Don’t Press Send … The New Rules For Good Writing In The 21st Century

There is a line from Mr. A [in the book] where he says the more they studied Gawker, the harder it was to find good. And when you look at some of these stories with the distance of time, it was extraordinarily difficult to find that sort of humanness and sympathy. There is a famous tweet where a Gawker writer says he wrote a story about the actor James Franco where he called him gay and a rapist.1 It was a toxic culture that spun out of control. And now that these writers are out of that culture, they’re sympathetic.

Thiel’s influence is scary and ominous. But what I found refreshing about it is the highly skilled competence. [The danger that readers will misunderstand the message of a book] is a worry for me personally because my first book, which was supposed to be an exposé of media manipulation, became quite popular with extremists that I don’t agree with. But the way Thiel took down Gawker is obviously a playbook to take down somebody like Donald Trump—a well-funded group of individuals probing for underlying weaknesses, doing the unpleasant and boring business of looking through the muck of old business dealings.

Thompson: I am much more sympathetic to Gawker in this case. I’m more nervous about the power of people like Thiel to silence the press and scared of juries’ power to determine newsworthiness and hand out $100 million punishments for true stories. As Tom Scocca, a former Gawker writer, put it, this is now “a country where a billionaire can put a publication out of business.”

Holiday: One of the things that’s most brilliant about Tom’s piece is that it sets into motion a lost cause mythology about Gawker. It recasts all sorts of things that Gawker did as rudeness or mere insensitivity. But Gawker Media had articles with leaked photos of female celebrities’ boobs. Those were real people on the other side of that article. That was a real violation of privacy.

That line from Tom redefines their past and redefines what happened. Denton was not extorted into shutting down the website. Gawker lost in a court of law in front of a jury and judge, for which they had numerous opportunities to push the verdict in another direction. But they lost the case in court as much as Thiel won it. There are many scary things this class of billionaires can do with their money. But meeting in open court about the illegal publication of a sex tape is not one of the scariest.

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