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Tech Billionaire Peter Thiel Secretly Bankrolled Hulk Hogan's Lawsuit Against Gawker: Reports (gawker.com) 307

If you're a powerful Silicon Valley billionaire, and there's a media house which actively points out flaws in your investments, can you do something about it? If you're Peter Thiel, you certainly can. The New York Times and Forbes magazine have independently reported that Thiel has been funding a steady stream of lawsuits -- including three different ones filed by Hulk Hogan -- to destroy Gawker Media. Gawker reports: Gawker and Valleywag, Gawker Media's defunct tech gossip vertical, have often written critically of Thiel, a self-identified libertarian (and, it turns out, a California delegate for Donald Trump) and his investments, covering the failure of his hedge fund Clarium Capital, his right-wing politics, and his personal life. In just the last month, Gawker Media's tech site Gizmodo published a series of stories on Facebook's use of "news curators" to manipulate the site's "trending" module, sparking a congressional investigation into the social network's practices.Jay Rosen, media critic and a professor of journalism at New York University, said: Trying to kill a publication you don't like by funding lawsuits against them isn't very libertarian, is it?
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Tech Billionaire Peter Thiel Secretly Bankrolled Hulk Hogan's Lawsuit Against Gawker: Reports

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  • by Virtucon ( 127420 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2016 @01:13PM (#52179731)

    So, what's the big issue? This guy saw an opportunity to attack an opponent albeit in the shadows.

    "Attack the enemy where they are not" - Art of War

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 25, 2016 @01:23PM (#52179827)

      Press freedom is an essential element of any democracy. So pretty obviously the big issue with rich bastards using their wealth to try to shut down publications that criticise them is that it clearly works against that principle. I certainly wouldn't want to live in a society where the rich felt that they could do whatever the fuck they wanted and never be called out on it by the media, because media organisations feared this kind of attack if they did so.

      • Press freedom is an essential element of any democracy. So pretty obviously the big issue with rich bastards using their wealth anonymously to try to shut down publications that criticise them is that it clearly works against that principle.

        FTFY (never mind that commenter posted as AC)

      • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2016 @02:02PM (#52180267) Homepage

        Well, this relies on the Press being free enough to criticize the government, and be clever enough to realize when they government is lying to them and investigate to reveal the truth. Suing the media for lying isn't nearly the same level of problem, particularly when the media is 100% in the wrong as in the Hulk Hogan case. [nytimes.com]

        Rhodesâ(TM)s war room did its work on Capitol Hill and with reporters. In the spring of last year, legions of arms-control experts began popping up at think tanks and on social media, and then became key sources for hundreds of often-clueless reporters. âoeWe created an echo chamber,â he admitted, when I asked him to explain the onslaught of freshly minted experts cheerleading for the deal. âoeThey were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.â

        When I suggested that all this dark metafictional play seemed a bit removed from rational debate over Americaâ(TM)s future role in the world, Rhodes nodded. âoeIn the absence of rational discourse, we are going to discourse the [expletive] out of this,â he said. âoeWe had test drives to know who was going to be able to carry our message effectively, and how to use outside groups like Ploughshares, the Iran Project and whomever else. So we knew the tactics that worked.â He is proud of the way he sold the Iran deal. âoeWe drove them crazy,â he said of the dealâ(TM)s opponents.

        The Presidency played the Press like a fiddle and they fell for it hook, line and sinker. They lied, lied, and lied some more and no reporter bothered to investigate. THAT is more destructive to democracy than a lawsuit against clear Press misconduct.

      • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2016 @02:37PM (#52180531) Journal

        It's hard to justify the claim that publicly outing someone's sexuality or making a private sex tape available is an example of press freedom. There's no solid lemon test here, unfortunately, but certainly courts, when confronted with press freedom versus rights to privacy, there's a "public good" question that has to be asked. What good was served by releasing the Hulk Hogan video?

