Outing and Gay-Shaming
Last night, a writer at Gawker outed and gay-shamed someone at the behest of an unnamed (for his safety!) source. It was a story steeped in sex, fame, cash, and blackmail, which made it a perfect target for today’s salacious clickbait culture.
Today, Gawker’s managing partners voted 5-1 (with the lone dissenter being the editor who approved the story) to take the story down—but the damage has already been done.
Sorry, Nick Denton—you don’t get to take this one back.
(The link above is a web archive link; if you wish to read their hit job, you can click knowing that you won’t be giving Gawker any traffic.)
Long story short, Gawker allegedly received a series of text messages and photos showing a planned liaison between Condé Nast CFO David Geithner (his name sounds familiar because he’s Tim Geithner’s brother) and a gay porn star and escort. Gawker claims that the escort, whose story is told under the pseudonym “Ryan,” sent them the photos and text messages after Geithner (who is married to a woman) was unable to meet him as planned during a Chicago business trip. Major money was involved: $2500 plus airfare for “Ryan’s” plane ticket from Texas to Chicago. Geithner forwarded a chunk of the cash to “Ryan” in advance, and sent his photo and lodging plans to “Ryan” via text:
“Ryan” had an agenda
“Ryan” did some research, figured out who David was (and who his connections were,) and began to press him for help with a legal dispute in Texas. (He had been struggling with HUD over a discrimination complaint he filed against his landlord; he believed his apartment complex had discriminated against him because of his sexual orientation.) After Geithner backed out of the hookup, “Ryan” went to Gawker, whose editors decided to publish everything, because that’s what journalists do.
Brace yourselves…here comes the justification for all of this (screenshot from their article):
The social justice angle is so on the nose, it’s almost as if Gawker carefully placed it there with a little dab of outrage glue. Here’s how I see it:
Gawker decided to forcibly out and gay-shame Tim Geithner’s brother because they had some sort of evidence to suggest that they had found another white, rich, successful married man who secretly prowls gay clubs in search of willing men in speedos.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, though. Right, Gawker?
In the interest of placing a cherry atop their hate sundae, they closed the article with an attempt at making Geithner look like a lying dirtbag:
The internet’s reaction was swift, and angry
Gawker: "Ha ha fuck you homophobic bigots!"
Less than a month later: "We outed a gay man for clicks" pic.twitter.com/wpt0AQMngk
— kawaiiberpunk hero (@mylittlepwnies3) July 17, 2015
— tyler thornton (@tycrane16) July 17, 2015
Adam Weinstein, a senior writer with Gawker, attempted to distance himself from this travesty…
I had no part in this. I would not have chosen to run it as is. http://t.co/kHOz1YA87S
— Adam Weinstein (@AdamWeinstein) July 17, 2015
…but there was just one small problem with his tweet:
Yet you link to it for the traffic. How honorable @AdamWeinstein
— Christina H. Sommers (@CHSommers) July 17, 2015
Even progressives are giving up on Gawker over this one:
How many cruel and unnecessary stories must Gawker publish before people realize this isn't a fun site to browse over their cereal?
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) July 17, 2015
Let me save you a click you'll regret: Gawker outed a married media exec for hiring a male escort. Some things don't need to be reported.
— Kashmir Hill (@kashhill) July 17, 2015
I'm a fan of Gawker & several of its journalists, but that article is reprehensible beyond belief: it's deranged to publish that.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 17, 2015
Gawker has a history of shaming-for-clicks
This isn’t the first time Gawker has wrapped itself in schadenfreude for the sake of hate clicks; what they’ve done to Geithner and his family isn’t the result of habit, though. It’s standard operating procedure.
At the end of 2013, a comms professional named Justine Sacco sent the second most ill-advised tweet of all time. (Anthony Weiner is still the undisputed champ in that category.) Remember her?
Of course you remember her. The entire world remembers her, because a Gawker writer named Sam Biddle made sure of it:
Gawker writer Sam Biddle claimed credit for starting it all, but has since noted regrets:
It’s possible that Sacco’s fate would have been different had an anonymous tip not led a writer named Sam Biddle to the offending tweet. Biddle was then the editor of Valleywag, Gawker Media’s tech-industry blog. He retweeted it to his 15,000 followers and eventually posted it on Valleywag, accompanied by the headline, “And Now, a Funny Holiday Joke From IAC’s P.R. Boss.”
In January 2014, I received an email from Biddle, explaining his reasoning. “The fact that she was a P.R. chief made it delicious,” he wrote. “It’s satisfying to be able to say, ‘O.K., let’s make a racist tweet by a senior IAC employee count this time.’ And it did. I’d do it again.” Biddle said he was surprised to see how quickly her life was upended, however. “I never wake up and hope I [get someone fired] that day — and certainly never hope to ruin anyone’s life.” Still, he ended his email by saying that he had a feeling she’d be “fine eventually, if not already.”
It was delicious. He was making it count. This is fun for them.
Know what else was delicious and fun? Slut-shaming Christine O’Donnell for having consensual sex with a man who then editorialized it on their front page. Jordan Sargent, the same author who penned the Geithner article, also had a problem with another Twitterer sharing a story about violence in Baltimore.
Gawker has made a name for itself by impaling its victims with their own humanity—the same wonderful, blundering, diverse humanity they claim to celebrate every time “progress” wins over convention. After SCOTUS handed down its ruling in this year’s gay marriage case, Gawker wanted the world to know that if you disagreed with their brand of progress, you could kindly fuck yourself.
Love is love, so show some respect, America.
Correction: love is love, except when it makes for really good social justice clickbait.
Is Gawker’s source actually a conspiracy loon? Maybe.
One small ray of light shines through all of this: Gawker’s source may be not just a media whore, but a total maniac. This is still developing, but even if the information coming out about “Ryan” is verified, Geithner is still left with nothing but the smoldering ruins of his own reputation.
Gawker defended this—with pride
Gawker exists, and will continue to exist, because there will never stop being a market for intellectual smut. There’s no undoing the damage done to Geithner’s personal life, marriage, and family relationships, and for that, Gawker will gladly take credit:
Gawker Editor-in-Chief Max Read responded: “given the chance gawker will always report on married c-suite executives of major media companies f**cking around on their wives.”
Natasha Vargas-Cooper, senior reporter for Gawker affiliate Jezebel, also defended its publication. “Stories don’t need an upside. Not everyone has to feel good about the truth. If it’s true, you publish.”
Gawker’s motto is “Today’s gossip is tomorrow’s news”.
They have the freedom to be pleased with themselves; thank God and the Founders that we have the freedom to nail them to the wall over it.
To David Geithner: I’m so, so sorry that this happened to you. I’ve written over 1000 words about what Gawker has done, and yet I am rendered speechless by the level of hatred exhibited by this author and his editors. Know that there are people out in the world praying for you, and your family.
Gawker’s editorial staff has come out in opposition to the takedown:DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.