International Politics

Gawker's quote CORPORATE CENSORSHIP unquote 

Zachary Voth 

Ottawa, ON. 

June 13, 2016 

Since Terry Bollea won his $140 million dollar lawsuit against Gawker, on Pieter Thiel's dime, some people have been upset. A billionaire using his money to fund the plaintiff (and several preceding plaintiffs against the publication) has been called "corporate censorship," among other things.

The problem isn't having powerful third parties pay legal fees. Collective groups have taken to pooling resources to fund all sorts of litigation. Class-action lawsuits, the most common of such cases, are often bankrolled by law firms, at least in their initial stages. The NAACP and other groups have wielded their resources to fight for civil rights in United States courts. It's a time-honoured and acceptable practice in the American judicial system. The fight over Gawker, then, must be about freedom of the press and free speech, and not the manner in which Thiel wielded his influence.

I like freedom of speech, as I mentioned in my piece on the March for Life and associated counter-protests. I firmly believe that we should not suppress ideas just because people find them upsetting. Some billionaire using his means to destroy Gawker for publishing a story he didn't like? What a chilling indicator of the unstoppable power of the oligarchy! Will any publication be able to survive in this brave new 1984-esque world of the powerful suppressing any story that damages their business interests?!

"Well let me tell you something, brother!" (Best read as a Hulk Hogan impression, of course).

I might agree with the charge of corporate censorship if Peter Thiel's vendetta had been the result of Gawker exposing questionable business practices or some abuse of influence on his part. This, however, is not the case. Pieter's (Piete's?) campaign of litigation against Gawker began with the publication posting stories outing him as gay in 2007. Not exactly fantastic journalism. (He said, as a sentence fragment). It was also decidedly not in the public interest. It was just another bit of privacy-invading clickbait for advertising revenue. Just like they have continued to publish on to 2016 and Hulk Hogan.

For comparison, I present the Panama Papers: Süddeutsche Zeitung's massive revelation of documents detailing massive offshore tax avoidance. Upset, fabulously rich individuals had every reason to hate it. So, why is there no sinister cabal of billionaires targeting the newspaper? Well, it's because the

Panama Papers were a perfectly legitimate topic to write about. If some of the wealthy folks affected did decide to sue, all the expensive lawyers and expansive litigation money can buy would not be able to persuade a German judge that it was wrong.

Not so with Gawker. Their publication of Hulk Hogan's sex tape did not tick any boxes on the public interest checklist. They invaded his privacy to sell banner ads, I assume so that their founder, Nick Denton, (another billionaire) could purchase a bigger private jet, or whatever wealthy people do. Gawker's irresponsible journalism finally came back to bite them. They lost their court case, and their business. In continuing to disrespect personal privacy to post vitriolic gossip, they opened themselves up to Pieter Thiel's revenge.

Journalism is hard work, according to some b. Journalism friends I have. I am sure it's easier to just destroy the personal lives of the rich and powerful rather than write about current events or issues important to society. It is, however, a lot less likely lose you a righteous (and destructively expensive) lawsuit. After all, it can't be censorship if it isn't journalism.

The views and opinions expressed in all articles are those of the author alone. They do not reflect the positions of the author's current or previous employers, any organization to which the author belongs, or The Young Canadian Media.