May 26, 2016

"I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest."

Said Peter Thiel — the PayPal billionaire — explaining why he bankrolled Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker. He said it was "less about revenge and more about specific deterrence." The "revenge" part relates to the fact that Gawker had once written about him "Peter Thiel is totally gay, people." Revenge looks backward, getting recompense for wrongs done. Deterrence looks to the future:
“I can defend myself. Most of the people they attack are not people in my category. They usually attack less prominent, far less wealthy people that simply can’t defend themselves.” He said that “even someone like Terry Bollea who is a millionaire and famous and a successful person didn’t quite have the resources to do this alone.”...

“I refuse to believe that journalism means massive privacy violations,” he said. “I think much more highly of journalists than that. It’s precisely because I respect journalists that I do not believe they are endangered by fighting back against Gawker.... It’s not like it is some sort of speaking truth to power or something going on here. The way I’ve thought about this is that Gawker has been a singularly terrible bully. In a way, if I didn’t think Gawker was unique, I wouldn’t have done any of this. If the entire media was more or less like this, this would be like trying to boil the ocean.”...

“[W]e would get in touch with the plaintiffs who otherwise would have accepted a pittance for a settlement...."
If you keep reading over at the link — which goes to the NYT — past the quotes from lawprofs who explain there's no ethical violation in Hogan's receiving help from an unnamed donor and no effect on the merits of his case and past some defense of Gawker from its founder and into the part about Thiel's brilliant career, you'll eventually get to:
A libertarian, Mr. Thiel is a pledged delegate for Donald J. Trump for the 2016 Republican National Convention.
The top-rated comments at the Times all pick on this point: 1. "After reading this my respect for Peter Thiel, as it were, disappeared." 2. "At least Gawker relies on truth. Trump, on the other hand, disseminates lies like confetti. Wonder how Thiel reconciles that reality." 3. "Isn't it funny how libertarians don't want any rules, until they do?" 4. "I was actually rooting for Mr. Thiel until I read, 'Mr. Thiel is a pledged delegate for Donald J. Trump for the 2016 Republican National Convention.'"

#3 is a good comment. I'd up-vote that.

61 comments:

Jack Wayne said...

Nothing like up voting a lie.

Psota said...

libertarians are not about "no rules until we want them." libertarians are about using private initiative as a substitute for the government's police powers. the gov't can't or won't hold Gawker accountable, but a guy like thiel can.

Brando said...

"Isn't it funny how libertarians don't want any rules, until they do?"

How is that a good comment? Libertarians arent' against rules at all. They simply want limited government and greater individual freedom. You need some rules to allow that. Libertarians aren't anarchists.

It's sort of like saying "isn't it funny how leftists want to suck the blood out of dead baby corpses, but when you invite them to one of your dead baby corpse sucking parties they always have an excuse to decline?" It's a dumb comment.

rehajm said...

It reeks of Thiel getting revenge against Gawker for outing him. Funding the suit is one thing but what's the legality of Theil compensating Hogan outrught in exchange for the suit? Theil's been asked and hasn't denied paying Hogan.

Paddy O said...

"Isn't it funny how libertarians don't want any rules, until they do?"

"Isn't it funny how progressives want freedom, until they don't?"

These two pretty much sum up the utter incoherence of our current political debates.

Because both ultimately are about whims and subjectivism, which always lead to tyranny. They tend to balance each other out, which is why we need voices from both sides.

Though, these days, the libertarian approach has a lot of appeal because the balance has been lost through media and federal authoritarianism.

Rae said...

Funding the suit is one thing but what's the legality of Theil compensating Hogan outrught in exchange for the suit?

What's the illegality?

M Jordan said...

America's success is that it institutionalizes the scrum. Nothing, as George Schulz once said, is ever really settled here.

But much as I enjoy the tug-of-war, sometimes it just wears me out. This story, the comments you have sited, the horrors of slime bags like Gawker,wears me out.

Martha said...

Jack Shafer has an interesting take on the First Amendment implications of what Thiel did in secretly financing the Gawker lawsuit. Shafer concludes Thiel did the impossible—made us sympathize with Gawker.

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/05/gawker-peter-thiel-fourth-estate-213918

MadisonMan said...

How is that a good comment?

It's short and makes a point.

mccullough said...

Anarchists want no rules. Are libertarians against courts enforcing common law claims for invasions of privacy? Never heard they were.

Birkel said...

