Gay On Gay Fight: Peter Thiel’s Hypocrisy vs. Gawker’s Hubris | Jive in the [415] Blog | Gay LGBT News Political Commentary

May 27, 2016

Gay On Gay Fight: Peter Thiel’s Hypocrisy vs. Gawker’s Hubris

This image has text across the top that says “Gay on Gay Fight,” and Gawker Media’s Gay Founder Nick Denton is pictured on the left, and San Francisco’s Gay Billionaire Peter Thiel is pictured on the right.
Gay On Gay Fight! Gay billionaire Peter Thiel (pictured right) came out and admitted he's funding lawsuits against Gawker Media, and their gay millionaire publisher Nick Denton (pictured left) is not contrite or apologetic.

A gay millionaire publisher hurt the feelings of a prominent gay billionaire years ago, and gay men have a long memory.

by Roy Steele

San Francisco, California --- The San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley is full of mythic figures that arrived here with a dream, and against all odds, created groundbreaking products and innovative companies that are synonymous with what we call the ‘American dream.’

The Birth Of Silicon Valley + Technology = Wealth

Silicon Valley's history began in a garage at the end of a Palo Alto driveway in 1938, when Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett built an audio oscillator. In the same tradition thirty-eight years later and 5 miles south in Los Altos, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs and Ronald Wayne set up shop in the Jobs family garage, where they founded Apple, Inc.

From Google to Intel to eBay and Uber, these prominent Bay Area multinational technology companies have become ubiquitous around the world, because of their superior products and dominance in the marketplace.

The tremendous success of these companies has created unimaginable personal wealth. The San Francisco Chronicle reported in June 2015, there were 58,000 millionaires in the Bay Area (including San Francisco and Silicon Valley), with 32,000 in San Francisco.

In March 2015, Forbes reported that California was home to 131 billionaires which represent almost a third of all billionaires in the United States. Katia Savchuk wrote, “more than a third of the Golden State’s wealthiest entrepreneurs made their money in the tech industry. Half of California’s billionaires live in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley. San Francisco itself is home to 26 of them, and Los Angeles to 22. Among U.S. cities, only New York boasts more billionaires.”

San Francisco's Gay Billionaire

One of San Francisco’s most prominent billionaires is Peter Thiel, an enormously successful entrepreneur, philanthropist, and venture capitalist who co-founded PayPal and Palantir Technologies, plus the hedge fund Clarium Capital, and the venture capital firm Founders Fund. The Stanford Law School graduate was an early investor in Yelp, and the social networks Facebook and LinkedIn.

A photograph of San Francisco’s gay billionaire Peter Thiel

San Francisco’s gay billionaire Peter Thiel

A 2014 Fortune magazine profile by Roger Parloff, entitled “Peter Thiel Disagrees With You” describes him as a gay Christian libertarian and contrarian, as well as one of America’s leading intellectuals. The article describes him ‘coming out’ to colleagues when he was thirty-five years old in 2003, and he acknowledged that he was “somehow incredibly confused” about his sexuality for a long time.

Gawker Media, Outing and The Wrestler

Peter has been in the news over the last few days after he acknowledged that he’s been funding lawsuits against Gawker Media, the online media organization and blog network.

In March 2016, the former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan (Terry G. Bollea) won a court judgment in a Florida jury trial against Gawker Media  for $140.0 million dollars after the company published his sex tape. Various media reports indicate that other lawsuits are pending. Peter Thiel is paying the legal bills for Hulk Hogan and others.

Like me, you’re probably wondering why Peter Thiel is going after Gawker Media. He explained to The New York Times that it was because Gawker’s Valleywag  blog outed him. In 2007 Gawker’s  Owen Thomas wrote “Peter Thiel, the smartest VC in the world, is gay. More power to him.” The New York Times  Andrew Ross Sorkin explained Peter's motivation for funding these lawsuits.
A 2007 article published by Gawker’s Valleywag blog was headlined, “Peter Thiel is totally gay, people.” That and a series of articles about his friends and others that he said “ruined people’s lives for no reason” drove Mr. Thiel to mount a clandestine war against Gawker. He funded a team of lawyers to find and help “victims” of the company’s coverage mount cases against Gawker. 
“It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” he said on Wednesday in his first interview since his identity was revealed. “I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest.” 
Mr. Thiel said that Gawker published articles that were “very painful and paralyzing for people who were targeted.” He said, “I thought it was worth fighting back.” 
Mr. Thiel added: “I can defend myself. Most of the people they attack are not people in my category. They usually attack less prominent, far less wealthy people that simply can’t defend themselves.” He said that “even someone like Terry Bollea who is a millionaire and famous and a successful person didn’t quite have the resources to do this alone.”
The New York Times article notes that Peter Thiel’s charitable foundation (Thiel Foundation) supports the Committee to Protect Journalists, which describes itself as “an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide. We defend the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal.”

Reporting The News Without Fear?

When any individual says they support journalists and publishers who report the news without fear, while they conduct a clandestine campaign to destroy a news organization, they are either lying or they're delusional. Funding phantom lawsuits to silence a critic is unethical, vindictive and petty. Peter Thiel has fashioned himself as a champion of free speech and ethical journalism, while his grudge and secret vendetta reflect the opposite. His punitive behavior can only be characterized as a fine example of hypocrisy. The truth is that he wants to destroy or bankrupt Gawker Media.

