Jason Willick on Gawker, Hulk Hogan, and Peter Thiel

Hogan’s lawsuit was not “frivolous”—at least, not in the mind of the judge, who allowed the suit to proceed over Gawker’s many appeals, nor in the minds of members of the jury, who were so disgusted by Gawker’s conduct that they ordered the mischievous media mavens to pay Hogan tens of millions of dollars more than he asked for. And it is not at all clear that Thiel and Hogan did anything to menace to press freedom: As the legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky told the New York Times when the verdict came out: “I think this case establishes a very limited proposition: It is an invasion of privacy to make publicly available a tape of a person having sex without that person’s consent.”

It’s also not clear what policy response Gawker’s outraged defenders would recommend. Put caps on the amount of money people can contribute to legal efforts they sympathize with? That would put the ACLU and any number of advocacy groups out of business. It would also represent a far greater threat to free expression than a court-imposed legal liability for the non-consensual publication of what is essentially revenge porn. If Marshall and others are worried about the superrich harassing critics with genuinely frivolous lawsuits—as, yes, authoritarian characters like Donald Trump have attempted to do—they would have more success backing tort reform measures to limit litigiousness overall than attacking Thiel for contributing to a legitimate cause he has good reason to support.

Here is more.  Here are Thiel’s own words (NYT), here is one bit:

“It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” he said in his first interview since his identity was revealed. “I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest.”

Mr. Thiel said that Gawker published articles that were “very painful and paralyzing for people who were targeted.” He said, “I thought it was worth fighting back.”

Mr. Thiel added: “I can defend myself. Most of the people they attack are not people in my category. They usually attack less prominent, far less wealthy people that simply can’t defend themselves. He said that “even someone like Terry Bollea who is a millionaire and famous and a successful person didn’t quite have the resources to do this alone.”

Comments

How did Donald Trump get in this post? "authoritarian characters"?

Because he is an example of someone who is very wealthy and who harasses "critics with genuinely frivolous lawsuits." He has been hit with "SLAPP" damages at least once.

I'm curious what would happen if he just posted something with words "Donald Trump" and said nothing.

I just read that Trump, who calls climate change a hoax, requested a permit to build a massive sea wall for his golf course in Ireland because ... wait for it ... to protect it from rising seas due to climate change.

Another frivolous suit in the making?

He wants a wall built. The local authorities are dumb enough to allow climate change considerations - even though sea level is rising at the same slow pace it has for centuries - so he exploits the law. It's a business, not a moral crusade.

Let me know when Bernie Sanders walks into a phone shop and just grabs the first one he sees because he doesn't need all those choices. Or Hillary leaves Bill because he's waging a one-man war on women.

Trump is a self-glorious moron but his opponents are just making him look good with this nonsense. A few more violent protests with idiots waving Mexican flags and it will be a landslide.

But sea walls never work. Stop burning fossil fuels will probably work with the added benefit of much higher employment and wages.

After all, to argue that a carbon tax or prohibiting burning of fossils fuels will be too expensive means too many workers paid too much is too expensive.

All those coal industry workers, now unemployed or soon to be unemployed, are too expensive compared to cheap, because the labor costs are much lower, natural gas.

And when oil became cheap, hundreds of thousands of oil and oil related workers became too expensive.

Cheap stuff never creates lots of great jobs. Only expensive stuff has the potential to create good middle class jobs.

Thus, the opponents of acting to stop burning fossil fuels are acting to prevent jobs being created and probably want millions of jobs to be eliminated.

Zero sum.

The Netherlands doesn't exist I guess.

Out of one side of his mouth "climate change is a hoax". Out of the other side of his mouth "I need a wall because of climate change".

How pointing out that he is an outrageous liar with no care whatsoever for truth or remotely reliable representation on any issue, who can flip and flop on any issue whatsoever as expedience desires ... makes him appealing for the fact that someone points out that he's like that ...?????

Stunning.

How is anything you wrote not applicable to Hillary, with the bonus of also being incompetent and criminal.

Politicians suck. All of them. The best you can do is limit their power to cause trouble.

How is anything you wrote not applicable to Hillary, with the bonus of also being incompetent and criminal.

Politicians suck. All of them. The best you can do is limit their power to cause trouble.