The Libertarian positon: "Your right to swing your fist stops just shy of my proverbial nose."

The rule, therefore, must be "You cannot hit my proverbial nose."

The idea behind Libertarianism is that we need the fewest number of laws possible to prevent the hitting of proverbial noses and the rest should be decided by private actors. The utilitarian argument behind this is simple, in that the people with the greatest stake in the outcome will most carefully protect themselves whereas governments will be wasteful of societal capital.

Libertarians are not against courts, although most would probably favor private methods of dispute resolution such as binding arbitration, to which both parties consent before a dispute arises.

The comment you would up-vote displays a profound misunderstanding of Libertarianism.

iqvoice said...

"Isn't it funny how libertarians don't want any rules, until they do?"

Since when are Libertarians not allowed to be pragmatists? Since we can't wish away all the stupidity that the authoritarians have created, does that mean we can't use the result to our own ends?

Rick said...

#3 is a good comment. I'd up-vote that.

How embarrassing.

Birkel said...

"MadisonMan is an idiot" is also short and makes a point. That point is a claim. An opinion. That the point is wrong would not matter, in MadisonMan's formulation, of whether the comment is "good".

Therefore, MadisonMan must agree that "MadisonMan is an idiot" is a good comment.

MadisonMan said...

Yup.

If you seek truth in Comment Sections you're an idiot.

That's another good comment.

If you try to make other people see the truth, you will fail.

That's yet another good comment.

Quaestor said...

I was attracted to the Libertarian Party in the 2012 cycle, but I stopped short of changing my registration for reasons similar to that NYT commenter's. Libertarians insist on complete individual sovereignty, the it's my business and none of yours argument. However, the more I thought about it the more sophomoric the Libertarian platform appeared. The unconditional nature of its position looked more like game rules for a D&D world than the real world with its vast imperfection and incomplete information.

This is probably why the Libertarians always concentrate their efforts behind a completely unrealistic candidacy for President of the United States, and not on a "testbed" candidacy, such as a winnable run for a mayoralty of a major city, for example.

Self-Professed small-l libertarian Thiel shows his understanding of those limitations by backing Trump rather than the Libertarian Party's candidate.

Birkel said...

I like vacuity every bit as much as MadisonMan.

boycat said...

It's short and makes a point.

A bogus point. But, hey, if that's all you got, run with it.

whswhs said...

People who think that libertarians don't want any rules can't have read any libertarian literature at all. Even anarchocapitalist libertarians want a full body of legal rules; they just want it provided by a system of competing firms rather than a state-run monopoly. I don't think that's an effective way to run a legal system, but having a legal system is still the goal. And there are lots and lots of libertarians like me who are constitutionalists—and a constitution is a set of rules.

And I don't see anything illogical in wanting rules for some things, while wanting many other things to be done without rules. Systems of rules do some jobs well and others badly. For that matter you could say that libertarians want freedom until they don't—because libertarians as a movement oppose the freedom to murder, or rape, or maim, or enslave, or kidnap, or rob, or steal, or to have the state do it on your behalf, or to have the state look the other way while you do any of those things, and consider that opposition to be a baseline for what counts as actually being pro-freedom.

Paul Mac said...

Nick Denton in addition to being a bullying jerk is rather flush himself, or was before he took the sleaze too far in this case. Estimates of his net worth north of $200 million. Thiel is probably about as much richer than Denton as Denton is richer was than Bollea. So if there is an ethical issue here that rich folks shouldn't hassle poorer millionaires and threaten their images, sense of privilege, and livelihood, well...

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Comment #3 attacks a straw man. However, it makes fun of people who make the Professor cry, so it's got that going for it.

Nonapod said...

Isn't it funny how libertarians don't want any rules, until they do?

Good lord. Yeah... it's a snarky jab, but most people who call themselves "libertarian" aren't anarchists. Being or having an affinity for libertarianism doesn't mean you don't want some kind of rule of law, or specifically as in this case some expectation of privacy.

Look, I know you enjoy ruffling the feathers of certain commenters around here who consider themselves libertarians, but there's already enough misrepresentations of what libertarianism is and what it isn't flying around.that I get a little miffed when I see these eye-rollingly stupid attempts at humor.

traditionalguy said...

This is good news. It could make lawyers needed again, and that will help Law Schools stay open.

Fernandinande said...

3. "Isn't it funny how libertarians don't want any rules, until they do?"