We live in an era when writers and reporters and journalism and free speech is under constant attack. Our society and culture suffer when freedom of speech or expression is oppressed or curtailed. A leading candidate for president wants to curb the press and boasts that he will change our country’s libel laws because he doesn’t like what news outlets say about him. The frightening man wants to use the legal system to silence his critics. Sound familiar? Plus he limits press access and exiles the people and publications that piss him off. That’s outrageous because it hinders a correspondent's ability to maintain their integrity and report the facts about the candidate. (Please note: Peter Thiel allegedly supports this candidate.)

A photograph of Gawker Media’s gay founder Nick Denton
Gawker Media’s gay founder Nick Denton
Just imagine for a moment if the legendary Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee told reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward “that we can’t afford to publish your stories about Watergate because even if they’re true, we could be sued and put out of business.”

No one has established that Gawker has defamed anyone, and they haven’t been found guilty of libel in a court of law. They haven’t broken laws, but they’ve committed the ultimate sin of hurting Peter Thiel’s feelings, and for that they will pay.

Gawker's Gay Founder Speaks

Gawker Media’s gay founder Nick Denton published an open letter to Peter Thiel. He describes the vindictive lawsuits that Peter is funding, criticizes the thin skin of Silicon Valley’s movers and shakers, and proposes that they engage in an open debate or discussion about journalism.
This story will play out in the press and the courts. Both are adversarial forums, in which each side selects facts and quotes to undermine the reputation and credibility of the other. We are confident of our arguments on the newsworthiness of our Hogan story, once it reaches the appeals court. Your main proxy, Hulk Hogan, has his. 
We, and those you have sent into battle against us, have been stripped naked, our texts, online chats and finances revealed through the press and the courts; in the next phase, you too will be subject to a dose of transparency. However philanthropic your intention, and careful the planning, the details of your involvement will be gruesome. 
I’m going to suggest an alternative approach. The best regulation for speech, in a free society, is more speech. We each claim to respect independent journalism, and liberty. We each have criticisms of the other’s methods and objectives. Now you have revealed yourself, let us have an open and public debate. 
The court cases will proceed as long as you fund them. And I am sure the war of headlines will continue. But, even if we put down weapons just for a brief truce, let us have a more constructive exchange. 
We can hold the discussion in person with a moderator of your choosing, in front of an audience, under the auspices of the Committee to Protect Journalists, or in a written discussion on some neutral platform such as Medium. Just tell me where and when. 
At the very least, it will improve public understanding of the interplay of media and power. Considering the amount spent on lawyers, $20 million between us at this point, there should be some public benefit.
I hope that Peter will acquiesce and have a conversation with Nick Denton, whether it’s in a public forum or written form. (Note: I gladly volunteer my services as a moderator if there’s a conflict of interest with the Committee to Protect Journalists.)

I'm A Peter Thiel Fanboy

I have to admit that I’ve long admired Peter Thiel because he dares to be different and challenges the status quo. In my view, this revelation has shattered that image because his actions reflect the stereotypical behavior we associate with the billionaire class. The super wealthy elitists have a disproportionate amount of money and power, and that’s reflected in Peter’s selfish and vindictive lawsuits against Gawker Media. Also, no matter how you slice it, when a billionaire with unlimited resources is beating up on a little guy with few resources, it is bullying of the worst order, and that is NOT cool at all.

An image with Gawker media’s logo, and below the logo Roy Steele writes “Whether it’s hubris or a lack of maturity, failing to acknowledge Gawker’s role in this conflict diminishes their moral authority and standing. Nick Denton could readily apologize for any hurt feelings or the unintended consequences of their reporting, and he pointedly didn’t do that. Roy Steele”
While Nick Denton’s letter and suggestion to have a civil debate might be productive in the short term, I doubt that it will ever happen. Whether it’s hubris or a lack of maturity, failing to acknowledge Gawker’s role in this conflict diminishes their moral authority and standing. Nick Denton could readily apologize for any hurt feelings or the unintended consequences of their reporting, and he pointedly didn’t do that. That arrogance could spell the beginning of the end for Gawker Media, and that’s a shame.

Gay on Gay Fight

We are witnessing a gay on gay fight that hurts the stature of both gay men, and ultimately Peter Thiel will win. Why might you ask? Because he’s a billionaire determined to extinguish an opponent that he despises. That’s what the billionaire class does and that’s what he will likely do.

I would suggest an alternate solution to this mess and the accompanying bad press. Peter should buy Gawker Media outright. It's a profitable business, and he could manage the blogs and make the editorial decisions himself, which would be cheaper than funding endless lawsuits. Billionaire's buy media properties all the time, just ask Sheldon Adelson and Jeff Bezos. That’s what the billionaire class often does, and that’s what he likely will NOT do.

This gay on gay hair-pulling fight will continue and a protagonist will break a nail in the process, because that's what two fighting queens are apt to do. Straight talk indeed.

straight talk in a queer world.     
© 2011 - 2016

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