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Anorak | Gawker: power and money smash free speech and the right to offend

Gawker: power and money smash free speech and the right to offend

by | 1st, September 2016

Sorry to see Gawker go? Here are a few words on what they said about the US site:

John Loyd (Reuters):

Denton’s self-starting staff crossed two rich and angry men. One was the wrestler Hulk Hogan, incensed when Gawker published part of a video showing him having sex with a friend’s wife. Hogan took Gawker Media to court and won a total of $140 million in March. Hogan’s suit was bankrolled by Peter Thiel, a billionaire whom Gawker had outed as gay in 2007. At last month’s GOP convention, Thiel told the audience that, “I’m proud to be gay. I’m proud to be a Republican.” Gawker, for its part, went proudly bankrupt.

Mick Hume (Spiked):

Gawker, the muck-raking, dirt-digging, mud-slinging internet magazine, has just been forcibly closed down. It was not found guilty of threatening America’s national security, or corrupting the nation’s youth. Instead, Gawker was put out of business for publishing true stories that some people found offensive. One of those offended people happened to be a Silicon Valley billionaire, who used his wealth and power to shut Gawker’s irreverent mouth as surely as if he had been a Third World tyrant sending the cops to close a dissident newspaper.

But this is more than an outrageous tale of a thin-skinned rich boy. Gawker’s demise is only the headline in a bigger story about a campaign to tame press freedom, online as well as in print, and to sanitise the news media. It is a campaign being led on both sides of the Atlantic, not by old-fashioned censors, but by a new alliance of illiberal-liberal prigs who want to ‘ethically cleanse’ the media of whatever is not to their refined taste.

Nick Denton (Gawker publisher):

Peter Thiel has achieved his objectives. His proxy, Terry Bollea, also known as Hulk Hogan, has a claim on the company and my personal assets after winning a $140 million trial court judgment in his Florida privacy case. Even if that decision is reversed or reduced on appeal, it is too late for Gawker itself. Its former editor, who wrote the story about Hogan, has a $230 million hold on his checking account. The flagship site, a magnet for most of the lawsuits marshaled by Peter Thiel’s lawyer, has for most media companies become simply too dangerous to own.

Peter Thiel has gotten away with what would otherwise be viewed as an act of petty revenge by reframing the debate on his terms. Having spent years on a secret scheme to punish Gawker’s parent company and writers for all manner of stories, Thiel has now cast himself as a billionaire privacy advocate, helping others whose intimate lives have been exposed by the press. It is canny positioning against a site that touted the salutary effects of gossip and an organization that practiced radical transparency.

As former Gawker developer Dustin Curtis says, “Though I find the result abhorrent, this is one of the most beautiful checkmates of all time by Peter Thiel.”

Lili Loofbourow:

That crisis and the editorial changes that followed it did almost as much as the Peter Thiel-funded Hulk Hogan lawsuit to illustrate that what made Gawker great also made it vulnerable. In a word: money. (And an internet that’s become increasingly responsive to it.) Gawker was able to be what it was because it existed at the whim of an eccentric millionaire, not beholden to corporate interests, who was interested in what journalism could be. It was only a matter of time, perhaps, before other eccentric billionaires (like Peter Thiel and Frank VanderSloot) would come along who were more interested in what it couldn’t.

That Thiel succeeded in destroying Gawker by secretly funding Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit is a serious sign in a media landscape that’s already lost most of its biodiversity. But Gawker’s closure is a loss for its own sake. And ours.

NBC:

Until the news broke that tech billionaire Peter Thiel was funding former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan’s suit against (now-defunct) gossip blog Gawker for outing him as gay nearly a decade ago, most people were unaware that third parties — traditionally, hedge funds — could bankroll a lawsuit against a person or business

As a result, start-ups in the field of litigation-finance investment have gained prominence, with a simple pitch to investors: Put up as little as $5,000 to fund lawsuits, and make money.

What price free speech?



Posted: 1st, September 2016 | In: Money, Reviews Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink