Gawker brought back bullying - then removes post against editorial staff's wishes

On Thursday Gawker published an article about a CFO at Gawker media's most recent target, Condé Nast (due to its relation to Reddit), alleging that he was attempting to solicit sex from a gay porn star. We've outlined the post here. For all we know, and with Gawker's less than stellar record of fact checking, the entire story could be a web of lies as the gay porn star graces a facebook page full of odd conspiracy theories, and is seen delivering personal messages to Obama and Putin 'proving' that Obama is the Beast and Putin is the destroying Evil Angel Abaddon. Ho-kay.

The article was met with pretty much universal scorn from the world's journalists, celebrities, bloggers and all their little dogs too. Adweek cites some choice tweets. Glenn Greenwald who made his name world famous on distributing the Snowden files called sharing the possible gay escort hookup an "incomparably vile article". Other outlets, such as IB Times weigh in on the possible legal ramifications brought on by first distributing and then removing the controversial post. Nick Denton decided to take the post down, calling publishing it in the first place a close call with 'more internal disagreements than usual. And it is a decision I regret.' To really cement the non-apology apology, Nick Denton repeated the name of the man shamed by Gawker in the takedown article, thereby ensuring it'll always be associated with this story online: "David Geithner’s embarrassment will not be eased." Obviously not.

Three children of reading and web-surfing age are enduring school during this media fallout, and a life partner has to deal with her partners public humiliation and shaming, while a man probably faced the worst Friday at work in his life, but that's OK because Max Read thinks this is being chivalrous, somehow. Never mind, once again, that it may all be a web of lies. Nevermind that if it even is true, his damsel might not need saving. Have you tried just holding a door open instead, Max?

Now, the media has mainly concentrated on the fact that this was somehow an outing of a closeted (and married with children) gay man, and this is the terrible sin of this story. As if this would have been OK if the unknown bean-counter was setting up escort dates with Vegas ladies. This is not a Tiger Woods level celebrity or marital breech, in fact as far as we know this was a never acted upon fantasy that never became a reality. And that's if we accept screendumps posted on Gawker as truth.

Honestly now, this is just Gawker fulfilling its original objective as Nick Denton explained it to Playboy last year, nestled between the discussion about the social good of making it harder for people to stay in the closet: "If we’re covering you, we need your colleagues to rat you out or your exes to put in bits and pieces. It has to be a collaborative effort." Gawker is exactly what it planned to become. It'll air any dirt it can find, and what it gets from its Kinja-powered gossipers, no matter how damaging it is and regardless who is the target. That super intendant in your building? I hear he's a furry. Lets have him pilloried on the web because we're sticking it to the man. The public shaming, the demands for forgiveness and other similarities with the cultural revolution of 1966–76 are not lost on me.

The man? Yes, while Gawker authors say they're after people in power as if they hold none of their own when they wield what is mightier than the sword for a living, Gawker media's writers sincerely believe that they are opposing the "ruling class". In a statement from the Gawker editorial staff they make it clear that this was an "unprecedented breach of the firewall" that is supposed to protect the editorial staff from 'decisions being made by a majority of non-editorial managers'. If this isn't clear enough, we have this gem of a comment; "Hey, go to for your news if you want salespeople determining your content. We won’t miss you.".
Gawker's "the man" isn't just any suit in accounting, its big brands like Coca cola, and randy ad agency anons who get frisky on the floor, as we saw with that infamous ad agency sex tape. Basically, you're the man if Gawker says so. They'll take you down because they can, and if you argue against their random scarlet letting of whomever, they'll argue that you're for censorship. Their own chilling effect of public shaming isn't censorship, no no. They're fighting the good fight, you see. And who decides what is good? Gawker Media. This is why Gawker is toxic to brands who partner with them.
You don't wrestle with pigs, lest you get full of mud yourself, so why would a brand want to hire a company known for this near puritanical obsession with peoples sex lives and nudeness and well known track-record of - forgive the pun - gawking at it? Why would a brand want to have their ads positioned next to what Jennifer Lawrence called 'an egregious act of psychic violence', ie, stolen nudes? Are we really, as brands today so pre-occupied with being inclusive in every ad we make, still living in the stone-age when it comes to "most eyeballs win [our account]", instead of the previous classier era of "best targeted media wins [our account]"? This is the end of an era. You can put as many trans people, special olympics stars, gay couples and adorable puppies as you want in your commercials, dear brands, but you can't socialwash away who you associate with. The consumers are paying attention, the consumers are seeing where your ads are as much as what your ads say.

Now, apparently, those of us who have warned about Gawkers trajectory are strange people with foreign names, and apartment dwelling at that. Interesting insult, and guilty as charged. Does this mean that the Gawker defenders all have simpler names like "West" or "Weinstein" and live in big McMansions? I'm unsure how to interpret this. Are we gentrifiers? Are we urban?

Hulk Hogan has already sued Gawker for $100 million over publishing a sex tape. While many other celebrities and non-famous people have good reason to sue Gawker for publishing nude images, leaked scripts and video of sexual acts, Hulk is the one who stubbornly refuses to back down. You can practically hear his theme-song every time you see him tweet.

While it looked like Hogan didn't have many on his side last week, the wind has suddenly changed. Watching a WWF star challenge a blogging empire may turn out to be the media-match of the century.

