First I want to say that I realize that no one gives a crap what I think about this. I’m typically the first to criticize anyone who feels obligated to take to the internet to chime in on whatever the trending topic of the day is, as if people at home are just waiting at their screens dying to know what Trevor in Boise thinks about the Ice Bucket Challenge. Shut up, Trevor. No one cares. But I wanted to get my thoughts down on this because I have been so conflicted about it, and frankly attempting to type out a semi-coherent assessment of the situation may be therapeutic for me. You know what? Maybe it’s the same situation for Trevor in Boise. But I’m still not reading your stupid rant, Trevor. You may feel the same way about mine, and if so it won’t hurt my feelings if you stop right here.
Secondly, I wish to make it abundantly clear that I am not an expert on this topic, and I am sure there is much going on here that I don’t know about/can’t comprehend/ am not privy to. That’s the point. I seek to answer the questions, “How does this situation look to a casual observer?” and “What are we to take away from this?” So with those disclaimers out of the way, here we go.
I don’t care about celebrity gossip. At all. I don’t watch Inside Edition, ever. Or reality TV (except Catfish, and I can’t believe I just admitted that). When I do catch bits of it, it kind of offends me. I don’t know these people, and therefore I don’t care about what they’re up to, and the presumption that I should just bothers me. But I’m not completely immune, I mean Prince’s death certainly fascinated and saddened me to some degree. Other stories over the years have caught my attention too, but as a rule I just don’t follow. When stories do make the leap from niche followers to overall pop culture, of course I’m familiar with them. But for instance, I don’t think that Caitlyn Jenner is either brave or disgraceful. I just don’t care. If it was someone that I knew that this was happening to, I might be forced to form an opinion, but since it’s someone I’ve never met, I have the luxury of remaining on the sidelines.
This brings us to the Hulk Hogan tape. A guy who’s career I’m sort of familiar with has sex with someone and the video is leaked. This news doesn’t interest me. I can’t imagine why it would interest anyone. I know that there are publications that seek to expose this kind of stuff, but I don’t understand why they exist (well, I guess I do....they exist because there is an audience and therefore it’s profitable). I don’t follow them. In addition, I don’t think that celebrities should get to live on both sides of the coin. They need the media. They crave the attention. Being famous is what they hoped to achieve. Therefore, I don’t think that they get to complain that it’s an invasion of privacy. But let’s all face it, posting the sex video was completely unnecessary. There really is no defending it, and a jury agreed (though $140,000,000.00 is a sum of money that is completely disproportionate to the offense).
But as the twists and turns to this story were exposed, it turns out that it’s not about Hogan at all. It’s about Peter Thiel, a person I had never heard of. Apparently he is a businessman of the Facebook caliber, dabbles in politics, and is gay. That last bit I guess was mostly a secret until Gawker outed him. To me, that’s a strange thing to do. A progressive media machine like Gawker is well aware of the adversity that gay people still face in today’s world. And this was many years ago, when things were even worse. It seems to me that someone’s sexual identity belongs to them, and it’s not appropriate for anyone else to set the terms of what information is shared with whom and when. The only possible reason that they thought this was alright is due to Thiel being a political foe. But it’s just wrong, and once again there is no defending it.
To me there are two things that make the Thiel outing even worse than the Hogan ordeal. One is that it exposes someone’s sexual preference for no other reason than to be mean and vengeful. This had potentially real consequences both professionally and in personal relationships for a real person. The second is that Thiel isn’t a celebrity. Now that point could be countered by someone that follows things in “The Valley.” They could argue that the tech moguls of that universe are their celebrities, and I’m sure they have a point. But from out here in the middle of nowhere, he’s not. He never stood on a stage in front of tens of thousands of fans and ripped his shirt off. He never had a reality show. I’d never heard of the guy.
But then there is the other side of Gawker, one of a real journalism. Gawker has done a good job over the last couple weeks of pointing out the important stories that they have produced both on the main site as well as the other subsidiaries over the years.
This means that Gawker has a strange dichotomy. On one hand, they are an important investigative journalism publication that brings important information forward that no one else will. But on the other hand, they’re a garbage rag that posts embarrassing videos of people copulating for no reason other than clicks. I think that’s the problem, you can’t do both. You don’t get to tell me that you’re a vital part of our nation’s checks and balances with special constitutional protections doing important work, while at the same time also posting trash that appeals to the lowest common denominator. Throughout the Hogan trial I was always kind of perplexed as to why Gawker didn’t just take down the video when they were asked. What difference does it make? But now I understand why. It’s because they view themselves as real journalists that take first amendment rights quite seriously. In light of some of their work, they have a right to this mindset. But in a case like the Hogan video, they don’t. You see if they were just strictly a Hollywood gossip type of publication, they could have just taken it down, because so what? But since they are true journalists doing real investigations, they can’t afford to set that kind of precedent.
Relating this to my profession, it’s tough to be a classy high-end auto dealership while also advertising to a subprime market. We have in fact dealt with this exact issue at the store where I work. We are a classy place that prides itself on transparency and upfront bottom dollar pricing. But there’s this other place across town that is kicking our butt in the subprime market by advertising to the credit challenged. People who can’t buy cars from us go and buy from them. We want those sales. But we can’t ever integrate the practices that it takes to be successful in that market into our overall business model. It would require removing prices from vehicles and changing sales processes. It would result in a certain number of people that are upset with their car, their loan, and us, which is a situation that we don’t currently tolerate. We would lose more than we would gain. It’s just so hard to do both. Gawker has been trying to both for awhile, and the upset subprime customer that owes twice what their car is worth is now taking down the whole dealership, ruining a good thing for the Cadillac cash buyer.
So what do we have here? How do we sum this up, and what can we learn? Well, we have a billionaire that was legitimately wronged by a sleezy blog, who funded a celebrity that was legitimately wronged by a sleezy blog, who together took down a legitimate news organization. Except they didn’t. The site lives on with a new owner and a new url, complete with the same exact staff, and a hard lesson learned. This wasn’t a severe blow to free speech. Really, as far as I have gathered, only Denton and the writer that posted the Hogan story suffer. Does the punishment fit the crime? It does not. Talking a little gossip and showing pictures of someone’s willy should not bankrupt anyone and cause them to lose their company.
I guess that’s why I’ve struggled to pick a side in this fight. Everyone is right, but everyone is wrong. The only thing I am sure of is that nothing good happened here.
Anyway, here’s a picture of a concept Buick Reatta?