Gawker Media is coming under some well-deserved fire this week for an appalling failure of judgment and basic ethical standards. Despite the site’s professed commitment to social justice, it cruelly outed a private citizen, becoming party to a gay extortion racket in the process, for no reason other than its own vile amusement.
Much of the ire has been directed at Jordan Sargent, the author of that report. But Sargent is by no means the only reprehensible figure working at Gawker today.
Yesterday, I revealed a non-exhaustive list of the people who have reasonable claim to be upset with Gawker. Today, it’s time to look at the writers themselves. Because, you see, it’s not just a few rotten apples spoiling it for everyone else.
Reckless, cruel sociopathy is what Gawker does. It’s what the site is. And owner Nick Denton has done a remarkable job in the decade or so since it has been alive of assembling some of the most morally repugnant human beings on the planet to work for him.
Here are ten of the very worst.
10. PATRICIA HERNANDEZ
Hernandez is a writer for Gawker’s gaming vertical, Kotaku. When she isn’t promoting a friend’s terrible video games without disclosing their relationship, she’s helpfully advising game designers not to defend themselves when they’re falsely accused of rape. Word has it she’s aiming for a job at Rolling Stone.
9. NATHAN GRAYSON
Remember the time when a Kotaku writer failed to disclose he was banging a subject of his reporting? Shit was jokes. And there are long lists of failures to disclose conflicts and other professional solecisms floating around the gaming industry.
If you dig deeper into Grayson’s reporting history, you’ll find an entire career dedicated to the promotion of his buddies’ projects. #AndN
8. MAX READ
Max Read is Gawker’s editor-in-chief. Maybe it’s because he has to defend all of Gawker’s editorial decisions to the public, but I think he may actually be a psychopath. Whenever there’s something morally repugnant to defend, Read always seems to be there on Twitter with a chillingly out-of-touch and dismissive explanation.
At this year’s Super Bowl, Coca-Cola decided to launch “#MakeItHappy,” a campaign against online vitriol. They set up an automated Twitter account that would take angry messages and use the text to turn them into smiley-faces. Only a completely childish asshole would ruin something like that, right?
Read rigged the Twitter bot to tweet out speeches from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Coca-Cola ended their campaign shortly afterwards.
Here are some of Max’s other hits:
- Encouraging rioters to break the law
- The most passive aggressive response to a columnist in history
- Cracking jokes about Gawker’s botched attempt to out James Franco (who is straight) as gay
- His classic headline, “How we got rolled by the dishonest fascists of GamerGate”
7. JASON SCHREIER
Killjoy extraordinaire and professional pearl-clutcher Jason Schreier has a problem with fun. Specifically, the kind of fun that involves cartoonish anime boobs.
As the gaming world eagerly awaited the release of George Kamitani’s Dragon’s Crown in 2013, Schreier accused Kamitani of being a “14-year old boy” perpetuating an “ugly boy’s club mentality” that “harmed video game culture.” An ally of Schreier then accused the acclaimed games developer of homophobia, for equally spurious reasons.
Schreier also has interesting theories about journalism, and how news outlets should stop striving for objectivity because truth is all, like, relative, man.
Here’s a full run-down of Schreier’s laughably terrible behaviour.
6. STEPHEN TOTILO
I’m told Stephen Totilo is a nice enough guy. He has a Master’s in journalism. We even have friends in common. All of which makes me wonder: Why on earth does he work for Gawker?
As the editor-in-chief of Kotaku, he is ultimately responsible for the work of Hernandez and Schreier. Totilo is the one who issues humiliating revisions to their pieces and apologises when things go wrong — which, as you’d expect, happens quite often at Kotaku.
When the lives of innocent people like Brad Wardell are dragged through the mud by Gawker’s innuendo and smut machine, he is the one who takes the heat. It must be agonising.
That doesn’t mean Totilo hasn’t had failures of his own. Perhaps the most memorable was when a mischievous game developer sent him an email claiming to be a “strong independent black woman” who had been “taught to drive” by the video game Grand Theft Auto IV.
