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<nettime> Tech Millionaires vs. Tech Billionaires (guess who is winning.
Michael Gurstein on Sat, 28 May 2016 06:06:34 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Tech Millionaires vs. Tech Billionaires (guess who is winning... And why it matters to the rest of us

   (Open letter from Nick Denton (Gawker) to Peter Thiel (PayPal, Facebook
   etc.) who evidently has been bankrolling the legal hell ($125 mill and
   counting) that Gawker has been experiencing around the Hulk Hogan
   privacy lawsuit.


   Peter Thiel,

   Nearly a decade ago, [1]after you had opened up to friends and
   colleagues, a gay writer for Gawker shared an item with the readers of
   Valleywag, a section for news and gossip about the rich and powerful of
   Silicon Valley. "[2]Peter Thiel, the smartest VC in the world, is gay,"
   wrote Owen Thomas. "More power to him."

   And more power did indeed come to you. Your investments in Facebook and
   other companies have given you a net worth of more than $2 billion. You
   have tapped some of that fortune to [3]support gay groups such as
   HomoCon. It is now clear that gay people are everywhere, not just in
   industries such as entertainment, but [4]at the pinnacles of Silicon
   Valley power.

   I thought we had all moved on, not realizing that, for someone who
   aspires to immortality, nine years may not be such a long time as it
   seems to most of us. Max Levchin, your fellow founder at Paypal, told
   me back in 2007 you were concerned about the reaction, not in Silicon
   Valley, but among investors in your hedge fund from less tolerant
   places such as Saudi Arabia. [5]He also warned of the retribution you
   would exact if a story was published about your personal life.

   Your revenge has been served well, cold and (until now) anonymously.
   [6]You admit you have been planning the punishment of Gawker and its
   writers for years, and that you have so far spent $10 million to fund
   litigation against the company. Charles Harder, the Hollywood
   plaintiff's lawyer who has marshaled your legal campaign, is
   representing not just the wrestler Hulk Hogan on your behalf, but two
   other subjects of stories in suits against Gawker and its editorial

   You told the New York Times that you are motivated by friends who had
   their lives ruined by Gawker coverage, and that your funding is a
   "philanthropic" project to help other "victims" of negative stories.
   Let us run through a few examples so that people can actually read the
   articles you find so illegitimate, and make their own judgment about
   their newsworthiness.

   Sean Parker, a partner in your Founders Fund and an early backer of
   Facebook, is one of the friends who was covered extensively on Gawker's
   Valleywag. [7]Those stories, some of them by me, helped define the
   colorful character played by Justin Timberlake in The Social Network,
   the David Fincher movie about the founding of Facebook. Parker was
   stung more recently by criticism from his neighbors of the disruption
   to 10th St. in Manhattan when [8]the street was dug up to get a Fios
   line to Bacchus House, the famous party venue where Parker had been
   planning to live. Valleywag covered that story, as well as [9]his
   lavish and controversial wedding in the redwoods near Big Sur.

   Hulk Hogan was the first client represented by Charles Harder in a suit
   against Gawker. As we now know, the famous wrestler and entertainer
   sued over snippets of a sex tape apparently [10]in order to shut down
   reporting of a racist rant against a black man dating his daughter.

   Ashley Terrill, also represented by Harder, is suing Gawker for $10
   million for defamation. She is a reporter who offered information about
   the conflict between the founders of two dating apps, Tinder and
   Bumble, who herself [11]became part of the story after claiming she was
   being harassed and surveilled by agents of Tinder co-founder Whitney

   Shiva Ayyadurai is a Massachusetts entrepreneur who says he invented
   email--about a decade after email was actually invented. A story on
   Gizmodo, Gawker's tech property, [12]said straight out that his claims
   were false, as did the [13]Washington Post and the [14]Los Angeles
   Times. Represented also by the lawyer you hired, Ayyadurai is suing
   Gawker for $35 million for defamation, though not the other news
   organizations that made the same point.

