The wake for Gawker, killed by Peter Thiel

Gawker.com, the online media site that took on the rich and powerful in New York and in Silicon Valley, is no more as of today.

The company went bankrupt after it was hit with a jury verdict in an invasion of privacy case brought by Hulk Hogan, the former professional wrestler.

That case and supposedly others against Gawker were backed by Peter Thiel, the legendary Silicon Valley investor and billionaire who was a PayPal co-founder and founder of Palantir. He also serves on the board of Facebook.

Gawker.com’s archives will remain online. But it will no longer publish new material. The company sold its other assets — Gizmodo, Jezebel, Lifehacker, the sports site Deadspin and two others — to Univision for $135 million.

Founded in 2003, Gawker defined an era of Internet journalism. It was the internet’s Spy magazine, satirical, irreverent and bold. Depending on the viewer’s perspective, it was regarded with a mixture of admiration and scorn. Gawker was famous for taking well-known people down a peg and digging up news. It occasionally crossed the line to meanness and irrelevantly disclosing personal information.

With Valleywag, its on-again-off-again site focused on the tech industry, writers broke news and made fun of Silicon Valley. It was widely read but also widely hated.

It was a Valleywag post that outed Thiel as gay (“Peter Thiel is totally gay, people”) that according to Thiel, launched his secret mission to help others against Gawker, as he wrote in the New York Times. In the marketplace for clicks, Gawker didn’t care who got hurt, Thiel has said.

In the past 24 hours, the eulogies for Gawker have been pouring in. BuzzFeed News and others have done appreciations of some of Gawker’s greatest hits.

Not everyone has saluted Gawker’s passing.

In Advertising AgeSimon Dumenco, wrote that it wasn’t Thiel’s fault but Gawker’s that the publication died:

Gawker simply didn’t know when to hit the brakes — or maybe it didn’t even know how to operate the brakes. It slammed into a tree or crashed through the guardrail and over the cliff or [insert a visual of your choice here, with the horror level depending on whether or not you or any of your colleagues or friends or family have ever been brutalized by Gawker].

By the logic of this narrative, Gawker killed itself. We can’t rule it a suicide, though, because clearly Gawker didn’t intend to die.

Many of the eulogies are written by Gawker staffers and former staffers. Choire Sicha in Gawker:

Whatever it is you love now, from the daring to the harebrained, from The Dodo to Extra Crispy to Mic to The Ringer to The Daily Beast to The Awl to Upworthy to The Guardian to The New York Times, you’ll discover that they’ll each seem far more lovely to you when they’re gone.

Now this place passes into a prolonged nostalgia. Gawker existed for far longer than anyone deserved. It stayed long enough to win. The moment will come soon enough when you need a Gawker, and you’ll be furious that you no longer have one.

Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker Media, wrote:

Peter Thiel has gotten away with what would otherwise be viewed as an act of petty revenge by reframing the debate on his terms. Having spent years on a secret scheme to punish Gawker’s parent company and writers for all manner of stories, Thiel has now cast himself as a billionaire privacy advocate, helping others whose intimate lives have been exposed by the press. It is canny positioning against a site that touted the salutary effects of gossip and an organization that practiced radical transparency.

As former Gawker developer Dustin Curtis says, “Though I find the result abhorrent, this is one of the most beautiful checkmates of all time by Peter Thiel.”

Above: Peter Thiel delivers a speech at the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

 

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  • Nelrod

    Good riddance, Gawker!

  • Skew

    This was a case of a bully running into a bigger bully. Gawker would settle its lawsuits (and there were many of them) because the people suing didn’t have pockets as deep as Denton’s. The ran into one who did, and lost.

    Nick Denton is a Multi-millionaire who got taken down not by a billionaire, but from an attitude that HE was always able to buy his way out of trouble. His and AJ’s courtroom behavior sealed it. Denton is a scumbag, as is Thiel, but Thiel merely provided the funds to take on Gawker’s legal team. He didn’t pay off the judge and jury.

    To the end Gawker refused to admit any wrongdoing on their part, which only serves to highlight their lack of self awareness. This is the site that refused to publish female celebrity nudes behind some sort of false moral code (The Fappening) but had no problem posting a private sex tape with a famous celebrity male involved, grandstanding all the way to bankruptcy.

 
 
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