Netflix has a funny way of slipping in and out of one’s life. I can go for months not watching new content and all of a sudden a hidden gem appears from near enough nowhere.
I am going to talk about one particular docu- feature called Nobody Speak: Trials of the free press, which became available very recently. It’s no secret that I have been and still am to some degree a wrestling fan. The Hulk Hogan sex tape scandal broke a few years back and yes they are words that should never be put together, but hey it happened.
The outcome of such a high profile case is not about the money Hogan was rewarded (140m) but how he came about getting it came as a big surprise. In fact the Hogan Gawker case is the tip of a somewhat potential totalitarian iceberg that threatens freedom of speech and traditional journalism.
Gawker was, and I stress the word was, an online news blog with a gossip/satirical edge to much of their coverage. Celebrities were called out and even reported in a bitchy light. Headlines sometimes had an ultra-honest message with the website having a core value of saying it how they saw it.
Some years before Hulk Hogan in the light of his marriage break up found himself being filmed by his apparent best friend at the time. The footage showed acts of a sexual nature towards this best friend’s wife. Later on there was even footage of him saying some racial and offensive things. Gawker was approached by someone with the footage and of course they jumped at the opportunity to publish this heavily edited version albeit heavily damaging. Now this is where it gets really interesting.
It turns out after Hogan sued Gawker the film revealed that he was in fact backed by a silicon valley billionaire. What is even more interesting is during the latter stages of the court case Hogan dropped a particular charge. This charge involved any damages that would be paid to Hogan being done so through Gawker’s insurance. This meant any damages rewarded would have to come direct from Gawker. So it became apparent Hogan wasn’t just looking for compensation he was trying to bury Gawker; and he did!
Peter Thiel; billionaire supporter to Donald Trump, Paypal founder and beneficiary to the Facebook early on turned out to be financially backing Hogan’s prosecution and hence comes the main theme of this blog post.
A billionaire essentially funded the destruction of a major media news outlet. Of course this is subject to opinion but Peter Thiel had once been personally attacked by Gawker in a particular article who outed him as ‘gay’. He essentially funded the bankruptcy of a news blog for revenge and even went on to say the Hogan Gawker win was “one of my greater philanthropic things that I’ve done.”
Hogan v Gawker only took up a portion of this hour and half documentary lifting the lid on how close we are to billionaires controlling the press. The days of traditional investigative journalism are dying, and yes even if it was ‘wrong’ to publish a sex tape of a former wrestler it is still freedom of speech and having a media company like Gawker stamped out of existence all because of a billionaires grudge, well that’s a dangerous path.
At the moment we have a billionaire in the White House and a man who hates the media with a passion. The documentary touched on this subject showing footage of Trump directing audience members at various rallies to yell abuse/attack the media and press! Of course he always mentions fake news and has a somewhat fixation of allowing the media to be sued. One of his ambitions is to make this easier whilst in office.
The right to journalism and freedom of speech in america is governed by the first amendment. After consulting google this is what I found:
‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.’
So my conclusion after watching this insightful film is that freedom of speech and the truth is being stamped out by people with enough money to do so! Does this mean journalists will stop covering people who they are afraid of being sued by? Is this what the word has become? I thought democracy was based upon freedom of opinion and speech? To me this is just bullying from people who think they have more power!
In the past journalists have journeyed for the truth and found it. Can the truth just be bought and sold by billionaires? That’s the true message this film is giving us.
Have you watched Nobody speak? What do you think? Is the destruction of Gawker damaging to the future of free speech?