Just How Bad Is Gawker, Anyway?

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So: Gawker. The general reaction of the press to the revelation that billionaire Peter Thiel has been behind the libel suit against Gawker all along has been close to unanimous: it’s bad. The generally accepted storyline is that Thiel was pissed off at Gawker for outing him as gay many years ago, and has been plotting revenge ever since. His deep pockets pretty much ensured that eventually he’d be able to sue them into oblivion, and sure enough, he has.

But do we really want a world in which angry billionaires who don’t like the press they get can use their riches to put news organizations out of business? They don’t even have to win. Just file enough lawsuits that meet the bare minimum standard to keep from being frivolous, and eventually they’ll win. Now that Thiel has proven the concept, we can expect a lot more of this. See Felix Salmon for a good precis of this argument.

However, there’s another point of view. John Hempton expresses it eloquently:

Ryan Holiday makes a pretty good case for the odiousness of Gawker here. Nick Denton, the owner of Gawker, more or less responds that Thiel should just suck it up. This kind of shit gets published all the time in places like New York and Washington DC. Why shouldn’t Silicon Valley have to put up with it too?

What to think? Here’s the problem: I don’t read Gawker. I’ve been on their site once in a while, and generally find it boring. I click on things here and there, and mostly find writers desperately trying to bring some snark to a topic that’s really kind of dull. So I go away for a year or so before something happens to bring me back.

So here’s what I need: a Gawker-style listicle that sets out, say, the ten most loathsome things Gawker has done. Does anyone know where I can find something like that?

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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