I haven’t seen Hulk Hogan’s sex tape, but I feel confident in saying that it is not worth $230 million. I also know for a fact it is not worth all of Gawker.com being shut down and yet, somehow, that’s exactly what happened. In August 2016, Gawker, the pretty cousin of web journalism that did too much coke but had a good heart, was shut down by a man named Peter Theil—a Trump supporter and legal representative of Hulk Hogan, real name Terry Gene Bollea.
Most people remember Bollea from his days as the face of WWE—a competitive, respectable sport where men and women in larger-than-life outfits throw chairs at each other while being cheered on by a crowd of people sporting a shirt with WWE’s logo or some sort of semi-racist/misogynistic/sexist phrase on it. Others will recall his days as a reality television star, wrongly titled Hogan Knows Best that ran from 2005-2007. Why did we let it go on that long? Who was watching him and his family spiral into insanity under the blistering Miami sun? Speak up now.
The target audience for the reality show was probably similar to that of Bollea’s infamous 20-minute video where his penis was clearly in frame several times His penis also happens to be inside of a woman who isn’t his wife. I don’t know anyone that would want to watch Hulk Hogan’s sex tape to get off, but I do know plenty of people who would watch that tape to laugh about it—that’s probably why he was so damn mad about the whole thing. If I made a sex tape with someone who wasn’t even my spouse I’d be pissed if people weren’t using it as actual 2 AM material, but instead the opening joke in budding comedic acts. Remember Hulk Hogan? No? Me neither.
Gawker pioneered new journalism, they “prided [themselves] on publishing articles that could not be published anywhere else” says Nick Denton, a former employee of the site. Denton wrote an article titled “How Things Work” that revealed exactly that—how Gawker worked and how the legality of Bollea’s sex tape got them fucked. Gawker was the first of it’s kind in a lot of areas, but most notably in not caring about relations between the site and its subjects. No one was safe from their scrutiny, but in the age of fake new stories appearing on your Facebook feed every ten seconds (being shared by your racist high school friends and family members alike) there’s a lot of bullshit on the internet to sort through. Gawker did it’s best to give us raw thoughts regardless of their relationship with the people or companies they wrote about, but that can’t last forever. That’s like if Regina George never got hit by that bus and kept on being a huge bitch to everyone; Gawker got hit by a fucking freight train.
Gawker writers prided themselves on being bold and fearless, saying what needed to be said and not caring who it hurt because the truth is more important than the feelings of a few people… right? According to the Florida judge presiding over the sex tape scandal, Gawker was wrong.
So, what does this mean for web journalism? For Chivomengro? For writers who want to write the truth without being sued?
Write. Get out there and fucking write. Writers write because they have something to say and no one else is saying it or someone did say it, but they didn’t do it justice. If you want to be a writer, then there is no simpler way to be one than to write. Write about Hulk Hogan, although I don’t recommend it, write about music, art, sports, anything you want to because you need to write and people need to read it.
The system is still in place and there are going to be a million and one Peter Theils and, let’s face it, a million and one D-list celebrity sex tapes that no one really cares about, but will fetch a hefty price tag anyway. Bollea should’ve used the tape to Kim Kardashian his way to the top—instead he let his attorney do the bidding for him (fair, because that’s what attorneys do), but Thiel’s vendetta against Gawker is nothing new. Lawyers, politicians, anyone who’s hired a prostitute, and people who are a combination of all three have hated writers since the fear of writing was no longer a thing, at least in America.
Unsurprisingly, Gawker used its platform to expose pedophiles on Reddit, deal with the decision of sitting down to pee in public bathrooms, and debunk viral internet stories (we all remember the one about Jay-Z and Beyoncé allegedly buying the rights to the Confederate flag); it was not a one stop shop for the latest exposé on irrelevant celebrities. They were a real website dedicated to trying to better the internet, or at least better the content we are exposed to on the internet. We are fed information 24/7 and Gawker was trying it’s best to weed out the shit that just wasn’t true.
If Theil or Bollea see this article by some divine intervention and decided they want to sue me, too—my bank account currently stands at a whopping $74.59 and that’s the highest it’s been in weeks. It regularly dips into the negatives, so if you’re looking for another million-dollar pay-out—maybe think again, assholes.