        • Is debunking someone's claim that they "invented" email not an example of press freedom too? Because Thiel is also bankrolling that libel suit against Gawker.
      • A lot of people are spouting "Freedom of the Press", but really, Gawker and "Journalism" should not be used in relation to each other.

        As to this asshat using his money to fight against something that bothers him? Well, it's a free country, right?

    • by Fire_Wraith ( 1460385 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2016 @01:33PM (#52179961)
      So if he decides he doesn't like you, he can sue the crap out of you on multiple fronts, without his own name getting dragged into it? You're fine with trying to fight off all those lawsuits, where you'll go bankrupt even if you win?

      The ability of the rich to try and sue someone into compliance, or at least silence, is nothing new, and is troubling on its own, but at least when they're suing directly they open themselves to discovery. Donald Trump once sued a journalist for claiming he was worth less than $250 million, but that led to him being forced to release tax documents to the court as part of it, so everyone could see what the truth actually was. This is different, because he's not even a first party to it, he's just recruiting and bankrolling people to sue them.

      And while Gawker isn't exactly a pure and noble martyr that we should feel bad about, to put it mildly, the notion that someone rich enough can use the court system in this manner to destroy a news organization, even a terrible tabloid one, just because he doesn't like what it says, should scare us. It's a chilling effect that may have significant repercussions on reporting on the activities of the rich and powerful in general.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 25, 2016 @01:54PM (#52180173)

        >So if he decides he doesn't like you, he can sue the crap out of you on multiple fronts, without his own name getting dragged into it? You're fine with trying to fight off all those lawsuits, where you'll go bankrupt even if you win?

        It's a fine tactic to use against someone who would out you as gay against your will. What Gawker's circle does is not journalism, it's character assassination based on political beliefs.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 25, 2016 @01:55PM (#52180195)

        > So if he decides he doesn't like you, he can sue the crap out of you on multiple fronts, without his own name getting dragged into it? You're fine with trying to fight off all those lawsuits, where you'll go bankrupt even if you win?

        How is that any different from the ACLU and similar orgs? Lots of people fund them and they go around looking to sue anyone who is doing things they don't agree with. Just to remember, this wasn't a frivolous lawsuit against Gawker--they won.

      • by Jiro ( 131519 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2016 @01:57PM (#52180219)

        So if he decides he doesn't like you, he can sue the crap out of you on multiple fronts, without his own name getting dragged into it? You're fine with trying to fight off all those lawsuits, where you'll go bankrupt even if you win?

        This lawsuit wasn't mainly trouble for Gawker because they would go bankrupt even if they won. It was trouble for Gawker because Gawker committed the unethical behavior described in the lawsuit and had to pay for it. There's a big difference between suing innocent people to make them pay for defense, and suing guilty people to make them pay for their crimes.

        • by Fire_Wraith ( 1460385 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2016 @02:25PM (#52180427)
          If you read through to some of the reporting on this, you'll find that it wasn't just the Hulk Hogan lawsuit - he's arranged for many more. What's more, the lawyers in the case were pursuing tactics that wouldn't make sense if they were actually trying to maximize the award to their client, but would absolutely make sense if they were simply trying to attack Gawker without care as to whether Hogan actually gets any money out of it.

          So, in short, they're not trying to make Gawker pay for their crimes, they're trying to make Gawker go bankrupt any way they can. That's a huge distinction.
          • If you read through to some of the reporting on this, you'll find that it wasn't just the Hulk Hogan lawsuit - he's arranged for many more. What's more, the lawyers in the case were pursuing tactics that wouldn't make sense if they were actually trying to maximize the award to their client, but would absolutely make sense if they were simply trying to attack Gawker without care as to whether Hogan actually gets any money out of it.

            So, in short, they're not trying to make Gawker pay for their crimes, they're trying to make Gawker go bankrupt any way they can. That's a huge distinction.

            I haven't really seen that and I think what you're claiming would be a fairly serious allegation against the lawyers.

            The lawyers are supposed to represent the interests of their client, Hulk Hogan, if they're jeopardizing those interests to further someone else's interests I think that's a conflict of interest.

