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David K. • 7 years ago

So if someone like Hogan can't afford to fight back against Gawkers egregious and un-journalistic behavior they should just suck it up in the name of "freedom of the press"? Gawker has broken laws and acted in a despicable and capricious manner for years, that they are finally being held accountable in part thanks to someone whom they have harmed in the past with their complete and utter lack of journalistic ethics should be celebrated not critiqued. These morally bankrupt cowards have hidden behind the 1st Amendment to peddle their crap and inflict harm on real people to line their pockets, not out of any sense of journalistic desire. While individual Gawker staff members may be genuinely interested in journalism, its clear to anyone paying attention that the organization itself is not. Abuses like the ones Gawker properties routinely make do harm to genuine journalism and if they fold because of this or other lawsuits the world is better for it.

Ben • 7 years ago

As a counterpoint to all of the blustery nonsense in this comments section... Let me just say that I appreciate how sober, imaginative, nuanced and thoughtful this piece was. I wish there were more participants in these debates like Spiers, and fewer like the rest of you guys. Your disagreements would be much more thought-provoking if you were better listeners.

guardianangel42 • 7 years ago

Thiel could had thrown trillions at that lawsuit and it still wouldn't have changed anything on its own. The court decided, based on the evidence and the arguments presented, that Gawker broke the law.

Thiel didn't bribe the judge and the jury, he funded legal fees for the victim. The court could have just as easily made that investment null and void by ruling that Gawker had committed no crime.

This was a case where financial costs and lawyerly skill were taken out of the equation, leaving behind only the truth. And, according to the judge and jury, that truth was worth $140 million in damages.

Also, I wouldn't worry as an entrepreneur, because getting outed as gay in an elite environment can easily cause substantial financial losses. People still don't realize how bigoted people at the top can be, even with Trump running for President.

This was no "slight misunderstanding," it was character assassination. I think most people should feel pretty safe doing business with him; I bet some of them are even eager to, given he helped take down a company that peddled sh*t-dripping garbage half the time.

freelancewriternyc • 7 years ago

I realize blogs are supposed to be discursive stream-of-thought ramblings, but there are some real problems here, most notably that this has anything to do with Thiel wanting revenge because of scars left from being outed.

Everyone comes out at his or her timetable. Thiel came of age when the Valley was even far more dominated by a "revenge of the nerds" frat-boys-gone-wild culture. While he wouldn't have become a pariah if he were out at that time, as with many situations gay men find themselves in, he believed he would have felt uncomfortable, an outsider.

I have little doubt he would have had a "soft" self-outing (a la Cook) within a few years. His wealth, situation and liberal environment made his forced outing probably no more wrenching than anyone would who had a personal secret publicly revealed.

What the incident did do was set his laser-like sites on Gawker on (in his opinion) Gawker's inherent malevolence. In the last several years, it has become the most bottom-feeding of trash tabloids and TMZ-type sites. Whatever the well-reported or well-written stories (I never saw them), the editors became more and smug and cynical.

Funny you didn't mention their testimony, because it probably was what most influenced the jury's decision. People in St. Pete don't take kindly to sharpy New Yorkers making fun of sex with 4-year-old girls.

Whatever one thinks about Theil's bankrolling Hogan's case or his secretiveness in doing so (from anything I've ever read about this guy, that's his entire modus operandi in doing anything), his ultimate vindication came from the jury, which not only found for Hogan, but was so disgusted by Gawker that it exponentially increased the recommended penalty.

Of course it will be reduced on appeal, but one appeal has already been rejected. After that disgusting "outing" of a married Conde Nast CFO parent who may have hired a male escort once, Denton was forced to make a very public mea culpa and do some serious window dressing after advertisers fled — the only thing, ultimately, he cares about.

When Gawker goes down, like Rupert Murdoch's News of the World, it won't be because a billionaire was involved. It's because the site finally reached the point where the public, advertisers and the law said ¡Basta!

Brian Miller • 7 years ago

All the hand-wringing over this case is hilarious.

All the money in the world would not have harmed Gawker in this case if they hadn't violated someone's rights. They were appropriately found responsible for their tortious conduct and were rightly punished proportionately for the damage done in a court of law, with rules of evidence and an open process.

Let's not pretend that Gawker is a real news organization. Let's also not pretend that the other digital journos freaking out about "this threat to an open press" have any interest in balanced reporting or confronting truly tough issues. On both those counts, they consistently fail miserably.

