Days of Change

Try Looking at the Name of Your Site | August 26, 2016

Gawker: One who stares stupidly.

Gawker was a site that started before and will apparently not outlive it. It reveled in the scandal of the rich, powerful and famous. Then again, it also destroyed the lives of the not famous. The titles were weirdly conversational. Instead of “John Doe Accused of Sexting Teenage Girl” it was “Hey, John Doe Just Found Out Snapchat is Forever and Not for Old Dudes.”

Most of the Gawker media empire was decidedly liberal. Business Insider, part of Gawker, cross posted an interview of Andrew Breitbart where he was misquoted and, in Gawker fashion, headlined with a picture of him in mid speech, making him look like he was yelling. Ironically, the interview was over the launch of Breitbart’s Big Journalism site. That site then spent days going after Business Insider and Gawker for misquoting him. When they claimed it was on tape, he asked for the tape to be produced. The tape suddenly went missing and Big Journalism got its first scalp.

Gawker went dark this week (although the satellite sites remain) because of a $140 million judgement over a video of Hulk Hogan they placed on their site. The founder and other writers fully blame Peter Thiel, a billionaire who they decided to out as gay just because they thought it was “cool” that a billionaire could be gay. He helped support lawsuits, that while meritorious, were expensive for the average person (and the Hulkster, apparently). For them, they weren’t pushing their luck, their fate was rigged by a rich guy with a petty vendetta. Here’s one interpretation on the closing day.

Gawker always said it was in the business of publishing true stories. Here is one last true story: You live in a country where a billionaire can put a publication out of business. A billionaire can pick off an individual writer and leave that person penniless and without legal protection.

Thiel could have bought Gawker Media like Larry the Liquidator or just taken over its debt or some other clever business trick. Ironically, he used the thing that kept him in the closet: stealth. He helped other people who were wronged by Gawker, but did not have the means to take them on in court. Gawker tried a new kind of “journalism,” but in the end, it also had rules and they broke them. They had hurt so many people in their years in business, I doubt they ever thought much about Thiel after the outing, until they learned he was bankrolling Hogan.

They were so callous, they never felt the knife going in. That’s how such a glory seeking site ceased to exist.


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