Peter Thiel—the Silicon Valley mogul who spent $10 million funding Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker that bankrupted the company—has written an op-ed in the New York Times, defending himself and his choice to support Hogan.
Thiel had come under much scrutiny for bankrolling Hogan’s lawsuit; the public knew the entrepreneur had been nursing a vendetta against the media outlet since it outed him as gay in 2007.
However, Thiel now chooses to frame the whole situation as an issue of online privacy. “I had begun coming out to people I knew, and I planned to continue on my own terms. Instead, Gawker violated my privacy and cashed in on it…The defense of privacy in the digital age is an ongoing cause,” Thiel writes.
In an effort to make himself look like the hero for taking down Gawker—what he refers to as a source of “thinly sourced, nasty articles that [attack and mock] people”—Thiel glosses over his own, personal reasons to shut down a press outlet he did not like.
Thiel does address criticisms that he is controlling free press, writing,
“A free press is vital for public debate…It’s not for me to draw the line, but journalists should condemn those who willfully cross it. The press is too important to let its role be undermined by those who would search for clicks at the cost of the profession’s reputation.”
Thiel states that it is not for him to “draw the line,” but that is exactly what the billionaire did through any financial means necessary.
While it is perfectly legitimate to question Gawker’s journalistic integrity and potential violations of privacy, it does not excuse powerful men such as Thiel using their wealth to silence the media.
Hulk Hogan’s was not the only Gawker lawsuit he has funded, either; according to Buzzfeed, Gawker editor Nick Denton told staffers that, “Peter Thiel’s legal campaign has targeted individual writers like Sam Biddle, editors such as John Cook, and me as publisher. It is a personal vendetta. And yes, it’s disturbing to live in a world in which a billionaire can bully journalists because he didn’t like the coverage.”
Thiel’s hypocrisy is evident when examining his other business ventures as well. He is a board member of Facebook, which has been criticized for privacy violations, and Palantir, “the secretive CIA-backed data mining company.”
Thiel has no interest in protecting the online privacy of others—only himself.
The Pay-Pal co-founder is also a strong supporter of Donald Trump, who has been vocal about hoping to eliminate freedom of the press and banned numerous journalists from his media events.
Gawker may have shown questionable journalistic merit when outing Thiel, but his response to completely wipe out the media company for personal reasons demonstrates the absurd power the wealthy yield in the U.S. His defensive op-ed does nothing to change this reality.
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