No. What's funny - sad and stupid, really - is that the NYPravda commenter, and the upvoting fellow travelers, don't know what "libertarian" means.

tim in vermont said...

Who I think are even funnier than sincere, all-out, libertarians, are anarchists who think that it means absolute communism.

BDNYC said...

#3 is a ridiculous comment. Peter Thiel, a citizen, has a grudge against Gawker and is using his personal resources to punish them. How does that conflict with his libertarian beliefs? For all you know, Thiel is adamantly opposed to the public disclosure of private facts tort. That doesn't mean he can't or shouldn't use it to his advantage.

Many people, apparently including Althouse, really don't understand the meaning of hypocrisy.

Todd said...

. "Isn't it funny how libertarians don't want any rules, until they do?

This is a fairly ignorant statement. Libertarians don't want "no" rules, they want as few rules as necessary for a functioning society.

Anarchists want NO rules, until they do.

Don't believe me? Mug an anarchist and see if they don't call for cops...

Jupiter said...

3. "Isn't it funny how libertarians don't want any rules, until they do?"

"#3 is a good comment. I'd up-vote that."

Well, of course a woman who makes a good living teaching people to manipulate the rules wants some rules. The more the better, who cares what they say? Ever meet a rule you didn't like?

The commenter is correct, libertarians are not in favor of any rule before they see a need for it. Apparently the commenter feels differently.

tim in vermont said...

Those anarchists are like the Ancient Greeks who thought that if you put a bunch of babies on a remote island and didn't teach them any language, they would naturally start speaking Greek.

Owen said...

I suspect Prof. Althouse was trolling us with her up-vote for Comment #3. It certainly provoked some good responses.

As for Peter Thiel and his secret war chest to help those who struggle against media oppression: presumably his lawyers helped him design and run an operation that does not run foul of whatever laws and ethics rules still apply to limit how strangers can take an interest in litigation. Back in the Precambrian there was a thing called "maintenance and champerty" where outside funding was absolutely prohibited. But money is money, and presumably even then there were ways to be "helpful" through intermediaries and in-kind contributions. Imagine: an unrelated law firm or investigative agency just ships you a brown paper envelope filled with a fat stack of useful data on the other party.

I think the declaration by Gawker's journalist that he thought Thiel was "already out" (and thus talking about his sexual orientation was not controversial) is facially inconsistent with his claim that it would be newsworthy to share this fact beyond some "circle" of those who already knew. On the other hand, I think $140MM for a sex tape, however amazing, is an absurdly heroic reach by a jury that --like the rest of us-- is trying dimly to understand what privacy is still possible in our age, and how much it is worth.

Amadeus 48 said...

Althouse famously denounces Atlas Shrugged without ever having read it. Too long or something.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

[Top-rated comments:
..1. "After reading this my respect for Peter Thiel, as it were, disappeared."
..2. "At least Gawker relies on truth. Trump, on the other hand, disseminates lies like confetti."
..3. "Isn't it funny how libertarians don't want any rules, until they do?"
..4. "I was actually rooting for Mr. Thiel until I read, 'Mr. Thiel is a pledged delegate for Donald J. Trump for the 2016 Republican National Convention.'"

#3 is a good comment. I'd up-vote that.]


#3 is not a good comment, Althouse. By "rules" I take to mean "laws." That is, advocating a new law, a new regulation, an expansion of Government to King's X what is in essence a personal problem. Libertarians advocate reducing the Body of Law and Regulation, reducing the Powers of Government to the minimum necessary. If you have a personal problem, handle it yourself - in the Courts, or by other lawful means.

There is no contradiction here. That is exactly what Thiel and Hogan did.

#4 rephrased: "I agreed with what Thiel re. Hogan. Then I found out an entirely unrelated fact about Mr. Thiel. I no longer agree with what Thiel did re. Hogan." There is no logic here.

#1 is unclear whether "this" refers to Thiel's action re. Hogan, to his Libertarian advocacy, to his support for Mr. Trump, to something else. Maybe this comment "top rated" because different readers interpreted it different ways.

#2: Mr. Trump does toss around a lot of ideas. Like it or not, good or ill, all campaigners toss around a lot of ideas. Mr. Trump is less reluctant to toss out a "politically incorrect" idea. Further, what Mr. Trump does say is very often quoted incorrectly or out of context. Commenter #2 is among the vicariously offended crowd. The comment does not relate to the major points of the article, Mr. Thiel's action re. Hogan and attitude toward Gawker.

