It’s difficult to recall now, but at Gawker’s founding there was a sense that the internet was a free space, where anything can be said. An island off the mainland, where people could be themselves. Where writers could say things that would get you fired in an instant from a print publication. Where you could say what you thought without fear of being fired, or sued out of existence. But when you try to make a business out of that freedom, the system will fight you.
As our experience has shown, that freedom was illusory. The system is still there. It pushed back. The power structure remains. There are just some new people at the apex, prime among them the techlords flush with monopoly profits. They are as sensitive to criticism as any other ruling class, but with the confidence that they can transform and disrupt anything, from government to the press.
In the bad old days of early political blogging (I AM INTERNET GRANDMA, GATHER AROUND THE 28-BIT ROCKING CHAIR CHILDREN), especially on the liberal end under Bush, the idea was that at a certain point you have to call bullshit on bullshit. It’s hard to remember but before the takedowns of every take, there was just this seething mass of stuff nobody talked about. That the war was a lie, most people were okay with legal abortion, terrorism was less of a threat than poverty and preventable illness, that some problems were not in fact too big to solve … these were only radical ideas because they weren’t being given voice.
Nobody was calling bullshit. And the minute somebody did, they were rushed off the stage. Bill Maher, that sexist, bigoted douchebag, said it was cowardly to lob missiles from a distance and brave to put your body on the line, and he was put in cold storage for years. A singer said she wasn’t thrilled to have this president be from her home state and people called for her to be executed. Our vaunted political press was calling for torture because it would feel good, calling for bombing women and children because somebody needed to suck on this, and anyone who objected was a dirty fucking hippie.
Coming out of THAT, having THAT be your formative publishing years, it’s hard not to defend somebody’s right to publish a video of Hulk Hogan’s dick, if the alternative is letting someone in power tell you what you can and can’t say and then go after you for all of eternity, drum you out of business, bankrupt you personally. That’s not even a difficult choice.
What’s repulsive about the death of Gawker is everybody acting like they deserved it because they published Hulk Hogan’s dick video and were otherwise MEEN and gross, as opposed to a thousand other people at a thousand other parties who just said things like an entire war is good because it makes me feel good.
Those people are on TV every day in thousand dollar suits. Nobody’s hounding them out of their homes. And that’s much more disgusting than anything Gawker said about anybody fucking a pig.