Hulk Hogan vs Gawker trial: yelling "racist" at the top of your lungs is not a defense.

Ryan Holiday, a man who literally wrote the book on media manipulation, writes in The Observer that "the Gawker Media Empire is rotten with a deep and cancerous sociopathy…and always has been."

Yes, it always has been. We've said that Gawker is toxic to brands who partner with them, until they went from toxic to radioactive. Most recently Kidsleepy wrote that Sex, Wrestling and Mussolini: Gawker's Toxic Anti-Journalism Needs To Stop. Gawker trolls brands like Coca Cola and when called on it get defensive. But Gawker bullies both brands as well as non celebrities, and believe in their "editorial integrity" so much they'll resign over the "right" to invade anyones privacy.

This is not the place you want your brand to be seen. Since we brought the Gawker plague up in 2014 I've had "off the record" conversations with agencies who are now demanding from their media buyers a surgeon like precision in getting seen on the web, but not anywhere on sites that are even like Gawker. Nobody in advertising wants to admit that they are often buying web media by the barrel, and using Google adsense is basically shotgunning banners on to piracy sites that Google have no intention of policing. They just police and ban sites like this one due to PETA's risqué advertising. Priorities. Banner ads and CPM birthed this clickbait media as 'reporters' got paid more if their story went viral.

As Ryan Holiday writes:

"Let them and all the sites like them collapse under the weight of their own toxicity. Let one of the worst eras in the history of media come to a close. And whatever the outcome is, when these types of writers ask to be let into the fold, ask for jobs or ask for a second chance, reply as Sherman did to a banished, dishonest reporter who asked when he would be allowed back into camp, “as a representative of the press which…makes so slight a difference between the truth and falsehood, my answer is: Never.”

The Terry Bollea / Hulk Hogan vs Gawker is the media trial of the century, not just because a $100 million loss could crumble the Gawker empire entirely. Founder Nick Denton and his family own 68 percent of Gawker; the rest is owned by current and former employees. But also because any ruling here could affect future privacy suits and set a precedent for other media entities. Gawker is arguing that Terry Bollea is a celebrity who previously spoke about his sex life. Bollea's argument is that Hulk Hogan is a wrestling character, and the statements made as Hulk are fictional, so Bollea has not been discussing his sex life. This is as much a battle of two brands as it is one man's fight against a media empire.

The trial can be viewed live on the Tampa Bay website, followed on the #HulkvsGawk hashtag on twitter, and seen on youtube. Nick Denton has been cross-examined, and he defended the publishing of a sex tape with "people are sceptical, there's so much information out on the internet, that they expect to see supporting documentation or imagery. That exact argument could be used to publish every x-rated image found in "The fappening" theft of starlets digital data, and might explain why Gawker has an annotated history of Lindsey Lohan nudity on their site. Gawker are staring openly and stupidly at the entire world, just because they can, and somehow think they don't look like idiots.

Some media seem hellbent on joining Gawker as they jump off a cliff, penning articles with headlines like "Gamergate trolls, NYT attack former Gawker editor over sex tape testimony", which seems to defend Daulerio's 'joking' about child pornography under oath. Lets not forget that Daulerio signed the errata, and failed at that time to point out that his comments were sarcastic. It's now on record that he would draw the line of publishing porn only at the filmed rape of a four year old. That's how this works. The legal world is a grown-up world unlike the playground of internet "journalism".

In the cross examination Bollea's lawyers ask "You think that's a funny topic to joke about? Child pornography?" How anyone can show sympathy to Daulerio after seeing that testimony is beyond me. He may be wearing a suit in court but every statement he makes shows he's a sociopathic manchild with total disregard of anyone's privacy, feelings or sanity. Like a childish forum-troll, but all grown up and with 37 million readers.

Gawker seem set on going down in a spectacular ball of flames, hoping to scorch the earth while they're at it. The appellate court ordered a release of sealed records in Hulk Hogan sex tape lawsuit, and I can only speculate what they want in those but suspect that Gawker's lawyers are planning to re-read Bollea's "racist rant", a transcript of which was leaked to The National Enquirer last summer, which resulted in Hulk Hogan's termination from the WWE. It's possible that Gawker actually thinks yelling "racist" at the top of their lungs will distract from their own horrible behaviour, since ad hominem attacks usually work so well in the microwave mentality world of online media.

The problem is, this is a courtroom, not Twitter or a Disqus thread. In the real world where politicians from every country are beefing up laws regarding cyber bullying, harassment and revenge-porn, the magic shield of "we're journalists" isn't a carte blanche to do whatever one pleases. Especially when there's no license to be a journalist, and often "reporters" working at blogs never studied journalism at all. Lynn Walsh, an Emmy award-winning journalist and SPJ committee member recognizes that the internet has put publishing in the hands of everyone, and concludes that this makes "ethical and accurate reporting is more important than ever". Because as we know, a few tweets can send a lie around the world before truth even got their boots on. We should be able to turn to our media for facts and accuracy, not descriptions of celebrity penises. When advertising seeks to place a brand in front of eyeballs, they are supporting the publication where they are seen, something the viewer is acutely aware of now that ad blockers are widely used. To have your brand seen on media that is like Gawker, is risking the fallout of their sociopathy tarnishing your brand. And if Gawker decides they dislike you, they might call your brand a racist. It's their go-to counter attack.

about the author

Dabitch Creative Director, CEO, hell-raising sweetheart and editor of Adland. Globetrotting Swede who has lived and worked in New York, London, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm.

Comments (3)

  • HulkIsTheRealAmerican's picture
    HulkIsTheRealAm... (not verified)

    Gawkers defense in showing the sex tape sounds a lot like people who blame rape victims because they were dressed in a min skirt. "He spoke openly about his sex life" vs "She dressed like a whore". The fact that other publications are jumping to Gawker's defense shows you just how far the rot has spread.

    Mar 18, 2016
  • Dabitch's picture
    Dabitch

    I hadn't thought of that.

    One of the most interesting aspects of this trial is the battle of the brands. When is Hulk Hogan the wrestling persona, and when is he just Terry Bollea? When are the editors and staff at Gawker the rubbernecking, gawker-stalking sarcastic "I wouldn't release sex tape of a celebrity who is under 4 years old", and when are they decent human beings? I believe this trial will show us that Hulk is a brand persona, and Gawker is an ideology.

    Mar 18, 2016
  • Mark Neuman's picture
    Mark Neuman (not verified)

    "Gawker seem set on going down in a spectacular ball of flames, hoping to scorch the earth while they're at it."

    PREACH

    Mar 25, 2016

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