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Gawker Just Went From Toxic To Radioactive

I don't know how prostitution works in the US. I really don't. But I know a little bit about how it works in the UK. Generally what happens is that you visit a website like 'Adultwork', call up a sex worker, organise a time and a place to meet, pay them in cash, have sex, and then leave. You don't send a sex worker selfies or mail them money upfront. Why would you do that? For those wondering, I learned all of this from a Channel 4 documentary, I haven't tried it myself.

Waking up this morning I was greeted with my phone buzzing to the news that Gawker, the US-based 'content aggregate network' or whatever they call themselves, had really, and I mean really messed up again. Well that's no surprise. Ever since Gawker ruined a multimillion dollar advertising campaign for Coke, they've been pretty toxic. Let's get this out the way - if I was a media buyer I would advise my clients to avoid them like the plague.

The gist of the story is that Gawker have published a piece which helps a sex worker in blackmailing a man whose "brother was a high-level official within the Obama administration". The two had planned to meet for some consensual gay sex. However when the sex worker found out who this man was (.i.e. who his brother was), he demanded help in fixing an administrative and difficult housing dispute. Naturally the John realised this could never end well and made his polite excuses. So the sex worker who Gawker are calling Ryan decided to take the story to the presses.

Regarding protection of identity, Gawker writes "The escort—who does not want to reveal his identity for professional reasons", and leaves it at that. But this is what they did. They abetted in the blackmail of an innocent man. They exposed his sexual orientation to his family and children (I believe this is called gay shaming?) And they ruined his life and ruined his reputation. All for clicks. All for hits. All for the lolz.

Simply put, Gawker has always been dangerous. That's not an opinion. This isn't an editorial. That's a fact. However this steps over the line in so many ways. There's no excuse to blackmail someone and hide it behind the flimsy excuse of journalism. There is no excuse. Over the next few days we're going to see a huge backlash against Gawker. Thousands of emails will be written. Tens of thousands of tweets will be sent. Brand managers all around the world will know about it. The only question that remains is a simple one - Brands, do you want to continue advertising on Gawker and having your products associated with blackmail, gay shaming and the pointless ruining of lives? Or do you want to draw a line and say "Enough is enough. This is where we say no more."

Sometimes terrible secrets need to be exposed for the collective good of mankind. Journalism can truly change the world. But this wasn't journalism. This was aimless and unnecessary malice.

Tweets picked at random in response to Gawker announcement

Update Friday July 17th 21:20 CET - Gawker has pulled the story and Nick Denton announces here why. The cliff notes are that the story isn't interesting enough.

Gawker is no longer the insolent blog that began in 2003. It does important and interesting journalism about politicians, celebrities and other major public figures. This story about the former Treasury Secretary’s brother does not rise to the level that our flagship site should be publishing.

The point of this story was not in my view sufficient to offset the embarrassment to the subject and his family. Accordingly, I have had the post taken down. It is the first time we have removed a significant news story for any reason other than factual error or legal settlement.

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

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kidsleepy's picture

Gotta love how a senior writer of Gawker simultaneously tries to distance himself from an article while at the same time linking to it.

Dabitch's picture

Look at Perez Hilton, of all people, taking the high road. (And I notice that all of Gawkers writers have verified Twitter. Interesting)

Bitterbear's picture

And for those who missed the article, here's an archived link:


That article makes me wanna go take a shower.

Simon's picture

Oh Gawker really shat the bed this time
When it hit I was thinking that Denton, being gay himself, should know better than to run articles that out people but now that he's pulled the piece he may have actually incurred more damage to Gawker instead of mitigating further calamity.

Y'see by pulling the piece he has more or less admitted fault (uncharacteristically magnanimous of him) which puts the John in a position where if he pursues legal action he has been given an open goal.
If the piece were true, Gawker are accessories to blackmail
If the piece is untruthful, they are guilty of libel

David Felton's picture

I find the announcement by Nick Denton almost as insulting and shameful as the piece itself. He's basically defending the whole thing, every part of it. And the reason for pulling it - we decided in retrospect that it wasn't "interesting" enough. No, this piece just didn't capture enough of the public interest. A proper Gawker story has to

reveal something meaningful. They have to be true and interesting. These texts were interesting, but not enough, in my view.