Chris N said...

An ideological component is the clear need for an enemy, and a libertarian enemy will do, by many on the Left, so Thiel can now reasonably expect more hate and objectification.

Haven't thought about how the 1st amendment might apply...

MadisonMan said...

However, it makes fun of people who make the Professor cry

I don't recall the complete story, but I don't remember that tears were involved.

I could inspect this blog's archives, but that would be work.

I wonder if this is the biggest blog on blogspot, as far as text content goes.

Chris N said...

And a number of lawyers and journalists now have more to do...

rhhardin said...

Libertarians want rules, in particular those that make trade and contracts and legal ownership possible.

The don't want the reverse rules, such as Obama favors.

Bobby said...

Quaestor,

But it's kind of a quandary. The Libertarian Party's platform is sophomoric because such a high percentage of our members are far more interested in maintaining ideological "purity" over the slightest bit of pragmatism that could result in libertarians actually winning elections and libertarian principles actually being implemented. That won't end until the Libertarian Party grows its ranks to include people who are serious about actually making realistic and achievable changes to government policy, and that can't happen until we get more pragmatists and moderates in the Libertarian Party.

As a registered member of the LP, I totally get why serious people are scared away by my party. But who knows, maybe this election is just what we needed to finally start changing things.

n.n said...

Libertarians want to establish rules through an evolutionary reconciliation of moral and natural imperatives. Unfortunately, in a society with an advanced state of progressive liberalism, and degraded citizenship, individual rights, and debased intrinsic value, the immoderate, unprincipled interests of the people and the minority governing factions cannot be organized without a powerful central authority.

It's religion (i.e. principled self-moderating, response behavior) or coercion (i.e. selective behavior). The progress of liberalism in civilized societies is evidence that men and women have become less capable of the former.

n.n said...

As for gawker(s), they have always been with us. Either we improve our personal behavior, isolate ourselves, or learn the limits of principled rejection, tolerance, and normalization.

Chris N said...

There are anarchists, and night Watchmen, and Randians, and Rothbardians, and gold bugs, and old Southern Secessionists, and pot heads, and Sea-Steaders, and open borders types and so on...

But there are also Constituionalists, and the Chicago School, and Hayekians, and much more classical liberal types...

As far as ideological lines, even mild traditionalists, the faithful, country club folks, smaller gov't types might want to pay some attention in the public square.

Jupiter said...

Bobby said...

"As a registered member of the LP, I totally get why serious people are scared away by my party. But who knows, maybe this election is just what we needed to finally start changing things."

It seems unlikely that Libertarians will ever be a majority of the American electorate. Too many people take the unthinking view that if everything undesirable were also unlawful, the world would be perfected. But libertarianism is valuable as a tendency, the tendency to prefer fewer laws and better ones, to more and worse ones. As well as the tendency to prefer consensual arrangements to coercive ones.

bagoh20 said...

Isn't it funny how bloggers don't want any trolling until they do?

coupe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron Winkleheimer said...

I'm not a Libertarian, but it simply isn't true that they don't want any rules. They want fewer rules, primarily they want all transactions to be voluntary.

If I understand correctly, some even want government. However, its only duties would be to maintain a court system to adjudicate contractual disputes and to punish people who use fraud or force and to maintain a military to guard against invasion, though since they are all open border types that would seem to be rather stupid.

In any event, using the courts against Gawker could be construed as coming under the no fraud or force rule.

Birkel said...

MadisonMan:

Now you can inspect the blog's archives?

But when you pretended not to remember those German physicists it was imperative that I find the link.

I am trying to square your announced ability with your announced inability.

Can you offer guidance?

Fred Drinkwater said...

Jupiter's 9:44 last sentence has it right. I will be charitable and believe that the Prof was fishing for that. I do not believe the NYT commenter is so savvy. (Now there's a fine example of American English's tendency to mug other languages for vocabulary.)

HoodlumDoodlum said...

It's not the case that libertarians don't want any rules. Anarchists don't want any rules. Libertarians aren't anarchists...that's why there are two different words for those things.

Respect for the concept of the rule of law (esp. as it pertains to contracts, etc) is fundamental to the idea of libertarianism. That's pretty basic and someone who doesn't understand that shouldn't be proud of their ignorance.

But, you know, there's no law against being wrong in NYT comment section!