            • by fizzup ( 788545 )

              The New York Times has reported that

              Questions about the independence of Mr. Bollea [aka Hulk Hogan], who never mentioned a third-party backer, first emerged when his lawyer removed a claim from his complaint that had the effect of eliminating Gawker’s insurance company from the case. That struck many legal observers as odd, given that most lawyers seeking large payouts want to include claims that are insured against because doing so increases the chances of a settlement.

              The thinking goes that if the insurance company is not named in the suit then Gawker would have had to pay more, but the plaintiff would have won a lower settlement or would have risked losing the possibility of an out-of-court settlement. It is possible, though, that both Hulk Hogan and Paul Thiel agreed that the best outcome was the one that made Gawker pay the most, or that they were embarrassed as much as possible by a public airing. In that case, the lawyer acted in

        • So if he decides he doesn't like you, he can sue the crap out of you on multiple fronts, without his own name getting dragged into it? You're fine with trying to fight off all those lawsuits, where you'll go bankrupt even if you win?

          This lawsuit wasn't mainly trouble for Gawker because they would go bankrupt even if they won. It was trouble for Gawker because Gawker committed the unethical behavior described in the lawsuit and had to pay for it. There's a big difference between suing innocent people to make them pay for defense, and suing guilty people to make them pay for their crimes.

          There's also that awkward bit where justice is only available for the rich.

          Gawker vs Thiel results in Gawker winning because Gawker is in the legal right.

          Gawker vs Hogan results in Gawker winning because Hogan doesn't have the resources to pursue a lawsuit.

          Gawker vs Thiel+Hogan results in Gawker losing because Thiel has the resources and Hogan has the case.

          I'm not sure arrangement #3 is wrong since it's the only way the little guy (Hogan) gets justice. But I think it should be public because Thiel's involve

      • I get what you're saying, but it doesn't invalidate all the shitty things Gawker has done, nor does it mean "The Hulkster" did not have a valid case against them.
      • by geoskd ( 321194 )

        The ability of the rich to try and sue someone into compliance, or at least silence, is nothing new, and is troubling on its own, but at least when they're suing directly they open themselves to discovery.

        This guy isn't creating fake lawsuits from nothing here, He simply enabled a person to mount a legal campaign against gawker, that the plaintiff would not have been able to mount without help. It should also be noted that Gawker is in no small part responsible for the plaintiffs financial state. Infidelity in a marriage doesn't necessarily always end in divorce, but when the spouse is exposed to the nearly incessant barrage of public scrutiny that Gawker created, it makes it almost impossible to save the ma

      • Nah fuck Gawker media, they are pushing a bullshit agenda. Play it fair or don't play

        http://i.imgur.com/CQ5qgvu.jpg [imgur.com]

    • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

      So, what's the big issue? This guy saw an opportunity to attack an opponent albeit in the shadows.

      "Attack the enemy where they are not" - Art of War

      Well for one, it flies in the face of Libertarian ideology that Thiel likes to promote, that government power used against private individuals and businesses is the root of much of the evil in our society. It seems like he's more of an Objectivist, where any means are acceptable as long as you're the one who comes ahead.

      • Thiel, a self-identified libertarian (and, it turns out, a California delegate for Donald Trump)

        Well for one, it flies in the face of Libertarian ideology that Thiel likes to promote, that government power used against private individuals and businesses is the root of much of the evil in our society.

        There isn't anything un-libertarian about suing someone for libel/slander/defamation. You'd find that most libertarians think that courts, military, prisons, etc. are legitimate roles for government. Basically government should defend peoples' lives & property from harm from others, but otherwise leave them alone. So that covers things like battery, murder, rape, theft, fraud.

        On a side note, when I saw that he's a Trump supporter, I imagined Terry Jones saying a la his Life of Brian female voice "Libe

    • by T.E.D. ( 34228 )

      So, what's the big issue? This guy saw an opportunity to attack an opponent albeit in the shadows.