Totilo wasn’t notified of the hoax until half a year later, when he finally issued an update to the original story. Narrative over fact-checking and responsible reporting? You betcha.
If you believe Totilo’s supporters, he’s the most ethical person at Gawker. But that’s like being the sanest man in the asylum. Ultimately, you’re still behind bars and you should still take your meds.
As editor of Kotaku, Totlio has had the pleasure of approving stories about ass-shaped watermelons.
5. ALEX PAREENE
@mikiebarb fuck off
— Italian Alex Pareene (@pareene) July 17, 2015
4. NICK DENTON
You can’t have a list of Gawker writers without mentioning the man who made it all happen. Yes, it’s Nick Denton, whose ethical vision is the red thread that connects Gawker’s multifarious misdeeds.
Despite his best efforts to coat Gawker in the unthreatening, rainbow-coloured paint of social justice, he can’t escape the fact that it was founded as a gossip rag, with no regard for privacy or accurate reporting and that the organisation has never, and seemingly will never, grow up — no matter how many innocent lives it destroys.
Here are some of the media mogul’s famous quotes:
3. ERIN GLORIA RYAN
Ryan, the managing editor of Gawker’s feminist vertical Jezebel, has a great sense of humour. Just check out this joke: when hunky actor Paul Walker was killed in a car accident, Erin tweeted “Why couldn’t it be [Governor] Scott Walker? :( #wisconsintweets.”
Hilarious, right? Keep in mind though, Erin has standards. You can joke about the death of a presidential candidate. But you certainly can’t joke about rape. That’s off-limits.
As managing editor of Jezebel, she naturally takes a strong stance against sexual objectification. Except when she’s using her platform to decide whether to “fuck, marry, or kill” Mitt Romney’s sons, of course.
I can’t imagine why anyone would want to punch her in the face. Well, actually, I can.
Her April 2015 assailant was probably just a woman who recognised her and wanted to weigh in on her article about how everyone who posts selfies has low self-esteem. (It would be misogynistic to say I envy her, so I won’t.) Whoever she was, she did the job every man in America wishes he could.
Ryan herself says: “The internet has broken my brain and it just fires off dumb jokes sometimes.” At least she’s honest!
2. JORDAN SARGENT
Jordan Sargent is the Gawker blogger responsible for the David Geithner gay extortion story. A change.org petition to get him fired is already underway. But how much responsibility did he really have for it?
A lot, probably. One of Sargent’s colleagues, Adam Weinstein, vainly tried to place responsibility for the piece with Sargent’s editors. But a brief look through Sargent’s history reveals him to be among the worst of the worst.
Baseless rumour-mongering about sexual assault? He’s been there: about Louis C.K, no less. He also swallowed the disastrous Rolling Stone rape story, taking the hoax at face value and urging universities to ban fraternities.
Shameless, hypocritical social-justice posturing? Yep. Here he is accusing Iggy Azalea of being racist. Here he is accusing the Oscar judges who voted against Selma (2014) for best picture of being racist. And here he is complaining about “slut-shaming,” which is pretty ironic considering the next item on this list.
Violating the privacy of any celebrity in sight? You bet. Here he is asking the thieves of Usher’s stolen sex tape to send it to him. Taking a leaf from A.J. Daulerio (about whom more in a moment), he’s also fond of celebrity dick pics. Because of course he is.
Very fond of them, in fact. [NSFW.] Really, just quite obsessed with them, you might say. So obsessed that during the mass leak of female celebrity nudes on 4chan last year, he had just one question: “Where are the dick pics?”
Most damningly, Sargent is really keen on outing gay people. Here’s a barely-concealed attempt to out John Travolta. (OK, so not the greatest scoop in the world.) But here’s an even more barely concealed attempt to out a United States Senator.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Do his editors bear some of the responsibility for his reporting? Sure. But Sargent is responsible for what appears under his byline, and what appears under his byline is generally depraved, deplorable and disgusting.