TechHandle • 7 years ago

ES: The bias in your article is overwhelming, it's insulting to suggest that your bias is limited with such lines as: "But this new situation disturbs me even without my connection to Gawker." You seem to be ok with compromising journalistic integrity as a "necessary" part of building a valuable news brand. That's appalling nonsense, a slippery slope and represents click-bait integrity; that's not journalism.

You've set out to downplay the damages Gawker Media made to Thiel and Bollea. However we can plainly see that the court found that significant damage had been done. This is not for you to speculate upon, a jury of your peers found the damage significant.

There is a valuable lesson here in understanding the allowances of "freedom", (such as freedom of press, freedom of speech and the like) these are not all access cards to malicious behaviour. Such lapses in editorial judgement are not part of being a journalist - you should know better and you should do better. (Especially for a self-titled "expert".)

Now might be the time to review your professional associations and look within to understand the difference it means to be a journalist, or a click-bait sewer pipe.

Elizabeth Spiers • 7 years ago

I think I articulated my all of my biases in the piece. But "TECH HANDLE", I think I can guess whose side you're on, and why.

TechHandle • 7 years ago

Indeed the side I'm on appears to be the side of the law, the side of the jury and indeed the side of a moral character who can distinguish the difference between "news" and trash designed to get web-clicks.

To me it seems that you fall on the side of "everything is news if it gets a click", yet too scared to actually state that - meanwhile there are actual journalists who will enter war zones to report *actual* news.

JDubsFL • 7 years ago

Tell you what Elizabeth: try and live with the specter of potentially having "journalists" camped outside your home shooting inside while you are engaged in intimate acts IN THE PRIVACY OF YOUR HOME...then tell us if you still find the behavior of Hogan and Thiel to be "unreasonable". Everything you have stated above is tenuous on the grounds that you would expect some degree of privacy once you step across the threshold into your sanctuary...or are you going to argue that journalists have free reign to your privacy and to think otherwise is censorship?

Elizabeth Spiers • 7 years ago

I find it amazing that that's what you think happened. I suggest you actually read about the details of the case. And pay attention to it when it goes to appeal.

Rob • 7 years ago

I find it amazing you still think you're right.

notimeforbs • 7 years ago

Thiel is acting the part of the entitled jerk, who will stop at nothing to get what he wants - because he can afford it. So no sympathy that that prig. But here's a case where I have to close my eyes, hold my nose and say, yes, I support Gawker. But not because Gawker is good or serves any useless purpose. Your former employer was a slimeball operation where little weenies consistently took cheap shots. All too often you did scummy pieces on regular people who worked in tech, rather than go after the rich and powerful. Denton and the people he employed were without honor and represented the worst.

But this is not about Gawker. This is about journalism, freedom of expression and the 1st Amendment. And so we will have to support Gawker and hope that it wins the battle because Theilism cannot be allowed to triumph.

freelancewriternyc • 7 years ago

The First Amendment stops at the bedroom door.

Rob Pennoyer • 7 years ago

I believe the merits of the Hogan case are less important than the significance of one person secretly putting their fingers on the scales of justice. Money is not speech, but it seems that in every instance where it is de facto speech, ethical clouds hang overhead.

That said, I am inclined to side with Gawker on the Hogan case. The video became newsworthy--even if only in the tabloid sense of the term--when Hogan stated in public that he didn't do the thing depicted in the video. Gawker didn't publish anything that was untrue.

Arguments based on accusations of paparazzi tactics or confusing the distasteful or "un-journalistic" with the illegal are not relevant.

guardianangel42 • 7 years ago

What's the difference between Gawker putting their finger on the scale and Thiel? If a thousand victims of Gawker banded together, Gawker would *still* have enough money to wait them out.

Drag the legal process on long enough, and eventually the victims just stop having enough money to pay the lawyer. That's how these company's win. All Theil did was balance the scale by providing for Hogan what Gawker already had.

Guest • 7 years ago
Elizabeth Spiers • 7 years ago

Well, three judges have ruled otherwise re: "legitimate lawsuit", just not the one you read about in FL. Again, I'd pay attention to what happens on appeal.

Rich Goldstein • 7 years ago

Was not in the U.S. during the early days of Gawker. How much of the glee other media outlets are expressing at the company's loss do you think is based on it having covered the media (another industry that, like Tech, is unaccustomed to being covered and vengefully histrionic about even the mildest criticism)?

Elizabeth Spiers • 7 years ago

I don't really see any glee coming from media outlets. I'm seeing some coming from SV sycophants who worship Thiel and random Hulk Hogan fans.

David • 7 years ago

It's a money issue, Ms. Spiers.