      The issue is that it wasn't necessarily the judgment, but all the legal fees that are bankrupting Gawker. If HH had lost, it wouldn't have ended because this guy could just go find another mercenary to hire to sue Gawker again for him. Its sort of like gambling where the house always wins in the long run, not because the odds are slightly in their favor, but because they have way more money than you. If you tick off a rich guy, he can just spend you into the ground with lawsuits. Basically, this guy has sho

  • Since when was critic a verb?

  • by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2016 @01:17PM (#52179759) Homepage Journal

    Jay Rosen, media critic and a professor of journalism at New York University, said: Trying to kill a publication you don't like by funding lawsuits against them isn't very libertarian, is it?

    Huh? It's not? Especially when they turn out to be valid lawsuits, it seems a very libertarian thing to do. If a company is wronging people in a way that lawsuits would succeed against them, but aren't normally pressed because those being wronged don't have the money for lawyers, sure, you can fund them.

    Hell, I donate to a couple funds for doing just that.

    • I had the same thought. Mr Rosen doesn't seem to understand what makes a Libertarian, none (or practically none) would say that any business should be immune from torts.
      • Indeed. Courts are the Libertarian answer to just about everything, rather than regulations. An awful lot of slashdotters get us mixed up with anarchists.

        That being said, as a moderate libertarian I'm for keeping some regulations around.

    • Exactly. This is libertarianism in its purest form, but using your privately gained power/money to do whatever the fuck you want within the law. Even better, don't let the fucking government legislators create laws that stifle your private tyranny.
      • Lovely....

        How about this: You try to not ascribe my philosophy as deliberate evil, and I won't do the same to yours?
        This comes under two main libertarian points:
        1. Informed consumer. You're not supposed to lie.
        2. Your right to throw your fist stops at my nose.

        As long as what you're doing doesn't hurt others, do as you will. That being said, privacy is a right, and Gawker went too bloody far with Hogan.

      • by mjm1231 ( 751545 )

        I wish I knew if this was intended as irony or a libertarian admitting that they are in favor of tyranny.

        • I wish I knew if this was intended as irony or a libertarian admitting that they are in favor of tyranny.

          Neither, I'd rate it as a fairly standard strawman attack on the philosophy.

          Though 'doing whatever the fuck you want within the law' is libertarian so long as the law is well written.

          My cliffs note version: "So long as everybody involved are informed consenting competent adults, do what you will"

          For that matter, even if it is within the law, if you go harming somebody who's not consenting or not competent(such as being underage), expect to be hauled into court to pay damages.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by penguinoid ( 724646 )

      Attacking someone with lawsuits is only slightly less libertarian than hiring mercenaries to attack them physically.

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      Not libertarian would be having congress pass a law that made something generally accepted as not a crime to become a crime specifically to vanquish your enemy. This case has to do with private property rights, which libertarians mostly prize. Hulk Hogan is a brand that is property of those who invest in the performer. Gawker arguably diminished that property. Some libertarians acknowledge that the governement can have a role in helping to solve such disputes, because it is cleaner to solve such disputes
      • Libel laws are the opposite of libertarian.

        • Libel laws are the opposite of libertarian.

          No they aren't, at least when you're publishing non-true stuff. Honestly enough, I also value the right of privacy such that publishing a sex tape where multiple felonies were committed to gain it covertly, is also a violation amounting to a certain level of violence.

          • No they aren't, at least when you're publishing non-true stuff.

            It takes a big government with guns to enforce libel laws, so yes. They are the opposite of libertarian.

            • It takes a big government with guns to enforce libel laws, so yes. They are the opposite of libertarian.

              Common mistake, libertarians aren't for weak or 'small' government, though we are for a smaller government than is currently in place.

              We're for a limited government, which means a government that is restricted in scope of duties, not power to implement said duties. The government is too small/weak if it can't enforce court orders.

              Unfortunately, there's a fairly intense(for the size of the party itself) misinformation campaign that mixes up Anarchist views with libertarian views.