And if those who want to give politicians more power hate Trump to the point of rioting, then Trump is being defined favorably.

This might be really complicated to understand, but being able to build sea walls to protect the few areas of the Earth susceptible to inundation is why Climate Change as a policy movement is a hoax.

ADBG - Because sea walls really last a long time. And are cheap to build. And sea water doesn't seep through soil and salinate everything. And practically no one lives on the coastline.

Infrastructure requires upkeep? What an incredible insight. I guess that means we should climate control the entire planet so we can get rid our HVAC systems too. Sounds like a solid #FeeltheBern policy proposal.

in response to Chip:

The benefit of Trump over Hillary is that Trump has an (R) next to his name, so the Media will actually do it's job and actually *question* him and hold him accountable.

ADBG - Sea walls are for reducing damage in major storms, not keeping the entire ocean at bay.

He's such a nasty brute. /swoons

Voting for him is not nice.

I am waiting for

The Movie version of this story.

BooYa.

"as, yes, authoritarian characters like Donald Trump have attempted to do "

Citizen United was a case instigated by Hilary Clinton's complaints to her allies in the Federal Government because a nonprofit organization exhibited a negative film about her. Remember, the First Amendment protects us from that exactly, not private citizens.

Huh? Citizens United initiated its legal case against the FEC in 2007, when George W. Bush was still President and the FEC was led by his appointee. As far as I can tell, the FEC had taken no action against Citizens United at the time Citizens United filed its request for an injunction.

And now anyone can funnel any amount of money into just about anything for any purpose and we never get to find out who is trying to buy the elections.

Hooray for democracy!

It's funny how Citizens United scares the left so much that their monopoly on buying elections will come under competition.

I don't understand why transparency in elections financing should be a left/right issue.

If one side is more pro-transparency than the other, than it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see who has got the higher moral ground on the question.

Why should get rid of the secret ballot while we are at it. Who could oppose such transparency?

Because Libs will attempt to damage people like Brendan Eich for not believing in their world view.

Also money does not distort elections to the degree you want to believe.

The money is not for buying elections, it's for buying access. Spending money on a candidate just shows a) you're serious and b) next time they could spend it on your opponent.

Regardless of what the stats say about money and elections, if you're a candidate it's still preferable to avoid b) if the only cost is an occasional vote that favors the donor.

Josh - that's completely retarded. There's a difference between protecting the identity of a single vote and the identity of a few dozen wealthy people or companies who single handedly can influence an election outcome and who will expect line by line legislative favours when the time comes.

If someone spends $100 million to influence an election, don't you think we should know who, when, why, where, how? If not every bit of that, at least "who" would be nice.

America is so corrupt it is legal.

Troll Me: How much would Trump have to spend to make you vote for him? 1$ 100 million billion trillion dollars? Also, are you in fact the old Nathan?

I'm skeptical of the money-influencing-elections claim. I mean, sure, money influences elections, but surely not that much at the voter level once you've reached name-recognition level (which our 3rd party candidates aren't quite at yet). I'd guess the biggest effect of advertising is to make moderates tune out and stay home. I see campaign money OVER a certain point as a non-issue until you get to the point where you're buying campaign officials, but that is a separate problem that should already be illegal... I could plug my recommendation for the Transferable Vote or Borda Count as the best antidote for entrenched establishments again :P

Anyway, if Gawker implodes, nothing of value will be lost.

It's worth pointing out that Thiel's role in this would mean he committed the tort of maintenance (and possibly champerty as well, depending on what's happening with the damages once paid). Has Florida abolishes these torts?

Lol, putz.

It was not in any way frivolous, he won. The end.

Champerty and maintenance are no longer good law: http://overlawyered.com/2016/05/champerty-maintenance-explainer-gawkerhoganthiel-edition/

It's not champerty if he's not expecting a penny out of the legal process. He isn't. He wants to destroy Gawker and Denton financially legally. And this is perfectly legally.

"It’s also not clear what policy response Gawker’s outraged defenders would recommend."

Of course it is clear. They wish that their discretion is followed so that they can dominate others. Luckily, they haven't gotten complete control of the government and our legal apparatus just yet. Sadly, our Republican Party decided that they would rather lost the senate, house, and White House than nominate a Cuban American. Gawker defenders have hope, soon they will have complete power.