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Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
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Grev's picture

Weinstein is wrong. This does vindicate Gamergate. Because Gawker Media is pretty much the ringleader for the anti brigade, and now everything they've ever said about GG is suspect. (Of course, most of GG has been saying that right from the minute Kotaku posted the first "Gamers are dead" article...)

David Felton's picture

When we consider advertising placement there are so many factors at play.

Are we reaching the right people? No point showing an ad for a big juicy steak to a million vegetarians. We hit eyeballs, but not the right ones.

Are we reaching them in the right moment? No point showing an ad for a new VW to someone who just bought a car. They might have taken notice last week, but the timing is wrong. And finally...

Are we making the right associations? In social media we talk about this a lot. We call it alignment. With a horrible, bullying cesspit like Gawker, people can't help but notice. And you're aligning your brand to that?

As you say, context makes a difference. Not all ad spaces are the same. Context means something important.

Lucia Moses writes in Digiday: "Above all, advertisers are already well aware of what they’re getting into when they do business with the site, and the story was classic Gawker. The threshold for scandal has gotten higher." Maybe she's right. But I truly hope not.

Dabitch's picture

That's exactly it though, what Lucia Moses touches on is correct "the threshold has gotten higher", and indeed it has. For the past ten years media places like Gawker have flourished, and so have their standards. Now, everyone was OK with the standards being brought down as long as the eyeballs came to town, but how long can this fall really continue? How long do you want your carefully vetted, legally checked, thrice, brand - next to a blog post written by an intern who gets $12 per post and still thinks Mao & Che are the coolest people?

David Felton's picture

You mean where the global brand lawyers sign off on it, but then the local market lawyers need to check too, and finally the t&cs need to be checked over by a specialist lawyer? Yeah, let's put that right up next to a libellous and totally fake story about Jimmy Kimmel being an alcoholic and drunk at a children's birthday party. And when the complaints come in, just smile and call it 'Citizen Journalism'. (Excuse me while I throw up.)

kidsleepy's picture

How much you want to bet a lot of brands will start rethinking "native advertising," in this context?

DisrespectfuNodder's picture

Brands such as Blue Apron? Hmm...

Steve Hall's picture

So well said! The entire article. It's really become insane. And I say this admitting that I've probably committed Gawker-like editorial sins myself over the years but I'd like to think they weren't as egregious as this. It's a vicious cycle. People love to bask in the shame of others. Editors of today's Clickhole-style properties love praying on this vicarious shedenfruede. But, at some point, we all raise our heads out of the much and realize, "Whoa! What the hell is going on here are what, as editors and readers, are we perpetrating?" It's a slippery slope and I don't know how it will all end. As long as idiotic clickbait-style headlines and stupid article rule the day and the ad dollars follow those clicks, this problem is here to stay. Someone spoke at Cannes (I think) about this and how all marketers and advertisers have to play their part in changing this. Because, really, they are the only ones who can. Becasue they are the ones who control the flow of the money. If all ad dollars went to website that published pictures of cats, that's all we'd see. Really, it's that simple. If we want this shit to stop, marketers have to stop funding it.

Dabitch's picture

Heya Steve! I marinated my brain in rosé when we were dining in Cannes, but I'm pretty sure we discussed this topic then too. Whomever decided to pay by the eyeball started us down this slope, greased up by greed.

And they have the gall to call us the evil ones. Like I just explained to my daughter, advertising is the only communication that it is illegal to lie in. Everything we put out there has been vetted by legal teams thrice. You can't say the same for the evening news where they claimed the Asiana pilot name was "Captain Sum Tin Wong".

Like you said, If we want this shit to stop, marketers have to stop funding it. - the social marketing trend has already birthed at least ten new awards, now lets move on to the the social media buying. Place your ads in quality media dear brands, not magazines that print disturbing and entirely false rape stories that bring a fraternity down, or websites that are blackmail tools for a presumably deranged Texan porn star.

Ralph J.'s picture

I agree with every word. I only have this link to add, because gutter journalism is not only tasteless, but also dangerous. Brands should not associate with that.

"The harm that can be caused by such writing is not remote, indirect, or speculative. This is exactly the sort of publication that can obviously ruin an identifiable person’s life (and the lives of family and loved ones). Free speech advocates need not, and should not, defend gutter journalism.

Mark Neuman's picture

I will quote something I found important here:

"Now, the media has mainly concentrated on the fact that this was somehow an outing of a closeted (and married with children) gay man, and this is the terrible sin of this story. As if this would have been OK if the unknown bean-counter was setting up escort dates with Vegas ladies. This is not a Tiger Woods level celebrity or marital breech, in fact as far as we know this was a never acted upon fantasy that never became a reality. And that's if we accept screendumps posted on Gawker as truth."

Have you noticed that in the press now, this has become "fact". Gawker outed a gay man. As far as I know that man has never commented on the Gawker piece and nobody, but his wife and himself, know anything about his sexuality. So Gawker threw mud and it became truth. And you're right, it wouldn't have been OK if he was just talking to escorts either.

Sport's picture

You're right, the supposed gay man never commented on the piece or his sexuality. If we presume the children he is the official father of were created in a natural way, he simply is not a gay man. Bisexual, perhaps.

AnonymousCoward's picture

Gawker is still scum.

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