Gawker’s Death Rattle

 

GawkerMediaThe only remaining question about the demise of Gawker Media is not whether it will die, but, rather, whether its inevitable death will come via a prolonged suicide, or, remarkably, at the hands of Hulk Hogan.

It’s looking more and more like the former scenario will win the race, and not just due to the potential defects in Hogan’s legal argument.

I won’t rehash the details of last week’s Gawker saga, except to say that the decision to remove the reprehensible article about David Geithner was not a popular one among Gawker Media’s newly-unionized editorial and writing workforce.

Feeling betrayed, two high-profile Gawker Media employees, Tommy Craggs (Executive Editor of Gawker Media) and Max Read (Editor-in-Chief of Gawker.com) quit on Monday, but not before issuing some astounding memos.

I say “astounding” because they reflect a wildly inflated sense of self-importance, and, more crucially, genuine shock over the events of the last few days.  Let’s take those topics in order.

A sampling of comments.  First, here’s Craggs:

That is to say, none of the partners in a company that prides itself on its frankness had the decency or intellectual wherewithal to make the case to the executive editor of Gawker Media for undermining (if not immolating) his job, forsaking Gawker’s too-often-stated, too-little-tested principles, and doing the most extreme and self-destructive thing a shop like ours could ever do.

You have just read a discussion of “decency” and “principles” by a Gawker Media editor and writer.  This was an overly-long piece, so I’ll pull just one more quote:

You [Writers] are funny. You are smart. You are vital. You are honest and righteous and pissed-off and stupid, so galactically stupid, and you commit hilarious blunders and you perform great, honking prodigies of journalism that make me proud to have sat in a room with you. Often you do all these things in the same day. You are this company. Nick forgot that, and I hope he one day remembers it. You are, you will always be, the best argument for a company that no longer deserves you.

I love you all.

“Prodigies of journalism.”

Next up is Read, who, like Craggs, disagreed with the decision to pull the Geithner article. Unlike Craggs, however, Read defended the merits of the article itself, tweeting “given the chance, gawker [sic] will always report on married c-suite executives of major media companies [expletive]ing around on their wives.”

After that double-down in the face of public scorn, Read said the following in his memo to the Gawker Media leadership:

That this post was deleted at all is an absolute surrender of Gawker’s claim to “radical transparency”; that non-editorial business executives were given a vote in the decision to remove it is an unacceptable and unprecedented breach of the editorial firewall, and turns Gawker’s claim to be the world’s largest independent media company into, essentially, a joke.

Per Read, the decision to remove the article, not the decision to publish it, is what made Gawker Media into a joke.

In his message to his coworkers, Read offered this:

I hope I have made this clear enough, but I am consistently and constantly in awe of every one of you, of your skill and your inventiveness. When you are in the office this week, look around: You are working with a rare class of talent. You will want to remember what it was like to write alongside so many current and future stars.

“Consistently and constantly in awe of every one of you.”

And, in a separate message, this:

Jordan [Sargent, the author of the Geithner piece] reported out a true and interesting story that stands well within the site’s long tradition of aggressively reporting on the sex and personal lives of powerful media figures, and I — and Tommy — still stand behind that story, and Jordan’s reporting, absolutely. It was always going to land poorly with the army of Gamergaters and Redditors, and with the Twitter squad of smarmy media enemies we’ve made over the last 10 years, both groups of which are desperate for our collapse.

Now, we come to the heart of it.

Note that it wasn’t that the post itself was a poor decision, or an ethical lapse, or just bad journalism. Rather, it was merely “aggressive reporting” that this conspiracy of public opinion unfairly used to pressure Gawker. “Gamergater” and “Redditors” is shorthand for “dumb people who say things we find offensive or wrong.”

For his part, Gawker Media head honcho Nick Denton also issued some comments today, emphasizing that his company has always promoted “truth and understanding.” He also lamented that Jordan Sargent has had to endure “traumatizing” backlash online.

What you see here is genuine heartbreak and confusion on the part of the Gawker Media staff (much more of the same can be found in the tribute/pity party begun on Deadspin to honor these fallen heroes). The reason for this confusion is simple: These guys are not used to seeing their ideological allies turn on them.

They are surrounded by like-minded people who adhere to a philosophy that might be summarized as, “We can be as reprehensible in our behavior and our tone as we want to be because we believe the ‘right’ things.”

They are rarely challenged in this regard by anyone who can’t be dismissed. But they took things too far with the Geithner piece by outing someone who was neither a public figure nor (let’s be honest) a conservative. If the latter criteria had been in play, many of the left-leaning folks who slammed Gawker would have been more likely to stomach the story on the grounds of “you know, like, hypocrisy or whatever.”

Confronted by the same instrumentality that they themselves had employed to ruin lives and careers, guys like Craggs and Read suddenly became pious and indignant. Without even a whiff of self-awareness, they made it clear that they were, in fact, principled purveyors of real journalism, not merely insecure, vulgar people, who — I freely admit — happen to have quite a bit of writing talent (which is why most of the people at Gawker will ultimately land on their feet).

If Gawker has two missions, they are (1) embarrass or scandalize people who have more power than we do, and, increasingly, (2) mock and destroy people or ideas with whom we disagree. The methods used to effectuate those goals were an afterthought.

Until now.

