Don’t Speak: Is the Media Under Attack?

FullSizeRender-7

The press speaks truth to power. And in doing so, helps uphold the rule of law. But what happens when people can sue publications into bankruptcy – effectively silencing them. Should that be allowed? Should wealthy people or corporations be able to silence publications they don’t like?
In the documentary, “Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press” the connection between money and the media is explored. At the centre of the documentary is the Hogan trial. Particularly, Peter Thiel’s funding of Hogan’s litigation. Used to exact vengeance against a publication he allegedly hated.
The documentary sets out how Hogan’s case was carefully constructed.
1) Hogan chose a friendly jurisdiction – Florida. 
2) Hogan had a judge in his favour (implied by the documentary), who excluded evidence that supported Gawker. 
4) Hogan struck a deal with the “videographers” of the tape to help bolster his case. 
5) Hogan purposefully dropped allegations that would entitle Gawker to be indemnified by its insurer. 
Despite Gawker being a gossip site, constitutional lawyer Floyd Abrams remarks that the silencing of Gawker was very dangerous. He explains: “We don’t pick and choose what sort of publications are permissible because once we do, it allows the government to limit speech.”  
Given the danger of silencing free speech, should Hulk Hogan’s lawyers have acted differently? It appears in the documentary that Hulk Hogan’s lawyers did not know that Thiel was funding the litigation. But one wonders, were they wilfully blind? At the time of the litigation, it was rumoured that Hogan was in financial strain. And people were wondering, how he was affording his legal counsel (in the millions of dollars). 
 
I highly recommend the documentary. The documentary is a chilling look at the connection between free speech, power, and the media.
(Views are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization.)

Third Party Funding of Litigation: Hulk Hogan Edition

IMG_4488IMG_4489

“I love my grudges. I tend to them like little pets.” – Big Little Lies 

Funding your lawsuit just got easier. People can now start online campaigns to raise money. Including signing up for Kickstarter, Gofundme, IndieGoGo, and so on.

However, the most interesting source of funding is Peter Thiel. The co-founder of PayPal. In the case of Hulk Hogan versus Gawker, Peter Thiel allegedly funded Hogan’s lawsuit against the media company Gawker. This lawsuit dealt with the publication of Hogan’s sex tape.

Peter Thiel allegedly funded the lawsuit as part of a personal vendetta against the media company Gawker. A vendetta that allegedly started almost ten years earlier, when the company outed him as gay.

As a result of this vendetta, Hogan’s lawyers were allegedly instructed to draft the pleadings in a particular way. Particularly to avoid triggering Gawker’s insurance. Forcing Gawker to fund their own defence and to pay for any judgment against it out of its own pockets.

This tactical manoeuvre was only possible because of Peter Thiel. Had Hogan been required to pay for the lawsuit himself, he probably would have intentionally triggered the insurance coverage for Gawker. And he would have settled the case with the insurer. In order to avoid incurring more legal fees and to guarantee that he would recover some money.

However, by cutting out the insurer,  Thiel could ensure that any judgment against Gawker would be paid personally by the company. Allowing him to bankrupt Gawker. Which he ultimately did when Hogan was awarded around $140 million in court.

As they say, “revenge is a dish best served cold”.

(Views are my own and do NOT represent the views of any organization.)