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?
given the chance gawker will always report on married c-suite executives of major media companies fucking around on their wives
— max read (@max_read) July 17, 2015
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 Target.com 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?
— Lindy West (@thelindywest) July 18, 2015
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.
I told them I would fight this fight until the end, I think they are finally starting to believe me. HH
— Hulk Hogan (@HulkHogan) July 18, 2015
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.