I saw a story early yesterday morning that I haven’t gotten to talk about yet. I had a movie to catch, and afterwards I got caught up with errands and sleep. But this story is too big not to cover, even if I’m a little late. It concerns our old friends over at Gawker Media, and The Immortal Hulk Hogan. You remember the lawsuit I talked about Hogan filing back in December? Well, it’s about to start next month, and according to multiple published reports based on comments from Gawker chief Nick Denton himself, the company is in serious danger from the suit.
Gawker is also confronting a more immediate threat, one in the form of an angry, litigious 6-foot-7, 300-plus-pound ex-wrestler named Terry Bollea, a.k.a. Hulk Hogan. A few years ago, Gawker got its hands on a video of Mr. Bollea having sex with a woman who was then the wife of a friend — a radio D.J. named Bubba the Love Sponge — and posted a one-minute 40-second edit of it. Mr. Bollea forced Gawker to take the video down, and is now suing Gawker Media and Mr. Denton for violating his privacy. He is asking a Florida state court for $100 million in damages.
The post itself was nothing more than an attempt to shame Hogan for the benefit of pageviews. The Hulkster discussing his sex-life, and Gawker publishing a secretly recorded sex tape clip, are two totally different things. According to Denton and his disgusting crew, they aren’t. Even the Times called bullshit on that:
But Mr. Denton is engaging in some spin of his own here. What “really happened” is that Hulk Hogan was secretly videotaped having sex, and that Gawker leapt at the chance to publish the footage in a post headlined, “Even for a Minute, Watching Hulk Hogan Have Sex in a Canopy Bed Is Not Safe for Work but Watch It Anyway.” There was some accompanying text that tried to put the video into a larger context: “We watch this footage because it’s something we’re not supposed to see (sometimes) but we come away satisfied that when famous people have sex it’s closer to the sex we as civilians have from time to time.” But let’s be clear: This post was less about piercing a marketing haze than it was about tapping into the timeless appeal of celebrity voyeurism, the more prurient the better.
Just think about how many hits Gawker has taken over the last year. Their writers have been restless, former employees openly shit on them through their own platform, and Hulk Hogan is about to hit them so hard that Denton is likely going to have to sell a controlling stake. Oh, did I mention the trial is taking place in Hogan’s backyard? It really does seem to be a perfect storm. Even a $20 or $30 million dollar verdict would mean big trouble, much less the $100 million Hogan is seeking. Good times are coming, GamerGate. Sit back and enjoy the show.