I find the news that American billionaire Peter Thiel bankrolled Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against digital publisher Gawker deeply troubling.
And not just because it suggests that the homosexual Thiel who was ‘outted’ by Gawker in 2008 has a vindictive streak.
I am more concerned about the Donald Trump-backer Thiel’s and other well heeled individual’s seemingly opportunistic designs on the media.
I detect a determination by Thiel and others to bend popular media discourse to their wills; to make it reflect their agendas – however liberal or conservative, altruistic or self-serving their agendas may be.
It is Thiel’s British Broadcasting Corporation-like, Mike Liggins’ “crank call” approximating opposition to independent voices that concerns me.
It is his professor Sir Hilary Beckles’ recalling, silent killer maneuverings that I find chilling, frankly.
And the argument offered in Thiel’s defense by American ‘right-to-privacy’ advocate Marc Randazza does little to relieve my anxiety.
Indeed, on a first reading, I found the Las Vegas-based First Amendment attorney Randazza’s analysis of the issues so slanted in favour of Thiel that his references to “press freedom” seemed not only suspiciously token but obscene.
I am tempted to denounce his article as a study in dissimulation: a deceptive, anal entrant assault on the democracy in which Randazza claims he believes.
It recalls not only Beckles’ but also Bernie Sanders’, Jeremy Corbyn’s, Clive Lewis’ and other selective socialists’ silence on trade union and other labour movement corruption, which makes them complicit with bankers and venture capitalists like Thiel in the sophisticated frauds and rackets that are exploiting and frustrating society’s most youthful and otherwise vulnerable members’ dreams.
I alerted Randazza to my concerns via a private, rather cryptic (admittedly) Twitter email message on May 27. I wrote: “Dear Mr Randazza, I just finished reading your Peter Thiel-Gawker suit analysis. The term ‘joystick journalism’ comes to mind. Are you familiar with it?”
“‘Morally adrift’ is a related term”, I added, to clarify the trajectory of my thoughts.
Basically, I was trying to alert Randazza to my view that by implying that the high-flying financier Thiel had an unchallengeable right to keep his homosexuality a secret until it pleased him to disclose it, his article, entitled “Is Peter Thiel right about Gawker?” is something of a caricature.
It seems a morally anchorless, or at least anchor-weak, piece of virtual reality.
From my perspective, the Florida-based Randazza’s emphasis on a right to privacy seems to give scant regard to the responsibility that Thiel and other prominent figures have to be accountable to the societies in whose values they trade or, as the case may be, on which they tread opportunistically.
I call this opportunism ideological racketeering, and in a recent submission to a Parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee I outlined some of the challenges it poses for United Kingdom law enforcement authorities, religious institutions, the British Broadcasting Corporation and other formal and informal organs of education.
Ironically, a related point about fundamentalist feminist ideological racketeering is made by Trump-backer Jeffrey Lord, in a February 21, 2013 article entitled S. E Cupp and the freezing of the American mind.
In that full-frontal attack on Ms Cupp and young conservatives, Lord cites the very sound feminist (“radical feminist” by his standards) proposition that “the personal is the political”, albeit in a rather scandalous attempt to rationalize the sexist racketeer Rush Limbaugh’s salacious February 2012 attack on feminist Sandra Fluke, labeling her a “slut” and “prostitute”.
Cupp, Lord argues, had shown no mindfulness of the personal-is-political tenet of feminist discourse when she denounced Limbaugh’s attack on Fluke.
Having not read Cupp’s comments I cannot assert whether that is or is not the case.
Lord may have got that wrong, just as he appears to be wrong about Fluke’s acceptance of the Gawker-like shock jock Limbaugh’s apology – which he claims Cupp ignores.
But I think Lord deserves some credit for standing by Limbaugh because while the personal-is-political feminist principle Limbaugh cited does not justify the ratings-driven radio personality’s crude and cruel labeling of Fluke, it does open, I think, an acceptable line of inquiry or interrogation that those challenging Fluke’s argument might legitimately pursue.
And Gawker’s outing of Thiel, I feel, opens a similarly legitimate line of inquiry.
As with Fluke’s, in Thiel’s case the ‘personal is political’ or ‘PIP’ question is also about relationship, principally that between the tech businessman and the financial investors or other backers he relied on to build the goodwill that is the basis of his entrepreneurial credibility.
