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Peter Thiel The Great Big Nincompoop

More news from the ‘im right you’re wrong’ department…

To start us off… from the lovely fellows at TechDirt…

So I had thought that our post yesterday about Peter Thiel allegedly financing Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker would be the only time we posted about that story, but a few things have happened that seem to merit a further post. First, Thiel has admitted to it, and insisted that he views it as “philanthropy.” There are a number of claims that Thiel makes that are quite troubling. First, he admits that he didn’t just back Hogan, but rather gave lawyers money to go hunting for anyone who might want to sue Gawker, directly out of spite.
“He said that he hired a legal team several years ago to look for cases that he could help financially support. “Without going into all the details, we would get in touch with the plaintiffs who otherwise would have accepted a pittance for a settlement, and they were obviously quite happy to have this sort of support,” he said. “In a way very similar to how a plaintiff’s lawyer on contingency would do it.” Mr. Thiel declined to disclose what other cases he had supported but there are at least two current cases against Gawker.”

Incredibly, Thiel, who has given a large amount of money to the Committee to Protect Journalists, and who has claimed to be a big supporter of freedom of expression and freedom of the press, pulled a classic “I support freedom of speech, but…” line in response to questions along those lines, basically saying that he doesn’t think Gawker counts.

He said he did not believe his actions were contradictory. “I refuse to believe that journalism means massive privacy violations,” he said. “I think much more highly of journalists than that. It’s precisely because I respect journalists that I do not believe they are endangered by fighting back against Gawker.”

He continued, “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. In a way, if I didn’t think Gawker was unique, I wouldn’t have done any of this. If the entire media was more or less like this, this would be like trying to boil the ocean.” Mr. Thiel said he had not targeted any other media companies.


Got all that?

I have no interest in talking about the legalities of this or the merits of any of the cases against Gawker… that’s simply not what I write about. What I do write about however, is people’s unalienable right to create. And there’s the rub.

For artists, for society, this is exactly the kind of thing that cannot be allowed. Even the dumbest and most hateful speech must be allowed so as to preserve everybody’s rights. It is so insanely easy for anybody, anywhere, to go “this should be banned” and suddenly that piece of artwork you made supporting black lives matters no longer appears on tumblr or Yahoo or anywhere else because boohoo somebody doesn’t like it. It’s a slippery slope.

And you know, Mr. Thiel could have chosen to ignore Gawker. He could have chosen to not engage them or ever bother with them. He could’ve refused to let Gawker into his life. He had every opportunity to simply let Gawker make itself irrelevant. He could’ve tolerated their bullsquirt.

He chose not to do so.

Mr Thiel instead decided to pull an “I’m right you’re wrong” and set out to hurt Gawker though a barrage of lawsuits.

Instead of funding a bunch of lawsuits, he instead could’ve set his mind to countering Gawker’s narrative. But instead of showing people how poorly Gawker was behaving, instead of convincing people to not engage with Gawker, he chose to hurt people. Because he’s right, and everybody else is wrong.

Mr. Thiel had every single opportunity to make a cogent argument, on his own blog or through guest writing for other publications. Hell, he’s wealthy enough that he literally could have just paid ME to create a website to point out Gawker’s nonsense to people through regular articles. He could’ve even spent his money on advertising his own writing so as to help his point along. He did not take the sensible approach, he did not take the American approach of engaging speech with speech, no… he chose to use the court system to get his way instead.

And by doing so, Mr. Thiel has isolated the very people he needed to convince to get rid of Gawker. You and me.

He has put us in a position where clearly his massive resources have been used to hurt others in a way that doesn’t seem proportional to what they did. He’s told us he did it because he does not like them.

But now it has become a question of justice.

As a moral person, how could anybody support somebody who uses what is supposed to be the civilized backbone of our society to get his way? How can justice be served if rich people can simply do whatever the hell they want in a court room? What of our rights? What of the first amendment? These are the questions people now have to wrestle with not because of Gawker but because of Mr Thiel.

