Actions Have Consequences

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

I was only vaguely aware of Gawker when Peter Thiel taught them that actions have consequences, but I nonetheless enjoyed Ryan Holiday’s “hot take”:

Every time I write a piece about Gawker—and I’ve written a few—I pause before I hit publish. Once I take a second to check what skeletons are in my closet, that my personal life is in order and that my facts and figures are straight, I ask myself one last time: Am I sure I really want to do this? If there’s time, I say a quick prayer too.

This is what one does when they decide to cross a powerful person or entity, especially if they’ve been attacked before. As someone who has felt the vindictive wrath of Gawker—had my emails hacked and leaked, been called a “known fraud” in a Valleywag headline—I can tell you it’s not an easy decision to call out someone whose resources are inversely proportional to their scruples.

Usually, I proceed, but I do it fully aware of what I might be in for.

What is even more interesting to me—and something that seems to get lost every time the Gawker hydra rears up from its new Lernaean lair in the Flatiron District—is that this same calculus is necessary regardless of who you choose to speak out or go up against: You gotta be sure you’re ready for what might happen because actions have consequences.

Although most people I talk to file this little piece of wisdom under “common sense” and consider it a fundamental fact of life, the folks at Gawker never seem to have considered it. Like your typical bully, they got very used to other people being afraid of their power but never bothered to respect the power and influence of anyone else. Which is why they’ve come to find themselves staring down the barrel of a $140 million court judgment they can’t pay and millions more spent on legal fees.

Gawker pissed off the wrong guy.

After needlessly outing and maliciously antagonizing the billionaire Peter Thiel in 2007, Gawker made an enemy whose patience and dedication to responding tit for tat rivals the Count of Monte Cristo. Mr. Thiel made it his mission not to get mad or get even—but to drive Gawker out of business by funding lawsuits on behalf of victims who had had their privacy even more egregiously violated than his. He calls it one of the most “philanthropic” things he’s ever done. And I wouldn’t disagree. What better way to give back to the body politic than fight to remove a pernicious cultural cancer?

And now he’s won. Not just won but won on such a Greek scale that the only thing missing is a Thyestean Feast where Gawker writers are fed the flesh of their own family. (I would love to see Mr. Thiel do his version of a much deserved Cartman impression here.) But instead of appreciating the poetry of this comeuppance, the same media pundits who decried Gawker’s cruel publication of the surreptitiously recorded Hulk Hogan sex tape, the people who have criticized Gawker’s awful outings of other gay figures and its unending snark and avarice are suddenly pulling back.

It’s alarming that a billionaire would attack a media outlet like this, they say. Using the legal system to settle scores will have a chilling effect on all free speech.

This is nonsense.


  1. Gaikokumaniakku says:

    “Using the legal system to settle scores will have a chilling effect on all free speech.”

    Of course! That’s why gentlemen settle scores with rapiers or pistols!

    Have I told you lately that Aaron Burr was a good man?

  2. Space Nookie says:

    I read an anti-Thiel article, and the dirty-pool allegations against Thiel seem to be that he 1) refused settlement offers in favor of going after a company-breaking judgment, 2) tailored the complaint so that the liability would be 100% on Gawker and none on their insurance company (even though this reduced the chances of plaintiff actually getting paid), and 3) went public in the aftermath of the judgment to cut off Gawker’s access to funds to appeal the judgment.

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