   Peter Thiel--that is, you. Yes, Gawker has often been critical. Our
   writers have derided [15]your views on female suffrage, mocked the
   libertarian separatist vision of [16]offshore seasteads free of
   government interference, and [17]questioned some of the businesses you
   have backed. There is much more. They don't find you very likable.


   [18]This Is Why Billionaire Peter Thiel Wants to End Gawker

   Why has Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel spent upwards of $10
   million funding third-party... [19]Read more

   I can see how irritating Gawker would be to you and other figures in
   the technology industry. For Silicon Valley, the media spotlight is a
   relatively recent phenomenon. Most executives and venture capitalists
   are accustomed to dealing with acquiescent trade journalists and a
   dazzled mainstream media, who will typically play along with embargoes,
   join in enthusiasm for new products, and hew to the authorized version
   of a story. They do not have the sophistication, and the thicker skins,
   of public figures in other older power centers such as New York, Los
   Angeles and Washington, D.C.

   And I can see how tempting it would be to use Silicon Valley's most
   abundant resource, a vast fortune, against the harsh words of the
   writers of a small New York media company. We have our devices; you
   have yours.

   Among the million posts published by Gawker and other properties since
   the company was founded, there have undoubtedly been occasions we
   overstepped the line. In offsetting the fawning coverage of tech
   luminaries and others, sometimes our stories swing too far for my taste
   toward snark.

   But this vindictive decade-long campaign is quite out of proportion to
   the hurt you claim. Your plaintiff's lawyer, Charles Harder, has sued
   not just the company, but individual journalists.

   A.J. Daulerio, author of the 2012 story on Hulk Hogan, is out of work
   and unable to pay the $100,000 in punitive damages awarded by the jury.
   In the Ayyadurai and Terrill complaints, Harder cynically paints author
   Sam Biddle as an abuser of narcotics, basing this claim on Biddle's own
   writing about his struggle with anxiety and depression, and the
   physician-prescribed medication he takes to treat his mood disorders.
   John Cook, our executive editor, is accused of negligent hiring and

   Peter, this is twisted. Even were you to succeed in bankrupting Gawker
   Media, the writers you dislike, and me, just think what it will mean.

   The world is [20]already uncomfortable with the unaccountable power of
   the billionaire class, the accumulation of wealth in Silicon Valley,
   and technology's influence over the media.

   You are a board member of Facebook, which is under congressional
   investigation after our site [21]Gizmodo reported on the opaque and
   potentially biased way it decides what news sources are seen by its
   billions of users.

   Now you show yourself as a thin-skinned billionaire who, despite all
   the success and public recognition that a person could dream of,
   seethes over criticism and plots behind the scenes to tie up his
   opponents in litigation he can afford better than they.

   You were the basis for the [22]affectless venture capitalist in the HBO
   show, Silicon Valley; with this diabolical decade-long scheme for
   revenge, you are redefining yourself as a comic-book villain.

   This story will play out in the press and the courts. Both are
   adversarial forums, in which each side selects facts and quotes to
   undermine the reputation and credibility of the other. We are confident
   of our arguments on the newsworthiness of our Hogan story, once it
   reaches the appeals court. Your main proxy, Hulk Hogan, has his.

   We, and those you have sent into battle against us, have been stripped
   naked, our texts, online chats and finances revealed through the press
   and the courts; in the next phase, you too will be subject to a dose of
   transparency. However philanthropic your intention, and careful the
   planning, the details of your involvement will be gruesome.

   I'm going to suggest an alternative approach. The best regulation for
   speech, in a free society, is more speech. We each claim to respect
   independent journalism, and liberty. We each have criticisms of the
   other's methods and objectives. Now you have revealed yourself, let us
   have an open and public debate.

   The court cases will proceed as long as you fund them. And I am sure
   the war of headlines will continue. But, even if we put down weapons
   just for a brief truce, let us have a more constructive exchange.