Gawker has every right to run its business as it sees fit. They can, in short, be terrible people in the pursuit of what they believe is “the truth.” They can advance a progressive agenda that seems at certain times like it was pulled from the manifesto of a campus social-justice group, and, at others, from old-timey socialist ideas from nearly a century ago.

What they don’t get to do is to make careers out of this type of work, and then retroactively prop up cheap, easy, sometimes-filthy opinion writing as brilliance, while they simultaneously scramble to canonize each other before their company flatlines once and for all.

What they don’t get to do is claim to be the realest of real journalists while proudly abandoning any semblance of what the old people they despise might call “objectivity.”

What they don’t get to do is survive indefinitely and without consequences—not consequences for their views, but for their tactics.

Good riddance.

Published in Culture, Entertainment, General
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  1. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    I’ve obviously got my head in the sand.  I never even knew of gawker’s existence until this happened, and I still have absolutely no idea what is going on.  But then, I think I should be the example.  If places like this (heck, even places like the NY Times) don’t deserve the time of day, why do any of us give it to them?

    • #1
  2. tom Member
    tom
    @TomGarrett

    Ryan M:I’ve obviously got my head in the sand. I never even knew of gawker’s existence until this happened, and I still have absolutely no idea what is going on. But then, I think I should be the example. If places like this (heck, even places like the NY Times) don’t deserve the time of day, why do any of us give it to them?

    I think there are two separate questions: First, should we treat these outlets as persuasive, given their obvious bias?  Answer: No, not for us personally.  And I should pause here to say, as much as I don’t care for the NYT’s editorial stance, I would never compare them directly to Gawker Media.

    Second question: Is Gawker Media influential?  Undoubtedly.  That’s why this matters.  Even if everyone here agrees that the Gawker family of sites is worthless, that doesn’t matter, so long as those sites have influence over discourse.

    Gawker gets people fired.  Gawker makes it harder for conservatives to win elections.  Gawker makes it harder for cultural values we like to prevail.

    That is why, in my view, we have to pay attention.  They are not some anonymous commenter on Reddit or YouTube.  They’re one of the top 150 websites in the United States.

    They matter, even if none of us care about them.

    • #2
  3. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    Excellent points, Tom. I think you’re right.

    • #3
  4. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    Tom Garrett: They are surrounded by like-minded people who adhere to a philosophy that might be summarized as, “We can be as reprehensible in our behavior and our tone as we want to be because we believe the ‘right’ things.”

    That’s not Gawker. That’s the left in general. Including the Democratic Party leadership.

    • #4
  5. tom Member
    tom
    @TomGarrett

    Umbra Fractus:

    Tom Garrett: They are surrounded by like-minded people who adhere to a philosophy that might be summarized as, “We can be as reprehensible in our behavior and our tone as we want to be because we believe the ‘right’ things.”

    That’s not Gawker. That’s the left in general. Including the Democratic Party leadership.

    To an extent, yes.  For example, the idea that attorneys general need not defend laws with which they disagree, even if there is no on-point, binding constitutional precedent to the contrary.

    However, outlets like Gawker take that mentality to a wildly more uncivil level.  For them, there is no need even to treat people with whom you disagree as human.  Opponents merely exist to be ridiculed—if not imprisoned (see Adam Weinstein’s “Arrest Climate-Change Deniers,” e.g.).

    Gawker Media treats its foes, political and otherwise, with the level of disdain that is worse than the level of disdain they imagine conservatives hold toward women, minorities, and so on.

    • #5
  6. tom Member
    tom
    @TomGarrett

    One footnote I should add: Anyone who has read my writing here or elsewhere knows that I almost always provide embedded hyperlinks to whatever articles or sources I’m discussing.

    I have not done so in this case, to the extent that any of the sources in question are actual Gawker Media links (e.g., the actual article on Gawker announcing Read’s and Craggs’ resignations).

    These are easily discoverable via a Google search, of course.  I simply didn’t want to provide any additional traffic to Gawker at this point, however minimal that contribution would be in this case.

    • #6
  7. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    Tom Garrett: However, outlets like Gawker take that mentality to a wildly more uncivil level. For them, there is no need even to treat people with whom you disagree as human. Opponents merely exist to be ridiculed—if not imprisoned (see Adam Weinstein’s “Arrest Climate-Change Deniers,” e.g.).

    I disagree. Gawker may be more shameless, but even the USA Today article you linked to points out that Geithner is not an opponent of “gay rights” or even a conservative; the unspoken implication being that what they did would be okay if he was.

    • #7
  8. tom Member
    tom
    @TomGarrett

    Umbra Fractus:

    Tom Garrett: However, outlets like Gawker take that mentality to a wildly more uncivil level. For them, there is no need even to treat people with whom you disagree as human. Opponents merely exist to be ridiculed—if not imprisoned (see Adam Weinstein’s “Arrest Climate-Change Deniers,” e.g.).

    I disagree. Gawker may be more shameless, but even the USA Today article you linked to points out that Geithner is not an opponent of “gay rights” or even a conservative; the unspoken implication being that what they did would be okay if he was.

    Sure, but there is a difference between a person who is sympathetic to a murderer and someone who actually commits murder.  Both are bad, but I hope we can agree that the latter is worse—and far more destructive.

    USA Today‘s biases are largely in line with Gawker‘s.  However, USA Today would never run many of the kinds of pieces that Gawker does.  That matters.

    Gawker combines similar, but more strident lefty politics with a willingness to destroy people that dwarfs any like impulses more reputable outlets possess.

    • #8
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