Randazza may know more about who those financial and other investors are than I do.
He may know more than I about their values and ethical priorities.
Perhaps that’s why when I sought to clarify my arguably cryptic comments by pointing out that he was not giving due attention to the duty of care Thiel owed them, Randazza responded incredulously “What responsibility”?
I was stumped.
Given the strictures of Twitter communication, I thought of responding “Where do I begin?”
But perhaps the greater challenge would be finding an appropriate point at which to end or limit Thiel’s responsibility.
Which is why I have chosen to respond to Randazza in this article, using the opportunity to follow up on ideas about sound or shaky arguments and solid or Shipden-like, erosion prone foundations that I have raised in part five of this series of articles, and previously.
Moreover, and intriguingly, my reference to “joy stick journalism” not only comes from a literary criticism essay I alluded to in the previous article: I sent a copy of that essay to Fareed Zakaria, who was then with Newsweek magazine and whose article dismissively criticizing protestors at a G8 Summit in Barcelona was the focus of my critique.
So, this article, critiquing Randazza, linked to Zakaria through the latter’s CNN ‘GPS’ programme, rounds off my criticism of mainstream news machinations and manipulations, to some degree.
My point is that knowing as little as I do about the identity, values and beliefs of Thiel’s business backers, I would not want to presume that I know their views on homosexuality and its relevance or not to Thiel’s business activities.
It would be presumptuous of me to assume that Thiel’s homosexuality would be of consequence, in business or related terms, to those particular, flesh and blood, real persons – quite apart from any question of how homosexuality is viewed by wider America or persons in the international community with whom Thiel deals.
And I doubt that Randazza is any better placed than I to do anything more than speculate about how those persons may have responded to the revelation of Thiel’s sexuality.
Even if he was doing business in notoriously conservative African or Asian countries, it would be difficult to say what the response of his backers or associates might be.
But in the interest of balance and fairness, I feel that Randazza, like I, should allow the possibility that at least some of those who had backed Thiel’s business ventures felt that he was less than honest in his dealings with them when Gawker ‘outted’ him involuntarily.
To assume, as Randazza does, that none of Thiel’s backers would have expected that kind of accountability from him, perhaps on the basis of some assumption of his right to privacy, seems to take all kinds of variables for granted rashly.
That assumption seems an extension of the “lazy, binary, point of view” that Randazza himself criticizes justifiably.
It smacks of the fossilized, fundamentalist thinking that ideological racketeers exploit deliberately.
It seems a symptom of the ‘frozen mind’ that Lord claims afflicts Cupp and other young conservatives: the kind of ideological polarization that I have long argued afflicts liberal and conservative, capitalist and socialist, Christian and Muslim, male and female and other ostensible opposites equally.
I am as concerned about the freezing of the minds of the young who are flocking to the atheist Bernie Sanders and his Orthodox Jewish ‘High Priest’ Richard Sugarman as I am about fundamentalist feminists who may be backing Hilary Clinton unconditionally.
While Lord is mainly concerned about ‘young conservatives who have a lack of perspective of both conservatism’s intellectual foundation and in this [Limbaugh vs Fluke] case the ferocious politics that swirl constantly around its most prominent champions’, I am concerned about the polarization and poverty of perspective that writers like Randazza feed.
As my on-going, personal experience based critique of the BBC and other news houses makes clear, I am particularly concerned about their domination by special interest groups, including the ideological gender, racial and religious racketeers who have been implicated in a human rights violating criminal conspiracy against me and others, contrary both to their claims of journalistic independence and their rhetoric about free speech.
Lord cites the late Allan Bloom and his 1987 bestseller (The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students) to give context to his concern about freezing of the conservative mind.
I would argue that today we see media and academic ideological interests converging to produce the kind of “cold fronts” that I have identified in my study of what I call Norfolk’s deep frieze.
As noted in part five of this series of articles, the University of Warwick’s Global Frontiers: Ecologies, Commodities, Labour, and the Arts collaborative research project, led by professor Michael Niblett, is engaging with related issues around academic publishing insightfully.
The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation (NHS) Trust also is showing a willingness to engage with related issues, through its efforts to embed a “Spiritual Strategy” in its offering to persons suffering mental health challenges – which by my reckoning means all of us.
All of us, whatever our sexual orientation, religion, gender, wealth or poverty are in need of assistance to navigate today’s media minefields.
To be continued…