To make more money, Gawker broke rules of journalistic integrity. To protect itself from being held accountable, it hired numerous lawyers to both: (1) ensure that the cost of suing Gawker would be in the tens of millions, and (2) ensure that losing a lawsuit against Gawker would cost further millions of dollars, by legally arguing that the lawsuit loser should pay Gawker's legal fees.
My favorite saying is, "Never try to convince someone of something when their salary requires them to not understand it."

But I believe you'll understand that Gawker's *POSSESSION* of all that money made it believe it could get away with horrible behavior. Thiel and Hulk Hogan just used their money, to remove Gawker's money. And I hope other media outlets will realize that a similar fate could happen to them.

The American public is smart enough to know the difference between "free media speech" coupled with good behavior, honesty, and a desire for truth and "free media speech" coupled with lies, manipulation, and the advancement of a pro-liberal agenda.

We accept the former, reject the latter - and classify Gawker as the latter.

Guest • 7 years ago
Brian Miller • 7 years ago

So to summarize, if a particular person has political viewpoints that you disagree with, he arbitrarily loses his privacy rights and deserves to have his life actively destroyed through illegal activities.

He or she should have no legal recourse, and should not be able to protect his own or other's privacy rights through American jurisprudence, but should instead be subject to the arbitrary and capricious invasion of their privacy because they oppose The Party.

V900 • 7 years ago

That pretty much sums it up, yup.

Give it up Bran, you can't talk truth or sense or logic with someone like Bear Blitzkrieg.

Bear Blitzkrieg is your typical bigoted, semi-racist milennial, who seriously believes that the highest purpose of journalism is to "fight" "homophobia" "discrimination" and other "regressive causes".

In other words: He's only interested in journalism to the extent that it supports the same social issues that he happens to support.

And if the roles were reversed, and somebody on "his team" was suing a media company that he perceives to be on "the other team", you can be sure that Blitzkrieg found find that just fine and dandy. Because "homophobia" and tea party!

Brian Miller • 7 years ago

Thing is, the treatment of Peter Thiel has been profoundly homophobic, just like the treatment of others who stray from The Party has been sexist, racist, bigoted and xenophobic.

Their arrogance blinds them to the fact that they've become exactly what they claim to oppose.

Guest • 7 years ago
Brian Miller • 7 years ago

"Wealth can be used as a form of coercion"

Agreed. You're clearly referring to the $500 million Gawker empire, owned by Nick Denton (himself worth over $200 million), targeting a minor celebrity whose wealth is a tiny fraction of that amount, right?

Oh, you're not? You're referring instead to the wealthy Valley entrepreneur whose intervention allowed Hogan to stand up to the $700 million bullies seeking to destroy him?

And your argument is that it's okay for the wealthy Gawker owner to be homophobic, racist, bigoted and violate the law because he is with The Party -- but his victims shouldn't be able to fight back, especially if, like Hogan, they're too poor to afford to. Because Hogan got help from another rich guy who helped level the playing field and ensure the law applies to rich progressives too.

Double standards again. I'm just shocked.

Guest • 7 years ago
V900 • 7 years ago

For someone who seems to be so disgusted by hypocrisy, you sure seem to have a splendidly blind eye to your own hypocrisy...

Brian Miller • 7 years ago

Of course it is about The Party.

It isn't about supporting anti-gay candidates. After all, the vast majority of the gay political establishment has done just that.

From Bill Clinton, the president that signed the two worst anti-gay bills in US history: DOMA and DADT, to Joe Biden (primary sponsor of DOMA in the Senate), to Hillary Clinton and her passionate attacks on marriage equality in Senate floor speeches, to President Obama and his administration's comparison of LGBT service members to rapists and murderers in his administration's defense of DADT (in a lawsuit launched by the Log Cabin Republicans, of all people).

This isn't about supporting homophobes -- it's about supporting the "wrong ones in the other party."

Such spite.

tomamitai • 7 years ago
the two worst anti-gay bills in US history: DOMA and DADT

Only if you believe history started in the 1990's.

Brian Miller • 7 years ago

I'm talking on a federal level.

tomamitai • 7 years ago

If scrolling down is too hard for you, here's a direct link.

Brian Miller • 7 years ago

You should read your own link. Those laws targeted all people, not just gay people.

tomamitai • 7 years ago

My bad, I guess it makes it OK if Gays and straights received the same punishment for private consensual behavior!

Brian Miller • 7 years ago

A bad law that targets everyone is a bad law that targets everyone.

An anti-gay law like DOMA or DADT is an anti-gay law because it singles out LGBTs for discrimination.

The federal laws you list don't do that. So while they're bad laws, they're not anti-gay laws... Something to consider next time you jump down someone's throat on the topic. ;)