The story about libertarian tech billionaire Peter Thiel funding Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker has been interesting to follow. I find myself more indecisive than expected because I have little respect for the snarky, cynical, "gotcha!" style of journalism fostered by Gawker's notorious blogs. Their process also seems to represent a race to the bottom for the business of online content. Nonetheless, here's Stephen Marche of the New York Times in defense of Gawker and its brand of celebrity gossip:
Whether Gawker should have posted the Hulk Hogan sex tape I will leave to the care of finer souls than mine. I will say this: No one could possibly object if that were the tape of a congressman. But even a pathetic D-lister like Hulk Hogan has more power to shape the world today than most congressmen. The world we live in has made a presidential nominee out of a reality television star. This is the world that Gawker predicted and took up arms against.
By contrast, here's Ryan Holiday, a well-established critic of Gawker who frequently exposes the less-noble side of online publishing, talking about the the case:
In the real world, every decision one makes has consequences. This is true for businesses and for people. Just because someone pursues journalism as a profession or works behind a computer screen does not suddenly exempt them from the unalterable fact of life that every action has an equal reaction.
It has become common for writers of the Gawker generation to pretend that something said over the internet is somehow different from something said to someone’s face. That your snarky expose or needlessly vicious takedown or gleeful reveal of private secrets is a fun game. As I’ve detailed before, a client of mine once challenged former Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio on a ridiculously inaccurate and unfair post he’d written. Mr. Daulerio’s response, “It’s all professional wrestling.”
Except it’s not. Justine Sacco lost her job because of Sam Biddle’s article. A potential rape victim and her family must have felt incredible pain as they pleaded against the posting of a video of her alleged attack on the site. People have contemplated suicide over Gawker articles. I know—I’ve met them.
The story reveals a lot of underlying conflicts and struggles that come with changes in culture. It deals with privacy, power, wealth, and fame. Before you express an opinion, though, it's important to know both sides of the story, and to accept that maybe it shouldn't be public opinion that resolves these kind of disputes.