Freedom-minded PayPal founder Peter Thiel has revealed himself to be a Batman of sorts. He was the secret source of cash behind Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker media, and had in fact been covertly pouring millions into legal efforts against the media empire for years. The hero Silicon Valley needed.
Thiel described his actions as a form of philanthropy, a description that many of Gawker’s victims would no doubt share. The site made a habit of egregious, unecessary violations of everyone from former Alaska governor Sarah Palin to Conde Naste CFO David Geithner, brother of an Obama Treasury Secretary.
Naturally, progressive web journalists aren’t taking news of Thiel’s secret war well. They think it’s a threat to press freedom. “Even Gawker haters should fear the strategy Peter Thiel is using to destroy Gawker” worried Vox, another progressive blogging empire whose political stances often mirrored Gawker’s. WIRED worried about chilling effects.
“As a libertarian, Thiel should support free speech,” complained Salon.
It’s a specious line of argument from supremely butthurt journalists upset that, with Gawker’s decline, the golden age of left-wing public shaming is over.
You see, for a long time in the first half of the 2010s, the primary threat to free speech on the internet was Gawker. Whenever someone considered making an un-PC joke, or antagonizing a feminist on social media, or criticizing the hot left-wing hashtag of the moment, they paused and considered whether a bored Gawker writer might turn them into a headline.
Thiel didn’t create a chilling effect. He ended one. Only those who live in the same left-wing media bubble as Gawker – i.e, Vox and WIRED writers – could possibly think otherwise.
Even more absurd are the pearl-clutching columnists suggesting Thiel is now a liability to Facebook. Regular Guardian contributor Dan Gillmor said that if Facebook, which recently faced national controversy over alleged bias against conservatives, kept the famously libertarian Thiel on its board of directors then it would imply the company isn’t committed to a free press.
If Facebook keeps Thiel on its board we'll know a lot more about Zuckerberg's beliefs regarding freedom of the press.
— Dan Gillmor (@dangillmor) May 26, 2016
Gillmor followed up in a column for Slate, headlined “Mark Zuckerberg Needs To Dump Peter Thiel From The Facebook Board Of Directors.’
I’m almost hoping that Thiel is removed from the board, or, better, resigns himself. As perhaps the only man left on the board who is keeping Facebook honest, his departure would only hasten the company’s demise. And what would he care? He’d still be rich, and the Gawkers of the world would still tremble.
With the revelation of Thiel’s actions, it’s now almost certain that Peter Thiel was the only non-cucked attendee of the photo-op meeting Facebook held last Wednesday, with the likes of Glenn Beck and S.E Cupp, to counter allegations that it was biased against conservatives. It must have been difficult for Thiel, being perhaps the only principled (and, as we now know, effective) libertarian right-winger in the room.
Indeed, I’m not sure why Thiel is still at the company, given that he has to surround himself with figures like Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, who are either bonkers, incompetent, or both. (Both is more likely — really, have you seen Sandberg’s Harvard thesis?).
Facebook needs Thiel – the only man who leans to the right in a company hopelessly biased against the right. But they’re not the only ones. It seems that all of Silicon Valley, and indeed, all of the internet needed Peter Thiel. With his lawsuit, he has perhaps done more than any man to liberate social media from the terror of left-wing public shaming that prevailed in the golden age of Gawker. Indeed, nothing underscores the end of the reign of Gawker more than the rise of the alternative right, who cannot even be shamed by conservative media.
A new age of free speech prevails on social media, and we owe it in no small part to Peter Thiel. I personally can’t wait for the Marvel adaptation.
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