A Cuban-American? Can't tell if you mean Cruz or Rubio but in both cases I believe they're nationality is Robot.

Hands up if you want to live in a world where anyone is allowed to publish any sex tape they can get their hands on.

What annoys me is that these things always involve money. And it's always someone else's money (shareholders). Why don't people in business go to prison when they break laws? If I, a private citizen, had sex tapes of some police or intelligence official and starting distributing CDs of it door to door, how long do you think until I landed up in prison?

I would agree with you in general but, in this specific case, the law on "revenge porn" is still developing and there are complex issues involving jurisdiction, liability and, yes, even free speech at the edges. It isn't clear that anyone at Gawker committed a criminal offense as opposed to a tort in this case. I think it is possible to criminalize the sort of conduct Gawker engaged in here but the laws would have to be crafted very carefully and narrowly.

That world would be perfect for porn production business. They get rid of the inconvenience of paying a salary to performers.

'Hands up if you want to live in a world where anyone is allowed to publish any sex tape they can get their hands on. '

We already live in that world, due to the very nature of digital data and the Internet. But most people here probably aren't all that acquainted with the 'Fappening' or Tumblr.

It's just occurred to me that Peter Thiel is angling for a future Presidential candidacy.

Not sure if serious, but he was born in Germany.

Where was Cruz born?

More importantly, does Thiel have an American as a parent?

Why no, he doesn't.

I've never read Gawker, but it seems to me that if you don't want potentially embarrassing pictures of yourself circulating, don't take potentially embarrassing pictures of yourself. Hopelessly quaint notion, I know.

I like Thiel ok, but I don't think this thing reflects particularly well on him.

I have not been following this case closely, but i believe that the tape was made by a third party, possibly without HH's permission. Not sure about that last part.

Without his permission.

@Brian Donohue---Are you Ok with it when someone secrets a camera in your bedroom or bathroom then releases the video.

Hulk Hogan's complaint states the video was made without his knowledge or consent in violation of Florida law.

OK, if didn't know he was being taped, he's got a legit complaint.

I agree with you on a purely practical (and moral) standpoint - but from a legal standpoint, I don't Hulk's original pure decision shouldn't give third parties a blank check to break whatever laws they want.

No idea why this says pure; I meant to type "poor"

Buried in this post was an amazing assertion: Hulk Hogan doesn't have enough money to persevere in our court system.

Really? Everybody okay with that? What are middle-class people to conclude?

"What are middle-class people to conclude?" That they are f***ed if a wealthy person decides to go after them.

"That they are f***ed if a wealthy person decides to go after them"

That's pretty much always been the case.

Well, in this case, they are f**ed if a wealthy person decides to go after them in a case where they really do seem to have done something worthy of being sued into oblivion, at least according to this judge and jury. Perhaps the case will be reversed or the damages reduced on appeal, and for all I know the judge and jury may have just been wrong, but on the face of it, this doesn't quite look like a billionaire financing a pointless vindictive lawsuit to harass his enemies.

From the AI piece: "Fortunately, this debate does not needs to be resolved, because our First Amendment protects the speech rights of everyone, regardless of where they reside on the left-wing privilege totem poll [sic]."

"Totem pole"! Heavens to Betsy, that sounds like "cultural appropriation" to me. No doubt the identity-politics left will be on the warpa... uh, never mind. I'll see myself out.

"Billionaire who co-founded a company with the CIA and who has a history of leveraging his enormous wealth to silence opponents tries to claim his latest attempt is an act of charity even though the beneficiary is a racist millionaire." May you never run afoul of a vindictive billionaire.

How would the issue change if the billionaire and millionaire were both universally acknowledged as living saints and benefactors of mankind, like a mix of Norman Bourlag and Mother Theresa or something? I can imagine good arguments that this is a bad thing, and even that it should somehow be forbidden, but I can't think of any good arguments that turn on whether the people involved are good or bad people, much less on whether they can be slimed a bit in passing.

I like Peter Thiel after reading his interview with Mr. Cowen. But, what a douche! One can only hope that folks like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg do not behave in such a petty manner.

Ask Zucky's neighbors what a great guy he is.

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