The New York-based gossip website Gawker.com shut down yesterday, after its parent company, Gawker Media, lost a $140 million lawsuit to Hulk Hogan. Univision purchased Gawker Media from bankruptcy and will continue publishing many sites in the network, including Deadspin and Gizmodo, but the flagship has been eliminated. Yesterday, former executive features editor Tom Scocca published this scathing postmortem advancing two points, one of which I find more interesting than the other. First, he contends that Gawker was effectively gaslighted by its enemies, who convinced founder Nick Denton and other key members of the staff that they really were operating beyond the pale of respectable journalism. That seems both plausible and unfalsifiable. Second, and more compellingly, Scocca suggests that freedom of the press is complicated when billionaires can fund massive lawsuits designed to put media companies out of business. Background and consideration after the jump.
“I’m not politically correct,” says the person who is racially, sexually and anatomically correct. The 1990s’ favorite straw man is back, possibly for real but definitely as something to fret about. For the last several days, Yale has been embroiled in debate over an email professor Erika Christakis wrote suggesting campus administrators not supervise students’ Halloween costumes. Students were outraged, calling for Christakis’s resignation and demanding that Nicholas Christakis, her husband, apologize. “You should not sleep at night,” one student shouted at him. “You’re disgusting.” It is pretty disgusting when a man refuses to apologize for his wife saying kids should get to wear what they want. This seems like another troubling indicator that today’s college students are less interested in free speech and more interested in enforcing a simplistic ethos of identity. But what if they’re not?
In an interview with the German magazine Stern last week, Charlie Hebdo editor-in-chief Laurent Sourisseau said his paper would no longer publish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. You may remember Charlie Hebdo from January, when two Islamic militants attacked its Paris offices and killed 12 people. The paper has received an outpouring of support since then, including the sympathetic Je Suis Charlie movement and dramatically increased circulation. Also, its surviving staffers live under police protection, and pretty much every issue since the shootings has been an object of scrutiny. You can only make so many bold declarations of Enlightenment values against religious tyranny before you’re just exhausted. Over at Politico, though, Michael Moynihan argues that the terrorists won. He is probably right.
This morning, masked gunmen attacked the Paris headquarters of French humor publication Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 people, including the editor and four cartoonists who had depicted the prophet Muhammed. Although no one has yet claimed responsibility, the Times reports that “extremist groups applauded the violence, calling it revenge for the newspaper’s satirical treatment of Islam and its prophet.” At the risk of profiling, I’m going to say this was a radical Islam thing, because who else violently attacks funny newspapers? Western traditions have more respect for free speech. In unrelated news, the UK has arrested a series of people for praising jihad on Twitter and Facebook.
Last Thursday, House Republicans introduced a bill that would make it illegal for the SEC to require publicly-held corporations to disclose their political spending. They did so in response to a popular petition asking the SEC to require publicly-held corporations to et cetera etc. At this point, the GOP is by far the most responsive party in American politics. The people issue a petition, and before the relevant government agency can even take it up, the Republicans have drafted a law demanding that it never be satisfied. They cited free speech. Welcome to the extremely ironic world of modern campaign finance.