This is truly disgraceful. The story did grab interest - It was "interesting" (perhaps not the right word) in the same way people slow down to watch a bloody accident on the side of the road. And it did reveal something meaningful. It showed a lot of people that Gawker is totally fine with ruining a man's life when he isn't a public figure and he hasn't done anything to warrant it.

But there's no hint of an apology, just arrogant justification, hyperbole and grandstanding.

What an absolute shit show. Bit of a cliché to ask, but do these people really have no ethics? No morals? No sense of culpability?

Lunar Archivist's picture

I'm not the least bit surprised, to be honest, considering that I've seen that same adjective used by CBC staff to justify smearing/libeling/defaming GamerGate.

"#GamerGate has multiple aspects, I understand that, but two main topics: Ethics in games journalism and the treatment of women in gaming. I also understand that it is the subject of continuing controversy, if not contention among gamers and others. But as interesting as the issues it raises are – and they are very interesting – this report wasn’t really about #GamerGate at all, although it was mentioned at one point almost as an aside." - Mark Harrison

"#GamerGate is not an organization with a management that is accountable for statements made in its name. It is a hashtag, a thoroughly modern phenomenon of the social media age. Whether you agree or not, it has become associated with harassment of women. The fact that some women don’t agree that it stands for harassment is interesting, but doesn’t change the fact that it has been linked with a range of bullying and threatening behaviors." - Esther Enkin

Honestly, if the mainstream media uses excuses like this, how can anyone expect a cesspool like Gawker to behave any better?

Dabitch's picture

Alert: Now that Denton has removed the post and given us a non-apology to top all non-apologies, the discussions has suddenly shifted from when to un-publish something instead of when to not publish something. This statement from Gawker editorial staff calling the take down of the post an "unprecedented breach of the firewall", shows that the staff was against removing the post. " Our opinions on the post are not unanimous but we are united in objecting to editorial decisions being made by a majority of non-editorial managers. Disagreements about editorial judgment are matters to be resolved by editorial employees. We condemn the takedown in the strongest possible terms."

I'll also note that Gawker has always been this way, the entire blogging house has been the "punk publicists" and prided themselves in that from the get-go. The pay-per-hits forces their writers to go for the most salacious of angles - fuck fact checking - while undermining writers salaries in general. In 2008 Gizmodo were banned for life from CES, and they were proud of it! (Archived link) "When did journalists become the protectors of corporations? " they asked while they proved themselves to be the biggest Egos in the room clicking off TV's at a presentation and wasting the audiences time. Gawker has unfortunately been the source and inspiration for the click-model journalism, dragging former journalistic flagships down to their level as everyone clamours for the quickest hit. I say quick because the way Google works, first out with the story wins even if it's the shortest paragraph, and is rewarded by top hit on Google News. But you get what you pay for as they say, and the only way we pay for this is by clicking on it.

(If you would like to avoid paying with clicks I can vouch for the code in GGBlocker, a chrome add-on that redirects you to an archive page instead of Gawker and the likes. I read the source at Github and it's very simple, a specific list of publications will be automatically redirected to archive.today - if you want you can download the source and add your own list.)

Limburger's picture

Hey Dabitch, there's also an auto-archive add-on for Firefox called GGFirewall. Works real well, can recommend.


Just for future reference.

Morgan Blank's picture

'Simply put, Gawker has always been dangerous. That's not an opinion. This isn't an editorial. That's a fact.'

I'm no fan of gawker, but outing a gay man in no where near as dangerous as censorship. The fact that you think gawker is 'dangerous' is an opinion. The fact that you'd use such blaring double-talk is scary. Please don't try to censor anyone, pass any laws, or anything like that..

Dabitch's picture

BINGO! We got "censorship" thrown around on article about Gawker being accessory to blackmail. I now have bingo. Comments have become really predictable, it's like there's only 5 tools in the astroturfers arsenal.

kidsleepy's picture

I hope someone calls me a Luddite!

Dabitch's picture


Thanks for the Firefox firewall tip, Limburger.