Peter Thiel

I’ve been following the whole reveal of Peter Thiel as the anonymous backer of Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker with fascination. I don’t read Gawker, I don’t particularly care about Hulk Hogan, nor do I care that they published his sex tape. Didn’t even know he had one until he won $140 million in a settlement against Gawker. But, the whole Peter Thiel, Silicon Valley big shot waiting a decade, roughly, to take down Gawker for (supposedly) outing him as gay is Game of Thrones Littlefinger level of grudge holding. (Jason and I are getting caught up on watching GOT/I read about halfway through Feast of Crows and then got stuck.) On the one hand, I’m impressed with Thiel’s grudge holding tenacity. I don’t have the energy for it. On the other, it really does scare me about freedom of speech if a wealthy millionaire can back lawsuits like this against media concerns. Two, additional contradictory thoughts here:

  1. Not say that Thiel doesn’t have a beef to pick with Gawker. It’s not clear from the various narratives that Gawker via the now defunct Valleywag did in fact “out him” in the way that most of us understand that phrase, but I will say they did publish an article that was decidedly couched as if they were outing him even if he was out to most of the people in his circle. (You can go look it up. I’m not comfortable linking to the article because of its tone.) I’d say even if his circle of people knew he was gay, and that seems to be the case, that personal knowledge of sexual orientation is vastly different than his sexuality being part of his public personae. So, in that regard, they did “out him.” It would be like Gawker publishing an article on Anderson Cooper before he came out publicly–everyone in his circle knew he was gay, apparently, but Cooper gets to choose if and when the public at large knows that information not Gawker. It’s not newsworthy, in my opinion, unless Cooper or the person in questions tells us. Otherwise, it’s gossip, and not worthy of journalistic merit. Just because the public at large is curious, doesn’t give us a right to know or journalists a right to go ask. See the way Lilly Wachowski was outed as transgender by a Daily Mail reporter. Not newsworthy, not any of our damn business. I’m just glad she was able to tell her story how she wanted if not when.
  2. Also, the information coming out about Thiel’s brand of libertarianism–(the country became worse after women got the vote, multiculturalism at Stanford is bad, college is bad–despite the fact that he has an Ivy League education–presumably because of multiculturalism, he’s a Trump delegate) doesn’t necessarily lend credibility. I will also say that Jason was at one point reading his book from Zero to One.  I happened to read part of it to better understand something Jason was explaining, and um, I wondered how it started as a university lecture and how Thiel could be so intellectually sloppy when quote mining Marx and Engles for representations of Victorian economics. Indeed, his need to seem like he had a grasp of the long sweep of economic history when he most certainly did not I found deeply problematic. I felt like he was trying to tell me he was smart or like he was somehow blowing on some dog whistle about Marx and Engles that I was missing. Admittedly, I didn’t read the whole book. I’m not starting a tech company, after all. I also have an understanding of Marx and Engles born of the context of the 1840s when they were writing about the condition of England and the wide swings of the unregulated boom bust cycles of early capitalism and the fragility of working class lives as a result. Reading murder cases for the Manchester Courier in this period will make you understand that fragility in a whole new way. One mother accidentally killed her baby by overdosing it with laudanum, which she did so she could go to work to feed her family. He seems to have quote mined in order to prove he had Googled the book. Thiel irritated to me to put it mildly. His foray into my field of study also left me critiquing his writing like I do first year writing. (You can’t drop in a block quote and then mic drop. You can only mic drop with your own words; otherwise, please tell your audience what the quote is doing in your work.) Let’s just say, if I’m looking at your writing in this way and you’re a published writer, something has gone awry.

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