Mr. Thiel, instead of either ignoring that which he doesn’t like (that’s called tolerance) or countering their narrative and convincing others to not support Gawker because of their poor behavior… Mr Thiel has chosen to behave poorly himself.

People will now support Gawker as a matter of justice, as an affirmation of our unalienable rights, as a symbol that money cannot destroy justice.

And you know what…I hate Gawker.
But thanks to your poor behavior Mr Thiel… they have to stick around to stand up to your bullsquirt.


In Summary

The first amendment, America’s appreciation for speech, exists for a reason. Instead of choosing to use his own right to speak, Mr Thiel chose to attempt to silence others. That should be offensive to any American and any artist.


Update – 06/07/2016

Over at Walter Olson gives a nice explanation concerning funding other people’s lawsuits… as well as a brief note about the ethical issues of third party funding…

Funding someone else’s lawsuit for ideological reasons, long perceived as a dangerous stirring up of social conflict that might otherwise have remained at rest, is now applauded as a means of holding powerful institutions accountable, ensuring wronged parties their day in court, and so forth. Inevitably, once all parties grow comfortable with this tool, it will be used not just against the originally contemplated targets, such as large business or government defendants, but against a wide range of others — journalistic defendants included.

Read the whole article here:

Update – 8/01/2016

So not only has Gawker the website filed for bankruptcy, now Nick Denton (the founder of Gawker) is in bankruptcy court too…

The Gawker Media founder sought bankruptcy court protection Monday in New York, after a Florida judge refused to halt enforcement of a $140 million damages award in pro wrestler Hogan’s invasion-of-privacy lawsuit.
Gawker itself filed for bankruptcy June 10, a move that temporarily put the brakes on Hogan’s efforts to collect on the verdict he won after the online media company posted excerpts of a sex-tape featuring him. Denton was also a defendant in the suit and liable for the damages award.

The Chapter 11 petition filed Monday in Manhattan federal court listed assets of $10 million to $50 million and liabilities of more than $100 million, including Hogan’s claim and other pending lawsuits. Those legal claims will have a lower repayment priority than secured loans and other debts backed by collateral, such as a home mortgage.
Denton also listed more mundane debts, including a $50,000 loan he took out from his Gawker 401(k) retirement fund, $18,671 in credit card bills and $120 for cable TV.


Peter Thiel has seemingly gotten exactly what he wanted.

Let’s just hope bankruptcy will allow a new life for both Gawker and Nick Denton.


Update – Gawker Sold to Univision (8/16/2016)

Univision Holdings Inc. made the winning $135 million bid to acquire Gawker Media, the online publisher driven into bankruptcy in June after losing an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit to Hulk Hogan, a person familiar with the matter said.
Univision beat out Ziff Davis, the only other participant in the auction, said the person, who asked not to be named because the bidding is private. Since Gawker selected Univision, Ziff Davis is entitled to a $2.47 million breakup fee, with expense reimbursement of as much as $1.25 million.
Gawker will complement Univision’s aggressive digital push. In January, the largest U.S. Spanish-language broadcaster made a minority investment in Onion Inc., owner of the satirical website The Onion. Univision has also acquired The Root, a digital magazine geared toward African Americans.


So I guess this is the beginning of the new Gawker…

I have no clue what Ziff Davis would’ve done with Gawker if they had actually bought it… It’s kind of hard to see Ziff Davis being able to support Gawker financially. Weird.

My bet is that while Univision will come in and say they want to keep things mostly as they are at Gawker (writing staff and general theme and such) in a few years time Gawker will end up  something wildly different. But that’s speculation isn’t it.

Anyways, I wonder what Nick Denton (the founder of Gawker) will do with himself in the coming years…


Update – Never mind Univision Doesn’t Care (8/18/2016)

Univision is going to shutdown…

Univision Communications has no plans to operate after acquiring Gawker Media’s assets for $135 million, a source told FORBES on Thursday. According to the source, the Spanish-language media organization will operate sites like Jezebel and Deadspin, but will shutter Gawker’s namesake site.


You can read a little more here… Gawker is Dead.

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