes. The First Amendment does not protect the distribution of pre-K tapes - not even if the hypothetical sex tape features celebrity children. That was a big fucking problem for Gawker.

The sarcastic answer was bad enough, and then he was impeached on the stand for denying that he had ever made the remark, and then backpedalling when he realized that it would be unwise to commit perjury, and then after that he couldn't make up his mind as to whether he was joking or being serious.

It all added up to a portrait of Gawker editors who were too glib and careless to consider the legal or ethical ramifications of publishing sex tapes. Doesn't make Hulk or Thiel nice parties, either, but the idea that Gawker didn't fuck the fuck up is utterly divorced from reality.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:32 PM on May 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


it highlighted how the Gawker employee in question was literally unable to express a sense of what newsworthiness actually was, with regard to sex tapes.

Couldn't it just as easily have been a case of a lower bound not having come up yet?
posted by rhizome at 10:42 AM on May 29, 2016


Nope. The lower bound from the hypothetical has already been established. The First Amendment does not protect the distribution of child sex videos, not even if the children are already celebrities. The mere preexisting fame of the child does not change that. It's certainly not inherently "newsworthy" in the sense under discussion. That's why the sarcastic remark was so utterly stupid.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:15 PM on May 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


Stephen Marche: Gawker Smeared Me, and Yet I Stand With It
I have seen journalists I respect claim that Gawker’s brand of journalism is cruel and hence “good riddance.” I understand this point of view. Gawker’s outing of Mr. Thiel as gay was cruel. On a lesser scale, the attacks on me always seemed as if the writers were talking about a fictional creation named “Stephen Marche.” In their eyes, because I was a columnist at Esquire, I must therefore be a younger, lousier version of Norman Mailer. It bothered me that they never caught the actual mistakes that I made. They weren’t reading me closely enough to hate me for what I deserved to be hated for.

But we are all living in a world in which the quality of sentences in a book matters less than the collar of the shirt you’re wearing on the back cover. Gawker reflected that change; it didn’t make it.

Mr. Thiel meanwhile seems to want a world in which he, personally, encounters no resistance, whether it comes from government or the free press or anyone else for that matter. He has declared, “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible,” and he is on the board at Facebook. The new breed of technologists who are taking control of the news media do not feel they should pay taxes or submit to regulation or offer anything more than disruption to their employees. They need to be challenged. And Gawker, at least, has challenged them.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:54 PM on May 31, 2016 [5 favorites]


"It all added up to a portrait of Gawker editors who were too glib and careless to consider the legal or ethical ramifications of publishing sex tapes. Doesn't make Hulk or Thiel nice parties, either, but the idea that Gawker didn't fuck the fuck up is utterly divorced from reality."

"Would you say you have a reckless disregard for 'newsworthiness?'"

"No, I would say we have an extremely reckless disregard."
posted by klangklangston at 7:03 PM on May 31, 2016


In their eyes, because I was a columnist at Esquire, I must therefore be a younger, lousier version of Norman Mailer. It bothered me that they never caught the actual mistakes that I made. They weren’t reading me closely enough to hate me for what I deserved to be hated for.

But we are all living in a world in which the quality of sentences in a book matters less than the collar of the shirt you’re wearing on the back cover.


The millionaire's publication filled with articles written by people with last names for first names made fun of me because I refused to pose as a blue collar hero, not because I write verbose trash like this. I'm good.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:31 PM on May 31, 2016


It has been a trip to watch this story evolve over the past few days. As people got to know the real Peter Thiel and what he stands for they realized what a sick piece of work he is.

Soon the only people defending him will be reclusive press-hating SV billionaires like Vinod Khosla and extremist libertarians. I bet none of his supporters realized they were signing up for a guy that idolizes Donald Trump.
posted by euphorb at 8:35 PM on May 31, 2016




Personally, any sympathy toward Theil's outing evaporated when I saw he "founded a conservative college newspaper to defend someone screaming homophobic slurs at a lecturer's residence".
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:08 PM on June 2, 2016


Peter Thiel scheduled to speak at international right wing hate group meeting in Turkey which previously featured talks on such thought provoking topics as "Why are the Jews so Smart?".

Is he running for Worst Human Being of the Year award or something?
posted by euphorb at 7:15 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]






jinxowemeacoke
posted by rorgy at 10:43 AM on June 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is Pepsi okay?
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:50 AM on June 10, 2016


*ceremoniously crosses Elementary Penguin's name off the list of ALL MY FRIENDS*

*writes Elementary Penguin's name on the list of MY WORST ENEMIES*

*adds some skulls and bleeding daggers for good measure*
posted by rorgy at 10:58 AM on June 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


New FPP for everyone who wants to read the same arguments again
posted by edeezy at 11:13 AM on June 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


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