Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press Review: Are billionaires destroying free speech?

Netflix has a funny way of slipping in and out of one’s life. I can go for weeks not watching new content and all of a sudden a hidden gem appears from near enough nowhere. It’s worth mentioning the content of this review is not new, but the message is important.

I am going to talk about one particular docu- feature called Nobody Speak: Trials of the free press. 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 background…

The outcome of such a high profile case wasn’t about the money it seems. 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 things 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.

Secret Benefactor…

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 own insurance. This meant any damages would have to instead come direct from Gawker – this would in turn liquidate the firm. So it became apparent Hogan wasn’t just looking for compensation he was trying to bury Gawker; and he did!


Trump and Thiel 

Peter Thiel; billionaire supporter to Donald Trump, Paypal founder and beneficiary to Facebook early on turned out to be financially backing Hogan’s law efforts 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 that 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.” 

The argument..

Hogan v Gawker only took up a portion of this hour and half documentary that instead lifted 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.

Trump Factor

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 pretty much established the concept of 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.

First amendment…

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.’

The truth

So my conclusion after watching this insightful and eye opening 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. Of course this is all the more prevalent today especially with a global pandemic and Presidential election campaign in full swing.

Have you watched Nobody speak? What do you think? Is the destruction of Gawker damaging to the future of free speech?

2 thoughts on “Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press Review: Are billionaires destroying free speech?

  1. First off, let me say that your questions brings up a great topic. I’ve been thinking about this off and on, here and there. Honestly, it it sends my mind in a tailspin every time. I have the book about the events that surrounded this titled “Conspiracy: A True Story of Power, Sex, and a Billionaire’s Secret Plot to Destroy a Media Empire” by Ryan Holiday and it is currently in “YTF” ( yet to finish ) at about 30% completion.

    I’m going to chock this up to an age old, classic fight and it is obvious who won.

    I think the sad part about all this is that the people with money like to push around rules and regulations along with their attempt “to fix the problems” for the future, so it doesn’t happen again. I do not believe that every problem should be fixed with rules, that ruins it for the rest of us. That was apparent when the leaders in USA couldn’t even do what needed to be done to help the virus, because of regulations. It’ll end up biting them in the ass if they aren’t careful.

    I can’t be certain, because I am going off of memory, but I am pretty sure after the Hulk Hogan sex tape is when the misdemeanor law went into effect for USA that you cannot post sex tapes online without the people’s permission. Although my instincts slightly do tell me to see this as a inch closer to censorship, the fact is that gawker kind of instigated this whole thing and there stands the old phrase “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”. They were a little too “froggy” about posting things that would eventually give a bad rap to the defense, so they had to pay the piper so-to-speak. But let me be clear, I support people posting whatever they want to and doing whatever they want, it just doesn’t pan out well for everyone in the end when it is in reckless nature.

    I had blogging ties to Lifehacker back on my old tech blog ( that isn’t online anymore ) which started off as a really cool site, then slide into somewhat of a “greed machine” after Gawker bought it, but it was still decent. I have not watched this film you are referencing, so I cannot speak in regards to that.

    “I thought democracy was based upon freedom of opinion and speech?” My father once told me that democracy is only designed to be run for so long, then it starts to fall apart, so to speak. I vaguely remember him saying that was noted by the person who designed the system. So in that regard I wonder if all this going on is not somewhat of a “natural evolution” in the swing of things.

    You will notice a lot of stuff on TV ( at least in the USA ) about “facts”. This is propaganda as well as we all know that facts, esspecially when they cannot be directly proven, such as “betty has a knife in her pocket”, but these forming of “facts” and “fact checking” is only to push an agenda. I encourage people to read the following aricle regarding facts:

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your input Mr McKinley, very interesting and I think you might be right with democracy, it can sometimes foster greed and of course corruption which in turn leads to where many places are now. The UK and the US might have this in common at the moment. Currently I am glued to the election stuff you have coming up, I have always had a fascination for modern US politics. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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