              For example, we ask why the

    • I'm just disappointed that it took place in secret. I would have happily kicked in a few bucks to a kickstarter or gofundme for the endavour; especially if there were a tier where I could have gotten an "I helped put gawker out of business." t-shirt. (I'm picturing a nice caricature drawing of Jason Chen and Brian Lam getting steel-toed boots to the face and/or posterior here...)

    • by mjm1231 ( 751545 )

      Jay Rosen, media critic and a professor of journalism at New York University, said: Trying to kill a publication you don't like by funding lawsuits against them isn't very libertarian, is it?

      Huh? It's not? Especially when they turn out to be valid lawsuits, it seems a very libertarian thing to do. If a company is wronging people in a way that lawsuits would succeed against them, but aren't normally pressed because those being wronged don't have the money for lawyers, sure, you can fund them.

      Hell, I donate to a couple funds for doing just that.

      Funding a lawsuit to stop a wrong from being done is nothing at all the same as funding a lawsuit with the intent of stopping unrelated behavior that you just happen to not like.

      I thought that, in theory, libertarians believed in liberty. Or is that only for themselves, and it's ok to suppress everyone else's? I mean, if he were openly funding the lawsuits, you might have half a libertarian leg to stand on.

    • So what was "wrong" with telling the world what a racist [nypost.com], immoral [dailymail.co.uk] piece of shit that Hulk Hogan is?
      And boo hoo, he can't pretend to be a wrestler anymore as he's not much of a role model now is he?
  • If you can't fuck over people that pissed you off
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Trying to kill a publication you don't like by funding lawsuits against them isn't very libertarian, is it?

    Wow, what bias.

    A jury sitting within, and a judge of, the United States legal system may bankrupt Gawker, not Thiel.

    • Exactly. He's gone to the government courts for his warfare instead of using the free market. Judges and juries have nothing to do with his excoriation.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    If this news is covered by unbiased sources, link one of them.

    If it isn't covered by unbiased sources, then it isn't news, it's just the next round of character assassination.

    C'mon slashdot.

  • WTF Slashdot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 25, 2016 @01:24PM (#52179831)

    The comment about Thiel's actions not being very libertarian is trolling. Since when do the editors engage in rampant trolling in the summaries? This is obnoxious.

  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve ( 949321 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2016 @01:25PM (#52179845)
    Back in the latter part of the 1990s I worked with a guy who was Libertarian and very vocal about it. So I asked him to explain exactly what Libertarianism was and what his beliefs were. Two things in particular came out of that conversation. One was that I realized that while a lot of what he supported sounded really good on the surface, the whole philosophy seemed like a house of cards to me where one bad actor could make out like a bandit after basically gaming the system to take advantage of it since Libertarianism working relies on people "doing the right thing" and it all collapses when one guy doesn't. The other thing I took out of it was that I asked him since the government under his Libertarian ideals was incredibly weak and small, what did you do when you had problems, like for example, some manufacturer sells you bad medicine? Simple - you sue. So instead of the government being your big stick the legal system is. So yes, I think it's very much in keeping with Libertarian principles to simply sue people you don't agree with.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why does he see government and the legal system as separate entities? How would a weak government enforce legal decisions?

    • The other thing I took out of it was that I asked him since the government under his Libertarian ideals was incredibly weak and small, what did you do when you had problems, like for example, some manufacturer sells you bad medicine? Simple - you sue. So instead of the government being your big stick the legal system is. So yes, I think it's very much in keeping with Libertarian principles to simply sue people you don't agree with.

      This is where I diverge from pure-Libertarianism. It's a good idea in theory

      • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

        I think dispute resolution belongs with judges and juries not with politicization but whether its a question of enforcing the courts will or the stats will the correct answer is militia. The state or court can hire an army or regular citizens when required to enforce an action.

