Gawking At Gawker

Back in the fall of 2014, I mentioned Peter Thiel’s provocative book on the relationship of capitalism and technology From Zero To One.  Now, the billionaire Mr. Thiel has been in the news lately as an Avenger of sorts against one of those technology companies, as he has been revealed as the man who bankrolled Terry Bollea’s successful lawsuit against Gawker for invading Mr. Bollea’s privacy in an egregious way and releasing a Bollea sex tape to the public.

The press is all over this one, and some outlets, evidently, are pissing in their pants.  Travis Andrews of The New York Times quotes Timothy B. Lee of Vox:

“Even if you think Gawker stepped over the line in publishing the Hogan sex tape — and personally I do — there’s still a lot of reason to worry about the prospect of wealthy people using lawsuits as a weapon against people they don’t like.” Variety’s Maureen Ryan echoed this sentiment, writing, “Let’s get one thing clear: I have no particular love for Gawker … But the punishment Thiel clearly has in mind — the scorched-earth destruction of the entire company — in no way fits the crime he thinks it has committed.”

I disagree with Lee’s and Ryan’s opinions.  The wealthy have always used their wealth and their lawyers against people and circumstances they don’t like, and they have always funded lawsuits filed by other people: such is common practice in the litigation fields of medicine and civil rights.  And there is nothing–nothing–wrong with a private citizen, even a truly wealthy one, stepping forward to maintain a lawsuit that another person might not be able to continue on his own.  Gawker did what it did in releasing the tape because it figured no one, neither the police nor the press nor Bollea, could hold them accountable for their crime.  It figured wrong.

Responsible news outlets have nothing to fear from anyone–even the wealthy–as long as they stick to reporting the news instead of making it.  If organizations like Gawker, TMZ, or E News step over the line and violate someone’s privacy, I’m glad that there are people out there like Thiel who will cure them of their generations-long habit of believing that everyone’s lives belong to everyone else.

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2 thoughts on “Gawking At Gawker

  1. Hear! Hear! Your words echo my sentiments exactly, John. And may I say, it was about time someone did something like this. It is unbelievable how far, and how low, the so-called news agencies are eager to dig into what should be a citizen’s private business. I say so long as someone has the mens to do so, a good old butt-kicking is perfectly in order 🙂

  2. The traditional press is in decline, as we know, and this is one of the rearguard actions they’re fighting in order to survive. They’re using the occasion to remind us how important they are and how they “speak* for us; and yet, neither the newspapers nor the TV networks have spoken for anyone but themselves since the end of the Vietnam War. All pretense of objectivity has been removed. Only the BBC still makes any attempt to be even-handed, but even it now follows the line of the mostly-liberal views of the EU. Despite dropping the pretense, the press–both papers and TV–whine like little babies whenever anyone refuses them access. Just this past week, Noah Syndegard, a starting pitcher for the NY Mets, had a bad game and refused to speak to the press about it. Mike Vaccaro of *The New York Post* wrote an extraordinarily ill-tempered column the next day, complaining that Syndegard was a jerk for not talking to him and leaving his teammates in the lurch. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Nobody’s obligated to talk to anybody after a bad day, and Syndegard is answerable only to the people who sign his checks, not his teammates, just as they are not obligated to answer for him.

    Thiel’s lawsuit is a shot across the bow of every news organization in both the old media and the new. It says, “Actions have consequences, and even big, important organizations may not do everything they want.” No one–not the rich and powerful, not you and me–is going to stop a legitimate news organization from reporting the news or conducting an investigation, but no one is going to support for long a policy of allowing media companies to trample on people’s lives, either. Liberty is not license.

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