You may not be familiar with the name Peter Thiel. I’ll tell you more about him in a moment. He’s played a huge role in a victory over the shock-jock-like media that is so prevalent in today’s short-attention-span society.
The wrestler Hulk Hogan sued Gawker Media for invasion of privacy after it published a sex tape, and a Florida jury recently awarded the wrestler, whose real name is Terry Gene Bollea, $140 million. What the jury — and the public — did not know was that Mr. Bollea had a secret benefactor paying about $10 million for the lawsuit: Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and one of the earliest investors in Facebook. (The New York Times)
I’ll briefly state my thoughts on the Hulk Hogan trial. I’m very thankful that media outlets like Gawker are finally getting some slaps in their metaphorical faces. I’m sick and tired of reading stories that dominate the internet waves that involve sex tapes.
Stories like that should deserve their own cave of punishment. While I understand that our curiosity trails off into the nether worlds of sex tapes, red-carpet galas, and celebrity adventures, we have to be more focused on the stories that matter in the real world.
In a statement, Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker Media, who was also personally named in the Hogan suit, said: “Just because Peter Thiel is a Silicon Valley billionaire, his opinion does not trump our millions of readers who know us for routinely driving big news stories including Hillary Clinton’s secret email account, Bill Cosby’s history with women, the mayor of Toronto as a crack smoker, Tom Cruise’s role within Scientology, the N.F.L. cover-up of domestic abuse by players and just this month the hidden power of Facebook to determine the news you see.”
Here’s a great question: Is it easy to admit that we’ve become a people that thrives on social media clicks and using hashtags to create and continue a conversation for days to come?
Absolutely. Technology improves. Humans adapt. It’s a vicious cycle. However, what’s wrong with a Silicon Valley entrepreneur being involved with an invasion-of-privacy trial? Well, Thiel was outed as being gay by Gawker back in 2007.
Whether he is gay or not, what business is it of a tabloid magazine or a similar website to know the personal business of anyone, whether a public figure or a private citizen? I understand that public figures are “public” for a number of reasons, but it’s not as if he’s a government employee or shaping our nation by writing or passing laws. They’re simply part of the gossip realm.
It should also be noted that current Apple CEO Tim Cook was outed as being gay by Gawker Media. I find it interesting that Cook and his legal team were nowhere near the side of Hogan during his trial, but that’s a story for another day.
Looking at another angle, I understand why a source like TMZ has emerged as one of the most credible sources when it comes to reporting some important news stories.
For example, when former basketball player and soon-to-be former Kardashian spouse, Lamar Odom, was found unconscious and overdosed inside a brothel in Nevada, TMZ was the first source on which everyone relied for information as the story developed.
Getting back to Thiel’s involvement in Hulk Hogan’s trial and victory: Thiel ascertained that public figures do have an advantage over private citizens because more often than not, public figures can defend themselves against media outlets like Gawker when freedom of speech is being abused, even in a libelous/slanderous fashion in order to gain credibility and hits on their website.
However, where do we draw the line? When should public figures be barred from donating their money to help defendants win a legal battle? I’m all for a billionaire, or a millionaire, helping out, from one human to another.
I think the biggest thing we need to take from this verdict is we need to draw a line when it comes to an invasion of privacy. Do we have any sort of privacy even with social media and big brother watching us at the CIA and NSA in Washington, D.C.?
Edward Snowden did uncover a lot of truths about our federal government. Should those truths allow businesses/websites like Gawker invade our lives at their own risk? They can most certainly try.
We may not be able to put up much of a fight because the majority of us are private citizens. However, there will come a day when we will fight back and these businesses are going to wish they didn’t mess with us.