Static Ping said...

To take this in a slightly different direction, I don't see the contradiction of wanting a society of a certain form but using the the society as it is to achieve your goals. People do that all the time for good and ill.

David said...

Thiel is quite masculine. Not macho, masculine. You can be gay and masculine people.

Ignorance is Bliss said...


MadisonMan said...

I don't recall the complete story, but I don't remember that tears were involved.
I could inspect this blog's archives, but that would be work.

Here's the post where I take on Ron Bailey of Reason Magazine.

David said...

"Althouse famously denounces Atlas Shrugged without ever having read it. Too long or something."

Pretty much how I feel about Ulysses. And Atlas Shrugged for that matter.

Chuck said...

To me, the weird part of this story (and I confess to having not read the linked article) is that to a great extent, outside funding is not necessary to allow most high-profile, high-damage and/or high liability tort claims to proceed.

All along, I presumed that Hulk's lawyers were not being paid by a wealthy outsider; I presumed that they were working on a contingency basis, and would take about a third of whatever the client collected.

That is the way it usually works; the lawyers might have done better that way, than if they had been billing $750 an hour to Mr. Thiel. Depending on the collectibility (and insurance) of Gawker and its parent company. Of course, they may have viewed the risk of a no cause as too great, absent Thiel's backing. And some combination of a base rate along with a bonus for a win (within ethics guidelines for contingency fees) could well have been the most attractive option.

Was there an answer to this that I missed, by not reading the linked story?

cubanbob said...

I find it amusing that those who can't distinguish the difference between and anarchist and a libertarian can distinguish the difference between a communist and a progressive.

@Owen at 9.46: you forgot barratry. Bringing back barratry along with champerty and maintenance would go a long way in curbing the left. Funny how Lefties aren't so amused when their tactics are used against them.

dreams said...

I heard all of that on CNBC Squawk Box yesterday, Andrew Ross Sorkin, the author of the article is one of the hosts.

MadisonMan said...

@IgnoranceIsBliss: Thanks! Wow, 10 years ago! And tears are mentioned. Maybe I didn't get to the bottom of that particular blog post.

mikee said...

So if/when Gawker finally pays up on the Hulk Hogan lawsuit(s), will Mr. Thiel get a return on his investment, or was his money spent only for the entertainment value of playing Nemesis to a deserving target?

whswhs said...

Winkleheimer: I can hold an open house without wanting people to come in and smash the furniture, carry off the valuables, or beat up my guests and me. And I can believe my neighbor is entitled to entertain guests as they choose without thinking they are entitled to make their house a base for a criminal gang. The analogies to open borders are left as an exercise. . . .

Jonathan Graehl said...

"no rules" is a good comment in the Trump vein. "no rules" is hyperbole. obviously it's literally deranged and idiotic. but we translate it into something we recognize. in a libertarian society you'd be allowed to publish information, period.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Chuck said...That is the way it usually works; the lawyers might have done better that way, than if they had been billing $750 an hour to Mr. Thiel. Depending on the collectibility (and insurance) of Gawker and its parent company. Of course, they may have viewed the risk of a no cause as too great, absent Thiel's backing. And some combination of a base rate along with a bonus for a win (within ethics guidelines for contingency fees) could well have been the most attractive option.

Chuck - I didn't follow the case closely, but apparently one of the strange things about how the lawsuit was carried out was that Hogan's team didn't make a claim they easily could have, and the reason they didn't make that claim was because if they did so Gawker's insurance company would have had to pay. From what I've read it sounds like they tailored the lawsuit in ways that maximized Gawker's liability but did not qualify for Gawker's particular insurance coverage. People speculated that if Hogan's team was trying to maximize the money they could win they would have included those claim, and concluded that the lawsuit was therefore carefully designed to expose Gawker to the maximum possible liability without allowing their insurance co. to cover their risk. Since lawyers aren't known for passing up opportunities to get paid more...

Douglas said...

I love all the liberals who are caterwauling about a third party financing what he sees as public interest litigation. The law of champerty, maintenance and barratry was tossed by the liberals a long time ago and it's a little late to be crying about it now.

mikee said...

Does the EPA still tell groups from Sierra Club on down exactly how to structure lawsuits to "force" the EPA into doing something the EPA wanted to do all along, but did not have regulatory or statutory authority to do?

Sauce for Mr. Gander! Sauce for Mr. Gander!