No prizes: Sam Biddle, personification of Gawker’s chilling sociopathy and rank hypocrisy, was always going to be way out in front.
Much of his time at Gawker’s Valleywag blog involved criticising the — you guessed it — rich straight white males of Silicon Valley for their wealth and privilege. Here’s one article where he attacks the founder of Snapchat for using his father’s wealth to achieve his own success.
Yet Biddle is himself the son of a wealthy lecturer at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University. I’m sure it was just a coincidence that Biddle applied and was accepted to study at… Johns Hopkins.
The man who lashes out at tech chief executives for their privilege was also a member of Delta Phi, an exclusive fraternity for students from affluent backgrounds.
Biddle constantly attacks social network Reddit and its users, alleging they are the uglier side of the open web, which includes the leaking of private celebrity photos. Meanwhile, he writes for a site that has a category dedicated to pictures of male athletes’ penises.
I suspect Biddle’s choice of writing topics represents little more than a manifestation of self-hatred. Check out this self-pitying article from 2010, in which he whines about a few month’s unemployment after graduating college. It’s the sort of thing that only a cocooned scion of privilege, suddenly smacked in the face by the need to manage his own life, could possibly have written.
Here’s an excerpt:
Is it petty to not share in the happiness of someone else’s success? Is it petty to wish – to beg, even, knuckles blistering, eyes bloodshot, beseeching each god – for their horrific downfall? Is it immature to consider another’s achievement, to imagine them doing the job you wish you had-walking around in your fancy pants, sleeping with your wife in your own bedroom, eating your Frosted Mini Wheats, loudly slurping the milk-and sink into despair? Is this unfair? Should this be beneath me?”
That’s Biddle all over. A spoiled, privileged, self-loathing child who takes out his self-loathing on innocent people and communities. No wonder he’s Gawker’s golden boy.
Oh, and don’t forget this gem: “Kicking a dog isn’t unethical, but it’s in our interests as socialized beings to not do it.”
HONORABLE MENTIONS AND ALUMNI
Gawker has been around for a while, so they’ve lost some stellar voices over the years who shouldn’t go unrecognised.
On her personal blog, former Jezebel writer Lindy West divides her work into “Movie Stuff,” “Silly Stuff,” and “Serious Stuff.” The first entry in the “serious” category is a post entitled “Hello, I am Fat.” The rest of her “serious” work follows a similar theme.
When she isn’t grossing us out about her dress size, West is justifying her hatred of men by blaming it all on them, complaining about the “creepiness” of anyone who hits on a woman that isn’t Lindy West, while herself creepily carving a likeness of Ben Affleck’s penis onto a Hallowe’en pumpkin.
Oh, and she really does hate men, especially the white ones. Naturally, she thinks they don’t deserve their own movement. But my favourite male-bashing post of West’s has to be this, where she explains how funny her jokes are compared to men’s. You are funny, sweetheart. But not for the reasons you think.
Richard Lawson doesn’t work for Gawker any more, but while he was there he loved to throw false rape accusations at famous celebrities.
He also anticipated the David Geithner story by trying to out Franco as gay. A lovely guy.
Daulerio is the former editor-in-chief of Gawker’s sports vertical, Deadspin. That means he’s responsible for the “athlete dongs” category, which is dedicated, as you will have worked out by now, to posting stolen and leaked pictures of male athlete’s penises. For a site that condemns “revenge porn” when it’s someone else doing it, it’s another case of shameful hypocrisy.
Daulerio’s nadir came in 2010, when he published nude photos of football star Brett Favre, breaching a confidentiality agreement with his source in the process. After condemnation from the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, Daulerio responded with Deadspin’s Twitter account to call his critics “morons” and accused the Poynter institute of “bias.”
Articles about the footballer’s penis continued to appear on Deadspin years after the original story. Favre has yet to receive an apology.
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