   We can hold the discussion in person with a moderator of your choosing,
   in front of an audience, under the auspices of the Committee to Protect
   Journalists, or in a written discussion on some neutral platform such
   as Medium. Just tell me where and when.

   At the very least, it will improve public understanding of the
   interplay of media and power. Considering the amount spent on lawyers,
   $20 million between us at this point, there should be some public

   In the meantime, here are some more pointed and immediate questions.
     * Have you or your representatives paid Hulk Hogan personally in
       addition to covering his legal expenses?
     * You say that you are operating much like a contingency lawyer, so
       does that mean you will take a third of any final judgement, or
     * You said you were funding several cases. Specifically, can you
       confirm you are funding Charles Harder's work for Shiva Ayyadurai
       and Ashley Terrill?
     * Is your goal to bankrupt, buy, or wound Gawker Media? If you were
       to own the company after a final judgment in the Hogan case, what
       would your editorial strategy be?
     * You say that Gawker is not a legitimate news source. Do you take
       the same view of the other properties--Gizmodo, Deadspin, Jezebel,
       Kotaku, Jalopnik and Lifehacker?
     * As a Facebook board member, how have your own views on politics and
       news influenced your contribution to corporate decisions?
     * When you say your aim is deterrence rather than revenge, whom do
       you aim to deter?
     * You said you wanted to even the legal playing field for people
       without your resources. If Gawker Media was forced to sell the
       company to pay a bond or fight these court cases, would you and
       your agents seek to block that transaction?
     * Is Sean Parker the friend you mentioned that persuaded you to
       pursue this campaign?
     * And lastly, I understand that you give codenames from Tolkien for
       all your projects. What's this one? (Let me guess: Mordor.)

   [23]Reply1885 replies


   1. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/11/28/no-death-no-taxes
   2. http://gawker.com/335894/peter-thiel-is-totally-gay-people
   3. http://www.politico.com/story/2010/09/theyre-gay-conservative-and-proud-042711
   4. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-10-30/tim-cook-speaks-up-ik7uw29b
   5. http://gawker.com/335894/peter-thiel-is-totally-gay-people?comment=3414140#comments
   6. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/26/business/dealbook/peter-thiel-tech-billionaire-reveals-secret-war-with-gawker.html?_r=0
   7. http://valleywag.gawker.com/tag/sean-parker
   8. http://valleywag.gawker.com/did-sean-parker-mess-up-10th-st-just-to-get-fios-in-hi-1527385658
   9. http://valleywag.gawker.com/the-full-damage-of-facebook-billionaire-sean-parkers-f-511236497
  10. http://gawker.com/the-hogan-verdict-1766460791
  11. http://gawker.com/tinder-confidential-the-hookup-apps-founders-cant-swip-1733787036
  12. http://gizmodo.com/5888702/corruption-lies-and-death-threats-the-crazy-story-of-the-man-who-pretended-to-invent-email
  13. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/omblog/post/origins-of-e-mail-my-mea-culpa/2012/03/01/gIQAiOD5kR_blog.html
  14. http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-a-discredited-old-yarn-20140904-column.html
  15. http://gawker.com/5231390/facebook-backer-wishes-women-couldnt-vote
  16. http://valleywag.gawker.com/peter-thiel-s-dream-of-a-lawless-utopia-floats-on-1368141049#ifrndnloc
  17. http://valleywag.gawker.com/leaked-emails-show-how-palantir-founder-recruits-for-gl-1443665496
  18. http://gawker.com/this-is-why-billionaire-peter-thiel-wants-to-end-gawker-1778734026
  19. http://gawker.com/this-is-why-billionaire-peter-thiel-wants-to-end-gawker-1778734026
  20. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/a-huge-huge-deal
  21. http://gizmodo.com/facebook-announces-sweeping-changes-to-trending-section-1778307223
  22. http://valleywag.gawker.com/the-peter-thiel-sesame-seed-scene-from-silicon-valley-i-1567814812
  23. http://gawker.com/an-open-letter-to-peter-thiel-1778991227

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