The Internet was all atwitter last night after Gawker published a groundbreaking story that simultaneously outed a non-public figure, thus likely ruining his marriage, and aided a gay prostitute in a blackmail scheme. No, seriously. Here's Reason‘s pretty-much-on-the-money description of the story:
The internet is currently reeling from Gawker’s dirty bomb of a story about Timothy Geithner’s brother soliciting a gay escort. David Geithner, who is married with kids, allegedly tried to pay a gay porn star for sex, but backed out after it became clear the escort wanted to extort him for help with his housing situation.
The escort then went to Gawker’s Jordan Sargent, who gleefully carried out the blackmail threat by publishing the story and (presumably) outing Geithner.
Fortunately, the brave souls at Gawker aren't going to be shamed by you people. They have standards, you know:
given the chance gawker will always report on married c-suite executives of major media companies fucking around on their wives
— max read (@max_read) July 17, 2015
You and Chuck Johnson, Max. Brave souls standing up for ethics in the media. If Gawker is given a choice between aiding someone intent on blackmailing a private figure and not getting clicks, then goddammit, Gawker is going to take the clicks every time!
I must admit to finding Gawker's behavior a bit amusing in light of their crusade against the deeper, darker corners of Reddit, not to mention their sense of propriety more broadly. For instance, Sam Biddle grandly proclaimed that Reddit can't be saved because, among other reasons, some of its users, gasp, make fun of fat people:
What Pao found herself up against was not a community but a vicious, malevolent movement that can only accept direction in the form of upvotes. The extremists were not interested in compromise and unable to see why it was in their interests to make their favorite site a more welcoming place for new users. They could not open and would not budge—the idea of sacrificing the divine right to mock the obese was unfathomable, too much to bear.
Can you believe users of a website would be so callous as to make fun of fat people? Lord knows that's a million times worse than aiding a gay prostitute in a blackmail scheme aimed at extorting a private person! Boy howdy, I'd hate to be associated with a site that made fun of fatties. But collecting a paycheck from a site that derives its revenue by aiding a gay prostitute in his effort to extort a private person is definitely something that's A-OK.
Meanwhile, the brave journalist who aided a gay prostitute in outing a private person as part of an extortion scheme has his own ideas about what constitutes proper behavior for writers on the Internet. Aiding in extortion? Totes fine. Slut-shaming? OH MY GOD AYFKM?
God, so gross. Vox should really be ashamed of itself. Slut-shaming? Bad. Blackmail assistance? Extremely Important Journalism.
Gawker is currently facing mortal peril in the form of a lawsuit filed by Hulk Hogan, who was nonplussed when the website ran an illicitly obtained sex tape featuring the Hulkster. I'll be honest: I was halfway convinced by Gawker chief Nick Denton's argument that the First Amendment would be horribly damaged if a website that is now best-known for aiding gay prostitutes in their blackmail schemes wasn't allowed to publish grainy footage of Hulk Hogan having sex. But you know what? Nah. I'm now firmly Team Hulkster. And I hope the Florida jury hearing this case engages in a $100 million leg drop right on Denton's shady-ass empire.