21 August 2016

The Murder of a Magazine

by Leigh Lundin

Shocker: Kim’s tush attends Malibu College
while the rest of her hits the beach
Sources claim the butt of celeb jokes was seen…

Caitlyn’s not mother of her own child!!
Astrobiologists, bewildered by DNA results…

First Spouse debate replaces VP event
Melania and Bill broadcast live
Nation glued to heated husband & wife debate…
Kanye, Kim, KloƩ klaim KKK konnection!
Initial indications, according to cunning linguists…

DNA proves maternity of Hilton hotel heiress!
(not who you think!)
Parisian plastic surgeon Dr. Myanne Dowment says…

Billionaire found in bed with Hulk Hogan
(not who you think!)
Infamous billionaire moves to crush media…

One of these headlines is true… Well, maybe two, and as much as we’d love to see the potential first spouses debate, it’s the final item I draw your attention to. Before Peter Thiel and Terrance Gene Bollea sue me, this is an opinion piece and the ‘in bed’ part is, to my uncertain knowledge, figurative.

The mystique of celebrities eludes me, but other people love ’em. In the spirit of full disclosure, an acquaintance is still furious with me after I said one of the celebs above was a waste of protoplasm. But I use the headlines to make a crucial point.

A multi-billionaire is using his bundles of money not just to influence the media, but to destroy a major news outlet he disagrees with.

No, I’m not talking about a certain presidential candidate, but a thin-skinned, foreign-born entrepreneur, Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal.

Nick Denton
Nick Denton, muck-raker

Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel, muck-maker
Internet news magazine Gawker, founded by entrepreneur Nick Denton, is a cross between People Magazine and the delightfully unsavory National Enquirer that we love to hate. Gawker published an article about Thiel that read, “Peter Thiel, the smartest VC in the world, is gay. More power to him.”

To my eye, it was complimentary, but not his. Even though the statement was factual and Thiel had already come out, he was offended.

Most of us would have issued a take-down notice or written a letter to the editor, “Dear Sir…” But not the 1% of the 1%. This billionaire wields his money like a weapon. He set out to destroy Gawker Media in no uncertain terms. He didn’t merely target the Gawker web site, but the entire parent company, which included gossip mag Gawker.com, tech site Gizmodo, gaming blog Kotaku, car enthusiasts’ Jalopnik, sports fans’ Deadspin, Lifehacker, the feminist blog Jezebel, and the former Valleywag, which dished the dirt on the dark side of Silicon Valley.

A federal agent once told me that litigation isn’t resolved by who’s right and who’s wrong but by who has the most money, the deepest pockets. That’s what Thiel chose to do, hammer Gawker by secretly funding third party lawsuits against them to the tune of millions of dollars. In doing so, Thiel proved more reprehensible than any stretch of Gawker.

While I might agree that one’s sexuality should be one’s personal business, I vehemently oppose censorship. Thiel has pretended that he supports freedom of the press in other ways, but he reserves the right of billionaires to control media outlets. Apparently the German-born billionaire doesn’t appreciate the importance of our First Amendment rights… especially if he can buy them out from under us.

How he chose to go about it beggars belief.

Among the litigants Thiel clandestinely funded was Terry Gene Bollea, a.k.a pseudo-wrestler Hulk Hogan. While married, Hogan supposedly engaged in affairs with his daughter’s friend and with the wife of his best friend. Unsurprisingly, a sex tape was recorded and forwarded to Gawker, which aired parts of it on-line. Who forwarded the video I leave to your imagination. In any case, Hogan– privately funded by Thiel– sued.

It’s less accurate to say Thiel and Hogan won $140-million, than to realize that Freedom of the Press lost. Thiel deliberately chose to exercise litigation with chilling effect on the American press. Nick Denton left Britain thinking he'd enjoy greater journalistic freedom where the rich and famous couldn't so easily hide their deeds. Ordinary citizens in the US have more rights to privacy than public figures. Thiel turned that concept on its head.

Univision has bought parts of Gawker and this week, the rest shuts down. While no one can compare the gossip rag to the grand newspapers that have shuttered their doors, it will be a loss, if not to the community, to the concept of freedom to publish.

8 comments:

A Broad Abroad said...

Love the headlines. (laughing)
So, you're saying Kim's tush got a bum rap? :-)

Leigh Lundin said...

ABA, whenever Kim gets behind in her work, she makes an ass of herself. (I was tempted to say "gets behind in her twerk," but that would have been over the top.)

Glad you like the ledes, ABA.

Anonymous said...

So this wrestler cheats on his wife and cheats with someone else's wife and gets rewarded with $140 million? How in a sane world does that make sense? Bullies come in many forms.

Elizabeth said...

I love Gawker & will miss it. They had a great series of unemployment stories & another one of letters from condemned prisoners on death row. Not that it's relevant in any way but Nick Denton is gay also.

B.K. Stevens said...

I'm terribly disappointed to find out the headline about a Presidential spouse debate was only a tease. That would have been much livelier than the VP debate is likely to be.

Leigh Lundin said...

Anon, I don’t get it either. The stunning Hulk Hogan made me think of the Leon Uris novel, QB VII. That court found the plaintiff had been libeled and awarded him one pence, the lowest coin in the realm. That would have been much more sensible.

Elizabeth, I didn’t know Denton was gay nor, as you say, should it matter. The symmetry is interesting: two entrepreneurs, both European-born who came to American to make their fortunes. One embraced their adopted country’s mores and liberties, the other decided to subvert them.

How Thiel could have been insulted I can’t imagine, Elizabeth. I saw one suggestion that Thiel was angry with Valleywag, which Gawker acquired and later shut down, but I don’t know how that might fit in. The sad part is that Thiel discovered he can manipulate and bully with his billions, another indication that there’re two kinds of justice, one for the very rich and another for everyone else.

Bonnie, I agree. A spousal debate could be fun. Would they get around to discussing politics? Credit for that notion goes to my friend Thrush. You can imagine some of the sly joking that took place.

Eve Fisher said...

Well, the Trump has been using his money for years to deny payment to the poor losers who actually do the work (plumbing, carpentry, etc.) for him, daring them to sue him for their rightly earned wages... The power to clog up courts with money is one of the most despicable powers that billionaires and corporations have. Also the latest twist: mandatory arbitration clauses. No more law suits for you! Listen to our special paid lawyer tell you why you don't get squat! Where is the Weekly World News when you need them?

Leigh Lundin said...

Eve, I was waiting for you! When it comes to justice, you and I share concerns. As the disparity between rich and poor grows, so grows the ability to buy the outcome one wants.