There is no doubt that Gawker and its affiliate sites have some of the best writers that ever blessed the Internet. Rich Juzwiak, for example, turns out thought-provoking columns that make you think. Even if you don’t agree with him, his writing doesn’t get you angry; it instead makes you think that he may have a point. Adam Weinstein, another great writer, was let go in 2015, and it probably ended up being a good thing for him.
For the past several years, Gawker has taken the “free speech” mantra and ran several miles past the line of decency. They have outed people for no other reason than to get laughs. In 2015, Gawker’s gay-shaming story about a Condé Nast executive, who’s married to a woman and allegedly arranged to meet up with a gay escort on a trip to Chicago, was repulsive. Gawker removed the story, but the damage was already done.
Gawker‘s nasty journalism spilled over to its sister site Jezebel, which was once thought of as a top feminist site. Some of the writers on Jezebel have been great, but one wonders what editorial leadership forced them to body shame Lena Dunham by offering $10,000 for unretouched Vogue pictures. The site also claims to be against rape culture, but certainly didn’t mind posting a recent rape image, which caused the site to be accused of sensationalism. There have been too many sensationalized and pointless articles on Gawker’s sister “feminist” site, many aimed at tearing down other women. The purpose of all this: clickbait.
Gawker set the stage for their own downfall by publishing a sex tape of wrestler Hulk Hogan, whose real name is Terry Boella, in 2012. The wrestler sued and was awarded $140 million. Even though Gawker is certainly a left-wing site, most on both the right and left cheered the lawsuit decision, even if they didn’t care for Boella. It also ends up that Boella had a special “friend” help fund the lawsuit. The New York Times has the news.
“A billionaire Silicon Valley entrepreneur was outed as being gay by a media organization [Valleywag, Gawker’s other site]. His friends suffered at the hands of the same gossip site. Nearly a decade later, the entrepreneur secretly financed a lawsuit to try to put the media company out of business.”
That entrepreneur is billionaire Peter Thiel, who is also a co-founder of PayPal. Thiel says it’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence. He said he saw Gawker take charge of a damaging way of getting attention by bullying people, even if they had no connection to any important stories. Thiel is absolutely correct and should be treated as an American hero for what he is doing rather than a vengeful and powerful person trying to destroy a company.
Gawker, like TMZ, has ruined the lives of so many people. However, at least some of the people TMZ destroyed weren’t the most likeable in the first place (Hello, Mel Gibson and Donald Sterling!). It’s hard to tell what turned founder Nick Denton from a top-notch entrepreneur who developed excellent talent into a such a vengeful and hateful person. But Boella’s lawsuit, with the help of Peter Thiel, will make sure that Nick Denton and people like him will no longer be able to thrive. And it has nothing to do with free speech. It’s all about humanity.
[Photo by John Pendygraft and Tristan Fewing/Getty Images]