Though my prophecy of Knobbs & Sags as co-editors of Deadspin will not come to fruition, it seems Peter Thiel’s revenge boner aka financing of Hulk Hogan’s successful suit against Gawker Media and publisher Nick Denton has resulted in Gawker.com ceasing publication next week.
Unless you’re an avid reader of CSTB (all 3 of you, you’re probably unaware that I’ve wasted thousands of hours on jabs aimed in the direction of Denton and his various properties, most notably Deadspin and founder/former editor Will Leitch in particular). Leitch’s ethical lapses, sickening cronyism and narrow/duller-than-dishwater worldview aside, I’ve no special animus reserved for the many talented persons who’ve been employed by Denton over the years. Though I cannot say for certain what great public good was accomplished by publishing a sex tape of Hulk Hogan’s carnal escapes with Mrs. Bubba The Love Sponge, such items did not constitute the majority of what Gawker brought to the table each day. Maybe not even 40%.
Make no mistake, Peter Thiel, far from bringing back civility to journalism, is a vivid reminder of what happens in the real world when you piss off someone with more money than God. And while I don’t believe Thiel’s private life is something Gawker’s readers were entitled to know about, his recent participation at the RNC puts everything into a different context. Of course Thiel considers arguments over bathroom access to be a distraction — unlike most of the transgender persons in this country, Thiel can afford to buy the building and go to the bathroom in whatever room he wishes. He could buy your house right now and piss in the kitchen sink.
That’s essentially what he’s done in this instance. By paying $10 million for Hulk Hogan’s legal fees, Thiel’s pretty much taking a giant dump on Denton and A.J. Daulerio (the former Gawker/Deadspin editor taunted by Jay Mariotti, who somehow believes the latter’s financial woes make him less accomplished than a guy who brags about eating dim sum with Flea), squashing ’em like bugs simply because he can. This is a guy with an anti-democracy, buy-his-way-to-immortality agenda, and he’s a-ok with ruining lives and careers.
Had Gawker gone down the tubes because the public and advertisers were uninterested, that’s another matter. Things like that happen in the marketplace, and shall continue to. But keep in mind, the next outlet to run afoul of Thiel could well be one with even fewer resources at their disposal than Gawker. That won’t simply have a chilling effect on whether or not to run with hidden camera footage of Hogan’s bass audition for Metallica, but perhaps will result in spiking a story about Thiel trying to colonize Mars (or Oakland).