        This serves as a final check on the power of states or a judge who might try to legislate from the bench. Citizens will not sign up in numbers or be willing to contribute funds for a militia if they don't support the cause. In the

    • The other thing I took out of it was that I asked him since the government under his Libertarian ideals was incredibly weak and small, what did you do when you had problems, like for example, some manufacturer sells you bad medicine? Simple - you sue. So instead of the government being your big stick the legal system is. So yes, I think it's very much in keeping with Libertarian principles to simply sue people you don't agree with.

      Okay, first up, I'm not a fundie big-L Libertarian, but a more pragmatic little-l one. Still, I might have a couple corrections for you.
      One - Weak and small government - I'm for a limited, not a weak, government. I see a 'weak' government as one that can't enforce it's mandates. In this sense, China has a weak government in the area of pollution because, despite the best, strongest, laws in the world* for environmental protection, they are unable or unwilling to enforce said mandates. On the other hand,

  • by wwalker ( 159341 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2016 @01:27PM (#52179875) Journal

    They dug up dirt on him, he dug up dirt on them. Seems fair. I can see it being a problem if he hired thugs to rough up a few journalists to silence them. On the other hand, bringing up valid lawsuits in a legitimate court of law, at least one of which 12 independent jurors confirmed to be valid, that's fair game. Free press (or freedom of speech for that matter) doesn't mean you can say whatever you want without any repercussions whatsoever. I guess some bloggers have to learn it the hard way.

    • by halivar ( 535827 )

      By "dug up dirt" you mean they publicly outed him as gay when he was not ready, which was none of their, or our, fucking business (no pun intended). If I had the power and money, I would have done the same thing in his position. Fuck Gawker; they reaped what they sowed. As far as I'm concerned, it's poetic justice.

      • dick bag was a gay guy funding anti-gay legislation. if he kept his wallet out of politics, they wouldnt have bothered with him. HE put himself out there. HE did.
  • Seriously, this sounds a lot like the convoluted "Curb Your Enthusiasm" style situations featured in the show.
  • Very Libertarian (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IMightB ( 533307 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2016 @01:39PM (#52180013) Journal

    It sounds very libertarian to me, at least he's not whining and bankrolling politicians to pass laws against his interests.

  • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2016 @01:50PM (#52180151) Homepage

    Years ago, I started reading deadspin.com because it seemed cool, it had all this behind-the-scenes information about sports, it was a good way to avoid work for a few minutes. But I soon became aware there was a real nasty streak in the website. They didn't just report things that happened, they went out of their way to hurt people and say vicious things. Even when it wasn't warranted...sometimes it was warranted because some sports figures are real human trash. But every day there was this nasty, hurtful personality of the site, just ready to put the hooks into anyone who got in their way. I eventually had to stop reading because I was afraid this kind of thing was going to rub off on me. When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares into you, that sort of thing.

    In the years since, I have come to know that pretty much every website Gawker has is the same way. They are petty, cutting, severely biased, and often wrong. It's their bias and hurtful nature that leads them to make so many factual mistakes, they are so ready to unload on anyone. Even good people who mean well...especially good people who mean well, they get the extra treatment.

    Can someone explain the mentality of the people who work for these websites? I just don't get it. How can journalists heartily enjoy such blackhearted behavior? Hulk Hogan is no hero but what they did to him was clearly wrong and clearly deserved a vicious legal smackdown. What turns these journalists into such lowlife scum, even more than the typical journalist?

  • Interesting how Gawker will peddle conspiracy theories when the target is them.

    Meh gawker is dead, good riddance.

  • by swan5566 ( 1771176 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2016 @02:02PM (#52180261)
    Is anyone else noticing how the headline has turned the conversation posts from what the actual news subject matter to what a provocative NY professor has said about the subject matter?
  • If you're a powerful Silicon Valley billionaire, and there's a media house which actively points out flaws in your investments, can you do something about it?

    Not really. Not directly. Not just for that.

    But if they've left a flank hanging in the air, which Gawker appear to have done, you can sure as hell get them indirectly.

    It's dirty tactics, but what goes around comes around.

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